First Line(s): One cool October day, after a dispiriting seven hours of teaching privileged kindergarten children, Spenser Harris returned to his apartment to discover a teenage boy - battered, bruised, and coiled into a ball - in front of his door.
ENJOY THE DANCE is the second book in Heidi Cullinan's Dancing series and takes place about a year after the events in DANCE WITH ME (my review) ends. While this book features cameos from people that we've met before the two main characters are new ones to the reader, Spenser and Tomas. Both of whom I really liked and I also really liked their story and the journey that they took over the course of the book. I liked how they became friends first and then worked up to something more. I liked the slow burn aspect of this book but also liked that it wasn't so slow that I lost interest. I also liked how Spenser and Tomas interacted with the people around them.
What I didn't like about ENJOY THE DANCE was just how much was going on in this book. There was the issue with Duon, there was the political aspect, and then there was what was going on with Tomas's family. Just one of those plot points would have been a lot but all three together and it all got a bit jumbled and distracting. The political portion of the story line, while an important part of modern history, isn't something that I really want to encounter to the extent mentioned in this book. As a bit of filler here and there fine but it was just so much. Although, I do think that part of this dislike of mine comes from politic fatigue. We are in the midst of Presidential election season and I'm just really really really tired of politics. So this portion of the story may not have bothered me if I'd read it at a different time.
ENJOY THE DANCE is a quick read and I liked it I just didn't love it as much as I would have liked. I think if there was more focus on the romance and less on the political situation than I would have liked it more. I enjoyed the cameos of the characters we knew and I won't be surprised if Duon eventually gets his own story. The boy has been through a lot of the course of the two books in this series and ENJOY THE DANCE ends in 2015 so there is potential for it. Speaking of the ending, ENJOY THE DANCE had an epilogue that did not suck. You know me reader, I am not a fan of epilogue but I think that Cullinan did a good job with this one. Although I did think that the timing of things didn't seem entirely plausible for a 3 year stretch from the start. A year, maybe, but three? It just seemed forced. But overall, I liked it and I liked how Tomas and Spenser's story ends. Unlike make of Cullinan's books I didn't find this ending to be too sugary although it does end in a way that is so very Cullinan.
If you are a fan a Cullinan, then you will like ENJOY THE DANCE. There is a lot to like about this book and I think that new fans and old will enjoy it. ENJOY THE DANCE can be read as a standalone book but there is something added when you know the other characters involved. This was a quick read for me and I do look forward to reading more of what Cullinan comes up with.
Today I am going to talk about the anthology SUMMER DAYS AND SUMMER NIGHTS which was edited by Stephanie Perkins. SUMMER DAYS AND SUMMER NIGHTS is a collection of twelve stories from various authors in the YA world that all embody the lazy crazy days of summer. This review will be set up a little differently from my regular reviews as it won't be one long rambling post of my thoughts. Instead I broke things down by each story in the collection and shared my thoughts on each after I read them.
HEAD, SCALES, TONGUE, TAIL by Leigh Bardugo
Place(s) Traveled: New York, New York (1986) // Little Spindle, New York
First Line(s): There were a lot of stories about Annalee Saperstein and why she came to Little Spindle, but Gracie's favorite was the heat wave.
Rating: 3 stars
This was an odd little story but one that reads like an updated version of a hodpge of different myths. Its a short story (duh) but there is so much included in it. It spans a few years and there is a lot of character growth and development and even some heart-achy feels.
THE END OF LOVE by Nina LaCour
Place(s) Traveled: Berkeley, California // Muir Beach, California
First Line(s): I don't realize how early I am until I open the door.
Rating: 3 stars
I liked this story and the voice of the main character, Flora. She was sweet and filled with a sadness that just lept off the page. This is a girl who is going through a lot and doesn't quiet know how to process it all. For this entire story I just wanted to give her a hug and tell her its ok to just cry it out. I liked the other characters in this story as well, with the exception of Flora's parents who were such selfish asshats! My big complaint with THE END OF LOVE is that if felt unfinished as if there is still a lot more story to tell and more to explore and I'd have liked to see this one as a full length story.
LAST STAND AT THE CINEGOR by Libba Bray
Place(s) Traveled: Deadwood, Texas
First Line(s): On the last night of the Cinegore, the sky looked like it needed to call in sick, all yellow-green going dark around the edges like an infected cut, a summer storm heading in hard.
Rating: 2.5 stars
I liked the start of this one and thought that it would be a fun start to a summer romance. But then things took a crazy turn for the weird with the appearance of demons. Yes, demon demons and I guess it was supposed to turn spooky horror story but it just made me go...huh? Even with demons it might still have ended up a good story but it just sort of fizzled out and the ending just leaves you scratching your head. It was rushed and just fell flat. Not a fan of this one.
SICK PLEASURES by Francesa Lia Block
Place(s) Traveled: Los Angeles, California // Studio City, California // Calabasas, California // Camarillo, California
First Line(s): It was the first night of summer vacation when my friends M and L and I piled into J's VW Bug and drove to Phases, the teen dance club deep in the San Fernando Valley, to escape sorrow and find the thing that we were looking for.
Rating: 1 star
Not a fan of this one at all. I hated how much distance there was between the narrator of the story and the reader. Its like you are trying to watch something from very far off. There was little to no emotion in this story either. No real purpose. Just words on a page that didn't amount to much of anything at all. Just a sense of sadness and bitterness and I could have done without reading this one.
IN NINETY MINUTES, TURN NORTH by Stephanie Perkins
Place(s) Traveled: Burnsville, North Carolina
First Line(s): Marigold hated this time of year.
Rating: 4 stars
Oh how this story hurt my heart!! Perkins brings back characters that she first introduced in her winter anthology and I just loved what she did with this story. I liked how Perkins wove in Marigold and North's history without making the story one big flashback. Instead, it only made this story all the more heartbreaking. I totally teared up while reading this one and just loved all the feels that it made me feel. I really want a full length book of Marigold and North. Of all the stories in this anthology I think that this one will be my favorite.
SOUVENIRS by Tim Federle
Place(s) Traveled: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
First Line(s): Maybe I've been reading too much Charles Dickens recently, but today doesn't seem dreary enough for a break up, you know?
Rating: 4 stars
This was another bittersweet story and I loved the progression of it. It felt like a complete story but I would have loved to have more words. I really liked Matty's voice and would love to see what becomes of him after this story ends. SOUVENIRS made my heart ache and I was sad to see this one end.
INERTIA by Veronica Roth
Place(s) Traveled: Unknown, USA
First Line(s): "There must have been some kind of mistake," I said.
Rating: 3 stars
What is with the heartbreaking way these stories are going?!? This one started out a bit choppy and rough but my heart was totally invested by the end. I wasn't a fan of how cryptic it was at first but the end does make up for the beginning. I liked the characters and I liked the story I just didn't like it as much as I did some of the others in this anthology.
LOVE IS THE LAST RESORT by Jon Skovron
Place(s) Traveled: Unknown, USA
First Line(s): Dear reader, I want to assure you that this is not a story about love or romance, regardless of what you may have read on the cover.
Rating: 1 star
I was not a fan of this one. It wasn't a bad story but I hated how it was written!! The prose was stifling and I felt like I might drown in it. It was a poor written 19th century novel and the words totally drowned out the meaning behind them. I really didn't care about any of these characters and if this was any long than it had been it would have been a DNF.
First Line(s): Audrey and I are lounging on the sandy banks of Foster Avenue Beach when she tells me she's going to San Francisco.
Rating: 3 stars
This is another so-so story in the collection. I didn't really feel the chemistry between Rashida and Pierre and their story felt a little forced. I would have liked to have seen more of them actually talking and interacting and it just felt rushed.
BRAND NEW ATTRACTION by Cassandra Clare
Place(s) Traveled: Unknown, USA
First Line(s): It was a dark carnival.
Rating: 3 stars
Another story with demons. Like the first one it just doesn't seem to fit with this anthology. It was weird and choppy and another one where I really didn't care for the characters. Events were rushed and feelings felt very surfacy and I was just glad to have it over because it was just weird.
A THOUSAND WAYS THIS COULD ALL GO WRONG by Jennifer E. Smith
Place(s) Traveled: Unknown, Illinois
First Line(s): When I spot him at the other end of the grocery aisle, I freeze.
Rating: 4 stars
I was ready for another disappointing read after the previous few stories but in the end this one is among my favorites. This is the sort of story I was expecting this whole anthology to be. Fun, contemporary romances that make your heart ache and bring a smile to your face. I smiled a lot while reading this one and its another story that I wish had been a full length book. I really enjoyed this characters and hated to say goodbye to them.
THE MAP OF TINY PERFECT THINGS by Lev Grossman
Place(s) Traveled: Lexington, Massachusetts
First Line(s): It was August 4th, and I guess it already had been for a while.
Rating: 3 stars
Another so-so story rounds out this anthology. It wasn't bad but it just seemed to be missing that little something special that makes my heart ache. There wasn't a lot of depth to it or character development and it just sort of blends in with the other stories in the anthology.
SUMMER DAYS AND SUMMER NIGHTS, like most anthologies, is a mixed bag of stories. I was expecting for there to be a bit more cohesion in this collection and so was surprised at the addition of things (ie demons) into the mix. Those odd ball stories took me out of these worlds and made it hard to pick the book up. There were only a handful of stories that I felt compelled to read and ones that I will probably re-read again. But there is nothing particularly wow inducing for me in SUMMER DAYS AND SUMMER NIGHTS and I was left a little more disappointed than not. I just expected more from it than what I got and so that makes me more disappointed than I might otherwise have been as my expectations were so high. On the plus note, there is definitely something for everyone in this collection.
Place(s) Traveled To: Columbus, Ohio // Sarahsville, Ohio // Unknown, California // Milwaukee, Wisconsin // New York, New York
Michelle A. Valentine is an author that I've been hearing a lot about especially since I do so adore the rock star trope. So when an opportunity to review her newest WICKED WHITE came up I jumped at the chance. For not only did it feature a rock start but he was a runaway rock star. Think of the potential that this story had!! Unfortunately though this one did not live up to its potential for me and there are part of me that are kind of amazed that I managed to read this one all the way until the end. I wanted to like this one but I just did not like the main characters at all, especially Ace. His thoughts were just filled with such angst and paranoia and it was the same thoughts over and over and over and over again. Its like enough! Ok...I get it...please stop beating that dead horse into the ground. His band mates were terrible and his manager vile and his love interest was such a mary sue.
Ace runs away to small town Ohio but you'd think that it was in the middle of nowhere and set back in the 1800s for all the amenities this place lacked. No internet. No cable. No cell service. Heck Irish didn't even use a bank even though she was holding on to thousands of dollars in the hopes of saving her run down trailer park. There there was the interactions between Ace and Iris. He was such an absolute asshole that I don't get what she saw in him. On the reverse I also didn't see what Ace saw in Iris she was so bland and rarely showed signs of life. Ace also displayed some violent and psychotic behavior that just made me uncomfortable at times. He'd follow Iris and when someone didn't treat her well he'd attack them. That is not ok nor is it normal behavior.
Another thing that bothered me was the bands name, Wicked White. Well, that was fine its the fact that they played pop music, which according to Ace has no soul. A band with the name Wicked White should be a rock band with a harder sound than pop. So much about this book just annoyed me. The story, the overly cheesy and eye-roll inducing dialogue. The drawn out plot complete with pointless breakup. Rapid falling in lust and all tied up so super neatly with a rushed and rainbow filled ending. *insert big heavy long drawn out sigh here*
WICKED WHITE is also the first book in a series but after the disaster that was this one I'm not sure that I'll be continuing on with them. I can only assume that the rest of series will follow Ace's bandmates, guys he hates and who we only see for half a minute in the beginning. I know we didn't see a lot of them but from what we saw I was not a fan of their asshole-like behavior so I think that for my own sanity that I will stay away. Of course I say this now but if you know anything about me you know that I am sometimes a glutton for punishment and I'll continue with something even if I am certain I won't like it just in the hopes that it will get better. But on the other side of that token is the fact that there have been books that I thought I was going to hate but I ended up loving so you never know how things will turn out if you give it a shot.
People who liked this book better than I did
Book Bitches Blog - "As usual the writing and storyline were great and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This story was a sweet love story but was still filled with some drama and angst to keep you interested in the characters."
Three Girls and a Book Obsession - Ace is a really sweet guy. He seems to say and do all the right things and maybe that is where I struggled with him. I kept waiting for the “bad-boy” rocker that I am use to in most rocker books. I mean he isn’t perfect and he does do some stupid things, but he is just so overly sweet. I really liked Iris; she was smart and at times brazen, but also really strong.
Place(s) Traveled To: Denver, Colorado // Louisville, Kentucky
First Line(s): Not too long ago when I watched a girl purposely get as drunk as this pretty one did, I would've moved in for the kill.
With the release of Asa, Jay Crownover's Marked Men comes to a close and it was with mixed feelings that I started this book as I wasn't ready to leave this world or these characters. (Even with all their crazy, cooky, totally out there names.) We first meet Asa in Jet (my review) as he is Ayden's older brother and a bit of an ass, if I'm honest. But over the course of the series you see Asa start to change and become more redeamable as he leaves his criminal ways behind him to try and make a better life. Along the way he also meets Royal, Saint's (Nash Review) neighbor and friend and they are often tossed together as they have the same group of friends. Asa, thinking he's not good enough for Royal since he's a reforming criminal and she's a cop. Royal, on the other hand, has other ideas.
Overall, I did enjoy Asa and Royal's story but its not my favorite in the series. There was just a lot of back and forth going over the same issues again and again that it got old. Then there was their big dramatic, lets break up moment that was just so eye-roll inducing that it wasn't funny. It was all another case that things would have been fine if they just talked about it and got it out into the open but instead its this long drawn out thing. Not to mention how crazy unrealistic the whole resolution of that matter was because there is no way that little seed won't grate over time.
Speaking of seeds, Asa is also filled with lots of seeds for other stories so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Crownover has a spin off series in the works, currently titled The Saints of Denver. That will bring in some of the side characters that we've met over the course of the Marked Men books. Right now I have a pretty good idea of who most of the stories will be about so it will be interesting to see how right I am on that. I also think that Asa's story may have been a better fit to kick off that series since this book never even visited the tattoo shop that played such a role in all the previous stories. Even the characters from the previous books weren't as present in this one as the previous ones.
If you've enjoyed the Marked Men books then you will most like enjoy Asa as well. Its the sort of story and plot that I've come to expect from Crownover with a little random, over the top action thrown in for fun. There were definitely elements of this story I could have done without as I don't think they added value to Asa and Royal's story ARC but they don't distract from it either so it could have been worse. The names still drive me nuts and I don't think that will ever change. But despite that I will check out the spin off series and continue to read Jay Crownover's books as they are like crack and I can't get enough.
Really enjoyed this one. Wish some things were clearer & thought then end a bit much - it was also a little rushed. But overall a believable read.Really enjoyed this one. Wish some things were clearer & thought then end a bit much - it was also a little rushed. But overall a believable read. Looking forward to Denton's story.