Monday, March 19, 2018

Review: Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June 26, 2007
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Purchased copy

Summary (from Goodreads):

There are two sides to every breakup.

This is Jordan and Courtney, totally in love. Sure, they were an unlikely high school couple. But they clicked; it worked. They're even going to the same college, and driving cross-country together for orientation.
Then Jordan dumps Courtney -- for a girl he met on the Internet.

It's too late to change plans, so the road trip is on. Courtney's heartbroken, but figures she can tough it out for a few days. La la la -- this is Courtney pretending not to care.

But in a strange twist, Jordan cares. A lot.

Turns out, he's got a secret or two that he's not telling Courtney. And it has everything to do with why they broke up, why they can't get back together, and how, in spite of it all, this couple is destined for each other.

What I Liked:

This was an impulse buy from BookOutlet - the book was $0.59 so how could I not? I absolutely adored Barnholdt's Through to You, and I figured it couldn't hurt to give this book a chance. Plus one of my blogging friends absolutely loves this book. Believe it or not, I actually really enjoyed this book. I know my rating does not quite show this, but I found this book to be really well-written. What I found myself disappointed in was the ending, in that it didn't feel like an ending. There needed to have been an epilogue. But I'll talk about this more later on!

Jordan and Courtney had been together for four months, when Jordan breaks up with Courtney. He tells her that he doesn't want to be in a relationship anymore, and that there is this new girl he met on Myspace (I know, right?!). Courtney is devastated. To make matters worse, Jordan and Courtney were going to move in to college together, and they had a three-day roadtrip planned. They're still going to go on the roadtrip, but Courtney is pissed, and Jordan, well, Jordan isn't telling her everything. Some people aren't meant to be together - but some people really are, that's what this story is all about.

This story is written in dual POV and dual timeline, which I thought was neat. Usually I don't really care for the whole flashbacks thing but it really worked in this story. So we get to see chapters from Courtney's POV, and chapters from Jordan's POV, and each of them have chapters that are in the "before", "the trip", and "after". The "before" starts with Jordan and Courtney meeting at a party and takes us all the way up to Jordan breaking up with her. "The trip" is exactly what you'd expect - present time, in which Courtney is angry about having to still go on the roadtrip with Jordan, but she still goes, and it doesn't quite go as planned. The "after" is pretty much when they get to the college, and she finds out about ~things~ around that time. Like I said, usually I don't like dual timelines, flipping between past and present, but it worked in this story.

Courtney is someone I really related to and understood. She is very analytical and Type A, a planner and an overthinker to the max. She likes things planned to the finest detail, and when she has a plan and a schedule, she likes to stick to it exactly. She likes to know exactly what is going on with no grey areas. I am very much like this so I understood her and I liked her. For much of this book, she is not happy with Jordan, and rightfully so. But she also misses him, and rightfully so.

Jordan is the golden boy player type, the good-looking one that all the girls love, the one that is confident and charming, but also sweet and sensitive when he wants to be. He runs from his problems, which is part of the reason why he and Courtney started hanging out (it's complicated), and he ended up realizing that he genuinely liked her and wanted to be with her. Jordan is a more complex guy than meets the eye, and I liked him a lot. He isn't sleazy and a d-bag like you'd think. He's a decent guy; I know his type and I like him.

I expected more drama in the story, what with Jordan having a new girl he met on Myspace and all that. But surprisingly, the drama wasn't that bad? I hate drama and I expected a ton of it, but the drama was really all between Jordan and Courtney and not really including other people. Jordan misses Courtney but can't talk to her about ~things~. Courtney misses Jordan but she is furious about the breakup. Things are complicated between them. 

Nevertheless, I could really feel the bond between them, and their feelings for each other. The romance in this book is messy because they're broken up, but it's still a really sweet romance. I loved seeing them pretend like they were okay, like they both weren't hurting, like they both didn't want to grab the other and kiss. It was good angst!

This book was published in 2007, and I was twelve years old at the time... apparently Myspace was still a thing back then? This book centers a lot around Myspace - Jordan's mysterious "Myspace girl". I actually learned a lot about Myspace from this book. But honestly, even though this book dates itself, you could replace "Myspace" with "Snapchat" or "Instagram" or something, and replace mentions of CDs with Pandora or playlists or something, and this book would be entirely applicable to teens today. In fact, all of Jordan's and Courtney's mannerisms, speech, etc. are all totally applicable to teen culture today. I mean, it was only ten years ago, but still. *I* never had a Myspace profile, so this book is a little on the old side! But still very much relatable.

I'll wrap this up. While I did not love the ending (see below), I liked it for the reason that it was a HEA. I love HEAs, and this ending wasn't a disappointing or heartbreaking ending. I'm glad Courtney finally learned the truth and she and Jordan had a conversation about everything. Drama sorts itself out. Barnholdt wrote a pretty great roadtrip romance. But I wasn't totally satisfied.

What I Did Not Like:

There really needed to be an epilogue to this book. The ending is so abrupt and left so many loose ends. With Courtney being such a meticulous planner and organizer, I expected her to be fixing things left and right. I'm trying to be vague on purpose. I just felt like there was a conversation, and that was it - the book ended. Can we see a cute scene with Jordan and Courtney, four months later during Christmas vacation? Or something? I just wanted more assurance that things are working out. This is my biggest complaint and it's pretty much the reason why this book isn't getting four or more stars from me.

Also, I wanted more kissing! There is some kissing in the "before" chapters, but I wanted present-day kissing. Second-chance angsty romances make for some serious chemistry and passion, y'all. There should have been some intense makeout sessions! *complains*

Would I Recommend It:

As far as YA contemporary romance novels go, this isn't a bad one. I liked it (minus the really open ending), but it won't be for everyone. It's a second-chance romance with some angst between the two main characters, which I actually enjoyed (surprisingly). I do recommend Barnholdt's Through to You which is unrelated to this novel, but a really good YA contemporary romance standalone. I think Barnholdt writes good contemporary, but each of her books are different and may not be for every YA contemporary romance reader.


3 stars. I liked this book but really wanted an epilogue or more chapters in the story. However, I hear that Right of Way is a companion novel that includes some Jordan/Courtney cameos... so I guess I have to read that book now. I hope I won't be disappointed!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Review: Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West

Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West
Publisher: Point
Publication Date: May 29, 2018
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Talking to other people isn't Kate Bailey's favorite activity. She'd much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school's podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she'll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate's surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend ... until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West's adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.

What I Liked:

I adore Kasie West's books. I've read all ten of her books (with Listen To Your Heart being her tenth) and I have to dislike one of them. Listen To Your Heart was cute! It was exactly what I expect from West - humorous, subtle romance, tough-issue social themes that are very present but not heavy and pressing, and a happily-ever-after that makes one sigh. I had been in the mood to read a light, cute romance, and I knew West would not let me down.

This book is set in a small town with a big lake, and the lake is Kate's favorite place to be. She knows she wants to take over her parents' marina at the lake when she gets older. What she doesn't want to do is her new podcast class, for which her best friend Alana convince her to sign up. Kate doesn't really like people, and so talking to people on a podcast isn't really her thing, so it's not ideal when she gets chosen to be the cohost of the school's podcast. Go figure! But the more Kate does the podcast hosting, the more comfortable she feels. Especially an anonymous caller keeps calling, asking for advice about his crush, and Kate is sure it's Diego Martinez (Alana's latest crush), asking for advice about his crush on Alana. Everything is peachy until Kate realizes that she is falling for Diego, and she isn't about to go against the girl code. But maybe it's time to take her own advice and be brave. 

At first I wasn't totally sold on Kate, because she came across as a little close-minded. She was so stuck on the lake being the only thing she wanted to be around, and how she was definitely going to work there for the rest of her life, and how she didn't need school because she was going to be at the lake forever. She doesn't like people and she doesn't like school. I can understand all of these things, but Kate didn't want to try anything new, and I could see that being frustrating for her parents. But then Kate started to do the podcast hosting (grudgingly, I might add), and she started to open up to trying new things and being more comfortable outside of her comfort zone. I could clearly see Kate's growth throughout the story. It was lovely to see her get away from the lake so much, even though she still loved the lake and drew comfort from it. 

Kasie West always builds in positive relationships in her books. I'm talking about familial relationships, and friendships, and of course the romance. Kate has a younger brother who has just started high school, and a whole bunch of cousins who live in the neighboring houses. The marina is family-owned so Kate and her cousins are very close - literally. I love the closeness of the cousins, and wish I had that with my cousins (except we're a sea apart so that doesn't really work). Kate and her parents also have a really positive, healthy relationship. Both of her parents are very active in her life and care a lot about her personal growth and success, and her happiness. I also loved Kate's friendship with Alana. The two girls are very close and supportive, from start to finish. They are each other's sidekicks and wing-women, the ride-or-die types.

I can't not talk about Diego! He's a fascinating secondary character and a great love interest. He's such a sweetheart, the gentlemanly polite type that is also charming and a little flirtatious. He struggles with his parents' high expectations for him, which is something I understand even now at age 22. Diego is by no means perfect, but he is wonderful.

The romance is adorable and subtly swoony! The whole time you're wondering, is Diego crushing on Alana? Alana is crushing on Diego... right? And Kate, Kate is definitely crushing on Diego. So at first I thought this would turn into some bizarre love triangle. But it didn't! Things worked out perfectly and there was no weird love triangle. I admired how Kate was so determined not to fall for Diego or let on that she had feelings for him - she is a good friend. But in the end, I'm also glad she aired things out. But I don't want to spoil how things ended, so I'll stop there!

Some of the social themes in this book included bullying, which was so heartbreaking. West unraveled that plot really slowly and I actually missed it entirely. Looking back, the signs were obvious, and I should have picked up on things. Like I knew something was weird, but I didn't piece together the correct pieces. I like how West addressed the bullying, and how important it was in this book, without being a central part of the plot. 

Despite the heavy themes, this book had a light, fun tone, and there was some good humor (as is West's forte). I giggled, and smiled, I swooned (mostly towards the end, where West saves up all the kisses). I loved the ending, not just in terms of the romance, but also in terms of how Kate changed and how she is evaluating her life a little differently.

This was a wonderful story, and yet another hit by Kasie West. I will definitely be rereading this book soon, and I'll be eagerly awaiting her next one!

What I Did Not Like:

I think I say this in all of my reviews of West's books - more swoons! More kisses! Maybe earlier on, not just in the last chapter or two. I love the subtle romances but hey, I wouldn't mind more kissing, and earlier on in the story. Wink!

Would I Recommend It:

If you love YA contemporary romance, you'll love Kasie West's books. I'm not even a YA contemporary person but West is my go-to author when I'm wanting to read a contemporary romance novel. Her romances are sweet and well-written, and I always swoon over the pair. Her stories are more than romances though, which I appreciate. West fans, this new book won't disappoint!


4 stars. This was adorable! And it made me curious about podcasts, which I've never really tried out. What a unique topic to write about. I love West's blend of romance and social themes, and how she always manages to write a sweet contemporary novel with good lessons/messages. I can't wait to read more Kasie West books!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Stacking the Shelves (#273)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!

So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, March 11th to Saturday, March 17th?

(all links to Goodreads are provided!)

In the mail:

Both unsolicited but appreciated. Thank you, Disney and Harper Perennial!

From NoVa Teen Book Festival:

A massive haul from NoVa Teen! My sister won VIP tickets and there was a swag bag involved. Luckily she didn't want most of it so she gave the majority of goods to me. :D Thank you, Lily and NoVa Teen!

Review from this week:

(Click on the cover to go to my review!)

Favorite Instagram post from this week:

None this week! Though I may post some recap photos on Saturday.

NoVa Teen was so fun! I got to see Susan Dennard (she was so sweet and she recognized me AND she asked me about #ManBunGuy! Too bad I didn't have new updates.). I also saw Brigid Kemmerer, Dhonielle Clayton, Tomi Adeyemi, Jodi Meadows, Scott Reintgen, Audrey Coulthurst, Rachel Hartman, and many more! The event was awesome and the signing was fantastic - it was much quicker this year, and I got to chat with Susan, Tomi, Dhonielle, and a few others. I can't wait to go back next year. Look out for a recap post and giveaway SOON!

Friday, March 16, 2018

My Favorite Jane-Austen-Inspired YA Books

Hey friends! Today is yet another day in which I didn't feel like writing/posting a review, so I'm doing another favorites post! You can check out my favorite YA foreign editions posts HERE, favorite YA books (alphabet style) HERE, favorite YA books with one-word titles HERE, and favorite swoons from YA books HERE.

Here are some of my favorite YA Jane Austen retellings!

Note: this isn't a definitive list, as usual! Also, Heartstone is adult fiction

    Pride and Prejudice: A Coloring Classic

Here are a few that I didn't love but are still worth mentioning!

Ivory and Bone (Ivory and Bone, #1)  Spies and Prejudice  Solving for Ex

And here are a few I want to try!

Prom and Prejudice  The Trouble with Flirting  Epic Fail

This post came to be because I was rereading Heartstone and realized how much I really loved retellings of Pride and Prejudice. Some of these books are inspired by other novels like Persuasion. But tell me - what are some of your favorite Jane Austen retellings (YA or adult)? Send me all of your best recommendations! =)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Swoon Thursday (#268): The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting

This week, my swoon is from The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin!

I placed my hands on his chest. His heart beat faster. His control was slipping.


I leaned closer, my hands moving lower down his stomach, my back arched above him. I kissed his throat. I heard a sharp intake of breath.

I smiled against his skin, moved my lips along his jaw, his throat, marveling at the point where the rough became smooth. My hands wandered slowly to his waist and he slid my dress up, his fingers hot on my bare skin, making me breathless. Making me ache. I pressed into him harder, my body bent, bowstring-tight over his. His mouth was just millimeters from mine.

"Fuck," he murmured against my lips. The feel, the word, sent a hot little shock through my spine. It skittered through my veins, danced through every nerve.

And then I brushed his lips with mine.

- Hardcover copy, pages 350-351

I'm almost finished with my read/reread of this series! I want to get started on The Retribution of Mara Dyer as soon as possible, so hopefully next week I'll feature a swoon from that book. I'm excited!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday (#272): Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm featuring:

Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis
Book One of the Give the Dark My Love series
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: September 25, 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island's wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn't quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori "Grey" Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that's for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it's making its way toward the cities. With her family's life--and the lives of all of Lunar Island's citizens--on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy's most dangerous corners--and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

This sounds really good! I've had success with Revis's books in the past, and I love fantasy. This is her first fantasy novel and I am very excited about it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Book Two of the Mara Dyer series
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Purchased copy 

Summary (from Goodreads):

Mara Dyer knows she isn't crazy. She knows that she can kill with her mind, and that Noah can heal with his. Mara also knows that somehow, Jude is not a hallucination. He is alive. Unfortunately, convincing her family and doctors that she's not unstable and doesn't need to be hospitalised isn't easy. The only person who actually believes her is Noah. But being with Noah is dangerous and Mara is in constant fear that she might hurt him. She needs to learn how to control her power, and fast! Together, Mara and Noah must try and figure out exactly how Jude survived when the asylum collapsed, and how he knows so much about her strange ability...before anyone else ends up dead!

What I Liked:

I've been on a mission to finish the Mara Dyer trilogy and start reading the Shaw Confessions books,  now that we're officially waiting on book two to publish in November. Back in the day, I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and the beginning of Evolution, and none of Retribution. I've reread Unbecoming, and now I've finished Evolution! I loved the first book and I really enjoyed this second one, and I can't wait to read book three.

This book starts with Mara waking up to find herself in a hospital room, where she will be staying because her parents want her to get help... permanently. No one believes her when she tells them that she saw Jude, her ex-boyfriend, alive and whole and in town. Despite what everyone believes, Jude is alive - Mara just need to prove it. The only person that believes her is Noah, but even he has secrets that he isn't telling Mara. Mara and Noah must figure out what is going in terms of Jude, before it's too late and Mara is never seen again.

Most of this book deals with Mara's psychological state - is she hallucinating, or is what she is seeing real? She is what is considered an unreliable narrator, especially since the story is written in first-person. We have no idea what is real and what isn't, because everything is coming from her POV. Is Jude real, or a figment of her imagination? Does Mara have PTSD and something else, or just PTSD? Is Jude behind everything?

With this being a psychological thriller, the tone of the story is very chilling at times, very sinister. There were times when my skin broke out in goosebumps and I couldn't unglue my eyes from the pages. The creepy feeling was there, and while I don't enjoy feeling creeped out, I will say that the author did a really good job in building suspense and the chill factor.

I should note: there are mentions and implications of possible sexual assault, and attempted suicide. Neither event actually happens but both are mentioned.

I really felt for Mara in this book. I liked her in book one, and I liked her in this book. It's not her fault she can't trust her own mind. It's not her fault that any of this is happening to her. Every time doctors didn't believe her, or her parents made decisions for her, I wanted to shake them. We as readers are fairly confident that not everything that Mara is seeing and experiencing is imagined, and so it's sad to see no one believing her. Mara thinks she has a broken mind and a really strange ability involving death, but she is much more. She is also kind in her own way, and vulnerable, and brave too. She confronts her demons towards the end of the book, and she is selfless.

I can't talk about this book and not talk about Noah. Noah Shaw seems like the angelic bad-boy of the school, with the perfect British accent and flawless good looks and flippant attitude. He seems like he has it all, from charisma to handsomeness to affluence, but as we learn in this book, there is more to him than meets the eye. We find out some things that are heartbreaking, and some things that are respectable, and some things that make him seem more vulnerable. I adore Noah; I always figured the perfect bad-boy thing was a facade and not a one-dimensional effect.

We get to see some familiar characters, like Mara's parents and brothers of course, but also Jamie (Mara's best friend), which was really cool because I thought we'd never see him again after book one. There is also this "before" set of chapters interspersed throughout the story, which involves a young Indian girl in the past, who befriends the master's daughter. This plot doesn't seem to fit at first, but then it really does. Pay attention to the characters in that sidebar "before" plot.

We do get to learn more about Noah and Mara's abilities, so hang in there if you're confused! I won't say any more than that.

The romance is barely there, especially with the focus being on Mara getting better and getting worse. Mara wants more with Noah, but Noah doesn't want to take advantage of her... it's an interesting tug-of-way. I hope there will be more ~romance~ in book three. I like Noah and Mara together and I hope they work through things.

I won't say anything about the climax and ending except that it is and isn't what you'd expect. A lot goes down and some key appearances are made... and the ending is so cruel, in terms of a cliffhanger. I'm glad I waited until the series was complete because now I can jump right into Retribution without having to be tortured with the wait.

What I Did Not Like:

Maybe more Noah/Mara intensity and romance, but that's it? I really liked this book. It made me on edge at times, and also sad, and I enjoyed it.

Would I Recommend It:

If you like psychological thrillers, this is definitely the series for you. This sequel novel is different from the first book because it gets intense (in terms of Mara's mental state and the whole Jude thing). I can see people not loving this one as much as book one, but I think it sets up the third book perfectly. I highly recommend binge-reading the books, don't start reading them if you don't have all of them!


4 stars. I'm annoyed that I waited so long to finish this book, but at the same time I'm glad I waited so that I would be able to start reading Retribution as soon as I want. The ending of this book was cruel and I am so anxious to see how Mara gets out of the situation. And I'm dying to see how other characters fared. Hodkin has written such an intriguing series here, and I can't wait to finish it!

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!