Mini Reviews: Heartstone + By Your Side

MiniHave I mentioned how nice it is to write a couple of mini reviews during the month? I love writing reviews (mostly), but sometimes I don’t have the time to write down all my thoughts and sometimes I just can’t seem to find the words. It’s nice having this alternative way of sharing my thoughts on books. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Heartstone
Author: Elle Katharine White
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: January 17th 2017 

      “A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.
      They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.
      Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.
      Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.
      It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

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“My breath rattled in my ears. I stared at the creature twitching at my feet. Even deep in it death throes, its talons raked the ground, reaching for me to rend, to kill.

If there’s one kind of retelling that I find hard to resist it’s Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Elle Katharine White’s Heartstone reimagines the classic in a world filled with dragons, gryphons, and adorable hobgoblins. Aliza is brave and opinionated, not easily intimidated and I really liked how important her family was to her. Alastair Daired, dragon Rider and far too arrogant for his own good, is standoffish and rigid in his opinions, but still has an unmistakable charm that’s hard not to fall for. It’s hard not to compare White’s characters to their inspirations. There were several characters whose reincarnations I found a lot more enjoyable. Aliza’s sister Leyda still retained the silliness I’m used to seeing in Lydia Bennet, but unlike her counterpart, who’s obsession with marriage is both infuriating and understandable, Leyda’s ambitions lie in her desire to be a Rider. She longs for adventure, to not be the sister everyone overlooks and I really sympathized with her character. Overall, Heartstone was a fast-paced and fun retelling that I’d recommend to those looking for a different take on the classic.

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 342
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: January 31st 2017

      “When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
      Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?”

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      “A voice in the back of my head told me to calm down before I made it worse. Everything was fine. So I was stuck alone in a library, but I was safe. I could read and jog the stairs and stay busy. There were plenty of distractions here.
      In my new quiet state, I heard something behind me. Footsteps on wood.”

If there is one contemporary author whose books always seem to lift my spirits, it’s Kasie West. Her stories are entertaining and her characters enjoyable. Her latest novel By Your Side is fun, fast-paced contemporary that had me smiling throughout. Autumn Collins thinks she knows exactly what she wants, but when she ends up trapped in her school library for a weekend with Dax Miller, their connection throws her for a loop. Autumn is a people pleaser, her friends tend to be more outgoing than herself, and she often finds it difficult to say no to them. She also has an anxiety disorder that can sometimes interfere with her social life. In Dax, she finds someone whose personality she finds calming and who she wants more than anything to help. But By Your Side is more than just about Autumn trying to figure out what she wants for herself. She also learns how important self-care is despite outside pressure from her friends. I really liked Dax, despite the parts of his personality that can be called cliché, but once again with West’s love interests, I wish we could have learned more about him and his situation. On my wish list: a Kasie West book with dual perspectives.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Friday 56: By Your Side

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“What was wrong with me? I thought now, clicking off the television. Whenever I was away from Jeff, outside of our interactions, I could easily pick up on all the signs. But whenever I was near him, it was like my brain short-circuited and I couldn’t tell if he liked me or not.”

Kasie West’s By Your Side is another fast-paced, light read for the contemporary fan. The protagonist gets trapped in a library, which I’m sure is a dream come true for many of us. I smiled a lot while reading this. My mini review of this one will go up later this month. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
     
Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

The Friday 56: P.S. I Like You

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“How about we discuss the fact that you’re a guy. Let’s get married and have cute Indie Rock babies.”

Some plot lines are really predictable, but these same plot lines can be really addicting regardless. Kasie West’s P.S. I Like You may be a very predictable contemporary read, but it is utterly adorable and made me smile in the best possible way. Check out my full review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

      “While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!
      Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Title: P.S. I Like You
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Publisher: Point
Release Date: July 26th 2016 

      “While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!
      Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

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“I didn’t have that sad of a social life. I had a fun and perfectly normal relationship with an anonymous pen pal. Okay, so an anonymous pen pal didn’t exactly sound normal, but I would ignore that fact.

I recently read Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things which has a similar premise to Kasie West’s newest release P.S. I Like You. The premise behind both isn’t the most complicated, two characters end up exchanging notes of some kind in an anonymous fashion and soon begin to develop feelings for each other. The plot of these stories is often predictable, the reveal easy to call after the first few chapters, and yet I keep coming back to them. It would be really easy to get hung up on the logistics of these stories, but to do so would completely miss the point. These novels are meant to entertain, to make you smile and squeal silently when you know what’s coming but the characters themselves remain clueless. This is exactly what I did while reading P.S. I Like You, because sometimes a feel good book is just what you’re looking for.

Lily Abbott has an undeniable charm. Unable to hold back her own thoughts, she’s known for saying odd things at the most inopportune moments. She’s sassy and cynical, prone to sarcastic replies and awkward social exchanges. The most important things in her life are her family and her music. Her house is always full, loud, and chaotic. I loved how much Lily’s family meant to her, especially her siblings. Though I admit I have a soft spot for the young Jonah. Lily has always sought refuge in her songwriting where she has a chance to form the words needed to express herself, something that isn’t always easy for her with other people. But Lily is also very self-conscious. It’s difficult for her to share this side of herself because she fears rejection. This self-consciousness is a constant hurdle for her throughout the novel.

The exchanges Lily has with her secret pen pal are a delight to read. They go from funny and light to tackling personal struggles in both the characters’ lives. Lily has always felt that she could express herself better on paper and these letters are the perfect way for her to really find her voice. I’ve complained in the past about not getting to know the love-interests enough in Kasie West’s books, but this plot really allows readers insight into Lily’s counterpart. My only complaint is that I wish the novel had been longer. I would have liked to have seen more interactions between Lily and her pen pal after the big reveal, but that may be because I could not get enough of them together.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Friday 56: On the Fence

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“Linda taught me to use the register, and by Tuesday she had the nerve to leave me alone for an hour while she had dinner. I told her if I gave away all the money in the register it was all on her. She told me she trusted me and my math abilities. I didn’t mention that I sucked at math.”

If you asked me a couple of months ago if I would be picking up any contemporary books for the summer, I would have said no. But something came over me in May and I’ve been devouring the genre for the past month and have no plans to stop. On the Fence is the third Kasie West book I’ve picked up and it was by far my favorite. My full review can be found here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

      “For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.
      To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.”

On the Fence by Kasie West

On the Fence by Kasie West

Title: On the Fence
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 296
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 1st 2014 

      “For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.
      To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

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I placed my palm on the fence as if I had somehow just sent the message to Braden. Then I sat down on the dirt. It felt warm between my fingers. “I dream about my mom,'” I said to the moon. “How is it possible to miss someone I never knew?”

Kasie West’s On the Fence is the perfect read if you’re looking for a contemporary novel with a well-developed lead and just the right amount of romance. West’s protagonist, Charlotte “Charlie” Reynolds, is what really makes this book stand apart from her other novels. Charlie has grown up in a house full of boys, having lost her mother at a young age. She feels much more comfortable in a pair of cleats than high heels. Her three brothers and neighbor, Braden, have always treated her like another boy and she wouldn’t have it any other way. But her new job opens a new world to her, she meets girls she always dismissed because they were too girly and discovers that she may have more in common with them than she realized. One small criticism I had with this storyline is that it kind of implied that no sporty girl could be into makeup and fashion as well. While I don’t think this is what the author meant to do, it did feel like she was drawing a line, because although Charlie hung out with a lot of sporty girls, not one is mentioned as also liking “girly” stuff. To me this was very unrealistic.

Charlie really struggles with being vulnerable. Her father has never been into sharing his feelings and her brothers are much more likely to take on a crazy dare than open up to each other. Charlie, in turn, feels the need to be just as tough, even with her mother’s passing continuing to haunt her. Her secret talks with Braden is the first time where she feels she can talk about things she usually hides during the day. Braden also finds a confidant in Charlie. This is one aspect I wish had been explored more. While Charlie struggles with trying to remember the mother she lost at such a young age, Braden is dealing with an alcoholic father whose favorite activity while inebriated is picking a fight. While I understand this is a story about Charlie, I would have liked to have seen Braden open up more to her, especially when it came to this particular issue.

Having read The Fill-In Boyfriend and The Distance Between Us, I did not go into this one expecting to be blown away; however, On the Fence exceeded my expectations. Charlie’s relationship with her brothers is strong and easily relatable, a major highlight of the book. I loved that she was able to recognize that being athletic and girly are not mutually exclusive, and you should never change yourself in order to be accepted by other people.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★