Book review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Goodreads • Amazon
Publication Date: November 8, 2016
Source: Borrowed

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

 

“When pleased, I beat like a drum. When sad, I break like glass. Once stolen, I can never be taken back. What am I?”

Heartless is, like all of Meyer’s work, a retelling. This time, she’s retelling Alice in Wonderland from the perspective of the Queen of Hearts. But during the majority of this book, Catherine is just a normal teenage girl. A normal teenage girl who only wants to be a baker. Who only wants to be left alone to live her life. Who certainly does not want to deal with the affections of the idiotic King of Hearts. Who has less than zero desire to be the next Queen of Hearts. All Catherine wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend, Mary Ann.

Her family has other aspirations for her. Her mother thinks that she’d be crazy not to marry the King. A royal life– who wouldn’t want that? So the King’s kind of stupid… whatever. A proposal from him would change Catherine’s life. And so her mother pushes… and pushes… and pushes. Absolutely disregarding Catherine’s discomfort with the whole idea. Not even taking into consideration that Catherine’s affections might lie elsewhere.

Because Catherine is quite taken with the new court joker, Jest. Jest is mysterious, charismatic, and gorgeous. Jest can show her places and things she’s never seen– never even dreamed of. Catherine falls hard and fast for Jest. But are his feelings real? Can their secret romance survive the pressure from her parents and from the King?

Am I still crying? I think it’s definitely within the realm of possibility that I am still crying. I went into this book knowing what would happen. Knowing that Catherine turns into the cruel Queen of Hearts. Knowing that there’s no possible way that everything works out in her favor. But still hoping. Hoping that somehow, some way, Marissa Meyer would work her magic and just let everybody be happy.

Yep, still crying. Definitely still crying.

But I recommend this book so much.

You don’t have to be a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland to enjoy it. The characters from the original are all there, but they’re different than you might remember. It was a simpler, happier time. Much less violence and decapitation. And really, your heart doesn’t get ripped out until the very end. Meyer almost had me fooled.

I wish that I could have lived in this book for a little longer. Part of me wishes that there were a sequel coming, but I also know that this story is finished. Still, I can’t wait to see what Meyer comes up with next.


For my 2016 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #32: the first book you see in a bookstore. (Which was actually the first book I saw on the Overdrive homepage, but close enough.)

A bit of fangirling: A Christmas card from my favorite authors!

It’s not every day that your favorite authors send you a Christmas card.  Thank you, Krista & Becca!

Some Kind of Perfect was one of my top reads of 2016, and the Calloway sisters (and their partners) are some of my favorite characters of all time.  If you haven’t checked out their books yet, please do!  Krista and Becca have created some of the most complex characters, believable relationships, and best books I’ve ever read.

Top Ten Tuesday: Most anticipated releases for the 1st half of 2017

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  Today’s theme is Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the 1st Half of 2017.  Well, there’s not a lot I’m looking forward to in 2017, except for books.  When it comes to reading, you know I always have a mile-long list waiting to be read.  Here are ten books I’m looking forward to (excluding any that I’ve already received as ARC’s).

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Infini by Krista & Becca Ritchie.
Anticipated release: January 2017

“Don’t have a best friend that’s a girl” — this was the advice from my older cousin. I didn’t take it. Because he followed with, “friends don’t f*ck friends. And you’ll want to f*ck her.”

It was terrible advice.

My cousin should’ve told me that being best friends with Baylee Wright — since she was twelve — would be the best and worst decision of my life.

He should have told me to protect her from what was coming.

He should have told me that when a darkness crawled towards us, there’d be no safety net.

Now I’ve signed back on to the same Vegas acrobatic show as Baylee, working together for the first time in years. And she tells me that she’s having trouble in a certain “area” of her life — because of our past.

“You can help me fix it,” she says.

And then she hands me a list.

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How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore.
Anticipated release: January 2017

Keep your enemies close, but your friends closer.

Olivia Clayton has mastered the art of tearing others down to stay on top. She and her best friend, Adrienne, rule their small southern town like all good mean girls do–through intimidation and manipulation.

After Olivia suffers a family tragedy and catches Adrienne sleeping with her boyfriend, Olivia is over it. She decides to make a change–but it’s impossible to resist taking Adrienne down one last time. Up to her old tricks, Olivia convinces golden boy Whit DuRant to be her SAT tutor and her fake boyfriend. But when it starts to feel real, Whit gets caught up in Olivia and Adrienne’s war.

Olivia may ruin everything she touches, but this time she won’t go down without a fight–not if it means losing Whit.

And definitely not if it means losing what’s left of herself.

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Wait for Me by Caroline Leech
Anticipated release: January 2017

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

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A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab
Anticipated release: February 2017

The battle between four magical Londons comes to a head in this stunning finale to the New York Times bestselling Shades of Magic trilogy by rising star V. E. Schwab

London’s fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire—and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes and foes struggle alike. The direct sequel to A Gathering of Shadows, and the final book in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, A Conjuring of Light sees Schwab reach a thrilling culmination concerning the fate of beloved protagonists—and old enemies.

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The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes #2) by Brittany Cavallaro
Anticipated release: February 2017

In the second brilliant, action-packed book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy, Jamie and Charlotte are in a chase across Europe to untangle a web of shocking truths about the Holmes and Moriarty families.

Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers.

So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Anticipated release: February 2017

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

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Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas
Anticipated release: February 2017

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

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Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse
Anticipated release: March 2017

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

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Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Anticipated release: March 2017

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Jason Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

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Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski
Anticipated release: April 2017

Can friendship, Star Trek, drama club, and a whole lot of coffee get two nerdy best friends through the beginning of their senior year of high school?

Meg and Linus are best friends bound by a shared love of school, a coffee obsession, and being queer. It’s not always easy to be the nerdy lesbian or gay kid in a suburban town. But they have each other. And a few Star Trek boxed sets. They’re pretty happy.

But then Sophia, Meg’s longtime girlfriend, breaks up with Meg. Linus starts tutoring the totally dreamy new kid, Danny—and Meg thinks setting them up is the perfect project to distract herself from her own heartbreak. But Linus isn’t so sure Danny even likes guys, and maybe Sophia isn’t quite as out of the picture as Meg thought she was… .

From crowdsourced young adult imprint Swoon Reads comes Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski, a fun friendship story about two quirky teens who must learn to get out of their comfort zones and take risks—even if that means joining the drama club, making new friends, and learning how to stand on your own.

So, those are my ten most anticipated releases of early 2017 (that I’ve come across so far).  What are you looking forward to?

ARC review: London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton

Goodreads   Amazon

After finishing college, Alex Sinclair flees to London to escape her friend’s betrayal and begin her career as a famous playwright. Living with her friend Harry, his posh girlfriend Olivia, and Olivia’s slacker brother Tom, she should have no problem getting established. But things don’t work out quite as well as Alex hopes when Olivia takes an immediate dislike to her and she finds the London theater scene a little harder to break into than expected. Her ever-present anxiety attacks don’t help, and neither does her growing conflict with Olivia. Will Alex persevere, or it is time for her to return home?

I had a really hard time getting into this book. It’s not the plot, because although it was predictable, I thought that was actually pretty well done. It was more the writing. Because the book, especially at the beginning, relies heavily on similes to paint a picture. There were so many that I actually took to highlighting them on my Kindle. Here’s a small assortment:

(Please note that these are from an uncorrected proof, and the final copy may be different.)

Slow walkers, and abandoned suitcases stacked high on carts like a haphazard Hadrian’s Wall, threatened to impede her progress, but she dodged around the obstacles like a Super Bowl-winning running back.
Alex rattled them off like Drake reeling off rhymes.
Like a sprite on a sugar rush, she veered off-course from Heathrow’s luggage carousels.
She rebounded through the herd, clutching the crumpled paper like a Get Out of Jail Free card.
Like a Rottweiler guarding a juicy bone, her expression snarled ‘approach at your own risk.’
Giggling to herself, she wriggled in her seat like a sleep-deprived kid on Christmas morning.
Alex hugged her laptop tightly against her chest like a life preserver and ran for it.
(All of these are before we even hit the 5% mark.)

To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of the book. It’s actually been over three months since I finished it, and I thought I’d written a review. (I guess I didn’t.)

I know that there’s a lot of unnecessary angst. I know that the characters are either comically perfect or comically evil, and there is no in-between. I know that I highlighted a lot of passages in which I asked myself how Alex could possibly have graduated from college without a brain in her head.

But at some point, I stopped questioning the writing and Alex’s stupid decisions and tried to enjoy the story. And I did. Somewhat. I mean, this wasn’t the greatest book I read all year, but it definitely wasn’t the worst, either. If you’re into British pop culture references, you’ll probably find some enjoyment here.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

ARC review: Addicted To You by Renita Pizzitola

Addicted to You by Renita Pizzitola
Series: Port Lucia #1
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: August 16, 2016
Source: ARC via Netgalley

In a sweet, sexy novel for fans of Abbi Glines, Monica Murphy, and Christina Lauren, the author of Just a Little Kiss tells the story of two friends who each want more—and the love triangle that’s holding them back.

In the sleepy fishing town of Port Lucia, everyone knows everyone, but Isla Diaz really knows Colby Callahan, with his blue-gray eyes and the tousled brown hair always tucked sexily into his cap. After all, Isla has been crazy about Colby ever since she can remember—even if he treats her like a kid sister. Now, without her best friend, Felicity, around, Isla spots a golden opportunity to take things to the next level . . . or at least wrangle a kiss out of Colby.

By random chance, a tropical storm is headed toward the coast, leaving them stranded together overnight—and there’s nothing to do but drink. As the evening wears on, Isla gets the feeling that her not-so-secret crush may finally release her from the friend zone. With her dreams finally coming true, Isla isn’t about to pump the brakes, but is this just a one-time thing? What if the next morning, she needs more than Colby’s prepared to give?

Little does she know, Colby would like nothing more than a real relationship with Isla. She’s always been the one. But there’s a very good reason he’s been keeping his distance. Someone else loves her too, someone who also means the world to Colby: his brother.

I really love Renita Pizzitola’s books. It all started in August of 2014 when I requested Just a Little Crush on Netgalley. I loved the story, and I quickly got caught up in her writing. It wasn’t long before I was reading Just a Little Flirt, and then Just a Little Kiss. So when I saw a new Port Lucia spinoff series up on Netgalley, it took all of about a half second for me to request Addicted to You. And I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The thing is this: If you give me a series written by an author I enjoy, about a trope that I love, you can’t really go wrong. Friends-to-lovers is my thing, okay. I don’t even care how it happens, as long as it’s realistic. And this book is pretty realistic, at least in my opinion.

Isla and Colby have been friends forever. Unsurprisingly, Isla has developed a pretty substantial crush on Colby. But she’s never going to tell him, because why risk making things awkward and ruining what they have? Well, a stormy night and some drunken dares make it clear that Isla’s feelings aren’t entirely one-sided. But how much of Colby’s reaction is true feelings, and how much is just because of the alcohol? And why does Colby keep pushing Isla away?

I actually really loved both of the main characters in this book. Sure, they were absolutely infuriating at times, but I could totally understand their feelings. And although it was definitely frustrating to see them dancing around the idea of a relationship and just not communicating, I think it was actually pretty realistic for childhood friends who start to think about the possibility of something more.

Misunderstandings, miscommunications, and general angst abound as Isla and Colby try to figure out what’s best for their friendship, their families, and themselves. I can’t wait to see whose story is next in the Port Lucia series.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.