Tag Archives: Young Adult

Sadie – Courtney Summers

Sadie – Courtney SummersTitle: Sadie by Courtney Summers
Publishing Info: September 4, 2018 by Macmillan
Source: BEA 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: September 1, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she's left behind. And an ending you won't be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

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SADIE was such a difficult and yet compelling book to read. I started it on a Saturday morning and finished it within a few hours because I just couldn’t put it down. It deals with a lot of difficult subjects that are incredibly hard to read because of the reality of the situation, but there’s something about Sadie and her story that just entangled me and I didn’t want to let go.

The narration of this book was just perfect in so many ways. The chapters alternate between Sadie’s POV as she’s on her quest to find her sister’s murderer and the reporter who started a podcast series based on his investigations of Sadie and her disappearance. The story perfectly unfolds with each chapter and POV giving a different perspective of the mystery and revealing just the right amount of information for the readers to keep this book unraveling but not too quickly. This is my first Courtney Summers book and I’m incredibly impressed with the writing style. These narrators really pull you into the book and Courtney Summers really made each one a real person and not just a character in a book, which is true on a whole other level. This is someone’s story in many ways, even though it’s a work of fiction.

I actually really loved the ending. In a story like this, there’s no way to have a happy ending and it’s not really a spoiler to say that because whether or not Sadie enacts her revenge, what sort of happiness would come out of it? Even if justice is served, everything has still already unraveled so I appreciated that Courtney Summers didn’t put a pretty bow on the end of everything to wrap it all up.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Podcast formatting. This was really neat with the podcast incorporated into this book! I wish I had listened to the audio because I heard it was fantastic, but I really thought that was a great way to get a different perspective into the book and make it feel so unique.
Left Me Wanting More: Words to describe it. This is such a difficult book and yet it was so great. It’s quite a compelling read with a chilling story because it is so close to real life and we know these things do happen.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This was one of my favorite reads of 2018 and I highly recommend it to everyone! Even if this isn’t your style, I think it’s such a compelling read that it’s worth trying, for sure.

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BOOKS LIKE SADIE

             

Love & Luck – Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Luck – Jenna Evans WelchTitle: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Publishing Info: May 18, 2018 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Scribd
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: August 27, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way.

bookreview1

Sadly I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I was with LOVE & GELATO, but it was still an enjoyable read. There were a lot of things I did appreciate but I didn’t really love how the book was put together, so let’s start with the nice things first.

I really loved the family aspect of the book. I don’t know why but I always love a story about a girl with brothers (I don’t have any of my own but I love reading about this sibling dynamic) and it was great to see Addie’s close relationship with her closest brother Ian as well as how she got along with her other two brothers. I also love that her Dad was still around and he didn’t have to be killed off or anything for him not to be a part of this story (he just didn’t want to be on the trip). I also really loved the parental relationship with Addie’s mom being a fierce and strong woman while still being incredibly caring. She didn’t have to be one thing or the other and I loved her relationship with her children.

I also really, really appreciated the “love story” here. I put it in quotes because the end result of two characters being together really isn’t the focus of the book at all — it’s more of a happy side effect of the whole experience and I kind of loved that it wasn’t all about falling in love because that’s not everyone’s story. The romance was quiet, cute, and perfect for the situation and I loved how that developed.

Then at the same time, I felt like not a lot happened that pulled me into the story. One thing that really bothered me is there’s the THING that happened to Addie that’s so appalling that she can’t tell her mom and has also affected her relationship with her brother but the reader doesn’t get to know until the book is over halfway over. It wasn’t like LOVE & GELATO where Lena was taking her time to legitimately figure out a mystery. This was just information that was being withheld and it was frustrating to constantly have that reference and no one was able to talk about it. There wasn’t really a good reason why the reader needed to be kept in the dark about the incident as it had no real affect on the story.

I guess I’m also not really one for traveling stories which was a lot of what this book was. There was a lot of traveling and most of the drama was just things that happened to prevent the characters from moving forward, so it felt like some of the only plot devices were creating physical road blocks, essentially. It wasn’t a bad thing but it wasn’t something I enjoyed.

I also did really enjoy the crossover appearance of Lena and Ren because I hadn’t realized that this was a companion of sorts (or just set in the same setting) so I thought that was really fun to tie the two books into each other! I wonder if we’ll get more with other characters. I’d love to see something with one of the brothers.

Jenna Evans Welch is still an instant read author for me and I can’t wait to see what her next “LOVE” book will be! I do love the wanderlust aspects of all of these books and I’m excited for my next reading escape with her next release!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Ireland! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that took place in Ireland! It was really great to be able to sort of experience the country through this book and the characters’ experiences.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot movement. I felt like there were too many physical road blocks and there was just so much that prevented the plot from moving forward. I would have loved to see more character-driven things to push that long.

Addiction Rating
Read it

Even though I didn’t totally love this one, I did still appreciate a lot about it and I really liked the family dynamic here! I love these wanderlust feels and I’m definitely reading more from Jenna Evans Welch!

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BOOKS LIKE LOVE & LUCK

             

The Light Between Worlds – Laura E. Weymouth

The Light Between Worlds – Laura E. WeymouthTitle: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
Publishing Info: October 23, 2018 by HarperCollins
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Parallel Universe
Date Completed: August 19, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge.

When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.

Now, Ev spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.

Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.

But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.

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What a beautiful book this was! THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it turned out to be even better. The focus was much more on the time after the fantasy world and how the three siblings had to deal with being back in the real world and it made for such an emotional story. I loved the characters and how real everything felt. The emotions really struck me and I connected with these characters so much.

The writing was positively gorgeous. It was a tad flowery at times which sort of took away from some of the beauty because it was so well-written that it didn’t need to be over the top. Those quiet moments and emotional connections did the work so the overly flowery passages weren’t necessary, but they still evoked emotion as well, even if they did become a bit distracting. I was easily swept away with this story and I had a hard time tearing myself out of this world.

I actually really appreciated that this book wasn’t so much about the fantasy world that these children found but about how it changed them and the people they became. It wasn’t about all of them needing the world and everyone took away something different from the experience. I loved the sibling connection and the other relationships in the book were positively perfect as well. Tom was easily the best character in the book and I loved him so much, and Philippa’s Jack made for a wonderful addition as well. It’s wonderful to see supporting characters doing just that — supporting the leads for exactly who they are, despite heartbreak, secrets, stubbornness, and all the other things.

I actually didn’t quite love the ending. It was quite fitting and I knew it was one of two possibilities but I still didn’t love it. It also leaves a lot of questions left unanswered (like what will happen after the closing chapter), but it’s also not necessary to address those questions because that would be another story entirely. I’m so glad I read this book and although it wasn’t what my heart told me I was in the mood for when I picked it up, it founds its place quite fittingly.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique books about portal worlds. I really liked that this focused on what happened to the kids after they returned from their alternate world. As much as I love seeing those unique worlds, it was really interesting to see the story about what happens after, pulling on all of those raw emotions.
Left Me Wanting More: Ease of reading. One of the only things that took away from my reading experience here was some of the more flowery passages. They were beautiful but I don’t think the book needed it and at times they became a bit distracting. I was more than happy with the rest of the narration!

Addiction Rating
Read it/Try it

I highly recommend this book BUT I know a few people didn’t love it as much because of their experience with reading the Narnia books, causing a comparison between the two. I never read the Narnia books so my experience with them is much more surface level. I didn’t have a comparison here and I was able to enjoy this book without a bias.

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BOOKS LIKE THE LIGHT BETWEEN WORLDS

             

Wildcard (Warcross #2) – Marie Lu

Wildcard (Warcross #2) – Marie LuTitle: Wildcard (Warcross #2) by Marie Lu
Publishing Info: September 18, 2018 by Penguin
Source: ALAAC18, BEA 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Date Completed: August 12, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Legend (Legend #1), Warcross (Warcross #1), Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo's new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she's always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo's grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone's put a bounty on Emika's head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn't all that he seems--and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

bookreview1

WILDCARD was perfection. Marie Lu did such an amazing job with this series, from characters to plot to twists to structure. I love that it was only two books, making it the perfect length to fit in exactly the right amount of action and not drag things on while still expanding into a second book to continue a story that couldn’t be wrapped up in one.

I absolutely loved the constant change for the feel of the villain. Each character is so carefully crafted that they all have good and bad sides so there’s a constant shift in motive and feel. You can’t hate the person who betrays the heroes because they’re just not evil, and complex characters are so much more interesting than outright evil villains. It makes for a much more interesting story than that black-and-white good vs evil feeling in so many other books, and I really feel like it more accurately portrays real human emotions. We’re all so much more than just plain good and evil, so it added another realistic side to a largely sci-fi world.

The squad goals in this book were also great. Emika isn’t without help and relies upon her friends in many ways. I really loved each character and the attachments they formed, and it was really interesting to see how each relationship grew and changed throughout the series. It was an amazing team and each one really felt like a real person.

And of course, the world itself felt so incredibly real. I could picture myself in each setting and every action sequence was carefully detailed. These books are so visually stunning and I love being able to picture things like this by just reading words on a page (versus watching a movie/TV show…. although I wouldn’t say no to a WARCROSS movie…) This is such a stunning series in every way and WILDCARD was easily a 2018 favorite.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Virtual Reality concepts. I don’t do a lot of video game/virtual reality things in real life but apparently they’re a heck of a lot of fun in books! Marie Lu just really makes these concepts come to life and they’re accessible and enjoyable for those who aren’t even gamers.
Left Me Wanting More: Romance development. I didn’t think it needed more romance development but there were a couple moments where I felt like the feelings between Emika and Hideo could have used just a little bit more to feeling that draw and chemistry.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I really, really enjoyed this series and this sequel was one of my favorite books of 2018! I just easily fell into this world and had a great feeling while reading it, making it an easy favorite.

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BOOKS LIKE WILDCARD

             

Squad – Mariah MacCarthy

Squad – Mariah MacCarthyTitle: Squad by Mariah MacCarthy
Publishing Info: March 12, 2019 by Macmillan
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 7, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

This darkly comic debut novel by an award-winning playwright is like Mean Girls meets Heathers with a splash of Bring it On.

Jenna Watson is a cheerleader. But it’s not some Hollywood crap. Cheerleaders are not every guy’s fantasy; they are not the “popular girls” or the “mean girls” of Marsen High School. They’re too busy for that. They're literally just some human females trying to live their lives and do a perfect toe touch. But that all changed after Raejean stopped talking to Jenna and started hanging out with Meghan Finnegan. Jenna stopped getting invited out with the rest of the squad and she couldn’t tell if it was on purpose or if it was all in her head.

At times heartbreaking, at others hilarious, Squad follows Jenna through her attempts to get revenge on Raejean and invent a new post-cheer life for herself through LARPING (live action role-playing) and a relationship with a trans guy that feels like love—but isn't. In the, end Jenna discovers that who she is is not defined by which squad she's in.

bookreview1

** This review contains very mild spoilers for the book. **

SQUAD was a very quick and interesting read! There was a lot to appreciate here from diverse characters, sibling friendships, transitioning friend groups, and even a bit of geek appreciation. What I didn’t love was that it kind of lacked direction in terms of tone and seemed to wander around a bit, and the plot followed suit in some places.

Overall, SQUAD is about Jenna and how her life completely changes when her friends start alienating her, consequently affecting her best friendship and even further so, affecting her position on the cheerleading squad. I appreciated the difficulties that Jenna went through with her best friend and how quickly friendships can change in high school (and college and adulthood). I’ve been in a situation where a “former friend” has dropped nearly all forms of communication for what seems to be no reason so I could see how it could drive you to be a little obsessed with the confusion of it all. I also liked how Jenna finally started to really think about what she wanted (after going through the stages of grief, essentially) and how she treated other people as well. She wasn’t a total victim and she wasn’t totally innocent either. I also liked how even though she quit the cheer squad, she still held onto the fact that she liked dancing and cheering and how much that made her happy. The cliquey group dynamic was something that turned her off so it wasn’t enough to keep the love of cheering to stay on the squad.

What really threw me off was that I had no idea what this book was even supposed to be when I started it. The back cover contained some of the text from the beginning and it was a little misleading to start with a sentence like “I just woke up one morning and forgot how to do everything.” With all the possibilities of YA books out there, it was entirely possible that Jenna literally woke up and forgot how to do everything and this was maybe a sci-fi/paranormal kind of book. I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be something like that or if it was supposed to be just a contemporary novel. Then there was the Goodreads synopsis which called it a “darkly comic debut novel”, comparing to Mean Girls and Heathers with a splash of Bring it On. I didn’t really feel like it was comic at all. It was nearly entirely serious and I’m not sure how this was supposed to be a funny book. It certainly had its darker moments as Jenna loses her friends, falls into a depression, and explores who she is but I didn’t feel like it was a fun, campy experience like the movies mentioned above. These two things really set me up for something totally different and the actual contents of the novel just weren’t what I was expecting.

The writing style was also a bit hard for me as well. It worked out all right, being a shorter audiobook read (it was only 5+ hours long and I listen at 2x speed so with my pauses to do things here and there, I finished in about three hours) but if it was something longer, I don’t know if I would have stuck with it. Especially in the audiobook version (which is narrated by the author, Mariah MacCarthy (awesome!)), it felt like one long stream of consciousness. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue in the beginning but more did develop throughout. Maybe if I had been reading a print version, that would have felt a little different BUT since the author narrated the audiobook, I also take the tone as they read it since they’re the person who wrote the book! That’s something I love about “authorators”. I always feel like we’re skipping one interpretation from author to narrator to listener and I get a more “straight forward” experience! That being said, I would have loved to see just a bit more development in the writing so it felt a little less like a stream of consciousness.

While I enjoyed the overall plot of the book, it seemed to just sort of dart off into different places. There were natural transitions but for some reason it didn’t really seem to flow. I did like the change from cheer squad to geek squad as Jenna starts to hang out with her brother and his friends and actually goes LARPing with them. It reminded me a lot of a favorite, THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD by Leah Rae Miller.

There was a lot of good things within the pages of SQUAD but I still had some issues that kept me from falling into the story. It was a quick read for me but I think stylistically, I just didn’t click with it as much as I had hoped and confusing marketing was a little bit of an issue for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Evolving friendships. I really liked seeing Jenna find new friend groups and letting go of those who were treating her poorly. It took her a while to get to that point but I kind of like that she eventually took care of herself instead of trying to stick with the old group just because they were here original friends.
Left Me Wanting More: Plot flow. It didn’t flow poorly but things felt a little… clumpy. I just didn’t quite feel the natural transitions.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I think it would have helped a little bit more understanding the tone of the book better. I was expecting something a little different, but even knowing that, I still would have enjoyed it just a little bit more with a little better flow to the book. It was still a really good story though and a good read!

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BOOKS LIKE SQUAD

             

Serious Moonlight – Jenn Bennet

Serious Moonlight – Jenn BennetTitle: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Publishing Info: April 16, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Amazon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Date Completed: July 3, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Starry Eyes, Alex, Approximately

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

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This was such a fun read and another great story from Jenn Bennett! She has such a way of making her characters into real people and I absolutely adore the families included in each book as well. I feel like each of her books contains a different family dynamic and it’s so great to read. I also want to take the time to appreciate the cover and how the characters are actually portrayed as they’re described in the book! Daniel even has a ponytail (something I don’t even think I noticed until I read the book) and I always love to see the cover actually match the character descriptions.

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT was just a really great book. I really enjoyed getting to know Birdie and her love of mysteries as well as getting to know what it’s like to live with narcolepsy. That was another great addition to the story to bring narcolepsy into the minds of Jenn Bennett’s readers which probably isn’t something that a lot of people consider. I really appreciated getting to know more about it and I also liked how the characters handled what Birdie was going through. Even if they weren’t the “right” decisions, they all felt really realistic. It’s hard to address a medical issue sometimes and you don’t want to admit something is wrong if you don’t have to, and I’m sure many of us have gone through that mindset of thinking in our own ways, so I could totally relate to that.

The romance was also very cute and something you don’t see a lot of in young adult! I kind of liked that Birdie and Daniel started off with a physical relationship (or I guess encounter, since they then had to decide if they wanted a relationship) and that for once a YA book that started with sex wasn’t about being pregnant. I liked that she had a supportive maternal figure (Mona, friend of the family who was like an aunt and helped raise her) that she could talk to about it and she had some really positive support. I also kind of liked the absence of a best friend in this book and that Mona was kind of like Birdie’s best friend. It made for a more interesting relationship between the two of them and I like eliminating the possibility of that friend fight that almost always happens in YA novels (because it almost always happens in real life). It was just a great way to sort of break that mold that so many books repeat, just because it is so relatable, but Jenn Bennett brought a new relationship to the pages of this book and a different sort of friendship.

Jenn Bennett is definitely an auto-buy author for me and I really enjoyed SERIOUS MOONLIGHT! I’ve enjoyed every one of her books that I’ve read so far and each one really has a unique story with a great variety of characters and situations.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique families. I love seeing different, unique, and realistic families represented! I love seeing these special relationships and different types of families being included.
Left Me Wanting More: Chemistry. I really did like the relationship here but I think if I had (personally) felt a liiiittle more chemistry, it would have been even more wonderful!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

Jenn Bennett is definitely an auto-buy author for me and I’ve enjoyed all of her books that I’ve read so far! SERIOUS MOONLIGHT was a great addition to her contemporary collection and I can’t wait to read even more!

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BOOKS LIKE SERIOUS MOONLIGHT

             

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall – Judy Sheehan

I Woke Up Dead at the Mall – Judy SheehanTitle: I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan
Publishing Info: March 22, 2016 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: ALAMW16
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Ghosts
Date Completed: August 8, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

When Sarah wakes up dead at the Mall of America, she learns that not only was she murdered, her killer is still on the loose.
When you’re sixteen, you have your whole life ahead of you. Unless you’re Sarah. Not to give anything away, but . . . she’s dead. Murdered, in fact. Sarah’s murder is shocking because she couldn’t be any more average. No enemies. No risky behavior. She’s just the girl on the sidelines.

It looks like her afterlife, on the other hand, will be pretty exciting. Sarah has woken up dead at the Mall of America—where the universe sends teens who are murdered—and with the help of her death coach, she must learn to move on or she could meet a fate totally worse than death: becoming a mall walker.

As she tries to finish her unfinished business alongside her fellow dead teens, Sarah falls hard for a cute boy named Nick. And she discovers an uncanny ability to haunt the living. While she has no idea who killed her, or why, someone she loves is in grave danger. Sarah can’t lose focus or she’ll be doomed to relive her final moments again and again forever. But can she live with herself if she doesn’t make her death matter?

bookreview1

This wasn’t a BAD book but it really could have been so much better in so many ways, so that’s where my feelings and review end up. I was hoping for dark comedy, black humor, ghostly sort of story. It turned out to be a little too cheesy, a little too immature, and I didn’t like the ending. It just felt very typical YA and too tropey.

All of the main characters in this book ended up at the Mall of America after their death, all came from New York. But… why? Because the Mall of America is a big and a lot of people get murdered in New York…? Even if there was logic there, it wasn’t worth making that connection and there really wasn’t a reason for the mall concept except to make a mall walker joke and associate dormitories with stores. It added a certain cheesiness to the story that I didn’t find cute and I felt like it could have been a lot more meaningful in a different setting instead of creating a silly atmosphere.

I also never really understood why Sarah was murdered and the details of her murder were… odd. It all made sense, all was revealed, but the motive was just so flimsy and too obvious. For that to be the whole reason behind the WHOLE BOOK? Eh. Overdone. Come up with something new.

I didn’t hate the book — I finished it and I didn’t stop reading — but this could have been something delightfully campy and/or dark but either way, a whole lot of fun. Instead I feel like it was underdeveloped for the sake of being “fun” and it lacked the cleverness that it could have had.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Interesting “afterlife” stories. I like that sort of “interlude” concept where we see characters after they die. It’s an interesting place to explore!
Left Me Wanting More: Seriousness or sass. One way or the other, it had to break. I was looking for more camp or more serious turns of events. It didn’t seem to commit either way.

Addiction Rating
Skip it

It’s an interesting concept but I didn’t love the writing and I felt like there were some holes that really needed to be addressed.

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BOOKS LIKE I WOKE UP DEAD AT THE MALL

             

The Cheerleaders – Kara Thomas

The Cheerleaders – Kara ThomasTitle: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
Publishing Info: July 31, 2018 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, ALAAC18
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: July 23, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Darkest Corners, Little Monsters

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

bookreview1

I think this was Kara Thomas’ best book yet! I really, really loved the writing style and the whole set-up of this novel. It reminded me much more of my adult thriller reads rather than the YA, while still maintaining a YA atmosphere, characters, and setting. Things are set up right from the beginning to come full circle at the end but I couldn’t tell how they were going to come together and I kept trying to piece the puzzle together. What I loved about this book was that I was able to follow along and start putting little clues together but it took until the end to really realize what exactly had happened and how they really impacted Monica and why she was involved in this story from start to finish and every piece in between.

I actually thought that this was going to be… a little sillier. The deaths of the five cheerleaders years ago was thought to be a sort of curse and I actually had that Fear Street mentality in the back of my head (there was a Fear Street Cheerleaders series after all), but this read much more maturely than I had anticipated. I think I would have enjoyed it either way but I’m really glad that it read the way that it did and I really enjoyed this type of structure.

I actually think I already want to re-read it because there’s so much that I’ve forgotten writing my review (way, way later… my review schedule has been all over the place with new reviews and old reviews!) and I think I’d enjoy reading it all over again to experience those discoveries like new. Even if I don’t remember all of the details, I do remember how much I enjoyed listening to this audiobook and it’s one I knew I wanted to recommend!!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mature YA mystery/thrillers. Young adult novels can contain any array of tones and topics but sometimes young adult is still just too young for me. Obviously that’s not a bad thing (and let’s not get into it because that’s a whole different topic) but I loved how this one just had a more mature tone that teens can still appreciate but I felt like it reached out more to the adult audience too.
Left Me Wanting More: Cover representation. Between the title and the cover, I felt like this was going to be a campy horror story and while I would have appreciated that too, I’m so glad it was the story that it was! The cover definitely did throw me and I think it might throw off other readers as well. I’d love to see a cover redesign somewhere down the road.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I thought this was such a solid novel! Writing my review has only made me want to re-read it again soon.

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BOOKS LIKE THE CHEERLEADERS

             

The Deceivers (Vale Hall #1) – Kristen Simmons

The Deceivers (Vale Hall #1) – Kristen SimmonsTitle: The Deceivers (Vale Hall #1) by Kristen Simmons
Publishing Info: February 5, 2019 by Macmillan, Tor Books
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, ALAAC18
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Heists/Spies/Espionage, Retelling
Date Completed: June 3, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Welcome to Vale Hall, the school for aspiring con artists.

When Brynn Hilder is recruited to Vale, it seems like the elite academy is her chance to start over, away from her mom's loser boyfriend and her rundown neighborhood. But she soon learns that Vale chooses students not so much for their scholastic talent as for their extracurricular activities, such as her time spent conning rich North Shore kids out of their extravagant allowances.

At first, Brynn jumps at the chance to help the school in its mission to rid the city of corrupt officials--because what could be better than giving entitled jerks what they deserve? But that's before she meets her mark--a senator's son--and before she discovers the school's headmaster has secrets he'll stop at nothing to protect. As the lines between right and wrong blur, Brynn begins to realize she's in way over head.

bookreview1

I really wish that the synopsis of this book had made note of the Norse mythology inspiration because I honestly didn’t pick up on that at all but once I knew about it, it seemed really obvious and I think that would have been a fun thing to pick up as I was reading. That’s no fault of the author but I guess that’s what happens when I don’t do a lot of looking into things before I read a book (and I guess whoever’s in charge of making the synopsis/making sure that info is on Goodreads). I didn’t know about it until I started reading reviews after I was finished. Since I never read reviews before I start a book (in case of spoilers and I don’t want anyone to influence my opinion), there’s really no other way I would have known about that and I bet a lot of other people may not be aware either.

That may have helped how much I enjoyed the book but I still think I would have come out relatively the same. I was irritated that it was labeled as “Pretty Little Liars meets Ocean’s 11”. I don’t know PLL but Ocean’s 11 is one of my favorite movies and if we’re talking about the 2001 version…. that movie is WAY too sassy and not even close in tone. I was expecting some super clever sass, cheeky cons, and an overall heist feeling. This really wasn’t a heist book. I guess it was more of a “long con” but it wasn’t really a plan we were in on from the beginning and we learn a lot as the book progresses. This was just not the tone I was expecting and would compare it more to Deadly Class (the SyFy TV show), THE FIXER by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, TRUST ME, I’M LYING by Mary Elizabeth Summer, or new Adriana Mather book KILLING NOVEMBER. It wasn’t ALL serious but it certainly wasn’t quite as light or funny as I had expected.

Mostly, the book was just kind of slow. We picked up some interesting facts along the way, sure. But it unraveled a bit more like a mystery than a heist/con concept (which is more of what I was expecting with the Ocean’s 11 comparison) since we got some reveals about characters in the end and unraveled a little mystery that tied all of the characters together. It’s just a different way of putting that story together and it makes a difference of how I read/approach/experience a book.

I was also really disappointed that there wasn’t much happening to show us the school itself. It’s a con school which is AWESOME and really all we see are little snippets of Brynn’s intro to her classes with glimpses of what she might learn there but the book doesn’t really spend much time there at all. Aside from convening in each other’s rooms and using it as a base to get all of the students together, there wasn’t much about the school at all and it really felt like a missed opportunity. I felt like the book took entirely too long to set up Brynn’s family life and introduce the compromising situation that she’s in and I felt like things just dwelled there for an unnecessary amount of time. I get it. We’re supposed to be uncomfortable with Pete. She needs an escape. The school is it. But there was just too much time wasted in the beginning when the book could have set up that school world more to really pull readers in some more.

It seems like this book gets some mixed reviews. Its core was still solid and it had a clear story to tell. Some of my friends absolutely loved it and others, like me, felt a little underwhelmed. At least it seems like no one really hated it, which I agree with! There were a lot of good elements there and some appreciated the structure and tone more than I did, but if you don’t have the expectations that I carried into my read, maybe you’ll enjoy it more!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Mythology retellings. I didn’t even realize this for what it was while I was reading but looking back, it was a fun way to adapt some Norse mythology as a modern retelling!
Left Me Wanting More: Time in this awesome school! I felt like it was a real missed opportunity to make this series about Vale Hall and then not even really spend time in this unique and interesting school! I really wanted to see more of the classes, especially in the first book.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I have a few friends who really loved this book. Maybe they knew more about it than I did before starting, maybe not, but it seems like I might be the minority with my reservations!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE DECEIVERS

             

Aurora Rising (Aurora Rising #1) – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising (Aurora Rising #1) – Amie Kaufman & Jay KristoffTitle: Aurora Rising (Aurora Rising #1) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Publishing Info: May 7, 2019 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes, Anderson's Bookshop
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Date Completed: May 24, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1), Gemina (The Illuminae Files #1), Unearthed (Unearthed #1), These Broken Stars (These Broken Stars #1), Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3), Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They're not the heroes we deserve. They're just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

bookreview1

 There was so much hype for AURORA RISING, from the reading community and I admit, my own hype since there’s so much love for Amie & Jay! I think this was a really fun first book and an intro to the main characters, setting up for the rest of a great series.

I’m not sure if I was just unfocused or if it was something other readers experienced/will experience, but I found the beginning to not flow well in some spots. I did listen to the audiobook while I was working, but since I do that all the time, even with complicated fantasy, I found it a bit jarring in some spots where I actually had to go back and re-listen to a couple things to make sure I didn’t have a track out of place or anything. It wasn’t bad but it was just something that didn’t really seem to fit in sequence so I had to adjust to some transitions or lack thereof.

I also just found the beginning to be a little lacking. Going into AURORA RISING after reading NEVERNIGHT and reflecting on The Illuminae Files, I kind of feel like some of the YA plot lines are held back to not overwhelm readers with detail, but I personally love how detailed worlds and characters can get, especially when designing worlds to include alien races, new planets, and even more space! Obviously adult novels and YA novels will differ and this is a project with Amie and not just Jay alone, but after reading NEVERNIGHT, the book just felt like it was being held back and cut down where I would have loved so much more world-building and expansion.

The book was very enjoyable and a lot of fun to read! I always love the misfit crews and classic sass and sarcasm! It just makes everything so much fun and creates a great character and crew dynamic. The story was interesting and I didn’t guess where it was going and how everything was connected! I didn’t totally love it but it was unique and I’m curious to see how everything fits in later on in the series!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Science Fiction. I’ve been wanting to read more sci-fi and I felt like I was… but looking back on my reads I need to read so much more! Books in space are always so much fun!
Left Me Wanting More: Plot flow. I just didn’t feel like things flowed as well as they could have. I was hoping for a little more development in the beginning as well.

Addiction Rating
Read it

This is still a really fun read even though it’s hard to live up to the hype and creativity of Illuminae! It was a lot of fun though.

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BOOKS LIKE AURORA RISING