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Looking for Alaska – John Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

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

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BOOKS LIKE LOOKING FOR ALASKA

          

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour – Morgan Matson

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour – Morgan MatsonTitle: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Publishing Info: May 4, 2010 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: July 28, 2017
Related Posts: Since You've Been Gone

Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it's Amy's responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn't ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip - and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar - especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory - but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.

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I’ve actually only read one other Morgan Matson book so far (SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE) and I’ve found her writing to be fun, enjoyable, a true to real life. I basically have all of her books on my TBR so when this book came up in an Audible sale, it was a quick pick for me and I was excited to read it!

AMY & ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR was so cute and also very deep at the same time. I didn’t expect tragedy to be involved (no spoiler — it’s why the book happens in the first place) so I might not have picked it up so eagerly if I had known that but I also like that I didn’t know that because I could have missed a really wonderful book. I tend to trust authors who have good reviews or whose works I’ve already enjoyed so I just kind of jumped into this one and I’m really glad I did! The book starts after the death of Amy’s father and I’ve been avoiding a lot of books surrounding death/tragedy/disease, etc to keep things positive and fluffy and happy and surprisingly, this book was both at the same time.

I loved the dynamic between Amy and Roger and how it grew throughout the book. The two start out as near strangers (they used to know each other as kids but barely) and despite only really knowing each other for a few days, their feelings for each other didn’t feel like instalove. Being stuck in a car with someone for several days allows you to get to know them and know them well within a short period of time so I found that quite realistic and positively adorable. They had their shared interests, their differences, a few quarrels, and a lot of really cute moments. I really enjoyed how their friendship and relationship developed as the story went on!

There was also so much more to this book than just the romance. Amy is forced to embark upon this road trip to take the family car from her old home in California to their new home in Connecticut, but she also makes some important life decisions on her own (and with some enlightenment from Roger) and really matures along the way. The death of her father has severely shaken the family, of course, and Amy starts to come to terms with his death, how it happened, and what it means to continue on with life and how to enjoy it without him there. She learns what it means to be an adult and take on responsibility for your actions, how to make better relationships, and how to make decisions that are best for her, even if they’re not the easiest ones to make.

I loved the depth in this story and the character growth while still having that fluffy, happy feeling of a super cute relationship. AMY & ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR was such a fun and wonderful read — oh, and let’s not forgot about the high school/college flashback with all of the amazing road trip playlists! Morgan Matson incorporated music in this book in the form of playlists and everything from Amy’s musicals to Roger’s indie rock took me back to 2010 (when this book was written — I didn’t realize it was that old!) and had me feeling some epic nostalgia too!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Serious & syrupy. I loved the serious and sweet combo! This book did an amazing job at keeping things realistic and meaningful while still incorporating and adorable lightness to it.
Left Me Wanting More: Morgan Matson novels! This was only my second book from Morgan Matson and it was so much fun! I definitely want to keep reading through her entire collection.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I get the Morgan Matson appeal! This book was so well done and I’m so glad I finally read it! It has a little bit of everything for every fan of contemp YA.

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BOOKS LIKE AMY & ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR

          

Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde

Queens of Geek – Jen WildeTitle: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
Publishing Info: March 14, 2017 by Macmillan, Swoon Reads
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 21, 2017

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

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This book was soooo much fun! I loved the con-vibe, the overall geekiness, and the characters. Books at conferences always remind me of my time at BEA/ALA/whatever book conferences I’ve attended and it really makes me feel right at home! I loved the atmosphere here and including things like a comic or book convention really allows the characters to be right at home and let their true geeky selves shine!

Jen Wilde did an amazing job at bringing these characters to life and creating wonderfully realistic diverse people. Everything was very spot on, well-supported, and felt true to real life. I loved how the personalities shone for each character and that they were comfortable with who they were, and those times where the characters weren’t 100% confident, they were able to work through some personal hurdles to be their best selves. The friendships were so solid and I loved to see a good trio of friends where no one got stabbed in the back. I think that’s one of the things I loved most about the book — there wasn’t anything catty (minus a rude ex, but he was supposed to be a bit villainous in a way) and everyone was so positive and supportive. It can be hard with a group of friends not to have one turn on the other (it just happens so often in life and in books) and it was refreshing to read positive and healthy friendships.

The romances featured here were also very cute and I loved the different factors involved! This book was great to include a lot of diversity and highlight mental health as well but still keeping things light and fun, which I personally love. I often find myself picking up lighter contemporary novels instead of the heavier, darker, or more serious realistic fiction nowadays because I need a break from the serious of adulting sometimes, so I loved seeing some true representation here and still allowing the book to be a little fluffy. Just because it’s a cute romance doesn’t mean it has to be less meaningful and I loved that Jen Wilde was able to put that all together!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Diversity + fluff. Who says fluff can’t have depth? The romances were cute and adorable, and the overall vibe was light, but this book also had a lot of meaningful points. I loved seeing the combination of the two!
Left Me Wanting More: Attention. This is one I’m definitely recommending and it needs to be in more people’s hands!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

QUEENS OF GEEK was very fun, diverse, cute, nerdy, and an overall refreshing read. I’d definitely recommend it for a cute love story with a whole lot more substance!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE QUEENS OF GEEK

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

The Lonely Hearts Club – Elizabeth Eulberg

The Lonely Hearts Club – Elizabeth EulbergTitle: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
Publishing Info: June 1st, 2010 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 14, 2017
Related Posts: Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality, Better Off Friends

Love is all you need... or is it? Penny's about to find out in this wonderful debut.

Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It's a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways . . . which is too bad, because there's this certain boy she can't help but like. . . .

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This book was very cute! I’ve really enjoyed all of Elizabeth Eulberg’s books, some more than others, so I knew I would enjoy THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB pretty much no matter what! It turned out not to be my favorite of Elizabeth Eulberg’s, since I think she’s had some deeper stories and cuter romances, but she just has such a fun voice that makes her books so easy to read!

I loved the Girl Power in this book and the encouragement of female friendships instead of witnessing so many cat fights or frenemies. It was girls standing up for their friends, sticking together, and being okay with not being in a relationship, which is a nice change of pace! I do adore romances in books but I kind of loved that this was about not being in a relationship. The focus on being single allowed the girls to really get to know themselves and not try to be who they thought a crush wanted them to be and really helped foster beautiful friendships in the absence of the boy-crazy talk. I also liked how crushes and relationships still came about in this book because everyone swearing a vow of single-dom is also not really realistic. The plot adjusted based on what was best for each individual girl and I loved that it didn’t stick to the rules simply for the sake of sticking to them!

Some of the characters were a little over-the-top BUT we are reading about high school characters so teenagers are allowed to be a little over-the-top. I always feel like I wasn’t super melodramatic when I was a teenager… buuuut I’m pretty sure I actually was. (Bad teenage poetry and sappy love songs? Oh, yeah. I was so there.) I think it’s harder reading some of that drama because I’m an adult now and so far removed from those more volatile and new emotions that it can be a little much but I also don’t think it was unrealistic!

I really liked that what I thought would turn into a Mean Girl situation actually went directly in the opposite direction and turned into a wonderful friendship. There was a Mean Girl or two in the book but they were quickly squashed as unsupportive and the characters didn’t allow them to take over or run their emotions. This book was all about bonding and finding your true self and I thought the message was really lovely!

Overall, this was fun, quick, and delightful! Elizabeth Eulberg’s books continue to be quick and fun contemporary reads for me and I love the levity while still conveying a great message.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Female Friendships. I’m not really a fan of mean girls in books and I loved how the more bully-like characters were not at all tolerated and the strong female friendships won!
Left Me Wanting More: Maturity. Okay, that’s a silly thing to ask. These are teens and I know that. I just felt like things were a little dramatic at times and I could have enjoyed that more if it was less dramatic, but that’s life!

Addiction Rating
Read it

Elizabeth Eulberg is an absolute will-read author for me! I pick up pretty much anything she writes and this book was no exception. Very cute and a lot of fun!

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BOOKS LIKE THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    26 KISSES

Hello, Sunshine – Leila Howland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

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

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BOOKS LIKE HELLO, SUNSHINE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    BEHIND THE SCENES

Mini-Review: Kindred Spirits – Rainbow Rowell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it!

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

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE KINDRED SPIRITS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

A Million Junes – Emily Henry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it!

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

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BOOKS LIKE A MILLION JUNES

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    BONE GAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Check it out

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

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    MY LIFE NEXT DOOR

Fireworks – Katie Cotugno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

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

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BOOKS LIKE FIREWORKS

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    THE REECE MALCOLM LIST

It Started With Goodbye – Christina June

It Started With Goodbye – Christina JuneTitle: It Started With Goodbye by Christina June
Publishing Info: May 9, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Retelling
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 7, 2017

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

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I was so excited to read IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, Christina June’s debut novel! I’ve known Christina since we were first both bloggers way back in the day and it was such an honor to be able to read her debut novel and hold a physical copy of her ARC in my hands! I received a copy of IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE from the publisher and it was so neat to read a book written by someone I had met and talked and to watch their journey to become a published author! The fact that I know Christina June does not affect my review in anyway aside from the fact that this was a big reason of why I wanted to read this book!

This book was very quick and easy read and a lovely modern take on Cinderella! Contemporary adaptations of fairy tales are always so interesting because I love seeing how magical things get adapted to a real world. I really loved the nod to the original fairy tale and how Christina June fit the story to a modern-day teenager. There were even some direct references to Cinderella which were so fun to note, along with the general story line that paralleled it.

IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE was a great book about finding yourself and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s hard as a teenager (okay, it’s hard as an adult sometimes too) and it made things even worse for Tatum with a stepmother who always seems to have it out for her and a stepsister who can do no wrong, following in her stepmother’s footsteps. Much like another recent Cinderella contemporary adaptation, GEEKERELLA, the modern take here also focuses on the redemption of the family members and the main character realizing that sometimes there is more behind that “evil” facade than meets the eye.

I actually wish there was more focus on the relationships in the beginning of the book because it was a little slow to start for me despite the fact that this was a very quick read. I wanted to just race through it and I found myself hitting rough patches with the direction of the plot and was hoping for more of a focus on the core relationships instead of branching out to include other acquaintances first. Especially with how short the book was (which I appreciated, actually!), I would have loved a stronger focus on the best friend and romance specifically, along with the family, instead of adding in more minor friends. I wasn’t as interested in the secondary characters and some of their stories seemed to take focus where I would have rather read about Tate, although I know a lot of my friends enjoyed those other friendships.
Also with the split of Tatum from her best friend, she felt sort of solitary throughout the first half of the book and I felt like she didn’t really have anyone to share the story with so secondary characters were forced into the mix. I would have loved to see some more heart-felt dialogue with someone she could share more secrets with and I was really missing that best friend vibe, or even just someone close that she could have talked to in the beginning. The cute little romance didn’t catch me right away, I think because the initial meet-up was crowded with other characters, so the warm-fuzzies got a little bogged down in the character relationships all around.

The family dynamic was the hit of this book for me and I really enjoyed how things progressed with each family member. Tatum establishes new relationships with her stepmom, stepsister, and even her dad, who had really always been in her corner but reached a point in this book where their relationship hit a turning point. With the kids growing up and stepmother Belen often in charge while he is out of town, Tatum’s relationship with her father really began to change and then mature throughout this book. I also really liked that the father-figure was just traveling for work and that was was created his frequent and long absences instead of death. We did have the absence of Tate’s mother but I liked that she wasn’t orphaned for this book!

IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE was an easy and quick read with some really well-founded family concepts. I didn’t quite connect with it like I had hoped but I feel like it’ll do great with the teen crowd (who is really its intended audience) who are going through the same situations with best friend fights, family relationships, and first-time big crushes. The Cinderella adaptation adds a really nice touch to this book and it’s a great pull into the story and motivation to pick it up!

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Modern adaptations of fairy tales. I was so giddy when I found direct references to the original Cinderella fairy tale! I think this adaptation and concept were spot on and I loved the modern take.
Left Me Wanting More: Relationship focus. I felt like there was a strong focus on the family throughout the whole book but I was missing the best friend and/or crush vibe in the beginning. I think I’m just so used to reading young adult books that are constantly surrounding those two relationships that are so prominent in teenage lives that I come to expect that to the be the focus of every book. They were definitely still featured here but it didn’t feel like the strongest relationship of the book for me, which was okay but a little bit of a surprise for me.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE was a fun and quick read! I loved how the concept fit together and

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    THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS