Review: Admission by Julie Buxbaum

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes an of-the-moment novel that peeks inside the private lives of the hypercompetitive and the hyperprivileged and takes on the college admissions bribery scandal that rocked the country.

It’s good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer. She’s headed off to the college of her dreams. She’s going to prom with the boy she’s had a crush on since middle school. Her best friend always has her back, and her mom, a B-list Hollywood celebrity, may finally be on her way to the B+ list. It’s good to be Chloe Wynn Berringer–at least, it was, until the FBI came knocking on her front door, guns at the ready, and her future went up in smoke. Now her mother is under arrest in a massive college admissions bribery scandal. Chloe, too, might be facing charges, and even time behind bars. The public is furious, the press is rabid, and the US attorney is out for blood.

As she loses everything she’s long taken for granted, Chloe must reckon not only with the truth of what happened, but also with the examination of her own guilt. Why did her parents think the only way for her to succeed was to cheat for her? What did she know, and when did she know it? And perhaps most importantly, what does it mean to be complicit?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Updated Publication Date for Admission: December 1, 2020

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard about the big College Admission Scandal. Many wealthy parents, including a couple celebrities, used a “consultant” to cheat their kids into prestigious colleges. Admission is an account of a fictional family facing the fall out. However, if you’re hoping for more emotional insight than you’ve seen on the news – or that Lifetime Channel movie – then you’re going to be a little disappointed.

The crimes of Chloe’s parents are taken directly out of the headlines and seems to be a combination of both Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, though I definitely felt more of a tilt towards Loughlin. The story read a lot like the Lifetime movie of the scandal, except the movie was a little more interesting. The slow pace and unlikable characters made the book a chore to get through. There is even a part early on where Chloe is in English class discussing a book and is reminded that readers don’t need to like characters in literature, which feels like a cop out for not making the characters of this book more developed or empathetic.

The chapters alternate between Now and Then, with the Now chapters starting with the FBI showing up and the Then chapters starting with Chloe struggling to study for the SATs. I have to say I found the Now chapters much more interesting. Most of the Then chapters felt a little like filler that basically just highlighted all the ways that Chloe was unaware of her rich, white privilege. There are snippets of Chloe ignoring the weird things her parents were doing – telling her she has ADHD to get accommodations on the SAT, going through her phone to find a picture where she has a good tan that someone might be able to confuse for some Argentinian heritage, etc. The past chapters also chronicled her relationship with her best friend and friend-turned-boyfriend, who were both pretty underdeveloped caricatures.

I think the story would have benefited by adding some other POVs. Or even making at least one of the characters a little more calculating. Here everyone knows what they’re doing isn’t on the up and up exactly, but they also don’t think it’s really that bad. The whole point of the story seems to be to cast a light on how privileged people don’t fully grasp their privilege and it’s effect on others. All explained to us by a privileged white lady…

Overall, I found Admission pretty disappointing. The main character was whiny and unrelatable, there wasn’t really anything in the story that you haven’t already read in the news, and the overall moral of the story about wealthy, white privilege came across as kind of trite. Also, the cute romance I expect from a Buxbaum book was almost completely missing here. The one bright spot in the book was Chloe’s sister, Isla, who was the only character who didn’t feel like a complete cliche, even if she was a little unrealistic.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Updated Publishing Date for Chasing Lucky: November 10, 2020. 

When I pick up a Jenn Bennett book, I expect a cute and quirky story with fun banter and lots of drama. Chasing Lucky was all those things.

What I Liked

-I’ve read some so-so reviews of this book, so I went in with lowered expectations and I think that worked out for me. I enjoyed Chasing Lucky. While it felt a little too long at times, I did fly through this 400+ page book in about 24 hours.

-While Josie did frustrate me (more on that later), she was mostly pretty likable.

-I adored Lucky! He was so precious. He put on a front for awhile, but once he and Josie started spending more time together, he kind of wore his heart on his sleeve and was just so sweet. He pretty much made this book for me.

-I definitely shipped Josie and Lucky together. I loved watching their friendship grow into more. I thought they went really well together. And I loved their banter!

What Didn’t Work for Me

-I felt like there were too many storylines that were just enough to add some drama, but lacked any real substance. Josie has a cousin in a horribly toxic relationship and it’s not really given the attention such a serious topic deserves. There’s a lot of stuff Josie says about her mother’s actions and possible depression that aren’t really explored. Lucky’s behavior is attributed to an event that is explained in about a paragraph and barely addressed again, even though it’s pretty obvious the boy would benefit from some mental health counseling. I just wish some of these would have been either cut out or addressed more fully. I didn’t feel closure with any of them. It just added a lot of unnecessary drama and made this book much longer than it needed to be.

-Bennett went to a lot of trouble of describing the cute and quirky town and while it sounded like it should be charming, I felt like we weren’t supposed to like it. While the town is cute, basically every person in it sucks. Except for Luck’s family.

-One of my biggest pet peeves is when all the drama is caused by lack of communication and that was basically the whole plot of this book. Josie’s family is famous for their inability to communicate and it drove me nuts. They did eventually get better by the end of the book, but it didn’t lessen my frustration with them.

-Josie does something she shouldn’t and Lucky ends up taking all the blame for it and it really made me mad that Josie just let him. Even when it became obvious that he could get in serious trouble for it, she just kept her mouth shut. I had a hard time respecting her at all for awhile.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed Chasing Lucky. I loved Lucky and shipped Josie with him. I liked their banter and the romance. There was a little too much drama and lack of communication for me, though. I think some of it could have easily been cut out to make the book a little shorter and more focused. I think fans of Bennett will still enjoy this one, though.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can…but in the real world, it’s more complicated. In this debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson, Marisa Kanter hilariously and poignantly explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.

Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

What I Like About You publishes on April 7, 2020. 

What I Liked

-There is a lot of book community nerdiness in this and I liked it. It’s always fun to read a book about a book blogger.

-I enjoyed reading about Jewish culture. Though Halle is Jewish, she wasn’t really raised with religion, so when she lives with her grandfather who is religious, we get to learn right along with her about traditions and etc. I haven’t read a lot of books that include this, so it helps set it apart a bit from other similar books.

-I loved Halle’s little brother, Ollie. He was wise beyond his years and was always there for Halle. He deserved a little better from her, though, to be honest.

-I liked Le Crew. Though some members of the group weren’t always my cup of tea, I liked their friendship.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-Halle’s parents are famous documentary filmmakers. A little is spoken about the super important topics they cover, but more is said about how they are chasing an Oscar. They came across really shallow to me. I didn’t really respect them.

-One of my biggest pet peeves in books is when all the drama could be resolved with one, honest conversation. I got very, very frustrated with Halle. I can understand being caught off guard the first time she met Nash, but then months go by and their relationship progresses, and it turned more into an uncomfortable catfishing situation. Her brother was the only one who knew the truth of the situation and he continually tried to talk her into telling the truth and she would just get mad at him and storm away to go pout. She was often a hard character to like.

-There’s a lot of YA Book Twitter drama that goes on and it reminded me of why I mostly avoid Twitter. The YA Book Community can be great, but it can also be incredibly toxic and judgmental and promotes “cancel culture”. To be fair, though, the Twitter community in general can be that way. One situation in this story is that the author of a book that means a lot to Halle disses the movie being made about her book saying it’s not just for teens. Halle plans on seeing the movie anyways because it meant a lot to her grandmother (who worked on the book), but she lets other people make her feel guilty about it and it sways her opinion to join the boycott. For a book that celebrates the YA book culture, I just wish that the characters would’ve come across a little better than they did.

Overall

Overall, What I Like About You wasn’t really for me. I almost DNF-ed it several times, but I decided to keep going and did enjoy some parts of it. When needless lying is basically the whole plot, though, I just can’t get behind it. However, this book is obviously a celebration of YA literature and I am well over the age of the target audience, so some of the things that bothered me may not bother them.

Overall Rating (Out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: Imagine Me (Shatter Me #6) by Tahereh Mafi

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The explosive finale to the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Shatter Me series.

Juliette Ferrars.

Ella Sommers.

Which is the truth and which is the lie?

Now that Ella knows who Juliette is and what she was created for, things have only become more complicated. As she struggles to understand the past that haunts her and looks to a future more uncertain than ever, the lines between right and wrong—between Ella and Juliette—blur. And with old enemies looming, her destiny may not be her own to control.

The day of reckoning for the Reestablishment is coming. But she may not get to choose what side she fights on.

Sigh. What a let down. Despite not being very impressed with the last couple books, I was really hoping for a great finale. Something to make this continuation of the original series worth it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. *Beware some mild spoilers here on out*

I have to say that I immediately set out on the wrong foot with this book when I realized that the chapters were being divided between Juliette’s and Kenji’s POVs instead of Juliette’s and Warner’s. Warner remains the only consistently good thing about this series, so I was upset that we only got a couple of chapters from him at the end (more on that later). After the first few chapters, I kind of got over it, though. Based on the novellas from Kenji’s POV, I was expecting all of his chapters to be about his feelings and blossoming romance, but thankfully they weren’t that bad. Unfortunately, though, just not a lot happened in either his or Juliette’s chapters. It was a pretty boring story, to be honest.

So, let’s talk about Juliette. She spent most of this book crazy, though it wasn’t really her fault. Her all-powerful sister was messing with her mind in the beginning. Then she gets captured and gets experimented on. When it’s finally time to be “rescued” it’s Warner that brings her back…by going to second base. Seriously. With all hell breaking out around them, they make out topless and that’s enough for Juliette to remember who she is. *Sigh*

So, now let’s talk about Warner. He spent about the first half of the book just being sad and angry about Juliette being gone and not really talking. But once he finally starts to engage, he was the Warner I loved again.

“Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because I’m thinking about all the people I’d like to murder.” – Aaron Warner.

He is absolutely the only reason I continued with this series and, as I said earlier, was the only consistently good thing in the whole series.

So what about the rest of the characters? Who cares? Mafi certainly doesn’t. The epilogue was about one of the most pointless two chapters I’ve ever read. It’s supposed to be Juliette and Warner’s wedding day, but we don’t actually see a wedding. Other than finding out it’s been two weeks since they took down the Reestablishment, there’s not really much said about what happens now or the fates of the rest of the cast. Adam makes a small appearance, but we don’t find out what happened to him before or where he will go from here. Kenji’s relationship that he pined over for two novellas wasn’t given any more mention. A couple characters showed up to talk about a burst pipe and bring a puppy for Juliette and Warner to hold. I mean really? THIS is the ending of the series the author always envisioned?

Overall, Imagine Me, was a complete letdown. Other than the love I will forever have for Warner, continuing this series felt like a waste to me. I know I’m going to be in the minority with this opinion, so if you enjoyed the last couple books, maybe you’ll enjoy this one too.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: I Hate You, Fuller James by Kelly Anne Blount

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

I hate you, Fuller James.

I hate your floppy hair and your lopsided grin and those laughing blue eyes that always seem to be laughing at me.

I hate that you’re the most popular guy in school and I’m still the girl who sneezed and spit out her retainer on someone at a middle school dance. It’s just such a cliché.

I hate that I’m being forced to tutor you in English and keep it a secret from everyone. Because otherwise it might put our basketball team’s chances at winning State in jeopardy, and even though I hate you, I love basketball.

I hate that it seems like you’re keeping a secret from me…and that the more time we spend together, the less I feel like I’m on solid ground. Because I’m starting to realize there’s so much more to you than meets the eye. Underneath it all, you’re real.

But what I hate most is that I really don’t hate you at all.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

I Hate You, Fuller James publishes March 2, 2020. 

I was hoping something fun and cute would break me out of my reading rut, but unfortunately I Hate You, Fuller James didn’t end up being that fun or that cute.

The whole tutoring premise started out a little rough for me. The principal of the school straight up blackmails Wren into tutoring the star basketball player. He threatens her with not only multiple days of detention, but suspension because she was caught on video throwing food during a food fight in the cafeteria. The suspension would also mean she would miss out on a prestigious STEM camp. However, if she tutors Fuller, that will be her only punishment. And Fuller’s punishment will be…getting tutored. We later find out that someone else caught on camera throwing food only gets two days of lunch-time detention – which won’t interfere with his spot on the basketball team. So that was all ridiculous enough, but then the basketball coach, who is also Wren’s uncle, asks them both to keep the tutoring a secret. The reasoning is that if the rest of the team finds out their star player may not play in the first game if his grades don’t improve, the team will implode and they’ll never make it to State. That makes perfect sense, right?

So when Fuller is caught by one of his friends going to a the library with Wren for his first tutoring session, he covers for it by making a bet about how he’s hooking up with Wren and will trick her into being his girlfriend and then he’ll dump her. Of course, once he gets to know Wren he realizes she’s the most wonderful girl in all the world and tries to cover his tracks on the bet so she they can be together and she won’t get mad at him.

This book was ridiculous. There were a couple of cute moments here and there, but honestly Fuller just said so many gross things in the beginning of the book that I could never quite like him. Wren was really naive and emotional and very self-involved and I found her a little hard to like, as well. I kept hoping something big would happen later in the story that would make me love it, but it didn’t happen. Even the Big Romantic Gesture, which was based off of two movies I really enjoy, felt very lackluster to me.

Overall, I Hate You, Fuller James left me very underwhelmed. The initial premise with the tutoring didn’t work for me and Fuller’s behavior in the beginning of the book really kept me from rooting for him and Wren later in the story. However, I am definitely not in the target audience age range for this book, so those that are may find this much more enjoyable than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Lucky Caller by Emma Mills

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When Nina decides to take a radio broadcasting class her senior year, she expects it to be a walk in the park. Instead, it’s a complete disaster.

The members of Nina’s haphazardly formed radio team have approximately nothing in common. And to maximize the awkwardness her group includes Jamie, a childhood friend she’d hoped to basically avoid for the rest of her life.

The show is a mess, internet rumors threaten to bring the wrath of two fandoms down on their heads, and to top it all off Nina’s family is on the brink of some major upheaval.

Everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control―but maybe control is overrated?

With the warmth, wit, intimate friendships, and heart-melting romance she brings to all her books, Emma Mills crafts a story about believing in yourself, owning your mistakes, and trusting in human connection in Lucky Caller.

Emma Mills is one of my top YA authors and I have been really looking forward to Lucky Caller for awhile. It did take me much longer to get into the story than I was expecting, but I did end up really enjoying it.

There were a lot of things present that I expect in an Emma Mills book – a sarcastic main character, witty banter, a close – if somewhat odd/dysfunctional – family, and a group of friends you wish you were a part of. For some reason, things just didn’t really click for me, though, until I was about half way through the story. The friend group wasn’t quite as close and all consuming as it’s been in other books. The four of them only really hang out at school for class related things, though they do have a group text going on. I don’t really feel like we got to know Sasah or Joydeep very well, but that’s not to say that I didn’t like them. Joydeep was completely there for comic relief, but I loved him. He was probably my favorite part of the book.

I did like Jamie and the awkward, slow burn romance with Nina, as well. He was very sweet. I wish we would’ve gotten a little more information about him, though. We never find out what the deal is with his parents and why he lives with his grandparents.

I had some problems with Nina, too. I’m not exactly a talkative person comfortable with discussing feelings and all that, but there were so many times where I just wanted to yell at her to spit it out already. There were also a couple of times that she didn’t necessarily lie, but kept quiet about things that really impacted the people around her, that I just couldn’t understand. I found her behavior often very frustrating and it took me a long while to like her.

I know it sounds like I had a lot of problems with this – and, admittedly, I did – but after I got around half way through I really began to enjoy it. The radio show group started to gel a little more and Nina didn’t frustrate me quite as much. I enjoyed the relationship she had with her sisters and I loved how her future step-dad, Dan, really stepped up for her towards the end. Things ended pretty cutely and I was glad that I made myself push through the beginning chapters to get to it.

Overall, I enjoyed Lucky Caller. While it wasn’t my favorite Emma Mills book (that will forever be This Adventure Ends), it was still cute with some fun banter and a sweet, slow burn romance. Fans of Mills will definitely want to check it out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Series Review: Fallen Crest High by Tijan

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It’s been a long time since I discovered a series that’s completely published and have been able to binge read the whole thing at once. The Fallen Crest High series has been on my radar for awhile because Deanna loves it, but it never really looked like my thing. After a disappointing reading year in 2019, I found myself looking for books that I don’t normally read and for some reason got into SUPER ANGSTY type of books. Because of that, I decided to finally give this series a try and got hooked.

The series follows Samantha and her drama filled life with the Kade brothers, Mason and Logan. Sam’s mother is leaving her father and takes Samantha with her to her new boyfriend’s house. She meets her future step-brothers, who are wildly popular rich football players, and after some initial bad blood, the three become very close. Mason and Sam also start dating.

There are some super crazy, ridiculous, eye-rolling, cringe-worthy, unbelievable drama that goes on in this series. It features teenagers that act like adults and adults that are crazy and negligent and abusive (and a few eventually that are amazing). I didn’t love how it painted teenage girls as desperate for popularity above anything else, even self-respect. There is a lot of cheating and sleeping around. And a ridiculous amount of graphic sex scenes between Sam and Mason. There’s also a lot of violence and destruction and social wars.

All that said, this series was highly entertaining. The writing was pretty addictive and I had a hard time putting most of these books down. There was some cute romance and fun banter. The drama was so off the wall, that I just had to know what crazy thing would happen next. It did start to get a little old, though. They kind of just kept doing the same thing, just with different enemies. I did like, though, that by the end they realized they needed to make some changes in their lives and finally started to grow up. While I know this series wouldn’t be for everyone, if you’re in the mood for some angst, this is definitely a series to try.

Individual Ratings (links go to Goodreads reviews)

Mason (#0.5) – 3 Stars

Fallen Crest High (#1) – 4 Stars

Fallen Crest Family (#2) – 3.5 Stars

Fallen Crest Public (#3) – 3.5 Stars

Fallen Fourth Down (#4) – 3.5 Stars

Fallen Crest University (#5) – 4 Stars

Fallen Crest Christmas (#5.25) – 3 Stars

Logan Cade (#5.5) – 4 Stars

Fallen Crest Home (#6) – 3 Stars

Fallen Crest Forever (#7) – 3.5 Stars

Review: Together We Caught Fire by Eva V. Gibson

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A forbidden attraction grows even more complicated when the guy Lane Jamison has crushed on for years suddenly becomes her step-brother in this sexy and gorgeously written debut novel about the lines between love, desire, and obsession.

What happens when the boy you want most becomes the one person you can’t have?

Lane Jamison’s life is turned upside down the week before her senior year when her father introduces her to his new fiancée: mother of Grey McIntyre, Lane’s secret, longtime crush. Now with Grey living in Lane’s house, there’s only a thin wall separating their rooms, making it harder and harder to deny their growing mutual attraction—an attraction made all the more forbidden by Grey’s long-term girlfriend Sadie Hall, who also happens to be Lane’s friend.

Torn between her feelings for Grey and her friendship with Sadie—not to mention her desire to keep the peace at home—Lane befriends Sadie’s older brother, Connor, the black sheep of the strict, evangelical Hall family. Connor, a metal working artist who is all sharp edges, challenges Lane in ways no one else ever has. As the two become closer and start to open up about the traumas in their respective pasts, Lane begins to question her conviction that Connor is just a distraction.

Tensions come to a head after a tragic incident at a party, forcing Lane to untangle her feelings for both boys and face the truth of what—and who—she wants, in this gripping and stunningly romantic debut novel.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Together We Caught Fire will be available February 4, 2020

I was in the mood for a little angst and, oh boy, did I get that with Together We Caught Fire.

The story ended up being a little different than I thought it would be, based on the synopsis. There was still angst for days, but it wasn’t all romantic, love-triangle stuff. Lane is a complete mess and had issues in every single aspect of her life, mostly stemming from discovering her mother’s suicide when she was five years old. She has nightmares every night, severe trust issues, intimacy issues, family issues, depression, the list goes on. When Grey becomes her step-brother she starts hanging out with him, his girlfriend Sadie, and Sadie’s brother, Connor. Each one of them have their own myriad of issues and dysfunction and it could all be a little too much at times. However, it was one very addicting read.

It’s kind of hard to describe any of these characters as “likable”, but I was pretty invested in them. I wanted to see them work out their issues and heal and we do see a little bit of that by the time the book ends. Out of all of them, I did like Connor the best. It’s arguable that he had the most tragic backstory, but he was still the most well-adjusted, despite his issues. I liked how he was with Lane and I definitely shipped them. I had a hard time really understanding Lane’s “feelings” for Grey. He had moments where he could be sweet, but for most of the story he acted like a jerk and he had some definite anger issues. He and Lane had a few charged moments of longing glances, but I could never really get on board with the idea of them getting together. I liked them much more as step-siblings than as romantic interests.

While religion didn’t play a huge part in the story, the two ends of the spectrum were represented here. On one end was Sadie’s Fundamentalist Christian church, which her father pastors (who are, of course, the villains of the story as hateful bigots), and on the other end is Grey, the Wiccan. Lane is firmly in agnostic land, but partakes in her family’s pagan rituals. I have to say that even though these aren’t huge points in the story, it kind of brought my overall reading experience down. It always annoys me when the Christians are portrayed so poorly (even if they are fundamentalists and not your average Christian church) and I also was a little uncomfortable with the whole paganism thing. There’s even a point in the story where Lane’s father sits her down to talk to her about her relationship with Connor because he’s so afraid he’s going to “convert” her and then he’s overjoyed to find out Connor is an atheist. I mean, honestly, my main recurring thought while reading this whole book was, “These people need Jesus.” I did like, however, how it portrayed that no matter what your faith is, we all have our issues and brokenness we have to work through.

Overall, I did enjoy Together We Caught Fire. I don’t think it would be for everyone, but if you think you can handle the angst, buckle up and clear your schedule for this addictive debut. Even though the writing was a little more flowery and used a lot more imagery than I generally care for, it is super addictive and I could hardly put the book down. I’m definitely interested in seeing what Gibson does next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying #2) by Karen M. McManus

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling thriller everyone is talking about, One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe‘s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

I really enjoyed One of Us Is Lying and have been eagerly anticipating One of Us Is Next. While it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I still ended up really enjoying it, as well.

I was a little bit disappointed when I first found out that this sequel wouldn’t follow the same characters as the first book, but I ended up not minding at all. We still get to see all of the Bayview Four in more than just quick cameos and they even all get some character development, too. I also liked the new cast of characters. The three POVs follow Maeve, Bronwy’s sister – who I liked in the first book – and two new characters – Knox and Phoebe. I didn’t love Phoebe, but I really liked both Maeve and Knox. I also enjoyed Knox’s family dynamic with his many sisters and Maeve’s love interest, Luis. The story is pretty character driven and I just enjoyed reading about them.

The mystery wasn’t bad, but I did figure things out long before they were revealed. I also thought the secrets that were revealed and the dares that were made were kind of lame. I mean, there was a definite embarrassing factor for the secrets, but I guess I kind of expected something more. I also had a hard time believing that every single student in the school would keep the game completely a secret from their parents, school administration, and everyone else, just because they would lose phone privileges during school hours. That said, the stakes did raise a lot in part two and we got more of the suspense that I was expecting in the beginning.

Overall, I enjoyed One of Us Is Next. Though the mystery didn’t surprise me like I had been hoping, it was still pretty well done. What really kept me reading were the characters. I loved what we got to see of the characters from the last book, and I really enjoyed reading about the new ones. I think fans of YA Mystery will definitely enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Map from Here to There (The Start of Me and You #2) by Emery Lord

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Map from Here to There will be available January 7, 2020. 

I noticed that I shelved The Map from Here to There as “To-Read” on Goodreads back in September 2017. I was lucky enough to get an ARC and read this in September 2019. That is a long time to anticipate the book and hype it up. I wish I could say it met my very high expectations, but, unfortunately, it did not. Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of enjoyable moments. One of the things I loved about The Start of Me and You were the strong friendships and they were still on display here. Yes, there was some drama and fights, but they worked through them and were always there for each other. There were several funny, bantery moments that I enjoyed, as well. I also liked that Paige’s parents were a strong presence in the book.

There was a lot in this book that didn’t work for me, though. Paige had a lot of issues to work through in the first book and by the end she was starting to figure it out. Instead of her continuing to progress, she had a major relapse back into anxiety and it kind of made all the lessons learned in the first book obsolete. I did find the anxiety stuff relatable, but I would have rather seen Paige continue to grow, instead of spending the majority of yet another book as a mess (and still not communicating it) and then finally growing in the final couple chapters.

Some of the problems I had with this book are probably more my fault than the books, though. I wanted a cute book of Max and Paige being adorable together. Yes, I knew there would have to be some strife, but I thought (hoped) it would be a small part of the plot. Instead, we got very few scenes with them together, unless they were fighting. Paige treated him so, so unfairly and it drove me crazy. He was patient and understanding for awhile, but eventually reached a breaking point where he didn’t handle things well. There is a new character introduced – Paige’s co-worker at the movie theater – that Paige hung out with and talked to like she did Max in the first book. He was also there to stir some jealousy and insecurity in Max. And once that role was played out, we don’t really hear any more about him. Which annoyed me because even though I didn’t like his purpose in the story, he was sweet and funny and I liked him. But back to my original point, the story was much more about the anxiety about growing up and making hard decisions and dealing with change. And this made me feel a little too old for the story. As a cynical adult who has never had a job that utilized her college degree, nor is no longer friends with any of the people she was close to in high school and college, these major crises the characters faced felt a little trivial. I do remember being in high school and thinking these decisions were life and death, so I get it, but I’m just so far past that, that it was kind of hard to take so seriously. I also am not a fan of open-ended conclusions. The biggest focus of the book is where Paige will go to college and the story ends without a definitive answer and that kind of pissed me off.

Another thing that bugged me is that Tess and Ryan aren’t together. I felt it was very heavily implied in the first book that they would get together. I thought her whole arc in the story was how she was all closed off due to her abandonment issues with her parents, but Ryan slowly won her over. Instead, the author decided to fix the lack of LGBT+ diversity from the first book by giving Tessa a girlfriend instead. Not only did I not even get a hint of this in the first book, but it basically skips over the whole coming out part of the book by referencing how it happened in the summer, conveniently between the end of book one and start of book two. Don’t misunderstand, I support a more diverse cast of characters, but it annoyed me to see Tessa with anyone but Ryan.

Overall, The Map from Here to There was just ok for me. I enjoyed parts of it, but had a lot of issues with it, as well. I liked the first book much more, but I think people in the actual target audience age range will appreciate this book much more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars