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Leave Me – Gayle Forman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE LEAVE ME

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    KILLER INSTINCT

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnisTitle: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Publishing Info: September 20, 2016 by Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: August 20, 2016
Related Posts: A Madness So Discreet, This Darkness Mine

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

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THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is a hard book to talk about. It’s incredibly important in so many ways and has some great not only feminist but also important universal notions that really bring to light how we excuse certain male actions and condemn female ones for the exact same thing (sex, drugs, violence). I really did love how Mindy McGinnis said so many of these things right to readers’ faces and makes people truly confront all of these issues. That’s part of the beauty of Alex’s character as well. She’s described as both closed off and yet feeling too much. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks or do what she thinks is right because she’s really never been the person to cater to a society’s “norms”. She confronts people, makes people pay for their actions, and somehow becomes this great antihero for us to gather around.

The book has a sort of Dexter-like feel and yet stands on its own. Alex has a darkness within her. It drives her every day life, takes over in moments of extreme emotion, and she once she actually finds people to care about and who care about her, she tries to be as “normal” as possible to not scare away her new friends. She uses this darkness to right wrongs and to seek vengeance on people who have committed horrible acts of violence, sexual abuse, or general heinous injustices. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES isn’t focused on Alex as a serial killer (because she’s not) and I was both confused and satisfied with the ambiguity of “what she was”. Alex couldn’t even put a label on herself, seeking to fit in the category of sociopath or psychopath and didn’t quite seem to fit anywhere. I liked the uniqueness and originality, not fitting into a specific box, but I was also anticipating more of something… which I guess Alex would probably reprimand me for trying to put a label on her! I think the anticipation of the something affected the read a little bit for me because I felt like I was missing something and the book never quite crossed that line into supremely satisfying for me.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES doesn’t shy away from really anything. Whereas some young adult books clean things up a bit for the sake of readers or publishing, Mindy McGinnis chooses to include all of the realistic speech (including swearing, descriptions of sex, and lewd behavior) that other books play down in order to reach a younger audience. I would definitely recommend this for a more mature young adult audience (although we always have that taboo of censoring younger teen audiences — I’m not a librarian, educator, or parent so that’s not for me to say but it a moderately explicit read even as an adult). There are also several instances or mentions of rape, date rape, sexual abuse, and scenes with near instances of all of these occurring so if that’s a trigger for you, do be aware that it pops up many times throughout the book.

One thing that actually bothered me about the book was the confusing involvement of animals. If you have an animal abuse trigger, it will likely bother you for this one (more than one person has brought up that it was an issue for them), and it’s not a trigger for me but I thought the violence towards animals was quite unnecessary. It wasn’t out right on the pages with a character abusing an animal but there are some really hard-to-read scenes about what happens to a few animals that I just didn’t get. It wasn’t directly tied to a character and didn’t push a plot point forward. The characters actually do take care of and help quite a few animals too but I didn’t know why the harsh scenes with injuries and death needed to be included. It didn’t serve a purpose for the book or assist a character’s story line. There was also a very gruesome scene at a meat factory that wasn’t abuse but a part of the job, but still seemed unnecessary to include (especially when I was trying to read this book as I was eating lunch — that was just unfortunate timing on my part).

My middle of the road feelings aren’t due to any of those factors though. As much as I thought the message was extremely important and valid, I just didn’t really connect to the characters in the book. I know Alex is sort of emotionally closed off and yet over-feeling and I kind of felt stuck between those two emotions. I just didn’t connect with her as much as I wanted to. I understand that she’s not someone you really connect to emotionally but I wanted to understand her just a little bit more or be able to stand behind her a little bit more and I just didn’t quite get there. It’s a weird spot because in a way, that’s the whole point of her character — she’s complex, she’s cold, she’s overly angered by injustices, she’s not your average person in terms of emotional ranges — but somehow it just didn’t click for me. It’s not that there was a lack of character development in any of the other characters either but none of the relationships really slid into place for me. It was just the little things with characters or perhaps the writing that just didn’t click and although the content was there, I just didn’t get bowled over like I thought I would.

Long story short, I’m just sort of a jumbled up from this book. I can’t quite sort out what I feel but I know that I don’t feel as wowed as I had hoped. When I end up rating books, it’s based on an overall feeling and THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES had a whole lot going on. The overall message of the book is so important but I feel like I can’t rate a book for its message alone. There are several factors involved in my feelings toward a book and this one had so many things for me to consider.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Alex // Character obsessions: Justice, darkness, friendship.
Alex is a very simple and yet very complicated character all at the same time. She’s a very black-and-white sort of character, knowing exactly she feels is right and what she feels is wrong, and she’s not afraid to right the wrongs she sees in any way she deems correct. She carries a certain darkness with her that tends to lead to violent situations, which really brings out the anti-hero in her character as readers root for the violence to “correct” injustices within Alex’s town. I think I actually struggled a little bit when Alex started figure out some friendships and tried to be “normal”, as she called it. It was also complicated because Alex didn’t fit into an easily identifiable category for what she “was”. She stated that she felt TOO much, not that she was unfeeling, as so many psychopathic or sociopathic characters are and that really complicated things for me as a reader and former student of psychology. (Not like I’m any expect but I’ve always been incredibly interested and took many classes in high school and college.) I think it was hard for me that she didn’t quite fit into a common classification — and it was actually hard for her as well! It was a very interesting addition to her character but it also kind of confused me because I couldn’t figure her out!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Antiheroes. I love a good antihero. It’s so interesting to have the main character of a book have some normally abhorrent behavior but when it’s combating someone else’s worse actions, things get interesting.
Left Me Wanting More: Darkness. This is actually a pretty dark and serious book… But I think I just wanted more darkness, more shock from Alex. Maybe it was the way I went into the book. The way that the synopsis read and the way that the book was pitched, I think I was assuming that Alex would be more of a Dexter-type: a more easily-classifiable pathology, violent but with a purpose, and still loveable. I found some of those things but there seemed to be more gray area with Alex than I expected so I think I was expecting some more BIG “omg” moments, which I think a lot of content came from other characters that I didn’t expect. I actually didn’t know that it was narrated by three voices so that also threw me as well.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This is kind of a hard recommendation for me. I was personally left with some off feelings — not bad, but off — and I just didn’t click with it somehow, which leads me to feeling hesitant about truly pushing this book to someone. BUT I think there is a lot of important content and some really important messages to not only today’s teens but really to a large audience of adults on the treatment and expectations of women, and even just our society in general.

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BOOKS LIKE THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    KILLER INSTINCT

Blog Tour: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody | Review

AWOM_blogtour

Welcome to the blog tour for
A WEEK OF MONDAYS by Jessica Brody!

I am so excited to be on the blog tour for this book and spread the word about A WEEK OF MONDAYS! This is actually the first contemporary book I’ve read from Jessica Brody (after having read her entire Unremembered sci-fi trilogy) and it was so much fun to read! Thanks to Macmillan Kids & Fierce Reads for having me be a part of this blog tour!!

On today’s blog tour stop, I’m sharing my review for A WEEK OF MONDAYS! Check out what I thought of the book:

Blog Tour: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody | ReviewTitle: A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody
Publishing Info: August 2, 2016 by Macmillan
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Alternate Reality
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 30, 2016
Related Posts: Unremembered (Unremembered #1), Unforgotten (Unremembered #2)

Sixteen-year-old Ellison Sparks is having a serious case of the Mondays. She gets a ticket for running a red light, she manages to take the world’s worst school picture, she bombs softball try-outs and her class election speech (note to self: never trust a cheerleader when she swears there are no nuts in her bake-sale banana bread), and to top it all off, Tristan, her gorgeous rocker boyfriend suddenly dumps her. For no good reason!
As far as Mondays go, it doesn’t get much worse than this. And Ellie is positive that if she could just do it all over again, she would get it right. So when she wakes up the next morning to find she’s reliving the exact same day, she knows what she has to do: stop her boyfriend from breaking up with her. But it seems no matter how many do-overs she gets or how hard Ellie tries to repair her relationship, Tristan always seems bent set on ending it. Will Ellie ever figure out how to fix this broken day? Or will she be stuck in this nightmare of a Monday forever?
From the author 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and The Unremembered trilogy comes a hilarious and heartwarming story about second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances. Because sometimes it takes a whole week of Mondays to figure out what you really want.

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It’s Groundhog Daaayyy! (I hope you said that like the radio announcers in the movie…) But no, even worse… IT’S MONDAY and Ellison Sparks can’t get past the worst day of the week which incidentally is about the worst day of her life. From boy issues to mean girls to family affairs, Ellie Sparks is having a tough Monday and in A WEEK OF MONDAYS, she has to do it all over again until she gets it right.

This was my first contemporary book from Jessica Brody after having read her Unremembered series which was sci-fi so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect! Some authors have a tone that carries throughout their novels no matter what the genre is and others completely change depending on the characters they’re writing. I feel like I was able to pick out some of that humor that I’d seen in Unremembered that really had me enjoying the characters! It was a bit slapstick at times in A WEEK OF MONDAYS but if you’re going to have a Groundhog Day-type book, you gotta get some slapstick in there, right? The book definitely had a lightness to it and was a breeze to read despite its length! The way the chapters are set up make for a higher page count but don’t let that fool you — it’s actually a quick read!

I could totally identify with Ellie in so many ways. I didn’t have a lot of relationships in high school but whether it was relationship or crush, I know so many of us ended up trying to be the person we thought our crush wanted us to be and what they liked and sometimes not who we actually were. I liked that Ellie went on this journey of self-discovery in such a unique way. As wonderful as it is to have this total revelation as some characters do in books, Ellie had to go through the same situation SEVEN times in order to finally figure certain things out and I kind of loved that. We learn from our mistakes but we don’t always learn on the first try and as terrible as it was to relive the same Monday over and over again, she was lucky enough to get another chance to take a different path in her life when so many of us are left with regrets or “what if”s.

I really, really enjoyed the ending. There was a moment there that I totally called from the start (because I just really wanted it to happen) and it totally came together in the end. I really loved how everything worked out and all of the things that Ellie made right again. It wasn’t totally predictable either! I thought I knew how things would wrap up and I suppose I guessed it overall but the path to get there was different than I expected and I always love when authors are able to surprise me!

A WEEK OF MONDAYS was just a fun book from start to finish. It started off more on the silly side and slowly progressed to serious and a little deeper. I really loved Ellie’s journey and the ending to the book was just perfect! A WEEK OF MONDAYS was my favorite kind of book to read in the summertime but it’s great for any time of the year! I do love Jessica Brody and I look forward to reading more of her books!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Groundhog Day-type books. I love the chance to relive the same day until you get it right. This was a lighter version of the concept and I think the only other book I’ve read like this was BEFORE I FALL which was a more solemn concept. It’s always interesting to see what the author does with the concept though!
Left Me Wanting More: Seriousness. The book was a teensy bit silly towards the beginning but it does add to the lightness of the book and the overall tone!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

A WEEK OF MONDAYS was just plain fun and a great take on reliving a day to get it right. I had so much fun with Ellie’s journey and I just love watching characters finally get everything right!

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BOOKS LIKE A WEEK OF MONDAYS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    ASK AGAIN LATER     BEFORE I FALL

ABOUT JESSICA BRODY

Jessica Brody - High Res_credit Brian Braff

Jessica Brody is the author of several popular books for teens, including the Unremembered trilogy, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, and The Karma Club, as well as two adult novels. She splits her time between California and Colorado. Find out more at jessicabrody.com.


Thanks so much for taking the time to check out the blog tour for A WEEK OF MONDAYS and hope you enjoyed my review! Don’t miss the rest of the blog tour happening NOW! Keep up with A WEEK OF MONDAYS news with the hashtag #AWeekofMondays on social media! 

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love – Sarvenaz Tash

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re looking for a fun, geeky, and sweet novel, THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO UNREQUITED LOVE will be a hit with you! I had such a blast reading it and I just loved Sarvenaz Tash’s writing. I’m a new fan and I can’t wait to read more from her! 
view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Graham // Character Obsessions: Roxy, The Chronicles of Althena, epic gestures. 
Graham was great! I really loved how he felt like a nice, normal guy. He was funny, nerdy, sweet, down-to-earth, and a little over-the-top all at the same time. Aside from the normal cringey mistakes we’ve all made, I thought Graham handled everything really well and I just really enjoyed his character all around!
Roxy // Character Obsessions: Drawing, The Chronicles of Althena, friendship… more?
I thought it was so great that the big crush wasn’t some totally unattainable girl. She was smart, geeky, pretty, unique, but also relatable and normal. I really loved that the top percentage of the class was portrayed as normal kids and not just socially-inept nerds because the top of my class in high school was an incredibly diverse mix including some really good athletes too. I really appreciated that the unrequited love was on the best friend side and not on a totally unattainable girl.

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

Addiction Rating
Read it!

Ahhh it was so much fun!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO UNREQUITED LOVE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    revenge of the girl with the great personality

Wanderlost – Jen Malone

Wanderlost – Jen MaloneTitle: Wanderlost by Jen Malone
Publishing Info: May 31, 2016 by HarperTeen
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: June 2, 2016

Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe.
Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.
Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.
But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.

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I love cute contemporary books, especially in the summertime, so I was very excited to read WANDERLOST! I had been looking forward to reading it and ran into a reading slump for a while (well, more so that I didn’t have time to read than an actual slump) so WANDERLOST got put on hold for a bit but once I was able to pick it back up, I couldn’t put it down! I spent an afternoon in the summer sun bingeing the rest of the book and it was such a pleasant and fun read!

I really, really loved the sister aspect in this book. Aubree and her sister Elizabeth are just far apart enough in age that they never really fell into sync with that best friendship that a lot of sisters have, not to mention that they both have very different personalities. The book really swings back and forth from the two girls getting along to wondering how they’re even sisters and I just loved how real that felt to me. My sister and I are three years apart and we were never at odds like Aubree and Elizabeth were but it took us a while to find our solid friendship! We’ve always gotten along and have been sisterly but once I graduated college, we really started to become better friends and it was such a wonderful thing to be able to have another relationship with my sister like that! I really loved seeing how Aubree and her sister worked their way through their relationship and really worked on seeing life from each other’s perspectives (quite literally as Aubree pretends to be Elizabeth for a portion of this book) and it was such a great part of WANDERLOST for me!

I think this book is perfect for fans of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS both in tone and content. The romance is cute, the comedy is perfect, and the wanderlust is real. Even though it maybe pushed the limits of reality sometimes (I’m not sure how plausible it is to pose as your sister in a foreign country but I guess it COULD happen), I totally didn’t care and I was on board no matter what was happening. I loved the fun atmosphere throughout! Aubree did a great job of handling herself no matter what the situation was and I loved how much she grew throughout the book.

I love how Aubree learned so much about herself through all of her new experiences. Aside from traveling to Europe — which is a pretty huge deal — she traveled alone, led a group of seniors around the continent, and ended up having to really figure out who she was outside of her friends, family, and school. I really appreciated watching her grow up and more so than just growing up, to really figure out who she was and what she wanted to do with her life. She was finally coming out of her sister’s shadow and I can totally relate to the point where Aubree was in this book. It was similar to my experiences when I went to college (though obviously without the whole Europe part) and I really started to figure out who I was as an individual and the kind of person I wanted to be as an adult. It’s such an awesome thing to witness and this is one of the many reasons I love reading YA!

WANDERLOST was such a fun book with some really great messages. If you’ve got a bit of wanderlust, this book will totally hit the spot and you get to see some really great relationships as well. Jen Malone had me totally hooked with this book and I can’t wait to read more from her!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Aubree // Character obsessions: Relaxing, friends, the easy life.
Aubree had the easy life before this book started — classes, friends, hanging out — and I don’t blame her! As a high schooler, this was pretty much my life as well. I really appreciated how much she matured throughout her trip and how she really claimed a lot of responsibility for so many things in her life.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Travel. Man, I want to go to Europe. I’ve never been (money and time, ya know) but it would be so amazing! In the mean time, I’ll travel through these books.
Left Me Wanting More: Chill from Elizabeth. I loved the sister relationship but Elizabeth was a BIT much sometimes. I guess I haven’t known someone who is so dedicated at such a young age but I can see it. It just felt a tad towards the exaggerated side.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

WANDERLOST was so much fun and such a great summer read. If you love fun and light contemporary books, this is one I highly recommend!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE WANDERLOST

(Click the cover to see my review!)

ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS    MEANT TO BE

How to Disappear – Ann Redisch Stampler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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

Addiction Rating
Try it!

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

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE HOW TO DISAPPEAR

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING    GONE GIRL

With Malice – Eileen Cook

With Malice – Eileen CookTitle: With Malice by Eileen Cook
Publishing Info: June 7, 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: ALAMW16, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: February 11, 2016

For fans of We Were Liars and The Girl on the Train comes a chilling, addictive, compulsive read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend--only what if the accident wasn't an accident?
Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident...wasn't an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

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Line up here, mystery and thriller fans — you won’t want to miss WITH MALICE! I’ve always loved mystery/thrillers and any book that can surprise me, get that adrenaline going, or keep me on the edge of my seat. So far 2016 seems to hold so many young adult titles like these and I’m trying to gobble up every single one! It’s been a while since I’ve been so hooked and particularly invested in a thriller and I have a feeling that WITH MALICE will be one of those special books that holds readers and sucks them in!

Right off the bat, the reader is hit with an unreliable narrator. After a terrible accident, Jill wakes up in the hospital with no recollection of what happened so the reader really has no idea what happened either — and trust me, even though this review just presented you with the synopsis, don’t read it right before you read the book. I hadn’t read it since I added the book to Goodreads and I got hit with a few surprises that are in the synopsis that I didn’t remember. It really started the book off with a bang! The whole book was so exciting and it was interesting to try to fit the pieces together of what happened to Jill. Since Jill is the main character, obviously you want to root for her and help her prove her innocence and that the accident was not her fault but the question that remains from the police, the hospital staff, and even Jill’s parents and friends is: Is Jill really to blame? No one really knows exactly what happened and Jill has to piece the puzzle back together and hope she gets some memories back to try to find an answer.

I loved the slow reveal of clues, facts, and reports. Jill really has to dig for some things that no one else can answer since she was one of the only people involved in/on the scene of the accident. Along the way, she has to deal with lawyers, reporters, and even family that doesn’t quite trust her. As the evidence slow starts pouring in, Jill has to come to some hard realizations about herself and how she’s treated other recently as well as if that means that she really is guilty.

I don’t really want to say too much about the book because it’s really best to experience. I was honestly hooked from start to finish and I ended up finishing it in a single day! (Thank goodness our internet was down that day, huh?) WITH MALICE definitely had a DANGEROUS GIRLS feel in a lot of ways and although they were similar in content, the book was unique enough that I never really knew where it was going to go. I mean, with any book like this, who can really say what will happen in the end! I really enjoyed the ending as well and I think readers are going to love this one!

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Jill // Character Obsessions: Memories, healing, friends, secrets 
I loved having an unreliable narrator like Jill. I was so on the edge of my seat to see if something insane happened or it was just a horrible mistake. I really felt for Jill in a lot of ways but I was always still so dang suspicious of her!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Dangerous Girls read-alikes. I am obsessed with DANGEROUS GIRLS and I will take all the read-alikes I can get!
Left Me Wanting More: Conclusion. The ending happened a little quickly and I could have used a couple more sentences/paragraphs to really wrap things up but it was still quite interesting!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I really enjoyed this one and I think if you’re a fan of thrillers, it’s a must-read!

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BOOKS LIKE WITH MALICE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

DANGEROUS GIRLS    GONE GIRL

26 Kisses – Anna Michels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

26 kisses gr updates

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it!

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

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE 26 KISSES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

ON THE FENCE    ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS

The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) – Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Game (The Crown’s Game #1) – Evelyn SkyeTitle: The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game #1) by Evelyn Skye
Publishing Info: May 17, 2016 by HarperCollins
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: February 23, 2016
Related Posts: The Crown's Fate (The Crown's Game #2)

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.
And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?
For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.
And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.
As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

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Right off the bat, THE CROWN’S GAME had a teensy bit of a NIGHT CIRCUS feel and I was instantly hooked. Two opposing magicians (or in this case, enchanters)? Yes, please! I easily immersed myself in this book and had just a wonderful time reading it from start to finish. Evelyn Skye did a fantastic job with this book and my only regret (kidding, I don’t really regret anything) is that I read it so early because I need more of these books NOW!

THE CROWN’S GAME was a really fun read for me. I was a bit worried at first because I know nothing about Imperial Russia (history was not my favorite growing up… and now I kick myself for it!) but I had nothing to worry about. The book is based on actual historical figures but the author has taken liberties with the facts and setting and turned them into a fantasy-based story. I loved the way that the history (the little that I actually knew) and the culture shaped the story and really brought the book to life! I absolutely loved the feel of the book and I really felt like I could picture each scene so well.

The concept of competing enchanters was exciting, nerve-wracking, and delightful all at the same time. Vika and Nikolai are forced into The Crown’s Game, a competition which one will win the right to serve the tsar as the official enchanter. The challenges between these two enchanters is absolutely delightful. The rules in place state that any “turn” (they alternate performing a large magical feat and have five turns to impress the tsar), cannot harm the common people so Vika and Nikolai come up with ways to enhance the city and oh. Their magic is simply gorgeous. I fell head over heels for the enchantments that Evelyn Skye designed for her characters and they were beautiful to experience. Each one really brought the book to life so much more and I was positively in love with how each turn was handled. Each one was also exponentially more exciting as the two enchanters built off of the previous works all the while under immenent threat of being murdered by the other. Oh yeah, did I mention that this is a competition TO THE DEATH? I spent the entire book falling in love with these two characters (and shipping them, obviously) and still somehow I was like nah, one of them will live. It can’t end in one of them dying, right? (This is also my Gansey denial.) I won’t tell you how it ends but it was something that I really and truly did not see coming and I was impressed and shocked all at the same time.  I just really loved dichotomy of bringing harmony to St. Petersburg as Vika and Nikolai took each of their turns and the constant panic and fear as both of them feared for their lives when that new turn arrived.

I absolutely loved each character in this book as well. Of course I loved the two main characters, Vika and Nikolai, and how they came together in this story. They really balance each other out and fit together so well. Vika can easily manipulate things in nature — water, land, food — and Nikolai is best with textiles and materials — wood, fabric, metal, etc. They were brought together as the only two living enchanters in Russia but I loved that their magic and ability wasn’t identical. I also loved how their relationship was slow to develop (being that they’re pitted against each other and all) and that things and feelings just slowly start falling into place. It really just felt so natural and wonderful.

The other characters are great as well. Pasha (the prince) plays a huge role in this book in so many ways and I absolutely loved him. He brings such positivity and joy to the book and at the same time provides a very large point of conflict with Nikolai as his best friend (who he doesn’t know possesses magical abilities) and his instant attraction to Vika. His role in the book is so amazingly crafted and interwoven with every other character’s story line and I was so impressed!

I feel like I could go on and on but I will wrap it up by saying do not miss out on this book. I finished it and then immediately wanted to read more! THE CROWN’S GAME was a wonderful book and I can’t wait for more from Evelyn Skye!
view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

crown's game gr updates

 

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction + Fantasy. I loved the way Imperial Russia shaped this book. I wasn’t a big history person growing up so I love getting that feel and a teensy bit of history (or something based on a real time/place) in a work of fiction.
Left Me Wanting More: Story! I wouldn’t say that the ending is a cliffhanger because we do know how the Crown’s Game ends… But there’s a little something that sets up the next book that just has me DYING for more!

Addiction Rating
Buy it!

I loved this book and had a wonderful time reading it from start to finish. This is one I want for my shelves when it comes out!!

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BOOKS LIKE THE CROWN’S GAME

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS    THRONE OF GLASS

The Last Time We Were Us – Leah Konen

The Last Time We Were Us – Leah KonenTitle: The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen
Publishing Info: May 10, 2016 by HarperCollins
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: March 18, 2016

A passionate summer love story about a girl, her childhood best friend recently released from juvie, and the small-town lies that have kept them apart. A teen romance debut with a dark edge.
Liz Grant is about to have the summer of her life. She and her friend MacKenzie are getting invited to all the best parties, and with any luck, Innis Taylor, the most gorgeous guy in Bonneville, will be her boyfriend before the Fourth of July.
Local teen convict released early.
Jason Sullivan wasn’t supposed to come back from juvie. A million years ago, he was her best friend, but that was before he ditched her for a different crowd. Before he attacked Innis’s older brother, leaving Skip’s face burned and their town in shock.
“Everything is not what you think.”
Liz always found it hard to believe what they said about Jason, but all of Bonneville thinks he’s dangerous. If word gets out she’s seeing him, she could lose everything. But what if there’s more to that horrible night than she knows? And how many more people will get hurt when the truth finally comes out?
“You’re the one person who believes in me.”
Leah Konen’s southern romance swelters with passion as it explores the devastating crush of lies, the delicate balance of power and perception, and one girl’s journey to find herself while uncovering the secrets of so many others.

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So we know that best-friends-to-more is one of my favorite tropes and it’s something that immediately attracted me to THE LAST TIME WE WERE US. Add in a reuniting factor and I was so hooked. This book had so much potential and I feel like it just… fell flat. I really, really wanted to love it and I really tried but this book and I just didn’t connect.

I actually didn’t really realize how many thing bothered me until I had finished and I sat down to write some thoughts. The more I thought about the book, the more I felt like it was just full of unnecessary drama. The characters were absolutely horrible to each other, thinking they had each other’s best interests at heart. Liz’s family was terrible. Her mom only cared about their reputation and what the neighbors/friends thought and didn’t seem to care about what was actually good for Liz. She thought she was protecting her but when it really came down to it, looking good always seemed to be more important. She didn’t take the time to think of how Liz might feel about things and was so obsessed with status that she ended up shoving Liz toward the popular boy even without even a question if they were right for each other. Liz’s sister was pretty much the same way. It felt only marginally more acceptable since she was getting married and focused on the wedding, plus she was still young after all (I felt like her mom should know better) but it was still incredibly irritating. Then Liz’s friend MacKenzie was obsessed with being popular, hooking up with the popular boys, and making moves in order to improve her social status instead of following her heart. She often encouraged Liz to do the same because it was what she wanted and didn’t think about what Liz wanted. AND THEN LIZ EXCUSES THEM ALL. Excuse me? They made your tough decisions even harder and gave you tons of crap and then you say it’s all okay because they were doing what they thought was best? Maybe they really believed they were but good friends and supportive family members should at least try to listen to someone’s side of the story and understand their feelings. Liz’s friends and family didn’t ever try to listen to Liz and see things from her side. Any objections were immediately shut down. It was just so hard to watch.

The romance was far from swoon-worthy. Firstly, it was best-friends-to-more. How did this not feel swoony at all??? I think in part it was the estrangement. Even before Jason was away in juvie for two years, he ended up ditching Liz when they were thirteen. They were best friends as kids and then he got accepted by the popular kids (this again??) and he was too cool for Liz, so they never really had those flirty romantic vibes going on. The book starts with Jason being back and then all of a sudden BAM. They have such strong feelings! Wait… They used to be best friends (just friends). They never had a romantic or even flirty past. And then it’s super normal that they’re essentially in love? I missed the awkward back and forth, the cute wanting-to-say-something-but-can’t, the banter, the jokes, the sly touches, the subtle hints… All the things I usually love in friends-to-more and it wasn’t there at all. There was no build up to the romance so I really didn’t feel any chemistry at all. I liked Jason, sure. He was a nice kid, a good character, and you knew there was more to his story… But it just wasn’t swoony because there was no good foundation. Also, I have no problem whatsoever with physicality in YA because it’s a perfectly natural part of adolescence… but because I felt like Liz and Jason’s romantic feelings came out of nowhere, I also felt like they got physical way too quickly and it just wasn’t romantic at all. It felt forced and I didn’t feel like the actual relationship developed naturally.
Then there’s this whole story line with Liz trying to get Innis to call her his girlfriend — and she is genuinely interested, although maybe not for the right reasons (it’s not like it’s just a ploy, although Kensie’s pushing doesn’t help) — and so it’s not really a love triangle but it kind of is? There’s this little overlap and it just bothered me because the relationship with Innis really didn’t feel necessary. I would have much rather spent that time with Liz and Jason, watching THEIR relationship grow instead of watching Liz struggle with Innis and spending so much time on something that you knew wasn’t meant to be.

To top it all off, the book ended with some One Tree Hill-level drama and I actually laughed out loud when I thought of the comparison (which I really am sorry for laughing — it was not a laughing moment) but things just escalated so far that it started to just go into teen soap territory. It just started to get really unrealistic for me and that really sort of pushed me even more toward an overall feeling of disappointment in the way the book turned out.

The pros? Jason. Jason’s dad (loved him). It was a quick read. I didn’t feel frustrated until I started writing my thoughts down? Lyla’s sort of redemption. Hmm I think that’s it. It wasn’t a bad book but really, it just didn’t work on so many levels for me. Especially when the main points of why I was attracted to the book didn’t work out, it was just a let down for me.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

the last time we were us GR updates

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Liz // Character Obsessions: Innis, dating, friends, parties, Jason 
Liz was actually a decent character. She wasn’t a bad person, she seemed pretty normal, but she had all of these people around her who essentially tried to control her life. Part of the point of the book was that she figures out what she wants to do and she follows her heart — which is great — but I would have loved to see more support in her life.
Jason // Character Obsessions: Work, Lizzie, family
Jason was a good character too. I liked him. But I felt like I barely got to know him. I would have loved to see him and Liz spend so much more time together — hanging out, getting to know each other again (especially since they barely spoke for literally four or five years) and I just wanted to actually know who he was.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Realistic Relationships. While I didn’t feel like all of the relationships were realistic, I think this did bring some of the grittier points to the table and made a good point to the whole concept of getting the popular boy to like you and maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Left Me Wanting More: Support. Liz needed more support from somewhere. Her friends and her family were selfish. Jason was a good support but he was the love interest so I just really wanted it from somewhere else as well.

Addiction Rating
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When I first finished this book, I was one of the early reviews so I’m really not sure what others are saying about it. Check out some of those other reviews before you take my word for it!

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(Click the cover to see my review!)

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