Speedy Reviews: Last Year's Mistake + An Ember in the Ashes

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 320 pages
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Source of my copy: bought
Summary (for full synopsis visit Goodreads)
Although Kelsey has feelings for her best friend, David, she cuts ties with him before moving from Connecticut to Rhode Island, believing they need a fresh start, but David moves nearby at the start of senior year, threatening Kelsey's relationship with her new boyfriend Ryan.
Michelle's Thoughts:
I wanted to like Last Year's Mistake so much. The cover is amazing, the synopsis just screams my YA romantic contemporary, and I'm a sucker for second chance love stories. This has everything going for it for me and it was on my most anticipated reads of 2015.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out. I just can't get behind the main character, Kelsey. She's unsympathetic and I couldn't root for her. She had this self-centered, woe-is-me attitude throughout the novel. She's not a very good friend. She basically calls every girl who flirts with or went out with David a slut/ho. She kept leading on Ryan (as well as David) and then she cheated on him with David and showed little guilt. The whole time I was feeling sorry for Violet (her friend who was going out with David) and Ryan.

As for David. He was just blah to me. He didn't really leave a very strong impression. I didn't swoon over him. I felt sorry for him at times, but he also led girls on especially Violet.

The "mistake" or what exactly happened the year before (which we don't learn until the end) that broke Kelsey and David's friendship was... trite. Cliché. But I wouldn't have minded it if I had just felt anything for the characters. Although, since I didn't, I was just annoyed that Kelsey didn't confront David sooner and it would've solved their problems and avoided their whole drama.

I wanted to like this book so much. I am so sad can't.

However, I am not giving up on this author. Last Year's Mistake was her debut and it does show promise. While I didn't like the characters in this book, I did enjoy her writing, style, and voice. I'll be on the lookout for her next novel.

Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 446 pages
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Source of my copy: ALA conference
Summary (for full synopsis visit Goodreads)
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. It is in this brutal world that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. When Laia's brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire's greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school's finest soldier -- and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he's being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined -- and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
Michelle's Thoughts:
There was never a dull moment in An Ember in the Ashes! It's violent, twisty, action-packed and very, very entertaining. It alternates between the POV of Laia and of Elias, but the author set it up so that at the end of some chapters there was a little mini cliffhanger, and I would be like, Noooo! I need to know what's going to happen next! But then, I'll finally see what happened in the following chapter with the other character. This kept me reading into the night because I was enthralled and I needed to know what will happen next.

I have so much hate for the Commandant and the rebel group--mainly Mazen, the leader--for most of the book. The Commandant was pure evil. I really want to know her back story. How did she end up that way? It wasn't explained. And Mazen! I never trusted that guy. I think I might hate him more than the Commandant. I mean, the Commandant was unapologetic in her cruelty, but Mazen was one of those self-serving people who hides his own agenda behind a supposed noble cause.

The romance square was... interesting. Laia had feelings for Keenan (one of the rebels) and Elias had a thing with Helene (his best friend and a fellow soldier) and, of course, Laia and Elias also had romantic connection. I thought the whole Laia/Keenan thing was unnecessary. I couldn't care less for the rebel boy Keenan. His character was boring to me--I've seen him before in other YA books. He's the token "other guy." I was rooting for Laia and Elias in the end, but early on, I wanted Elias for Helene. I'm a sucker for the friends-to-lovers trope and I love Helene's character. Her character and the situation she was in was a lot more interesting than Laia's for most of the novel. Laia's story arc didn't really get picked up until about the halfway point.

While the story and the characters in An Ember in the Ashes were not the most original and the writing was very straight-forward with no true style, I was very much engaged, enthralled and entertained by it. Sabaa Tahir can write a damn good story. I am dying to read book 2!


  1. Jessica @ a GREAT readJuly 28, 2015 at 11:44:00 AM PDT

    Nice! I still need to read An Ember in the Ashes! Have heard lots of good things about it, so I'll be excited to read it! Eventually! LOL! It's always eventually these days, isn't it? Great review, Michelle!

  2. I agree with you about An Ember in the Ashes. Keenan was a waste of space and the relationship between Helene and Elias was awkward. At least the romance wasn't a focal point in this.

    I wonder if we'll get a Commandant backstory...

  3. Hopefully Keenan won't take up as much page space in the second book. The Commandant was crazy, but yes, I'd love a novella backstory on her.

  4. Thank you! I think you'll enjoy Ember. There was never a dull moment :)


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