Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

35068742Title: Love, Life, and the List
Author: Kasie West
Date Started: March 19
Date Finished: March 21
Format: Hardcover from local library

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings, Abby isn’t going to take any chances. Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list, she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

So it might have been the fact that I was reading another book while I was reading this one, but I didn’t really like this one as much as other Kasie West books. Which I’m really trying to figure out why. I liked Abby’s character. She’s a painter. She’s sarcastic. She’s trying to keep her home life from imploding since her mom is a little anxious about leaving the house. She’s had a crush on her best friend Cooper for a while, but she’s trying to move on after telling him on the beach last year and he just laughed it off. And now that I’m typing up what I liked about Abby, I think I just hit on one big thing I didn’t like about this book.

You know me, I’m a big stickler for guys and girls who are friends forever being just friends. I don’t like it when they start veering into romance. And I’m thinking that was my problem with Love, Life, and the List. Cooper and Abby are best friends. And sure they really do have great chemistry together. They get each other’s jokes and they know everything about each other. But? Does that really mean that they have to be more than friends?

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Considering this was a big plot point, you would think my rating would be lower, but alas. I’m still a sucker for a cute story, and this story was cute.

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Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

30129657Title: Honor Among Thieves
Authors: Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre
Series: The Honors
Date Started: March 19
Date Finished: March 21
Format: ebook from the digital library

Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell. Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers. Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.

Okay, so since I’ve been a fan of space science fiction lately, when I heard about Honor Among Thieves I was actually really excited to read it. The summary reminded me a lot of Amie Kaufman’s writing. Of course, that was month’s ago. I completely forgot about the summary when this book became available from the digital library a few days ago. And as I read the story, I was trying to remember why I had put this on my reading list. I mean, Zara was cool. Sarcastic, tries to be strong in the face of adversity, and pisses off the wrong person as the book begins. But other than that Zara’s life was a little bit boring. It wasn’t until she got chosen to be an Honor that the whole space element became a factor.

Apparently, in this universe, the Earth was on the verge of dying and an alien race known as the Leviathan came and saved us. And every year, we offer up new Honor’s to help them with their missions and ours. They go on Tour, before they get accepted for the Journey, which no one really knows what it is because no Honors have ever come back. It was intriguing and at first the Leviathan that Zara and her team member Beatriz get put onto Nadim sounds really interesting.

It’s after that that things get really, really weird. I mean, it was best summed up in Rachel Caine’s Acknowledgements “an unconventional OTP.” And it really is. I don’t want to spoil too much of this plot, but yikes. I’m wondering what I just read and not entirely in a good way either.

Final Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. To be honest this book wasn’t what I was expecting. A little bit towards the very end it turned into something out of the Illuminae Files, and I’m kind of curious to see where the next book goes. But still. Yikes. Weird.

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The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

32797600Title: The Dangerous Art of Blending In
Author: Angelo Surmelis
Date Started: March 15
Date Finished: March 17
Format: Hardcover from local library

Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.

Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.

I’m really glad that I waited to write this review, because after I finished reading this book I was shaking pretty bad. The Dangerous Art of Blending In was right up there with A List of Cages where the MC made my heart ache. Evan is just a beautiful soul who is just trying to live life the best way that he can. He’s gay, even though he tries to keep it a secret because the students at his high school are horrible and because his mother already hates him. Seriously. Evan’s mom…I mean, I knew that there were people like that out there in the world. The one’s who are super religious and who believe that life has to be a certain way otherwise the people living it are devils, whores, etc. But to see it played out in this novel was just…there are just no words.

Every time that the mom acted sweet towards Evan I got suspicious just like he did. Something was coming and he didn’t know what. And what really surprised me is that Evan’s dad seemed like a no nonsense kind of guy, one that was okay with what he suspected was going on with Evan, but he didn’t do anything when the mom came after him. I mean, sure, he tried, he told her no more, restrained her when he could…but I feel like he could have done more. Henry was really the saving grace in this novel. He kind of reminded me of Simon from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda a little bit, where he tried to be normal even though he had this secret. And once it came out, he was just ready to be out.

Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. A lot of this review probably didn’t make sense, but I really enjoyed this book. Even if it made me cry a good 75% of the time.

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Frozen Tides by Morgan Rhodes

17342701Title: Frozen Tides
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Series: Falling Kingdoms
Previous Books in the Series:
1. Falling Kingdoms
2. Rebel Spring
3. Gathering Darkness
Date Started: March 13
Date Finished: March 15
Format: Hardcover from local library

CLEO: Reeling after a bloody showdown in Limeros ending with Amara’s abduction of the water crystal, and a vacancy in the Mytican throne, Princess Cleo must cast aside her feelings and look toward her kingdom with the eyes of a Queen. MAGNUS: With the kingdom in chaos, Princess Lucia still missing and quite possibly in danger, and a shocking realization about Cleo, the steely prince is once again torn between love and duty, leaving him wondering whether he’s strong enough to rule his people. LUCIA: The young sorcercess has had her vengeance after the cruel death of her first and only love. Heartbroken and unable to trust anyone, she allies with the awoken Fire god, who also seeks revenge. JONAS: After escaping death by the skin of his teeth, the defeated rebel—along with a mysterious stranger–leader reunites with Princess Cleo, only to find himself a mere pawn in a dangerous hunt for the elusive Kindred. KING GAIUS: Abandoned by Melenia and betrayed by his own children, Gaius flees Mytica and sails to Kraeshia, where he attempts to ally with the famously brutal emperor across the Silver Sea.

And this is why I try to finish series even if they have a mediocre start. Because even though I wasn’t too keen on the first two books of this series, books 3 and 4 have really progressed the story forward. Cleo is no longer the whiny princess that she was at the start of the series. Instead she’s a rebel queen who does not cower in the face of fear. Magnus is no longer trying to prove to his father that he can be another King of Blood. Instead he’s rebelling against him, because he’s finally seen his father’s horrible ways for what they are. I’m still undecided about Jonas. His character has been through way too much to survive, and yet he has. And Lucia…this girl…she confuses me the most. At first she’s afraid of her powers, then she embraces them and the darkness that they bring and now… Hm.

And it does surprise me how much I liked this book considering how it started. The major revelation that this book ended on – Magnus realizing that he was starting to fall in love with Cleo – was a big non-issue. Magnus is still just as cruel towards her as before, and the dance around each other was driving me absolutely nuts. And of course, just as it was getting good between them again, I got insanely busy. Even the little twist with Amara and her brother Ashur, and Theon’s TWIN brother… *screams into the void*

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. The only reason it’s not getting a full five star rating, is because the first part of this book took me forever to get into. I also didn’t like all the twists and turns that Rhodes threw in at the end. I mean, ASHUR and Theon’s TWIN BROTHER, and Nic telling Theon’s twin about how he died. GAH. Can’t Cleo and Magnus be happy? Can’t they?! Also, um what about this revelation that Gaius mumbled before he lost consciousness? How does the King of Blood know Cleo’s mom?

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Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

517pxd68gjl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Title: Daughter of the Pirate King
Author: Tricia Levenseller
Date Started: March 12
Date Finished: March 13
Format: Hardcover from local library

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship. More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

I haven’t fallen this hard for a pirate story since Captain Hook from Once Upon a Time stumbled into my life with his British accent. And you may think that I’m over exaggerating, but I’m not. Daughter of the Pirate King was that good. First, I liked that this story started with Alosa being ‘kidnapped’ by another pirate crew. And I really liked how hard she fought to ‘give up’ when apparently she could have taken them all on. And I especially liked her snarky fights with the first mate, Riden. The amount of hate those two had for each other was astounding.

It became even better when Riden started to help Alosa out and he couldn’t figure out why. The relationship that develops between Riden and Alosa is wonderful. I still don’t completely understand them – but I don’t think they understand it either. I mean, Alosa is all about being a few moves ahead, but every time she comes against Riden her plans get derailed. Did she really not kill Draxon because Riden asked her to? Or because she believes her own lie about paying up her debt? Guess we’ll find out.

Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. A nice break from my normal fantasy or contemporary YA books. The twists and turns of this novel were wonderful. The characters even more so. And the tension building between Alosa and Riden is exciting. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

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Summer Unscripted by Jen Klein

33849915Title: Summer Unscripted
Author: Jen Klein
Date Started: March 10
Date Finished: March 12
Format: Hardcover from local library

Girl looks for a sign. Enter: boy. Rainie doesn’t have a “passion” like her friends do. She’s more of a dabbler—quick to give up and move on. But as graduation approaches, she wishes she had more direction. So when gorgeous Tuck gives a monologue that literally puts into words exactly how she’s been feeling lately, it’s a sign! Tuck is her passion. How could she not have seen it before?

Girl follows boy. Enter: second boy. Rainie convinces her ex-BFF to let her work at the same summer job as Tuck. She’s got a foolproof plan to date him. But when she arrives, Rainie discovers things aren’t that simple. And she meets Milo, a super-cute boy who also works with her. A boy with a complicated past. Girl needs to figure stuff out. Enter: drama.

Shockingly enough I was really hesitant to read this book too and it wasn’t for the reasons you would think. I mean, I liked the summary, it sounded like your typical chick-lit book, and the other book I’ve read by this author – Shuffle, Repeat – was ridiculously good so I decided to add this to my reading list. But the reason that I was hesitant about it was because it took me forever to get my hands on this book. Only one library in the co-op had it and every time that I would put a hold on it, the system wouldn’t let me. Finally, last week I was able to, but it still made me wary.

But I should have known better. This book was everything that I thought it was going to be and more. Rainie reminded me a lot of me when I was in high school. Everything this girl tries to do she loses interest in and drops it. That was totally me. And then she even reminded me of Felicity when she decided to follow Tuck to Olympus for the summer. But when she finds out that Tuck is already dating someone she’s crushed. She can’t leave because she promised her parents – with severe penalties if she backed out – that she would stay the whole summer.

However, I personally think that was the best thing that could have happened to Rainie. Not only was she forced to stay, she was able to reconnect with her ex-BFF Ella. She even made new friends and I think she discovered what she wanted to do with her life. And then there’s Milo – Ella’s ex – who really brought all of this together. The quick rappaport that those two had together made me start to question whether or not Tuck was really the right guy for Rainie. I mean, I got the dilemma with Milo. He was Ella’s ex and friends don’t date other friends exs. But still…once everything was explained, I kind of think that was a non-issue.

Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. It’s been a while since a contemporary novel not by one of my favorite authors or a sequel, made me smile. And this one definitely did. There was humor and sadness. There was heart break and love. And there was also real world stuff in there too.

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Revisited: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

12812550Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Previous Book in Series:
1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Date Originally Started: July 4, 2013
Date Originally Finished: July 6, 2013
Format: Paperback from my shelf

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war. This is not that world. Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life. While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope. But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Blue haired girls kick ass. No, really they do. This is the second time that I’ve read Days of Blood and Starlight and I’m still impressed by Karou and her strength. I mean, it takes a lot for a girl to learn that her family had been killed by her first love from another life and to go back and try to find if anyone still lives. And that’s what Karou does. She goes back to Eretz, to find Brimstone and Issa and the others, because she doesn’t want to believe that Akiva killed them all. What she finds instead is Thiago – her murderer – and what’s left of the chimera that she knew in a past life. The war between the angel and the chimera seems to have been won by the angels, but Thiago has a plan and now that Karou is on his side, he has a resurrectionist to build the army of nightmares.

Akiva is reeling from Karou’s hate and abandonment. He knows it is well deserved and he goes in search for her, but finds nothing but a thurible with a one word note Karou. Fearing the worst, Akiva goes back to his brothers and sisters in arms and continues on, but instead of killing chimera he saves them from becoming slaves. And eventually he lets one go from Thiago’s rebel army and follows him. What he sees changes everything for both of them. And man, the tension when Akiva and Karou meet again is just insane. I’m hoping that their love story isn’t done yet, because there’s no way that I can go through another 400 or 500 pages of tension and angst without some sort of hope for a happy ending.

Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. The back and forth of Akiva, Karou, and Zuzanna POVs in this book were actually really helpful as I got to see everything from everyone’s perspective. I loved reading about Karou and how she was dealing with being the resurrectionist and Thiago of all things. Her final plan at the end is brilliant and not something that I saw coming. Akiva going back to how he was when Madrigal was alive was also wonderful. It was amazing to watch him become the ultimate rebel and learn the angels ultimate goal. And Zuzanna! She is one dedicated friend and I really hope that she puts Mik out of his misery soon.

Bookshelf worthy? The cover art is stunning!

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