Category Archives: Contemporary

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
Get a second opinion

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
Try it!

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
Read it!

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

          

I Have Lost My Way – Gayle Forman

I Have Lost My Way – Gayle FormanTitle: I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: March 27, 2018 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: March 30, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), I Was Here, Leave Me

Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from everyone he has ever loved, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose. When a fateful accident draws these three strangers together, their secrets start to unravel as they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in help­ing the others out of theirs.

An emotionally cathartic story of losing love, finding love, and discovering the person you are meant to be, I Have Lost My Way is best­selling author Gayle Forman at her finest.

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I am a big, big Gayle Forman fan but for some reason, I just really didn’t connect to this one like I had hoped and expected. I wonder if maybe the fact that I read it as an audiobook affected anything? The narrators were fine, some of which I’ve heard before and enjoyed, but I just didn’t make that emotional connection that I get with all of her other books.

The book did follow three different narrators, which is different from Gayle Forman’s other books, and the narrations also switched tenses, from third person while telling the story to first person while recounting each character’s past. I listen to enough audiobooks that I don’t feel like listening to it on audio should really make a difference when it comes to the structure of the story (unless it’s something that is very visual like The Illuminae Files) but maybe the physical copy had a different break that would have helped those switches/transitions a little bit more than the audiobook. I don’t really think it would have made a difference, but maybe. I’m trying to reason things out because I don’t want to say that this book wasn’t my favorite, but I guess it’s bound to happen with any favorite author (and really, it has, so that’s okay too).

The stories really were beautiful. Each character has lost their way due to their own unique circumstances and when they quite randomly come together, they each help each other through the toughest points in their lives. I really loved seeing how these friendships blossomed and how total strangers were able to become such key points in each other’s lives. Gayle Forman did a great job at bringing in key phrases from one person’s past and sticking it into another person’s present — a clever tie between the two that makes them seem almost destined to meet and unite.

I did appreciate so much of this book and yet, I just didn’t feel that pull on my heart like I have with previous novels. I definitely felt for each character and was rooting for each one, but I feel like I just didn’t connect with the writing and the structure like I had hoped. The book was definitely good but it’s that personal connection and emotional grab that didn’t get me. I’m also sure that my expectations were ya know… WAY HIGH so that never helps why I hype books up for myself!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Beautiful connections. I loved how these three characters came together to essentially save each other’s lives. The connections were wonderful.
Left Me Wanting More: Personal investment. I think I just didn’t personally connect to the characters for whatever reason, as much as I wanted to.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I will always recommend Gayle Forman’s books, even if they aren’t my favorite! I can objectively see how wonderful these stories were, even if I didn’t feel emotional about them. I’m just used to sobbing away haha!

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BOOKS LIKE I HAVE LOST MY WAY

          

The Boyfriend Bracket – Kate Evangelista

The Boyfriend Bracket – Kate EvangelistaTitle: The Boyfriend Bracket by Kate Evangelista
Publishing Info: June 19, 2018 by Macmillan, Swoon Reads
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: March 31, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Stella has had a hopeless crush on Will, her older brother's best friend FOREVER, but now that Cam and Will have graduated and are going off to college, this year is her chance to really strike out on her own. Without her overprotective brother and his sidekick around to distract her, she can focus on having all the typical high school experiences that she's always dreamed of—starting with finding a boyfriend! With the help of her best friend Franklin, she comes up with the perfect plan to have a boyfriend by Christmas: The Boyfriend Bracket.

Or it seems like the perfect plan...right up until Will starts showing up again. How is she supposed to find the perfect boyfriend when none of her dates measure up to the one boy she can never have?

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To be 100% honest, I made it about 30% – 35% of the way through and then skimmed the rest of the book because once it hit a certain point, there was no point in reading the rest.

Heads up, because we’re gonna have some spoilers here.
So the book is called The Boyfriend Bracket and… we do away with the bracket after 30% when Stella gets together with her longtime crush (and surprise surprise, he’s had a crush on her forever), Will, who is her brother Cam’s best friend. So there really was no point to the bracket other than to get a gimmick to get Will to confess his feelings on the page because “he couldn’t stand to see her with another guy”. Thankfully for him, uber protective big brother Cam has shooed away every boyfriend up until that point (ew). And thankfully for him, he gets together with Stella post-makeover (in fairness, he liked her before but UGH. Now she’s sexy! And irresistible)!

I looove friends to more stories but this was not exciting and all tension was lost when the two get together basically right away. The rest of the book was hiding their relationship from Cam, which was annoying. Throw in some typical teen things like dances and college and that’s the rest of the book. It was just so cliche that I had a hard time wanting to read it, so yes, I did skim the rest. I picked up on the major points and I’m glad I didn’t actually spend the time to read each and every word.

Things COULD have been cute if we went through the bracket and found that all of the guys weren’t the right fit and voila! There’s Will! The old brother thing was creepy, kind of? And just flat out annoying because it was way too much forced interference. Not to say this doesn’t actually happen to teens because oh lord, I did some immature stuff back in my teen years, but I enjoy the books that make it more into a story than just recounting teen moments that we’ve all lived through because who wants to live/re-live those cringe-worthy decisions?

Anyway. I’m just really disappointed with this one because it really had potential but it was way too immature for me and the writing was a little cringe-worthy. There wasn’t much that I enjoyed here, other than broad concepts. This was pretty much the definition of “fluff” with not much substance there.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Friends-to-more. I actually did like some of the cute-factor between Stella and Will, so that was something.
Left Me Wanting More: So much more maturity. This book was just so immature on so many levels. It was really bothersome.

Addiction Rating
Skip it.

I don’t usually say to skip things — often times I’ll suggest getting a second opinion — but this book just made me so mad and irritated. I was really disappointed.

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BOOKS LIKE THE BOYFRIEND BRACKET

          

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal SutherlandTitle: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
Publishing Info: September 5, 2017 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 21, 2017

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather met Death, her entire family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime—a fear that will eventually lead each and every one of them to their graves. Take Esther’s father, for instance: He’s an agoraphobe who hasn’t left the basement in six years. Then there’s her twin brother, Eugene, whose fear of the dark goes far beyond the things that go bump in the night. And her mother, Rosemary, is absolutely terrified of bad luck.

As for Esther, she’s managed to escape the curse…so far. She doesn’t yet have a great fear because she avoids pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, crowds—anything that might trigger a phobia is off-limits and is meticulously recorded in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

Esther thinks she has it all figured out, until she’s reunited with an old elementary school classmate—and first crush—Jonah Smallwood. The encounter leaves her stranded at a bus stop and swindled out of her phone, all her cash, a Fruit Roll-Up she’d been saving, and her list—not to mention her dignity. But the theft is also the beginning of an unexpected friendship between the two, one that sends the pair on a journey of self-discovery as they try to break the curse that’s consumed Esther’s family. Together they face their greatest fears, one debilitating phobia at a time, only to discover the one fear they hadn’t counted on: love.

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A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST OF WORST NIGHTMARES wasn’t what I was expecting, and then it was, and then it wasn’t — all in a good way. I thought this would be heavy on the magical realism based on the synopsis and then it turned more realistic fiction for a while, and came back as a blend of both. There was a lot of care taken when writing this book and it really shows through each of the characters and their own personal situations. I was really impressed with it!

The characters of this book were so wonderful and real and had such amazing personalities. Every single one has their own thing they’re dealing with and Esther blames this on the family curse, but there’s a lot more beneath the surface than she understands and more importantly, is willing to face. It was interesting to see both sides of that concept — from the magical realism/curse side and from the realistic side that really tackled mental health head on. It was addressed so well and I felt like it was a very realistic representation. The magic is both real and also a coping mechanism/avoidance method and I really enjoyed the blend between the real and the imaginary. The reader is left wondering how much is really magic and that’s something I love about magical realism when it’s done well!

This is also one of those realistic fiction novels that’s great for those who aren’t normally contemporary romance readers. The family is quirky and fun to read, the plot of the book involves a lot of fun instances where characters face their fears (some of them silly), and there are some really great representations of mental health on many levels. I liked that there was an actual plot with an end goal of conquering fears and the way they tackled each one was fun and also beautiful.

The characters really brought this book to life, every single one unique and beautiful. I loved getting to know this family and the people who supported them. I laughed, I cried, I was afraid, and I was happy. This book took me through so many emotions and I’m so glad I read it!
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Kept Me Hooked On: Quirky Families. It takes a really good author to write a quirky family without having them be goofy or over-the-top. This family had their quirks but they were fun to get to know and it wasn’t in a crazy way. Everything just felt right.
Left Me Wanting More: Pages! I really, really enjoyed this book. I can’t think of anything I was missing! I would just want to keep reading more but I’m also glad that it was a stand-alone and wrapped up the way that it did.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

No matter which genres you enjoy, this is such a lovely book. I would definitely recommend it!

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BOOKS LIKE A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST OF WORST NIGHTMARES

          

This Darkness Mine – Mindy McGinnis

This Darkness Mine – Mindy McGinnisTitle: This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis
Publishing Info: October 10, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Thriller, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: October 18, 2017
Related Posts: A Madness So Discreet, The Female of the Species

Sasha Stone knows her place—first-chair clarinet, top of her class, and at the side of her oxford-wearing boyfriend. She’s worked her entire life to ensure that her path to Oberlin Conservatory as a star musician is perfectly paved.

But suddenly there’s a fork in the road, in the shape of Isaac Harver. Her body shifts toward him when he walks by, her skin misses his touch even though she’s never known it, and she relishes the smell of him—smoke, beer, and trouble—all the things she’s avoided to get where she is. Even worse, every time he’s near Sasha, her heart stops, literally. Why does he know her so well—too well—and she doesn’t know him at all?

Sasha discovers that her by-the-book life began by ending another’s: the twin sister she absorbed in the womb. But that doesn’t explain the gaps of missing time in her practice schedule or the memories she has of things she certainly never did with Isaac. As Sasha loses her much-cherished control, her life—and heart—become more entangled with Isaac. Armed with the knowledge that her heart might not be hers alone, Sasha must decide what she’s willing to do—and who she’s willing to hurt—to take it back.

Edgar Award–winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a dark and gripping psychological thriller about a girl at war with herself, and what it really means to be good or bad.

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I can’t even… what??? This book was not at all what I expected and without heading into spoiler-town (yet), I will say that I went through an array of feelings while reading it. Well hell, the book isn’t what I expected while reading it either. It was just… well-done, Mindy McGinnis. You have slayed me.

Okay, so avoiding spoilers for now, here’s what I can tell you about this book: it’s about a girl named Sasha who is the good girl, won’t even swear, is extremely dedicated to her music (clarinet) and works hard to the point of obsessing over being perfect with music, grades, and being good. Things start to take a turn when she discovers that she is (used to be) a twin, but her sister was never actually born and was absorbed in the womb. This is an actual thing that happens sometimes so okay. Sasha seems shaken by this information and tries to gather more information about her sister-that-could-have-been and things start to go haywire as she becomes entangled with a boy named Isaac, the stereotypical bad-boy with whom Sasha would never interact… except she has, and Isaac has proof. Sasha tries to figure out how and why and then we head into the twisty part of this book…

So up until this point, I was like eeeeeeehhhhahhhahhh I don’t know about this. I wasn’t super keen on the twin-thing being a big part of the story because I didn’t see that coming (yes, I KNOW it’s in the synopsis — reminder 184300495 that I go into books blind so I can be so very surprised by things like this and usually it creates for an even more amazing story because it was definitely a reveal that I was surprised by instead of knowing it was coming. See?) and like the obsessive person that Sasha is, she starts to take the investigation of her sister a little too far and takes on a little too much.

There are a LOT of spoilers I could talk about but won’t include them in here for those who haven’t read the book but be sure to check out my Goodreads review if you want to see what’s behind the spoiler tags there!

The book truly shook me with its ending but there were also parts that were just plain weird. It ended up totally coming together but I must admit that I was kind of like oooooookay for a few good sections of the book where I wasn’t sure how I felt. This book is one to mess with your head and your emotions and even if you’re not crazy about the beginning, it’s so worth finishing because you won’t want to miss that ending.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Twisted stories. This was a sort of psychological thriller that I was not expecting and I kiiiind of loved it. I love being surprised by something new and this was definitely different!
Left Me Wanting More: Realism? I mean, things got straight up WEIRD for a while. I guess the book sooort of lost me just for a bit but really, it all worked itself out.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This gets kind of weird but WHOA the ending was totally worth it! Stick with it and you’ll be shocked.

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Looking for Alaska – John Green

Looking for Alaska – John GreenTitle: Looking for Alaska by John Green
Publishing Info: March 3, 2005 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 2, 2017
Related Posts: The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same.

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LOOKING FOR ALASKA is one of the better John Green books I’ve read (the first being WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON) but I just still don’t love John Green’s writing. Actually, mostly I don’t like his characters and their interactions with each other. Each John Green book that I read is quite different and there are things I enjoy and things that I don’t in each one, but ultimately, I’ve just never fallen in love with any of his characters or novels, but I still keep trying!

Don’t hate me buuuut…. Alaska bothered me. Heck, she even bothered her friends. It was another character who was idealized despite her flaws, which I guess happens all the time in books, but there’s just something about the way it all happens in John Green’s writing that I don’t like. I went into this with an open mind and still had a hard time with his characters. I’m also sure that there’s kind of something about Alaska that you’re not supposed to like but there’s still the matter that Miles idealizes her for seemingly no reason and I just don’t like the way these characters come off as I’m reading. It’s just the writing, I think.

That being said, I did still enjoy it! It wasn’t amazing and didn’t make me feel all the feels but it was an interesting story and I actually enjoyed every other character except for Alaska (which kind of felt like I was missing whole point of the book). It was a quick read and full of interesting points but I also still had issues with parts of the book and how everything came together. I also feel like I might have enjoyed reading this more as an actual teen (I would have been 18 if I had read this the year that it was released) like a lot of my friends did but I guess that’s something that I can never know!

The “After” didn’t kick me in the feels like I knew it was supposed to (I figured it would be something like that but still didn’t know what was coming) and it felt a little anti-climactic. I’m glad that it read it but it wasn’t a stand-out read for me and while I didn’t find anything “wrong” with it, it just wasn’t a book that I really connected to. I’m glad my curiosity was satiated and that I still know my feelings about John Green’s books despite continuing to try them. It’s like… I’m happy that I keep picking them up but they’re still not impressive to me.

Overall, this story did have more characters that I could relate to than most and felt like one of the least pretentious books so that was a good experience! Still the black sheep on so many things, as always, but I’m okay with that. Sometimes being the black sheep on very popular authors lets me know that I’m still reading for me and understanding what I personally enjoy and not just liking a book because everyone else does, so it’s always an interesting experience!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Attempting John Green. I keep promising to give up his books and yet I also keep trying to read them and hoping to enjoy one a little bit more. I actually have zero interest in read TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN so that’s not on my TBR but this book wasn’t either. I guess we’ll see!
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. I just often don’t feel like the characters in these books are realistic. This was a bit better than most, to be honest, but I was still lacking some of that in Alaska. I guess that’s also not fair for me to say because I’m sure there are many Alaskas in the world but they’re also not people I relate to so I just didn’t enjoy it.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

Gosh, there are just soooo many John Green fans out there and I still can’t bring myself to be one of them. You’ll get nothing but an honest review from me but I pretty much know where I stand here.

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