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Far From the Tree – Robin Benway

Far From the Tree – Robin BenwayTitle: Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Publishing Info: October 3, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: May 9, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: Also Known As, Going Rogue (Also Known As #2), Emmy & Oliver

A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

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I’m really glad I read FAR FROM THE TREE because this was such a lovely book. I’ve been skirting away from more “serious” contemporary fiction lately but I love Robin Benway’s books and I already knew from EMMY & OLIVER that I enjoyed her more realistic fiction style as well as cute, quirky spies.

I’m really glad I didn’t skip this book because of its serious content. Too often with tough, sensitive, or emotional subjects, I’m just not in the mood or the place mentally to take those on in book form or the writing ends up being a little too much for me, so I loved how Robin Benway crafted this story. It is a serious book but it’s written beautifully and the characters really shine and carry this book. Not every book dealing with real life topics have to have characters who are solemn and I loved the sarcasm and slight comic relief that still came through from some of these characters. Robin Benway really does a great job at making sure her characters are well-rounded and that they come off as real people and not just a character in a book and I really loved that in FAR FROM THE TREE.

I also really enjoyed the three different POVs that shared three different experiences with adoption, family, and just life in general. Each character was so well-rounded, different, and really well represented. I really appreciated each situation and their respective hurdles and hardships and I’m glad that readers got to see each situation from that character’s perspective. It wouldn’t have been the same to have one narrator sharing this experience as an observer and I love that we got to see all three siblings in their own voices.

The ending was just perfect also. It wasn’t a book that needed a fairy tale happy ending, but it was a great way to wrap up this adventure and it just felt right. It wasn’t too sad and it wasn’t overly, cheesily happy. I really appreciated and enjoyed the writing and whether Robin Benway is writing a fun spy novel or a serious realistic story, I’m here for it!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Realistic fiction. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book specifically about adoption — it’s usually used as a twist or point of sadness in a book — and I really liked how it was accurately portrayed in three distinct ways here.
Left Me Wanting More: History. I don’t feel like this book was missing anything, really, but I also would have enjoyed getting to know even more about each family. 

Addiction Rating
Read it

I thought this book was very well done and it was a great representation of the adoption process on so many levels and all of the things that go into that decision.

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Emmy & Oliver – Robin Benway

Emmy & Oliver – Robin BenwayTitle: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Publishing Info: June 23, 2015 by HarperCollins
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: May 15, 2015
Related Posts: Also Known As, Going Rogue (Also Known As #2), Far From the Tree

    Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?
Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.
She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.
Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.
He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.
Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

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EMMY & OLIVER was a truly magical book. I had expected to love it since I just adored the two previous Robin Benway novels I’ve read (ALSO KNOWN AS and its sequel GOING ROGUE) but since those two books were a bit more light and just plain fun, I wasn’t sure what to really expect from a more serious novel. Long story short, it was absolutely fantastic in so many ways.

EMMY & OLIVER was a perfect blend of really just about everything. I had mentioned that I wasn’t quite sure what the overall tone would be and that’s still hard to answer after reading the book because it’s honestly a mix and I think that’s what I loved about it. The book just felt like real life. These characters had some pretty rough lows and also some fantastically amazing times. I went from laughing out loud to ugly crying. The range of emotions captured was truly impressive and really allowed me to get to know each character in depth.

The blend of action and character development was wonderful as well. I felt relief, suspense, tension, tenderness, swoony, happy, surprised… The general concept as well as the progression of the plot always kept me hooked, wondering where these characters would be when the book came to a close. Once I was halfway through, I just really couldn’t put the book down! The characters had my heart aching and fluttering and racing. Emmy and Oliver had great chemistry and it was so incredibly interesting to see them reunite in this book and try to fill in the missing years.

The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the interlude chapters that give us an insight to Emmy & Oliver’s past before he disappeared. I wouldn’t have minded information in flashback form but these chapters switching POV (from first person to third) and were also from very young Emmy & Oliver’s POV. It’s not something I speak about often, but I have a very hard time with young voices in books (usually it’s in the form of a character’s sibling) because it always feels out of place and never quite seems realistic. I also think they disrupted the flow of the book and each time one reappeared, I was bummed out about it. I think that could have been incorporated into the dialogue somehow to avoid the flashbacks… but all of this is definitely more of a personal thing though so take it with a grain of salt!

I honestly can’t say enough good things about this book and how it made me feel. Trying to put it into words seems near impossible because I’m pretty terrible at translating those thoughts into a review when a book has really captured my heart. I’m sure Robin Benway’s fans will be picking this one up as soon as it hits the shelves (or before) but if you haven’t read her books before, this is also an excellent place to start!

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

emmy & oliver gr updates

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Emmy // Character Obsessions: Surfing, college, friends, family.
I saw a lot of myself in Emmy. I can definitely understand hiding things from your parents because you’re “sure” they won’t approve. I mean, some things I knew they wouldn’t but others I didn’t even try for fear they’d say no and I probably missed out on a lot. But I also did love that Emmy had a good relationship with her parents too, even though they were a bit over protective.
Oliver // Character Obsessions: Catching up, reassessing, friendship, normalcy
My heart ached for Oliver. It’s one thing to put yourself in a position that’s hard to bounce back from but his whole life got turned upside down — twice — because of the decisions that his father made. It was so hard to watch him come back to his “normal” life again and deal with someone else’s decisions for him. But I also really admired him for the way that he handled everything!!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Awesome parents. Okay, well Oliver’s parents weren’t quite awesome… But I really love how Robin Benway keeps a good set of parents in her books! Emmy’s parents were a bit over-enthusiastic about her safety, let’s say, but they’re just trying to keep her safe. Despite the overprotectiveness, she really does have a good relationship with them and I was so happy to see those positive interactions! I really teared up a couple times with some exchanges between Emmy and her dad. Loved him.
Left Me Wanting More: Present-day action. I guess that’s the best way to put it. Really, the only thing I didn’t care for in the book were the flashbacks because I just didn’t like the way they were handled, unfortunately!

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

I just adored this book from start to finish. It left me with so many feelings all over the place and it was a great mix of light and dark, happy and sad, character and plot.

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BOOKS LIKE EMMY & OLIVER

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING     ON THE FENCE

Going Rogue (Also Known As #2) – Robin Benway

Going Rogue (Also Known As #2) – Robin BenwayTitle: Going Rogue (Also Known As #2) by Robin Benway
Publishing Info: January 14, 2014 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: December 19, 2013
Related Posts: Also Known As, Emmy & Oliver, Far From the Tree

    Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver.
    Pros: More quality time with her former mark-turned-boyfriend Jesse Oliver and insanely cool best friend, Roux.
Getting to spend quality time with her semi-retired and international spy honorary uncle, Angelo.
    Cons: High school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.
But when Maggie's parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safecracking skills to try and clear their names.
Too bad it only serves to put her and everyone she loves in danger. Maggie and her "new team" flee to Paris where they must come up with a plan to defeat their former allies.

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I know that Robin Benway hadn’t always planned on writing a sequel to ALSO KNOWN AS but boy am I glad she did! GOING ROGUE was just a perfect sequel in every way: I got more of the characters I love, more action, more adventure, and thicker plots.

One thing I always fear about sequels is that if it’s been a while since I’ve read book one, I tend to forget some of what happened and even some of the characters, but Robin Benway did such a fantastic job with ALSO KNOWN AS that it was so easy to jump back into the lives of these characters right where we left off. These characters have made a lasting impression on me and reading even more about them in GOING ROGUE just further solidified their place in my heart. I love Maggie, of course, but Robin Benway does such a great job with her supporting characters and we even get a little bit more backstory about Maggie’s parents as well! The characters just feel so real and it made me that much more invested in the story!

GOING ROGUE really stepped it up from ALSO KNOWN AS. I was already in love with AKA, but we see a lot more action and heist and spy terms, we get a little bit more Jason Bourne to go with the already established Ocean’s 11. Spying is a dangerous job and we see a lot more of the perilous side in GOING ROGUE which may have led to some gasping and screaming on my side. Aside from my fear and concerns for the characters, I was so excited to see the level of action that occurs in GOING ROGUE and I’m glad we got to see totally different situations than we had in book one! I really wasn’t expecting it, but in a good way! I was surprised by how different this book was and it definitely keeps up the witty dialogue of ALSO KNOWN AS with an added bonus of more thrills!

I know I’ve already talked about the characters but seriously. Maggie. Roux. Jesse. ANGELO. How much did my love for Angelo grow in this book!? (Spoiler: A lot.) I know everyone loves Roux (and I do too) but Angelo has always been my favorite. I was also really excited to learn more about Maggie’s parents as we dig deeper into the Collective! We get a lot more backstory for both the characters themselves and how that ties into their history with the Collective and the new characters we meet are just as delightful!

Fans of ALSO KNOWN AS will not be disappointed with its sequel. It had made for a wonderful stand alone but I’m so happy its sequel came into existence (Thank you, Robin Benway!!!) and I’m hoping there will be more books in this series because I could honestly gobble them up forever! I guess that means I’ll just have to start onto Robin’s other books (Right? How have I not already??) to hold me over until then!

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Maggie // Character Obsessions: Cracking safes, working on the impossible lock, protecting her family, taking down the bad guys.
I’ve always love Maggie’s spunk and we get another healthy dose of it in GOING ROGUE! She also starts to mature a lot more — in her relationship with Jesse, in her friendship with Roux, her protectiveness of her family, and her responsibilities to keep everyone safe. Maggie has a lot on her plate and she’s learning how tough it can be to balance everything and still maintain the secrecy of her nature as a spy.
Angelo // Character Obsessions: Secrecy, protecting Maggie’s family & friends, being a total badass.
Angelo is such a badass. He has this quiet calm, always keeping a level head and totally TCBing without anyone even knowing where he is or what he’s doing. I love when the quiet characters totally step into a take-charge role to protect someone and not giving any spoilers away or anything, but Angelo will go to great lengths to protect the ones he loves, no matter what that means. If I were the Grinch, Angelo is the one who makes my heart grow three sizes. I wish I knew him in real life.
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Kept Me Hooked On: All things Robin Benway! I absolutely MUST devour the rest of her books this year! I love her writing, both the contemporary/funny/witty side and the spy/heist/caper side! I know her other books are more strictly contemporary but I’ve heard NUMEROUS great things about them and I seriously need to read them in 2014!
Left Me Wanting More: Of this series. I need more Maggie, more Roux, more Angelo. I need more safe cracking, lock picking, and spying. I need more sticky situations and international espionage. I just adored both ALSO KNOWN AS and GOING ROGUE!

Addiction Rating
BUY IT!

This one’s a keeper! Buy GOING ROGUE (and if you don’t have it already, pick up ALSO KNOWN AS too!) for your shelves. These books are so much fun and I love everything about this series.

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BOOKS LIKE GOING ROGUE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          Heist Society   How to Lead a Life of Crime

Also Known As (Also Known As #1) – Robin Benway

Also Known As (Also Known As #1) – Robin BenwayTitle: Also Known As by Robin Benway
Publishing Info: February 26, 2013 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: Netgalley
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: March 25, 2013
Related Posts: Going Rogue (Also Known As #2), Emmy & Oliver, Far From the Tree

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She'll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school's security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.

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ALSO KNOWN AS was my first Robin Benway book and SHAME ON ME for waiting so long! I know you guys are all raving over AUDREY, WAIT! (which I own now, but still haven’t read yet) and praised Robin’s wit and delightful characters. NOW I GET IT. This book was flat out hilarious — jokes, sarcasm, banter — ALSO KNOWN AS had it all. I was literally laughing out loud reading this book and now I can’t wait to go read more of Robin Benway’s books!

AKA

ALSO KNOWN AS, as you probably know, is about Maggie — a sixteen year-old-spy who gets her very first solo assignment. Maggie is clearly the highlight of this book. Her personality and sense of humor make the reader feel at ease and really invested in her story as well. I instantly wanted to be BFFs with Maggie and so I was right by her side as she went through wacky hijinks, flustering friendships, and her very first kiss.

We’re talking about spies here, so you know there are going to be some twists and turns! I actually did NOT see the twist coming. I had written it off as a cute but simple story. Turns out, ALSO KNOWN AS has a few more layers than I anticipated! The only complaint I can make about the plot is that I wish a few more twists had been introduced earlier on to gather just a little more excitement. I was totally invested in the story already, but that extra little twist would have added the “knock-me-off-my-feet” aspect to the book for me!

All of the characters were pretty amazing and stood on their own two feet. Each one had a big personality and leapt off the page! Obviously we know I love Maggie (duh) but I also liked her friend Roux (okay, she was a tad much at times, but that was the whole point), her love interest/assignment Jesse Oliver, her clueless-on-how-to-raise-a-real-teenager parents, and her almost mentor/family friend Angelo. I adored Maggie’s relationship with Angelo. He’s a great person for her to turn to when she needs to step away from her parents, away from her friends/assignment/distractions and get an honest yet gentle answer. He’s always calm and very wise.

ALSO KNOWN AS was a very quick read, but in a good way. I didn’t want to put it down! It was filled with everything I love: humor, suspense, romance, awesome characters, and a twist to keep me guessing. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun read and I cannot wait to read AUDREY, WAIT! and more from Robin Benway!

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MAGGIE: Maggie was a hoot. I loved hearing her story as well as her direct speech to the reader. It’s so much fun when I feel like the characters are talking to me (if it’s pulled off well — And of course Robin Benway knows how to create a very personable narrator). I immediately wanted to be friends with her and wished she was a real person because I know she’d be a blast to hang out with!
JESSE: Jesse was a pretty great match for Maggie. I LOVED that he accepted her for all her wackiness and that’s why he ended up liking her. Nothing like loving a girl for the way she is!! He got a little silly himself at times and it made my heart melt! I love fun & spontaneous things like that!
ANGELO: I loved Angelo as Maggie’s mentor! Welll, I’m calling him a mentor. Really, he’s a family friend and a great resource/shoulder to lean on (or cry on) when Maggie has no one else to turn to. He was definitely one of my favorite characters…. Although really, they all were pretty great!

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BUY IT!

This book was soooo much fun. I absolutely loved Maggie and I loved the comedy involved, keeping everything light. Absolutely delightful book.

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     Heist Society      Going Vintage