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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

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.

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BOOKS LIKE AS YOU WISH

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love – Sarvenaz Tash

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love – Sarvenaz TashTitle: The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
Publishing Info: June 14, 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 27, 2016

John Hughes meets Comic Con in this hilarious, unabashedly romantic, coming-of-age novel about a teenager who is trying to get his best friend to fall in love with him from the author of Three Day Summer.
Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy...
Archie and Veronica...
Althena and Noth...
...Graham and Roxy?
Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago, and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.
But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.
When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be...even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.

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love geeky/nerdy love stories so I knew I wanted to read this from the moment I saw the title! Full of geeky references, nerds galore, and an entire story revolving around Comic-Con, THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO UNREQUITED LOVE had me hooked from the start and kept me totally involved throughout the story!

GEEK’S GUIDE had so many wonderful things! A great friendship, a cute quest for romance, and tons of nerdy references. Without spoiling anything, I will say that I really, really loved the ending. GEEK’S GUIDE had all of that feeling of a John Hughes movie (the characters even have a strong love for John Hughes!) where the main character has some awesome quirks to make them totally unique but they’ve got a crush just out of reach (or way out of reach) except the ending wasn’t entirely predictable as some Hughes movies are. Graham went through a string of mishaps that any typical novel might have but nothing felt too predictable or cliche. I loved the way Sarvenaz Tash really created a novel that felt comfortable and familiar but still took its own path.

The setting of Comic-Con was absolute perfection. Being a book blogger who has been at the Javits Center a few times for Book Expo America, it was so much fun to see the characters in a specific location that I could relate to. I loved trying to picture where they were in the Javits Center throughout their time at NYCC and it really added a layer of reality to the book for me. I also just loved how a lot of the book took place at Comic-Con and how well it was portrayed. I moderated a book panel at a comic convention and I’ve been to several book conventions so it was fun to see the similarities in the novel as well as experience the differences.

love best-friend-to-more romances and I really liked that GEEK’S GUIDE dealt with Graham’s crush on his best friend Roxy. It’s always such a tricky situation when you’ve got a friend-crush but there can also be so many wonderful butterflies! The problem that Graham faces is that he truly does not know if Roxy feels the same way and when you’re best friends, it’s impossible sometimes to tell where that line begins and ends. It’s always worrying reading a friends-to-more story because I always wonder what if it doesn’t work out? The friendship is likely ruined and then these characters that I love so much are in pieces. Again, I won’t give away the ending but I just really loved how Sarvenaz Tash handled every single situation in this book. Everything felt really true to the characters and really realistic as well.

If you’re looking for a fun, geeky, and sweet novel, THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO UNREQUITED LOVE will be a hit with you! I had such a blast reading it and I just loved Sarvenaz Tash’s writing. I’m a new fan and I can’t wait to read more from her! 
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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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Graham // Character Obsessions: Roxy, The Chronicles of Althena, epic gestures. 
Graham was great! I really loved how he felt like a nice, normal guy. He was funny, nerdy, sweet, down-to-earth, and a little over-the-top all at the same time. Aside from the normal cringey mistakes we’ve all made, I thought Graham handled everything really well and I just really enjoyed his character all around!
Roxy // Character Obsessions: Drawing, The Chronicles of Althena, friendship… more?
I thought it was so great that the big crush wasn’t some totally unattainable girl. She was smart, geeky, pretty, unique, but also relatable and normal. I really loved that the top percentage of the class was portrayed as normal kids and not just socially-inept nerds because the top of my class in high school was an incredibly diverse mix including some really good athletes too. I really appreciated that the unrequited love was on the best friend side and not on a totally unattainable girl.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Nerd pride. I love geeky books and characters. It’s SO much fun to be nerdy sometimes and I love the books that celebrate that individuality and pride to be who you are.
Left Me Wanting More: Swoons. Don’t get me wrong — there were adequate swoons — but I could have a used a few more. That’s the problem with unrequited love, such as it is. The swooning is all on one side!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

Ahhh it was so much fun!

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BOOKS LIKE THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO UNREQUITED LOVE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    revenge of the girl with the great personality

Mini-Reviews: Recent Audiobooks | 738 Days, Tricky Twenty-Two, We Are the Ants

MINI REVIEWS

I’ve somehow fallen extremely behind on book reviews (that’s life!) so I’m combining a few audiobook reviews into one post today! Life has been so busy that I’ve been finishing way more audiobooks lately than I have print copies — but I’m always a fan of audios! Here are a few thoughts on 738 DAYS by Stacey Kade, TRICKY TWENTY-TWO by Janet Evanovich, WE ARE THE ANTS by Shaun David Hutchinson.


Mini-Reviews: Recent Audiobooks | 738 Days, Tricky Twenty-Two, We Are the AntsTitle: 738 Days by Stacey Kade
Publishing Info: June 7, 2016 by Macmillan, Tor Books
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: July 7, 2016

At fifteen, Amanda Grace was abducted on her way home from school. 738 days later, she escaped. Her 20/20 interview is what everyone remembers—Amanda describing the room where she was kept, the torn poster of TV heartthrob Chase Henry on the wall. It reminded her of home and gave her the strength to keep fighting.
Now, years later, Amanda is struggling to live normally. Her friends have gone on to college, while she battles PTSD. She’s not getting any better, and she fears that if something doesn’t change soon she never will.
Six years ago, Chase Henry defied astronomical odds, won a coveted role on a new TV show, and was elevated to super-stardom. With it, came drugs, alcohol, arrests, and crazy spending sprees. Now he's sober and a Hollywood pariah, washed up at twenty-four.
To revamp his image, Chase’s publicist comes up with a plan: surprise Amanda Grace with the chance to meet her hero, followed by a visit to the set of Chase’s new movie. The meeting is a disaster, but out of mutual desperation, Amanda and Chase strike a deal. What starts as a simple arrangement, though, rapidly becomes more complicated when they realize they need each other in more ways than one. But when the past resurfaces in a new threat, will they stand together or fall apart?

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I was in need of a new audiobook when I started 738 DAYS and it seemed the most appealing choice out of my current selection! I had heard a lot of good things about it and although I wasn’t feeling any of my options, this one seemed to be my best bet for my mood at the time. I hadn’t realized it was so realistic/contemporary (I thought it was going to be more thriller/action — ah, the curse of going in mostly blind) but I did enjoy the book! Since I wasn’t in the mood for a serious contemporary novel, I ended up getting a little eye-rolly at some of the mushy parts (it was my own fault!) but 738 DAYS was a really well put together novel.

I thought the characters were quite realistic. I liked the array of emotions from Amanda. I could easily see how the trauma of her past still affected her — and likely would affect her for a long time or even the rest of her life — and yet she was determined not to to get stuck from it and have that trauma hold her life back. I loved her strength and determination. It was nice to see that gusto and not have her be too gung-ho or the type that constantly refuses someone’s help just so she can do something herself. There was a great balance of growth and seeing that moving past this wasn’t easy. I also really liked Chase and that we met him in his days of redemption. I think it’s easier to like a character when the bad stuff is in their past versus watching them go through the periods of self-destruction. It’s easier to distance yourself from that negative side and it was really nice to see Chase already in the process of that change to be a better person. He and Amanda really just clicked together and I liked how easy that relationship felt. I’ll admit that since I was thinking it was a bit more thriller (oops) that I wasn’t really excited about the romance at first (I know, I know, that’s what the whole book was ABOUT) but the great thing is that it totally grew on me. To swing me from not thrilled to totally loving it says a lot!

I’d say this is more of a New Adult title (given age range and sexual content I wouldn’t say it’s YA) and if you’re hesitant about reading New Adult given some of the more cheesy titles that have previously given it a bad name, this is a great place to start! It’ll definitely be one of my New Adult recommendations for people looking to try some.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS | 738 DAYS had dual narrators for the two main characters. Andrew Eiden voiced Chase and Shannon McManus voiced Amanda. I didn’t really like Shannon’s voice much but it wasn’t enough that I actively disliked it (which has happened in the past and I’ve turned an audiobook off). Her voice is high and clear, very feminine, but it has kind of that Valley Girl intonation that bothered me a little bit. I did like Andrew Eiden’s voice but I still wasn’t overly in love with his narration. I’d say a solid 3.75 – 4 stars for the narration on this one.


Mini-Reviews: Recent Audiobooks | 738 Days, Tricky Twenty-Two, We Are the AntsTitle: Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22) by Janet Evanovich
Publishing Info: November 17, 2015 by Random House Publishing Group
Genres: Adult, Cozy Mystery
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 19, 2016
Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13), Plum Lucky (Stephanie Plum #13.5), Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum #14), , Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), Mini-Reviews: The Audition, Plum Spooky | DNF Report: Tether, Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum #14.5), Mini-Reviews: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16) & Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum #18), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Mini-Reviews: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Curious Minds (Knight & Moon #1), Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16)

Something big is brewing in Trenton, N.J., and it could blow at any minute.
Stephanie Plum might not be the world's greatest bounty hunter, but she knows when she's being played. Ken Globovic (aka Gobbles), hailed as the Supreme Exalted Zookeeper of the animal house known as Zeta fraternity, has been arrested for beating up the dean of students at Kiltman College. Gobbles has missed his court date and gone into hiding. People have seen him on campus, but no one will talk. Things just aren't adding up, and Stephanie can't shake the feeling that something funny is going on at the college - and it's not just Zeta fraternity pranks.
As much as people love Gobbles, they hate Doug Linken. When Linken is gunned down in his backyard it's good riddance, and the list of possible murder suspects is long. The only people who care about finding Linken's killer are Trenton cop Joe Morelli, who has been assigned the case, security expert Ranger, who was hired to protect Linken, and Stephanie, who has her eye on a cash prize and hopefully has some tricks up her sleeve.


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I am loving that the Stephanie Plum books are coming back around to being actual stories that I care about and not just throw-away, silly novels. TRICKY TWENTY-TWO actually had the characters addressing serious issues. We hear talk of marriage and serious commitments, and not in just the silly way of how the characters are usually afraid of commitment or Stephanie’s caught up between Morelli and Ranger. I loved that things got a little deeper and the characters became more real again and not just caricatures of themselves.

The plot was better too! Less crazy, wild animals and more actual cases, bringing that sense of mystery back to the book and not just a silly thriller aspect. I do love these books — they’re fun, familiar, and the audios are SO quick. I’m really glad that they’re coming back around and keep me excited for more! For a while I was starting to grow tired of them (not like I’d quit them!) but I’m really happy that I’m getting that faith back in the series.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS | As usual, Lorelai King was a lot of fun! I think she’s really good at all of the different voices (and there are a LOT of distinct ones) and she really brings these books to life. I don’t think I’ve read Stephanie Plum book in print for maybe ten books (or more!) because they’re just so much fun on audio and somehow they go by so quickly!!

Mini-Reviews: Recent Audiobooks | 738 Days, Tricky Twenty-Two, We Are the AntsTitle: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Publishing Info: January 19, 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: June 26, 2016

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.
Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.
What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.
But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.
The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.


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I hadn’t picked up WE ARE THE ANTS for a while because truthfully, I was afraid of the whole “abducted by aliens” thing. While I will agree that it is a big part of the book, it’s not a main portion of the action. Henry does believe that he keeps getting abducted and that he has the ability to save the world or let it be destroyed but it’s more about the question of his decision than it is about the aliens.

The book is a lot deeper and a lot more realistic fiction than I thought it would be too! Obviously aliens had me believing it was sci-fi but it was really more of Henry’s story, what he was going through since his boyfriend’s suicide, the bullying that’s occurring in his life, and his relationship with his family. It was a heart-achingly beautiful novel, quite realistic and really thought-provoking. It was darker than I had anticipated but there was also a wonderful balance of humor to ease that darkness a little bit. Shaun David Hutchinson did an amazing job and really brought me into a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own (alien abduction is really just a turn-off for me) and I like how that whole idea was incorporated into the book! I was poignant, original, and very well-written.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS | Gibson Frazier was a really good narrator! This is the first time I’ve ever listened something he’s narrated (I have a tendency to listen to my favorites) and he was really great! Sometimes a little monotone but I also think that was a bit of the character so I’m not sure if it was him or Henry. I liked how well he seemed to fit the character and I really enjoyed him in this book. Sometimes I did wish for more emotion but I’d be interested to listen to more from him.

How to Disappear – Ann Redisch Stampler

How to Disappear – Ann Redisch StamplerTitle: How to Disappear by Ann Redisch Stampler
Publishing Info: June 14, 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 14, 2016

This electric cross-country thriller follows the game of cat and mouse between a girl on the run from a murder she witnessed—or committed? —and the boy who's sent to kill her.
Nicolette Holland is the girl everyone likes. Up for adventure. Loyal to a fault. And she's pretty sure she can get away with anything...until a young woman is brutally murdered in the woods near Nicolette's house. Which is why she has to disappear.
Jack Manx has always been the stand-up guy with the killer last name. But straight A's and athletic trophies can't make people forget that his father was a hit man and his brother is doing time for armed assault. Just when Jack is about to graduate from his Las Vegas high school and head east for college, his brother pulls him into the family business with inescapable instructions: find this ruthless Nicolette Holland and get rid of her. Or else Jack and everyone he loves will pay the price.
As Nicolette and Jack race to outsmart each other, tensions—and attractions—run high. Told in alternating voices, this tightly plotted mystery and tense love story challenges our assumptions about right and wrong, guilt and innocence, truth and lies.

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HOW TO DISAPPEAR was definitely the kind of book to get me hooked! It started off just a bit slow for me —  partially because I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for — but a little after halfway through, I couldn’t tear myself away! The book feels more like a thriller with a dash of mystery thrown in and the dual POV made for a really interesting take on the whole story as well!

The book is structured with alternating POVs from the two main characters: Nicolette (the girl on the run) and Jack (the boy who’s sent to find her). One of the things I loved about this was the anticipation of when these two POVs would finally collide. It was incredibly interesting to see things from both perspectives and as with any mystery/thriller, I was left wondering if one was an unreliable narrator or if both were to be trusted. Then once the two characters did meet, it was that anticipation of who was going to spill the beans or how one found out about the other. I’ll admit that I did hope for a run-in earlier than it happened but I also loved the interactions between characters once they did finally cross paths!

I say that HOW TO DISAPPEAR was more thriller for me because of the main action with Nicolette being on the run. The first portion of her narratives are hiding out and the paranoia that someone will figure out how to get to her. I actually felt like this dragged just a bit for me and I think that was because without Jack actually on the scene, there’s not as much opportunity for details to come out with why she needs to be in hiding in the first place. I wished there were just a few more hints dropped and questions for the reader to ponder earlier on in the story because those would have really pulled me in even more!

The mystery came a bit later in the story for me although it was set up since the beginning, the main idea of which is did Nicolette really commit this murder? My mind was racing through the many possible scenarios and I really just didn’t know what was the right one. The questions and investigation really came into play in the second half of the book and there was a whirlwind of reveals towards the end! It was a satisfying ending and yet I found myself wishing there were more twists. I just love a good, twisty book and my brain tends to jump to incredible conclusions so there were a few twists that I hypothesized about that were purely my imagination.

I actually really liked Jack’s character throughout the book. At first I’ll admit that I was incredibly confused but he really started to grow on me. Jack is the more anti-social type and he may not be a good guy but at least he’s trying to stay out of the family business: crime. He keeps trying to fend off his brother’s threats, even when his brother is in prison. He actually really cares about his mom though and that’s a big motivating factor for why he even agrees to go after Nicolette. There was an interesting gray area there and I was so curious to see what choices Jack would end up making!

HOW TO DISAPPEAR was definitely thrilling but at the same time I don’t feel like it made a lasting impression on me. It was a fun read and I finished it in only two days because I just couldn’t put it down! It didn’t quite make the list of my favorite mysteries or thrillers but it was quite a fun and quick ride!

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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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Kept Me Hooked On: YA thrillers. I am seeing a TON coming out in 2016 and I intend to gobble all of them up!!
Left Me Wanting More: Twistiness. I am such a sucker for twists. I love books that can make me gasp and keep me on the edge of my seat. This one was exciting but I could have used just a bit more oomph.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

Although this one didn’t quite stick with me, it was a fast and fun read while I was submerged in the story!

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BOOKS LIKE HOW TO DISAPPEAR

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING    GONE GIRL

26 Kisses – Anna Michels

26 Kisses – Anna MichelsTitle: 26 Kisses by Anna Michels
Publishing Info: May 24, 2016 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: February 10, 2016

Breaking up with her boyfriend is not how Veda planned on starting her summer. When Mark makes it clear that it’s over between them, Veda is heartbroken and humiliated—but, more importantly, she’s inspired. And so she sets out on the love quest of a lifetime: use the summer to forget about Mark, move on, and move up. All she has to do is kiss twenty-six boys with twenty-six different names—one for each letter of the alphabet.
From the top of the Ferris wheel at her hometown carnival to the sandy dunes of Lake Michigan, Veda takes every opportunity she can to add kisses (and boys) to her list, and soon the breakup doesn’t sting quite as much. But just when Veda thinks she has the whole kissing thing figured out, she meets someone who turns her world upside down.
By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Anna Michels’s debut is the story of one girl who realizes that moving on from the supposed love of your life means taking a chance—and having the courage to love again.

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I was looking for a cute new contemporary book when I decided to pick up 26 KISSES and admittedly was instantly attracted by the cover! I read it during a few cold February days and 26 KISSES instantly transported me to a warm and happy summer! The setting was delightfully familiar and vivid (summer in a small Michigan town in the dunes) and I could just picture myself there. The book was quick, fun, and super cute and I’m so glad that I read this one early so I can start recommending it to everyone! 

26 KISSES is the story of Veda who just got dumped in the beginning of the summer before her senior year. Long story short, to help her get over her ex, best friend Mel devises a silly and fun game for Veda where she has to kiss her way through the alphabet (find a guy whose name begins with A, B, C, etc and kiss him in order). I was a bit wary at first because although I feel like a single girl can do whatever she wants, I was still hesitant about make-out sessions with so many guys (I know others have expressed these concerns as well). I was happy to discover that Anna Michels did a great job with the book and mixing things up, keeping things realistic, and keeping them grounded. Mel’s Alphabet Plan made any kiss fair game — on the hand, on the cheek, on the lips — and not all of them had to be romantic kisses to count (although that was her main plan). Some were silly, others were sweet, and others had reminded me of experiences of my own back in high school. I thought everything was very tastefully handled and very well done! Also important were Veda’s reactions to each kiss and how she felt after each one of them. From bliss to embarrassment to courage, each one helped Veda discover something about herself and gain a little bit more self-awareness.

The romance was really cute! I really liked Killian a lot and I felt like there was a lot to discover about him. I really appreciated how the relationship between Veda and Killian starts off as a friendship and then an attraction develops. They both sort of like each other right off the bat but I appreciated that they got to know each other, spend time together, and ended up kindling that little fire of attraction instead of straight up exploding their way into insta-love. The whole thing felt very natural and it was also super adorable! I always love when characters begin as friends and since Veda doesn’t want to jump into another relationship right away, the two end up getting to know each other more first before starting to let the feelings in.

I also really enjoyed the family and friend dynamic. Veda is going through a bit of a crisis in both departments as she notices her two best friends possibly falling for each other and tries to maintain balance in her family life. She doesn’t know how to react to Mel and Seth as they start to exhibit signs of attraction because she fears it’ll ruin the friendship dynamic. I loved how we really got to see her go through a range of reactions from feeling selfish to wanting her best friends to be happy and trying to figure out what the best thing for everyone was. I also loved the realistic family dynamic and how not everything fell into a stereotype. While Veda doesn’t like her new mother-in-law, she simply adores her half-sister and it was great to see that she didn’t resent her because she is the daughter of her dad’s new wife. There was also a wonderful relationship between Veda and her mother and how she and her brother end up trying to maintain that morale now that her dad is gone.

The only thing I wasn’t super keen on was the rumors of Veda going around after she started her kissing challenge. Obviously people will talk when they hear/see random kissing with multiple guys going on but I was upset that the word “slut” was thrown around, and I’m not one to ever really get upset about slut shaming. I feel like it could have been the same situation but without name-calling and the use of that word. (Also note that no one ever actually directly calls her a slut. She finds out about rumors and says it about herself because she’s feeling guilty so maybe an important note to those who are very anti-slut shaming).

Overall, 26 KISSES was SO cute and so much fun! It’s definitely one I’ll be recommending for fans of contemporary, especially those who like the feel-good romance authors like Kasie West and Stephanie Perkins. It’s light and fun but not fluffy (there’s plenty of substance) and really good things happening all around! I can’t wait for more books from Anna Michels! I will definitely be reading them!

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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!

26 kisses gr updates

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Veda // Character Obsessions: Exes, kissing, friendship, summer. 
I could see a lot of myself in Veda and I really appreciated how much she grew up over the summer featured in the book. I loved that she ended up finding herself and her own way, separate from a boyfriend and even independent of her friends.
Killian // Character Obsessions: Work, debate, Veda. 
Killian was very cute and I really liked him a lot! At times he felt a little TOO good, which sounds silly because doesn’t everyone want someone who really will treat them that well? But he was just a very nice guy. I think I could have used a little more flirty teasing from him!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Kissing books. Kidding! I always like kissing books. But with the “excessive” kissing in this book (that some people may feel is a lot), I really loved how everything was handled as well as put into perspective.
Left Me Wanting More: Humor. This book really wasn’t missing anything but if there’s one thing I can pick, I guess I’d love if there was a bit more humor! I’m thinking things like where St. Clair yells across the lunchroom to Anna to embarrass her — that kind of thing. Just funny and silly little things that really bring characters and situations to life. Plus, I always love some flirty teasing!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you love cute contemporaries, you should totally pick up 26 KISSES! It has great friends, family, setting, and content!

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BOOKS LIKE 26 KISSES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

ON THE FENCE    ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS