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Alex, Approximately – Jenn Bennett

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

Related Posts: Starry Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it!

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

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BOOKS LIKE ALEX, APPROXIMATELY

              

Starry Eyes – Jenn Bennett

Starry Eyes – Jenn BennettTitle: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Publishing Info: April 3, 2018 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: April 6, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: Alex, Approximately

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

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Jenn Bennett is a new auto-buy author for me! I thoroughly enjoyed ALEX, APPROXIMATELY and STARRY EYES was just as good if not better. I loved all of the real teen issues tackled in this book from friendships to romance to sex to family, and everything in between. It was a great representation of realistic life and I love any contemporary romance novel that doesn’t go over-the-top with issues and keeps the drama within the normal realm of relatable experiences. (Not to say that over-the-top things don’t happen in real life, because obviously it happens, but I like to keep things more every day and not too dramatic. It gets to be a bit much if you only ever read about the extremes.)

I also really enjoyed the topics that the book did cover. Main character Zorie has anxiety issues and planning is the way that she copes with them, to the extent of planning nearly everything. She lives with her dad and stepmom and I kind of loved that she was actually really close with her stepmom and really considered her to be her mother and called her “mom”. I love seeing step-parent relationships that aren’t negative or angsty, and Zorie actually was closer to her mom than her dad. She wasn’t close with her father, and without spoiling specific things, she ended up having some issues with her dad throughout the book and I really enjoyed how Jenn Bennett tackled all of these issues and situations!

I LOVED the wilderness and camping aspect since that’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. I always went camping with my family as a kid but we always stayed at campgrounds. My husband (before we were married) loved the legitimate wilderness camping and introduced me to that when we started dating so it was really fun to see that atmosphere and see that knowledge put to use on the pages. It’s also great to put things like that into perspective because there’s a lot that you don’t think about as a teen, or even as an adult, being out in nature like that and it makes you really responsible really quickly. I liked seeing that in a teen setting to show some maturity and responsibility, as well as the sense of freedom it provides (and even a few moments where you’re not quite honest with your parents).

STARRY EYES was a wonderful book and I inhaled it in two days! I really enjoyed reading it and Jenn Bennett’s characters are just wonderful. I loved even the secondary characters and how much they supported the stories of the main characters and how they came to life as well. It was so well-done and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Positive step-family environments. I’m so over the evil stepmother concept! I loved how much Zorie really treated Joy like her mom and Joy always said that Zorie was her daughter. It’s a lovely feeling and I had so much appreciate for that support.
Left Me Wanting More: Zing factor. That’s not a thing, but bear with me here. So I loved ALEX, APPROXIMATELY and I loved STARRY EYES, both so very much. But I didn’t loooove them. They were fatalistic and solid and beautiful four star books but there was just that oomph that didn’t launch them to five stars for me. I’m not sure what’s “missing” (nothing is MISSING but you know?) but regardless, I’m loving Jenn Bennett’s books!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you’re looking for a new auto-buy/auto-read author, this is my new one! I’m enjoyed Jenn Bennett’s books so much and her last two have launched her onto my radar! I need to go back and read THE ANATOMICAL SHAPE OF A HEART now!

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BOOKS LIKE STARRY EYES

          

Mini-Review: The Demon’s Lexicon (The Demon’s Lexicon #1) – Sarah Rees Brennan

Mini-Review: The Demon’s Lexicon (The Demon’s Lexicon #1) – Sarah Rees BrennanTitle: The Demon's Lexicon (The Demon's Lexicon #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publishing Info: June 2, 2009 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 23, 2017
Related Posts: Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1)

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick's mother stole -- a charm that keeps her alive -- and they want it badly enough to kill again.
Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon's mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase...and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is desperate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians' Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

This is the Demon's Lexicon. Turn the page.

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I read THE DEMON’S LEXICON on audio before Halloween (well, long before Halloween — in September) when I was in the mood for paranormal/urban fantasy/horror reads so it’s been a while since I’ve read it but I’ve also put off writing the review for a while because it wasn’t as stand-out of a book as I had expected and I didn’t quite know what to say.

I had no idea what to expect going into this book but I was expecting a fun urban fantasy feel and I wasn’t let down in that respect! It was actually a little more fun than I had expected with some nice banter, and interesting family dynamic, and some concepts that actually reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s novels in a way. I’m not exactly sure how but it just had that sort of feel.

The book had its ups and downs, full of some really interesting twists but it also hit some slow spots too. It actually felt more like the writing style rather than the actual plot/book slowing down, but still my interest starting waning once I started losing speed.

I really liked how the end played out and there were a lot of things that really surprised me! The story was really interesting and the reveals were perfect… And yet still, I don’t really feel drawn to continue the series. I found that the second book switches POVs to a character that I don’t really care about and I was invested in these two brothers which was half of the reason I was reading. I meant to start the second book right after and pushed it aside so I’m not sure that I’ll ever get to it.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Urban Fantasy. Urban fantasy is very hit-or-miss with me. Some I LOVE and others I really don’t care for. This was a fun one and it hit the mark!
Left Me Wanting More: Momentum. Things slowed down every once in a while and the pacing seemed to lose my interest. If it had kept going, it would have been even better!

Addiction Rating
Consider it

I enjoyed reading this book but I don’t feel driven to continue the series so it’s a tough one to recommend. I wasn’t disappointed with my read and  yet, if I don’t feel like continuing the series, I’m not sure if I’d tell someone to go out and pick it up!

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BOOKS LIKE THE DEMON’S LEXICON

          

An Enchantment of Ravens – Margaret Rogerson

An Enchantment of Ravens – Margaret RogersonTitle: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Publishing Info: September 26, 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: October 26, 2017

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There's only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

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Sooooo, the hype ran away with this book a little bit there, didn’t it?
Well, let’s chat. There was a huge hype around this book, especially when you say words like ENCHANTMENT and RAVENS, but sadly I appear to be the black sheep again on another hyped book. From some of the raving reviews, I was expecting so much more when it came to the creation of this world, the depth of the romance, and the pacing of the plot. I was missing a whole lot of world-building, history, and character development. There was soooo much more that could have been done with this book and I felt those gaping holes very noticeably.

One of the biggest letdowns for me about this book is that it just felt so… simple. Everything could have gone so much DEEPER and it all seemed a bit surface-level when it could have been so much more complex and interesting. Isobel is swept away to the lands of the fair folk by the Autumn Prince but it was for a very surface reason and I thought that could have been thought out a lot better. Then there’s some journeying (one of my least favorite things), fleeing from the Wild Hunt, random creatures, and then Isobel is painting portraits of the Fair Folk and… some stuff happens?? It’s not like the plot was lacking in THINGS but it was lacking in following through on any of them. I kept feeling like the things that kept happening were going to go somewhere but nothing really developed into an actual interesting tidbit of world-building or plot.

The Wild Hunt was introduced and Hemlock from the Winter Court who was leading it… but then that kind of didn’t really go anywhere as far as details on what it was, why it was happening, how Hemlock got to be leading it, etc. I won’t get into Isobel and her Fair Folk painting sessions because there are some spoilers there, but same thing — there was so much more story to tell there and unravel some magic and WHY it was happening or WHY it was important but it just kind of… was. I understand with magic systems sometimes you just have to suspend the scientific part of your brain where you need explanations why, but I had a hard time and felt like I was left with the author’s promise that this was just the way it was instead of understanding how a world came to be, its governing systems, its hierarchy, its history, how it functions within a magical realm… It just wasn’t there for me.

Some things were explained but really in passing sentences and there was no rich story behind any of it. Being that this book was only 300 pages, I thought that it could have benefited soooo much more from being 350-400 pages and included more of the world-building that I love so much in fantasy novels. Even the title was lacking for me, being that it’s called AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS and then the actual enchantment itself played such a small part in the story. Rook transformed into a raven but that wasn’t the actual enchantment and the enchantment itself was hardly used, and even when it was referenced again, it didn’t even really come into play.

AEOR was also VERY much like A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES when it didn’t have to be and could have been changed in a lot of ways. I understand that this book could have been written 5 years ago and just got published now… but even if that were the case, things still should have been changed maybe a liiiiittle bit to not be so similar to one of the most popular series out there. Maybe that was the marketing strategy — to actually be a little similar? — because I know that some people liked it BECAUSE of that, but some of the main points were just too similar for my tastes and I really wanted this book to stand on its own. Granted, I don’t know a lot about fae folklore/history/culture/origin stories because I haven’t read as many fae books as other high fantasy so it could be that some of these things were taken from common folklore that I just don’t know… but for the average reader who may not know these things (which I guess is me), things just seemed awfully similar and it was irksome. Between the seasonal courts, purple eyes, a main character who paints, a forbidden romance, the involvement of the Spring Court and where that goes, and a spoiler at the end that I won’t share, I just spotted too many similarities to the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy and you know how it goes — once you spot a few, you can’t stop seeing them everywhere.

The romance was also very… basic. We knew Isobel and Rook were going to be the romance in this book but I wasn’t sold on their love. It wasn’t exactly instalove since they had spent weeks together (admittedly not really speaking the whole time…) and but it FELT like instalove. I don’t even have a beef with instalove because I believe you can know a person is who you’re meant to be with when you meet them (especially since my husband and I felt that way when we met) but it just felt tropey and I didn’t feel like these characters had a chemistry. They DID have some good banter and then it disappeared, and I was left wanting so much more. The interactions started out somewhat strong, creating that chemistry between them, and then it was “Woe is me, I’m in love with you!” and “Oops, I’m in love with you too!” and I didn’t understand where that love came from. I wasn’t feeling it and it’s a lot to go from not knowing anyone at all and then willing to sacrifice your life for someone many times over. Just because you say two characters are in love doesn’t mean we’re all going to believe it. I didn’t feel that love emanating from the pages or written in the little nuances (something that Rainbow Rowell does AMAZINGLY well — that has nothing to do with fantasy but she is the queen at writing the things that can’t be put into words). I just felt like I was TOLD a lot of things instead of seeing them.

The ending also happened too quickly and easily and I was not a fan. It seemed to happen so simply and was so anticlimactic. After this lead up to a super-villain, I wasn’t feeling the villainy and POOF everything was okay. The ending felt rushed and easy and I didn’t think it wrapped up well. The book closes with finality but also leaves an opening for a series. I’m guessing it was written in case the reactions were good for more books to be added on, or just for readers to be left thinking about the world to come. This book just left me with so many QUESTIONS.

The TL;DR version is that this book could have been so much MORE and it just wasn’t for me. Especially with the hype and so many five-star reviews, I was expecting a loooot more that just wasn’t there so I’m perfectly okay with being the black sheep on not enjoying this one like everyone else. I’m just not seeing what other readers did.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fae, I guess. I used to not like faerie stories at all. Then I loved some. And then I hated some again. I like trying new things and continuing to seek out new and exciting books.
Left Me Wanting More: Everything. I just felt like this could have been so much MORE. I probably wouldn’t have been as disappointed as I am if it hadn’t been so hyped up.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I wouldn’t personally recommend it based on my experience and yet still… people loved it! I guess go check out your regular trusted reviewers on this one!

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BOOKS LIKE AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS

          

Hidden Bodies (You #2) – Caroline Kepnes

Hidden Bodies (You #2) – Caroline KepnesTitle: Hidden Bodies (You #2) by Caroline Kepnes
Publishing Info: February 23, 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 3, 2017
Related Posts: You (You #1)

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: true love. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice...

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I picked up HIDDEN BODIES because I was wholly engrossed with YOU by Caroline Kepnes when I had picked it up earlier in the year. (Last year? I don’t even remember when it was.) It was disturbing and yet interesting all at the same time and HIDDEN BODIES was no different in that respect! I came to actually like Joe, despite his murderous and obsessive ways, and had fun following his crazy story in HIDDEN BODIES as well.

This book, however, wasn’t quite as enjoyable as YOU. YOU felt much more fast-paced (although I do remember feeling like it lagged for a while too) but HIDDEN BODIES felt a little too long. The plot is quite different, starting out a little similar but seemingly veering off-path. I guess there’s no “right” way to write about a serial killer but Joe ended up finding some “normal” and while there were still some very messed up moments and the body count grew, it just didn’t feel as… dark… as YOU.

I love these audiobooks with Santino Fontana narrating (who I did not realize is the voice of Hans in Frozen — thanks to my sister for that tidbit! Although I still heard Joe with his great narration) and I’m not sure I’d have enjoyed this nearly as much without the audio aspect so I’m definitely glad I ended up doing audio for both books! It did feel a bit slow in plot sometimes but the narration kept it moving and I loved the edge in the narrator’s voice.

The ending was… interesting? I didn’t realize that this series was going to keep going — at least I think it is from the way it ended. I kind of liked where it went and yet it also kind of felt untrue to the character we met in book one. I guess there’s always room for growth, and I guess it’s also true that Dexter took this kind of turn towards domestic life and I didn’t mind it. (Okay, I did a little bit.)

I wasn’t big on the Hollywood scene and I much preferred the setting in New York but the book was still very interesting and I did enjoy following Joe on some more horrific adventures. (Is enjoy the right word for reading a book about a killer? Eek.) I’ll definitely still continue on if we get more Joe adventures but I did feel like this book wasn’t as cohesive as the last.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Relatable serial killers?  Okay, is that even a thing? What I’m really saying here is that I appreciate being able to get sort of sucked into Joe’s world. Somehow he becomes an antihero that you want to root for.
Left Me Wanting More: Darkness. Joe was crazy yet easy to relate to in YOU and I missed some of that darker sidein HIDDEN BODIES. I think this book went a little off-course, though I guess that’s just where the story went!

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you enjoyed YOU, HIDDEN BODIES is worth the read! I much preferred the first book but there’s something so compelling about Joe despite the fact that he’s banana sandwich.

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BOOKS LIKE HIDDEN BODIES

          

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

          

I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid

I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain ReidTitle: I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Publishing Info: June 14, 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Source: BEA 2016
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: July 6, 2017

I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always.

Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”

And here’s what I’m thinking: I don’t want to be here.

In this deeply suspenseful and irresistibly unnerving debut novel, a man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.

In this smart, suspenseful, and intense literary thriller, debut novelist Iain Reid explores the depths of the human psyche, questioning consciousness, free will, the value of relationships, fear, and the limitations of solitude. Reminiscent of Jose Saramago’s early work, Michel Faber’s cult classic Under the Skin, and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an edgy, haunting debut. Tense, gripping, and atmospheric, this novel pulls you in from the very first page.

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WOW, this book was really interesting! First, I love that it was short. It added to the pacing that it was a book you knew you could race through and especially once things got towards the middle, I couldn’t put it down.

I also have to hand it to Iain Reid for how this book was structured. Obviously it’s a thriller that has been advertised as having a shocking ending so I’m not giving anything away there, but it was something that certainly surprised me and I immediately went back to the beginning of the book to check out how everything had started again because I needed to retrace my steps! The structure was excellent and it was so interesting to read! The ending was definitely shocking and I totally didn’t see it coming, somehow. A lot of times, I’m able to pick up on “obvious” things and piece together the end of a mystery or thriller but this one really got me. Looking back, I should have known but I guess that was the true nature of the book.

I was still confused about a few things after immediately finishing but once I started to look back on the whole book, it just became more and more clear to me. There were lots of clues tucked all over the place but you’d never know they were there if you didn’t know to look for them, but then seeing them again just made everything click. It was very creepy at times, definitely thrilling, and quite an interesting read!

Once I finished the book, I actually went back to read other people’s reviews as I often do and there was something that totally surprised me that I didn’t even pick up! It’s kind of a spoiler, in my opinion, so I won’t mention it outright here but you can check out my review on Goodreads to check out the spoiler within spoiler tags if you’re interested! Basically, it was another little surprise of the book that I didn’t even notice until I started reading other people’s reviews and it was neat to have the book STILL keep going after I had finished!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Super twisty thrillers. This book got a little weird and a whole lot confusing but kind of in the best possible way. I loved how twisty it was and that I was never really quite sure what as going on!
Left Me Wanting More: Direction. I DID like that I didn’t know what was going on but I’ll admit that I felt a little lost at times. I love getting swept away with a book but sometimes it did feel like a bit much.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

The book is super short and a fast read. It’s curious, interesting, and totally kept me on my toes!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Six-Gun Snow White – Catherynne M. Valente

Six-Gun Snow White – Catherynne M. ValenteTitle: Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
Publishing Info: February 28, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Adult, Magical Realism, Western, Retelling
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: December 7, 2016

A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parents - a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother's death in childbirth, so begins a heroine's tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.

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I just had a serious disconnect with this book. It’s one of those where I’ve seen friends rave about it and then I feel uncouth for not feeling the same way. This is the same way that I felt about UPROOTED — I could clearly see the beauty in the words there but I just wasn’t connecting with them. To be fair to the book (and to myself, I guess), I wasn’t really expecting the book to read like it did and I think I wouldn’t have picked it up at this very point in my life because I have too much going on to really appreciate something like this. I’ve never read Catherynne Valente so I had no idea what to expect and the writing style was just so different than I thought it was going to be.

The book was true to the original Snow White tale in its adaptation but I seem to be a person who appreciates even more of an original twist with an adaption with my retellings. I like the concept of a fairy tale and the author running with their own plot, essentially, because then there’s still a plot for me to figure out. SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE, although taking place in the Wild West and having many differences in time period and setting, still remained very true to the original tale in plot so it’s not like there were really many surprises in store, and I just didn’t feel connected to the book because of that. It was also much more prosaic than action-based, which is fine — I don’t need all action, all the time — but again, it was more of an expectation and something I just ended up not being in the mood for but finished anyway.

I listened to the audiobook of this because I needed a new audio, Hoopla had it available, it’s narrated by Julia Whelan, and it was short. I knew if I put it down to continue at a later time, I likely wouldn’t pick it back up so I motored through and just didn’t really ever connect, unfortunately. Julia Whelan is one of my favorite female audiobook narrators but a good narrator can’t always make you love a book.

Overall, I think this just wasn’t my style and I wasn’t in the right place to read this style at the moment either. Such is life, though. I try to pick up what I’m in the mood for and some things just surprise me. This book just didn’t surprise me in a good way, unfortunately. I can see why so many people have loved it and I think a lot of my friends will love it if/when they read it but it just wasn’t the book for me.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique retellings. I loved the Western twist on this retelling! I’ve barely read any Westerns much less Western retellings.
Left Me Wanting More: Action. I don’t need action for a book to be good and enjoyable for me… but I did have the expectation that this book was going to be a little different.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

Literally all of my other Goodreads friends who have read this enjoyed it but it just wasn’t the right book for me, at least not at the point in time that I read it, so I may not be the only person to trust on this one! Gather up some trusted reviewers!

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BOOKS LIKE SIX-GUN SNOW WHITE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER

You (You #1) – Caroline Kepnes

You (You #1) – Caroline KepnesTitle: You (You #1) by Caroline Kepnes
Publishing Info: September 30, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: December 1, 2016
Related Posts: Hidden Bodies (You #2)

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.
There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.
As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

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Well, for all of the hype for this book, it didn’t really leave me feeling shocked or awed or super impressed, but I did find that it left a lasting impression and that I wanted to read the next book right away! I did like the things that were different about it. I really enjoyed the different narration in the second person, hence the title “You”. Main character (and super psychopath) Joe narrates the book to and about his newest obsession, Guinevere Beck. It was an interesting choice of narration and it really gets you in the head of the narrator. I did have a hard time with the book — not in a bad way, but in a way that confused me because this guy is totally nuts. He’s actually crazy and creepy and scary and does some very, very bad things… And yet I felt sympathetic at times! The form of narration really had me feeling for him even though I knew he was totally wrong and deranged. I also really enjoyed Joe’s voice in the sense that it felt more personal. It wasn’t just recounting. He often interrupted himself or interjected with more things that brought one more level to the account.

For all of the hype, I felt like there was supposed to be a twist coming and while that really wasn’t this kind of book. I think I got myself all hyped because of other people’s reactions and it didn’t really shock me like I thought it would, but instead, it was shocking in a very different way. I was so appalled at Joe’s actions and yet it was also a train wreck that I couldn’t stop watching. I really did get myself all psyched for a big twist moment, so I was a bit sad that that didn’t happen, but I also am coming to appreciate those thrillers that can wrap up without a twist because if every book had a twist, they’d all be predictable!

The book was very sexual, and I don’t have issues with sexuality in books, but it did feel overdone at times. I guess that is kind of the point of the book in a way, since Joe’s obsession is romantic on all levels. He’s obsessed with Beck emotionally, physically, and mentally. Clearly he has several psychoses so the obsession is overboard on so many levels. I am used to reading YA which really doesn’t get explicit of course, but there were points that felt like a little much for me.

YOU was interesting and engaging from start to finish and I did enjoy reading it but I think I was just let down by the hype. I kept waiting for a huge moment that didn’t really happen and I thought that’s how the book would end but was also kind of hoping it wouldn’t. Looking back on it as I’m reviewing, I really was totally engaged so that really did leave a good lasting impression! Somehow Joe came off as charismatic in a way and I wanted to pick up HIDDEN BODIES shortly thereafter!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Crazy, messed-up thrillers. I don’t know why but every once in a while, I like a good, messed up book.
Left Me Wanting More: Twists. I guess I did appreciate the lack of a big twist but I was also really expecting it so it was kind of a bummer!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you like some crazy thrillers that put you into the mind of a literal psychopath, definitely check out YOU!

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BOOKS LIKE YOU

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    THE GOOD GIRL

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride – Cary Elwes

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride – Cary ElwesTitle: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes, Joe Layden
Publishing Info: October 14, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Audible, Gift
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 31, 2016

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.
The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.
Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!
With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.

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Gosh, this was just so wonderful. The Princess Bride has always meant a lot to me, growing up with the movie, then later reading the book as an adult, and eventually sharing it with my husband who had never seen the movie and much like the grandson, ended up really enjoying it despite his initial hesitance.

It was just magical to hear all of these behind-the-scenes moments while the movie was being filmed, all of the delightful anecdotes, more movie trivia, and it was so overwhelming special to hear how treasured this movie and movie-making experience really was to all of the actors. It’s something that has become near and dear to so many fans and it’s so wonderful to hear how much fun they had making the movie and how they really became a movie family.

This book was wonderfully put together, consisting of a start-to-finish tale of how the movie was made, how all of the actors were brought in, and even how it was received. I loved the overall story and all of the anecdotes the book included. I haven’t read many non-fiction books or memoirs or really anything like this so I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to follow and listen to! (Although I suppose I watch plenty of non-fictional TV shows so it’s not that big of a leap.) Cary Elwes also does a wonderful job of really making this flow as a story to carry readers along with the production experience.

Despite having a print copy (which I would want to own regardless), I listened to the audiobook of AS YOU WISH and it was an amazing listen. Cary Elwes narrated and all of the actors (who are still living) as well as the directors and author William Goldman popped in to narrated their additions to this book as well. (Although a narrator stepped in for a few actors and William Goldman for this audiobook production.) Cary Elwes is an amazing narrator. Obviously he’s a great actor so he has a natural story-telling ability and the wonderful knack for bringing a story to life. He’s also amazing at impressions and was so great doing all of the actors voices and accents when telling his side of their conversations! If he isn’t a narrator for any other audiobooks, he really should be. It was such a delight listening to his narration!

I actually teared up at the end of the audiobook, I must admit. I could just feel the emotion that was such a big part of these actors’ experience with the filming of The Princess Bride and this movie is one of my all-time favorites. I just feel such a connection to it and I got quite emotional as well! AS YOU WISH was just wonderful and I think an important read for any Princess Bride fan! If you’re a huge fan of the movie, you won’t be disappointed with this 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: Non-fiction. I really read next to zero non-fiction. I’m just such a fan of losing myself in fictional worlds that non-fiction doesn’t really catch my eye. AS YOU WISH may have me rethinking this for certain topics that mean a lot to me because this experience was just so enjoyable and  I learned things!
Left Me Wanting More: Time with this story! Everything I ever wanted was in this book. The only thing I wanted was for it not to end!

Addiction Rating
Read it/listen to it ASAP!

I SO recommend the audiobook for this one! Listening to Cary Elwes is just magical.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE AS YOU WISH

(Click the cover to see my review!)