Tag Archives: romance

Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson

Standard

Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson, paperback novel, 279 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2015.

Astrid is everything that Hiro is not. Astrid is bubbly, popular and successful, some might say that she doesn’t know how to fail. She has a passion for the environment and is trying to save the world at every corner. Hiro, on the other hand, is sullen, resentful and disaffected. He is smart, but has no interest in school, and he doesn’t show much enthusiasm for anything, except maybe comics. When they first meet, Astrid is dressed as a lobster, so Hiro doesn’t recognise one of the most popular girls in school, and Astrid doesn’t tell him who she really is.

This contemporary YA romance started with one of the main characters dressed as a lobster. This certainly caught my attention! Astrid is really dedicated to environmental activism, and she puts her whole heart into each project, which is why she finds herself at the shopping centre on a Saturday in her lobster suit.

That lobster outfit allowed Hiro to get to know Astrid a little without the judgement that comes with preconceived perceptions. I think this is an important issue, especially during high school, when everyone seems to have a label. It is hard to step beyond one’s own social circle when so many eyes are watching, and judging. It is sad that Astrid and Hiro felt that they needed to hide their burgeoning relationship, but it is also understandable; teenagers are not known for their compassion and empathy when faced with something or someone that is different. Green Valentine is not just a romance, but a social commentary on the high school experience.

I liked the way this tory was told; the writing was great. I loved all the little footnotes in Astrid’s story. Some of them were quite funny, though I also appreciated the environmental facts. I blew through Green Valentine very quickly and really enjoyed the story. It described and explored high school culture and stereotypes, along with some of the common issues that develop during that time very well. While gardening is a slightly unusual way for teenagers to date, I thought it worked wonderfully and was so sweet. Definitely unique!

Green Valentine is suitable for high school students. While the story does revolve around a romance, it is pretty clean. I’m looking forward to reading more of Lili Wilkinson’s books soon.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Valentine by Jodi McAlister

Standard

valentineValentine by Jodi McAlister, paperback novel, 389 pages, published by Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd in 2017.

Four teenagers in the seaside town of Haylesford were all born on Valentine’s day of the same year. Pearl, Finn, Cardy and Marie have grown up together, but now they seem to be marked by the birthday they share. Who or what is after them? And why? Pearl is determined to find out what is really going on, but she might need a little help.

This book came in a book box from The YA Chronicles, and I knew nothing about it when I started to read. And wow! I probably wouldn’t have picked Valentine up myself, assuming that it was a romance novel, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually a paranormal fantasy with some romance. And it is really awesome to boot!

From the first chapter, I knew I was going to have trouble putting Valentine down. The plot was intricate, weaving itself into a fast paced ride of darkness and delight. Every chapter’s end had me saying “just one more chapter…” And there’s another book coming in this new series! Yay! There is a short preview at the end of Valentine, which will have to sustain me until Ironheart‘s release next year.

Valentine is not a fairytale, but it is a tale of faeries. Real faeries who are cruel and unforgiving, and zealously pursuing their task without thought to its effects on the humans. They are ruthless and powerful, with some pretty neat tricks up their sleeves. There were two groups after the Valentine babies, the Seelie and the Unseelie, and while one lot was evil, the others weren’t that much better. The way the Unseelie controlled the black animals to frighten and torment was very creepy. I will never be able to see a black cat again without wondering about its evil intent.

I liked the way the story was told, though it took me a little while to catch up with some of the abbreviations in the lingo, such as PDA. That made me feel a bit old! Still, the plot was dramatic and engaging; a very satisfying read. There were some lusty scenes, which may not be everyone’s cuppa, but I thought they were well written, and appropriately utilised for the story.

Pearl was such an interesting and deep character; strong and passionate, I instantly liked her. Most of the characters were quite complex, and I enjoyed getting to know them all. I was amused by Pearl’s denial of her feelings for bad boy Finn, while crushing on Cardy, who is considerably different in personality and looks. She had a great relationship with her older brother and sister, who were also her guardians. I disliked Finn at the start, he just acted like such a jerk, but he improved. As I got to know him better, I realised that he wasn’t all that bad, much more sensitive than I expected.

Valentine is most suitable for middle to upper high school students and older.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Standard

holdingHolding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven, paperback novel, 388 pages, published by Penguin Books in 2016.

Libby used to be morbidly obese, and she’s still a big girl, but now it’s time for her to leave her house again and start high school. There she meets Jack, a popular, good looking boy with a secret he is hiding at all costs.

A touching love story, Holding Up the Universe made me feel, made me hope, made me smile. It also kept me up late as I found it difficult to stop reading. I flew through the story, taking every step and every stumble with Libby and Jack. My heart lurching and singing, my mind whirling over the difficulties that they both faced.

Holding Up the Universe covers themes of bullying, grief and obesity, but also explores a disorder called prosopagnosia or face-blindness. This was not something I was particularly familiar with, but was quite an interesting topic, and obviously well researched. I certainly learnt a lot during this novel.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Libby and Jack. I find this to be an excellent way to explore the depths of the characters. Libby is an amazing person; smart, brave, strong, empathetic. She is complex and beautiful, and she deserves so much more than her peers are capable of giving. Jack is also a complicated character, but I didn’t like him as much as I liked Libby. There were moments when I just wanted to smack him for his stupidity! By hiding his problems with face recognition, he comes across as being a jerk, which isn’t really him. And his choice of friends was questionable, until I realised that shallow and self-interested friends are the only ones that he could have hidden his issues from for very long. I’m surprised his family didn’t realise something wasn’t right.

Holding Up the Universe is suitable for high school students and beyond. I feel that it would be a good read for all teenagers and their parents as it examines a lot of issues relevant to adolescent life. I also recommend reading All the Bright Places, which is another poignant story of adolescence by Jennifer Niven.

The Heir by Kiera Cass

Standard

heircoverThe Heir by Kiera Cass, hardback novel, 346 pages, published by HarperTeen in 2015.

Twenty years down the track from when America Singer and Prince Maxon fell in love, they have been implementing their plans for the country; disbanding the caste system and quieting the rebels, yet not everything is peachy. The populace is restless, discrimination is rife, and an uprising may be coming. Illea also has a new heir to the throne, Princess Eadlyn. The responsibilities and pressures of running the country will one day become hers, but her parents think she would do better with a companion by her side. The search for her true love would also be a convenient distraction for the public, hence a new selection begins. Thirty-five young men all vying for Princess Eadlyn’s affections in the first male selection. Might Eadlyn find her happily ever after?

Okay, so I got sucked into the world of The Selection with America and Maxon and Aspen, and I enjoyed the time I spent in Illea. So it made sense to me to read the fourth book in the series. Overall I did like reading The Heir, but I did not enjoy it nearly as much as I did the first three books in the series, and this mostly had to do with Eadlyn. She certainly was no America. I really liked America, she was impetuous and occasionally reckless, but she was also endearing, kind and compassionate. Eadlyn, however, comes across as aloof, condescending and even sometimes cruel. She is constantly telling herself that no one is more powerful than her, which is probably meant to be a self-confidence booster, but is just vain and arrogant. She is rude to her maid, Neena; insulting her for being a maid, and never saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’. She thinks Neena is great at her job, and she needs her, but Eadlyn has never praised Neena in this way. She is always thinking about herself, even attempting to interfere with her brother’s happiness just to keep him by her side. She couldn’t even share one of her hundreds of tiara’s with Kile’s little sister, Josie, even though wearing the tiara was obviously making her happy, and it was just as obvious, to everyone aside from Eadlyn, that Josie idolises her. I found Eadlyn to be selfish and spoilt, and not very likeable. There was some character growth by the end of the book, and I can see that she can change, but it hasn’t been enough yet. I really hope she continues to improve in the next book.

Of the men that arrive for The Selection, most of them were pretty average, though I didn’t approve of Eadlyn being so dismissive and aiming to embarrass and demean them. I quite like Henri and Erik, but it must be weird to try to date someone with a translator involved. I was pleased Eadlyn seemed to deal with this strange situation better than she did most of her other potential suitors. I also like Kile, but it is curious that he grew up in the palace, alongside Eadlyn, practically like her brother. It adds an interesting element to their relationship. Still I like him. He’s a little quirky, and will probably be good for Eadlyn. And if he didn’t enter himself, then who put his name in the barrel?

All of these books have been pretty easy reading, including The Heir. It is light entertainment that doesn’t require much thinking, great for right before bed. It is kind of compulsive though, so it’s also a fast page-turning read. The writing is good and the plot somewhat predictable, yet serviceable. I want to stress that I was entertained; a book doesn’t have to be brilliant to be entertaining, and The Heir is just that, entertaining.

I do find that I have a need to discover the outcome of this historic selection despite my feelings towards Eadlyn, so I will be reading the next book in the series, The Crown. Surely Eadlyn will learn from her mistakes and become a better person.

The romance is fairly tame, just a bit of kissing. There is also a small amount of violence, so The Heir is suitable for high school students and up.

The One by Kiera Cass

Standard

theonecoverThe One by Kiera Cass, hardback novel, 323 pages, published by HarperTeen in 2014.

There’s only four girls left vying for Maxon’s heart. It seems obvious that he prefers America, but his father is not impressed with this choice. And so The Selection continues. There are more tasks for the girls to complete, and more uncertainty as to where Maxon’s affections truly lie. As the rebel activity increases, so too does security, with the whole of the palace restricted to staying indoors, placing even more pressure on the girls. America isn’t really one to conform, but will her

The One is the third novel in The Selection series. It is a light entertaining read that I knocked over quite quickly. It is dystopian romance crossed with reality TV dating. This series is much heavier on the romance than I often read, but I found it to be engaging. There was more action in this book than the previous ones, which was great. While the plot was easy enough to follow, it was solidly written, and there were some good twists.

As the series has progressed, Maxon and America have developed significantly as characters, and for the better. They are more complex now and I have come to like them a lot. America is loyal and passionate, though a little indecisive when it comes to Maxon and Aspen. Mind you, so much of her indecision was fueled by Maxon continuing to spend time with and even to kiss the other girls. They both spent time hedging their bets, which was a little frustrating! Maxon has grown on me immensely. He seems much more real now than at the beginning of the series.

This was my favourite of The Selection books so far, as it explored the rebels situation more thoroughly. We learnt more about the two factions, the Northern and the Southern rebels, and their differing goals. I had been wondering why these groups were attacking the palace, and what their ultimate aims were, especially the Northern rebels. They were attacking, but not killing, so what were they after? After learning more about Gregory Illea in the second book, I wondered how much of the real story did Maxon know and what might he do with such information. Finally some of these questions were answered.

The One is suitable for high school students. I recommend you read the first two novels in the series (The Selection and The Elite) before this one.  There are more books in the series that I am looking forward to reading soon.

The Elite by Kiera Cass

Standard

theleitecoverThe Elite by Kiera Cass, paperback novel, 323 pages, published HarperCollins Children’s Books in 2013.

The Elite is the second book in The Selection series, following on directly from the first book. Prince Maxon has cut the cohort of girls vying for his affection, and the throne, down to just six. These girls are now known as The Elite. Life in the palace is complicated by increased rebel activity, and the other girls are still fighting hard for Maxon. America seems to have Maxon’s heart, but he is still spending plenty of time with the other girls, which makes America jealous. Her feelings for Maxon are escalating, but with Aspen still nearby, who will she choose?

After reading The Selection and enjoying it so much, I came back to read the next book in the series, and I liked it just as much as the first. The Elite was an easy, quick  and entertaining read. This book delved more deeply into the history and politics of their dystopian world, and there was more about the rebel forces. I found this quite interesting. The development of the competition itself was also interesting, following the girls’ rivalries, friendships and time with Maxon.

The Selection series is fairytalesque, so of course, the Prince should fall in love with the heroine. Yet, it is not your simple prince meets girl, prince marries girl story. America actually has to fight for him, and Maxon has to fight for her too, as she doesn’t exactly fit the usual princess mould. And they get to do it with the whole nation watching. There was conflict within the plot and some twists, and romance, combining to make for a captivating read.

I felt that Maxon came out of his shell in this story. He wasn’t so meek, and he even argued with America, not letting her have her own way all the time. I liked this development. He also started learning more about his country’s history and the way that the lower castes live. America is certainly opening his eyes to many things. For her part, America is impulsive, generous and fiery. I like her. She is changing as she gathers more knowledge about how the country is run, and how she could change it from the inside. At the same time, Aspen is changing as he serves as a palace guard. They are diverging, yet there are still sparks between them. They have both grown up a lot since we first met them. All the characters gained more depth through this story.

The Elite is suitable for high school students. I’m looking forward to the third book in the series, The One.

 

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Standard

courtcoverA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, paperback novel, 416 pages, published by Bloomsbury in 2015.

At nineteen, Feyre has been the sole provider for her father and two sisters for the past five years. The family lives in abject poverty, nearly succumbing to starvation every winter, despite Feyre’s efforts to hunt in the forest. The land in which they dwell is not far from the border that separates the mortals from the realms of the faeries. Feyre has grown up hearing stories of the faeries’ cruelty and destruction of humans, and knows that it is dangerous to enter the forest near the wall, yet they must eat. She encounters a large wolf whilst hunting, suspecting by its size that it may be a faery, but kills it anyway. In exchange for the life she took, Feyre is whisked away to live out her life a captive of Tamlin and Lucien, High Fae in the Spring Court. She has freedom to move about the house and grounds, but is forbidden to leave their lands. While it is always beautiful in the Spring Court, a darkness has been building in the north which will change the land of the Faeries for ever. Feyre must find a way to break the curse or lose everything she has come to love.

Wow, what an incredible book. I enjoyed it immensely! It was fantasy with action and romance. The plot was fast, and enthralling. I was flying alongside Feyre with every twist. I had a serious book hangover after finishing this book! If the second book in the series was available already, I would have gone straight to the store for it.

It is much racier than many other young adult novels I have read over the last few years, with some sex scenes. It echoes the base elements of Beauty and the Beast, but it is so much more than that. This is not just about falling in love, it is about giving up everything for that love, sacrificing one’s entire self, displaying courage and loyalty no matter the cost.

The setting and landscapes came alive beautifully, and all of the characters were well written. I easily conjured up the images of the various faeries, which were described in excellent detail. I could have done with a little less mental imagery of the Attor though! The evil Queen, Amarantha, was quite scary. Bent on revenge and the acquisition of absolute power, she was not a faery one should cross. She was just full of hate, which made her a very nasty character, one which inspired fear, but also one which I fervently hoped would be overthrown.

Feyre was a great leading lady. I admired her bravery, strength and perseverance, but Lucien was actually my favourite character. He was gruff and rude towards Feyre at the start, but he was also cheeky and playful. He showed unending loyalty to Tamlin, though he also spent a lot of time making snide remarks and laughing at Tamlin, in a way that only best friends can treat one another. I often found myself smiling at his antics. Lucien and Feyre made for good verbal combatants. I liked Rhysand for similar reasons to Lucien. He was arrogant and cunning, but I enjoyed his verbal sparring with Feyre. Though he is very self-interested, and not at all trustworthy, I saw glimpses of a better soul within him. Tamlin I also liked, but he was more serious than Lucien, and so powerful he was almost frightening.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is suitable for upper high school students and contains violence, sex scenes and swearing. It is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy, with the second installment due out in May 2016. I am very excited about the next book!

Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

Standard

The Twilight Saga is composed of four sequential books exploring the interaction of vampires, werewolves and humans through the eyes of a clumsy, stubborn and rather naive teenage girl. I think this series would appeal to teenagers and adults interested in vampires and the supernatural, or those just looking for something a bit different in the romance line. It follows a fairly predictable course of girl meets boy, they fall in love, they aim to live happily ever after, but I enjoyed the supernatural complications of this story.

 

IMG_4633Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, young adult paperback, 434 pages, published by Atom in 2006, this edition published by Atom in 2007.

In the first book of the Twilight Saga, we are introduced to Bella, an ordinary, though somewhat clumsy teenager. She has moved from the warmth of Phoenix to the constantly overcast and drizzly town of Forks, where her father is Police Chief Swan. During her first day at her new school her eyes are drawn to five of the most beautiful teenagers she has ever seen, one of which is her biology lab partner, Edward Cullen. He seems to take an instant dislike to Bella, but she is intrigued, and soon becomes obsessed with him. Discovering that he and his family are vampires doesn’t deter Bella from dating Edward. However, she soon finds that not all vampires are as nice as the Cullens, as she is chased from Forks by a vampire that would like to eat her for dinner.

 

IMG_4641New Moon by Stephenie Meyer, young adult paperback, 497 pages, published by Little, Brown and Company in 2006, this edition published by Atom in 2007.

In the second installment of the Twilight Saga, Bella attends a birthday party at the Cullen’s house that goes dreadfully wrong, resulting in Bella being injured and almost attacked by Edward’s brother, Jasper. When Edward fails to convince Bella of the risks of dating a vampire, he leaves her instead. Bella is destroyed, and spends several months surviving, but forgetting to live, totally consumed by the hole in her chest that Edward’s departure has left her. In an attempt to help her overcome her depression, her father encourages her to spend time with her friends, especially an old family friend, Jacob Black. Bella finds it easy to be with Jacob, and soon they are spending large quantities of time together. Bella is again devastated when Jacob stops talking to her and stays away. Jacob is keeping a secret from her, but why, and what could be so shameful he can’t share it with her?

 

IMG_4637Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer, young adult paperback, 559 pages, published by Little, Brown and Company in 2007, this edition published by Atom in 2008.

This third book in the Twilight Saga, sees Bella wondering how to have both Edward and Jacob in her life without antagonising the ancient tensions between the vampires and the werewolves. This is complicated by a string of disappearances and deaths in nearby Seattle that might spill over to hurt the Cullens. It appears to be the work of a gang of violent and uncontrollable newborn vampires, but who is creating them and why? Meanwhile Bella is preparing for her high school graduation, and the issue of whether to stay human or allow Carlisle to change her, as Edward refuses to do so until Bella marries him.

 

 

IMG_4636Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer, young adult paperback, 702 pages, published by Atom in 2008.

In the final chapter of the Twilight Saga, Bella is still human, and preparing for her life with Edward. They decide to consummate their marriage on their honeymoon, even though Edward thinks he may hurt Bella in the process. The product of such a liaison is a surprise to them both, and may kill Bella or lead to her transformation into a vampire. To Bella it is her baby, but is it really a monster, an abomination that she carries? The child will change all their lives, including Jacob’s, and will bring conflict and danger close to home. The vampires and wolves need an alliance to survive, but still they may not be able to better their enemy, and Alice and Jasper have abandoned them to their fate. Is this the end of the Cullen family?

 

This series reminded me a lot of the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, though Twilight is definitely the junior version, much more suitable for high school students. Twilight contains some violence and sex, but essentially it is a love story. Love between a vampire and a human was bound to be fraught with issues, but Bella and Edward are so devoted to each other, that they will fight hard to stay together. Jacob’s love for Bella complicates matters, and I actually hoped for a lot of the story that Jacob would triumph and win Bella over, as she obviously loves him too. Perhaps I just prefer the idea of spending a mortal life with a warm and loving werewolf, than an eternity with the constant thirst for blood as a vampire, even if it is for love!

I found Edward to be somewhat dislikable, with his controlling ways, and his tendency to keep secrets from Bella in the guise of protecting her. This makes their relationship uneven, and I think truth is always better, so that decisions can be made together. Edward is rather resistant to this idea, and even goes to the lengths of having his sister kidnap Bella and keep her hostage while is is off on a hunting trip. Protection is one thing, but such overt control dismayed me, along with her inability to be angry with him when he returned. I also found him to be arrogant and smug. His attitude improved through the story, but I had already formed a dislike for him, while championing Jacob. Though Jacob has his own problems, with his adjustment to discovering his werewolf side, and the whole ‘mortal enemies’ thing with the vampires, he really just wants Bella to be happy. He loves and respects her, and will be there for her, even when it’s not in his best interests. I liked his fierce devotion and his honesty with Bella. I felt like he deserved to have Bella’s whole love in return. This story made me think of that saying ‘nice guys finish last’.

Bella is a complicated character. In some ways she is strong, when accepting that she has fallen for a vampire, and that her best friend is a werewolf. Yet, then she shows a weakness by being unable to live when Edward leaves her, and just forgives him easily despite how his actions have hurt her. I know we should all forgive, especially those that we love, but I wanted her to be a bit stronger in making him understand how his actions were inappropriate, and how they made her feel. Then I remember that she is only eighteen for most of the story, and she has little in the way of experience in relationships. I also found her intense desire to become a vampire baffling, when it would mean leaving her parents behind, whom she loves and is close to. I was pleased that by the end of the story she had become more than just Edward’s girl, as she discovers her own identity and her own strengths.

This series is not high brow literature, but they are entertaining and I found them to be an engaging read. The plot was somewhat predictable, though fairly well developed. My biggest complaint was that I got a bit tired of hearing about how beautiful and perfect Edward is! I was also a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more action of the vampire fighting kind, especially in Breaking Dawn. There was a lot about sexual desire and allusions to sex, but no actual sex scenes, which surprised me. The whole series was actually pretty clean with no foul language and no explicit scenes, just innuendo and plenty of kissing. Along with the dearth of vivid vampire killing, this does make it better for younger readers. Overall the Twilight Saga is a likable series of books to relax with.