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Love & Luck – Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Luck – Jenna Evans WelchTitle: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Publishing Info: May 18, 2018 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: August 27, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way.

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Sadly I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I was with LOVE & GELATO, but it was still an enjoyable read. There were a lot of things I did appreciate but I didn’t really love how the book was put together, so let’s start with the nice things first.

I really loved the family aspect of the book. I don’t know why but I always love a story about a girl with brothers (I don’t have any of my own but I love reading about this sibling dynamic) and it was great to see Addie’s close relationship with her closest brother Ian as well as how she got along with her other two brothers. I also love that her Dad was still around and he didn’t have to be killed off or anything for him not to be a part of this story (he just didn’t want to be on the trip). I also really loved the parental relationship with Addie’s mom being a fierce and strong woman while still being incredibly caring. She didn’t have to be one thing or the other and I loved her relationship with her children.

I also really, really appreciated the “love story” here. I put it in quotes because the end result of two characters being together really isn’t the focus of the book at all — it’s more of a happy side effect of the whole experience and I kind of loved that it wasn’t all about falling in love because that’s not everyone’s story. The romance was quiet, cute, and perfect for the situation and I loved how that developed.

Then at the same time, I felt like not a lot happened that pulled me into the story. One thing that really bothered me is there’s the THING that happened to Addie that’s so appalling that she can’t tell her mom and has also affected her relationship with her brother but the reader doesn’t get to know until the book is over halfway over. It wasn’t like LOVE & GELATO where Lena was taking her time to legitimately figure out a mystery. This was just information that was being withheld and it was frustrating to constantly have that reference and no one was able to talk about it. There wasn’t really a good reason why the reader needed to be kept in the dark about the incident as it had no real affect on the story.

I guess I’m also not really one for traveling stories which was a lot of what this book was. There was a lot of traveling and most of the drama was just things that happened to prevent the characters from moving forward, so it felt like some of the only plot devices were creating physical road blocks, essentially. It wasn’t a bad thing but it wasn’t something I enjoyed.

I also did really enjoy the crossover appearance of Lena and Ren because I hadn’t realized that this was a companion of sorts (or just set in the same setting) so I thought that was really fun to tie the two books into each other! I wonder if we’ll get more with other characters. I’d love to see something with one of the brothers.

Jenna Evans Welch is still an instant read author for me and I can’t wait to see what her next “LOVE” book will be! I do love the wanderlust aspects of all of these books and I’m excited for my next reading escape with her next release!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Ireland! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that took place in Ireland! It was really great to be able to sort of experience the country through this book and the characters’ experiences.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot movement. I felt like there were too many physical road blocks and there was just so much that prevented the plot from moving forward. I would have loved to see more character-driven things to push that long.

Addiction Rating
Read it

Even though I didn’t totally love this one, I did still appreciate a lot about it and I really liked the family dynamic here! I love these wanderlust feels and I’m definitely reading more from Jenna Evans Welch!

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BOOKS LIKE LOVE & LUCK

             

Squad – Mariah MacCarthy

Squad – Mariah MacCarthyTitle: Squad by Mariah MacCarthy
Publishing Info: March 12, 2019 by Macmillan
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 7, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

This darkly comic debut novel by an award-winning playwright is like Mean Girls meets Heathers with a splash of Bring it On.

Jenna Watson is a cheerleader. But it’s not some Hollywood crap. Cheerleaders are not every guy’s fantasy; they are not the “popular girls” or the “mean girls” of Marsen High School. They’re too busy for that. They're literally just some human females trying to live their lives and do a perfect toe touch. But that all changed after Raejean stopped talking to Jenna and started hanging out with Meghan Finnegan. Jenna stopped getting invited out with the rest of the squad and she couldn’t tell if it was on purpose or if it was all in her head.

At times heartbreaking, at others hilarious, Squad follows Jenna through her attempts to get revenge on Raejean and invent a new post-cheer life for herself through LARPING (live action role-playing) and a relationship with a trans guy that feels like love—but isn't. In the, end Jenna discovers that who she is is not defined by which squad she's in.

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** This review contains very mild spoilers for the book. **

SQUAD was a very quick and interesting read! There was a lot to appreciate here from diverse characters, sibling friendships, transitioning friend groups, and even a bit of geek appreciation. What I didn’t love was that it kind of lacked direction in terms of tone and seemed to wander around a bit, and the plot followed suit in some places.

Overall, SQUAD is about Jenna and how her life completely changes when her friends start alienating her, consequently affecting her best friendship and even further so, affecting her position on the cheerleading squad. I appreciated the difficulties that Jenna went through with her best friend and how quickly friendships can change in high school (and college and adulthood). I’ve been in a situation where a “former friend” has dropped nearly all forms of communication for what seems to be no reason so I could see how it could drive you to be a little obsessed with the confusion of it all. I also liked how Jenna finally started to really think about what she wanted (after going through the stages of grief, essentially) and how she treated other people as well. She wasn’t a total victim and she wasn’t totally innocent either. I also liked how even though she quit the cheer squad, she still held onto the fact that she liked dancing and cheering and how much that made her happy. The cliquey group dynamic was something that turned her off so it wasn’t enough to keep the love of cheering to stay on the squad.

What really threw me off was that I had no idea what this book was even supposed to be when I started it. The back cover contained some of the text from the beginning and it was a little misleading to start with a sentence like “I just woke up one morning and forgot how to do everything.” With all the possibilities of YA books out there, it was entirely possible that Jenna literally woke up and forgot how to do everything and this was maybe a sci-fi/paranormal kind of book. I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be something like that or if it was supposed to be just a contemporary novel. Then there was the Goodreads synopsis which called it a “darkly comic debut novel”, comparing to Mean Girls and Heathers with a splash of Bring it On. I didn’t really feel like it was comic at all. It was nearly entirely serious and I’m not sure how this was supposed to be a funny book. It certainly had its darker moments as Jenna loses her friends, falls into a depression, and explores who she is but I didn’t feel like it was a fun, campy experience like the movies mentioned above. These two things really set me up for something totally different and the actual contents of the novel just weren’t what I was expecting.

The writing style was also a bit hard for me as well. It worked out all right, being a shorter audiobook read (it was only 5+ hours long and I listen at 2x speed so with my pauses to do things here and there, I finished in about three hours) but if it was something longer, I don’t know if I would have stuck with it. Especially in the audiobook version (which is narrated by the author, Mariah MacCarthy (awesome!)), it felt like one long stream of consciousness. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue in the beginning but more did develop throughout. Maybe if I had been reading a print version, that would have felt a little different BUT since the author narrated the audiobook, I also take the tone as they read it since they’re the person who wrote the book! That’s something I love about “authorators”. I always feel like we’re skipping one interpretation from author to narrator to listener and I get a more “straight forward” experience! That being said, I would have loved to see just a bit more development in the writing so it felt a little less like a stream of consciousness.

While I enjoyed the overall plot of the book, it seemed to just sort of dart off into different places. There were natural transitions but for some reason it didn’t really seem to flow. I did like the change from cheer squad to geek squad as Jenna starts to hang out with her brother and his friends and actually goes LARPing with them. It reminded me a lot of a favorite, THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD by Leah Rae Miller.

There was a lot of good things within the pages of SQUAD but I still had some issues that kept me from falling into the story. It was a quick read for me but I think stylistically, I just didn’t click with it as much as I had hoped and confusing marketing was a little bit of an issue for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Evolving friendships. I really liked seeing Jenna find new friend groups and letting go of those who were treating her poorly. It took her a while to get to that point but I kind of like that she eventually took care of herself instead of trying to stick with the old group just because they were here original friends.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot flow. It didn’t flow poorly but things felt a little… clumpy. I just didn’t quite feel the natural transitions.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I think it would have helped a little bit more understanding the tone of the book better. I was expecting something a little different, but even knowing that, I still would have enjoyed it just a little bit more with a little better flow to the book. It was still a really good story though and a good read!

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BOOKS LIKE SQUAD

             

Serious Moonlight – Jenn Bennet

Serious Moonlight – Jenn BennetTitle: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Publishing Info: April 16, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 3, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Starry Eyes, Alex, Approximately

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

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This was such a fun read and another great story from Jenn Bennett! She has such a way of making her characters into real people and I absolutely adore the families included in each book as well. I feel like each of her books contains a different family dynamic and it’s so great to read. I also want to take the time to appreciate the cover and how the characters are actually portrayed as they’re described in the book! Daniel even has a ponytail (something I don’t even think I noticed until I read the book) and I always love to see the cover actually match the character descriptions.

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT was just a really great book. I really enjoyed getting to know Birdie and her love of mysteries as well as getting to know what it’s like to live with narcolepsy. That was another great addition to the story to bring narcolepsy into the minds of Jenn Bennett’s readers which probably isn’t something that a lot of people consider. I really appreciated getting to know more about it and I also liked how the characters handled what Birdie was going through. Even if they weren’t the “right” decisions, they all felt really realistic. It’s hard to address a medical issue sometimes and you don’t want to admit something is wrong if you don’t have to, and I’m sure many of us have gone through that mindset of thinking in our own ways, so I could totally relate to that.

The romance was also very cute and something you don’t see a lot of in young adult! I kind of liked that Birdie and Daniel started off with a physical relationship (or I guess encounter, since they then had to decide if they wanted a relationship) and that for once a YA book that started with sex wasn’t about being pregnant. I liked that she had a supportive maternal figure (Mona, friend of the family who was like an aunt and helped raise her) that she could talk to about it and she had some really positive support. I also kind of liked the absence of a best friend in this book and that Mona was kind of like Birdie’s best friend. It made for a more interesting relationship between the two of them and I like eliminating the possibility of that friend fight that almost always happens in YA novels (because it almost always happens in real life). It was just a great way to sort of break that mold that so many books repeat, just because it is so relatable, but Jenn Bennett brought a new relationship to the pages of this book and a different sort of friendship.

Jenn Bennett is definitely an auto-buy author for me and I really enjoyed SERIOUS MOONLIGHT! I’ve enjoyed every one of her books that I’ve read so far and each one really has a unique story with a great variety of characters and situations.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique families. I love seeing different, unique, and realistic families represented! I love seeing these special relationships and different types of families being included.
Left Me Wanting More: Chemistry. I really did like the relationship here but I think if I had (personally) felt a liiiittle more chemistry, it would have been even more wonderful!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

Jenn Bennett is definitely an auto-buy author for me and I’ve enjoyed all of her books that I’ve read so far! SERIOUS MOONLIGHT was a great addition to her contemporary collection and I can’t wait to read even more!

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BOOKS LIKE SERIOUS MOONLIGHT

             

Listen to Your Heart – Kasie West

Listen to Your Heart – Kasie WestTitle: Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West
Publishing Info: May 29, 2018 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 10, 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

Talking to other people isn't Kate Bailey's favorite activity. She'd much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school's podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she'll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate's surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend ... until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West's adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.

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I’m a big Kasie West fan and she’s definitely an auto-read/auto-buy author for me! LISTEN TO YOUR HEART was another fun, cute, classic Kasie West book but sadly, this isn’t my favorite Kasie West novel. I just didn’t connect with the set-up the way I had hoped and I didn’t feel the chemistry of the characters. Kate fell a little flat for me and I’ve seen better main characters from Kasie West before, so knowing what else I’ve read, she just didn’t bring that vibrance to the page that other characters have.

The podcast concept was really cute and I liked the modern Sleepless in Seattle sort of feel, but I thought the author could have played up the calls in a little bit more, adding more to the fun podcast concept and feel. I really didn’t like the misdirection and best friend conflict, though I did really appreciate the friendship and how the girls didn’t have to be enemies or get in a fight.

I also REALLY enjoyed the setting. Kate and her family live in a “lake town” and she lives for her time out on the lake. I absolutely loved the feeling it gave me and made me anxious for camping, outdoors, and summertime!

Overall, LISTEN TO YOUR HEAR was still a cute novel but didn’t hit my feels the way other Kasie West books have. I wish there was more that would have stood out to me but I didn’t love this one as much as I wanted to.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Outdoor summer stories. This wasn’t really ABOUT being outdoors but I loved Kate’s connections to the lake and I’d love to read more stories about people in nature!
Left Me Wanting More: Connection. I wish I connected with it more somehow! It was a cute novel but I felt like it could have used a lot more depth.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I always enjoy Kasie’s novels and there are a lot of mixed reviews! Some people were on the fence (no pun intended (that’s one of her book titles…)) and others absolutely loved it! It’s worth the read.

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BOOKS LIKE LISTEN TO YOUR HEART

             

Love & Gelato – Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Gelato – Jenna Evans WelchTitle: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Publishing Info: May 3, 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Book Outlet
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 7, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

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This was such a great and wonderful for summertime or really any time someone might be looking for a cute contemporary novel! I really enjoyed the whole book from inspiration to romance and even a little mystery. The Italian setting was gorgeous and made me really want to visit Italy and I truly loved all of the characters too!

I was a little worried when the book started out with grief after Lina lost her mother because I generally like to stay away from books surrounding grief and death as of late, but of course it’s a normal part of life so it still has its place in a cute contemporary novel, keeping the reality in the novel. I actually thought it was a nice balance to the romance and kept some things grounded when the romance was sitting around Italy! It also ended up being a vital part of the little mystery of the book too as Lina follows her mother’s journal to try to find clues about her life.

I really loved all of the characters in this book and everything about LOVE & GELATO made me feel like I could leap right into the pages and join the novel. I could easily picture the Italian setting and imagine this book as a cute movie. Each one of the characters felt like a real person and invite the readers into the story. It was such a natural thing to follow them on this adventure and I was really able to lose myself in the story.

I had a lot of fun reading LOVE & GELATO and there was just something about this book that I really connected with. It instantly made Jenna Evans Welch an instant read author for me and I’m so excited to continue to read her works!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Travel stories. I really loved the setting in Italy! It made me feel like I was there and it was a fun way to travel without traveling (though it made me want to).
Left Me Wanting More: Cutesy moments. I actually really liked the romance but I was expecting the book to be a little more “cutesy” and a little less serious. I still loved it but I can always do with some more cute times.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I really enjoyed this one! Something about it just made Jenna Evans Welch and instant read author for me and I can’t wait to read more!

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BOOKS LIKE LOVE & GELATO

             

Review in a Tweet | Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

REVIEW IN A TWEET is a feature that I need from time to time when I don’t have a ton to say in a review. Sometimes even mini-reviews are too long to write when you finished a book months ago and didn’t write a single note down on Goodreads. But the good news is that I started tweeting and saving very, very mini book reviews!

Today’s Review in a Tweet is actually more of a book review that could fit in a tweet instead of actually tweeting it… Oops! I haven’t been on Twitter much lately because frankly, it’s not a place I enjoy much anymore so I often forget to post. I miss the fun and interaction I used to have there but I’ve felt like it’s become much too negative for me to enjoy it anymore so I’ve been sticking to Instagram recently, but I did like this quick and easy review format where I still get to share feelings about a book without a full review write-up!

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING had been on my radar for a long time, but the concept of it wasn’t really something I was interested in jumping into right away. I finally picked it up before creating a contemporary-inspired candle box because I like to read all of the books for which I create candles and other items, so I wanted to give EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING a try. I thought it was going to be much heavier than it was and I was afraid of really feeling sad or heartbroken, but instead it had a fun romance, a good message, and even a twist! Here were my initial reactions to reading it that could probably fit in a long tweet:

That was a lot different than I thought it would be and I really enjoyed it! I liked how the story developed, I really enjoyed the characters, and there was even a twist I didn’t see coming. There was a lot to appreciate here and I was afraid it would be sad or dramatic, but it was very realistic and down-to-earth. Quite a solid read!

So there you have it! Not the most exciting book review, but I really wanted to share my thoughts on it regardless. I’ve been moving away from a lot of serious/sad contemporary or realistic novels and things having to do with disease or dying just aren’t what I’ve been in the mood for, as real-life as they may be, so I’m definitely glad I still read this one!

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!)