Tag Archives: romeo and juliet

Assassin’s Heart – YA that is part Romeo and Juliet, part Dia De Los Muertes

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Assassin’s Heart – YA that is part Romeo and Juliet, part Dia De Los Muertes

This is a good old fashioned “Hell hath no fury” read, and I enjoyed it. For me, this book’s plot is actually secondary because the world building really stole the show.  Ghosts and goddesses, codes of conduct and questionable morals that are ruled by honor all make for a richly imagined setting.  I could see this place in my mind so clearly, and I’m desperate to read another story set in this deadly and enchanting place.

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Goodreads Summary

In the kingdom of Lovero, nine rival Families of assassins lawfully kill people for a price. As a highly skilled member of one of these powerful clans, seventeen-year-old Lea Saldana has always trusted in the strength of her Family. Until she awakens to find them murdered and her home in flames. The Da Vias, the Saldanas’ biggest enemy, must be responsible—and Lea should have seen it coming. But her secret relationship with the Da Vias’ son, Val, has clouded her otherwise killer instinct—and given the Da Vias more reason than ever to take her Family down.

Racked with guilt and shattered over Val’s probable betrayal, Lea sets out to even the score, with her heart set on retaliation and only one thought clear in her mind: make the Da Vias pay.

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My Thoughts

As far as assassins go, Lea is no joke.  She is a killing machine, and she doesn’t hesitate to get the job done.  I think she makes a few questionable decisions, and her emotions certainly drive her to an extreme, but I still liked her journey back from the underworld, a place we could all end up under the right circumstances.  I did feel the story lagged a lot at the midpoint, and Lia spends way too much time hanging out trying to reconnect with the last of her remaining family, but it didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment.  I also wasn’t swept away by the romance in this story, and I don’t think I was meant to be because this felt more about loyalty and friendship than lust (once bitten, twice shy and all), but the readers who want that Romeo and Juliet kind of love might be disappointed.  This is Romeo and Juliet gone even more wrong than it did the first time.  Some people will find the mystical elements stretch their suspension of disbelief, but I thought those were some of the most powerful moments in the book and I bought into them wholeheartedly.  The resolution was smart, satisfying, and exactly what I wanted.  I think this book will capture the imaginations of my high school readers, especially those who have enjoyed Sarah J. Mass’ Throne of Glass books and the His Fair Assassin’s series.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list, and I’m keeping an eye on this author.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt – contemporary YA romance

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Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt – contemporary YA romance

Dreams Things True was a laborious read for me.  I had a hard time staying engaged, but there certainly will be an audience for this modern take on star-crossed lovers.

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Goodreads Summary

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There’s too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.
My Thoughts

This book had a lot of things going for it, but it just wasn’t as engaging as I wanted.  Dream Things True puts a human face on the controversial topic of illegal immigration in America, and it presents a fair view of the issue from many perspectives.  Both Alma and Evan are likeable characters and their Romeo and Juliet relationship will be a draw for many YA romance readers.  Alma is a character who works hard and makes sacrifices for her future and her family, and there is a lot to admire about her journey.  Her character’s experiences certainly work towards breaking down some of the stereotyping readers might have about the average undocumented resident.  There is enough conflict and drama to keep the story moving along at a fairly consistent pace.  I think my biggest problem was the third person point of view.  It resulted in a lot of telling instead of showing.  I encountered several passages that felt stilted as a result.  One of the most glaring was when Evan first sat down with his uncle and instead of allowing readers to draw inferences about their relationship, readers were given what felt like a straight informational paragraph out of an English grammar exercise. Several times, character’s thoughts were used to give a lot of information at one time as well, which had the same stilted feel.  I understand the need to get information to readers, but it didn’t feel like a natural presentation of ideas and it always popped me out of the story when it happened.  I also think this point of view created too much distance between readers and the main characters.  I didn’t personally relate to either Alma or Evan, and it would have been easier for me to feel connected to them if they had shared the narrative as dual first person perspectives.  The addition of untranslated Spanish conversations will be a problem for many readers as well.  My rudimentary skills weren’t up to the task of translating all of it, so I sometimes felt left out – I think it was authentic to include those lines of dialogue, and for the right audience, it will be perfect, but for me – it created more distance.  I think there is an audience who will certainly relate to this book, but I think if you are not someone with some connection to Alma’s culture and experience it just isn’t as compelling.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Joyride by Anna Banks – YA Contemporary Romance At Its Best

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Joyride by Anna Banks – YA Contemporary Romance At Its Best

Joyride is one of the only contemporary YA romances I got a shot to read that is publishing in early June, and it is one of the strongest I’ve read in a long time.  The characters are believable, the plot is well paced, and the conflicts are timely and universal.  Fans of Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry and Jennifer Echol’s Going Too Far will enjoy this thoughtful romance that questions the balance between responsibility to family and personal happiness.

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Carly works hard. She has to because every dime she and her brother save goes toward getting her family back.

Arden plays hard. He has to after his sister dies because he won’t know he is alive otherwise.

He’s the sheriff’s son with a penchant for pranks, and she is the illegal immigrant’s daughter trying to balance her future with the future her family dreams of.  When a prank gone wrong brings these two together, cultures collide and there are fireworks. It could be the beginning of something spectacular or a spectacular disaster. Joyride is a contemporary take on the age old Romeo and Juliet relationship, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot is well paced to develop a believable relationship, but it still manages to move the action forward with few lulls. If you are looking for a new book boyfriend and you like those mysterious bad boys, Arden is going to rock your world.  If you are a good girl who sometimes wants to drop your cares and play for a little while, Carly will feel like home.  Both major characters are well developed and experience both internal and external conflicts that lead to satisfying growth. Many of the minor characters have charm as well, though the villain is disappointingly flat. This is a perfect summer romance for anyone who has ever just wanted to let go.

You can check this out from our classroom library!  I didn’t think you could live without a love story like this.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.