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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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Magic and Mobsters Unite: The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

Well hello there!

As you may already know (from the buttons on the left side of the page or my earlier post) 2013 is the second year I’m participating in the Debut Authors Challenge! I had so much fun with this challenge last year, as it introduced me to so many new authors to love! Well, this year the first debut novel I read was The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell. Thank you to Dial books for the e-galley!

There is a new king on the throne of Tildor. Currents of political unrest sweep the country as two warring crime families seek power, The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidellangling to exploit the young Crown’s inexperience. At the Academy of Tildor, the training ground for elite soldiers, Cadet Renee de Winter struggles to keep up with her male peers. But when her mentor, a notorious commander recalled from active duty to teach at the Academy, is kidnapped to fight in illegal gladiator games, Renee and her best friend Alec find themselves thrust into a world rife with crime, sorting through a maze of political intrigue, and struggling to resolve what they want, what is legal, and what is right.

I love fantasy! I really, really do! And I really, really, believe that The Cadet of Tildor is a great addition to the genre. The world building is well done and I felt like I could clearly imagine this world where magic and mobsters unite.  There is just so much political and criminal intrigue that I want to know more about this world Renee, Savoy and Alec live in! Give me more Tildor books!

Lidell’s take on the heroine, Renee, is an interesting one. Renee, although talented, isn’t the strongest student at the Academy.  She is weaker than everyone else and is even in danger of loosing her place in the school. I appreciate that Renee, isn’t automatically this crazy beefed-up warrior girl, but that she instead works hard to get to where she wants and needs to be.

I had head a few other bloggers saying that there was no romance in The Cadet of Tildor, and how relieved they were. No romance?! I completely disagree! Although there was no major romantic story line, I found tendrils of romance throughout the story and can’t wait to see what forms in the next installment…I assume there is a sequel! I asked author Alex Lidell about this on Twitter and all she did was smile…so we’ll have to wait to see if my romance sniffing skills are as good as I think they are!

I was a little disappointed with Alec’s character. Throughout the story we’re reminded that he is Renee’s best friend, but in my opinion, he sure doesn’t act like it!  Alec doesn’t defend Renee when he should and pretty much leaves her on her own for most of the story. I guess, I need to consider the inner confusion and turmoil Alec is dealing with, but I just wasn’t a fan of Alec and how he treated Renee.

There is some violence…okay a lot of violence! But I think Lidell does a pretty good job of being realistic without being too graphic, which is always a good talent to have!

If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, I think you’ll be pleased with Lidell’s debut, The Cadet of Tildor. It is a fun example of what can happen when fantasy and political thrillers unite! If there is to be more of Renee’s story, I will definitely be on the lookout for it!

Author: Alex Lidell

Publisher: Dial (January 10, 2013)

Format: e-galley (ARC)

Length: 400 pages

Series: standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:  The Cadet of Tildor