Category Archives: YA

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston | Feature & Giveaway!

DO YOU LOVE ROM-COMS?

I’m partnering with Disney Book Group to help spread the word about 10 BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston! I’ve loved her previous thrillers and I’m so excited for this new contemporary romances from her! 10 BLIND DATES is billed as rompy romance which is just perfect for me. I love the cute romances and I especially love rom-coms. After a long string of dramatic contemporary romances, I am HERE for the light and fun and that’s exactly what 10 BLIND DATES promises! A little family chaos adds to the mix to keep the story interesting but there’s plenty of romance for readers to love and vivid characters within main characters Sophie’s family! There’s also an added bonus of the book taking place during the holiday season to add some extra holiday spirit!! Check out more about the book below!

ABOUT THE BOOK

One broken heart, ten blind dates—and a whole lot of confusion!

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas—a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever . . . or is it?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Elston is the author of several novels including: The Rules for Disappearing (a finalist in the Best Young Adult Novel category of the International Thriller Writers Thriller Awards) and This Is Our Story. She has a liberal arts degree from Louisiana State University in Shreveport and worked for many years as a wedding photographer before turning her hand to writing. Ashley lives in Shreveport with her husband and three sons.


IF YOU LIKE THESE ROM-COMS, YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS 10 BLIND DATES!

So I’m a huge fan of cute, light romances and mega bonus points if they include some awesome comedy as well! Today I wanted to make a recommendation list of books that would be great read-alikes for 10 BLIND DATES and vice versa!

26 kisses anna michels    

    

    

GIVEAWAY

Disney Book Group is also hosting a giveaway for one lucky winner! See the rules and details below! All you need to do

A NIGHT FOR ROMANCE!
Enter for your chance to win this romantic prize pack! Winner receives:

  • Copy of 10 Blind Dates,
  • and a $50 Visa gift card to plan your own date night.

Giveaway open to US addresses only.
Prizing and samples provided by Disney Book Group.

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Prepare for the Supernova Reread with a Renegades Recap!

The release of SUPERNOVA by Marissa Meyer is SO CLOSE and I can’t wait to see how this epic trilogy will come to a close! Once again this year, I’m partnering with Fierce Reads to help you refresh your memory on RENEGADES! I did a fun re-read recap last year and Fierce Reads has assembled a new team of bloggers for your ARCHENEMIES recap. Check these out if you don’t have time to re-read before SUPERNOVA or hop on in the reading along at any time!

Need the links to all the recaps? Fierce Reads has got you covered! Check out their post to all those recap links from last year plus meet the new bloggers who will guide you through ARCHENEMIES! They also have toooons of SUPERNOVA news, where Marissa Meyer will be touring, and so much more book release fun!

Want to know more on how to join in the read along? Check out the checklist that Fierce Reads has prepared for everyone!


Obviously with a recap, I’m sharing some major spoilers for these chapters so if you haven’t read these chapters yet, beware!! Pluuuus there’s a super awesome giveaway at the end of the post so trust me, it’ll be worth reading!

RENEGADES RECAP: CHAPTERS 11 – 21

This section kicks off with Nova getting all set up with her new *gasp* Renegades identity! With plans to infiltrate, Nova Artino changes to Nova McLain complete with a new uncle a some new digs (which seem less than stellar, but I guess it’s better than the sewers… maybe). Because of all this, Nova also needs a new set of fingerprints which doesn’t seem to be anyone’s super power (that seems like it would only be used for evil anyway) so she gets them burned off with… acid. Yikes!

With all of this established, Nova heads off to the Renegades trials, which is such a fun part of the book! All of the current Renegades host trials to see if any new prodigies are worthy of officially joining the renegades. With this chapter kicking off from Adrian’s point-of-view, we get all kinds of fun anecdotes from Adrian, Ruby, and Oscar about their own trials (well, minus Adrian since he didn’t have to try out) and the trials of their other friends. They even get snacks and the atmosphere kind of reminded me of the Triwizard Tournament, which is always a fun feel to have!

As soon as Nova enters the ring for her tryout, Adrian recognizes her as the girl with the bracelet and the reader’s spidey senses start tingling, wondering if, when, and how Adrian will make the connection from Insomnia (which is now Nova’s new superhero name) to Nightmare. Nova in turn recognizes Adrian’s name because of his mother, Lady Indomitable, and of course because he’s the son of the two biggest Renegades out there. Not surpringisly, Nova gets immediately rejected when she shares that her power is the inability/lack of need to sleep and she can’t even demonstrate it in the ring. Snooze. Buuuut of course we have smitten Adrian who accepts her on his squad without even consulting his friends. Renegades bad-attitude Genissa challenges this acceptance since no one can even see proof of Nova’s ability, and a sudden death sort of challenge is initiated!

Nova actually gets to pick whichever person she’d like as her opponent and we know Nova has something up her sleeve here but she ends up picking Gargoyle… the biggest and toughest guy there, but Nova does know what she’s doing. She already boasted about her physical training and cunning and she proves it by defeating the biggest guy she can, both with endurance and with brains. Her only weapon is a knife and after a few minutes battle, Nova trips up Gargoyle with a banner and the help of Adrian’s sketched toy cannon. Nova wins and Adrian and friends welcome her to the team! SPARKS FLY.

The team gets a tip on the “Librarian” who is rumored to have all kinds of weaponry and it might be where Nightmare gets her weapons. We see Adrian messing with some new tattoos, inking in some permanent additions to his skin, which is the foundation of his Sentinel persona. Adrian’s ability to draw and bring things to life work on his own body since it’s based off intent, so we get the backstory of some of his older tattoos and the history of the Sentinel, which was based off of an idea for a story Adrian had as a kid.

Adrian is desperate to work on the Nightmare case, the tip on the Librarian being a big next step, and he begs his dads to let him go on the surveillance mission. They’re very hesitant, naturally, but he wears them down and finally Simon agrees, telling Adrian that he’s allowed to take his team to go watch, but if ANYTHING happens, he needs to call for back-up and not to engage, because his team isn’t ready or equipped for that yet. Adrian is thrilled and the tension is palpable with the audience knowing that Nova is now a part of his team and she’ll be going on a mission that may set her against the Anarchists and set up an opportunity to really damage the Renegades, serving the first blow.

READER’S NOTE: One thing not in the book here but my general observations while reading is just how complicated all of this really is! Nova seems like a person with a good heart. She’s a part of the Anarchists but I still felt like it would take a lot for her to fully sabotage the Renegades on a real level. She doesn’t seem super evil and it seems like once she gets to know them, she may have a hard time hurting them, especially Adrian.

BACK TO THE RECAP: So Nova enters headquarters for the first time and she wants to see EVERYTHING. She immediately feels like a fraud upon entering (especially with messages ringing out about Nightmare… awkward), sure someone’s just going to rush in and grab her, but it all goes really smoothly! She starts mingling, meeting more Renegades, and feeling out the possibilities she’ll have to thwart this giant operation. She speaks to her team and grabs her uniform, all without a hitch. There’s a very detailed tour of every room she can access, basically, and Nova starts to realize how much the Renegades really do and points out that regular people (not prodigies) could really do a lot of these things, but the Renegades take it all on.

Nova takes a chance and asks when the Sentinel trains and Ruby steps in to reply that he’s an impostor and isn’t actually a Renegade, clearing that up for Nova’s suspicions. They watch Danna train and there’s TENSION with Nova being a new member of Danna’s team, because she worked with Adrian & Co before she got injured in the Nightmare confrontation. Nova shows off her prowess, especially in her observation skills, and Danna decides she’s not so bad.

Adrian takes Nova to meet Max aka Bandit, who’s locked up in a glass enclosure. I mean, it’s his home and where he stays, but it’s basically a big glass quarantine. Adrian’s says he doesn’t know why, but he is dangerous and it’s highly classified…. but really Adrian knows because of his dads. Nova gets her communicator, knowing that it probably has some tracking implement as well, and now has to figure out how she’s going to get around that when she goes places she can’t be tracked. Adrian fills Nova in about the surveillance plan and Nova has a hard time walking around in the Renegades uniform because she feels so NOTICED when she usually blends into the background.

Nova arrives back at her new home (the crappy one, remember?) and DUN DUN DUN, someone’s there! Turns out it’s a squatter and Nova gets rid of him before her fellow Anarchists show up to check out the place. Nova had noticed Adrian’s nervousness about the Sentinel, but she credits it back to his dads and there being an awkward pressure there or just knowing more than he should. She tells the Anarchists about Cronin (The Librarian) and how they connected Nightmare’s gun back to him. Ingrid volunteers to warn him when Nova suggest someone should and Nova recounts the plans for the surveillance team and what might happen. The Anarchists think the Renegades might plant something there to capture Cronin (which hey, that’s an Anarchist way of thinking) and Ingrid says to try to get the Renegades to ACTUALLY go in and search so they can really prove that there’s nothing there, that she will go clean up ahead of time and make sure there’s nothing at all to find.

The surveillance starts and Nova, Adrian, Oscar, and Ruby decide they’ll take turns who has the main watch. Nova makes fun of their watch snacks since it’s all sugar so it’s a good thing Nova doesn’t have to sleep because they’re all going to crash. A fun part here is that we get the origin stories of each of the team members! Oscar tells a story about how he was saved from a burning room. He passed out, had a dream about the fire and smoke, and when he woke up, he was breathing smoke! Ruby’s grandma had hidden all kinds of jewels after her jewelry store closed up and the house was raided by villains. Ruby swallowed  some jewels — you guessed it. Rubies — and when she wouldn’t vomit them back up upon demand, the villains stabbed her. Her power manifested and her wounds spouted rubies that she used as weapons from there forward. Adrian was born with his power. Boring story, but seems pretty cool! And Nova was also born with her power (which she can’t tell the group since that power is putting people to sleep) so she tells her actual history about the murders of her family and how she gained the power not to sleep from that event.

AND THAT’S IT FOR CHAPTERS 11 – 21! Make sure to visit the other blog recaps and the new ARCHENEMIES recaps too! 

GIVEAWAY

I also promised a giveaway and here it is! One lucky winner will receive a A Renegades themed lunchbox, a Universe of Marissa Meyer tote, a Renegades quote print, Prepare for the Supernova sunglasses, and a final copy of Supernova + signed bookplate! This giveaway is only open to US/Canada residents. Check out the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter! Good luck!!

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The Tenth Girl – Sara Faring

The Tenth Girl – Sara FaringTitle: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
Publishing Info: September 24, 2019 by Macmillan
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal, Ghosts, Science Fiction
Date Completed: June 7, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi's existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.

bookreview1

I think readers will either love this book or lose steam with it like I did. It was interesting and had a lot going for it but there was so much happening with it that I felt like it was hard to keep up with, and I usually don’t have too many issues like there. There were a lot of new things, clues to pick up on, a bunch of characters (which wasn’t an issue for me but there were a number), and without a rapid pace to keep things moving, I quickly started losing interest without any reveals towards the middle. I had some Goodreads friends who loved it and from the other early reviews that felt similarly to me, it seems like we had the same issue: pacing.

While the book is suspenseful and atmospheric, I just felt like plot points took forever to come around. There’s a lot to keep readers really hyped up by providing new questions, throwing in suspicions, and having Mavi running around this creepy house, but I just felt like not a whole lot was happening for most of the book. It felt like she was getting more questions and we never got any answers until the end, which makes things a little frustrating at times.

THE TENTH GIRL goes back and forth between a couple time periods but it’s a little confusing. Mavi is at this creepy house in the 1970s but her present seems to be in the future or present day. The flashbacks are to the present but the past and yet somehow Mavi is in the past in the present. It’s enough to make your head spin for sure! It was definitely interesting to try to wrap my head around it but I feel like these kinds of plot devices really stole time away from actually getting to know all of the characters. I just really wanted to experience their personalities more and I felt like I never got to know anyone when I was spending so much time on the mystery and different time periods.

Then there was the twist at the end. I… did not like the twist in the book. There is a twist, as other readers have stated, and I found that it really took away from the whole tone and concept of the book for me. It’s one of those things where it makes you rethink the whole book, which can be really interesting, but in this case it made me feel like I was reading something totally different the whole time and not in the best way. I’m really a person who likes a cohesive feel throughout a whole book so to have a twist at the end basically change the genre, it really is irritating for me and takes me out of the whole experience.

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Unique settings. I loved the Patagonian setting, bringing in a new culture with new myths and a new location. It was different from a lot of other books out there and it was really enjoyable to explore.
Left Me Wanting More: Pacing. I just had a hard time with the structure of the book, I think. I would have liked to know the twist basically at the beginning so I knew what kind of feel this book was going to have. I would have liked to have more answers along the way. I would have maybe skipped so many flashbacks. I just didn’t love the structure and pacing overall.

Addiction Rating
Try it, or get another opinion

I’m torn. It’s an interesting read and I liked a lot about the setting and atmosphere, but is that enough to recommend the book? I’m not sure I’d actively pass it along to a friend but it’s also not a bad read. For its length and how I felt about it, I don’t know if I’d tell someone else to read it.

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BOOKS LIKE THE TENTH GIRL

             

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.

bookreview1

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.

book_recommendations1

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!

book_recommendations1

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.

bookreview1

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?

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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.

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** 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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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?

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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