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Sheer Perfection: Better off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Hola!

Sometimes the perfect book comes along at just the perfect time. That’s what happened for me with Elizabeth Eulberg’s Better off Friends.

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Better Off Friends by Elizabeth EulbergLevi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder, are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated? Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

Seriously, this one came along at the best time. I’ve been on a pretty big fantasy kick recently (for like the past year! haha) so I think I was ready for a quality contemporary read to really dig into. And talk about quality! Better off Friends is probably one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read in a while…right up there with Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Dessen!

I’d heard this one compared to a high school version of When Harry Met Sally and for real, Better off Friends is definitely an homage to that classic film. Macallan and Levi are kind of thrown together by their school principal, but quickly form a relationship based on need and a very silly British television show. Macallan is struggling to make a new life after her mother’s death, while new-guy Levi is simply looking to fit in, so both think of their friendship as kind of a new start. I can completely relate to Macallan and Levi’s friendship because it’s always been easier for me to be friends with guys than with girls. There is a freedom that comes from a friendship with a guy that one can’t get with another girl, but as Levi and Macallan soon discover that freedom usually comes with it’s own share of drama.

Eulberg writes the swoony, drama laden friendship between Macallan and Levi with expert skill. Each chapter alternates between Levi’s narration and Macallan’s. As I’ve mentioned in the past, sometimes switching between narrators can annoy me, but Levi and Macallan’s voices are so clear and distinct that I never have to check back to see who is telling the story. In between each chapter Eulberg has inserted commentary from both narrators, just like in When Harry Met Sally, and the banter between the two is sheer perfection! These were probably my favorite parts of the story, they just added both fun and perspective to Macallan and Levi’s story.

But this isn’t just Levi and Macallan’s story. Throughout the book, we get glimpses of how friendships change as we get older, especially in that transition from middle school to high school. Also, we see the way in which Levi’s mother serves as a stand-in mom for Macallan who is navigating her teenage years without her own mother. Each of these secondary relationships are realistically painful and joyful and just so well portrayed.

You really need to consider adding Better off Friends to your TBR list. I promise you wont’ be sorry, especially if you are looking for a strong contemporary read! It is most definitely a YA title, but I believe that older middle school readers, as well as adults, will appreciate it just as much as I did.

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Point (February 25, 2014)

Format: ARC (e-galley)

Length: 288 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA/MG

Buy the Book: Better Off Friends

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A Dreamy-Weamy Fresh Mix: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Hiya!

Those of you who have been following BookTasty for a while know that one of my favorite genres is fairy tale retellings. I just love seeing what happens when an author adds their own creativity to a classic tale. And you might even know that Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series is one of the most imaginative fairy tale retellings I’ve read in a while. Cress, the third book in the series is no different…except for the fact that I kind of think it’s the best one so far!

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Honestly, the covers in this series are all so pretty to look at, especially this one! *gazes dreamily at cover*

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Okay, so book one, Cinder, was focused on the story of Cinderella, while in Scarlet, the second book, we meet Little Red Riding Hood.  Well, in Cress, we meet Rapunzel. All of these well known characters have been plucked from their traditional settings and have now been dropped into this rich sci-fi setting. Our Rapunzel isn’t a prisoner in a tower but is instead a computer hacker isolated in a satellite that orbits both Earth and Luna. How freakin’ cool is that?!

After reading, and loving the first two books, I have to say that Cress is by far my favorite of the series. First you have Cress, who I find that I can so easily relate to. Cress is a hopelessly dreamy-weamy romantic who crushes on none other than one of the criminals she’s been tasked with locating. She is the kind of girl who is so innocent and awkward that she hides in embarrassing situations and frequently imagines she is someone else. Awww Cress, I just feel like I get you and your ability to make a situation totally more awkward than it has to be and it’s why I love you! Despite her ungraceful ways, Cress is a brilliant hacker and has the ability to draw from internal strength she never could have guess she had.

In addition to the adorable Cress, Cinder and her whole crew are back. We get to see more Captain Thorne, Scarlet, Wolf, Iko, Dr. Erland and even Prince Kai as the group moves closer and closer to stopping Queen Levana in her quest to control both Luna and Earth. With all of these characters there is a lot going on in Cress, but I never once felt overwhelmed. The action was so captivating that I just wanted to keep reading and stay in this imaginative Firefly-like world forever! There is a freshness about Cress that, partly comes from Cress herself and in part comes from the old and new characters mixing to creating exciting new storylines.

I genuinely cannot think of any major flaws, except that I really wanted this 500 plus page book to be even longer. There is so much that I want to figure out and I hated having to say goodbye to these characters, who feel like good friends, for another year before book four, Winter, is released. If you haven’t yet started this creative and fun series, please go to your library now and start reading! If you hurry you can get to Cress by tomorrow’s release day!

And a big huge massive friendly thank you to Kyle at A Reader’s Pensieve who loaned me her ARC! She’s pretty awesome, and if you aren’t familiar with her blog, you totally should be! :)

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel &Friends (Feb. 4, 2014)

Format: ARC

Length: 560 pages

Series: Third book in The Lunar Chronicles

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Cress (Lunar Chronicles)

 

 

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I Just Knew: Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

Hi there everyone!

Did you know that this is the second year I’ve participated in the Debut Author’s Challenge?  Well it is! I really enjoy this particular challenge because it allows me to read at least 12 debut books by new authors each year. Through completing this challenge I’ve been introduced to some really awesome new authors.

One of those awesome new authors is Elizabeth Ross. When I saw the cover (isn’t it pretty?!) for her debut Belle Epoque I just knew. Then I read the summary and I just knew.

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth RossI just knew that Belle Epoque would be right up my period drama loving alley!

When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect foil.

But Isabelle has no idea her new “friend” is the hired help, and Maude’s very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.

I adored this book!

One of the things I love about Belle Epoque is how unique the whole idea of a “repousser” is. It took me a while to understand, so let’s tease this definition out a little. Imagine you have a pile of nice looking peaches sitting in a bin. They’re all decent so none of them stand out amongst one another. But when you take one of those decent peaches and sit it next to a bruised and broken peach suddenly the normal looking one become beautiful and more desirous! It’s the same with a hired repousser. Really interesting right?! 

And all tied in with this repousser theme is the juxtaposition between the building of the Eiffel Tower (because Belle Epoque is set in the late 1880s while the tower was being built) and Maude (our main character). When the Eiffel Tower was first introduced many Parisians thought it was hideous and declared it a blight on the beautiful city scape. Likewise, when Maude is first introduced to the Agency, she is seen as an ugly, or plain, girl. As the tower gets taller and taller Maude grows as well…it’s so good!

In particular I was so happy to read a book set in Paris after I visited there for the first time this past November. The city of Paris is such a huge part of Maude’s experience in the story. Being a hired repousser Maude gets to see two sides of Paris first hand: the luxurious, gilded aristocracy as well as the bright and seemingly vulgar bohemian nightlife (very Moulin Rouge!). As Maude plays dress up in one, she slowly comes to realize her passion for the other. Just being able to picture the streets Maude walks down made the story that much more enjoyable for me.

Speaking of Maude, I thought she was a very true-to-life character. Throughout the book, Maude tries to hold onto what she knows to be truth but is so easily distracted (as anyone would be) by the shininess and glitter of what is on display before her. I mean who wouldn’t want to wear gorgeous gowns while being wooed by dukes and viscounts at French chateaus?! Additionally, Maude is a young lady who can grow and make her way on her own, while also accepting help from loved ones.

All in all, Belle Epoque was a fabulous debut and I hope to read more of Elizabeth Ross’ work in the future. This one comes to you with the BookTasty stamp of approval, so if you’re looking for a good period drama read you should definitely check it out!

Also a huge thank you Elizabeth Ross and Delacourt for the digital ARC!

Author: Elizabeth Ross

Publisher: Delacourt Books for Young Readers (June 11, 2013)

Format: e-book (ARC)

Length: 336 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Belle Epoque

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On Its Own Merit: Poison by Bridget Zinn

Southern Book Bloggers ARC ToursHi there!

I’m honored to be a part of the Southern Book Bloggers Poison ARC Tour! Poison just happens to be Bridget Zinn’s debut YA novel, so of course it counts for the 2013 Debut Authors Challenge as well! YAY!

So, let’s talk about this book shall we?!

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she

Poison by Bridget Zinndoes best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend. But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

When I first saw the cover for Poison I automatically knew this would be a book I would really get into. The cover is reminiscent of classic fairy tales but also has more modern themes woven in.  The cover does a good job of depicting the story itself – classic fantasy mixed with more contemporary themes. Plus it’s just a really pretty cover…and look at the pig!

The main character Kyra is not your average girl. She has a ton of secrets and is on the run, although you don’t find out from what until a little ways in. She is multifaceted character with conflicting feelings and emotions which makes her pretty darn relatable. Kyra is emotionally scarred, and on habit (and necessity), tends to protect herself from the world by building walls and pushing people away.  And while she is fiercely independent, she is also incredibly loyal and will stop at nothing to do what she believes it right. In some ways, Kyra reminds me a lot of  Katniss Everdeen.

Zinn’s writing is pretty humorous and Kyra can be pretty sassy sometimes. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, it kind of freshened up the traditional fantasy/fairy tale genre and made it more modern. There were a few scenes and dialog that had me laughing, especially the river crossing scene…you’ll know what I mean when you get there.

What I like about the narration style is that we don’t know all of Kyra’s secrets. She reveals them to us when she wants (or in some cases when others call her out on them), which makes learning about her more realistic.  It’s like we’re getting to know Kyra as we would get to know someone in real life. The minor characters, Fred, Ariana, and Rosie (yes Rosie is that sweet little pig on the cover!) were also likable and fun, although we don’t get to know as much about them as I would have liked.

Honestly, I could see Poison making a really good movie. It has adventure, romance, mystery and some really loveable characters (including the pig).  The whole story would translate well on-screen and I would definitely go see it in the theater.

On another note… if you’ve also read Jolted by Arthur Slade, you’ll know that I’m pretty sure Rosie (the pig) is related to Josephine, Newton’s ultra talented pet pig. Two sweet and talented pigs in books? They MUST be from the same family.  :P

In the end, I finished Poison craving more. I want more Kyra and more Fred and more adventures in this fantasy world they live in. I want to know what happens next, in fact I’m sure most people who read Poison feel the same way, but sadly Bridget Zinn passed away, after battling cancer, in May 2011, so we won’t get any more of these characters. To read more about her story visit her website. I do want to be clear about something though, her book stands alone on its own merit without the unfortunate circumstances behind it, which is, I think, very important.

If you are in the mood for a delightful fantasy (and why wouldn’t you be?!) then you should definitely pick up Posion by Bridget Zinn, you wont regret it. The story is perfect for middle school aged readers and those of us who are a tad bit older *cough cough* and definitely has the BookTasty stamp of approval!

Author: Bridget Zinn

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (March 12, 2013)

Format: e-galley (ARC)

Length: 288 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:  Poison