Dumplin

Love, Life and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life and the List by Kasie WestLove, Life, and the List by Kasie West
Published by HarperTeen on December 26, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Goodreads
four-stars

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.


*This review is for the audiobook version*

Love, Life and the List, like every other Kasie West book I’ve read, is filled with heart, smiles, tears, and a dash of laughter. These are all the things I’ve come to expect and look forward to in any book written by Kasie West, the queen of contemporary romances.

When I’m reading a book by Kasie West, I never feel like I’m meeting the same characters or seeing the same story being told again. Every character that this author has ever created, has had their own individual personality, with unique strengths, weaknesses, and an original voice.

The story in Love, Life and the List is told by Abby, a fun, smart, super-snarky girl, who has been head-over-heels in love with her best friend Cooper for a long time. I loved Abby and Cooper’s relationship, their hilarious banter, and the stories of the past mischief they’ve gotten into. They have such great chemistry, and I was rooting for them to take their relationship to the next level the entire time I read this book.

Abby is quite possibly my favorite Kasie West character to date, because she was deeply conceived, with a great character arc. When the director of the art museum Abby works at tells her that her paintings lack “heart”, Abby starts a heart-growing list as a way to expand her horizons, to gain a greater outlook on life, and to tap into the deeper emotions she’s being told she doesn’t express well enough.

I thought it was pretty shitty of the art director to say that Abby’s work wasn’t good enough, because “art is subjective”, but I also didn’t disagree that Abby would highly benefit from trying new experiences. She has a lot of insecurities, tends to avoid confrontation, and is afraid of change, and the list she created with the help of her mom, and grampa, helped her work through all of those things. The heart-growing list is full of things like face a fear, learn a stranger’s story, read a classic book, and other tasks designed to help push Abby outside of her comfort zone.

Luckily, besides Cooper, who works through the list with her, Abby has her hilarious and endearing grampa to encourage her every step of the way. Her grampa is incredibly smart, and snarky, and definitely gave Abby her snarky-ness. I really loved his character, because I rarely see books with grandparents who play vital roles. Abby’s dad is off in the armed forces during the whole book, so her grampa filled that absent fatherly role. He was Abby’s number one fan, and it was so heartwarming.

Audiobook narrator: She was perfect! Not only did she sound like an actual teenage girl (what a relief), she was able to put a lot of emotion into her voice during highly emotional scenes.

Love, Life and the List is a must read for lovers of contemporary romances!

four-stars
Dumplin

Darkness Before Dawn (Darkness Before Dawn Trilogy #1)

Darkness Before Dawn (Darkness Before Dawn Trilogy #1)Darkness Before Dawn (Darkness Before Dawn Trilogy, #1) by J.A. London
Published by HarperTeen on May 29, 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Supernatural
Pages: 342
Goodreads
two-stars

At seventeen, Dawn Montgomery knows that monsters really do come out at night—after all, they are her job. It’s just after the thirty-years war between vampires and humans, and as an ambassador between the two sides (a role she inherited when her parents were killed), Dawn quickly learns that balancing schoolwork, teen life, and the requests of Lord Valentine, the most frightening vampire in the region, isn’t easy.

And it only gets more complicated when she forms a tentative friendship with Victor, the mysterious stranger who rescued her from a hoard of vampires…only to discover that not only is Victor a vampire, but that he is Lord Valentine’s son.

Soon Dawn is struggling to remember that with everything on the line, she can’t afford to fall for the enemy…


I was searching through my read-shelf on Goodreads, to see what series I had started but never finished, when I came across Darkness Before Dawn. I had remembered loving it a few years back, but not why, so I decided to reread it in order to refresh my memory, and make it possible for me to finally finish the series.

Originally I gave Darkness Before Dawn 5 stars, and now, after rereading it, I give it 2 stars. What the heck happened?!! I’ve known for a while now that my tastes and expectations have changed in the last few years, but wow, that’s a huge drop in stars.

This time around I disliked just about all the characters. The lot of them were immature, cheesy, or just downright annoying. Our MC Dawn was always talking about how hot Michael was, and how he made her feel sooo protected. That was the gist of her thoughts and dialogue, at least, until Victor came along. Then Victor was all she thought about.  He smelled sooo good, and made Dawn feel so safe. Michael, who Dawn glowed about it the beginning of the book, suddenly became a huge jack*ss. I felt like his rapid personality change was too convenient for the plot, and that the author was trying too hard to justify Dawn’s sudden decision to want to be with Victor, instead of Michael.

Victor was the only character who I didn’t fully despise. Even though he could be very soapy at times, I thought he was the best character by far, because he actually had depth.  He was the only one I cared to know more about.

The story line for Darkness Before Dawn, which I didn’t remember at all, was still interesting. I had forgotten that it’s like a PG-13 version of True Blood, a show I loved. #RIP True Blood – we had a few really good years. *sniffle*

So yeah. Ugh. I don’t plan on continuing this series, because I highly doubt I’ll enjoy the last two books.

Someone please recommend some YA vampire books. It’s been too long since I’ve read good ones. No Twilight, Morganville Vampires, Vampire Academy, Vampire Kisses, Evernight, or House of Night.

two-stars
Dumplin

Everless by Sara Holland

Everless by Sara HollandEverless (Everless, #1) by Sara Holland
Published by HarperTeen on January 2, 2018
Pages: 362
Goodreads
three-stars

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.


I loved Everless’ concept. Jules lives in a world where the poor sell days, months, or even years of their lives to the wealthy for things like rent, food, protection from ruffians. What a fascinating concept, taking blood and making it into iron that you can consume to extend your own life. With the exception of HP’s Sorcerer’s Stone, I haven’t read any books with alchemists.

The characters:

I really liked Jules. She’s brave, kind, stubborn, has flaws, like her tendency to jump into things without completely thinking it through. Sometimes I wanted to scream “stop being so rash!” but she thinks and acts with her heart, so I couldn’t stay mad at her for too long.

I was immediately enamored by Liam. He was a mystery that I impatiently wanted unraveled. Jules has awful memories of him from when they were both children, and it takes a while for her to start working through what was real and what wasn’t.

Roan was a huge disappointment. Jules and Roan were extremely close as young children, always playing together and getting into mischievous, and I was excited to see what their relationship would be like when they finally came together again. Unfortunately, their paths didn’t cross nearly as much as I would have liked and when it did they barely connected. I was also disappointed that we didn’t learn much about Roan’s life during the time he and Jules were apart. There were some allusions to him leading an unsavory lifestyle, but they were extremely vague and just left me with a very faint idea as to what kind of person he was.

I feel like this book would have benefited from a couple less minor characters in order to focus deeper on characters such as Roan. There’s two characters in particular that were briefly introduced, faintly utilized, and then left to bleed into the background.

The pace:

This book didn’t flow very well. Sometimes it dragged and I started to lose interest, and other times it sped up and whiplashed me an onslaught of information and events that didn’t feel 100% conceptualized due to lack of tiny details.

Other thoughts:

Although I wish there’d been more emphasis on romance in Everless, I’m glad it wasn’t one of those books where the characters forgot the dire situations around them because they couldn’t think past their burning loins.

Overall:

Even though this book had some rough patches, I think it’s a good start to what could be a great series. I was pleased with Everless’ ending and I’m looking forward to what will happen in book two.

three-stars
Dumplin

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca RossThe Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross
Published by HarperTeen on February 6th 2018
Pages: 464
Goodreads
two-stars

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

I’m so glad I got this book from the library, and didn’t buy it outright like I originally considered, because it was a huge letdown.

The world was too big and not properly introduced. The characters overcame incredible feats and developed deep emotions too fast to be believed. The concepts in this high fantasy were too fantastical to be contained in one book, and because of that, all the characters were luckily and conveniently able to overcome their own hurdles quickly and easily.

For instance, Bri gets about 5 lessons of swordsmanship, and then they say she’s great enough to fight in a battle. Whaaat? A lot of things in this book didn’t logically make sense.

The worst part though, was the fact that the first couple chapters basically outlined the entire story.  I was easily able to figure out who Bri was, what she was going to face, and where her journey was going to go.

The only thing I enjoyed about this book was the demure relationship between Bri and her Master, Cartier. Unfortunately it was fleeting.

Sigh…

 

two-stars
Dumplin

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White | Buffy fans will love this one!

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White | Buffy fans will love this one!Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, #1) by Kiersten White
Published by HarperTeen on August 31st 2010
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 335
Goodreads
five-stars

Discover the first book in a sparkling paranormal romance trilogy from Kiersten White, #1 New York Times bestselling author of And I Darken.

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through supernatural glamours.

She’s also about to find out that she may be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

I started Paranormalcy with high hopes and I’m glad to say that I wasn’t let down – not one bit! Paranormalcy was a cute, engaging, and unique YA book, with a fresh concept. When I get addicted to a good book, I’m up very late to finish it. Which is exactly what happened with Paranormalcy – I couldn’t put it down!

I’m a HUGE Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV fan, and therefore I think one of the reasons I loved Paranormalcy so much, was because I could drawn lines between the two. Midway through the Buffy TV series, we learned about a secret government sector called the Initiative, whose job was to monitor and exterminate lethal supernatural beings. Their commando-agents were responsible for bagging and tagging the various supernatural creatures they encountered, such as vampires, demons, and werewolves. In Paranormalcy, our heroine Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency (ICPA) by ferreting out various supernaturals, and tagging them with trackers. In Paranormalcy, all supes are considered dangerous, and therefore are carefully monitored, and in some cases, put to work for the ICPA. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book, because besides Buffy, I’ve never read a story that features a government agency like this.

Evie is an orphan with an extremely unique paranormal ability, and has been with the ICPA for many years. Paired with the ability to see through any supernatural glamour. and a pink taser covered in rhinestones named Tasey, she’s one girl you don’t want to mess with.

Besides Evie, Paranormalcy has a handful of other strong characters. For instance, Lend *be still my heart* is a great male lead. Although he’s very guarded in the beginning, his character really opens up throughout the book. I loved seeing the teamwork between Evie and Lend. When I think of the two of them together, I think of ying and yang. At one point during the book, Lend’s mother says ”What a lovely balance. Lend shows whatever he wants the world to see and you see through whatever the world wants to show you”. I think that Kiersten White had a spurt of creativity genius when she decided what abilities Evie and Lend would have. Not only are they super-cute together, they also complement each other wonderfully.

Overall, Paranormalcy was a very enjoyable read. I was extremely entertained throughout the entire book. The pace is perfect and the story is full of action and great dialogue. All the characters leap right off the page, whether it be goofy and strong-willed Evie, cute and determined Lend, stern and motherly Raquel, or devilish and cunning Reth. With 5 stars, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves urban fantasies with romance, action, and of course, paranormalcy.

five-stars