Category Archives: Contemporary

99 Percent Mine – Sally Thorne

99 Percent Mine – Sally ThorneTitle: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
Publishing Info: January 29, 2019 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: January 10, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: The Hating Game

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that's inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

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THE HATING GAME sprang onto the scene as an adorable rom-com beloved by so many so the anticipation of 99 PERCENT MINE was naturally quite heightened. As much as I don’t like comparing two books that are in no way related, I admit that 99 PERCENT MINE fell incredibly short compared to my love for THE HATING GAME.

Firstly, 99 PERCENT MINE felt much more serious. THG was so cute, cheeky, fun, and had amazing tension. 99PM felt like it was much more in the way of a serious romance, despite Darcy’s cheek and sass. The difficult part for me is that I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator was incredible boring and monotone and didn’t have the flirtatious fun that THG’s narrator did, so that affected my take on the tone entirely as well. She read it as a serious book so whether it was or not, that’s how I felt about it. Her narration affected me a lot, and not in a good way. It only exacerbated how much I wasn’t enjoying the plot and made for a difficult read. I really didn’t want to continue but pushing me forward was the fact that I knew I could finish quickly. My problem wasn’t the fact that it was a more serious book, but the cover matched that of THG with a sass and cuteness that didn’t really reflect the story inside. I was just expecting the same tone and it really wasn’t for me.

Okay, onto the story itself. I didn’t much like the feel of the characters and I hated how they treated each other. You know I love a good friends-to-more romance and the situation between Darcy and Tom was best friends as kids, reunited as adults and the tension is still there. He’s the only guy Darcy ever had strong feelings for and the childhood crush/teenage bigger crush carried into adulthood and Darcy still has it bad for this guy, all hidden under a very hard exterior. The hard exterior isn’t false — Darcy is tough and can handle herself, but it all felt like a bit TOO much. Leather pants, swearing (don’t get me wrong, I love swearing), teasing guys, a nipple ring… Meh. It just wasn’t for me and I just didn’t click with it. There was something that just felt really off about her character. Jamie (her twin) was a little too black-and-white, stripped down to the basics of a character. Tom was a little better but also still a little too melodramatic for my tastes. And I just hated the way everyone treated each other. Darcy basically tried to force Tom into liking her back (she knew he did but she put him in uncomfortable situations) and she and Tom were so afraid to talk to each other. It was constant aggressive moves, then not wanting to talk, hiding things from each other and making up for it afterwards. All of the relationships just made me cringe instead of having me swoon.

The book finally made up for it some in the end when the two do finally get together (no spoiler there, that’s the whole point of the book so if you don’t see that coming…..) and I finally got a feel for some of the chemistry without the secrets and non-sensical reluctance to be in a relationship. They both loved each other and the only thing holding them back was themselves. Meh.

I also really hated this dependency and ownership. The “99% mine” thing is kind of cute until you realize that Darcy actually wants to make Tom “hers” and keep him all for herself. She thinks her brother, who is best friends with Tom too, has too much of him and she keeps counting up the percentages until he’s all hers. It’s just such an unhealthy way to think of relationships and the fact that she couldn’t even share him with his friends was off-putting. I get a sibling rivalry of sorts, but Darcy and Jamie actually liked each other and had a good relationship (until a stupid fight which they have to overcome) so it bothered me that she wanted to steal Tom away from an important person in his life as well as hers, which would hurt her brother in the process too.
The dependency came in where both Darcy and Jamie felt they would die without Tom, Darcy quite literally with her heart condition… And that took it too far. Things can be romantic and her heart beating faster and responding to Tom was cute, but dying without him? I get the point being made, losing your soulmate and I suppose I do believe the possibility of dying of broken heart, so to speak, but it just didn’t fit in this situation and the concept just didn’t seem to jive. I never got a good handle on Darcy’s character with her pushing everyone away and then clinging so tightly.

The characters really didn’t pull me in and this is a character-driven novel so without some other plot (besides Darcy’s heart, which also irritated me because she could have taken care of herself but chose not to), I just didn’t connect with it. Thinking about two stars but I’m not sure yet.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Adult contemporary. I don’t read a lot of adult contemporary romances but I think I want to get into more cute and fun ones! This was an instant read for me thanks to THE HATING GAME and I think I’d like to read more cute contemps!
Left Me Wanting More: Chemistry. Among other things, I would have loved to see the chemistry sooner. There was too much time putting it off because the two main characters were afraid or hesitant. We missed so much good emotion time.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

There are so many mixed reviews on this book that I don’t know what to tell you! I felt let down and disappointed but other friends really loved it. I guess it depends on what you’re aiming to get from this book and I didn’t get it.

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Love A La Mode – Stephanie Kate Strohm

Love A La Mode – Stephanie Kate StrohmTitle: Love A La Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Publishing Info: November 27, 2018 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: January 24, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent's school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn't all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.

Henry Yi grew up in his dad's restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent's school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie's growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.

Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.

Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.

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LOVE A LA MODE was an overall enjoyable book! It was compared to ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, which are big shoes to fill in my book since I re-read that every year, but honestly aside from the Paris setting, it really shouldn’t be compare to ANNA. Not in a bad way but they’re really not that similar, and I actually feel like Paris had even less to do with LOVE A LA MODE because it wasn’t explored and didn’t mean as much to these main characters. The main focus here was the cooking and baking, which was a lot of fun to read about! I used to get into watching Chopped and the Cooking Channel (though I don’t much anymore) and I do enjoy cooking and baking on a basic level, so it was fun to read about something new to add a theme and a unique concept to a book! I think the cooking and Paris setting helped it stand out a bit from other contemporary YA novels but I also think it could have had a little more that helped it stand on its own two feet.

I think overall, I feel like everyone and everything could have had just a little more depth. I would have loved to see more from the main characters aside from their crushes, more of the Paris setting… We did see a lot of cooking but as much as I enjoy cooking and baking, it’s not really on a technical or fan-based level, so I wasn’t as connected to that. I enjoyed the book overall and I think the maturity level and interactions between these teens was accurate, but I still felt like we could have learned even more about them, their stories, something to make them more well-rounded characters. We dipped into some family histories but there wasn’t a whole lot there to really bring the characters’ experiences to the page until later on in the book.

There was a bit of a love triangle but I also liked that it wasn’t really Rosie truly caught between two boys. There was an instant attraction to Henry and then she had a crush on a TV star’s son (who is also a bit of a TV star). Once she gets to know the star, she figures out her true feelings for each of the boys, but it isn’t dragged out to be going back and forth between the two. What I didn’t really enjoy were Henry’s jealous feelings, which were valid but it was another case of “if these two just talked we wouldn’t have an issue”. I know that’s not always how life works but sometimes the way it plays out on the page can be a little frustrating, and this time it got the best of me!

Overall, I did enjoy listening to LOVE A LA MODE on audiobook. The narrator was actually the author and I really enjoy listening to authors narrating their own works! You know that everything is being said exactly how they want it to be said, inflection and all. I think she was a good narrator, not my favorite, but enjoyable to listen to. The story was cute, had a unique spin, and an easy read for me!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Cooking and baking. There are a lot of characters in books who enjoy baking and this book took it to a whole new level with a cooking school! I didn’t connect as much because I don’t know things on a technical level but I think it was really fun to read about!
Left Me Wanting More: Character depth. I would have loved to see more personality and character depth! They could have been a bit more well-rounded, I think.

Addiction Rating
Read it

This was enjoyable and a lot of fun! I think it’s definitely worth the read. It was cute and interesting!

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Love, Life, and the List – Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List – Kasie WestTitle: Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West
Publishing Info: December 26, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 5, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1), The Distance Between Us, On the Fence, Split Second (Pivot Point #2), The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, By Your Side

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

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LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST was another wonderfully put-together Kasie West book! You know I’m a sucker for friend-to-more romances and this was another one that I really loved. The friendship was so great and enjoyable and I really liked how everything felt so realistic with the way that Abby handled her crush on her best friend. Did I love how Abby acted in every situation? No, and that’s what made it so realistic. Teenagers (and hey, even adults) don’t make very good decisions when feelings are involved and I know we’ve all made some choices that have hurt people when trying to figure out our love lives. I actually really appreciated that everything wasn’t perfect and smooth.

I will say that after reading this book, it kind of made BY YOUR SIDE seem a little less realistic with it the way that the anxiety issues were handled. It’s hard not to compare sometimes and LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST handled Abby’s mom’s agoraphobia much better than the anxiety issues in BY YOUR SIDE.

While LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST is still not my favorite out of all Kasie West’s contemporary books, it was so strong, realistic, and just really well done. I loved the sarcasm, banter, and friendship and all of the different friendships throughout the book. There were so many moments that felt natural and not forced and I really appreciated how Katie West handled so many of the situations here. I could have even gone for a few different endings but I was also really happy with how everything wrapped up!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Messy romances. I’m sure every romance in a book is a little messy and has its drama, but really there were so many different ways that this book could have ended. I could have gone for a few different endings, but I actually kind of liked that it was so complicated that I didn’t know how it would end and who Abby would choose.
Left Me Wanting More: Development. I could have used a bit more time with Abby and Cooper actually together without the animosity of the other girl.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I’m a big fan of all of Kasie West’s books. Even the ones I don’t love as much, they’re all so solid and great.

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Series Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

With the release of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before movie on Netflix, I figured it was finally time to read the series! I at least wanted to read the first book before I watched the movie and I’m definitely glad I did! It made me appreciate the movie even more and I always like having that knowledge base before starting a book-inspired movie!

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny HanTitle: To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #1) by Jenny Han
Publishing Info: April 15, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible, Audiobook borrowed from library, Book Outlet
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: June 19, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

This is my first time reading TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE after much, much hype! It was definitely cute and there was quite a lot that I liked about the book. After hearing so much love for this book/series though, I didn’t really see what the hype was about. It was a cute contemporary with some great family interactions, a cute fake boyfriend situation, unexpected turns, morals, and diversity.

I’m wondering if maybe the swoons for Peter K come more in the rest of the series as well because it took me a while to get there. I actually really appreciated how all of the romance was handled. There’s a bit of love triangle but it wasn’t one that was annoying. I really didn’t know how the ending would play out and I really enjoyed it!

I was surprised to see that it ended in a cliffhanger and I definitely do want to continue on! I’m hoping to fall more in love with the series.

Series Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny HanTitle: P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #2) by Jenny Han
Publishing Info: May 26, 2015 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: June 20, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Well, I’m still not getting the appeal here and it’s such a bummer! I was ready for a cute, fun, smart series and it’s a weird thing because it… is… cute and fun and smart. But there’s also a sense of immaturity that just kept me from really enjoying it to that special level.

I’m also not understanding why everyone is swooning over Peter K (which I feel like I need to call him Peter K because of people’s swoons except Lara Jean doesn’t even really refer to him that way). I like him, yes, but it’s not to a super swoony level. He and Lara Jean keep having these stupid misunderstandings that could be avoided if they just talked to each other, which they said they would do.

I think the biggest thing about the series so far is that it’s just not the feel I expected. For it being a series there just doesn’t really feel like a clear direction or plot. And this is another weird thing in that’s not unrealistic. It actually feels like real life with spliced in moments of drama that are maybe too dramatic. There was a normal amount of things happening and then there was this whole weird Gossip Girl concept that was going on here. I enjoyed the realistic parts of the book and the drama was just mehhhh.

I do still want to read the last book but I guess I’m not really expecting anything different. It’s been cute and fun but I’m not getting the hype for it so far.

Series Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny HanTitle: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I've Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han
Publishing Info: May 2, 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: August 22, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Lara Jean is having the best senior year.

And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Meh. Even after watching the movie, I’m still not in love with the series. I forgot how much Lara Jean annoys me in the books, always butting into things that she wasn’t asked to do and muddying things up for other people. It was nice of her dad and Trina not to corral her but I think she needed to be corralled a bit to let her grow up and learn that not everything I about her. Her voice is just very immature, even for 18, and that bothered me still.

One thing I like and dislike all at the same time is that these books are an accurate portrayal of high school meaning…. not a lot happens. The premise of this last book was waiting for college admissions, deciding where to go, and what happens when couples stay together or go away separately, but there wasn’t really a story, per se. Things happen, there’s a timeline, but there’s not really much of a plot so while I find it realistic, it is a bit boring. We read to experience a story and this didn’t really take me anywhere. I guess you could say it’s more character-driven, which it is, but even the characters didn’t really seem to grow throughout the series because Lara Jean is pretty much the same since book one.

I’m glad I read them but I don’t get the hype and the love.

SERIES THOUGHTS

When it comes to TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE hype, I think I’m sticking with the movie. The concepts were really cute and the characters were fun, but I just had such a hard time with Lara Jean! She just felt so immature and her inner dialogue was hard to enjoy for me. With all the time we spent with Lara Jean, I was really kind of disappointed that we didn’t see what actually happened with her and Peter once they decided about college. The third book didn’t feel like a very good conclusion and while others really enjoyed this series, it was just okay for me.

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Addiction Rating
Consider them

These books were worth the read but I didn’t fall in love with them like so many other people did. I’m really glad I read them, especially reading the first two before the movie, but the movie definitely has a bigger piece of my heart!

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BOOKS LIKE TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Lucky In Love – Kasie West

Lucky In Love – Kasie WestTitle: Lucky In Love by Kasie West
Publishing Info: July 25, 2017 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: June 4 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1), The Distance Between Us, On the Fence, Split Second (Pivot Point #2), The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, By Your Side

Can’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

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No matter what Kasie West writes, I’ve enjoyed it and LUCKY IN LOVE is no exception! On a scale of cute to OTP, this was more on the cute side as far as the romance goes, but that’s not a bad thing. I really appreciate that Kasie West continues to write adorable contemporary after adorable contemporary and each relationship is unique. She’s been amazing at writing so many  different romances in so many different ways.

LUCKY IN LOVE focuses on Maddie and her lottery win of $50 million, and yes, she really does win the lottery. I was afraid for a while that it was going to be like “Ha, just kidding!” but no, it really does happen and I thought it was incredibly interesting to see how Maddie’s life changes from the sudden influx of money and also, how it doesn’t change. I loved the way that Kasie West shows that while some things can change — for better or worse — that the fundamental things in life like family, good friends, and everyone’s unique personalities. Money didn’t fix Maddie’s problems and I loved the this book showed that you can’t “fix” a person with money either.

Maddie learns some lessons very quickly, like all of the typical things you’d think you might find out after winning the lottery. Some people just want to use you for money. Other people don’t care regardless. And money can’t fix everything. Even knowing that some of these things might happen, Kasie West still takes readers on a realistic journey. Not everyone is all good or all evil. There are several human factors taken into account and I love seeing those different spectrums because it really does add depth and reality to a book.

The romance, of course, is also adorable. Seth is a sweet soul and is the perfect match for Maddie. They’re both very sweet, a little shy, cute, and this was very much on the “cute” side of romance. They like each other quickly but the romance develops slowly over the book. I was left wanting a little bit more to start swooning, but I also liked that this romance was a little sweeter. It shows a different side of the Kasie West romance spectrum and while it wasn’t my favorite, I can definitely appreciate taking a different approach so not every romance in every book is the same!

I started and finished this book on an airplane from NYC to Chicago. It was an easy, fun, and cute read. It wast the perfect airplane book and quite enjoyable to finish in one sitting!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Different feels from the same author. I really, really appreciate that Kasie West constantly keeps her romances fresh. Each main character has a different family, friends, and love interest. They don’t all blend together and I love how each romance has a unique feel.
Left Me Wanting More: Swoons. I guess since I’ve started to think of all of these as contemporary romances, I’ve come to expect some cute swoons and LUCKY IN LOVE was really more Maddie’s story and how her life changes after winning the lottery. There IS a romance and is is a big part of the story, but Maddie’s family life really takes a big spotlight role here and I think that was more important than the romance.

Addiction Rating
Read it

Any Kasie West book is worth the read and this was so much fun! Definitely an easy read too.

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Leah on the Offbeat (Creekwood #2) – Becky Albertalli

Leah on the Offbeat (Creekwood #2) – Becky AlbertalliTitle: Leah on the Offbeat (Creekwood #2) by Becky Albertalli
Publishing Info: April 25, 2018 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: April 24, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

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Bee doo bee doo, unpopular opinion alert! For as much as I adoooored Simon (both the book and the character) and as much as I appreciated Leah in Simon’s story, I didn’t really connect with her like I wanted to in this book and I was really, really surprised by that.

There were a lot of things that I loved about LEAH ON THE OFFBEAT. I always enjoy the relationships that Becky Albertalli crafts and there are just so many amazing ties and connections going on there, whether those relationships are romantic or platonic or familial. Leah has a great relationship with her mom, the obvious friendship with Simon, and we get to see some new friendships from Leah’s perspective here as well.

There is, obviously, a noticeable difference in tone from Simon to Leah, which is great that they don’t feel the same because they’re quite different in so many ways. This book doesn’t get stuck in the rut of the same tone no matter the character focus and I think Becky did a really great job of making this Leah’s book and Leah’s voice. I love her sarcasm and her voice is so much fun to read! But it was also sort of weird seeing things from her point of view. On the one hand, it’s great to see the insecurities from Leah’s voice since a lot of what we see in SIMON is her confidence in her friendships and I feel like she was such a strong presence. On the other hand it was kind of weird to see everything so exposed like that! It is really great to be able to see how well-rounded this character is.

I don’t know how much people are supposed to know about the romantic aspect in this book so I don’t want to give any spoilers away but something about it didn’t click for me. To be fair, I haven’t yet read THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED, so although that was just more of a companion/not as related, I don’t know if there was something that I’m missing… I think there was also conflict in SIMON that I latched onto and never let go of so I had a hard time being in the right mindset for this pairing. (I also think maybe the movie didn’t help that conflict/what I remember about it either.)

It was an enjoyable book for sure, and I read it (listened to the audio) all in one day. I loved being able to spend more time with these characters and to get to know Leah better! Ultimately, something just didn’t flow for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: The Creekwood… verse? These characters are so much fun and it was wonderful to see some familiar ones as well as meeting new friends too!
Left Me Wanting More: Flow with the timeline of SIMON. I just feel like there was a bit thing in SIMON that was totally glossed over and even changed from that book to this one. Maybe we only got things from Simon’s perspective and that’s why it felt off? I think I just feel misled on Leah’s connection with another character from that book to this one and it didn’t feel right.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you loved SIMON, I think you also need to read Leah’s story! I’m really bummed I didn’t make the connections that I wanted to here but for some reason I just didn’t feel like certain parts of the book felt right. I mean, obviously I’m not the author and she knows best but I personally had some qualms.

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BOOKS LIKE LEAH ON THE OFFBEAT

              

Girls on Fire – Robin Wasserman

Girls on Fire – Robin WassermanTitle: Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
Publishing Info: May 17, 2016 by HarperCollins
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: April 4, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

On Halloween, 1991, a popular high school basketball star ventures into the woods near Battle Creek, Pennsylvania, and disappears. Three days later, he’s found with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand—a discovery that sends tremors through this conservative community, already unnerved by growing rumors of Satanic worship in the region.

In the wake of this incident, bright but lonely Hannah Dexter is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a dark-eyed, Cobain-worshiping bad influence in lip gloss and Doc Martens. The charismatic, seductive Lacey forges a fast, intimate bond with the impressionable Dex, making her over in her own image and unleashing a fierce defiance that neither girl expected. But as Lacey gradually lures Dex away from her safe life into a feverish spiral of obsession, rebellion, and ever greater risk, an unwelcome figure appears on the horizon—and Lacey’s secret history collides with Dex’s worst nightmare.

By turns a shocking story of love and violence and an addictive portrait of the intoxication of female friendship, set against the unsettled backdrop of a town gripped by moral panic, Girls on Fire is an unflinching and unforgettable snapshot of girlhood: girls lost and found, girls strong and weak, girls who burn bright and brighter—and some who flicker away.

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Anything that’s about toxic friendships is an immediate draw for me. When I first read about GIRLS ON FIRE, I knew I wanted to read it so I had some high expectations upon starting it! Things started off well and interesting and then the book started to lose me.

This book was what I expected and also took a couple turns. I found myself kind of losing interest a little towards the middle and I felt like things kind of plateaued a little early, even though there still was more to come. It was gripping and also a little horrifying witnessing such toxic friendships but it’s also a really interesting from a psychological aspect. While it felt genuine and plausible, it also was just lacking some element that really allowed me to connect with it and get sucked in like I had hoped.

The pacing really just threw me off and once the middle hit, I was starting to really lose focus. I thought it was an interesting concept and story but the book just didn’t flow and I thought it could have been set up a little bit better.

If you’re looking for a book about toxic friendships, this one definitely fits the bill. There’s also a mystery and other coming-of-age topics (relationships, friendships, family), but it just didn’t quite fit for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Toxic Friendships. It’s so interesting and slightly horrifying to read of friendships like these, mostly because they really do exist in such extremes.
Left Me Wanting More: Flow. The pacing was off and the book really just didn’t flow for me. I found myself losing focus about halfway through.

Addiction Rating
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It wasn’t a bad book or anything but I just had a hard time staying interested. I just didn’t quite love it and it didn’t help that I had some expectations and it didn’t quite get there.

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BOOKS LIKE GIRLS ON FIRE

              

The Magician’s Land (The Magicians #3) – Lev Grossman

The Magician’s Land (The Magicians #3) – Lev GrossmanTitle: The Magician's Land (The Magicians #3) by Lev Grossman
Publishing Info: August 5, 2014 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: March 6, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: The Magicians (The Magicians #1), The Magician King (The Magicians #2)

Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams. With nothing left to lose, he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic, but he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young undergraduate with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. But all roads lead back to Fillory, and his new life takes him to old haunts, like Antarctica, and to buried secrets and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers the key to a sorcery masterwork, a spell that could create magical utopia, and a new Fillory--but casting it will set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them he will have to risk sacrificing everything.

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I have a hard time with endings so this was a little bittersweet! I enjoyed the first half of the book a lot more with the set-up but I actually appreciated how well the beginning set up the ending without the reader knowing it. I always really love when authors have everything come full circle and this book did that for the book itself and also for the series. It really shows how well an author can craft plot and really know where the series it headed right from the beginning.

I actually also really appreciated that we get to see exactly why Quentin is the main character of this series. Up until 75% of the way through the final book, it still seemed like this series could have been about Julia or even Eliot or Janet, but we finally get to see in the end why this is Quentin’s story and what made this so magical and a perfect fit for him, so I’m really glad we got to that point! It’s interesting to see how the series follows all of the main characters but then how the focus really comes back to Quentin in the end.

It was quite interesting starting the TV show after this book and having finished the whole series. Obviously this review isn’t about the show, but watching something that’s inspired by the series and doesn’t follow the exact storyline also gave me more appreciation for how things wrapped up in the end and put things into perspective. The show really focuses on all of the characters and since I read the series, I already have that feeling that Quentin is the main focus but he’s really not in the show — it’s everyone. Actually, I guess the series really still spotlights Julia, Eliot, and Janet (who is Margo in the TV show) and they have their own stories as well but it’s just so interesting to note the similarities and differences.

The TV show was actually the inspiration for me to read this series (so I could watch the show) but there was something that I really connected with in terms of the whole feel here. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my all-time favorite series but there really is something that tugs at my feelings and it has that sort of obsession quality, so even though it’s not the greatest and best, I still have so much love for it!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Adult fantasy that’s not high fantasy. Is this low fantasy? Urban fantasy? What do you call it? I’m horrible with genres like that. But I loved that this was magical and fantastical but it wasn’t a WHOLE fantasy world. It has that sort of Harry Potter feel that takes you away to a magical land but the real world is still there, and I really loved it in an adult setting instead of children’s or YA.
Left Me Wanting More: Character interaction. I’m actually thinking back on this having read it months ago but I feel like I wished the characters had been together a little bit more for some of their timelines… But there were other character reunions that I also loved!

Addiction Rating
Try it!

I just really enjoyed this series and the TV show honestly made it even better. They’re different but really great in their own ways and I loved the original story of The Magicians.

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BOOKS LIKE THE MAGICIAN’S LAND

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    ALEX VERUS

The Magician King (The Magicians #2) – Lev Grossman

The Magician King (The Magicians #2) – Lev GrossmanTitle: The Magician King (The Magicians #2) by Lev Grossman
Publishing Info: April 9, 2011 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: March 4, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: The Magicians (The Magicians #1), The Magician's Land (The Magicians #3)

Quentin Coldwater should be happy. He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood, matriculated at a secret college for magic, and graduated to discover that Fillory—a fictional utopia—was actually real. But even as a Fillorian king, Quentin finds little peace. His old restlessness returns, and he longs for the thrills a heroic quest can bring.
Accompanied by his oldest friend, Julia, Quentin sets off—only to somehow wind up back in the real world and not in Fillory, as they'd hoped. As the pair struggle to find their way back to their lost kingdom, Quentin is forced to rely on Julia's illicitly-learned sorcery as they face a sinister threat in a world very far from the beloved fantasy novels of their youth.

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THE MAGICIAN KING was absolutely a better book than THE MAGICIANS. I felt like THE MAGICIANS was just pieces of a story all cobbled together and didn’t really follow one long thread to make it feel like a cohesive novel and THE MAGICIAN KING actually feels like a story, moving with purpose. It’s an interesting series to get the hang because it’s not like there’s one obvious conflict that carries throughout all three books, as is often the case with trilogies, and yet they’re also not independent of each other. I did like the developments here and where the story went, delving further into the magical world and the elements of Fillory.

I think the thing I enjoyed the most about this book was Julia’s story. Honestly, it was much more interesting the Quentin’s and if you read any review of THE MAGICIANS, you’ll probably read how whiny and unappreciative Quentin is of his time and experiences at Brakebills. It really didn’t bother me as much as it could have but I felt like Julia’s story was much more interesting. THE MAGICIAN KING introduces Julia right off the bat as a completely changed person. There’s something much more unearthly about her and the book spends its time going through flashbacks of Julia’s life after that fateful day when she was presented with the Brakebills entrance exam, working its way forward to explain how she got the way that she is. She has many more hardships, a much more developed personality and story, and the more interesting side of the magical developments. That was really the biggest draw to me and this book.

I also liked the reappearance of several characters, plus a few new ones along the way. I had actually forgotten a few of them with the show clouding my memory and I enjoyed seeing them again! I’m also looking forward to seeing what they do with the TV show. I already know it doesn’t follow the books closely since we started getting way into Julia’s story right away and it doesn’t follow the events from THE MAGICIAN KING either, but I definitely wanted to read the books first and get a feel on the “real” story before moving on to an adaptation. Both are interesting and I’m appreciating both in their own ways!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Book-to-TV adaptations. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the book and the TV show differ here! I really appreciated both individually and I’ve also enjoyed comparing the two.
Left Me Wanting More: Connection to the first book. I actually preferred THE MAGICIAN KING to THE MAGICIANS and I liked how much more it developed, but I wish the books really flowed together more.

Addiction Rating
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I thought this was the best book in the series. I think if you hated THE MAGICIANS, you may still not enjoy this series as much but I do think this book got better!

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BOOKS LIKE THE MAGICIAN KING

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    ALEX VERUS

Starry Eyes – Jenn Bennett

Starry Eyes – Jenn BennettTitle: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Publishing Info: April 3, 2018 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: April 6, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: Alex, Approximately

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

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Jenn Bennett is a new auto-buy author for me! I thoroughly enjoyed ALEX, APPROXIMATELY and STARRY EYES was just as good if not better. I loved all of the real teen issues tackled in this book from friendships to romance to sex to family, and everything in between. It was a great representation of realistic life and I love any contemporary romance novel that doesn’t go over-the-top with issues and keeps the drama within the normal realm of relatable experiences. (Not to say that over-the-top things don’t happen in real life, because obviously it happens, but I like to keep things more every day and not too dramatic. It gets to be a bit much if you only ever read about the extremes.)

I also really enjoyed the topics that the book did cover. Main character Zorie has anxiety issues and planning is the way that she copes with them, to the extent of planning nearly everything. She lives with her dad and stepmom and I kind of loved that she was actually really close with her stepmom and really considered her to be her mother and called her “mom”. I love seeing step-parent relationships that aren’t negative or angsty, and Zorie actually was closer to her mom than her dad. She wasn’t close with her father, and without spoiling specific things, she ended up having some issues with her dad throughout the book and I really enjoyed how Jenn Bennett tackled all of these issues and situations!

I LOVED the wilderness and camping aspect since that’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. I always went camping with my family as a kid but we always stayed at campgrounds. My husband (before we were married) loved the legitimate wilderness camping and introduced me to that when we started dating so it was really fun to see that atmosphere and see that knowledge put to use on the pages. It’s also great to put things like that into perspective because there’s a lot that you don’t think about as a teen, or even as an adult, being out in nature like that and it makes you really responsible really quickly. I liked seeing that in a teen setting to show some maturity and responsibility, as well as the sense of freedom it provides (and even a few moments where you’re not quite honest with your parents).

STARRY EYES was a wonderful book and I inhaled it in two days! I really enjoyed reading it and Jenn Bennett’s characters are just wonderful. I loved even the secondary characters and how much they supported the stories of the main characters and how they came to life as well. It was so well-done and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Positive step-family environments. I’m so over the evil stepmother concept! I loved how much Zorie really treated Joy like her mom and Joy always said that Zorie was her daughter. It’s a lovely feeling and I had so much appreciate for that support.
Left Me Wanting More: Zing factor. That’s not a thing, but bear with me here. So I loved ALEX, APPROXIMATELY and I loved STARRY EYES, both so very much. But I didn’t loooove them. They were fatalistic and solid and beautiful four star books but there was just that oomph that didn’t launch them to five stars for me. I’m not sure what’s “missing” (nothing is MISSING but you know?) but regardless, I’m loving Jenn Bennett’s books!

Addiction Rating
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If you’re looking for a new auto-buy/auto-read author, this is my new one! I’m enjoyed Jenn Bennett’s books so much and her last two have launched her onto my radar! I need to go back and read THE ANATOMICAL SHAPE OF A HEART now!

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BOOKS LIKE STARRY EYES