Always forever maybe book cover

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
Pages: 384
Format: Audio book
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
Always forever maybe book cover

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
Always forever maybe book cover

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
Always forever maybe book cover

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Paranormalcy by Kiersten WhiteParanormalcy (Paranormalcy, #1) by Kiersten White
Published by HarperTeen on August 31st 2010
Pages: 335
Goodreads
four-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.

Paranormalcy was one of those books that I kept seeing popup on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; basically the sites I visit on practically a daily basis. Although the synopsis perked my interest a bit, it was truly the great reviews I kept seeing that urged me to purchase Paranormalcy. I’ve hit a streak of gold lately when it comes to great books. The last few I’ve read have been phenomal, and although I was a tad iffy I still went into Paranormalcy with high hopes. I’m glad to say that I wasn’t let down–not a bit. Paranormalcy is a very cute, engaging, and unique YA book. The story concept was fresh and very likable. Per usual when I get addicted to a good book I’m up wicked late to finish it, and Paranormalcy was no exception.

I’m a HUGE Buffy fan and therefore I think one of the reasons I loved Paranormalcy so much is because I could drawn lines connecting 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 they encountered such as vampires, demons, werewolves, etc. In Paranormalcy, Evie our heroine, works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency (ICPA) by ferreting out various supernaturals and banding them with trackers. In Paranormalcy all supes are considered dangerous and therefore are carefully monitored and put to work for the ICPA. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book, besides television, I’ve never read a story that features a government agency like this. With a the cool gadgets and protocol; I was completely engrossed.

Evie is at the center of the story. As an orphan with an extremely-unique as one would say “paranormal” gift, she’s been with the ICPA for quite sometime. She’s recently been able to handle bag and tag cases on her own. 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. I felt like throughout book I had a very love-hate relationship towards Evie. On one hand she’s super funny, quirky, and brave. She definitely “beats to the sound of her own drum” and therefore I found her to be a very compelling character. However, as much as I love Evie, at times I still wanted to take her by the shoulders and give her a good-solid shake. Sometimes she makes really bad decisions. Although her heart is always in the right place she has a tendency to jump in first and think it out later. She gets put in quite a lot of bad positions because of her fly-of-the-seat reactions.

Besides Evie, Paranormalcy has a strong group of 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 them together I picture “ying” and “yang”. At one point during the book, Lend’s mother remarks ”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 fantastically.

Overall Paranormalcy was a very enjoyable read. I was extremely entertained throughout the entire novel. 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 4 stars I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves YA fiction with romance, action, and of course paranormalcy.

four-stars
Always forever maybe book cover

Epic Fail by

Epic Fail byEpic Fail by Claire LaZebnik
Published by HarperTeen on August 2nd 2011
Pages: 309
Goodreads
three-stars

Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?

At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.

In the beginning I was a little weary. As a huge fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I figured that this book could either be totally suckish or totally awesome. I’m glad to say it was the latter of the two. Epic Fail was a cute book. The first couple pages sucked me in with their charismatic characters and charming dialogue. Claire LaZebnik has a fantastic writing style. All of the characters are described and portrayed perfectly. The style isn’t as heavily detailed as the original Pride and Prejudice, but nonetheless it’s enjoyable. I’d call Epic Fail the perfect beach book, or even a sitting-in-the-gazebo read, with a glass of ice tea by your side, you’re all set for an enjoyable couple hours.

Now here’s the part where I talk about why this book got 3 vs. 5 stars from me. Everything I’ve said so far makes it sounds like the perfect read, you’ve got great characters, witty dialogue, and a fast-paced plot that keeps you interested. However, what this story lacked was “surprise”. I get that it’s a modern-take on Pride and Prejudice with familiar plots and elements, but from the beginning I basically knew which character to suspect and how the finale would play out. Some say there are few similarities between Pride and Prejudice and Epic Fail, however I’d say there is big honky and blatant ones. Basically Epic Fail IS Pride and Prejudice except the story and characters have jumped from the 19th to the 21st century. Elizabeth Bennet Elise Benton comes from a family containing a wacky mom, a no-nonsense dad, and three sisters. One sister, the oldest is reserved and two others are younger than Elise, one of them being easily influenced and slightly out of control. Out of all her family members, Elise is not easily swayed, with her witty-comebacks and stubborn nature she’s basically Elizabeth Bennet reincarnated. Then you have Mr. Darcy Derek Edwards, the standoffish, angst-y, and doubly-stubborn son of a famous actress-mother. Basically all the original characters from Pride and Prejudice are here playing their usual and recognizable roles.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Epic Fail. I really did. All through the book I was hooked, the characters were appealing and likable and the plot was fun and interesting. However, about 3/4 through the book I realized what I had originally feared was coming to fruition. The good guys in P&P triumphed in the same way and the bad guy likewise, lost. I realize that re-tellings are big these days, old stories, fairy-tales, etc. however I think they should be achieved in a certain way. I feel like if you’re going to put a new-spin on a well-known and well-loved tale you should really add some new aspects to it. I know there’s the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but who wants to spend time and money reading something that you basically already read and possibly own. Overall, I do recommend Epic Fail. Even though it left me slightly disappointed it was a fun read nonetheless.

three-stars