Worth It Wednesday: The Bandia series by Talia Vance

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

SilverTitles: Silver & Gold

Author: Talia Vance

Goodreads Description (Silver): “As I step into the room, a silver flash blurs my vision. Before I can take a breath, the world falls away.”

Brianna has always felt invisible. People stare right past her, including the one boy she can’t resist, Blake Williams. But everything changes at a house party where Brianna’s charm bracelet slips off and time stands still. In that one frozen, silver moment, Blake not only sees her, he recognizes something deep inside her she’s been hiding even from herself.

Discovering she is descended from Danu, the legendary Bandia of Celtic myth, Brianna finds herself questioning the truth of who she is. And when she accidentally binds her soul to Blake, their mutual attraction becomes undeniable.

But Blake has his own secret, one that could prove deadly for them both. Bound together by forbidden magic, Brianna and Blake find themselves at the heart of an ancient feud that threatens to destroy their lives and their love.

Why it’s worth it: So here’s the thing about Silver. It sounds very … generic? Like, the kind of story that you’ve read before. While it most certainly is NOT when you finally read it, it’s also why I couldn’t JUST say Silver for this post. My favorite is actually Gold, because this romance does NOT go where you think it’s going to. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First things first: if you love Celtic mythology, stop reading right now and just find a copy. The mythos of this novel is done so well, and so thoroughly researched, that I loved that aspect in both books. I thought I knew a bunch, but I learned a lot more.

Silver, to be honest, does go in most of the ways that you would expected. Blake and Brie are from two separate worlds, but they love each other despite of it, their love makes them stronger … etc. One of the great pluses was that when Brie falls into insta-love with Blake, Blake steps back and is like WHAT and that jump to insta-love is actually PART of the plot instead of something we’re supposed to believe is true and everlasting love. That, honestly, should have been my clue that these books were not going to immediately fall into every trope I thought was coming. As you might guess from my original 4 1/2 star review, it totally did not. I was very pleased.

But then it gets even better with Gold, wherein Vance takes any expectations you had left and smashes them. I was absolutely blown away how Vance’s already strong writing and great storytelling ability didn’t stop there, but then ALSO tackled some of the more realistic aspects of the “two different worlds” trope along with the romance in general. I find it hilarious now that I rated Gold 4 stars where I rated Silver 4 1/2, because I can’t remember the last time I re-read Silver but I re-read Gold all the time. I think, especially in a world where I’m just getting more and more disgusted with tropes, the second book keeps standing out more and more to me.

Honest to goodness, after Silver I was prepared for Gold to continue on the story of another pseudo Romeo and Juliet that had a love triangle involved–but I loved the characters and story so much that I didn’t care. In the end, Vance rewarded me with something SO MUCH BETTER and something VERY worth reading!

Read it if you’re looking for: Celtic mythology, anti-insta-love, not another love triangle, swoon worthy romance, realistic romance, strong female characters, books set in Ireland, books that make you laugh out loud, books that tug at your heart strings

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Worth it Wednesdays: “Pushing the Limits” by Katie McGarry

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

Pushing the LimitsTitle: Pushing the Limits

Author: Katie McGarry

Goodreads DescriptionSo wrong for each other …and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Why it’s worth it: I got Pushing the Limits as an ARC back in 2012, and I still can’t tell you why I requested it in the first place. I don’t like contemporary YA romances, as a rule. They all seem the same to me, and I get bored easily.

I’M SO GLAD THAT I DID THOUGH, because this book is such a stand out.

I think the best thing about Pushing the Limits is that it isn’t just a love story. I mean, it certainly is a romance–and a really, really good one–but it also takes the time to give Noah and Echo lives outside of their romance–really, really 3D lives. They’re both struggling through real, serious struggles in their own, individual lives, each of which could have been a singular novel on their own. But then their stories twine together, and they fall in love and give each other strength while doing so.

One thing that always irks me in YA contemporary romance is that there is usually one person in the romance (typically the girl, but not always) who is having the struggle, and then the other one comes in at exactly the right time to be their hero. Or, worse, they both have very shallow struggles going on that take a backseat to some kind of star-crossed love. In my ARC review of Pushing the Limits, I wrote that it was actually NOAH’S finale that made me tear up, as opposed to Echo’s, which NEVER happens to me. I usually identify with the girl more, and usually the guys are really trite besides. Noah and Echo are both important, integral and real parts of the story–something I have rarely found outside of Katie’s books.

I did also review the second book in this series, Dare You To, on my blog, but I read the whole series and loved every one. Sure, I didn’t really have the intense, visceral reaction that I did to Pushing the Limits, but that doesn’t make the whole series any less worth it.

Read it if you’re looking for: contemporary romance that isn’t cliche, books dealing with serious topics, love that isn’t insta-love, realistic romance, a tear jerker, swoon worthy leads

Worth It Wednesdays: “Hex Hall” by Rachel Hawkins

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

Hex HallTitle: Hex Hall

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Goodreads Description: Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Why it’s worth it: I know, it sounds kind of like Harry Potter, right? That’s what I thought. And, you know, that’s kind of correct. I honestly almost didn’t pick up this series because I thought, “Yikes, this sounds like something I’ve read before.” But you know what?

THIS SERIES IS SO MUCH FUN.

I often call this series “mind candy,” because that’s how I think about it. The plot isn’t overly complicated and the characters aren’t necessarily deeply nuanced, but I love it all the same. The dialogue is spot on, the action is packed and you can read through them like butter. Every time I re-read one of these books, I laugh out loud–and I don’t do that often!

I was so enthralled by Sophie and her narration that I almost couldn’t bring myself to read Hawkins’ next series, Rebel Belle. But, it turns out, this is just how she writes. I’ve been won over by her sense of humor and fast paced, easy reading–and I think you will too!

Read it if you’re looking for: Strong female friendships, swoon-worthy romance, fast paced action, books like Harry Potter, sassy main characters, magic, fantasy, witches, demons, humor and feel good moments

Worth It Wednesdays: “Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

anna and the french kissTitle: Anna and the French Kiss

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Goodreads Description: Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

Why it’s worth it: When the blogosphere first blew up with this book, I shied away automatically. I tend to dislike YA contemporary romance, and this just sounded … trite. Like I’d read it a million times before. But more and more of my bloggy friends and people I liked around the internet kept saying I THOUGHT THAT BUT IT’S GOOD and I went … alright?

TURNS OUT THAT THEY WERE ALL CORRECT.

Anna is the kind of book that stays with you long after the pages have shut. It’s the kind of book that I re-read when I’m feeling the worst in my life. Does the description make it sound like dozens of other things? Yes. Is the plot similar in that way? Yes.

The thing about it, though, is the way that Perkins writes. There is no doubt in my mind about the reality of this story. The characters are REAL. Their issues are REAL. And there is none of this “main character perfection” or “love interest perfection” thing that happens sometimes in similar novels. Anna and St. Clair are messed up. They mess up over the course of the book. They fall apart and them come back together, TOGETHER.

Also, Perkins doesn’t let the book just be about the romance. There is a lot of real back and forth about friendships, and how crushes within friend groups can lead to grief and heartache. Yet, again, the friendships fall apart and come back together with a reality that is staggering. There isn’t a single character–within the main romance or not–that doesn’t steal your heart.

Maybe I’m biased. Anna did get me through one of the toughest periods of my life. But I thoroughly believe that a lot of it is also due to the fact that Perkins is just a damn good author. There are two companion books to Anna, and both are really good as well. Okay, I was only okay with Lola and The Boy Next Door but Isla and The Happily Ever After came back and stole my heart all over again. So yeah. Just read them.

Read it if you’re looking for: YA contemporary romance that won’t make you want to vomit, lack of a real love triangle, books about friendship, books about Paris, books about family, swoon worthy romance, books that will stay with you.