Tag Archives: Realistic Fiction

Far From the Tree – Robin Benway

Far From the Tree – Robin BenwayTitle: Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Publishing Info: October 3, 2017 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: May 9, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: Also Known As, Going Rogue (Also Known As #2), Emmy & Oliver

A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

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I’m really glad I read FAR FROM THE TREE because this was such a lovely book. I’ve been skirting away from more “serious” contemporary fiction lately but I love Robin Benway’s books and I already knew from EMMY & OLIVER that I enjoyed her more realistic fiction style as well as cute, quirky spies.

I’m really glad I didn’t skip this book because of its serious content. Too often with tough, sensitive, or emotional subjects, I’m just not in the mood or the place mentally to take those on in book form or the writing ends up being a little too much for me, so I loved how Robin Benway crafted this story. It is a serious book but it’s written beautifully and the characters really shine and carry this book. Not every book dealing with real life topics have to have characters who are solemn and I loved the sarcasm and slight comic relief that still came through from some of these characters. Robin Benway really does a great job at making sure her characters are well-rounded and that they come off as real people and not just a character in a book and I really loved that in FAR FROM THE TREE.

I also really enjoyed the three different POVs that shared three different experiences with adoption, family, and just life in general. Each character was so well-rounded, different, and really well represented. I really appreciated each situation and their respective hurdles and hardships and I’m glad that readers got to see each situation from that character’s perspective. It wouldn’t have been the same to have one narrator sharing this experience as an observer and I love that we got to see all three siblings in their own voices.

The ending was just perfect also. It wasn’t a book that needed a fairy tale happy ending, but it was a great way to wrap up this adventure and it just felt right. It wasn’t too sad and it wasn’t overly, cheesily happy. I really appreciated and enjoyed the writing and whether Robin Benway is writing a fun spy novel or a serious realistic story, I’m here for it!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Realistic fiction. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book specifically about adoption — it’s usually used as a twist or point of sadness in a book — and I really liked how it was accurately portrayed in three distinct ways here.
Left Me Wanting More: History. I don’t feel like this book was missing anything, really, but I also would have enjoyed getting to know even more about each family. 

Addiction Rating
Read it

I thought this book was very well done and it was a great representation of the adoption process on so many levels and all of the things that go into that decision.

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BOOKS LIKE FAR FROM THE TREE

              

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

              

Together at Midnight – Jennifer Castle

Together at Midnight – Jennifer CastleTitle: Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle
Publishing Info: January 22, 2018 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: March 1, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

What does it really mean to be kind . . . and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do? High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season. Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets.

Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?

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So when I first added this book to my TBR, the synopsis for this book was… not this. I thought this was cute and fluffy and feel-good and I still had that impression in my mind before I started reading it. I don’t usually got back and read synopses before I start a book because sometimes things are updated that include the most mild of spoilers and I really like going into books relatively blind, so it would have been helpful if I had gone back, but then I also probably wouldn’t have read it. It’s not a heavy book per se but it’s also not light and fluffy, so I was super surprised to hear about the accident (not a spoiler, or well, I guess it’s not a spoiler if you read the synopsis (unlike me)) and how much it set things into motion.

The book was interesting and it was very good and despite not realizing what it was supposed to be about when I started it, I still didn’t connect to it as much as I thought. I really did appreciate the reality and diversity represented in a lot of different ways. The characters had a lot of depth in that respect but I still didn’t quite connect to their personalities like I had hoped. They were fine characters but I had a hard time finding a depth that I connected with and sometimes it felt like they were more characters than having me believe that they were real people, breaking that story feel and heading into that soul connection.

As much as I liked all of the realistic situations, the storyline just wasn’t something that I was really interested in reading, or at least at this point in time. I was torn with the little asides to the people that the characters helped with the RAKs. I thought it was neat to see how those acts of kindness really affected people in ways that we don’t really know and yet it also felt like it took me out of the story and didn’t quite fit.

This is a weird rating for me because there actually were a lot of things that I liked about the writing and the style and yet there were also things that threw me in those same areas. It was a good book but still not a book that really hit the spot for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Realistic fiction. I tend to stick towards light and happy for realistic/contemporary so I probably wouldn’t have picked this up otherwise, but I’m glad I read it.
Left Me Wanting More: Connection. I’m writing this review several months later and I just feel so disconnected from this book.

Addiction Rating
Consider it

This book really wasn’t for me but a lot of my friends have given it a solid four stars. It wasn’t that it wasn’t a good book for me but it just wasn’t something I was into.

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BOOKS LIKE TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT

          

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

          

I Have Lost My Way – Gayle Forman

I Have Lost My Way – Gayle FormanTitle: I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: March 27, 2018 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Date Completed: March 30, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), I Was Here, Leave Me

Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from everyone he has ever loved, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose. When a fateful accident draws these three strangers together, their secrets start to unravel as they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in help­ing the others out of theirs.

An emotionally cathartic story of losing love, finding love, and discovering the person you are meant to be, I Have Lost My Way is best­selling author Gayle Forman at her finest.

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I am a big, big Gayle Forman fan but for some reason, I just really didn’t connect to this one like I had hoped and expected. I wonder if maybe the fact that I read it as an audiobook affected anything? The narrators were fine, some of which I’ve heard before and enjoyed, but I just didn’t make that emotional connection that I get with all of her other books.

The book did follow three different narrators, which is different from Gayle Forman’s other books, and the narrations also switched tenses, from third person while telling the story to first person while recounting each character’s past. I listen to enough audiobooks that I don’t feel like listening to it on audio should really make a difference when it comes to the structure of the story (unless it’s something that is very visual like The Illuminae Files) but maybe the physical copy had a different break that would have helped those switches/transitions a little bit more than the audiobook. I don’t really think it would have made a difference, but maybe. I’m trying to reason things out because I don’t want to say that this book wasn’t my favorite, but I guess it’s bound to happen with any favorite author (and really, it has, so that’s okay too).

The stories really were beautiful. Each character has lost their way due to their own unique circumstances and when they quite randomly come together, they each help each other through the toughest points in their lives. I really loved seeing how these friendships blossomed and how total strangers were able to become such key points in each other’s lives. Gayle Forman did a great job at bringing in key phrases from one person’s past and sticking it into another person’s present — a clever tie between the two that makes them seem almost destined to meet and unite.

I did appreciate so much of this book and yet, I just didn’t feel that pull on my heart like I have with previous novels. I definitely felt for each character and was rooting for each one, but I feel like I just didn’t connect with the writing and the structure like I had hoped. The book was definitely good but it’s that personal connection and emotional grab that didn’t get me. I’m also sure that my expectations were ya know… WAY HIGH so that never helps why I hype books up for myself!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Beautiful connections. I loved how these three characters came together to essentially save each other’s lives. The connections were wonderful.
Left Me Wanting More: Personal investment. I think I just didn’t personally connect to the characters for whatever reason, as much as I wanted to.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I will always recommend Gayle Forman’s books, even if they aren’t my favorite! I can objectively see how wonderful these stories were, even if I didn’t feel emotional about them. I’m just used to sobbing away haha!

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BOOKS LIKE I HAVE LOST MY WAY

          

This Darkness Mine – Mindy McGinnis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Try it!

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

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BOOKS LIKE THIS DARKNESS MINE

          

Bad Romance – Heather Demetrios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE BAD ROMANCE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    ELEANOR & PARK

Throwing My Life Away – Liz Czukas

Throwing My Life Away – Liz CzukasTitle: Throwing My Life Away by Liz Czukas, Ellie Cahill
Publishing Info: December 20, 2016 by Independent
Source: Author
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: December 6, 2016
Related Posts: Ask Again Later, Top Ten Clues You're Clueless, When Joss Met Matt, Call Me, Maybe, Just a Girl

7 photographs, 2 weeks, an entire life to get back. No problem, right?
After her stepfather accidentally throws away her high school mementos, sentimental Mariska is pretty sure the world is over. That is, until she comes up with a plan. She's going to recreate her past, with a little help from her friends.
It's not easy to rally everyone into helping, especially Caine, who couldn't be less sentimental about anything if he were a park bench. But from a guerilla kite festival to convincing her ex-boyfriend to recreate her lost prom picture, Mariska is willing to do what it takes.
With a little nudging from Caine, Mariska starts to realize she can't actually get her past back. And maybe that's okay. Because while she's so focused on the past, she's missing out on the present, where her friends are busy having the summer of their lives. And where funny, quiet Caine might just be the future she never knew she wanted.

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I’ve read everything Liz Czukas has written and loved them all so I was so excited to hear about Liz’s newest YA release, THROWING MY LIFE AWAY! As usual, Liz Czukas brings to life some lovable characters, realistic situations, and of course, some amazing friendships. THROWING MY LIFE AWAY was one of the most realistic contemporary stories I’ve read that was on the fluffier side (i.e. not dealing with serious life issues). Liz Czukas did a great job of bringing the average teen to life! The friendships were fun but not over the top. The crushes were superficial and then something more. The parental relationships were complicated, but not too serious for the tone of the novel. It was a light, easy read full of fun, nostalgia, and a good message too.

What you need to know about THROWING MY LIFE AWAY is that it’s the story of Mariska, a girl who has just graduated high school and is enjoying the last summer at home before she and all of her friends leave for college. When her step-dad accidentally brings all of her old photos and memories to the shredder, Mariksa embarks upon an epic summer quest to try to recreate as many of those memories as possible. Now, I don’t doubt Liz Czukas but I was a little scared before I started that this story would be TOO perfect, imagining that Mariska would end up recreating all of her memories fairly accurately. Instead, I found an incredibly enjoyable story where Mariska’s memories got destroyed and her quest to recreate them didn’t totally work out. In fact, it actually came together in a much better way by ending up with new memories and different photos instead of her getting the exact pictures she used to have. I loved that she couldn’t recreate the past and instead, made a much better present and future.

I didn’t connect with this book AS much as I had with some of the other Liz Czukas books I’ve read, but that’s bound to happen when you read so many different and wonderful characters. I still loved everyone that I met and the situations were just delightful as well as insightful. I mostly have just connected with other books of Liz’s better, so that ends up affecting any future reads, this being one of them. I still think Mariska and her friends/family were incredibly realistic and they were so much fun to read about! The book was done so well and it’s such an enjoyable concept as well.

I’m a life-long fan of Liz Czukas and I’m so happy I got to read this book early! I’m always so happy to be able to read the latest from this wonderful author because I think in all of her books, whether that’s young adult or new adult (as Ellie Cahill), she does a wonderful job of keeping a light and fun tone but still incorporating some serious moments and realistic situations. I will forever be scrambling to pick up anything new from her!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fluff yet real. “Real fluff” — this is my new favorite contemporary genre. Is a real thing? I don’t know. But Liz Czukas totally nails it if it is. It’s fun and light without being overly serious and yet it’s still very realistic and has a lot of thoughtful moments as well as life-lessons.
Left Me Wanting More: Character connection. I don’t know why but I didn’t connect AS much as I had with previous books. But I guess I can’t very well have everything be a super favorite!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

Start from the beginning and work your way forward through Liz’s books. She’s a gem and her books are too!

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BOOKS LIKE THROWING MY LIFE AWAY

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SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE    THE CHAPEL WARS

Kids of Appetite – David Arnold

Kids of Appetite – David ArnoldTitle: Kids of Appetite by David Arnold
Publishing Info: September 20, 2016 by Penguin
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 19, 2016

Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.

This is a story about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.

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I should have guessed that I’d be a little bit of a black sheep on this one. I know so many people who rave about David Arnold and though I still haven’t read MOSQUITOLAND yet, I did get to meet David Arnold last year at Anderson’s YA Lit Conference and he was just so delightful! I was really excited to receive a copy of KIDS OF APPETITE from the publisher (I actually received an ARC from Penguin Random House and audio from Listening Library) for review and for participation in the blog tour.

It wasn’t that I disliked KIDS OF APPETITE. It was very well-written, clever (especially the way the ending tied up), and displayed some really beautiful friendships… But I know that I’m not in the right place in my life to read this book. I’ve been avoiding more “serious” contemporary novels as of late as a personal preference and prefer lighter, fluffier contemporary novels to balance out some more serious things in my life right now so I just didn’t appreciate some of the heavier moments in KIDS OF APPETITE that others may connect or sympathize with.

It was a little bit of a style clash too. There were just little things in the book that went against the grain of what I connect with as a reader that really stood out to me. There was just something about this group of kids that I just can’t put my finger on that I just really didn’t connect with. Maybe it was the audiobook narrators that played into that a little bit but despite the detailed character histories, uniqueness, and diversity, I just had a hard time feeling like I really connected with them and I’m not sure why. Then there were little things like the many, many instances of repetition that really got under my skin. I just really hate when things are repeated over and over again and I know that it’s like a mantra but Vic’s “super racehorse” was repeated way too much and it started to bother me. Again, a personal preference that just happened to clash with this book.

I also just never really got into the book overall. I think it was almost too much for me. There was a lot going on which wasn’t BAD but I don’t know… I just didn’t quite connect with everything. Like the characters were somehow too distant for me to connect with or our personalities didn’t mesh. Everything came together really, really well and I was expecting how everything really clicked into place so that was really awesome! The writing was really quite good but I think it just isn’t quite my style, or at least not something that I’m looking for at this point in time. What’s even more sad is that now I don’t feel the pull to read MOSQUITOLAND since I didn’t quite connect with this book.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

Source: Digital review copy from Listening Library
Narrator: Phoebe Strole, Michael Crouch, Ryan Vincent Anderson
Performance: Very good

The narrators weren’t my favorites but I still think they did a very good job with this book! I didn’t quite connect to the as much as I had hoped, though. I think there wasn’t as much energy and enthusiasm for each character like I always hope for and for some reason the narration for all of them just fell a little flat. It probably didn’t help that I wasn’t super connected to the story though. I’d be interested in trying more of Phoebe Strole’s narrations but I wasn’t super sold on Michael Crouch which is a shame because I think a lot of people like him!

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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: Bands of misfits. I really loved how this group of kids really came together because of their many differences. I love with “misfits” form their own group/gang and seeing how their relationships grow because of their uniqueness!
Left Me Wanting More: Connection. It’s just one of those books for me, I guess. I think maybe it was just too much in a few too many ways and it just wasn’t my personal favorite style.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I may or may not be a good resource for you on this. I know some people who have felt the same way and we are just the people who don’t jive here… But I have MANY friends who absolutely loved it. Check out your trusty reviewers and see what they had to say!!

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BOOKS LIKE KIDS OF APPETITE

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    we are the ants

Leave Me – Gayle Forman

Leave Me – Gayle FormanTitle: Leave Me by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: September 6, 2016 by Algonquin
Source: Edelweiss, BEA 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 29, 2016
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), I Was Here, I Have Lost My Way

For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack.
Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we're going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.
With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.

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I’m a HUGE Gayle Forman fan so any book of hers, no matter the age range or genre, will be on my radar. When I heard that LEAVE ME was adult contemporary, I had to admit that I wasn’t super excited about it since I haven’t been reading as much “serious” contemporary lately and I don’t really read it on the adult level — I’m more of a YA gal. Either way, it was Gayle Forman and I knew no matter what, I was in good hands so I was excited to receive a copy of LEAVE ME at BEA this year! Upon finishing, I don’t really know how to feel about this book. If we’re being perfectly honest, if it wasn’t Gayle Forman’s book, I wouldn’t have read it. The entire premise of the book is that overworked, overtired Maribeth Klein whisks herself away for time to recover both mentally and physically after a heart-attack in her early 40s. She leaves her husband and two four-year-old twins with only a note, no way to contact her, and actively avoids ways that she can be traced so she can just take some time for herself. This really isn’t a topic I’m drawn to but Gayle Forman is the master so I was along for the ride!

This book (and entire concept) is so confusing to me as I try to sort out my feelings towards it. I know how I personally feel about Maribeth’s actions but there are just so many ways to look at it. The beginning of the book before Maribeth leaves was actually kind of hard for me to read with so many situations hitting a little too close to home. Having been in a similar situation with a medical emergency turning your life completely upside down, I just had a very hard time with the decisions that Maribeth made. I was not the person who was directly medically affected but I was a big part of that whole situation and yes, it’s always hard but my thoughts were constantly directed towards, “How can I help?” and “How can I understand?” On the flip side, no matter how close you are to a person, you’re not that person going through the medical issues and there are things and feelings you won’t understand. You have fear of your own but may not understand the level of anxiety that person is feeling, in which case, I did identify with Maribeth. Her heart attack was such a complete disruption of her life in so many ways and her only way that she was finally able to handle everything was to leave all responsibilities behind, including her family. Leaving I had a hard time with. Leaving and cheating are two situations that I really struggle to forgive or forget and even if things did end up working out in the end of this book (I won’t give anything away), I knew I wouldn’t be able to forgive Maribeth for up and leaving.

But then there’s the question of what strength is in this situation. Is strength staying and pushing through, working through all of the things with your family? Or is it leaving, taking some time off and gathering yourself up first? Honestly, I think either one could be the right answer but I had such a hard time with the fact that she literally abandoned her family. I know that she was not in the right mental state to really assess things, and that falls on her husband too since he didn’t really try to help around the house or with anything after Maribeth’s surgery, but it was hard for me to support Maribeth when her solution was to run. I guess we wouldn’t have much of a story if she spoke with her husband and took some sort of retreat instead of simply running… But that would have been a workable situation for me where I wouldn’t have hard feeling towards Maribeth. We’ve gone through some very hard things and our family is still in tact… but I’m also not a parent and don’t have that added responsibility and role in my family so I can’t speak on how that might affect a situation either. Life is messy and each situation is unique and complicated. I’m not in Maribeth’s family so maybe I would have handled things differently if I was in her shoes but from a reader’s perspective, it was really hard for me to fully understand.

My feelings for Maribeth aside, I thought this was a very good story and as always, Gayle Forman does an amazing job of bringing so many things to light. Maribeth’s situation was definitely more complicated than just the heart attack too and these things really added to why she ended up running in the first place. I won’t say hard things justify abandonment but it does help you understand where she’s coming from a little bit more. Gayle Forman also just has a way of making these characters come to life. I felt like I really got to know Maribeth, all of her new friends, and I could easily picture Maribeth’s life with her husband and children in so many ways.

I started and finished the book in one day. It was really easy to read and like so many of Gayle’s books, just so easy to get lost in. She does an amazing job of making you really feel a setting, getting you invested in a character’s story, and bringing raw, real emotions to the table. Her stories are about the more challenging sides of life and I’m actually glad she wrote this book because I wouldn’t have read this story by another author. It’s outside of my normal comfort zone — both being adult contemporary and also the “leaving factor” — and it was refreshing to think about things in a different way as I read. It’s also a bit scary, to be honest. I’ve only been married for two years and we’ve already been through a lot. I have amazing confidence in my marriage and I’m not really worried for us in the future but it does make me wonder what our life will be like in five or ten years which isn’t something I normally do. Life has taught me that there are too many thing you can’t plan for so I don’t map everything out but all I can do is hope that we grow together and build a solid foundation for our home and books like LEAVE ME really leave readers to reflect on their relationships/marriages/friendships. Even if you have an amazing relationship, there’s always a little bit more you can take into account and it’s interesting to have that reminder of what even the closest person to you might be going through without you even realizing.

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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Maribeth // Character obsessions: Work, responsibilities, letting it all go.
Maribeth’s character really hits me hard because I feel like so many of us feel like this so often. I think we as a society have such a focus on work and career that it consumes so much of our lives. So many people’s places of employment expect them to take their work home with them or be available at the drop of a hat, in and out of the office, and people aren’t getting relaxation time anymore. Add to that a family life which can be so fulfilling but still adds responsibilities, chores, and duties to one’s life and it can easily be overwhelming. Maribeth was easily identifiable for me in that sense. I work from 7:30am – 5pm and it takes me an hour to get to/home from work so work consumes twelve hours of my day. Then I come home and make dinner, do laundry, make candles for my second job (essentially) and by the time I’m done with everything, it’s time for bed. I’m not complaining about it at all and my husband does help out but it’s so exhausting and I can’t imagine doing that with kids. I absolutely see where Maribeth is coming from and has a life-changing experience with her heart attack… But even with all of that I still can’t get over leaving. Maybe leaving her husband would be more forgivable (okay, really not for me) but she left her children and I really can’t get over that either. I understand that she needs to take care of herself first but to just LEAVE like that, that’s so, so damaging to everyone. She could have handled it totally differently, communicated with her husband, gone to therapy, went on a retreat even, and I would have been fine with it. I personally couldn’t forgive the leaving. I know she healed, I know she helped herself, but you can’t just run away form responsibilities. You discuss, you face them, you figure out a solution, even if it’s hard. Plenty of people go through such things without leaving their families. I guess I’ll never quite understand it but it’s a strong feeling of mine. As much as I grew to like her as a person, I couldn’t let it go.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Adult contemporary/realistic fiction. I really don’t read many adult realistic fiction novels because it’s just not my bag but I’m glad I read this one. I read it simply because it’s Gayle Forman and I really enjoy how she crafts a novel.
Left Me Wanting More: Understanding. The lack of communication between these characters killed me. It wouldn’t have been easy but if Maribeth and her husband had just talked, they could have figured things out without her having to run away. I know it’s not an easy thing to do and especially having that feeling like Maribeth, I know it’s hard to ask for help, but it was something I couldn’t shake.

Addiction Rating
Read it

It was a very good read and as always, a well-crafted story from Gayle Forman. I love her big-picture novels and books that take you through the messier parts of life. It wasn’t my favorite topic but I enjoyed the novel from start to finish.

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BOOKS LIKE LEAVE ME

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    KILLER INSTINCT