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Squad – Mariah MacCarthy

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

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

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

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

bookreview1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Try it

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

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE SQUAD

             

The Big Kahuna (Fox and O’Hare #6) – Janet Evanovich & Peter Evanovich

The Big Kahuna (Fox and O’Hare #6) – Janet Evanovich & Peter EvanovichTitle: The Big Kahuna (Fox & O'Hare #6) by Janet Evanovich, Peter Evanovich
Publishing Info: May 7, 2019 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: May 9, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13), Plum Lucky (Stephanie Plum #13.5), Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum #14), , Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), Mini-Reviews: The Audition, Plum Spooky | DNF Report: Tether, Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum #14.5), Mini-Reviews: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16) & Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum #18), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Mini-Reviews: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), , Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22), Curious Minds (Knight & Moon #1), Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Dangerous Minds (Knight & Moon #2), Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel #1), Hardcore Twenty-Four (Stephanie Plum #24), The Heist (Fox & O'Hare #1), Look Alive Twenty-Five (Stephanie Plum #25)

A stoner, an Instagram model, a Czech oligarch, and a missing unicorn. Nick Fox and Kate O'Hare have their work cut out for them in their weirdest, wildest adventure yet in this latest entry in the New York Times bestselling series by Janet and Peter Evanovich.

Straight arrow FBI Agent Kate O'Hare always plays by the rules. Charming Con Man Nicholas Fox makes them up as he goes along. She thinks he's nothing but a scoundrel. He thinks she just needs to lighten up. They're working together to tackle the out-of-bounds cases ordinary FBI agents can't touch. And, their relationship? Well, there hasn't been so much explosive chemistry since Nitro was introduced to Glycerin.
Next on the docket: The mysterious disappearance of the Silicon Valley billionaire, known as the Big Kahuna. Kate's been assigned to find him but no one seems particularly keen on helping. His twenty-six year old adult actress wife-turned Instagram model wife and his shady Czech business partner are more interested in gaining control of his company. For that they need a dead body not a living Kahuna.
The only lead they have is the Kahuna's drop-out son, who's living the dream in Hawaii - if your dream is starting your day with the perfect wave and ending it with a big bowl of weed. To get close to the Kahuna's son, Kate and Nick go undercover as a married couple in the big wave, bohemian, surfer community of Paia, Maui. Living a laid back, hippy-dippy lifestyle isn't exactly in Kate's wheelhouse, but the only thing more horrifying is setting up house with Nick Fox, even if he does look pretty gnarly on a longboard. If they don't catch a break soon, waves aren't the only thing she's going to be shredding (or bedding).

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This was a really disappointing installment in this series. I felt like it totally reverted to Stephanie Plum-type humor and lost of of the clever heist elements. While I enjoy Stephanie Plum for what it is, I enjoyed the Fox & O’Hare books so much more.

This was the first book without Lee Goldberg (instead substituting Peter Evanovich) and while I haven’t read any Lee Goldberg books, it really did seem to affect the whole tone of this book. I don’t know if that’s the actual factor of the change but it really does seem like it. Everything turned so incredibly goofy with the new characters and adventure. It was not clever and it was not intriguing.

I also didn’t realize what else it was missing until I read other reviews but I realized that we were missing the fun crew that we’ve seen in the other books! Willie and Boyd were nowhere to be seen and the lack of crew really takes away from the concept of a heist/con book. Also, what in the heck happened to the cliffhanger at the end of book five!? At first I thought maybe I just missed something but that was confirmed by reading other reviews as well. It seemed to just move on and also somehow take a step back with Kate and Nick’s relationship. It was all just very messy.

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Kept Me Hooked On: This series, I guess. I loved the first five books. I’m hoping this was just a fluke and there will be something better on the horizon.
Left Me Wanting More: Heists! Crew! Everything! This was so disappointing. I still enjoyed the book enough but it just felt like a totally different author writing this book.

Addiction Rating
Read it, I guess

This was such a blah installment but if it leads us to the next book where it gets better, then it’s worth it.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE BIG KAHUNA

             

The Cheerleaders – Kara Thomas

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

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE THE CHEERLEADERS

             

The Deceivers (Vale Hall #1) – Kristen Simmons

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

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

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

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

bookreview1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Try it

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

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE DECEIVERS

             

The Unhoneymooners – Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners – Christina LaurenTitle: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Publishing Info: May 14, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Date Completed: May 30, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.

bookreview1

This book was so cute! Another great hit from Christina Lauren and I think maybe my favorite one yet. I adore a good hate-to-love story and this book was cute on so many different levels.

The beginning really reminded me THE HATING GAME with its adorable hateful tension and the way the two main characters, Olive and Ethan, interacted with each other. I think the beginning with that spiteful tension was one of my favorite parts of the book. The snark and sass was just perfect and it really had that HATING GAME vibe like I mentioned. I am glad that it sort of moved away from that feel because I wanted the book to be unique but I did also kind of miss it when it did haha!

I really loved the whole set-up of the book. How these two managed to get stuck together on a not-honeymoon was very cute and very well planned! The perfect way to stick them together and have everything really make sense, plus some funny family hijinks in the beginning as well. I would have liked to see maybe a little bit more family throughout the book but I also did like that it didn’t take away from the main characters and their story as well. They made little appearances here and there but I think that could have added a little more depth to the story by adding just a little more family history!

The romance was positively adorable and I loved every minute of it! The unfolding was just lovely and these two characters had great chemistry. I think I could have used juuuust a little more tension (I’m a sucker for that hate-to-love chemistry) but I did like spending sometime in the cute moments of the romance too!

I also really appreciated how there were other plots in the book as well, not just the romance. Olive is dealing with being laid off and finding a new job. There are stressors in her sister’s brand-new marriage and things that she finds out that are very concerning. All of these things also put a stress on her evolving relationship with Ethan. It’s a great mix of real-life feels and grounding real-life situations.

I highly recommend THE UNHONEYMOONERS and I can see why so many people have loved it already! I’m really enjoyed all of the Christina Lauren romances I’ve read and I think this is my favorite so far.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Hate-to-love romances. I love a good hate-to-love romance but there’s something so special when it’s done just right! Christina Lauren totally nailed this one and it was so much fun to read!
Left Me Wanting More: Family history. I feel like we could have had a few more appearances from the families since both of them played a role in the story. I would have loved that extra little layer of family/character/world building to really have me connect with the characters that much more.

Addiction Rating
Read it

This was such a fun story and I really enjoyed it from start to finish! A lot of other readers have been enjoying it too so I don’t hesitate to recommend this one along with some other romance favorites if you’re looking for a fun love story this summer! (Or any time)

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BOOKS LIKE THE UNHONEYMOONERS

             

The Last Time I Saw You – Liv Constantine

The Last Time I Saw You – Liv ConstantineTitle: The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine
Publishing Info: May 7, 2019 by HarperCollins
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: March 23, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Dr. Kate English has it all. Not only is she the heiress to a large fortune; she has a gorgeous husband and daughter, a high-flying career, and a beautiful home anyone would envy.

But all that changes the night Kate’s mother, Lily, is found dead, brutally murdered in her own home. Heartbroken and distraught, Kate reaches out to her estranged best friend, Blaire Barrington, who rushes to her side for the funeral, where the years of distance between them are forgotten in a moment.

That evening, Kate’s grief turns to horror when she receives an anonymous text: You think you’re sad now, just wait. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today. More than ever, Kate needs her old friend’s help.

Once Blaire decides to take the investigation into her own hands, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems in Baltimore high society. As infidelity, lies, and betrayals come to light, and tensions rise to a boiling point, she begins to alienate Kate’s friends and relatives with her relentless, accusatory questions, as she tries to find Lily’s killer. The murderer could be anyone—friend, neighbor, loved one. But whoever it is, it’s clear that Kate is next on their list. . .

In The Last Time I Saw You, Liv Constantine takes the lightning pace of The Last Mrs. Parrish and raises the stakes, creating an exquisitely tension-filled and absorbing tale of psychological suspense in which innocent lives—and one woman’s sanity—hang in the balance.

bookreview1

THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU was an interesting read! The book kicks off with the death of main character Kate’s mother who was well loved and well off when Kate finds out later that her mother was actually murdered. The book continues on with a killer tormenting and threatening Kate and Kate slowly starts to unravel. I wasn’t sure how much I’d be into the concept since the concept was dealing with the “high society” and I wasn’t sure how that would all play into it. I feel like those society rules make the characters feel a little stiffer and I did feel that with each of these characters, but it also adds to a more secretive element because with so many niceties and manners involved, there’s a lot of unspeakable things that get/stay hidden.

The suspect list went around and around a few times so I wasn’t really sure whodunnit or if there was even more than one person involved. It was also interesting with Kate possibly being an unreliable narrator. There was that added question if she WAS an unreliable narrator or if the perpetrator was doing all of these things to mess with her head. I actually really liked that addition to cast some extra doubt and throw the reader off-course if they already solved the mystery.

I almost wished there had been some other clues earlier on in the book, not necessarily to give things away but to give some better ties to the actual answer. I like being left in the dark and not being able to guess the ending but there were a few things that kind of came out of nowhere that were a little too covered up. It was interesting but I also didn’t quite love it — not in a bad way, just a personal preference.

This was a quick read for me! I felt like it took a while to really get into the fast-paced section of the book and wished the pacing had been a little bit quicker form the start, but it was an overall enjoyable read.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Brand-new adult thriller reads. I enjoy a lot of adult thrillers but this one was a totally random pick for me! I was able to select this one from a list of available audiobooks for review from the publisher so I wanted to try this one based off of its genre, not knowing the author or the title or even anyone who had read it first.
Left Me Wanting More: Reveals. I do like when I’m in the dark on the answers to the mystery but I also like being able to see some things revealed along the way to keep me interested and keep my mind racing. I could have used just a bit more.

Addiction Rating
Try it

It was a quick and enjoyable read, and while it wasn’t my favorite in a few different ways, it was still worth the read and I loved taking a chance on a new thriller book and author!!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU

             

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Rating
Read it

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

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BOOKS LIKE AURORA RISING

             

Girls With Sharp Sticks (Girls With Sharp Sticks #1) – Suzanne Young

Girls With Sharp Sticks (Girls With Sharp Sticks #1) – Suzanne YoungTitle: Girls With Sharp Sticks (Girls With Sharp Sticks #1) by Suzanne Young
Publishing Info: March 19, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Date Completed: May 24, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: The Program (The Program #1), Just Like Fate

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.

As Mena and her friends begin to uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations will find out what they are truly capable of. Because some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

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** This review WILL contain spoilers for the book. The paragraph with major spoilers is clearly marked. ** 

I was SUPER excited to pick up GIRLS WITH SHARP STICKS expecting some crazy stuff because more than a few of my most trusted reviewers (and good friends) rated this book five stars so I was expecting to finally be in for a treat and not be the black sheep on a hyped book (again). Aaaand then came the awkward moment where I realized I’m yet again just not getting on the hype train.

There’s not really a good way to talk about this book without spoilers because yes, there is a Big Thing at the end of the book and sharing anything about it or noting any comparisons really gives the big reveal away so I’ll put that all in a spoiler tag later. The one comparison I can make that’s not a spoiler is that it reminded mea little bit of the Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano. GIRLS WITH SHARP STICKS had a dystopian feel to it like The Chemical Garden books with that same concept of young girls being raised/made to be wives and sold off (or kidnapped) so it had me reeling all the way back to 2012 when I read the first book so hey, 7-year flashback going on and keeping that dystopian hype alive! I was expecting the book to be a little more thriller with some sci-fi aspects and it is creepy and mysterious but I think it feels much more dystopian/dark sci-fi than that thriller aspect, which is really what I was hoping for.

Once you understand the ending, it’s easier to look back at the whole book and see things in a different light, but I was so uncomfortable reading this book until we got to that point. There were some hints dropped but the book was really hard to read with how poorly these girls were treated. A lot of the hype and excitement of the book comes from the girls rising up and smashing the patriarchy but it was just so painful to witness them being treated like property (literally), sexually abused, and trained to be brainless and obedient. This went on for SO LONG throughout the book (okay, really literally through the end) so it was just so hard to read and I was so uncomfortable. There were little rebellions throughout but it was just a constant onslaught of abuse that I found it really difficult to enjoy.

THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS. SKIP IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE THEM. Sooo the twist is that this book is basically kind of Westworld but without the western aspect. The girls have all been “born” in a lab with organs and skin that have been grown there but are full of wires that connect to a metal brain and it’s all artificial intelligence. It presents the same kind of question that Westworld did (or does… I stopped watching it because I also found that plot to be slow-moving to get on with the big picture) — when AI starts to adapt, think, learn, and love, it is human and does it have human rights, or is it essentially still just a machine? Is it both? There’s no doubt that these characters are humanized (clearly, since we’re not told that they’re AI until the end of the book) and there are a lot of complicated feelings involved! Did I love the twist? Ehhh. Does it lessen how poorly they were treated? I still felt greatly uncomfortable and didn’t feel any better about reading what I did just because they were AI. It does make more sense to go back and see the “logic” about why they were treated like property but all that really did for me was open up a whole other can of worms. I also kind of felt like it took too long to get there because I would have liked to explore that more in the book.

I don’t know where the series is going but I would have liked to get to the ending a little quicker so we could spend more time soaking it in and exploring those ideas. I suppose it is a series (which I didn’t realize when I first got the book but did know before I started it) so there’s still time for that. I feel like it COULD have been a stand alone. I don’t know where the rest of the series is going but I don’t have any desire to continue on with it, which is also why I rated it down to two stars instead of three. If I had more of a curiosity to continue, I probably would have felt like I was leaving it on a higher note but I just am not interested in more of this story.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Dystopian reads! This was a little bit between dystopian and sci-fi and I had some major early 2000s – 2010s dystopian flashbacks!
Left Me Wanting More: Time away from abuse. Gosh, this book was hard to read with the main characters constantly being abused and controlled. I was uncomfortable for most of the book and it just made it so difficult. I get that that’s also the point but I was just constantly on edge in the way that it was presented for some reason.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

Some of my close reader friends really, really loved this one. I just had a hard time reading it. I say check things out and see what you think!

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BOOKS LIKE GIRLS WITH SHARP STICKS

             

These Witches Don’t Burn (These Witches Don’t Burn #1) – Isabel Sterling

These Witches Don’t Burn (These Witches Don’t Burn #1) – Isabel SterlingTitle: These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn #1) by Isabel Sterling
Publishing Info: May 28, 2019 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Date Completed: May 20, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Hannah's a witch, but not the kind you're thinking of. She's the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she's ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly By Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah's concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah's sure it's the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she's going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem's witches become deadlier by the day.

Isabel Sterling's delightful, suspenseful debut is equal parts sweet romance and thrilling mystery. With everything she loves on the line, Hannah must confront this murderous villain before her coven--and any chance she has with the new girl--is destroyed.

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This was such a fun, witchy read with a great diverse cast! I loved the Salem setting, the involvement of witch history, and the book’s own witchy story. Perfect for fans of books like UNDEAD GIRL GANG and HOW TO HANG A WITCH.

Author Isabel Sterling also did a great job of weaving in a mystery that kept me guessing! When a bad force enters town, first the main characters have to figure out what it is and then they have to figure out who it is, so there were many times where I had suspicions that were totally wrong (and one time I half-guessed correctly).

This was a quick, fun read with a cute romance to boot! With family and coven secrets involved, things get complicated and an ex who was a former best friend-turned-girlfriend who still wants Hannah back, there’s plenty of relationship story to keep readers of romantic plot lines involved too!

With the way things wrapped up here, I’m super curious to see what happens in book two! I wonder if it will follow further into this adventure or start a new concept with a new villain. There are many possibilities and I look forward to spending more time with these characters too!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Witchy Vibes & relationships! I really loved the magic involved and the coven/group vibes! There was a great realistic representation of romantic relationships, family relationships, and awesome friendships with so many layers amongst all of them!
Left Me Wanting More: Magic use. Don’t get me wrong, the magic use was pretty represented given that most of the main characters were essentially underage witches (is that my TGIF Sabrina talk showing?) but I’m greedy and I want all the magic!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This was a fun, witchy story with some great characters and an exciting mystery! I definitely recommend it!

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BOOKS LIKE THESE WITCHES DON’T BURN

             

My Lovely Wife – Samantha Downing

My Lovely Wife – Samantha DowningTitle: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Publishing Info: March 26, 2019 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: March 29, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We're your neighbors, the parents of your kid's friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

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This book grabbed me with its description and Dexter comparison but it did stand on its own and was an original story. There were some pieces that I was able to pick out that should have been twists, but I was still okay with that! I think a lot of thriller readers will be able to spot things like that coming and see where the story is going, but there’s also still enough in the book that you just don’t know how it will end.

I actually really liked that this was from the husband’s point-of-view. It was just interesting in the way that the story was told and I liked that creepiness coming from Millicent instead of … him. I just realized that I don’t think his real name is ever used throughout the whole book, only aliases, which is a stunning fact that I never realized. This has actually happened to me before with a different book and now I’m questioning everything I just read. How does one read a whole book and not know the narrator’s name? AUTHORS, YOU’VE DONE IT AGAIN.

Anyway, there’s a whole lot going on in this book and it really is incredibly interesting. Even though the husband is the protagonist, it doesn’t mean he’s a hero. He’s still guilty of committing murder with his wife, even if we think she’s the colder, more heinous of the two throughout the book. By the end of the book, I was rooting for him, but should I have been? He still wanted to murder but the way things play out, you almost forget about all of that and want him to stay clear of danger and prison. It’s a really interesting back-and-forth that just really makes you constantly question the motives of each character.

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Kept Me Hooked On: A good “if you liked” comparison. I actually am glad that this one was compared to Dexter because it was definitely a draw for me! It was still unique enough that it didn’t feel like it was too similar to Dexter but it was also similar enough to recognize the appeal for Dexter fans and to be a solid rec.
Left Me Wanting More: Details? Dare I ask for more details in a murder book? I didn’t necessarily want to know ALL the gruesome details of what was going on but there were times when I was hoping for just a bit more to guide my feelings.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I really enjoyed this one! I do agree with the Dexter rec and I had a fun time reading (or listening to) this one and seeing where it would take me!

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BOOKS LIKE MY LOVELY WIFE