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Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss – Kasie West

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss – Kasie WestTitle: Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Publishing Info: February 5, 2019 by HarperCollins
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: February 6, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1), The Distance Between Us, On the Fence, Split Second (Pivot Point #2), The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, By Your Side

Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

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I’m a huge Kasie West fan and all of her books are auto-buys, regardless of my reviews for them. Usually I pre-order and I somehow missed this one so I picked it up on audio so I didn’t have to wait!

FAME, FATE, AND THE FIRST KISS fell a little flat for me. When it came down to it, I felt like none of the characters were really all that likable. I didn’t really like Lacey that much and I didn’t find her character relatable either. I thought she seemed a little unreasonable at times and maybe she was a bit too much of a dreamer for me. While I don’t think an acting career is unrealistic, I had a hard time with how much she wanted to push off the end of high school to continue on her acting career when she could have easily managed both from the way that the book sounded. There were times when I liked her lack of filter and it felt genuine to hear some things pour out of her mouth but other times I felt she was rash and quick to assumptions.

I also just find that I don’t really enjoy books about acting or the movie/TV business. I think the only book that I did enjoy like that was GEEKERELLA and only half of the main characters were actually involved in the biz so it brought something a little different to the book rather than it being the only main narrator. I’m not sure what it is… just not being able to relate? I don’t enjoy the business or behind-the-scenes? But for some reason it just doesn’t hold me.

I also wanted just a bit more chemistry between Lacey and Donovan. I really started feeling it towards the end when they finally had some quiet moments together, allowing themselves to be relaxed and cute. I didn’t enjoy all of the tutoring scenes where it was so frantic on-set and Lacey’s co-stars and friends kept popping in and out.

I also thought the sabotage angle was a little cheesy and made it almost a mystery towards the end. I thought it took away from some of the reality of the book and I would have just loved to see more from the characters and a more character-driven novel. I could have dropped that part of the plot and just enjoyed the romance and character relationships.

Not my favorite Kasie West book by far. I think it’s my least favorite and I’m a little bummed about that. The character cameos were fun but they were from LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST which was also another not-favorite so it wasn’t as exciting.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Cute contemporaries. I always love a light, cute contemporary. This one wasn’t my favorite but it was just the kind of tone I was looking for!
Left Me Wanting More: Character development. I just feel like everyone was so surface-level. I didn’t really like much about any of them and that was really disappointing.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

If this wasn’t Kasie West, I don’t know if I’d recommend it. I didn’t really enjoy it that much and sadly, it may be my least favorite Kasie West book yet. I do love her books so much and would recommend her no matter what, but this one was a miss for me.

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BOOKS LIKE FAME, FATE, AND THE FIRST KISS

             

Love A La Mode – Stephanie Kate Strohm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE LOVE A LA MODE

             

Love, Life, and the List – Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List – Kasie WestTitle: Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West
Publishing Info: December 26, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 5, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1), The Distance Between Us, On the Fence, Split Second (Pivot Point #2), The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, By Your Side

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

Which is where the list comes in.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE LOVE, LIFE, AND THE LIST

             

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lara Jean is having the best senior year.

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

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

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

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

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

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

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

SERIES THOUGHTS

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

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Addiction Rating
Consider them

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

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BOOKS LIKE TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Lucky In Love – Kasie West

Lucky In Love – Kasie WestTitle: Lucky In Love by Kasie West
Publishing Info: July 25, 2017 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: June 4 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1), The Distance Between Us, On the Fence, Split Second (Pivot Point #2), The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, By Your Side

Can’t buy me love…

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

She wins!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE LUCKY IN LOVE

              

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

              

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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BOOKS LIKE FAR FROM THE TREE

              

Alex, Approximately – Jenn Bennett

Alex, Approximately – Jenn BennettTitle: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
Publishing Info: April 4, 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: February 23, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Starry Eyes

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

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I had heard so many good things about ALEX, APPROXIMATELY and I had been wanting to read it for a long time! Not able to read as many print copies as I would like, I started binge-reading audiobooks and it was finally time to read this one when I found an audio version from Hoopla! (Bless you, Hoopla.)

This book was really cute! I also recently read STARRY EYES from Jenn Bennett and I just love there realistic situations and characters that she captures in her books. There were so many realistic family and relationship moments that I really connected with and that felt very true in so many ways. I also had so much fun with the romance from start to finish! I knew what was happening with Mink/Alex/Bailey/Porter as soon as it started to unfold (although I don’t think that it was really secret to the readers) and I was totally there for that!

There was a little bit that just didn’t have me 100% in love with the book and I think at times it was just a little over-the-top, but just barely. Some parts were a little too dramatic for my tastes but really most of it was so incredibly realistic and I was easily able to connect with all of the characters, even the secondary ones. I loved the supporting cast of friends and family and they really added so much to the book, which is always something that I love.

I really enjoyed this book a lot and it lived up to the hype! I’m so glad that I finally got around to reading it, and it also led me straight into STARRY EYES, both of which have kicked off my new-found love for Jenn Bennett!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Realistic fiction. I kind of shy away from contemporary sometimes, depending on the content and author, and this was fun and refreshing!
Left Me Wanting More: Maturity. Yes, yes, it’s young adult, I know. There were just a coooouple teen drama moments that were irksome but I guess that is really true to the teenage years! I just forget about them because I never felt like I was that dramatic. (I totally was.)

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I really, really enjoyed this book and there was a lot to swoon about! I’ve become an instant fan of Jenn Bennett and I can’t wait to read more!

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BOOKS LIKE ALEX, APPROXIMATELY

              

Together at Midnight – Jennifer Castle

Together at Midnight – Jennifer CastleTitle: Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle
Publishing Info: January 22, 2018 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: March 1, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

What does it really mean to be kind . . . and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do? High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season. Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets.

Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?

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So when I first added this book to my TBR, the synopsis for this book was… not this. I thought this was cute and fluffy and feel-good and I still had that impression in my mind before I started reading it. I don’t usually got back and read synopses before I start a book because sometimes things are updated that include the most mild of spoilers and I really like going into books relatively blind, so it would have been helpful if I had gone back, but then I also probably wouldn’t have read it. It’s not a heavy book per se but it’s also not light and fluffy, so I was super surprised to hear about the accident (not a spoiler, or well, I guess it’s not a spoiler if you read the synopsis (unlike me)) and how much it set things into motion.

The book was interesting and it was very good and despite not realizing what it was supposed to be about when I started it, I still didn’t connect to it as much as I thought. I really did appreciate the reality and diversity represented in a lot of different ways. The characters had a lot of depth in that respect but I still didn’t quite connect to their personalities like I had hoped. They were fine characters but I had a hard time finding a depth that I connected with and sometimes it felt like they were more characters than having me believe that they were real people, breaking that story feel and heading into that soul connection.

As much as I liked all of the realistic situations, the storyline just wasn’t something that I was really interested in reading, or at least at this point in time. I was torn with the little asides to the people that the characters helped with the RAKs. I thought it was neat to see how those acts of kindness really affected people in ways that we don’t really know and yet it also felt like it took me out of the story and didn’t quite fit.

This is a weird rating for me because there actually were a lot of things that I liked about the writing and the style and yet there were also things that threw me in those same areas. It was a good book but still not a book that really hit the spot for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Realistic fiction. I tend to stick towards light and happy for realistic/contemporary so I probably wouldn’t have picked this up otherwise, but I’m glad I read it.
Left Me Wanting More: Connection. I’m writing this review several months later and I just feel so disconnected from this book.

Addiction Rating
Consider it

This book really wasn’t for me but a lot of my friends have given it a solid four stars. It wasn’t that it wasn’t a good book for me but it just wasn’t something I was into.

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BOOKS LIKE TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT

          

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) – Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) – Alison GoodmanTitle: The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1) by Alison Goodman
Publishing Info: January 26, 2016 by Penguin
Source: Audible, Gift
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Date Completed: February 21, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

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I had heard a lot about THE DARK DAYS CLUB and seen it around many places and actually didn’t pick it up until I had read a little bit more about it. Demon hunting in the regency era? Heck yeah that sounded interesting, so I grabbed this book in an Audible sale!

THE DARK DAYS CLUB started off interesting for me and then quickly hit a really big stall. It was such a weird read for me. I knew what I was getting into and yet the pacing really took me by surprise. For the first 100+ pages, really nothing happened. There was a lot of set-up but not even the demon-hunting side of things. There was a lot of Regency Era story and set-up but honestly, that wasn’t why I picked up the book so I really wasn’t interested without the demon-hunting part.

Things really did finally start to pick up around 40% and I really did end up enjoying the end. I was hoping more would happen throughout the course of the book but it finally did hit its stride and I surprisingly do want to continue the series. I almost DNFed this book, actually, with so little taking place at the beginning but now that things have been established, I actually am looking forward to seeing what else happens.

I’m still  little hung up on the fact that it felt really slow to me so although I enjoyed the ending, I’m not sure when I might continue on in the series. I liked where things were going and yet writing this review quite a bit after finishing, I don’t really feel that pull to keep going.

I’m also not really sure about the love triangle here… but it did give me feels on both sides. I have a lot of thoughts. I didn’t really think it was necessary to throw in there and one part of it seemed odd to me. I guess all of these factors combined may have me skipping the rest of the series.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Regency era. I really don’t read a lot of historical fiction or paranormal/urban fantasy period books so this was interesting! I don’t think it’s my favorite time to read about but it was fun.
Left Me Wanting More: Action. This book did have some good action but the beginning and middle just really dragged. I actually wanted fewer pages instead of more of something.

Addiction Rating
Consider it

This is highly rated by many of my friends but it didn’t quite do it for me. It was an interesting read but I struggled with it in more than one way. Something for which you might want to check out reviews!

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BOOKS LIKE THE DARK DAYS CLUB