Category Archives: YA

Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2) – Kerri Maniscalco

Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2) – Kerri ManiscalcoTitle: Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2) by Kerri Maniscalco
Publishing Info: July 11, 2017 by Hachette, Jimmy Patterson
Source: ALAAC17, Author
Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Historical Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 8, 2017
Related Posts: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1)

In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer...or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper's true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe's best schools of forensic medicine...and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life's dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school's forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again

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Kerri Maniscalso has done it again. HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA is just as fantastic as STALKING JACK THE RIPPER with a whole new exciting and yet horrific tale (and I mean that in the best possible way). I loved that HPD was a sequel to STALKING JACK THE RIPPER but it develops its own mystery and its own story line. The series continues with main characters Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell, so readers get to continue reading about their relationship, their work together, and their adventures along the way, but there’s no panic to think about the time that naturally occurs between each new book release because each case wraps up neatly! Although I will say that I’ll still panic a little bit since I read this book so long before its own release in the fall (I finished in May) and now I need to wait probably over a year for book three when I want to read it nowwwww. *ahem*

My only complaint about my experience with HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA is that life got in the way and I didn’t have enough time to just sit down and inhale it, as much as I wanted to. *grumbles things about responsibilities* Just like SJTR, I had so much fun reading this book from start to finish. I love the gothic horror elements, the pieces of true history combined with amazing adaptations and embellishments for the books, and most of all, the excellent banter between Audrey Rose and Thomas. Their relationship is fantastic in every possible way.

The suspense was constant and I loved the way that Kerri Maniscalco continuously shifted focus, as is natural in a mystery. When murders are occurring, it’s natural to be suspicious about everything and everyone and I always am as a reader so it was great to see how the focus tended to shift throughout the book as Audrey Rose and Thomas gathered up more clues. It kept me guessing as a reader and left some excellent surprises in the end! Looking back, I probably should have picked up on a few things but I’m actually glad that I wasn’t even thinking in that direction because the reveal was MOST EXCELLENT and the dark part of my heart totally flipped. out. a certain reveal point!

Kerri Maniscalco’s books are stunningly sensory with great visuals for the reader to picture, wonderful atmosphere, and delightful descriptions that really appeal to every sense. It was so easy to get lost in the castles and forests of Romania in a totally different time period despite knowing little to nothing about either the time or the place. The light tone from the banter amongst the characters really brings a great levity to a horror story that I always appreciate and it breaks some of the more serious moments to allow readers to enjoy some of that character development. The balance of dark and light is truly perfected within these pages and to quote the book, “I am wholly bewitched.”

I cannot wait for the third installment and I will be thinking about it until it’s finally revealed what the third book will be about!!

** I received a copy of HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA from the author, Kerri Maniscalco, for review purposes and to assist in the creation of new candles inspired by the book. The fact that I received this copy to read from the author in no way affected my review, feedback, or the fact that I have the mighty need to be endlessly book-pushing and recommending. **

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Kept Me Hooked On: Horror. I’m loving the historical horror and the blend of myth and history. These books are SO much fun and really make you feel like you’re a part of the action!
Left Me Wanting More: Audrey Rose & Thomas. UGH these two. They’re just the best. I love the tension, the banter, the support, the back-and-forth. It’s all great.

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

Kerri Maniscalco is wonderful and I simply adore her books. They’re fun, clever, thrilling, and romantic.

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BOOKS LIKE HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    GRAVE MERCY

Hello, Sunshine – Leila Howland

Hello, Sunshine – Leila HowlandTitle: Hello, Sunshine by Leila Howland
Publishing Info: July 11, 2017 by Disney Hyperion
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 7, 2017
Related Posts: Nantucket Blue (Nantucket #1), Nantucket Red (Nantucket #2)

Becca Harrington is a reject. After being rebuffed by every college on her list, she needs a fresh start, so she packs up everything and moves to LA, giving herself one year to land an acting gig or kill herself trying.

Unfortunately, not everything turns out as planned, and after a few grueling months, LA is looking like the worst idea ever. As hard as she tries, Becca can’t land an agent, she's running out of cash, and her mom is hounding her to apply to more schools. In an act of desperation, Becca and her friend Marisol start posting short videos online—with the help of their adorable filmmaker neighbor, Raj—and the videos catch the attention of a TV producer. Could this be it? Her big break? Or will she have to move back home with nothing but some bad head shots and a monstrous credit-card bill?

Becca may not get the Hollywood ending she was hoping for, but perhaps she’ll learn there’s more than one way to achieve her dream.

Readers will love every page of this funny, romantic, aspirational, and ultimately triumphant novel about a girl who just wants to make it on her own.

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I cannot tell you how much this kills me… But I didn’t connect with this book in any way at all. Leila Howland’s Nantucket series still remains one of my all-time favorite series. Cricket is my soul-sister. I get her. I loved her. Both books had this realism and magic. HELLO, SUNSHINE didn’t have any of that for me.

HELLO, SUNSHINE is a much lighter book than the Nantucket books, which I really wasn’t expecting. It’s always hard picking up an author’s sophomore novel or next series adventure because you’re expecting the same kind of tone as what you first read and that’s not always the case… which is GOOD. I actually love authors who can write any genre, any tone, and create a wonderful story, but this book was a total miss for me. I was okay with it not feeling like the Nantucket duet but it just didn’t feel like there was any substance there and that was what I loved about Leila Howland’s first books.

HELLO, SUNSHINE in general is just not my cup of tea. The book is about high school graduate Becca who heads off to Hollywood after graduation instead of college. No college accepted her because she took the blame for an incident involving her and her friends so she gives up on going to college and instead decides to go become an actress… out of the blue. She has no experience, no plans, and no money. First off, this concept just drives me nuts. I’m a planner. I NEED to plan things and I could never head off to city with no plan, no job, no money, and not a care in the world. I understand people do this and some succeed, but characters who do everything on a whim are not my friends. I just don’t get along with care-free spirits because I need some structure, and care-free characters with no plan often makes me feel like a book has no plan. Becca randomly grabs an apartment for herself and wait, she actually DOES make a list so there’s that, but everything else is just randomly happening. Random friends happen, a random job happens, random encounters happen… and it just felt all over the place and I didn’t know where things were heading. Obviously the end goal is for Becca to get an agent and land an acting job but the road to get there was too willy-nilly.

I was doomed from the start because I couldn’t care less about Hollywood and the whole breaking-into-show-business concept. Music? Yes. Acting? No. I’m not big into celebrities, I don’t like the glitz and glam, and it all seems so forced and fake, so the concept of the book really wasn’t a draw for me, but the author was. Combined with Becca’s character, it just never came together for me where my personal reading preferences stood. The casting directors are weird or offensive or rude and I like reading about happy things, not people putting a main character down all the time.

I also hated the way Becca was treated in this book and she didn’t stand up for herself when she needed to. There was a weird, creepy semi-stalker guy in her apartment complex that kept hitting on her in the creepiest ways and she wouldn’t tell him just go buzz off! I get that you don’t want offend a neighbor, particularly one that may not be all there, but he was being gross and creepy and she should have stood up to him and said that she was uncomfortable. You can’t be uncomfortable around your neighbors and feel unsafe where you live. I just didn’t find it comical and it really turned me off. Becca gets pushed around by all of the professionals she encounters, and just when you think she’s getting a break in an indie movie, the guy asks everyone to play the scene nude for no reason. Um, ew? No. Thankfully Becca did stand up for herself there, but again, why? I guess these things probably happen in the business and you do encounter situations like those, but again, one of the reasons I don’t like reading about the movie business and the struggle to break into it because people DO end up doing things that they wouldn’t normally do because it’s so competitive and difficult. I don’t like the way actors can be objectified like because someone of authority knows that they can do it and I was just hoping this book would be more meaningful and less slap-stick and shock value.

I just didn’t like any of Becca’s relationships at all in this book at all. It got off to a bad start when her boyfriend drives her all the way out to LA (he’s in college in California so it’s on the way for him) and then dumps her when they get there. Then she tries to get back together with him and defends him to her new friends!! Nope. Not cool. The new romance didn’t feel like a romance at first (just awkward friendship) and then once it turned into a romance, I really wasn’t feeling it. I just didn’t like any of Becca’s relationships throughout the whole book, except for the mother-daughter relationship and how she talked with her mom.

To be honest, I made it halfway through and then started skimming. It’s been slow-going for a week and with very apathetic feelings about the book, I didn’t feel the need to read everything in depth, because it didn’t have the depth that I wanted from it. I was SO SURE this would be a hit given my past experiences with Leila Howland’s books and I’ve been waiting forever for a new YA novel from her but this was a strikeout for me. I won’t rate it one star because it wasn’t AWFUL but it really didn’t work for me at all. We all know what we like to read and what we don’t and I wouldn’t have picked this up if it wasn’t Leila Howland.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Leila Howland. I didn’t connect with this book but I simply adoooore the Nantucket series. I’m glad I tried her new book but I’m also so bummed I didn’t love it!
Left Me Wanting More: Depth. I just… didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel the character depth or connection like I did with Cricket and I SO wanted it to be there.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I had some friends who really liked this! I know part of this was my own personal feelings on the content and I didn’t have that personal connection. I’d say check out some other reviews before you pick this one up or pass on it!

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BOOKS LIKE HELLO, SUNSHINE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    BEHIND THE SCENES

InterWorld (InterWorld #1) – Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves

InterWorld (InterWorld #1) – Neil Gaiman & Michael ReavesTitle: InterWorld (InterWorld #1) by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves
Publishing Info: April 29, 2008 by HarperCollins
Source: Library
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Children's & Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 5, 2017
Related Posts: Fortunately, the Milk, Stardust, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neverwhere

When Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman and Emmy Award winner Michael Reaves teamed up, they created the bestselling YA novel InterWorld.

InterWorld tells the story of Joey Harker, a very average kid who discovers that his world is only one of a trillion alternate earths. Some of these earths are ruled by magic. Some are ruled by science. All are at war.

Joey teams up with alternate versions of himself from an array of these worlds. Together, the army of Joeys must battle evil magicians Lord Dogknife and Lady Indigo to keep the balance of power between all the earths stable. Teens—and tweens and adults—who obsessively read the His Dark Materials and Harry Potter series will be riveted by InterWorld and its sequel, The Silver Dream.

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I had heard that this book felt a little young before I started but that was incredibly evident once I started getting into it. The main character is in high school but this read at a middle grade level and really felt quite young. I’ve actually read quite a few better middle grade books and ones that were better-written, which is sad since this is co-authored by Neil Gaiman and I’ve loved everything I’ve read from him (which by now is a a decent amount of his works). I’m not sure what percentage of the co-authoring Neil Gaiman did but I found it hard to really get into this book.

I’m a total sucker for parallel worlds and the like but INTERWORLD got a bit too deep into some strange science-fiction stuff that just ended up being too much for me. There was a lot of technical jargon, including interdimensional creatures (oh, we all know how much I love wacky creatures…) that was hard to keep up with. I felt that the book went way too overboard in introducing some of these concepts, especially since it’s the first book in a series and there would have been so much to build up to.

It’s also very much a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and I have a bit of trouble combining the two when reading fanta-sci books. Despite the fact that sci-fi is a subgenre of fantasy, they just don’t really blend well for me. It did actually seem better accomplished than in other fanta-sci books that I’ve read but I feel like fanta-sci just allows a bit too much to spiral out of control. You’re allowing belief to be suspended from two different angles instead of just one and as a reader, I have a hard time letting go in two different directions and I wanted things to be a bit more grounded.

I would have loved to see this developed more slowly into a couple different books and not have all of this been in the first book. We could have gotten to know Joey, his family, his friends, and his world more before throwing him into this ability and concept. I could have used some more world-building to allow readers to get a grip on Walking and the InterWorld instead of just being thrown into it and having to catch up like Joey had. It was too much and too confusing, in my opinion.

I knew this one might not be a hit but I definitely won’t be continuing the series. I was hoping it might be just so-so for me and there would be an option to continue but this was a total miss for me. It was a short audiobook so it wasn’t too bad to get through but if it hadn’t been short, I probably wouldn’t have finished. I just really wasn’t interested and the tone was just too young for me, even as an occasional reader of middle grade books.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fantasci. This was definitely a new step in fanta-sci for me with a mix between fantasy and science-fiction. Sadly, it’s something that I tend to have an issue with as I tend to want a book to be more fantasy or more sci-fi, but it was definitely interesting.
Left Me Wanting More: Maturity. This book just felt young, even more so than most middle grade books I’ve read. I just felt like it was sort of dumbed down and it really didn’t need to be.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

I should have listened to the advice when I was told to skip this one but I just had to know for myself! It wasn’t a very good read for me.

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BOOKS LIKE INTERWORLD

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE CITY OF EMBER

Mini-Review: Kindred Spirits – Rainbow Rowell

Mini-Review: Kindred Spirits – Rainbow RowellTitle: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Publishing Info: February 25, 2016 by Macmillan
Source: Gift
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 20, 2017
Related Posts: Eleanor & Park Playlist, Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Landline, Attachments

'Everybody likes everything these days. The whole world is a nerd.'
'Are you mad because other people like Star Wars? Are you mad because people like me like Star Wars?'
'Maybe.'

If you broke Elena's heart, Star Wars would spill out. So when she decides to queue outside her local cinema to see the new movie, she's expecting a celebration with crowds of people who love Han, Luke and Leia just as much as she does. What she's not expecting is to be last in a line of only three people; to have to pee into a collectible Star Wars soda cup behind a dumpster or to meet that unlikely someone who just might truly understand the way she feels. Kindred Spirits is an engaging short story by Rainbow Rowell, author of the bestselling Eleanor & Park, Fangirl and Carry On, and is part of a handful of selected short reads specially produced for World Book Day.

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I don’t know why this was marked as “for older readers” when it’s about an 18-year-old girl and doesn’t contain any so called “adult content” but okay! KINDRED SPIRITS is an easy, fun novella for teens or adults alike and it really can fit with anyone who has a love of Star Wars!

KINDRED SPIRITS is a quick short about Elena who camps out in line to see the next Star Wars movie and her interactions with the people in line (all two of them). I thought the book was fun, realistic, and had a decent amount of substance considering its length! It was enjoyable to read, easy to zip through, and you’ll have more fun if you’re a Star Wars fan but you also won’t really miss TOO much if you’re not. I thoroughly enjoy Star Wars but I’m not as big of a fan so some name drops went over my head but I mostly picked up on everything else. It’s made to be an enjoyable read no matter what!

As usual, I loved the feel of a Rainbow Rowell book. It had the same vibe and writing style as her other books do and I just love falling back into another one of her books. This was perfect for a quick read and I’m glad I finally got to it!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Nerdy fun. I love cute, nerdy books and it was so fun to read this novella from Rainbow Rowell about Star Wars and its fans. It just shows how “geek culture” is so accessible to anyone and you don’t have to be a nerd to enjoy it!
Left Me Wanting More: Length! I really enjoyed this story and I could have read a whole novel of it! I am glad it was a novella though because it was the perfect quick and cute read.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you’re a Rainbow Rowell fan, it’s a great addition to your collection and just a fun story to read. She always has quality content and lovely writing, even in a quick snippet.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE KINDRED SPIRITS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Bad Romance – Heather Demetrios

Bad Romance – Heather DemetriosTitle: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
Publishing Info: June 13, 2017 by Macmillan
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 29, 2017
Related Posts: I'll Meet You There

Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it's too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she's unable to escape.

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.

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BAD ROMANCE was such a hard book to read but in such a good way. I haven’t read too many books that deal with the inside of a bad relationship but I think Heather Demetrios really captured all of the emotions, twists, and tangles that are involved in being trapped in a “bad romance”. Her experience with the matter really helped dig in to those dark corners and create such a realistic picture of this situation.

I wouldn’t say that it was enjoyable to read BAD ROMANCE because it’s so hard to read about these tough situations that make you cringe and cry and want to shake a main character… but in a way that made me feel for Grace, but in frustration for how stuck she feels and how other people are taking advantage of that vulnerability. Grace is stuck in her life at home and is just waiting for the day when she can move out and go off to college. Her mother suffers from OCD (which is not stated outright but more and more is revealed along the way) and things have gotten so bad with her mental state that she’s dependent on Grace’s step-father who uses all of that to his advantage. Both her mother and step-father continue to keep Grace under their thumb so when popular guy and long-time-crush Gavin starts to show interest in Grace, even after a suicide attempt, Grace can’t help but fall head over heels for someone who finally shows her some positive attention.

The book starts with Grace sort of telling a story to Gavin himself. The usage of the second-person narrative, essentially telling the story back to Gavin like it’s a narrative straight to him, created such a personal and tense connection and sets the story up for the devastation that is to come. The reader knows from the beginning that this will not end well, and the tension is set up right away so even though you see Grace falling for someone who seems so good to her at first, the reader knows it will not end well, and I just had that sinking feeling in my stomach. Things start off well  but there are also immediate signs of what’s to come, and it’s easy to ignore when you have hope and trust in a relationship. There are plenty of things that don’t have to spiral out of control, but Grace is surrounded by those who need more help than she can give them and too often she’s put in the position of being someone’s savior, and that’s exactly what Gavin pins on her.

I won’t go into the whole book, but long story short, I think Heather Demetrios did a really great job of laying this whole relationship out. I felt like Gavin really did like Grace but then it just turned into dependency and the need to control her instead of caring about her and having a nice balance. Gavin was in need of professional attention and support that Grace couldn’t give and all of his problems were being pinned on her, so instead of finding a freedom with Gavin, she became even more stuck. My stomach twisted and my heart sank as things grew even worse, taking an abusive turn, but I also saw Grace’s side of things! It wasn’t that she wasn’t strong or wouldn’t take action and leave Gavin… she really did care for him and she also wanted to help him. She thought he loved her, and maybe he did, but it reached an obsessive and controlling point to where it wasn’t real love anymore and it turned into an unhealthy need. Grace’s character had so much good in her heart but that doesn’t help someone who needs therapy or medication and it was so hard to watch her struggle between wanting to help Gavin, trying to love him and be the support that he needed, and just needing to get out.

I have a lot I could say about this book but I won’t go on forever with this review. What I will say is that I think it’s a very well-done story about abusive relationships, especially those that don’t seem outright abusive. There were emotional aspects here that bullied Grace into staying in the relationship (that did turn a little bit physical) and Heather Demetrios did a great job of writing each character so even if you knew they were in the wrong, you could understand their perspective and see the whole picture all at once. This was so well-written and very hard to read all at the same time, but the hard to read is definitely because of the difficult content. I haven’t had experience with this myself but I found it very realistic and would definitely recommend BAD ROMANCE!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Realistic, non-contemporary fiction. So many realistic fiction I read nowadays is romantic so it’s always interesting to read more novels that are realistic but not a “contemporary romance”.
Left Me Wanting More: Help for Grace. This is usually where I put what I was missing from a book but I really felt that this was well-written and I wouldn’t have asked for anything different! I just wish Grace had someone to turn to who could offer her help and support, mostly from her parents. Your parents are supposed to be there for you especially in times like this and they only made things so much worse.

Addiction Rating
Read it

This is a powerful read and absolutely worth picking up. I think it tells a really important story and shows that not all abusive relationships are purely physical. This bad romance was emotionally demanding and controlling and Grace was just as stuck.

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BOOKS LIKE BAD ROMANCE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    ELEANOR & PARK

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) – Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) – Renee AhdiehTitle: Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 27, 2017
Related Posts: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

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Welp. The hype got this one for me. I actually went in with an open mind because I had no idea what to expect and despite not totally loving THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, I wanted to go into a new series with no reservations. I still ended up hitting some of the same issues that I encountered with WRATH though without even realizing it until I was done with the book.

FLAME IN THE MIST turned out to be a much slower-paced fantasy than I thought. I don’t mind slower pace BUT I didn’t feel like there was enough character development to create that sense of a character-driven novel when plot isn’t action-packed. The story was moving forward and things were happening but it wasn’t a whole lot to actually continuously keep the plot engaging. I don’t need all action, all the time, to enjoy a book but when action slows down, that’s where characters shine and it didn’t feel like there was a lot of dialogue to really get to know the characters or interact with them.

Most of the book took place in the first chapter and the last 25%. I feel like I barely got to know the main characters at all and most of the things I knew about them, I was told instead of actually seeing. The relationships were confusing until the romance was clearly outlined because there was a little tension with a few people until the romance finally started developing into what it was. The plot could have used some cleaning up and there wasn’t a really clear focus for a while. Aside from Mariko surviving the attack in the first few chapters (not a spoiler – it’s literally in the synopsis and happens in the first chapter), I wasn’t sure what her motivation was or what the point of the book was. Revenge? That’s it? Which is fine, but the reader can tell that more political motivations will also be involved, being the daughter of an important family, and I just wanted to explore more of that right off the bat. Instead of something being introduced and working it into the story throughout the book, it seemed like a concept was introduced and had to be expanded upon right away instead of letting the story naturally unfold over time.

The whole book felt a little too… open. Like I always say, I don’t need things clearly spelled out for me but I would like a better feel of what the book is, where it’s going, and who these characters are. I just didn’t feel like enough was developed. I got bored waiting for something to catch me and this just didn’t do it for me. Who else is not surprised I’m a black sheep on this book? Sigh.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Non-European fantasy. So many high fantasy novels are based on European concepts or settings and I really enjoyed the Japanese influence in this book! I can’t really judge how well it was done since I don’t know much about the culture in specific there but it was refreshing to take a fantasy somewhere else.
Left Me Wanting More: Development. I love character-driven novels and I don’t always need jam-packed plots to keep me interested but I felt like neither the plot nor the characters were really developed enough to hook me into this world.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I know I personally won’t be continuing this series. Maybe I just don’t click with Renee Ahdieh’s writing? I had a hard time with THE WRATH AND THE DAWN taking a while to get somewhere and then BAM it finally did, a little similar to FLAME IN THE MIST, so maybe it’s just a me thing! I know many people who have loved both series so far but I just don’t appear to be one of them.

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BOOKS LIKE FLAME IN THE MIST

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE STORY SPINNER

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) – Evelyn SkyeTitle: The Crown's Fate (The Crown's Game #2) by Evelyn Skye
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 23, 2017
Related Posts: The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game #1)

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

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** Warning: This review DOES contain spoilers for the book! I will be talking about specifics! ** 

THE CROWN’S GAME was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and I absolutely loved how much it reminded me of THE NIGHT CIRCUS in so many ways (which I actually just finished re-reading and it cemented this feeling even more)! Naturally, I was very excited to read THE CROWN’S FATE and it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017! It’s always so hard when I have an most-anticipate read coming up because I tend to hype the book up for myself so it was an interesting experience reading THE CROWN’S FATE!

There’s no way I can talk about this book without specific spoilers, so first I’ll talk about some non-spoilery things! I loved that this world felt the same! There are some times with sequels that it feels like a totally different book but I was able to fall back into this world right where I left off.
The world where we left it after THE CROWN’S GAME was much more political and while I don’t mind that, I did miss some of that fun and a “challenge” aspect of THE CROWN’S GAME itself (the game, not the book) because it was a fun structure and involved some creativity on the characters’ parts to explore their abilities.
And I still love Pasha. He was very different in this book because of all the political ramifications and situations that he had to deal with so he just wasn’t as much fun but I still loved his spirit.

Okay, so here are the spoilers. While the world felt the same, why why whyyyyy did we have to have Nikolai turn bad?! Nikolai was too pure and sweet and precious and he was my favorite part of the whole darn book, so I was SO SAD to see that his character was essentially removed from the story line since his whole personality changed. I know it was because of REASONS, yes, but still. My favorite part of this story was changed and to boot, that affected the romance too which I wanted to see developed even MORE but that got put on hold because “bad” Nikolai, of course, wasn’t pursuing romance. SIGH. The book was still enjoyable but this changed so many things and took away those little nuances that really had me enjoying the series so much!

I also just wanted more magic…? The magic involved in this book was kind of dark, which is cool, I can appreciate dark magic… But I missed that sparring between Vika and Nikolai so much. I guess I’m just tired of everything ending in war or battles (which is silly considering that this series is also kiiiiind of historical fiction, with magic) so I didn’t really want to see things come to that. I just really loved the structure of the Game itself, which encouraged the enchanters to grow and explore their powers and THE CROWN’S FATE was more of a desperate battle for power or to stop that power, so it lost that magic and that spark that I loved so much. I didn’t feel as enchanted, no pun intended.

I DID appreciate that things didn’t turn out too sunshine-y though. I actually liked what happened to Vika in the end, actually. There has to be something in the events of war because no one comes out wholly unscathed and it’s a great shock to readers when something happens to a main character, even if it’s not a death. I applaud Evelyn Skye for taking it there like so many other authors have avoided. I know it’s hard to have something difficult happen to your characters without a way to “save” them but these things need to be done to keep things realistic or at least not a cheesy happy ending.

When it comes down to it, this was not the ending I was expecting or hoping for the series but I also appreciated how it wrapped up. I think I just wanted more romance and more Nikolai. Always more Nikolai.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical fiction meets magic. I never used to enjoy history or historical fiction so I’ve really been appreciating books that combine it with magical elements! It’s kind of a way for me to catch up on some historical events or at least feelings, even if they are fictionalized and combined with other things.
Left Me Wanting More: Romance. I don’t always need romance in a book but I was so delighted by the relationship between Vika and Nikolai in the first book and things were heading in a great direction… until the end. But then they didn’t really continue in this book!! I almost feel like THE CROWN’S GAME should have been a stand alone in many ways, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t totally love the finale here.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you loved THE CROWN’S GAME, it’s definitely still worth the read! It was different than what I was expecting and I would have loved just a bit more but I also did appreciate so many things still!

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BOOKS LIKE THE CROWN’S GAME

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    GRAVE MERCY

A Million Junes – Emily Henry

A Million Junes – Emily HenryTitle: A Million Junes by Emily Henry
Publishing Info: May 16, 2017 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 17, 2017
Related Posts: The Love That Split the World

For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.

Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.

As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

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** Warning: This review DOES contain spoilers for the book! I will be talking about specifics! ** 

A MILLION JUNES was a very solid sophomore novel from Emily Henry with her debut, THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD, being one of my favorite reads of 2016. I’ve been having a hard time with sequels/sophomore novels lately so it was so refreshing to enjoy this book and get lost in the same sort of writing style that I experienced with THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD.

Emily Henry has a unique story-telling experience and her books are ones in which you totally lose yourself. While THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD was magical realism, it was a also a little bit science-fiction so it was really great to see the same sort of feel and concept with the magical realism aspects but ones that took the stage even more so in A MILLION JUNES. Depending on your view of the book, it’s magical realism meets paranormal and it’s truly a magical experience to read.

Possible spoilers in the rest of the review! No giveaways about specific plot points but things that may be a general spoiler if you want to go in blind to certain aspects of the shape of the book. The thing that I really took from this book the most is the family aspect. It’s not the usual family dynamic or lesson that you see in a lot of books because it approached the topic from a totally different angle. The O’Donnells and the Angerts have been in a feud for at least four generations and after the passing of her father, Jack IV (aka Junior aka June) is left to decide whether she wants to hold that grudge or let it go with her generation. Her mother still holds those feuding values although not as tightly as her father and and June loved her father so much that she had every intention of following in his footsteps until she falls unexpectedly head over heels for youngest Angert, Saul. Without rehashing the whole plot, throughout the book, June is able to experience the memories of her father through the “whites”, which are a sort of wraith or spirit (glowing white, hence the name) and through these memories, she learns a lot about her dad… and not all of it is good. The stories of the past lose shape and take on new ones the more they get told so June learns a lot about her family’s past, spanning back to the first Jack O’Donnell all the way down to her father and his relationship with his family, including June. She realizes that the truth about him and how their family history played out is very different than what she thought it was. It’s especially hard since he passed away when she was eight. She still idealized him and didn’t know some of the darker truths or grittier details and it was shocking to realize that her dad wasn’t as perfect as she thought it was, and I thought this was a really, really great concept to include in the book. It’s so interesting to think of your parents’ history. There are so many things I know about my parents through the stories they tell me of their pasts and childhoods and yet I know that there’s so much more that I don’t know or from which I’ve been shielded. It was really interesting to watch June go through this experience and wonder what exactly I’ve been missing from my own family’s history because it’s not a pretty story to tell. My parents have told me a lot of things throughout the years and I’ve gained a lot of family knowledge as we’ve grown up but it’s so interesting to think of really how much history there would be to learn when experiencing memories first-hand. There are only so many stories that get told and no one wants to constantly tell the negative ones so it was just a really curious thing to think about!

I really loved the connection between June and Saul. I loved the bond that brought them together so fiercely and how it was the requirement that they stay apart that patched their worlds. Their chemistry was excellent and I loved how real their characters felt. Both characters were simply them, not trying to be someone else and not wanting to be, and I could just feel their personalities really come through.

The ending was a little different than I thought it was and sometimes I have trouble when magical realism takes a little turn into a little bit more magical than I expected. There were a few things in the end that crossed over from magical realism into more of a fantasy-type concept so that changed the tone of the book for me a bit and I wasn’t a huge fan but it was still a solid ending to the book.

THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD holds a special place in my heart for the way it made me feel and the books that it reminded me of but A MILLION JUNES is a wonderfully solid novel and great sophomore book from Emily Henry. I’m a big fan of her writing and the atmosphere that she creates in her books and I really am able to feel myself in the story. I’m up for her next adventure and I can’t wait to see what it holds!

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Kept Me Hooked On: The blur between reality and magic. While THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD was magical in a sci-fi way, this was definitely more magic and hedging on the paranormal. There’s still a possible bit of a sci-fi angle but I love the uniqueness of how reality blends with the impossible.
Left Me Wanting More: Structure. I guess structure isn’t the right word, but the ending felt a little too… untethered. I think I just wanted something a bit more concrete and it kind of ventured more into the magic.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I love Emily Henry’s story-telling and this book continued on the great path of bending reality and expanding beliefs.

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BOOKS LIKE A MILLION JUNES

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    BONE GAP

Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) – Jessica Park

Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) – Jessica ParkTitle: Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love #1) by Jessica Park
Publishing Info: May 18, 2011 by Independent
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 29, 2017

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there's that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That's because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie's suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that ... well... doesn't quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

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I picked up FLAT-OUT LOVE in an Audible sale because Julia Whelan is one of my favorite female audiobook narrators and I had seen a lot of positive reactions from my Goodreads friends. I really didn’t know what it was about before I started but I was pleasantly surprised with its content and tone!

FLAT-OUT LOVE was a wonderful mix of serious and sarcasm. Main character Julie ends up moving in with a family friend (and the family that comes with her) after being scammed on an apartment listing for college and ends up staying there throughout the year. The story revolves around the family that Julie moves in with and their delicate balance of affection and stoicism, most noted by 13-year-old Celeste’s attachment to a cardboard cut-out of her older brother Finn, who is away travelling the world. I won’t rehash the whole plot but essentially Julie brings levity and a fresh outlook on life to this family and really breaks through a point where they were all standing still, holding their breath. I loved Julia’s personality and attitude. She brought a light to that house and so much humor, sarcasm, and high spirits. There were plenty of serious moments, as this book is clearly harboring some deep secret with Celeste’s quirks that no one will talk about, but I thought the balance was really well done. If this had been a strictly serious or tragic book, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much.

Every relationship was really well-crafted. Julie is able to connect with each person in the house on a different level, even if it’s not deeply. Julie shakes things up and yes, breaks a few hearts by making them admit the “bad things”, but ultimately is able to show them that standing still is no way to live if you can’t ever move forward. I don’t really know how I feel about the romance because without spoiling anything, it gets complicated on soooo many levels and there’s a level of trust that was broken with me as a reader that I don’t think I could have personally come back from, but Julie is a forgiving soul and of course she wants to make the relationship work because it is quite sweet in its core.

While FLAT-OUT LOVE was a quick and addicting read for me, I really don’t have any interest in its companions. I tried reading FLAT-OUT CELESTE and her voice was just very difficult for me to at least listen to, though I don’t know about reading, and I don’t have an interest in FLAT-OUT MATT since it’s really just the same story but in parts from Matt’s POV. Julie was the best part of the book and without her, the stories don’t really have a draw for me.

I think FLAT-OUT LOVE is a great contemporary read and good book for those who don’t want to shy away from real life but also appreciate some good humor and lightness in times of darkness.

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Kept Me Hooked On: The nitty gritty. I’ve been shying away from the more rough patches of life and have had a strong preference for the light and fluffy. I’m glad I read FLAT-OUT LOVE and that the balance of light and dark was there.
Left Me Wanting More: Honesty. If the family had been able to just tell Julie what their life-changing situation was, there wouldn’t really be a book… so obviously that’s why there’s a secret there, but I wish everyone had just been a bit more honest. I know they didn’t want to talk about the THING but it seemed silly to keep it from the person who was living in your house.

Addiction Rating
Check it out

I actually really enjoyed this one, which surprised me! I loved Julie’s outgoing, sarcastic, and friendly tone.

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BOOKS LIKE FLAT-OUT LOVE

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    MY LIFE NEXT DOOR

Fireworks – Katie Cotugno

Fireworks – Katie CotugnoTitle: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
Publishing Info: April 11, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 1, 2017

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

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Heads up, talking about specifics so there will be SPOILERS.

This book wasn’t quiiiite what I thought it would be and that was okay but there were things that just didn’t quite fit. I liked Dana a lot but it never really felt right for her to be a part of this pop star world. I feel like it would have been a little different if there had been an expressed interest in singing before she took Olivia to her audition. It just felt so off of Dana to even enter the world of singing and show business without even wanting any part of it before she got there. Maybe that’s just me as a big choir nerd not understanding how you can jump into this without a passion for music or performing… I have no idea. Not staying that you HAVE to have experience in order to get into the music industry but trying to think about it as someone who was only a part of choir was overwhelming, not to mention voice lessons, dance lessons, and all of the show biz type stuff that you have to do. I don’t know… I just felt like Dana didn’t belong there, which I guess was the point, but it felt wrong to take that opportunity away from someone else just because she wanted to get out of her town. There are so many people who have that DREAM and while she may have been a natural performer, I don’t know… It just didn’t click for me and I actually was not rooting for her to make it in the industry. It really bothered me throughout the whole book and despite the fact that she was actually putting a great effort forth to grow and listen and perform… I still didn’t think that was the right place for her and I knew it the whole time.
Aside from that, let’s not even tap into the fact that four girls are chosen for this girl group and out of four in the whole country, Dana is selected ALONG WITH her best friend, even when she sings Happy Birthday and… that’s it. No other auditioning process? No other callback? No tests to see if she even knows how to read music or if she’s a good dancer or if she doesn’t have an attitude, etc etc etc?? I 100% understand selecting someone for their star quality but people aren’t selected because of that alone. There has to be something else going there to make someone think they can turn that person into a star and that the work is going to be worth it. They flat-out didn’t see enough of Dana to even know that.

The friend thing bothered me too. One of the reasons I loved Open Road Summer so much was the fact that the best friends were supportive and things didn’t get catty. One was the star, one was not, and it wasn’t a competition. I didn’t like that Olivia sort of abandoned her best friend for the other girls because they had more experience and were, for lack of a better word, cooler than Dana was. I didn’t like that this book pitted the two best friends against each other and then Olivia stabbed Dana in the back!!! Ugh UGH UGH. I couldn’t stand that.

I also just had more hope that this was going to have some more 90s/early 2000s type feelings with all of those shows like Making the Band and Popstars. That was what I immediately went to when I heard the girls were going to audition for a girl group and there were some feelings of it there but I would have loved to get a little more of that feel. There wasn’t much of a time era feel aside from music references, which I would have loved to see more of because HELLO 90s, like the best time ever (ha)! There wasn’t that nostalgia that I had hoped for at all.

There were other feelings I got from this book though, in so many ways. I actually felt a lot of Center Stage because of all of the industry moments and things we got to see that happen in closed-door meetings. People get cut from groups, deals are made, people get stabbed in the back, images are created. I also felt some That Thing You Do! and Selena with some of those musical moments about trying to get your music out there and be heard, so that was a fun feeling.

The book was entertaining but I feel like I had a totally different image going in. FIREWORKS is a cute title for it but the cover is pretty misleading for what the book is about (despite the fact that I love it). Things were not really fun and friendly… they were kind of catty. And the fireworks were a small part of the book although related to kind of a big concept. I feel like it made the book seem so much lighter and easy-going and it was intense show business work!

When it comes down to it, I enjoyed the read and it was quick but I can’t quite give it four stars because I didn’t feel like Dana ever fit into this world and it stuck out to me the whole time. I just felt like everyone was forcing her into that role even though SHE knew it wasn’t the right place for her either, even if she did have that star-quality. It made it hard for me to root for her to succeed because I didn’t feel like even she wanted it.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Not-quite-historical-fiction. I love books set in specific eras that aren’t quite historical fiction since they’re still somewhat current (even though the 80s are now 30 years ago and the 90s are 20 years ago!). It’s fun to have that nostalgia while still peeking into a time frame that I was actually alive and enjoying!
Left Me Wanting More: Fun. This book just wasn’t… fun. The girls were mean to each other, there wasn’t a lot of 90s nostalgia, and it all felt a bit dramatic. I just really was hoping for more a light summer read.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

Some people LOVED this book. It just didn’t work for me. I think I went into it thinking it was something else so I guess it depends on what you’re looking for!

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BOOKS LIKE FIREWORKS

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    THE REECE MALCOLM LIST