Back to Back Great Reads: Seraphina and Such A Rush

I miss blogging! I think this is the longest that I’ve gone without a post. Hopefully, I’ll have more time to blog once things have settled down – I’m still trying to get used to so many aspects of the move. Anyway, I read and loved two titles recently: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and Such A Rush by Jennifer Echols. Since I wasn’t sure if I could write a full review for both anytime soon, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about both titles in one post.

Here’s the summary of Seraphina from Goodreads:

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Seraphina is a lovely book. I remember rushing to a bookstore in Manila to grab a copy of this on its release day because I’ve heard such good things about it and I couldn’t wait to read it. I was disappointed in the books that I read before Seraphina so it was a pleasant surprise that I found a YA fantasy that I could really sink my teeth into. Seraphina is exactly the kind of character that I love, one who possesses admirable inner strength. I’m also a fan of the world that Rachel Hartman created, where there’s a tenuous peace between humans and dragons. I liked how distinctly different humans and dragons are – the latter sees the former as a weaker race, prone to emotional decisions that aren’t always logical whereas dragons are more detached and analytical. And I found it intriguing that dragons can take human form. I really liked how subtle the romance was, it wasn’t the focus of the story and they started out as friends. There were so many details to love in this novel and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel – I wonder how long do I have to wait to read it? Here’s a quote from the book that I loved:

“The world inside myself is vaster and richer than this paltry plane, peopled with mere galaxies and gods.”

From fantasy, let’s move on to contemporary. It has never been my dream to become a pilot. I was briefly interested for a time but then I found out that there’s a height requirement and I wouldn’t make it. I have the utmost respect for pilots though – I think what they do is amazing. And I’m a big fan of strong women so I think lady pilots are awesome. It’s funny because I wasn’t actively seeking to read novels that feature women as pilots but I’ve ended up loving two such titles this year: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and now Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols.

Here’s the summary of Such a Rush from Goodreads:

High school senior Leah Jones loves nothing more than flying. While she’s in the air, it’s easy to forget life with her absentee mother at the low-rent end of a South Carolina beach town. When her flight instructor, Mr. Hall, hires her to fly for his banner advertising business, she sees it as her ticket out of the trailer park. And when he dies suddenly, she’s afraid her flying career is gone forever.

But Mr. Hall’s teenage sons, golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson, are determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business — until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers — and the consequences could be deadly.

Jennifer Echols’ Going Too Far was one of the first contemporary YA novels that I fell in love with. I’ve read the rest of her books after that, hoping that they’d be just as good but they didn’t live up to Going Too Far. Until Such A Rush came along. Now I have another Jennifer Echols novel that I can enthusiastically recommend. I felt so bad for Leah – her story made me realize that not everyone who lives in a first world country has a good life. It made me sad that she didn’t have access to so many things that we all take for granted – internet, cellphones, buying groceries and take out whenever we need to. I’m amazed at how she took control of her own life because she doesn’t want to be stuck in a trailer park her whole life. I also loved the tension between Leah and Grayson, with all the ambiguity of their relationship. Jennifer Echols sure knows how to build up a slow burn romance. I was rooting for the two of them to get together even if they had to work through so many issues. Highly recommended for fans of swoon-worthy contemporary YA.

What about the rest of you, have you read and loved any books lately?

Love Story by Jennifer Echols

I was so excited to read Jennifer Echols’ latest romantic drama, Love Story, because I fell in love with Going Too Far last year. I had high hopes as well for Forget You although that didn’t quite work out as I expected. Thanks to the Simon and Schuster Galley Grab, I was able to read Love Story‘s galley before its release date.

Here’s the summary from Jennifer Echols’ website:

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions – it’s her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family’s racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin’s college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter… so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?

Then, on the day she’s sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He’s joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin’s heart with longing. Now she’s not just imagining what might have been. She’s writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter… except this story could come true.

I really liked that the characters in Love Story were older than usual when it comes to YA. The setting is a college in New York. It has a different feel from high school: the characters are more independent even though they are still going through the process of understanding themselves and discovering what they want to do in life. At first, I was engaged by the plot – how Erin and Hunter grew up on the opposite ends of a horse farm in Kentucky: she as the wealthy heiress and he as a stable boy. Seems like an old school romance plot, right? Rich girl falls for poor guy and all that. Several years’ worth of pent-up emotion has built up between these two and they both attack each other through the stories they produce for their creative writing class, which are read and critiqued by the rest of their classmates. It’s an intriguing concept: stories written by the protagonists within one big story (the title makes total sense now). In the end though, the whole thing fell flat for me.

There wasn’t enough actual interaction between the two main characters and I feel like the reader gets to know them only through their creative writing compositions. They tend to write about real life experiences and what they write let us give glimpses into what the characters went through in the past. Which is a good thing if that’s backed up by dialogue in the present. I didn’t feel like Erin and Hunter spent enough time together to actually get to know the other person and fall in love. Also, the book ended just when I was starting to get into the story. When I reached the end, I thought to myself, “That’s really it? Where’s the rest of the story?” Erin and Hunter constantly push each other apart and it came to a point when I didn’t understand them anymore. It was like they were just looking for reasons to fight with each other instead of working on having a relationship. I really wanted to fall in love with this book and I’m kind of sad that I didn’t. I can see other people liking this much more than I did so if you’re a fan of Jennifer Echols or romantic contemporary YA reads then go ahead and read this. I’m still hoping that the author would come out with a book that’s just as lovely as Going Too Far. Love Story will be released on July 19, 2011.

Other reviews:
The Allure of Books
The Reading Date
Readergirl Reviews a Teen Book

Forget You by Jennifer Echols

Going Too Far is one of my favorite reads of this year so I’ve been eagerly anticipating Jennifer Echols’ next romantic drama, Forget You. I even read Jennifer Echols romantic comedies – Endless Summer, The Ex Games, Major Crush – just so I have something to tide me over while waiting.

Here’s the summary from Jennifer Echols’ website:

There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four-year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. With her life about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.

But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all — the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug — of all people — suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life — a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

I was all set to fall in love with this one but it didn’t happen. I think the premise is intriguing and I would’ve liked the story a lot of if I didn’t get annoyed with Zoey and how she kept insisting that Brandon is her boyfriend when he’s obviously not. I mean there was Doug, the “beautiful, snarky, way-too-perceptive boy” (to borrow her words) who’s always there for her. Doug kept taking care of Zoey after the accident when Brandon was nowhere to be seen. I really felt sorry for Doug, he seems like such a great guy even if he has a bad boy reputation. I wanted to talk to Zoey just so I could tell her, “If you don’t want him, can I have him?” I understand that Zoey has a lot of problems and that she’s pretty confused about her life but trying to believe that she has a relationship with Brandon was just too much. It’s not like Brandon’s much of a catch anyway – yes, he’s hot but that’s all that he has going for him.

Still, I recommend this to anyone who’s curious about Jennifer Echols’ books or anyone who wants a light, romantic read. I know that other people may end up liking this book even if it didn’t work out for me. I did like the tension between Zoey and Doug even if she kept on telling herself that she doesn’t have feelings for him. Also, even though they both have different lifestyles – Zoey’s family is rich while Doug has to work hard in his dad’s business – they still have things in common like how awful their fathers are and how they’re both part of the varsity swim team. Before the car wreck, their interactions mostly involved arguments, which I think showed that they were trying to mask their attraction by fighting. Hello love-hate relationship!

I believe Jennifer Echols is writing another romantic drama due out next year and I’m still planning to read that one. If you’re looking for a more satisfying YA romance, I recommend Going Too Far or Perfect Chemistry.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
See Michelle Read
Angieville
Lurv a la Mode
The Book Smugglers
The Story Siren

The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols

When I love a book, I have this tendency to look up the author’s other works and see if it might interest me as well. A few weeks ago, I read and liked Melina Marchetta’s other books because I loved Jellicoe Road. Now, I’m on a quest to get my hands on Jennifer Echols’ books because I loved Going Too Far. I finished reading Major Crush a few days back (click on the link to see what I thought of it). I called Fully Booked to ask if they had any copies of The Ex Games. Luckily, there was one copy left in one of their branches so I went over there to pick it up.

Here’s the summary from Jennifer Echols’ website:

Hayden and Nick used to be a hot item, but their brief affair ended with a highly publicized break-up. Now the two are “just friends,” excluding the occasional flirtation.

When Hayden wins the girls’ division of a local snowboarding competition, Nick is unimpressed, claiming that Hayden wouldn’t have a chance against a guy. Hayden calls Nick’s bluff and challenges him to a head-to-head boarding contest. Their mutual friends quickly take sides, the girls on Hayden’s and the boys on Nick’s, making for an all-out battle of the sexes. This friendly competition is bound to get heated – and if they’re not careful, they might end up igniting some old flames.

When Hayden first moved to Colorado from Tennessee during seventh grade, Nick immediately asked her out. They went on a couple of dates but things ended badly for their tween love story. Four years later, Nick and Hayden still get on each other’s nerves by continually trading insults. When Hayden’s two best friends start dating Nick’s two best friends, it seems like the perfect idea for Hayden and Nick to get back together. However, they can’t seem to stop arguing and one argument leads to a bet that one of them can best the other in a boarding contest.

Hayden is amazing at snowboarding which is ironic because she never got over her fear of heights, which she has because of a rappelling accident. She needs to let go of that fear because her dream is to become a professional snowboarder. Nick is handsome, rich and seems to have everything but he’s never dated anyone seriously. When I think of Hayden and Nick, what immediately comes to mind are lines from a Katy Perry song: “We fight, we break up/ We kiss, we make up” because that sums up how they deal with each other. They don’t mean to fight but you know how it is when you feel strongly for someone, every little thing seems like a huge deal and you get easily affected. Watching them both blunder along while they figure out if they really want to be together is part of the fun.

I enjoyed reading this book, especially since it’s the first one that I’ve read about snowboarding. I remember that the fact that I’ve never seen snow surprised a couple of members in one of my Goodreads groups’ threads. I hope to see snow someday and I know it’ll be amazing if I could try snowboarding (if I’m brave enough to try it) but for now, I have to satisfy myself by living vicariously through Hayden.

Another satisfying rom com from Jennifer Echols and I look forward to reading more of her books. Endless Summer has already been released in the States but it’s not yet available here. I hope it gets here soon because I want to read it!

Some Light Reading

I picked up both Summer in the City by Elizabeth Chandler and Major Crush by Jennifer Echols from Fully Booked the other day. I bought Summer in City because I loved At First Sight and I Do, both books written by Elizabeth Chandler for the Love Stories series. I collected that series back when I was in high school and I still have several copies of the books but my favorites are the ones by Elizabeth Chandler. I bought Major Crush because I’ve become a fan of Jennifer Echols ever since I read Going Too Far. I’m more than willing to read any of her books and I can’t wait to get my hands on Endless Summer.

Here’s the summary of Summer in the City from the Harper Collins website:

Athletic Jamie isn’t sure about spending the summer in the city with her romance–novel–writing mum. But when she meets irresistible Josh, Jamie realizes she could probably use all the romance advice she can get!

Lacrosse camp 9 a.m.–noon (can’t be late! “Coach” Josh will freak out)

Basketball camp 1:00–4:00 (so many screaming kids. . . )

Shopping with Mona 4:30 (finally a break)

Date with Andrew 7:30 (he’s so perfect. . . isn’t he?)

Elizabeth Chandler’s love stories are always fun to read because they revolve around two characters who are athletic and very good at their chosen sport. In Summer in the City, Jamie is a basketball player who got a scholarship to play in college but she decided to give lacrosse a try while spending summer vacation in Baltimore. Josh, an incoming sophomore and lacrosse team player in one of the colleges in the city, is the coach for her lacrosse summer camp. There was a lot of tension between these two. Even though they’re attracted to each other, they were both trying so hard not to fall in love. I loved the summer tone of the whole book. You can actually feel the heat and humidity as the characters down bottles of water after sports or drink iced tea while hanging out.

Because I re-read I Do and At First Sight countless times, I noticed a lot of similar scenes from those books and even a couple of identical lines in this one. Nonetheless, it’s still a really enjoyable read.

Here’s the summary of Major Crush from Jennifer Echols’ website:

Tired of the beauty-pageant circuit, Virginia Sauter tosses her tiara, pierces her nose, and auditions for the most unlikely of roles – drum major of the high school marching band.

Virginia wins, but is forced to share the title with Drew, whose family has held the position for generations. Sure, Drew is hot, but because of his superior attitude, he and Virginia are constantly arguing. That is, until they share more than just their half-time salute…

But as the drum majors’ heated competition turns to sizzling romance, explosive rumors threaten everything – including the band’s success. Love seemed to be a sure hit, but Virginia and Drew may be marching straight into disaster.

In Jennifer Echols’ website, Going Too Far falls under the label of “romantic drama” while Major Crush falls under “romantic comedy”. I would definitely agree with the comedy part because this book made me laugh out loud a couple of times. I haven’t read a lot of teen romance books with band members in them and it was interesting to know that there’s a lot going on in a school band. In a small town where the school band is a big thing, the most popular guy in school is the drum major (the leader of the band) and not a jock.

Virginia was previously a queen of beauty pageants but she decided to pierce her nose, run around barefoot all the time and pursue her passion for drums. She decided to run for drum major because a girl has never gotten that position. She didn’t expect to win or to share the glory with last year’s drum major, Drew. Even though Virginia has a huge crush on Drew, she doesn’t want to work with him and she knows Drew doesn’t want to share the role of drum major either. Forced to play nice with each other, sparks fly and they discover that there’s more to the other person than meets the eye.

There you have it, folks. Two light reads from teen romance veterans, which are perfect for the summer. Although technically, summer is already over here in the Philippines, I’d have to say we still qualify because we only have two seasons anyway: hot and hotter. There’s nothing like a bit of romance to make your summer sizzle. 🙂

Waiting on Wednesday: Mistwood and Forget You

It’s a sunny Wednesday morning here and I thought I’d participate in a weekly meme called Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. WoW posts are about books that you can’t wait to get your hands on. I have two books for this week.

The first one is Mistwood by Leah Cypess, which is a debut novel. I’ve seen reviews of this around the blogosphere and I can’t wait to get it because it’s being recommended to fans of Megan Whalen Turner, Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce and I’m a fan of the three authors. Plus the premise is really interesting. I don’t think I’ve read a book with a shapeshifter main character. Mistwood’s release date is April 27 but I don’t know when the bookstores here will get copies. I already have a reservation with Fully Booked.

Here’s the summary from Leah Cypess’ website:

Everyone tells Isabel that she is the Shifter – the ancient shape-shifting creature who has protected the kings of Samorna for centuries. They need her to be the Shifter. Prince Rokan risked everything when he rode into the Mistwood to summon her to his side; Ven, the magician’s apprentice, has devoted his life to studying her legend; and even Princess Clarisse, who fears and hates her, depends on Isabel’s powers to further her own plans.

But Isabel doesn’t feel like the Shifter. She feels like a lonely human girl, beset by flashes of memory that do more to confuse than to help her. If she is the Shifter, why can’t she change her shape? Why doesn’t she remember what made her flee the castle so many years ago? As she is drawn deeper into a web of magic and assassination, Isabel will have no choice but to look for answers. But her search will lead her to the one question the Shifter hasn’t faced in a thousand years: where does she come from, and what does she really want?

Doesn’t that make you want to check out Mistwood? The second book that I’m waiting for is Forget You by Jennifer Echols. I loved Going Too Far and I can’t wait to read Jennifer Echols’ next book! I was reminded of how much I wanted this book by Adele of Persnickety Snark’s recent vlog about her first impressions of the book. Forget You is due out July 20.

Here’s the summary from Jennifer Echols’ website:

There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four-year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. With her life about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.

But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people—suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

How about you, what are the books that you’re waiting for?