Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: THE LAST BEST KISS by Claire LaZebnik

Title: The Last Best Kiss
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Publication date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook.

Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.

All Anna wants is a chance to relive their last kiss again (and again and again). But Finn obviously hasn’t forgotten how she treated him, and he’s made it clear he has no interest in having anything to do with her.

Anna keeps trying to persuade herself that she doesn’t care about Finn either, but even though they’ve both changed since they first met, deep down she knows he’s the guy for her. Now if only she can get him to believe that, too....

With her signature wit and expertly authentic teen voice, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story. Fans of Polly Shulman, Maureen Johnson, and, of course, Jane Austen will love this irresistibly funny and romantic tale of first loves and second chances.


First line: On nights when I'm honest with myself, I can admit that Finn Westbrook was the best thing about my ninth grade year.

I always liked the original Persuasion storyline because there's so much chemistry involved. Girl and boy like each other, girl's family disapproves, girl stupidly listens to family so she breaks things off with boy. Then boy comes back, boy is all "look at me now," flirts with others, and girl is emotionally tormented. Finally, boy and girl share moments, and reunite. Some people might be annoyed at the sound of so much going back and forth, but for me, there's chemistry to make it all come together and sizzling tension. Oh, lovely chemistry. I thought LaZebnik made this her own in quite a few areas, which I appreciated, but there was still sweet chemistry between the two characters.

Anna and Finn became quick friends through her sister's carpooling when they were younger. Because Anna was apart of the popular group (and Finn was most definitely not), they hung out only outside of school. I felt like there was quite a lot of telling and not showing in this beginning part, but strangely, I didn't care. I loved getting to know cute, geeky Finn and insecure Anna. Anna's narration perfectly showed how conflicted she was. She knew that Finn deserved better than how she was treating him, but like most preteen girls, she cared about what her friends would think of her. As we all know, she ends up breaking his heart because of her friends. However, I could clearly see she wasn't all the way in denial. She might make an excuse here and there about keeping him in secret, but she wasn't in denial that it was wrong. That's how you make a character redeemable in my eyes.

Years later, Finn comes back very grown up. Grown up as in hello, hot stuff. Anna's friends (the same ones she broke Finn's heart for) are immediately taken in by him (to their credit, they didn't know Anna had a thing for him) and he joins their group. While he snubs Anna, you just know they still have a spark between them. You can't deny it, Finn, you just can't. Enter the tension. Really, unlike most YA novels, they don't have many "moments," but you can see that the past is still very present between them and that old feelings haven't died.

I liked Finn. I liked Anna. I did NOT like Lily or Lucy. Honestly, I was confused by all the many characters added in, but Lily and Lucy stole the show in this book, mainly in the annoyance department. Both of them had their faults; Lucy with her insane obsession over perfection and Lily with her strangle-worthy way of being "look at me!" While I connected with Anna throughout the book, when it came to her friends, we clearly were not alike. Too. Much. Lily was a hot mess, Lucy was close to being one, and I could have done without all of that.

LaZebnik drew parallels between Anna's sister Molly and Anna's current situation, also making the story her own. While Finn/Lily's subplot wasn't a favorite of mine, Molly's was. She added likability into Anna's twisted family and able to coincidentally show Anna right and wrong in the confusing mess. I do think Anna's father's sublot could've been ditched. That was one point where I felt as if LaZebnik added an element to the story just for the sake of staying close to Persuasion. Also, ew.

I reviewed Epic Fail back in the summer of 2013 and while I really enjoyed that Jane Austen retelling, I'm relieved to say that I think I might like this latest LaZebnik novel a little bit better.

Verdict: A fresh retelling on one of my favorite plots, solidifying my love for Claire LaZebnik.

Note: All quotes are taken from an ARC and may be changed at publication.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Comparison Game

Fun fact: My parents teach a Sunday school class. Get rid of your previous knowledge of a Sunday school class because it's most likely not true, at least when it comes to this one. My parents make it fun. Every child groans at the thought of publicly admitting that their parents make something fun because that gives the parents leverage. But it's true. They teach. They laugh. They joke. They even play 80s music in there sometimes.

Why am I saying this? Well, I thought it was only right to give them credit for today's discussion. Recently, they talked about comparing in class and how it affects our lives. The moral of the story: comparing = no good. That's true for all of life, but I think it's really present in the blogging community.

The common statements I hear from bloggers...
  • are about stats.
  • are about how we should ignore stats.
  • are about ARCs.
  • are about how much they should post. 
  • are about everything they have to do, blogging-wise.

What does every statement have in common? In some way or form, comparison is involved. Most likely, when that statement about stats or ARCs is mentioned, the blogger is comparing themselves to another blogger. "I only have 200 followers and she has 500, WHY?" or "How did she get that July title?" 

But we tend to think that comparing can only go one way. Here's what my parents said, specifically my father, that I think is very, very true: comparison can lead towards inferiority or superiority, which then leads to envy or arrogance.

Think about it. Let it settle. Good? Okay. 

I'm almost always on the inferior side of things. I'll admit it, I get jealous. Most of the time, I really am just joking with people when I say, "Ah, I'm so jealous!" because I'm happy for them. But we're in the honesty zone right now so I'll admit this other fact: sometimes, I panic when I see ARC pictures or see others' higher stats and wonder why I don't have that. Why not me? What am I doing wrong? What are they doing right? Everyone runs along the similar thought process one time or another. It's a horrible path to take and can feel very lonely. 

I've seen several posts of bloggers saying they panic when they can't crank out a post every day (which shows their own inferiority in some way), while I'm over here wondering how I can just write a few each week. Whatever. Their blogs are amazing. They're making me feel stupid/like a failure/worthless/etc.

First of all, that's wrong. They can't make me feel anything. That's another thing my dad has taught me, which is that no one can make me feel anything. I'm in control of my emotions. Oh, they can annoy me. But I can deal with how I react or feel. With that psychology/therapy session out of the way, here's the other thing that's wrong with that. I shouldn't even compare our weaknesses. I'm still thinking in the inferior mindset, but this can quickly go to a superior mindset, which is equally wrong.

Oh, hey, I have that ARC they wanted...I'm so glad I don't have their design...Reviewing problems? Ha! I have all of my reviews written and nothing backlogged...At least I don't have that problem...and on it goes. The superior mindset is just as bad as the inferior. Not more, not less. While inferiority can lead to envy and self-pity, superiority leads to arrogance and pride. It doesn't even matter if you can hide this feeling of superiority, sooner or later it will show, and it won't be pretty. It's a great feeling to pat yourself on the back sometimes because you worked hard. But you shouldn't think badly about another blogger because of it.

As I said, I'm usually on the inferiority side so I actually don't have much to say in the ways of superiority. I won't even try to pretend that I do. I think both sides of comparing should be careful though. "Big bloggers" have to be careful to not lift their heads above "smaller bloggers" because they have more followers, publicist contacts, ARCs, and less time. In the same way, "smaller bloggers" or even just bloggers in general shouldn't compare themselves to other bloggers. It's hard and I don't think this game will ever stop. We're humans. We want what we don't have, and we have our insecurities.

It happens. I won't judge if you won't. All I'm saying is to be aware of this Comparison Game. When you see a picture of the newest ARC, don't panic that you won't get it. Don't worry that you have less followers than the other blogger who has many. Don't be sensitive. When you see another blogger has less posts than you do, don't think that you have a better blog because you post daily. Don't be prideful. Neither trait is attractive.

Which side of comparison do you usually play?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Unique Books I've Read

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
What I love about Top Ten Tuesday is these lists are purely subjective. You can see what people say about a certain genre or certain experience. Some people hate contemporary, others breathe in Sarah Dessen. This week's topic is about the most unique books I've read, whether it's because of a character or how it twists something around. I'm sure a couple of these won't be unique to others, but that's the beauty of this feature. In no particular order:

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anna Blankman
I've read plenty of retellings, but this was not only refreshing because of its historical spin, but THOSE ANTAGONISTS. They're even creepier because one of them (Hitler) was real. 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Most girls talk about their love interest's eyes, body, or how lush his hair is. In this, she talks about her obsession with his chin, and his hair is far from perfect. Also, it includes fan fiction and realistic college experiences. 

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
A girl with a disability and a boy with OCD. Hello, love.

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg 
My favorite part of the whole book: the transcripts of present-day Macallan and Levi at the end of each chapter. 

Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot 
There might be other books out there with a diary format, but for me, Princess Diaries is the only one I've read. It can be tiring, but really fun. 

Can we all give Rae Carson and her character Elisa a round of applause? From the start of the book, Elisa is described as fat and weak. But when she starts getting stronger and more exercise, there's no fat shaming and from what I gathered, she still wasn't considered "slim." But she loved her body and rocked it. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (ghost-ish)
A girl decides if she should stay with the living or go and be with her parents after death. All the while, she's basically a ghost. I consider that unique.

Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi
The writing style can be annoying has so many crossed-off words like this

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Many authors either want their characters to be rough, tough, and kicking some booty or somewhat girly and non-athletic. With my dear Celaena, she's a GIRLY assassin. She kills, but she loves her parties and dresses.

Bonus: Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson - SUPER close to finishing so I can't list it officially, but that twist halfway deserves recognition.

What are some books that were unique to you?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rewind & Review: March 24 - April 6

Hosted by Shae Has Left the Room
Newsflash: life is hard. It really, really is. It resembles Florida weather in a way. One moment, all is fine. Florida can be super sunny and the perfect beach day besides the intolerable heat. Then suddenly, it starts raining. But here's the thing about Florida rain: a lot of the time it rains and still looks perfectly sunny. So unless you hear it, you can glance outside and not even realize it's raining. Then it does go to the cloudy, stormy weather. The next thing you know, you can have a thunderstorm on your hands that rivals a hurricane. Where did that beach weather go? What I'm saying is that life can go from fine to what you think is fine to oh this is bad to DUCK FOR COVER in a terrifying, where's-my-peanut-butter instant. 

"Where's the books?" Yeah, yeah, here you go.

Books I Received: 

Number of Books I've Read: 3

What I'm Reading Now/Next: 

Previous Blog Posts:

Upcoming Blog Posts:*

  • Top Ten Tuesday: Most Unique Books I've Read
  • The Comparison Game
  • Review: The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik
  • Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Things That I'd Like to Own
  • Waiting on Wednesday #5
  • Review: The Hunt by Stacey Kade
*Subject to change

Bookish (and not-so-bookish) Happenings: 
  • I got the Bloomsbury Kids' 2014 Fall Catalogue! Do you know what that means? Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas, ya'll.
  • I meant to do a review this past weekend...but couldn't find time. Tis life. 
  • But why didn't I do a review? BECAUSE SCHOOL IS EVIL. Save yourselves, kids. 
  • At least I'm doing a read-along with Lauren and Heather. Somewhat. 
  • One of my best friends is reading The Fault in Our Stars (and her sister after). Question: Does it make me a bad friend if I'm betting on if she'll cry? *shrugs* 

My life.
What's happened with ya'll these last two weeks? Do you have any major school projects coming up?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #4

Hosted by Breaking the Spine
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we tell what book we're desperately waiting for. This week I'm pining for...

Title: Ruin and Rising
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt (Macmillan)

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Why I'm waiting: 

 The real question is: Why would I NOT be excited for this? The answer: Choice E - not applicable/no reason.

But if you must know why I'm excited...

  • I loved the previous two books in the series.
  • Bardugo is awesome.
  • That cover is gorgeous. 
  • Although awesome, Bardugo has also showed an evil side by teasing us with shocking twists coming ahead.
  • Mal, the Darkling, and Sturmhond. 
  • Alina
  • The fabulous world Bardugo created
  • It's from Macmillan. Macmillan produces amazing books. 
  • Have I mentioned how much I loved the cover, this series, and Bardugo? 

The great or maybe even sad? thing is that I limited myself with this list. 

What are you waiting for? 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Gateway Books/Authors in My Reading Journey

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
Whether they have 10 or not, everyone has a "gateway" book or author. These are the books/authors that have introduced something or changed something in your reading journey. Just like characters need to grow, I think readers do too. In no particular order, here's my top ten gateway books and authors:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This is probably the most repeated item on my Top Ten lists, but it deserves it so much. Probably the first non-contemporary, non-historical book I read. The Hunger Games was my true gateway book.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My first fantasy and the first book I read to review. Basically, the gateway to my blogging.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Somewhat of my gateway to New Adult. So this is my first and only New Adult I've read.

IT'S ALLY CARTER! Not only did she write my favorite series, the Gallagher Girls, but she was my first ever author event

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
I credit this book for getting me out of my fuzzy slump period. Before it came along, I wandered from book to book, not really getting anything to truly stick. 

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
After I listed this, I realized I did read and enjoy Tamara Island Stone's Time Between Us, but this book seems like a whole different kind of time travel. BLEW MY MIND. My gateway to...time travel? The book that dominated my End of the Year Bookish Survey? 

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
I knew before reading this that main characters should have flaws. I knew before that they can be unlikable. But I've always had high expectations of my MCs and probably still will. However, this is the book I remember reading and realizing that hey, I don't like the MC, but I still really like the story

The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
Thanks to Tamora Pierce's The Song of the Lioness series, it revamped fantasy for me and made a week of work bearable. Bless you, Pierce.

Forever Princess by Meg Cabot
My ultimate anti-slump book. If anything, I read my favorite Michael parts and—badabing!—I love reading again.

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade
The book that I credit to getting me to really love dual POVs from each gender. Also, it's by Stacey Kade who wrote the first ARC I ever got.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
HELLO, EMOTIONS. Not only did it bring out more emotions while reading than I ever experienced before (Mockingjay aside), but it was the first book I ever read by a male author and LOVED. Possibly the first book I ever read by a male author period. 

What books, authors, events, etc. have helped your reading journey? 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Announcement: Guest Post on Another Blog

In case you all don't know, there's a great feature called College Blogging 101 that Lili from Lili's Reflections does on her blog every Sunday. Every other Sunday, another blogger does a guest post on a different topic pertaining to—you guessed it—college blogging. A while back, Lili asked me if I could be a guest on there.

She asked me if I could write from the high school perspective, and I also included tips on how I've been dealing with the juggle so far. TODAY is when it's being posted.

You can click HERE to see the post on her blog. You know you want to.