Category Archives: Contemporary

It Started With Goodbye – Christina June

It Started With Goodbye – Christina JuneTitle: It Started With Goodbye by Christina June
Publishing Info: May 9, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Retelling
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 7, 2017

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

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I was so excited to read IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, Christina June’s debut novel! I’ve known Christina since we were first both bloggers way back in the day and it was such an honor to be able to read her debut novel and hold a physical copy of her ARC in my hands! I received a copy of IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE from the publisher and it was so neat to read a book written by someone I had met and talked and to watch their journey to become a published author! The fact that I know Christina June does not affect my review in anyway aside from the fact that this was a big reason of why I wanted to read this book!

This book was very quick and easy read and a lovely modern take on Cinderella! Contemporary adaptations of fairy tales are always so interesting because I love seeing how magical things get adapted to a real world. I really loved the nod to the original fairy tale and how Christina June fit the story to a modern-day teenager. There were even some direct references to Cinderella which were so fun to note, along with the general story line that paralleled it.

IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE was a great book about finding yourself and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s hard as a teenager (okay, it’s hard as an adult sometimes too) and it made things even worse for Tatum with a stepmother who always seems to have it out for her and a stepsister who can do no wrong, following in her stepmother’s footsteps. Much like another recent Cinderella contemporary adaptation, GEEKERELLA, the modern take here also focuses on the redemption of the family members and the main character realizing that sometimes there is more behind that “evil” facade than meets the eye.

I actually wish there was more focus on the relationships in the beginning of the book because it was a little slow to start for me despite the fact that this was a very quick read. I wanted to just race through it and I found myself hitting rough patches with the direction of the plot and was hoping for more of a focus on the core relationships instead of branching out to include other acquaintances first. Especially with how short the book was (which I appreciated, actually!), I would have loved a stronger focus on the best friend and romance specifically, along with the family, instead of adding in more minor friends. I wasn’t as interested in the secondary characters and some of their stories seemed to take focus where I would have rather read about Tate, although I know a lot of my friends enjoyed those other friendships.
Also with the split of Tatum from her best friend, she felt sort of solitary throughout the first half of the book and I felt like she didn’t really have anyone to share the story with so secondary characters were forced into the mix. I would have loved to see some more heart-felt dialogue with someone she could share more secrets with and I was really missing that best friend vibe, or even just someone close that she could have talked to in the beginning. The cute little romance didn’t catch me right away, I think because the initial meet-up was crowded with other characters, so the warm-fuzzies got a little bogged down in the character relationships all around.

The family dynamic was the hit of this book for me and I really enjoyed how things progressed with each family member. Tatum establishes new relationships with her stepmom, stepsister, and even her dad, who had really always been in her corner but reached a point in this book where their relationship hit a turning point. With the kids growing up and stepmother Belen often in charge while he is out of town, Tatum’s relationship with her father really began to change and then mature throughout this book. I also really liked that the father-figure was just traveling for work and that was was created his frequent and long absences instead of death. We did have the absence of Tate’s mother but I liked that she wasn’t orphaned for this book!

IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE was an easy and quick read with some really well-founded family concepts. I didn’t quite connect with it like I had hoped but I feel like it’ll do great with the teen crowd (who is really its intended audience) who are going through the same situations with best friend fights, family relationships, and first-time big crushes. The Cinderella adaptation adds a really nice touch to this book and it’s a great pull into the story and motivation to pick it up!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Modern adaptations of fairy tales. I was so giddy when I found direct references to the original Cinderella fairy tale! I think this adaptation and concept were spot on and I loved the modern take.
Left Me Wanting More: Relationship focus. I felt like there was a strong focus on the family throughout the whole book but I was missing the best friend and/or crush vibe in the beginning. I think I’m just so used to reading young adult books that are constantly surrounding those two relationships that are so prominent in teenage lives that I come to expect that to the be the focus of every book. They were definitely still featured here but it didn’t feel like the strongest relationship of the book for me, which was okay but a little bit of a surprise for me.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE was a fun and quick read! I loved how the concept fit together and

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BOOKS LIKE IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS

A Good Idea – Cristina Moracho

A Good Idea – Cristina MorachoTitle: A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho
Publishing Info: February 28, 2017 by Penguin
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: February 14, 2017
Related Posts: Althea and Oliver

Can the right kind of boy get away with killing the wrong kind of girl?
Fin and Betty’s close friendship survived Fin’s ninth-grade move from their coastal Maine town to Manhattan. Calls, letters, and summer visits continued to bind them together, and in the fall of their senior year, they both applied to NYU, planning to reunite for good as roommates.
Then Betty disappears. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admits to drowning her, but his confession is thrown out, and soon the entire town believes he was coerced and Betty has simply run away. Fin knows the truth, and she returns to Williston for one final summer, determined to get justice for her friend, even if it means putting her loved ones—and herself—at risk.
But Williston is a town full of secrets, where a delicate framework holds everything together, and Fin is not the only one with an agenda. How much is she willing to damage to get her revenge and learn the truth about Betty’s disappearance, which is more complicated than she ever imagined—and infinitely more devastating?

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A GOOD IDEA was interesting from start to finish but my passion for it sort of went in waves. The beginning was interesting but I wasn’t sure where it was going yet. The middle was thrilling and I tore through the book (well, I would have it I wasn’t listening to an audiobook and was forced to read at a level pace). The ending culminated well but got a little out there in regards to how things tied up. I liked the way that the book ended and yet the circumstances as to how the characters resolved the “case” was a little bizarre.

I was excited to pick up A GOOD IDEA because I had loved Cristina Moracho’s debut, ALTHEA & OLIVER. This book was quite different — a mystery/thriller versus realistic fiction — but I do love that both books took place in the 90s. It wasn’t really a “period piece” but I’m guessing that was Moracho’s time as a teen since it’s been revisited twice and I do like that “write what you know” concept in this case. I also enjoy things NOT set in present day because the slight throwback allows for less technology to get in the way. The concept of no cell phones (or at least no smart phones) really breaks that form of constant communication and allows plot to wander instead of technology making things unrealistic. Everyone is not a quick phone call or text away and people don’t have cameras attached to their hips. I appreciate the break from technology and allowing the book to run away with an idea!

This is another book that may aim towards a more mature young adult audience with consistent drug usage, language, and sexual activity. I read a few reviews that felt like these things were overboard but for small town Maine (or small town anywhere) and a lack of technology (not like I know what the 90s were like as a teen), I didn’t think anything was really out of bounds. It wasn’t my personal experience as a teenager but that doesn’t mean it’s unrealistic.

It was interesting to see Finley dig into the past by stirring up questions about her best friend Betty’s murder. Betty “disappeared” and everyone knew she had probably died but without actual evidence, no one really wanted to actually admit it. With a confession in the air (not a spoiler — we know this from the beginning) that didn’t stick, Finley needs to prove that the confessor is actually guilty and that they’re punished for taking her best friend’s life but loyalty gets in the way and made things even more dangerous for Finley. It was really interesting to have an answer from the start and have the characters race through a series of theories and scenarios. Was this confession really what happened? How much more is there to the story? Is it a lie? Is it a cover up for something else? Is Betty even really dead? These are all questions that the characters ask themselves and as the reader, I really started to question everything as well. The obvious answer is presented to the reader at the very beginning, but is it the CORRECT answer?

The ending got a little strange and maybe a bit too dramatic for my tastes. The beginning was pretty realistic, focusing more on the internal struggles of each character that added to the drama and confusion of the overall mystery. The ending got a little too villain-y for me (also not a spoiler because that’s not even in relation to the final answer of the mystery) and it just really sadly turned me off for just a bit. BUT I did like how the very, very end wrapped up and the solid conclusion left me satisfied with the book overall.

Oh, and we also really did find a bathtub in the woods on a hike.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Books set in the 90s. This book wasn’t really about the 90s but I love the concept of being slightly removed from present day. I wouldn’t call the 1990s historical fiction but I enjoy that there’s a little bit of nostalgia and lack of technology. I’d love to see more books set in the 80s and 90s!
Left Me Wanting More: Realistic endings. Things were so gritty and real and then then ending got a little bizarre for me. I mean, it’s a book so I’m not saying it never could have happened but it just didn’t seem like it would happen.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This was a really interesting book and I really enjoyed the way it was put together! I liked that it was a mystery and yet the answers were there the whole time, and I thought the character development was really great too.

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BOOKS LIKE A GOOD IDEA

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THIS IS OUR STORY

Geekerella – Ashley Poston

Geekerella – Ashley PostonTitle: Geekerella by Ashley Poston
Publishing Info: April 4, 2017 by Quirk Books
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 16, 2017

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

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GEEKERELLA, as its name implies, is a play on the classic Cinderella story and that’s one of the things that first attracted me to the book! I’m actually not a big Cinderella fan (I like it just fine but it’s not my favorite fairy tale or Disney movie), but throw “geek” in the title of anything and I am there! I also loved the concept of a contemporary adaptation of a fairy tale because I’ve read so few modern, non-fantasy/sci-fi retellings and Ashley Poston really did a great job of pulling this one off!

Firstly, I loved the characters. They were true to the Cinderella archetypes in many ways but also so uniquely themselves. I loved Elle and her geeky past (and present) growing up watching Starfield reruns with her dad. Her dad loved the show so much that he and her mom would cosplay and they started a whole conference for it, which ends up being a big part of the book. I adored THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO UNREQUITED LOVED, half because it had a con in it and it was amazing. Having attended Book Expo (and other book cons) the last handful of years, the concept has grown close to my heart and I loved seeing book characters enjoy the same things! Connected through the con (amongst other things), is Darien, heartthrob actor and… totally normal dude. I LOVED that Darien was this really big teen actor and just wanted to be a normal, geeky guy. He ends up being cast in the Starfield movie and everyone things he’ll screw it up because he’s known for being a totally different character and no one knows his nerdy side. (Which publicists and media people, whoever you are, let us see the geeky side!!! Don’t suppress it!) Anyway… these two are just adorable on their own and I had a hell of a time shipping them throughout this book!

Elle’s family was truly horrible but I did like that there were some gray areas. She does have an evil step-mom and some awful step-sisters but then there are times where readers realize things aren’t just in black and white. Some villains are still villains but others have a story behind their actions or are just along for the ride. GEEKERELLA was a book about everyone getting a chance to be them — whether each character seized that opportunity was up to them but I really appreciated that they all had the chance to stand up for what they believed in and what the loved.

GEEKERELLA is described as “part romance, part love letter to geek culture” and this is 100% true. Every nerd is geeky in their own way and I love that TV fanatics, comic book nerds, book-lovers, and more can appreciate the general nerdiness of this book and see themselves reflected in the characters. It was a positively delightful reading experience and I find myself gushing about it even more as I’m writing the review. It’s a book that sticks with your feels long after the end!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Geek Chic. I created a bookshelf on my Goodreads account called Geek Chic simply for those adorably nerdy books. This is definitely on there.
Left Me Wanting More: On-screen swooning time. Elle and Darien take a while to actually get together and it was kiiiiilling me. I wished we had seen just a bit more of them together before the book ended.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you love cute romances and/or geeky books, GEEKERELLA is totally for you! It also was not like A Cinderella Story and yet it was (a contemporary take on Cinderella and the texting, I guess) so I had happy teen memories while reading it too!

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BOOKS LIKE GEEKERELLA

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD

By Your Side – Kasie West

By Your Side – Kasie WestTitle: By Your Side by Kasie West
Publishing Info: January 31, 2017 by HarperCollins
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 16, 2017
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

In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.
When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.
Only he doesn’t come. No one does.
Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

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So it’s been a while since I finished this book before I started writing my review (two months, actually. Oops. Life has been busy, okay!?) and this is one of those books where my feelings about it change the further I get away from it. Some books I end up loving even more after the fact but BY YOUR SIDE sort of sticks out as one that’s fizzling out the more time that passes. When I first finsihed BY YOUR SIDE, it wasn’t a Kasie West favorite but it was cute and fluffy and just what I needed at the time… But the more time I spend away from the book, the more I realize how unrealistic it seemed which is such a shame because although Kasie West’s books are cute and light, they still have a sense of true, honest characters and some wonderfully realistic family and friend situations.

Let’s start with the good stuff. I did love Dax and how he came around to Autumn! I really liked seeing him let someone in and I’m a sucker for that boy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks vibe. I didn’t totally love his story because I felt like it was maybe a bit too melodramatic for the current context and I thought he could have used a bit more personality… But he was definitely my favorite character of this book. I just love Kasie West’s romances and I always love a good bad-boy type finally opening up and falling for someone. It’s so cliche sometimes but it’s such a heart-warming trope that I’ll never get sick of it (as long as it’s done well). I instantly loved Dax and his whole vibe.

I also enjoyed the way that the book wrapped up. While I didn’t really love the journey to get there, I liked that it ended on a harmonious note and could have been incredibly dramatic. I actually kind of didn’t see that coming and I liked the way that Autumn’s friendships resolved, which is always something I enjoy in Kasie West’s books.

Now for all of the things in the middle that left me wanting…

I didn’t feel as much personality as I have from some of Kasie’s other female leads. While I appreciate how the book highlighted someone with an anxiety disorder, I didn’t really feel like it was realistic. Granted, I don’t personally deal with anxiety to that extent but I know several people who do — both socially/situationally and generalized anxiety — so this just didn’t really feel natural to me. While I appreciated that it was in the book, I’m not sure that it’s the most accurate portrayal. I did like that a plot point wasn’t how she discovered the extent of her anxiety but rather that she hadn’t told her friends about it because she didn’t want to be treated differently. I liked that she wasn’t embarrassed by it but just didn’t want to be treated like she was emotionally fragile, but on the flip side, that’s exactly the kind of things I would tell my friends and that they could support me on. It seems like she doesn’t really have a very good relationship with her friends if she can’t even tell them about her anxiety and panic attacks and they can’t even tell that she’s getting anxious and removing herself from situations.

It’s funny because in my initial reactions upon finishing, I wrote down how much I lvoed this friend group and how much her friends ended up supporting her… but that didn’t really happen until the very end of the book. Her friends left her in a library, didn’t notice she was missing, and hadn’t noticed for years that she gets anxious in certain situations and that’s why she’s leaving. They’re all too self-absorbed to notice, I guess. I did like the way that the book ended with these friendships but looking back, I feel like Autumn was not with the right group of friends. Too many of them seemed like they were not even interested in what Autumn was feeling and I felt like she was forcing her way into this friend group.

And let’s not even talk about how the main characters were locked in a library and neither one was like, “Dream come true!” Come on. You’re appealing to bookworms, here…

It’s weird how time changes your perspective on things. I’m not changing my rating because I did enjoy the book while reading it but I think this was the Kasie West book with the biggest problems and while I love all of her books, this one is at the bottom of my list. It’s a bummer because Kasie is one of my queens of contemporary! I’m hoping for better with the next book that’s coming out so soon!

Oh, and I happened to read it during the actual weekend that the book took place so high five for good timing! It just made it that much more fun.

Autumn // Character obsessions: Her crush, her friends, Dax
Soooo, Autumn. She fell pretty flat for me. She was a decent enough character to read about but she didn’t have nearly as much personality as Kasie West’s usual heroines! I always love Kasie’s strong, spunky, proud females and Autumn was much more subdued and shy to the point where she didn’t even feel comfortable with her friends.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Kasie West. This wasn’t my favorite but I will forever be a fan of her books! BY YOUR SIDE was not nearly as fun as her other works but I still enjoyed it while I was reading it.
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. Kasie West’s books can have deep or serious issues but they usually don’t feel so melodramatic. It wasn’t the anxiety but the way it was handled and portayed, amongst other things. I just really wish it had been a little bit different.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I still enjoyed the book and the less-than-happy thoughts didn’t hit me until later. Some loved it. Others didn’t. It’s worth a try!

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BOOKS LIKE BY YOUR SIDE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    26 kisses

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil GaimanTitle: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Publishing Info: June 18, 2013 by HarperCollins
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: November 7, 2016
Related Posts: Fortunately, the Milk, Stardust, American Gods, Neverwhere

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

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Apparently the end of 2016 was filled with Neil Gaiman after listening to two full-length novels and one extra, all on audio. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump and was looking for something comforting and that I knew would be pleasant to listen to and it doesn’t get much better than Neil Gaiman’s stories and his own narration.

I’m really glad that I waited to read/listen to THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE and didn’t pick it up right away. Magical realism is a genre that’s been growing on me over the years and I’ve reached a point where I’ve read a few books within the genre of which I’ve grown quite fond. Usually when I experience a genre clash, it’s all about reading the right books and my latest magical realism reads have just really been clicking. I fear if I had read THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE too soon, the magical experience of everything may have been lost on me and I might not have connected well and I’m so glad that I was really able to appreciate this book!

Alyssa, my friend and master of Gaiman novels, described this one to me as a children’s story for adults, being that the narrator is an adult who is telling the story but it’s about a series of events that happened to him as a child, all around when he was about seven years old, and I think that’s a great way to describe this novel. THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE felt very much like an adult-oriented book and yet it had the younger, children’s mentality due to its time frame and focus. Despite how well I think Neil Gaiman writes for any age, I feel like I tend not to wholly connect to a book that mixes or crosses ages like that. I don’t often like when adult books dip down into a childlike focus and the mix of mentalities can be a bit too much for me sometimes, and that seems to be why I didn’t totally 100% love this story.

I really did enjoy the magic that occurred throughout the book, though! I love magical realism because it doesn’t have to play into stereotypical creatures or situations that are so often found in paranormal or urban fantasy genres and yet it still connects with real life. That slight blur between the narrator’s home life and the magic of the Hempstock family was just delightful and I love the feeling of it being right on the surface. The little beasties and dangerous magical things are that much more frightening in THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE as well because the characters don’t know or understand the rules of their world and often time can’t predict how to control, discourage, or manage them. They’re that much harder to get rid of as well when there’s a limited amount of help and not an entirely fantastical community to offer support.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE was a quick read and I loved the overall atmosphere and feel. I don’t like stories that dip into the childhood years as much because it’s just not something I connect with as much as I do young adult or adult novels but I still enjoyed it from start to finish. Neil Gaiman always creates the most wonderful atmospheres that have readers completely believing in these worlds and I loved being totally sucked into the story.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

I borrowed this audiobook from Hoopla (bless you, Hoopla) because I was having an audiobook slump and needed a narrator I could trust who was also a male voice. I just wasn’t in the mood for a female voice after striking out a few times. I love when authors narrate their own books because I just feel you really get things EXACTLY the way they intended, especially parts that were songs (and actually sung)! Neil Gaiman has a wonderful narrating voice as well and his audiobooks are just so pleasant to listen to.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Magical Realism. This is still a new-ish genre to me and I’m finding that I’m enjoying these stories more and more!
Left Me Wanting More: Sophistication. The book was actually plenty sophisitcated, I guess, but I just don’t connect to that childlike mentality as much.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you’re a fan of Gaiman, looking for a good audiobook, or attempting to get into more magical realism, this is a great place to dive in!

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BOOKS LIKE THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

BONE GAP    THE RAVEN BOYS

Throwing My Life Away – Liz Czukas

Throwing My Life Away – Liz CzukasTitle: Throwing My Life Away by Liz Czukas, Ellie Cahill
Publishing Info: December 20, 2016 by Independent
Source: Author
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: December 6, 2016
Related Posts: Ask Again Later, Top Ten Clues You're Clueless, When Joss Met Matt, Call Me, Maybe, Just a Girl

7 photographs, 2 weeks, an entire life to get back. No problem, right?
After her stepfather accidentally throws away her high school mementos, sentimental Mariska is pretty sure the world is over. That is, until she comes up with a plan. She's going to recreate her past, with a little help from her friends.
It's not easy to rally everyone into helping, especially Caine, who couldn't be less sentimental about anything if he were a park bench. But from a guerilla kite festival to convincing her ex-boyfriend to recreate her lost prom picture, Mariska is willing to do what it takes.
With a little nudging from Caine, Mariska starts to realize she can't actually get her past back. And maybe that's okay. Because while she's so focused on the past, she's missing out on the present, where her friends are busy having the summer of their lives. And where funny, quiet Caine might just be the future she never knew she wanted.

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I’ve read everything Liz Czukas has written and loved them all so I was so excited to hear about Liz’s newest YA release, THROWING MY LIFE AWAY! As usual, Liz Czukas brings to life some lovable characters, realistic situations, and of course, some amazing friendships. THROWING MY LIFE AWAY was one of the most realistic contemporary stories I’ve read that was on the fluffier side (i.e. not dealing with serious life issues). Liz Czukas did a great job of bringing the average teen to life! The friendships were fun but not over the top. The crushes were superficial and then something more. The parental relationships were complicated, but not too serious for the tone of the novel. It was a light, easy read full of fun, nostalgia, and a good message too.

What you need to know about THROWING MY LIFE AWAY is that it’s the story of Mariska, a girl who has just graduated high school and is enjoying the last summer at home before she and all of her friends leave for college. When her step-dad accidentally brings all of her old photos and memories to the shredder, Mariksa embarks upon an epic summer quest to try to recreate as many of those memories as possible. Now, I don’t doubt Liz Czukas but I was a little scared before I started that this story would be TOO perfect, imagining that Mariska would end up recreating all of her memories fairly accurately. Instead, I found an incredibly enjoyable story where Mariska’s memories got destroyed and her quest to recreate them didn’t totally work out. In fact, it actually came together in a much better way by ending up with new memories and different photos instead of her getting the exact pictures she used to have. I loved that she couldn’t recreate the past and instead, made a much better present and future.

I didn’t connect with this book AS much as I had with some of the other Liz Czukas books I’ve read, but that’s bound to happen when you read so many different and wonderful characters. I still loved everyone that I met and the situations were just delightful as well as insightful. I mostly have just connected with other books of Liz’s better, so that ends up affecting any future reads, this being one of them. I still think Mariska and her friends/family were incredibly realistic and they were so much fun to read about! The book was done so well and it’s such an enjoyable concept as well.

I’m a life-long fan of Liz Czukas and I’m so happy I got to read this book early! I’m always so happy to be able to read the latest from this wonderful author because I think in all of her books, whether that’s young adult or new adult (as Ellie Cahill), she does a wonderful job of keeping a light and fun tone but still incorporating some serious moments and realistic situations. I will forever be scrambling to pick up anything new from her!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fluff yet real. “Real fluff” — this is my new favorite contemporary genre. Is a real thing? I don’t know. But Liz Czukas totally nails it if it is. It’s fun and light without being overly serious and yet it’s still very realistic and has a lot of thoughtful moments as well as life-lessons.
Left Me Wanting More: Character connection. I don’t know why but I didn’t connect AS much as I had with previous books. But I guess I can’t very well have everything be a super favorite!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

Start from the beginning and work your way forward through Liz’s books. She’s a gem and her books are too!

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BOOKS LIKE THROWING MY LIFE AWAY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE    THE CHAPEL WARS

If You Liked… Gilmore Girls

One of my favorite parts about being a book blogger is sharing the books that I love with others. I absolutely love sharing my favorite reads and recommending them to others who are looking to fall in love with a new book!

12 YA BOOKS FOR GILMORE GIRLS FANS

It’s almost time for new Gilmore Girls!!! Are you so excited!? I usually do these book recommendation guides for other books but with new episodes of Gilmore Girls coming out, I thought this would be a fun opportunity to make some book recommendations based off of the show! I decided to stick to strictly young adult book recommendations since I don’t read a lot of adult outside of fantasy and I came up with some unexpected recommendations but for good reasons! Check out what I picked below!


books for gilmore girls fans


IF YOU LIKED GILMORE GIRLS

The Distance Between UsTry… THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US by Kasie West.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon

I love all of Kasie West’s books but I think this is a great one for fans of Gilmore Girls! Main character Cayman lives with her mom and together they run a doll shop. I love the mother-daughter relationship in this book! I think Gilmore Girls-fans would appreciate the relationship that Cayman has with her mom and really the overall story is a lot of fun too. The book explore family, friendships, first loves, and more, PLUS this book was the whip-smart sass that I think Lorelai and Rory possess. What more could you ask for in a reading recommendation?

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill cover
Try… MEANT TO BE by Lauren Morrill.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon

I like MEANT TO BE as a recommendation because it’s just plain fun on so many levels and I think main character Julia has a lot in common with younger Rory. Julia loves her pocket Shakespeare and Rory has an appreciation of all books but also the classics. I think Julia appeals to the nerdier side of Rory and holds some of the same naive ideals that season one Rory had. Julia may be a little bit more naive than Rory but I still like that little nerdy bookish side to her! I also love the hate-to-love romance in MEANT TO BE which is something that Rory also sees in a couple love interests throughout the show!

the start of me and you emery lord
Try… THE START OF ME AND YOU by Emery Lord.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon
This is another intellectual-type comparison and I actually think Paige and Rory are a lot alike in many ways. I can see them sharing a lot of the same interests and even participating in things like Quiz Bowl. I also really like the friendships that Paige makes and maintains throughout the book. She has some amazing friends with her core friend group (like Lane), meets a new love interest that she wasn’t expecting, and also finds unexpected friends with her Quiz Bowl team, including a girl that she finds hard to understand and get along with at first who kind of reminds me of Rory’s frenemy relationship with Paris in a way!

my life next doorTry… MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon
Want a book in another Connecticut town? MY LIFE NEXT DOOR takes place in the Connecticut suburbs! It’s not as small town as Gilmore Girls but it does feature many local businesses and a variety of families. While the Garretts are a much bigger family than the twosome of Lorelai and Rory, they have an amazing family dynamic that totally makes the book. I don’t usually like books with so many younger kids but even the youngest characters came alive here. I also love the budding relationship between Jase and Samantha and how it not only affected them but also their families. Rory is so close with her mom that her relationships are also important to the family dynamic and the same goes for Jase and his family!

since you've been goneTry… SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon
SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE isn’t so much of a direct comparison to the TV show but I think it’s a fun read for Gilmore Girls fans! I love the little missions that Sloane leaves for Emily and I think it feels like the same fun and fierce atmosphere that Gilmore Gils has. You see Emily learning about herself through her family and friends, pushing outside of her comfort zone, and really putting herself out there. I just think this book has the same sort of vibe and Gilmore Girls fans could appreciate it!

THE CONSPIRACY OF US
Try… THE CONSPIRACY OF US by Maggie Hall.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon
THE CONSPIRACY OF US isn’t a book one might normally pick as a Gilmore Girls comparison but it has a lot of the same elements that I love about the show! Avery has such a tight relationship with her mom and I really love their relationship. Although you might not think that an international, jet-setting, multiple country thriller fits with the show and it doesn’t exactly in feel… But there’s also no shortness of sass, sarcasm, and wit that I always enjoy from Lorelai and Rory! I love the team of strong and intelligent people in this book and I think that’s something to be appreciated. There’s also a bit of some head-butting between the boys and I can relate with the guys having some fights over Rory! Plus, I can’t recommend ALL contemporary books. We want to get a little variety to our reading, right?

Try… NANTUCKET BLUE by Leila Howland.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon
This is a book I recommend quite a bit. Cricket is a character who I feel such a connection to in the sense that she’s like the girl next door. She has a good relationship with her family, even if she does get a little pressure about school sometimes, and a best friend who becomes extended family. She’s a very hard-working and loyal person which I think are qualities always appreciated in the Gilmore realm and I actually think she’s a lot like Lorelai in her determination to work and really earn her way for what she wants. I think the overall vibe is there as well, although NANTUCKET BLUE may be a bit more on the serious side with a little less witty banter!

Confessions of an Angry Girl Try… CONFESSIONS OF AN ANGRY GIRL by Louise Rozett.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon

This is another book I recommend quite a bit because there’s a whole lot of important things going on here. There’s the loss of a father and how the family handles this loss. There’s a mother-daughter relationship which may not always be as tight as Lorelai and Rory but I really appreciated seeing them work on it. And there’s, of course, Jamie Forta (swooooooon). Jamie is a little bit of a bad boy and just from his description, he REALLY reminds me of Jess Mariano. He may not have an uncle Luke but just his overall vibe and the way he interacts with Rose somehow really reminds me of Jess!

The Raven Boys - Maggie SteifvaterTry… THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon

If you’re up for a bit of magical realism and borderline paranormal, THE RAVEN BOYS has some really, really, really amazing relationships and that awesome small-town feel. Main character Blue (yes, that’s her real name) has an amazing relationship with her mother Maura and becomes friends with some local Raven Boys (the boys that attend the private school in town) despite how much she had previously tried to avoid them in the past. The town of Henrietta is small and has such personality — not in the same way that Stars Hollow does but in its own special right. I also love the addition of the other secondary characters of the series who add such vibrance to these books. Blue and Maura live with friends and fellow psychics who are like family to Blue and I love the camaraderie of all of the Raven Boys as well. I think they bring the same feel to the series that characters like Sookie, Miss Patty, Babette, and Kirk bring to the Gilmore Girls atmosphere. It’s a wonderful mix of personalities that really bring the book to life much like the fun cast of characters adds that extra layer to Gilmore Girls!

26 kisses anna michelsTry… 26 KISSES by Anna Michels.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon
This another cutesy sort of book but I really enjoyed so many things here. Veda’s split from her serious boyfriend kind of reminded me of Rory’s relationship with Dean and although they may not have taken the same approaches post-relationship, I liked how they both got a little surer of themselves and ended up discovering a new piece of their life independently from their relationships. I also liked the lighter feel of this book and how it was just a feel-good sort of story!

my lady janeTry… MY LADY JANE by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon

MY LADY JANE is really nothing like Gilmore Girls in content but it’s the same sort of humor that I think GG fans would love! It’s a historical fiction account of Lady Jane Grey but think of The Princess Bride meets Monty Python. The book is clever through and through and there are so many witty moments, anachronisms, and pop culture jabs that really make the book laugh-out-loud funny. Although I wouldn’t say it’s normally a book I’d recommend as a “read alike”, I think the humor would really appeal to fans of Gilmore Girls!

The Scorpio Races paperback cover
Try… THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater.
Review // Goodreads // Amazon
I accidentally ended up with two Maggie Stiefvater books on this list (what can I say? They’re amazing). This one is quite different than THE RAVEN BOYS but actually the reasons I selected it are similar, the first being the small-town sense of community. THE SCORPIO RACES takes place on the island of Thisby which is a fictional island of unknown origins but seems to be somewhere off the coast of the UK. Everyone knows everyone on the island. The families are very tight and the townspeople really bring a lot to the story. I love how the main characters interact with the town and how the small-town feel really affects every person as well. It may not be another Gilmore Girls feel but this is one book that I really love for its sense of community, even if the community is not always on the side of the main characters.


I always have a blast picking out recommendations and I hope Gilmore fans agree with these! There are some recommendations that are a little outside of the box but I like the elements that connect to some fundamental Gilmore themes!

Looking for more recommendations? Check out my previous list of recs below!