Claire and Poppy grew up in the social media limelight. Their mother blogging about their lives until the three of them became household names. Now in high school Claire discovers her history isn’t all as it was blogged and as she researches past facts she realizes her life’s ambitions may not be the same as her sister’s. When she meets Rafael and learns his story he helps her realize that her definition of family may not be as pretty as the blog posts but her feelings and ties to her sister are real.
Even though Claire and Poppy were internet stars they had the drama and emotions of normal high school teenagers. Claire was the more introverted of the two sisters and so felt each emotion and comment cut deeper. That sensitivity made her afraid to speak her feelings until they grew so large in her own head they overwhelmed her. I’ll admit I grew frustrated with most of the characters in this novel because a little communication would have allayed so many of their fears, but then I guess we wouldn’t have had much of a novel to read!
Rafael ended up being my favorite character, yet, he too was not 3D. Having lived all over the world with his father with Doctors without Borders should have given him a broader frame to draw his experiences from, yet he never got past the drama and his own teenage insecurities. My expectations may have been set a little high, but I was really looking for a reason to love this novel and instead never got past like.
As a blogger myself, I thought I should have found this plot more interesting. Their life as bloggers was actually kind of fun and I’d have liked to see more of that. Part of the problem was that some of the subject matter, while deep, was written with a lighter touch that seemed to de-emphasize the importance of what was happening in that scene, so the tone of the novel was too light for the drama it was trying to represent. It kept me from connecting with these characters in a way that I needed to do to enjoy their journey. ❤️❤️❤️❣️
I received a free copy of the ARC for my honest review and it was honest.
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
” …read this in a day and enjoyed it SO much. It feels really timely, with how many mommy bloggers and instagrammers there are in the world- it makes you think about their kids and how they might grow up to view everything (including invasion of their privacy).” the bookish beagle
“Overall, this was a fascinating read with an insightful look into the private lives of social influencers and I think it’ll be quite enjoyable to younger readers. I think it’s a great debut attempt which could have done with better execution.” My World of Books
“Don’t live to please the starfish, especially when their happiness is at the expense of yours. That is not love. That is narcissism. There’s an entire ocean out there, Kiko–swim in it.”
Kiko Himura has a narcissistic mother who has consistently beaten down her self confidence until she can only see herself through her mother’s eyes. Her only escape is through her art, something that she excels at and enjoys. Against her mothers wishes she applies to Prism, an art school, and sets all of her hopes and dreams upon getting in.
Despite her social anxiety Kiko’s best friend Emery talks her into going to a party where she runs into Jamie, the boy who was her best friend from childhood. He and his family had moved to California and their friendship had not survived the distance. Pretty quickly their friendship resumed but Jamie could see that this Kiko was not the same happy, friendly girl he had left behind years ago.
OK, I’ll be honest. This was a really difficult novel for me to read. Knowing a little bit about narcissistic relationships I recognized those signs immediately. However, my own relationship was not desperate and hurtful as Kiko’s was, but I could feel her pain because it easily could have been. It’s hard to read about a subject that is familiar and see that character take a different path than your own. I’ll admit that I was really frustrated with Kiko. I wanted her to be immediately stronger than she was but found the patience to keep reading because I wanted to see if she found her happy ending.
Jamie was just wonderful. As soon as he saw Kiko again he knew they were meant to be together. He was infinitely patient and old beyond his years, but then his household had it’s own difficulties. His treatment of this girl who was obviously fragile was to lend her his strength and the knowledge that despite everything he would be there for her, in whatever manner she desired. That is true love.
Although this was a difficult read for me, I did enjoy how the author slowly gave Kiko strength and through that she found her own self. I loved that.
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“I think the emotional journey of the characters was the strength of this book; I definitely had a lot of feelings about Kiko and her relationship with her family and her heritage, the latter important because of her mother’s constant undermining of the value of it. I got to the end and was just… emosh. And like I said, I thought the way the romance was handled was really important and sensitive.” Miriam Joy Reads
“I loved the way this story was written, with stunning descriptions that really sparked my imagination. All the descriptions of Kiko’s art actually made me want to start painting again, which I haven’t really done in years. All in all, this book was gripping, emotional, dark, emotional and hopeful. I really liked it, and will definitely be reading future books by this author.” Reading Sanctuary
The Dead Queens Club takes the historical facts of King Henry VIII and his six wives and translates it into a Contemporary Young Adult novel set in a high school. No, high school Henry is not married to six girls, but he has had six girlfriends in the last two years. Including our main protagonist, Annie Marck “Cleves”, girlfriend number four, and best friend to Henry. When she hears a rumor that Henry is possibly responsible for the deaths of two of his ex-girlfriends, Cleves investigates to help clear his name. Is the most popular boy in school the funny partner in crime she knows? Or is he a guy with anger management issues who takes revenge on his cheating girlfriends?
The Dead Queens Club cleverly names all of it’s characters after their true life namesakes and incorporates familiar places from Tudor history into this small town. I’ll admit to once again using Wikipedia to give myself a quick history lesson on each wife (and if they kept their head or not) and found that I relished watching the mystery unfold more because of that knowledge. Setting Henry VIII’s relationships in a high school certainly had it’s challenges but I thought Hannah Capin did a GREAT job at intertwining and creating original scenarios while still maintaining their historical references. It wasn’t just the names and places that were similar, but each person’s relationship with Henry, down to his advisors who fed him false information to turn him against his wives, were represented in this book. Once you know the history (as I did with my quick Wikipedia exploration) you have a few aha! moments where you stop and admire the machinations and manipulations the author took to make that reference happen.
Lancaster High had all of the drama and gossip you’d imagine from a high school setting and even though the pace was kind of slow I was surprised at how well the political intrigue of the Tudor court translated into the cliques and capers of high school life. Cleves rides on the edge of any clique although her friendship with Henry puts her in the elite circle. She is blinded for a long while by that friendship, his magnetic personality, and his lies, but the other girls, even though catty and mean, help her see the truth.
Even though The Dead Queen’s Club had a contemporary setting I found myself enjoying it like I do historical fiction, yet it was easy to read and didn’t bog down as some historical fiction does. Cleves was probably one of Henry’s least impressive wives, yet in this novel she was the catalyst for the readers emotions to dip and surge. She was so torn between her “best friend” Henry and this other Henry that her friends were trying to make her see. Who was the real boy? Well, if you know your history you know the answer to that question. But there is so much more to this novel than the historical facts. There are emotions, discoveries, and the realization that people just sometimes suck. The story, however, didn’t. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
I received a free copy of this ARC for my honest review and it was honest!
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“If you are like me and are a fan of The Tudors and every scheming person affiliated with them, chances are you will love this book. It kept me wanting more and I just didn’t want to put it down. Hats off to Hannah Capin who was able to make me love these characters even more than I already did. ” TBR and Beyond
” I didn’t enjoy this read as much as I’d hoped, but that’s more me than the book. I’m not a big fan of Mean Girls and erratic high school drama, but judging by other reviews, many readers thought The Dead Queens Club was fabulous. This book is scheduled for publication January 29th, 2019.” Books and Such
Book Bloggers are an opinionated lot. When we find a trend in fiction that we love we talk about it to death until one day that love turns into dissatisfaction, the tide turns, and we start talking about how much we hate that trope. I guess that’s human nature but well, I hate it. Just because the newness has worn off doesn’t mean we should get rid of it. There are still many things to love!
THE LOVE TRIANGLE-
I’m not sure why this trope has become unpopular? There is nothing better than the exploration of a character seen through two people’s eyes. One of my favorite examples of this is….
This series is a favorite for so many people, yet it started out as a love triangle. Through Tamlin’s eyes we saw Feyre’s weaknesses and her fight to overcome them. Through Rhys’ eyes we saw her strength. Yes, Tamlin didn’t treat her very well, but without that plot point would we like Rhys as much as we do? Would we like them together? In fact, wouldn’t it be interesting if Tamlin overcame his ways and fought to recapture Feyre’s love? I’d almost like to see a return of the love triangle. It might bring a spark back into this now overwrought love story.
THE FAIRYTALE RE-TELLING
I’ll be the first to say that I am overwhelmed by the number of fairy-tale re-telling novels that were re-leased over the last couple of years. Some were not so good, but when one is written well, the fairy-tale re-telling is so much fun! I read quite a few last year but these two stood out because they were different.
The Wrath & The Dawn is a re-telling of Scheherazade’s One Thousand and One Nights. The prince marries and kills his princess every night until he marries Scheherazade and she keeps him up all night telling a story with a cliff hanger that keeps him coming back. The Wrath and the Dawn’s Shazi marries the prince for revenge, but falls in love. It’s full of intrigue, romance, and Renee Ahdieh’s beautiful prose.
Hunted is a re-telling of probably the most re-told story, Beauty and the Beast. What makes Meagan Spooner’s rendition different is that she mixes Russian folklore into the main story of Beauty and the Beast. It is beautifully told and Yeva is a strong heroine. Interestingly enough, both Yeva and Shazi from the Wrath and the Dawn, survive by telling stories, so maybe there is a touch of Scheherazade in Yeva as well!
Not to speak ill of fairy-tale re-tellings, but I have read plenty that did NOT hit the mark. But as with all novels, they are subjective and I’ve read plenty of reviews for those books I didn’t really care for where those readers were overjoyed with the outcome. That’s the beauty of reading, isn’t it?
THE HISTORICAL RE-TELLING
My discovery of this trend is pretty new and so far I am loving it. Admittedly, I know enough about history to think, ‘hmmm, this sounds familiar’ and then look it up. Wikipedia has become my best friend! I have just read two YA novels back to back that followed this trope that were done really well. My reviews are scheduled to post soon, but here’s a brief note on both.
The Dead Queen’s Club is the story of King Henry the VIII and his six wives, in a high school contemporary setting. Henry is a charismatic young man, popular, and has a steady stream of girlfriends. Two of whom are dead. Cleves, our protagonist, is his best friend and also one of his exes, who is determined to figure out who was responsible for his girlfriends deaths. Her voice is snarky and there are plenty of past and present cultural and historical references. It was a roller coaster ride and I really enjoyed my emotion sickness.
Set in Elizabethan England our heroine is a Catholic whose father was killed for his faith. Wanting revenge, she joins a treasonous plot to kill the queen. Little does she know, that play (written by Shakespeare -‘Twelfth Night’) was a plot to capture the assasin’s. I loved the historical references, the treasonous plot, and of course, Shakespeare.
HEROINE WITH POWERS THAT SAVE THE WORLD
Admittedly, this trope is usually found in YA fantasy novels, although I’d love to see a contemporary heroine have super powers and save the world. That could be a great twist! Admittedly, I have a soft spot for fantasy novels, and LOVE to root for the underdog. So, while many of you hate to love our heroine’s that save the world, if done well I find myself believing and rooting for them almost EVERY time. I’m a softy, I know! Here are a couple that struck the right chord.
Our heroine Britta is a Channeler and has developing magical powers. Through this two book series (well, there is a third but it’s unrelated to these main characters) we see Britta go from fearful of being discovered a Channeler, to solving the mystery of what happened to her father, finding her best friend and crush and absolving him of the crime, to saving the king. She doesn’t save the world, but through her actions she brings Channelers out in to the open, ending their persecution in her country. Oh! I should mention that these two books also use the Love triangle trope. It’s kind of minor, but does add some tension into Britta and Cohen’s relationship that was probably needed. That sub-plot would’ve been as dull as dishwater otherwise!
There are any number of other YA novels that use this trope, and actually combines the Love Triangle and Heroine with Super Powers tropes to success. The other one that jumps out at me is the following…
Yes, the Red Queen. Every book blogger who has read this series has an opinion. BUT, this first novel was very well done. A political thriller that pits those with common “red” blood against the elite, those with “silver” blood. Our heroine, red blooded Mare (God, I hate that name!), has the powers of a silver blood. She becomes the face of an uprising, the fixation of an evil King, and the lover of a fallen hero. This series has it’s ups and downs, but as a whole, Victoria Aveyard writes a spirited political thriller with a heroine that always sacrifices herself for the greater good. I haven’t yet read the last novel because King’s Cage kind of pissed me off, but it is overall a good series. Oh and I love Maven. You gotta love an evil Prince/King.
There are so many other YA trends and tropes that we book bloggers just love to love and love to hate. It depends on our mood, how many we’ve read in a row, and as always if the character and plot draw us in. In my opinion we shouldn’t be too quick to write off a book just because the trope has been overdone. There are still some GREAT books out there that we don’t want to miss, right?
What’s your favorite or most hated YA Trend or Trope? Or are you like me and secretly like them all? Let me know in the comments!
I grabbed a copy of Saint Anything off the sale pile at my local bookstore. I had recently read another novel by Sarah Dessen, Once and For All and had really like how much substance and character building she had written into that novel and wanted to try another and see if this was her signature style. Sure enough, Saint Anything matched the depth and her heroine Sydney was complex. Yeah! I know I’m late to discover this author, but I’m excited to find her and will probably quickly get through her backlog of books. 🙂
Saint Anything is about Sydney and her search for a voice and presence in her family. Sydney has always been second to her older brother Peyton. He was charming, good looking, and the apple of her mothers eye. As he grew older, he began to act out until one day he drove drunk, got in an accident and hurt another teenager. Peyton goes to jail and leaves Sydney’s life in pieces. Having to change from private school to public school Sydney has to start all over. In some ways this was a wonderful thing to be among people who didn’t know her past. When she meets Layla Chatham, she gets embraced by her family and finds the support and love from them that was missing at home.
Sydney went through so many emotional ups and downs in this novel. She is angry at her family, feels guilty about the teen that her brother hit, and tries to balance new friends and old friends while still maintaining her own personal identity. Then, of course, she falls in love too, and Mac’s that boy that all mothers should want for their daughters. A prince among teens. LOL.
Sarah Dessen must have gone through every emotion in her teen life to be able to write with such depth and feeling from a teenage girls point of view. Sydney’s self revelations are inspiring for teen girls I’m sure, but also for myself at a (much) more advanced age. I really enjoy how her characters grow into great people and forget I’m reading about 16 year old’s. It does help that the romances are sub plots, at least in the two Dessen books I’ve read so far.
If you haven’t read this novel and are looking for a quick read with depth, look for Saint Anything. It will fill that bucket, for sure. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“I’ve read several Sarah Dessen books and always found them perfectly good summer reads. Nothing extraordinary but never a disappointing read, and Saint Anything fell right into that category. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about this book. I enjoyed the characters and their development, something Sarah Dessen absolutely excels at. But in terms of story and romance, it was lacking.” Pagefuls
“I absolutely loved this book! Sydney’s character was very relatable because like her, I also lost touch with some of my friends when I changed schools. The only event that made me uncomfortable while I was reading was Ames’s character because from his first scene I knew he was creepy. It really annoyed me when Sydney’s mother kept encouraging Ames to come around, but by the end of the book I was happy to read about her change of heart.” The Night Owl Book Blog
Only child Devon Tennyson has had her world changed. Her cousin Foster has come to live with she and her parents and now she has the little brother she never wanted. Her safe world has turned upside down and changes are on the horizon, her safe crush on her best friend Cas is pushed to the back burner by first, her cousin Foster, and second by all star quarterback Ezra. Being teamed with both of them in her P.E. class starts a chain of events that changes her world.
I have read one other Emma Mills story, Foolish Hearts. Whereas that novel was different than this one, there was one similarity that I enjoyed seeing adapted again. Both of the female main characters were plodding along and their young worlds got shook up. In First & Then the catalyst is her cousin Foster. His childhood circumstances were heartbreaking and whereas Devon was empathetic, it took Ezra befriending Foster for her to see the big picture and open her heart to enfold Foster into her life.
Devon’s love for Jane Austen is mentioned quite a few times in this novel and you can’t help but make Pride & Prejudice comparisons. Especially between Ezra and Darcy. Her view of Ezra as a snobby standoffish jock was similar to Elizabeth’s of Darcy. As with Pride and Prejudice, when Devon’s crush Cas is actually falling for another girl, it is Ezra who quietly steps in to make her feel good about herself. Albeit in a quiet, non communicative way. I really couldn’t wait until they got past all of the miscommunications and red herrings that were thrown into their path. A sign of a good story and the reader being invested in the relationships for sure!
If you enjoy YA contemporary’s with a hint of romance this novel is the perfect fit for you. Devon is a great leading heroine, but beware, Foster steals the show in this one. He is adorkably cute. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Opinions From around the Blogosphere
“This is a story of love and loss, friendship and family, the high school experience. It’s also about a town and it’s love for football and tradition. It’s about the effects of drunk driving and addiction on the lives of those left behind. It’s a beautiful story of a girl who becomes less judgemental, more assertive and finds love.” My World of Books
“First & Then is a very cute, lovely, heartwarming, funny story about friendship and family, and figuring out what you want in life, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves contemporary YA, especially if they’re a bit sick of the large doses of romance in that genre.” The Reading Hobbit
Jade, as the daughter of a rock star, has grown up on the road. Her mother’s career skyrockets and Jade wants to take a step back and spend the summer as a normal teenager. She goes to California to live with her aunt and uncle. Her aunt, her mom’s sister, is the complete opposite of Jade’s mom. They live in middle class suburbia and her aunt is solidly normal. Jade gets a job at the local pool, has a curfew, and kisses a boy for the first time. Ahh summer!
The set-up to this book is so YA, but when you get into the meat of it, there is a ton of depth to this story. Jade is living a normal teenage life for the first time, but the situations she finds herself in land her in the deep end of the pool for the first time. She meets and crushes on the head lifeguard, but doesn’t understand why this charming guy is so reserved. Quentin ends up being her neighbor and as the two of them develop a friendship she see’s that this fun guy has a very strong sense of responsibility that actually matches her own, but in a different way.
There was one story line which added to Jade’s story, but didn’t seem as pivotal as it probably should have. It did provide a mirror to Quinton’s, which was probably the purpose to it being included. Without going into details I’ll just say that it did make Quinton’s big reveal more impactful.
Almost Impossible was a sweet story about a girl who was looking for a change in scenery and actually found direction and a place for herself in this world. Something we can all aspire to find in our own life. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Opinions from around the Blogospere
“This book didn’t do anything to me emotionally even after a couple of heavy discoveries, and it’s really unsettling. However I like that it has a great family concept, amazing support system and featured a couple of responsible young adults which is kind of rare.” The Bookynista
“I started this book with apprehension and ended it totally in love with it. I will definitely be recommending this one to people looking for a cute summer romance read.” Books in Her Eyes
I bought this novel in the summer of 2017 to read on my trip to Italy. I thought it would be so much fun to read a novel that takes place in the country I was visiting. Needless to say, I never got around to reading it. I was eating too much gelato and enjoying the vistas, not reading. Last weekend I was in the mood for a lighthearted YA and took a look at my kindle and had that aha! moment. So, I started Love and Gelato, a year later, but it was worth the wait.
Love and Gelato sounds like a lighthearted Italian romance but this novel had a lot of hidden depth and emotional trauma. Our heroine, Lina, deals with her mother dying of cancer and finding out who her father is within the same few months. Her mother’s dying wish was for her to go to Italy and see the country she fell in love with and give her father a chance to get to know her. When she arrives, she is given her mother’s journal to read and starts to understand her love of Italy through her mother’s young eyes, visiting her favorite places with her new friend Ren. Some of the surprises that are in store for her are life changing and heart warming.
I love Jenna Evans Welch’s easy going style. Her novels are totally PG and are usually more about friendship and family than romance and this novel is no different. Ren, as the love interest, is totally charming and adorable but their’s is a love story that grows through a strong friendship and of course, lots of gelato. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Georgina Fernweh is approaching her seventeenth birthday when she will leave the island for the first time ever and live on the mainland and go to college. Going to college is usually a huge event in a persons life, but in Georgina’s case turning seventeen may be even bigger because she still hasn’t manifested her magic. First, she has to get through the summer as the island gets overrun with the Annabelle birdwatchers who arrive annually to catch a glimpse of a very rare bird. In their midst is a beautiful girl and her brother who help change the way Georgina see’s her future and herself.
I loved the mix of magical and reality. Georgina comes from a family of women who are gifted in different ways. Her twin sister’s gift is as mischievous and willful, matching the nature of the girl herself. Georgina, with her lack of magic, is the realist in the family and when tragedy strikes, she finds courage within herself to face the darkness and help her friends and family find the light. This novel dealt with a very difficult subject (rape) but did it in a way that matched the tone of the novel. There’s not much that’s magical about rape, but there can be magic in justice.
Katrina Leno has a magical way with storytelling. The flow of this novel, as with those I’ve read in the past, is very gentle, like the ebb and flow of the surf on the island Georgina lives on. When the conflict hits, that gentle flow is halted with a jerk and then the pace of the novel speeds up increasing your pulse right along with it. I forgot to read the synopsis before I started the book and so the magical bits were a pleasant surprise. Even more pleasant was the surprise that Georgina was secure in her sexuality as a young gay woman. This novel didn’t surprise us with her sexuality, it was built into her character, part of what made Georgina tick and wasn’t the conflict of the plot. It was a sidebar to her lack of magic being the main plot focus making her character feel totally natural. I liked that and I liked her.
If you like good books with a touch of magical realism, I think you should give Summer of Salt a try. You’ll be surprised by the richness of the characters and charmed by the writing. I believe you’ll even track down another of Katrina Leno’s books because you’ll want to see if she can be this good a second time. I’d recommend Everything All At Once! ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Do you ever start off reading a book thinking it’s about one thing, but your own experience with the words on the page make your experience something entirely different? That’s what happened to me with Kasie West’s Love, Life and the List.
Abby is seventeen years old and in love with her best friend Cooper. As if that’s not bad enough, she is trying to enter her art into an exhibit to help her chances of getting into art school but her mentor tells her that she hasn’t lived through enough life experiences to portray art with feeling. Abby is pretty destroyed, but determined to live life to the fullest by following a list she creates. What’s on the list? Things like facing your fear; watch a life end; experiencing unrequited love, etc. and her painting changes as she does with each life event she faces.
I think we’ve all lived through Abby’s emotion of loving her best friend and not having that love returned. Although mine was at a little bit older of an age, those feelings came rushing right back as she tried to deny the importance of her feelings. Thankfully she had some other things to check off to keep her busy and as she did I realized I should make my own list because even though I’m older, there is still a lot I need to experience. Kasie West’s point about your life becoming 3D by living through different experiences was poignant, and even though sometimes I’m human and want to avoid heavy emotions, reading this book made me think I may be missing something by not living them. (OK, I am mostly thinking about my avoidance of movies and books that make me cry, but even so, I may be missing something!)
Cooper was a charming leading man. He was a typical teen in that he didn’t think that far into the future and so in making a joke of Abby’s feelings he actually hurts himself as much as he hurts her. He was a really fun character to read and I enjoyed their sparring, but was thankful to see his character growth because it gave him dimension and the story more impact. I enjoyed experiencing life through Abby’s character and loved how quickly this plot moved. If you are looking for a one hanky lighthearted romance, I think this is the story for you! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❣️
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