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A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal SutherlandTitle: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
Publishing Info: September 5, 2017 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 21, 2017

Ever since Esther Solar’s grandfather met Death, her entire family has been doomed to suffer one great fear in their lifetime—a fear that will eventually lead each and every one of them to their graves. Take Esther’s father, for instance: He’s an agoraphobe who hasn’t left the basement in six years. Then there’s her twin brother, Eugene, whose fear of the dark goes far beyond the things that go bump in the night. And her mother, Rosemary, is absolutely terrified of bad luck.

As for Esther, she’s managed to escape the curse…so far. She doesn’t yet have a great fear because she avoids pretty much everything. Elevators, small spaces, crowds—anything that might trigger a phobia is off-limits and is meticulously recorded in her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares.

Esther thinks she has it all figured out, until she’s reunited with an old elementary school classmate—and first crush—Jonah Smallwood. The encounter leaves her stranded at a bus stop and swindled out of her phone, all her cash, a Fruit Roll-Up she’d been saving, and her list—not to mention her dignity. But the theft is also the beginning of an unexpected friendship between the two, one that sends the pair on a journey of self-discovery as they try to break the curse that’s consumed Esther’s family. Together they face their greatest fears, one debilitating phobia at a time, only to discover the one fear they hadn’t counted on: love.

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A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST OF WORST NIGHTMARES wasn’t what I was expecting, and then it was, and then it wasn’t — all in a good way. I thought this would be heavy on the magical realism based on the synopsis and then it turned more realistic fiction for a while, and came back as a blend of both. There was a lot of care taken when writing this book and it really shows through each of the characters and their own personal situations. I was really impressed with it!

The characters of this book were so wonderful and real and had such amazing personalities. Every single one has their own thing they’re dealing with and Esther blames this on the family curse, but there’s a lot more beneath the surface than she understands and more importantly, is willing to face. It was interesting to see both sides of that concept — from the magical realism/curse side and from the realistic side that really tackled mental health head on. It was addressed so well and I felt like it was a very realistic representation. The magic is both real and also a coping mechanism/avoidance method and I really enjoyed the blend between the real and the imaginary. The reader is left wondering how much is really magic and that’s something I love about magical realism when it’s done well!

This is also one of those realistic fiction novels that’s great for those who aren’t normally contemporary romance readers. The family is quirky and fun to read, the plot of the book involves a lot of fun instances where characters face their fears (some of them silly), and there are some really great representations of mental health on many levels. I liked that there was an actual plot with an end goal of conquering fears and the way they tackled each one was fun and also beautiful.

The characters really brought this book to life, every single one unique and beautiful. I loved getting to know this family and the people who supported them. I laughed, I cried, I was afraid, and I was happy. This book took me through so many emotions and I’m so glad I read it!
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Kept Me Hooked On: Quirky Families. It takes a really good author to write a quirky family without having them be goofy or over-the-top. This family had their quirks but they were fun to get to know and it wasn’t in a crazy way. Everything just felt right.
Left Me Wanting More: Pages! I really, really enjoyed this book. I can’t think of anything I was missing! I would just want to keep reading more but I’m also glad that it was a stand-alone and wrapped up the way that it did.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

No matter which genres you enjoy, this is such a lovely book. I would definitely recommend it!

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BOOKS LIKE A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST OF WORST NIGHTMARES

          

This Darkness Mine – Mindy McGinnis

This Darkness Mine – Mindy McGinnisTitle: This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis
Publishing Info: October 10, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Thriller, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: October 18, 2017
Related Posts: A Madness So Discreet, The Female of the Species

Sasha Stone knows her place—first-chair clarinet, top of her class, and at the side of her oxford-wearing boyfriend. She’s worked her entire life to ensure that her path to Oberlin Conservatory as a star musician is perfectly paved.

But suddenly there’s a fork in the road, in the shape of Isaac Harver. Her body shifts toward him when he walks by, her skin misses his touch even though she’s never known it, and she relishes the smell of him—smoke, beer, and trouble—all the things she’s avoided to get where she is. Even worse, every time he’s near Sasha, her heart stops, literally. Why does he know her so well—too well—and she doesn’t know him at all?

Sasha discovers that her by-the-book life began by ending another’s: the twin sister she absorbed in the womb. But that doesn’t explain the gaps of missing time in her practice schedule or the memories she has of things she certainly never did with Isaac. As Sasha loses her much-cherished control, her life—and heart—become more entangled with Isaac. Armed with the knowledge that her heart might not be hers alone, Sasha must decide what she’s willing to do—and who she’s willing to hurt—to take it back.

Edgar Award–winning author Mindy McGinnis delivers a dark and gripping psychological thriller about a girl at war with herself, and what it really means to be good or bad.

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I can’t even… what??? This book was not at all what I expected and without heading into spoiler-town (yet), I will say that I went through an array of feelings while reading it. Well hell, the book isn’t what I expected while reading it either. It was just… well-done, Mindy McGinnis. You have slayed me.

Okay, so avoiding spoilers for now, here’s what I can tell you about this book: it’s about a girl named Sasha who is the good girl, won’t even swear, is extremely dedicated to her music (clarinet) and works hard to the point of obsessing over being perfect with music, grades, and being good. Things start to take a turn when she discovers that she is (used to be) a twin, but her sister was never actually born and was absorbed in the womb. This is an actual thing that happens sometimes so okay. Sasha seems shaken by this information and tries to gather more information about her sister-that-could-have-been and things start to go haywire as she becomes entangled with a boy named Isaac, the stereotypical bad-boy with whom Sasha would never interact… except she has, and Isaac has proof. Sasha tries to figure out how and why and then we head into the twisty part of this book…

So up until this point, I was like eeeeeeehhhhahhhahhh I don’t know about this. I wasn’t super keen on the twin-thing being a big part of the story because I didn’t see that coming (yes, I KNOW it’s in the synopsis — reminder 184300495 that I go into books blind so I can be so very surprised by things like this and usually it creates for an even more amazing story because it was definitely a reveal that I was surprised by instead of knowing it was coming. See?) and like the obsessive person that Sasha is, she starts to take the investigation of her sister a little too far and takes on a little too much.

There are a LOT of spoilers I could talk about but won’t include them in here for those who haven’t read the book but be sure to check out my Goodreads review if you want to see what’s behind the spoiler tags there!

The book truly shook me with its ending but there were also parts that were just plain weird. It ended up totally coming together but I must admit that I was kind of like oooooookay for a few good sections of the book where I wasn’t sure how I felt. This book is one to mess with your head and your emotions and even if you’re not crazy about the beginning, it’s so worth finishing because you won’t want to miss that ending.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Twisted stories. This was a sort of psychological thriller that I was not expecting and I kiiiind of loved it. I love being surprised by something new and this was definitely different!
Left Me Wanting More: Realism? I mean, things got straight up WEIRD for a while. I guess the book sooort of lost me just for a bit but really, it all worked itself out.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This gets kind of weird but WHOA the ending was totally worth it! Stick with it and you’ll be shocked.

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BOOKS LIKE THIS DARKNESS MINE

          

The Wicker King – K. Ancrum

The Wicker King – K. AncrumTitle: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum
Publishing Info: October 31, 2017 by Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 30, 2017

The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

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This is another book that’s so unique that it’s hard to rate! I didn’t fall tooootally head over heels with it but at the same time, I absolutely could not tear myself away for so many reasons. The book was so creative, obsessive, and incredibly unique and I loved every bit of it!

The book gets DARKER as it goes on. No, literally. The pages start out normal and then doodles get added along the edges, gathering until the middle is a shade of gray when the book is closed, and as things get darker in the book, the actual pages turn to black. It’s a VERY cool effect that’s immediately eye-catching and makes you want to tear through to the end and see why it’s so dark. Gimmick to get you to pick it up? Maybe. Did it work? Abso-freakin-lutely. This book release date is in October and and I threw my TBR aside to read it to read it in June!

The pacing is intense! Each page is only a page or two long, maybe three at the most, so you finish one and say “just one more” and before you know it, you’ve inhaled the whole book. If I hadn’t been reading this on my lunch hour at work, I probably would have read it in a single day. The action always keeps moving forward and with such quick snippets, you just feel like you can keep reading and reading and won’t want to stop!

The obsessive nature of the characters will make you obsessed as well. August and Jack are very obsessive and co-dependent (not like, judging them here, that’s truly a point that’s made in the book). This nature only intensifies throughout the book resulting in destructive actions on many levels. The obsessiveness throughout the book really pushes that constant urgency and makes it so you can’t put the book down.

I loved the writing of this story in so many ways and K. Ancrum brilliantly structured this book to keep the reader hooked. I ended up not quite loving the end of the book but I’m not totally sure why. I think it was just all of these things leading up to something B I G and there was a big thing that happened in the end but I guess it wasn’t quite what I was hoping or expecting and I also wanted something a little bit … more. I couldn’t tell you what it is but something felt like it was missing!

This book will definitely be one that readers just tear through and I’m interested to hear everyone’s else’s reviews! I think it’s going to be a big buzz book this fall and I can’t wait to hear what readers think of it!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Visual writing styles. That makes no sense but I don’t know how to say it. I loved how the darkness of the book really affected the tone of the novel (or followed it). Like the physical, dark, black pages, not just the feel. It’s so need to see a physical manifestation of the words on the pages!
Left Me Wanting More: Horror? I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I keep expecting YA mystery/thrillers to end more… horrifically. I mean I don’t want that to happen to people in real life but I guess I’m just looking for more of something I wouldn’t even think of and I guess being a mystery reader all my life, there’s not a lot that surprises me anymore. I keep feeling like the endings are just missing something and I don’t quite feel satisfied.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This book is a wild ride with a unique relationship, action-packed pages, and some cool visual effects.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE WICKER KING

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Genuine Fraud – E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud – E. LockhartTitle: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
Publishing Info: September 5, 2017 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 19, 2017
Related Posts: We Were Liars

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

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For many, WE WERE LIARS was an epic, twisty, and gripping read but it never really stuck a chord with me. Being my first E. Lockhart book, it had be a little hesitant and yet also curious to read more of her works. I didn’t grab a copy of GENUINE FRAUD at ALA because of my hesitation but when I was offered a review copy of the audiobook from Listening Library, I knew this would be a good way to read the book!

GENUINE FRAUD was so different than what I expected! It was highly unique and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it to be honest… It’s just book that’s really hard to put a rating on because of how different it was and what it turned out to be. I love reading Cait from Paper Fury’s reviews on Goodreads and she kind of summed up exactly how I felt as well — “This book is very very good but I also didn’t like it.” It was so incredibly interesting and very well put together but I also still had a hard time liking it.

The set-up of this book is wholly unique and I don’t think I’ve read anything like it. I received the audiobook for review from Listening Library and since the format is a collection of files, I thought something was wrong with my file when the book started with Chapter 18 (because that’s happened to me before when a book got jumbled up and I couldn’t straighten it out)… but it really does start with Chapter 18 works its way backwards to Chapter 1. The screwy timeline and twists and turns were very akin to movies like Pulp Fiction and Memento, where stories work themselves backwards and all around from a certain point rather than moving in chronological order. It was super interesting to watch the story unfold in reverse while still unfolding forwards and I’m so impressed with E. Lockhart’s writing in this book!

The book is also hard to rate because of this concept. It was so fascinating but it was kind of in that way where I was in awe of the writing and the absolute debauchery that was happening in the book that I just couldn’t tear myself away. The characters are actually mostly unlikable, which isn’t a turn-off for me because those can be some of the most interesting characters, but sometimes I do have a hard time connecting to them. There were also moments where action abruptly started or stopped, cutting off the flow and picking up at a different point in time, so some things were a little hard to follow, and I didn’t even realize the end of the book was coming when it happened!

It was really different than I expected, but in a really neat way and yet I still can’t quite put my finger on how I feel about it. I feel like it’s worth the read with its sinister plot, moments of action, intense thrilling points, and morally complex characters, and yet at the same time, I still didn’t love it. I think if I had made that one connection where a character really pulled me in, it would have blown my mind.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Twisty writing styles. Man, this was sooo unique and very cool to read! Once I realized there wasn’t an issue with my audio I was like, okay. I’m here for this! I love seeing stories not follow a chronological timeline and still progress the plot forward.
Left Me Wanting More: Character Connection. Almost all of the characters were unlikable and that doesn’t always deter me but here it did a little bit. It wasn’t like a morally gray character that you know you love, but more like, “Wow, these people are actually awful human beings and yet I’m kind of rooting for them?” I think I wanted a little more sinister or a little more like.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

It’s a very cool book, and if you make that connection, it could be a total five-star read for you!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE GENUINE FRAUD

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Little Monsters – Kara Thomas

Little Monsters – Kara ThomasTitle: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
Publishing Info: July 25, 2017 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: ALAAC17, Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: July 13, 2017
Related Posts: The Darkest Corners

Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.

Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.

Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.

But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.

Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

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LITTLE MONSTERS caught my eye because of the author and concept. I had first read Kara Thomas’ work with THE DARKEST CORNERS and enjoyed her writing and I’m always looking for more YA mystery/thrillers! I’m very glad to have read LITTLE MONSTERS and I continue to be pleasantly surprised at the conclusions of Kara Thomas’ books, not always able to guess the ending!

I enjoyed LITTLE MONSTERS from start to finish and it was hard to stop listening to the audiobook. (Thanks to Listening Library for the review copy!) The concept reminded me of what I imagine Pretty Little Liars is like (I haven’t read the books or watched the show) combined with A GOOD IDEA and THIS IS OUR STORY — a little bit frenemies, a little bit mental health, and a little bit small-town mystery. I always find thrillers involving fatal friendships fascinating, especially when it comes to young adult thrillers. Teenagers are quickly trusting and throw themselves into their friendships and relationships, so it’s easy to completely trust someone that you feel is your best friend. When a friend’s character gets questioned, it’s so interesting to watch the other side of the story unfold and see what secrets were lying beneath the surface the whole time.

I certainly didn’t figure out the ending of this book, that’s for sure! Being a mystery lover, I tend to read a lot and I can therefore guess a lot of endings but LITTLE MONSTERS was very well-crafted and I had no idea which way it would go! There were lots of pieces to throw the reader off and lead me in a different direction and it was really interesting to see the ending unfold!

I wasn’t AS hooked as I had hoped to be but it was a very solid read and very enjoyable. I’m always looking for solid young adult thrillers and/or mysteries and LITTLE MONSTERS is definitely a solid, well-crafted read. I love being able to see how an author started with a concept and worked their way backwards to keep the big reveal moment at the ending, and it’s always so neat to see a mystery unfold. I’m definitely up for anything Kara Thomas writes and I’ll continue to look forward to more books from her!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Frenemies. MAN, frenemies in thrillers just get me. I kind of really don’t like it in contemporary fiction because I don’t like when things get catty but in thrillers? BRING IT. It’s so sinister and usually ends up being horrifying which I… kind of like. Ha.
Left Me Wanting More: Magic. Not literal magic, but there’s just that little something that didn’t WOW me. It was still such a solid read but it didn’t quite blow me away.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you enjoy mysteries or thrillers, this is an interesting read and I’m confident recommending it! Add this one to your TBR.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE LITTLE MONSTERS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Bad Romance – Heather Demetrios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE BAD ROMANCE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    ELEANOR & PARK

All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) – Ally Carter

All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) – Ally CarterTitle: All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter
Publishing Info: January 20, 2015 by Scholastic Inc.
Source: Audiobook borrowed from library, Book Trade
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 31, 2016
Related Posts: Heist Society (Heist Society #1), Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society #2)

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:
1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.
As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.
Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

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I’m actually really disappointed that this is a new series opener from Ally Carter. I guess I’ve only read two of her books (Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals) but her early books were SO GOOD and this book just fell so flat. I heard it had a bit of a rough start but truly, the whole book felt rough for me.

ALL FALL DOWN felt super repetitive. The story repeating the same five concepts over and over again with no action to follow them up (until the very end of the book) and literally nothing happened for the first half of the book, in my opinion. I felt like the first 75% could have been crammed into a few action-packed chapters but instead, everything was drawn out. I wouldn’t have minded spending time with these characters in place of action, but the time I did spend with them didn’t feel to developed. They weren’t personalities that jumped off the page and everyone fell a little flat.

There were hints at the snark and sass that I love so much but Grace was too busy falling apart all the time for that to really take shape. I get what the book was going for and I followed it, but it all felt a bit too dramatic for me. The visions and hallucinations were just way too much and they really bothered me — as they do in pretty much any other book unless it’s really important and necessary. I’m all for showcasing a character who is suffering from PTSD and other consequences of going through some serious stuff but for some reason this just didn’t work for me in this book. It all felt forced and cheesy instead of informative and genuine.

After all that, I was waiting for the twist (I heard there was one) and… flat again. There were parts of it that were a bit predictable — I got there and understood what was going on but Grace still didn’t and it irritated me how long it reasonably took for her to catch on. There was something I actually wasn’t expecting because it was so cliche but the cliche happened anyway.

ALL FALL DOWN was an easy read and I do think I’ll continue the series but I might sneak a peek at reviews before I do so. I do love the Heist Society series and from the way this book ended, I am hoping for maybe a little more levity and a lot more intrigue in the second book.view_from_goodreads1

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

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Kept Me Hooked On: International thrillers. I’ve been really into international thrillers lately and I loved the mix of worlds in this book! The vibe was also really great.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot. I just felt so let down by the overall plot here. There wasn’t much development at all and it was a total snooze-fest throughout the beginning. I was just so bummed because I came to hope for a lot from Ally Carter!

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

It’s hard for me to say. I think I’ll continue the series but I can’t outright recommend this one. I think if the series gets better, I’ll have a better feeling about it!

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BOOKS LIKE ALL FALL DOWN

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnisTitle: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Publishing Info: September 20, 2016 by Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 20, 2016
Related Posts: A Madness So Discreet, This Darkness Mine

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

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THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is a hard book to talk about. It’s incredibly important in so many ways and has some great not only feminist but also important universal notions that really bring to light how we excuse certain male actions and condemn female ones for the exact same thing (sex, drugs, violence). I really did love how Mindy McGinnis said so many of these things right to readers’ faces and makes people truly confront all of these issues. That’s part of the beauty of Alex’s character as well. She’s described as both closed off and yet feeling too much. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks or do what she thinks is right because she’s really never been the person to cater to a society’s “norms”. She confronts people, makes people pay for their actions, and somehow becomes this great antihero for us to gather around.

The book has a sort of Dexter-like feel and yet stands on its own. Alex has a darkness within her. It drives her every day life, takes over in moments of extreme emotion, and she once she actually finds people to care about and who care about her, she tries to be as “normal” as possible to not scare away her new friends. She uses this darkness to right wrongs and to seek vengeance on people who have committed horrible acts of violence, sexual abuse, or general heinous injustices. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES isn’t focused on Alex as a serial killer (because she’s not) and I was both confused and satisfied with the ambiguity of “what she was”. Alex couldn’t even put a label on herself, seeking to fit in the category of sociopath or psychopath and didn’t quite seem to fit anywhere. I liked the uniqueness and originality, not fitting into a specific box, but I was also anticipating more of something… which I guess Alex would probably reprimand me for trying to put a label on her! I think the anticipation of the something affected the read a little bit for me because I felt like I was missing something and the book never quite crossed that line into supremely satisfying for me.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES doesn’t shy away from really anything. Whereas some young adult books clean things up a bit for the sake of readers or publishing, Mindy McGinnis chooses to include all of the realistic speech (including swearing, descriptions of sex, and lewd behavior) that other books play down in order to reach a younger audience. I would definitely recommend this for a more mature young adult audience (although we always have that taboo of censoring younger teen audiences — I’m not a librarian, educator, or parent so that’s not for me to say but it a moderately explicit read even as an adult). There are also several instances or mentions of rape, date rape, sexual abuse, and scenes with near instances of all of these occurring so if that’s a trigger for you, do be aware that it pops up many times throughout the book.

One thing that actually bothered me about the book was the confusing involvement of animals. If you have an animal abuse trigger, it will likely bother you for this one (more than one person has brought up that it was an issue for them), and it’s not a trigger for me but I thought the violence towards animals was quite unnecessary. It wasn’t out right on the pages with a character abusing an animal but there are some really hard-to-read scenes about what happens to a few animals that I just didn’t get. It wasn’t directly tied to a character and didn’t push a plot point forward. The characters actually do take care of and help quite a few animals too but I didn’t know why the harsh scenes with injuries and death needed to be included. It didn’t serve a purpose for the book or assist a character’s story line. There was also a very gruesome scene at a meat factory that wasn’t abuse but a part of the job, but still seemed unnecessary to include (especially when I was trying to read this book as I was eating lunch — that was just unfortunate timing on my part).

My middle of the road feelings aren’t due to any of those factors though. As much as I thought the message was extremely important and valid, I just didn’t really connect to the characters in the book. I know Alex is sort of emotionally closed off and yet over-feeling and I kind of felt stuck between those two emotions. I just didn’t connect with her as much as I wanted to. I understand that she’s not someone you really connect to emotionally but I wanted to understand her just a little bit more or be able to stand behind her a little bit more and I just didn’t quite get there. It’s a weird spot because in a way, that’s the whole point of her character — she’s complex, she’s cold, she’s overly angered by injustices, she’s not your average person in terms of emotional ranges — but somehow it just didn’t click for me. It’s not that there was a lack of character development in any of the other characters either but none of the relationships really slid into place for me. It was just the little things with characters or perhaps the writing that just didn’t click and although the content was there, I just didn’t get bowled over like I thought I would.

Long story short, I’m just sort of a jumbled up from this book. I can’t quite sort out what I feel but I know that I don’t feel as wowed as I had hoped. When I end up rating books, it’s based on an overall feeling and THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES had a whole lot going on. The overall message of the book is so important but I feel like I can’t rate a book for its message alone. There are several factors involved in my feelings toward a book and this one had so many things for me to consider.

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

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Alex // Character obsessions: Justice, darkness, friendship.
Alex is a very simple and yet very complicated character all at the same time. She’s a very black-and-white sort of character, knowing exactly she feels is right and what she feels is wrong, and she’s not afraid to right the wrongs she sees in any way she deems correct. She carries a certain darkness with her that tends to lead to violent situations, which really brings out the anti-hero in her character as readers root for the violence to “correct” injustices within Alex’s town. I think I actually struggled a little bit when Alex started figure out some friendships and tried to be “normal”, as she called it. It was also complicated because Alex didn’t fit into an easily identifiable category for what she “was”. She stated that she felt TOO much, not that she was unfeeling, as so many psychopathic or sociopathic characters are and that really complicated things for me as a reader and former student of psychology. (Not like I’m any expect but I’ve always been incredibly interested and took many classes in high school and college.) I think it was hard for me that she didn’t quite fit into a common classification — and it was actually hard for her as well! It was a very interesting addition to her character but it also kind of confused me because I couldn’t figure her out!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Antiheroes. I love a good antihero. It’s so interesting to have the main character of a book have some normally abhorrent behavior but when it’s combating someone else’s worse actions, things get interesting.
Left Me Wanting More: Darkness. This is actually a pretty dark and serious book… But I think I just wanted more darkness, more shock from Alex. Maybe it was the way I went into the book. The way that the synopsis read and the way that the book was pitched, I think I was assuming that Alex would be more of a Dexter-type: a more easily-classifiable pathology, violent but with a purpose, and still loveable. I found some of those things but there seemed to be more gray area with Alex than I expected so I think I was expecting some more BIG “omg” moments, which I think a lot of content came from other characters that I didn’t expect. I actually didn’t know that it was narrated by three voices so that also threw me as well.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This is kind of a hard recommendation for me. I was personally left with some off feelings — not bad, but off — and I just didn’t click with it somehow, which leads me to feeling hesitant about truly pushing this book to someone. BUT I think there is a lot of important content and some really important messages to not only today’s teens but really to a large audience of adults on the treatment and expectations of women, and even just our society in general.

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BOOKS LIKE THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    KILLER INSTINCT

When We Collided – Emery Lord

When We Collided – Emery LordTitle: When We Collided by Emery Lord
Publishing Info: April 5, 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Genres: Young Adult, Psych/Mental Health, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 10, 2016
Related Posts: Open Road Summer, The Start of Me and You

Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.
Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.

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Emery Lord is an auto-buy author for me. I fell in love with her debut, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, and every book I read from her is a wonderful and thoughtful experience full of growth, friendship, and a little bit of romance. After finishing WHEN WE COLLIDED, one of the things that I’m really starting to appreciate is how incredibly individual each book feels from is predecessor. Emery Lord’s writing is deep and powerful but still allows each character to let their silly side show and really tells a very realistic story without getting caught up in the dramatics that some young adult books tend to overemphasize. Each book has had a very different story to tell and WHEN WE COLLIDED may be the most powerful one yet.

WHEN WE COLLIDED is the story of Vivi and Jonah but it’s also a story for anyone who’s dealt with grief, depression, mental illness, or really any hard times in their life. The reader learns that Vivi has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that Jonah’s father has recently passed away and his family is still grieving. WHEN WE COLLIDED chronicles the journey of these two characters throughout one summer as they crash into each other’s lives when they’re both at their very bottom and how they’re able to help each other grow and heal. The book is incredibly powerful. There’s so much emotion as Vivi and Jonah sift through their struggles individually and how once they start to open up, they’re really able to help and support each other by sharing their own personal hurdles.

What I loved the most about WHEN WE COLLIDED was how realistic everything truly felt. Sometimes I have a hard time connecting to big families like Jonah’s (especially young children for some reason) but just like Vivi, I easily fell in love with each and every one of them. Emery Lord is able to bring even minor characters into full color and share their dazzling personalities with the reader. I also really appreciated all of the personal experience as well as research that went into Vivi’s character. I haven’t personally seen the effects of bipolar disorder in any of my friends or family members (that I know of) but I felt like this was an incredibly realistic and thorough view of what someone with this disorder might be going through. Experiencing Vivi’s emotional highs and escalation as she went through her manic period was truly an emotional roller coaster and as an observer, I was incredibly nervous for her throughout the book. I was afraid of what might happen when that mania finally came back down and feared for when depression might hit. Vivi has a naturally spirited and unique personality so there was also this blur and question of whether her actions were simply because she was such a sizzling personality or whether some of her decisions were affected by her disorder.

I adored the relationship between Vivi and Jonah. It was such a sweet romance full of highs and lows and it was exactly what these two characters needed. Jonah needed someone who would break down the door and push themself into his life in order to really accept help and start to talk about what his family was going through. She opened Jonah up to acting a little silly sometimes and allowing himself to really act his age when there was so much weighing on his shoulders. Vivi needed someone a little grounded to reel her back in at times but still love her for exactly who she was. Jonah was able to offer her a peek into a big family and the loss of a loving father and these two really learned a lot from each other that they never set out to find.

I could really go on gushing about WHEN WE COLLIDED but it’s a book that really must be experienced. It was so incredibly well-written and I love how it shares some similar elements of Emery Lord’s previous books (strong female characters, great friendships, tons of growth) and yet it truly stands on its own. It was such an emotional ride for me and one that I will absolutely continue to recommend. If you haven’t read any of Emery Lord’s books yet, start anywhere but make sure you do read WHEN WE COLLIDED as soon as possible!
view_from_goodreads1

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

when we collided goodreads

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Vivi // Character Obsessions: Costume design, staying unique, fun, adventure.
Vivi was such a wonderfully layered character. She has this struggle with bipolar disorder but she’s so spirited to begin with that at times it’s hard to tell where this disorder creeps in but then you realize that so much of Vivi is just that adventurous, free, and bubbly. I loved her unique personality and you will never find a dull moment with Vivi. She really brought Jonah out of his shell and truly loved who she was.
Jonah // Character Obsessions: Family, responsibility, cooking, his father.
I adored Jonah’s love of cooking (some of these things seriously made me hungry!) and how much I fell in love with his big family. He has the burden of being one of the older siblings and really taking care of the littles as well as his mom as she continues to struggle with the loss of her husband. The whole family is still grieving and I admired Jonah’s strength (although I’m sure it didn’t feel like strength to him) as he attempted to piece his family back together again.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mental health awareness. I thought the authenticity of Vivi’s bipolar disorder was so accurate. I read the author’s note at the end of the book so I know she put a lot of personal experience into creating this character but also really did a ton of research as well to represent it as well as she possibly could.
Left Me Wanting More: Fairy tale endings. Obviously I wish for a fairy tale ending where everyone rides off into the sunset but actually… I’m glad that it wasn’t all sunshine and butterflies in the end. Things get real and the ending is realistic and not just smacking a happy conclusion on there just for feels. I loved that I was left with some great feelings but it wasn’t overly sappy.

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

You NEED to read Emery Lord’s books if you haven’t yet. Every single one is truly unique and WHEN WE COLLIDED is such a powerful story.

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BOOKS LIKE WHEN WE COLLIDED

(Click the cover to see my review!)

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES    I WAS HERE

No More Confessions (Confessions #3) – Louise Rozett

No More Confessions (Confessions #3) – Louise RozettTitle: No More Confessions (Confessions #3) by Louise Rozett
Publishing Info: January 25, 2015 by Independent
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: February 25, 2016
Related Posts: Confessions of an Angry Girl (Confessions #1), Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend (Confessions #2)

For Rose Zarelli, freshman year was about controlling her rage. Sophomore year was about finding her voice. With all that behind her, junior year should be a breeze, right? Nope. When a horrific video surfaces, Rose needs the one person she wants to be done with, the person who has broken her heart twice—Jamie Forta. But as the intensity between them heats up, Rose realizes she isn’t the only one who needs help. The thing is, Jamie doesn’t see it that way—and that could cost them both everything.

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I’ve been a big fan of the Confessions series since I first read CONFESSIONS OF AN ANGRY GIRL back in 2012 on a whim. I was so impressed with main character Rose and Louise Rozett’s character portrayal and I’m so glad to see that continue throughout the entire series so far. I was thrilled to hear that NO MORE CONFESSIONS was still being published despite the series’ original publisher apparently dropping the series because these books are incredibly realistic, meaningful, and actually quite quick to read.

NO MORE CONFESSIONS went surprisingly quick for me! It looks like it is shorter than its predecessors but I also love that it wasn’t jam-packed full of unnecessary situations just to fill the pages. NO MORE CONFESSIONS gets straight to the point and sticks to the heart of the story which revolves around Rose, her family, and her relationship with bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold, Jamie Forta. I somehow forgot a lot of what went on in book two (it’s been a while!) but I easily fell back into Rose’s world and felt so comfortable picking up where I left off.

One of the things I love the most about this series is how realistic each character and situation feels. I love that so many reactions are based off of a character’s internal debate or personal involvement with a situation. It’s less conflict because of misinformation or unnecessary drama. These characters have gone through some really tough stuff but not so far that it becomes potentially unrelatable. I feel like if I haven’t experienced something that they’re going through, I know someone who has or feel a degree of connection somehow through my own experiences. The book addresses death, grief, addiction, relationships, friendship, and so much more in a way that really allows readers to connect on many levels. I love how relationships on all levels have changed and evolved throughout the book.

I really like how Rose’s friendship with her best friend Tracy has changed so much from the first book as both girls grow up, experience different things in their lives, and start to become individuals. They do drift a bit but they’re still friends and it was great to see that evolving element in their friendship, even if it does mean they’re not as close anymore. We’ve all grown out of friendships or have spent less/more time with a friend over the years and it was really nice to see that happen over time and not because of a blow-out fight. Situations like these are really well-represented throughout the course of this series and how people naturally change over the years. Some changes have happened quickly after major events but I really appreciate the slow and gradual changes that an individual might experience and how Louise Rozett really brings that aspect of growing up to life.

The ending of NO MORE CONFESSIONS was great. Rose and Jamie both converge and diverge — they’re really coming together as a couple but their current life situations don’t seem to be on the same path. Rose is looking at colleges since her senior year is drawing near and their relationship once again comes into question, proposing a big decision for the two characters on so many levels. Again, Louise Rozett does a great job at representing this and how a character might indirectly reaction to potential changes without that full-on confrontation. It’s just so beautifully represented in each book.

I forgot how much I loved this series and it was so wonderful to read another book about Rose, Jamie, and the wonderful cast of characters that supports them. This is some really great contemporary if you’re looking for that extra realistic element and I really hope there’s a Confessions #4 to really bring this series to a close (I’m guessing it would be the last one since we’ve been progressing through Rose’s high school years). I’m dying to see what happens after this book because NO MORE CONFESSIONS was just wonderful!

view_from_goodreads1

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

no more confessions gr updates

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Rose // Character Obsessions: Family, singing, Jamie.  
I’ve always like that Rose has felt very mature, even at 14, but it’s also great how she’s matured since the first book. I’m loving her character growth and how she’s able to see things from other people’s perspectives now. She’s still quite the teenager and goes through some typical teenage experiences but she’s also gained some real wisdom over the course of this series.
Jamie // Character Obsessions: Work, protecting himself, alcohol.  
Jamie has always been a little rough around the edges but NO MORE CONFESSIONS really brings some of that rawness to the surface. Jamie’s never been really good at handling emotions or stressful situations and you see some of the pressures really take a toll on him this book. It’s so hard to watch him go through that but I also really liked how it was represented. It’s especially hard to see that his bad boy exterior is so much more than that and he’s really hurting inside.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Character development. I just love each and every one of these characters. It’s amazing how Louise Rozett brings them to life! They all feel so incredibly really and I just get so invested.
Left Me Wanting More: Conclusion. I truly hope there’s one more book! I NEED to know what happens to Rose and Jamie after this book and where the story goes from here.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I think this is a highly underrated and unknown series and it’s one I’ve loved from day one. It’s always so delightful to read these again (even though the topics are not always delightful) and see such realistic representations of every day life.

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BOOKS LIKE NO MORE CONFESSIONS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

I'LL MEET YOU THERE    SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL