It’s finally here—my mini reviews of all the books I read in the second half of 2018! Curious what I read during the first half, read my mini reviews from January — June!
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas — 5 stars
The Darkest Minds by Alexandre Bracken — 5 stars
Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally — 5 stars
There are so many things that I love about Kara Thomas’s novels, and The Cheerleaders does not disappoint. There’s complicated family and friend dynamics, little-to-no romance, a slow mystery that unravels a little bit clue by clue but that isn’t given away too soon, and an unlikable protagonist that feels like a real person. The Cheerleaders is a page-turning, twisty mystery, and I can’t wait to see what Kara Thomas writes next! Read my full review here.
I reread The Darkest Minds to refresh myself of the story before seeing the movie. I loved being back in this world and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time around. The ending was also just as heartbreaking, and now I really want to reread the rest of the series. Read my book vs. movie review here!
I decided to reread Racing Savannah, an old favorite, after being in a reading slump for a couple of weeks. I really do love Savannah and her passion for horses and eventually jockeying. And oh man does Jack make me swoon. I love their relationship and the Downton Abbey upstairs-downstairs vibes as Savannah and Jack try to navigate their feelings. See my aesthetic of the book here!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han — 5 stars
Survivng Adam Meade by Shannon Klare — 3 stars
Out of Left Field by Kris Hui Lee — 4 stars
How to Breathe Underwater by Vicky Skinner — 4 stars
Breakout by Kate Messner — 5 stars
To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin — 4.5 stars
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff — 5 stars
Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff — 5 stars
And the Ocean was our Sky by Patrick Ness — 2 stars
With the movie dropping on Netflix soon, I knew I was in need of a reread of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. The book was just as adorable as I remembered it being and it was so good being in Lara Jean’s world again! I definitely forgot what a cliff hanger the books leaves us on, though, as the first time I immediately jumped into reading the sequel. If you’re curious, here’s my book vs. movie review as well as 101 Thoughts I had while watching the movie.
Surviving Adam Meade is a quick read filled with snarky banter, small town vibes, football, and senior year challenges. What I really liked about Surviving Adam Meade was the setting. I loved the small town football feel and all of the fun Claire gets up to with her new friends and how applying for colleges and scholarships were actually a big part of Claire’s senior year. What I didn’t like as much was how jumpy the plot and timeline seemed to be. There just seemed to be details missing that needed to be there to connect everything.Read my full review here.
Out of Left Field is an adorable friends-to-lovers sports romance. When Marnie’s best friend Cody, who also happens to be the star pitcher of their high school baseball team, breaks his arm, it’s up to Marnie to save the day and help the team win playoffs. This story is definitely on the light-hearted side of YA and I really like how cute Marnie and Cody’s friendship turning into something more was. I definitely look forward to seeing what Kris Hui Lee will write next!
How to Breathe Underwater is a heartfelt debut filled with realistic struggles. Kate’s world is falling apart after her father cheats on her mother and she moves to Portland with her mom for a fresh start. Kate is a state-record holder swimmer, but now she can’t even step foot into the pool without panicking. That is until she meets Michael, the boy next door who is able to calm her chaotic thoughts. How to Breathe Underwater tackles a lot of difficult topics (toxic relationships, divorce, cheating, etc.), but Vicky Skinner pulls them off in such a heartfelt and engaging way. Read my full book review here.
I don’t really read middle grade novels, but that might change after finishing Breakout! I absolutely loved how Kate Messner handled such tough topics such as racism and white privilege and made it accessible and understandable for middle graders who might be confronting these subjects for the first time. The story unfolds uniquely through letters, “voice recordings,” news stories, poems, and drawings collected for a time capsule project. I really enjoyed this format and appreciated all of the different literary and pop culture references (especially the Hamilton ones). This is a must read for any middle schooler!
To Be Honest stars our main character Savannah as she’s getting ready to start her senior year of high school. All she wants is for it to hurry up so she can join her older sister at college and get away from her mother’s constant body shaming. I really enjoyed Savannah’s voice—Maggie Ann Martin tackles some difficult topics, but she incorporates it in such a way that it seems effortless due in part to the narration. Her character was strong and developed and I loved seeing this in a fat main character, something that was not her only defining characteristic. I wish I could have read this when I was in high school—I would have loved to see a fat girl fall in love with a guy who doesn’t even bat an eye about how she looks. Read my full review here.
I finally dived into Illuminae and it completely lived up to all the hype. The various illustrations and documents provided a phenomenal avenue of storytelling. The characters and their dilemmas felt so real. The story itself was epic and I did not see that twist coming at the end. I listened to the audiobook while also reading the book and I highly recommend reading it this way as there is a full cast of narrators that really bring the action alive.
I read Gemina by listening to the audiobook while reading the physical copy and I don’t think I would do it any other way. The full cast of narrators brings so much emotion and action to the story. At first I wasn’t sure if Gemina would live up to Illuminae and if I was going to be able to love Hanna and Nik as much as I loved Kady and Ezra, but I was sorely mistaken. Hanna and Nik’s story quickly engaged me and I think Gemina is my favorite story in the entire trilogy. There was so much action and I adored the new characters (Hanna, Nik, Ella, Isaac Grant) that were introduced. The stakes were definitely risen and there was another twist that I did not see coming.
And the Ocean Was Our Sky is a Moby Dick retelling from the whale’s POV and set in a fantasy world. I have never read Moby Dick, so I can’t compare the retelling to the original. However, the story was interesting and I was absorbed into the book the more that I read. I was confused at the beginning, but the illustrations helped explain the world. The illustrations were gorgeous (and they were not even fully complete in my ARC!) and fit in perfectly with the storyline.
Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco — 5 stars
Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn — 4 stars
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger — 4 stars
Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger — 4 stars
Hunting Prince Dracula is a fantastic sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper. I loved the new setting, characters, and mystery. One notable character addition is Thomas’s sister, who Audrey Rose finally gets to meet! Thomas is just as charming and swoon-worthy as he was in the first novel, and I loved seeing Audrey Rose’s relationship with him AND ALL OF THE BANTER. I also appreciated that Audrey Rose is actually affected by what happened at the end of SJTR and how that changes how she acts and thinks—a very realistic response.
Firsts is a bold debut by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn. This is a sex-postive contemporary novel with an unique topic I haven’t seen covered in YA before. After a horrible first sex experience, Mercedes makes it her mission to help guys get over their awkward first times so they can give their girlfriends the perfect night she never had. There’s definitely a gray area in this novel as these boyfriends are cheating on their girlfriends by being with Mercedes, but the author tackles it very well. I loved how much character growth Mercedes experienced as her life spiraled out of control and she tried to to regain it. I also liked how Zach and Faye stood by her side when the school turned against her.
The DUFF was another reread. It was a quick, fast paced read. If you’ve only watched the movie, the book is completely different. It takes a dark route as Bianca’s home life spirals out of control and she uses Welsey to try to regain some sense of control and forget about everything that is going on. If you’re curious, here’s my book vs. movie review I wrote when the movie was in theaters and here’s the aesthetic I made after my reread.
Lying Out Loud is a sequel/companion novel to The DUFF following Welsey’s younger sister, Amy, and her best friend, Sonny. I really enjoyed all Kody Keplinger’s novels set in The DUFF universe, so I don’t know why I waited so long to read Lying Out Loud. I actually ended up enjoying it so much more than I thought I was going to! I loved our narrator Sonny and her friendship with Amy. While I don’t support how Sonny handled certain situations, it definitely felt like a realistic response. It was also interesting seeing the Rush parents actually being present in the book as they were completely absent in The DUFF. Fans of The DUFF will love the Wesley and Bianca’s cameo!
Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy — 4 stars
You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn — 4.5 stars
I love books that take place on movie sets, so I was really excited to read Now a Major Motion Picture! Visiting the movie set of your grandmother’s best-selling fantasy series while it’s filming in Ireland seems like the dream right? Well not for Iris, who hates the series and its crazy fans. However, she’s forced to chaperone her younger brother on this trip. Once they arrive on set, though, Iris’s perception of the series and her grandmother she never knew start to change as she grows close to the cast and director and starts to see the magic of the series. I really loved the whole cast of characters in the book and how they helped Iris start to see the world differently. Now a Major Motion Picture explores family dynamics and intersectional feminism in a fun, nerdy way!
If You’d Be Mine is not on your preorder list already, you are going to want to add it! It’s a homage to classic country music that fans will adore! Even if you are not a fan of country music, you will love Annie and Clay’s story. The story itself is darker than I expected, but I still enjoyed it immensely. Full review to come closer to release date.
Match Me if You Can by Tiana Smith — 4 stars
Match Me If You Can is the latest adorable rom-com from the Swoon Reads imprint. It’s cute, fun, and fast-paced—I read it in practically one sitting! Mia’s best friend Robyn’s is the school’s matchmaker. When Robyn won’t match Mia up with her crush, Mia takes matters into her own hands so she will have the perfect homecoming date. What she didn’t expect though was for Logan to come along and throw everything she thought she wanted in the air. I loved watching Mia fall for Logan even though she tried her hardest to not like him. He was such a fun love interest and all of the “opposite” qualities he had complemented her perfectly. If you’ve read and enjoyed My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff (also from Swoon Reads), you’ll love this debut. Be sure to check out my interview with debut author Tiana Smith and see my aesthetic of the book!
The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker — 4 stars
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes — 5 stars
Love magic and alternate history? The Witch Hunter is for you! It brings in witches, magic, and other paranormal beings on a high stakes adventure as the main character, a former witch hunter, is forced to team up with her sworn enemy as everything she thought she knew about her world is questioned. Come for the mystery and stay for the slow-burn romance! I really enjoyed this debut and look forward to reading the sequel.
Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of my auto-buy authors, so I was beyond excited for Little White Lies. After being a reading slump for months, this was the perfect book to get me out of my rut as I could not put the book down. Fans of Gossip Girl will love Little White Lies as it’s full of drama, scandal, and scheming of the high society during debutant season in the south. Little White Lies switches back and forth from the present where all the main characters are in a jail cell to the the previous months as Sawyer explains how they ended up in this situation. I loved watching the mystery unfold and all of the debutante shenanigans. This is such a fun book and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel!