Probably the weirdest scavenger hunt ever | In the Hope of Memories by Olivia Rivers [ARC]

In the Hope of MemoriesHope knows that she’s dying, but before she does, she wants to make sure her friends receive one last gift: a scavenger hunt. Erik, Aiden, Kali, and Sam are all thrown together on this crazy adventure and they’re not sure exactly what Hope is trying to do. As they make their way through the scavenger hunt’s various tasks, they’ll learn something about themselves, their relationship with each other, and even some things about Hope.

TL;DR – Unlikable characters and an unbelievable plot make this book hard to read despite its great premise.

What a gorgeous cover, amiright? Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. I thought the premise was so promising! I love scavenger hunts and so I was excited to read this book, but at the end of the day, I was let down. My issue with this book mainly centers around the characters and the plot. First, I felt the plot was completely unbelievable. These four teenagers pretty much just take off to New York for a few days and then face almost no repercussions when they get back. And also, the scavenger hunt was EXTREMELY HARD. I literally have no idea how they were able to solve any clue.

The characters themselves were super flat and felt inconsistent. We get narrations from all four of the main characters, but I still didn’t feel myself connecting with or really liking any of them. When it was their turn to narrate, they were okay, but then from everyone else’s perspectives they were complete butts. It’s hard for me to figure out which perspective is the real character and they were all annoying anyway.

I thought the writing was pretty good, though, and I did enjoy wandering around New York City. I definitely would like to visit a few of those places. This book also includes a lot of diversity–each character kind of has their own thing going.

Overall, I just thought this book was too unbelievable. Hope is portrayed as being this perfect person with literally no faults (except for her penchant for graffiti, but even that isn’t so bad). I think the book would have been better if just one aspect of it had been more believable: 1) The characters weren’t so flat, 2) An easier scavenger hunt, 3) Hope was less perfect. Any of those things, I think, would have made the book more enjoyable for me.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Two teens. One airport. | The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody [ARC]

The Chaos of Standing StillRyn needs to get home by New Years. Unfortunately, her father believes in paying the least amount on flights as possible. Which is why she is flying on Cheap-o Airlines with a layover in Denver on December 31st. Also, there’s a blizzard raging outside. Being stuck in the airport the night before the first anniversary of her best friend’s death is hard enough, but now she seems to have attracted a sidekick who won’t go away and keeps getting her into trouble. His name is Xander and he seems much too happy to be stuck in the airport overnight. Ryn has so many unanswered questions about Lottie’s death, but maybe Xander can help her to see that not every question needs to be answered.

Airports are kind of fascinating, aren’t they? They’re almost like little cities, but people are always in such a rush to get out of there that they hardly ever take the chance to explore. Honestly, though, this book made being stranded overnight at the airport sound not that bad.

Ryn was a pretty…weak character for me. She was kind of written that way on purpose and I think we were supposed to see a lot of growth from her as the book went on, but she kind of just stayed weak the whole time for me. I didn’t hardcore dislike her, but I didn’t like her very much either and didn’t really find myself with too much sympathy for her. I didn’t think she tried very hard to understand Xander or his situation. Speaking of Xander, as per the usual in YA books, he was way too mature/understanding/kind/forgiving for an 18-year-old boy. I’m not saying that all teenage boys are trash, but they’re definitely not like Xander.

I have my issues with Lottie too, but it feels kind of bad to criticize a dead person–even if they’re fictional. I just don’t really think she was a good friend for Ryn. Their friendship seemed enormously one-sided even though I think the author tried to paint it as two-sided.

There was not too much to the plot as it was mainly a character-driven book, but there were certain aspects that I questioned a little bit. While I love hearing Denver Airport conspiracy theories, I didn’t really understand why that was brought up. Or even what that character’s purpose was.

Overall, I think the book was pretty good. The pacing was quick and moved things along even with Ryn’s “flashbacks”. The writing was good as well and didn’t drag the story down. I wasn’t blown away by this book, but I would recommend it if you’re looking for a holiday read that isn’t a complete fluff-piece.

Disclaimer for my ratings: Usually while I read books I make notes about the content. But since I’ve been on hiatus, I haven’t been doing that. So my content ratings may not be 100% accurate (but I did try really hard to remember).

Overall Rating: 4 (rounded up from 3.5)
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summer Cleaning Mini-Reviews

If Spring Cleaning is a thing, that means Summer Cleaning is too, right? I have so many backlogged ARCs to review, it’s not even funny. Covers link to Goodreads.

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Say No to the Bro by Kat Helgeson [ARC]

Okay…to be perfectly honest I read this back in April and I’m having a hard time remembering everything. The notes that I wrote down for this, though, are as follows: “I’m not really buying their relationship. I feel like it doesn’t fit with who I think the characters are.” From what I remember of the book, all of a sudden the two main characters were dating and I was like, “Okay, that’s random.” Like, not random plotwise, but random because it didn’t feel genuine. I also remember not really liking any of the characters–they all just seemed really selfish to me. 2/5

Seeking MansfieldSeeking Mansfield by Kate Watson [ARC]

I always love a good Jane Austen retelling and I’d heard good things about this book, so I was super excited. The issue I had with the original Mansfield Park is that I felt like Edmund just randomly decided to like Fanny in the end. Like, what was going on? Fanny deserves better than Edmund shrugging his shoulders going, “Well, I guess I’ll just marry Fanny now since that last relationship didn’t work out.” So I was hesitant going into this book in case it was the same thing. To some extent it was, but I did like the ending of this retelling better than the original ending. One thing that really bugged me is that I don’t feel like Harlan would have acted how he did towards Finley if he really respected her dad as he said he did. There was also a lot of angst that I could have done without.¬†4/5

A Million Junes

A Million Junes by Emily Henry [ARC]

First of all, stunning cover. My first impression was that the main characters were both super likable which is always nice. I also rejoiced to find a main character who loved both her biological father as well as her step-dad. I’d been searching for such a book and I absolutely loved the relationships that June had with both her father and her step-father. The plot itself was a little abstract and I did find myself confused a time or two, but I was still okay with it. The magical realism aspect of the book was so well done and definitely gave the entire story a dreamy quality. In my opinion, this book was a definite step up from Henry’s last book. I also thought this book was a really great look at grief and grieving in general. 4/5

Follow Me Back

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger [ARC]

So…this book is CRAZY. As I was reading, I thought that this was a nice departure from my normal genres–I don’t read a lot of thrillers (psychological or otherwise). I honestly didn’t expect too much from the plot. I thought it would just be a very basic twist at the end. But about halfway through I started to suspect that things weren’t going to end up being the way I thought they would be. Was Eric going to end up being the stalker instead of Tessa? What about that weird Mrs. Eric Thorn from Twitter? How does she fit in? What the heck happened to Tessa last summer? Then the ending kind of came out of nowhere, but it also makes sense. At this point, however, I find myself very uncertain about the very end (was it an epilogue?). I didn’t anticipate this being more than one book and I’m very confused as to what is actually happening. Confused in a good way though. The only thing I didn’t particularly care for is the way that Tessa’s mom and boyfriend treated her mental issues. I mean, I don’t know how I would react in their shoes, but they seemed so insensitive! Also, WHAT IS UP WITH TESSA’S PSYCHIATRIST???¬†4/5

Songs About a GirlSongs About a Girl by Chris Russell [ARC]

I had high hopes for this book because I thought it was going to be something a little more similar to Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway. Like, the main character goes to school with a guy who ends up¬†being a massively famous pop star and turns out he carried a secret torch for her all through high school and so all the songs on his band’s new album are about her. That’s not what this book was about (but that would be an awesome book, right?). I didn’t really understand the plot all the way and I was really confused as to why Charlie felt so strongly that she needed to lie to her father. And I didn’t understand why she was being targeted at school. Also, to be honest, I thought this was going to turn into an accidental incest situation. It didn’t, but I had no idea where the plot was going for a while if not in that direction. 2/5

They All Fall DownThey All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Clair

This book could have been so good, but instead it was just freaking weird. I don’t know…somehow I thought there was going to be a little bit more of a mystery involved that the reader could try to solve. Instead, it’s just a big conspiracy thing that’s plopped in your lap in the last 50 pages. The characters were strange while also being blatant stereotypes (brooding bad boy, aggressive jock, mean girl cheerleaders). In addition, I thought Kenzie’s best friend was basically the most annoying side kick of a character I’d ever read. She only cares about becoming more popular and gets super upset when Kenzie isn’t interested in being popular as well. That drama was so unnecessary and just made the book that much harder to get through. Don’t read this. 2/5

Crazy Rich AsiansCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Okay, let me stop you right there. This is not a book about Asian people who are crazy and rich. This is a book about Asian people who are¬†crazy rich. Get the difference? This book was surprisingly funny and exasperating all at the same time–there are some seriously ridiculous characters and situations. As someone who is half-Chinese (I’m descended from Hong Kong peasants–no shame) I felt like this book was so refreshing. 99% of the characters in this book are Asian (with the exception of an Au Pair here or there). This book depicts such a wide range of Asian people and I loved it. We’re not all the same, you know? And even though the characters in this book are crazy rich (and I’m not) I still felt like I could relate to them? Anyway, this book gave me a giant hankering for some dim sum. I need a pineapple bun, stat. 4/5

Note: ARCs were received for free in exchange for an honest review.

The Start of Me & You by Emery Lord

In her small Indiana town, Paige is known as the girl whose boyfriend drowned. It’s been over a year since Aaron died and even though they only dated for a couple of months, Paige still doesn’t feel like she can move on. But it’s the start of her Junior year and if there’s one thing she can do, it’s make a plan. So Paige creates a list of five things that she wants to do and she calls it “How to Begin Again”. 1) Parties/social events; 2) New group; 3) Date; 4) Travel; 5)Swim.

41ds3cq4zql-_sx331_bo1204203200_First let me say that I know this is not the most common cover, but this is the cover that was on my Kindle and I kind of fell in love with it. Anyway, there are hardly words for me to explain how much I loved this book. We have a quirky main character who just seems so real. She has this realistic conflict going on because she feels guilty for being happy when Aaron’s never going to have another happy day. She also feels guilty because she doesn’t feel like she has as much of a right to mourn him as his parents or friends since she and Aaron¬†dated for such a short amount of time. I can’t even¬†imagine what it would be like to be in Paige’s shoes. Your boyfriend dies in a freak accident? That’s hard to deal with at any age, but Paige has to do it while she’s still in high school.

I love that our main character is smart and has a unique talent/hobby/interest (screen-writing). That only serves to make her more real in my book. I also loved that she joins Quiz Bowl. If this was any other book (or movie for that matter) about high school she would have gone out for cheerleading or drama or something that would make her awesome and super popular all of the sudden. Again, the fact that she joins Quiz Bowl instead makes her more real to me. I also liked that several scenes in this book are set in a bookstore(/coffee shop). We need more bookish characters!

I absolutely love the secondary characters in this book! Every secondary character served a purpose and felt well-developed. I was having serious envy over Paige’s relationships with her grandma and her three girl friends. First, I love that her grandmother was her confidante and the advice that Paige receives is always spot on. Second, I am basically in love with these four girls. I love how in sync they are and that there was no extra/unnecessary drama between them. It’s obvious that they all really care about and support each other despite their differences. I LOVE THEM.

The overall plot was great and I felt that the characters developed in a realistic way. There was nothing that I was forced to suspend my belief about and that made this book so much better to me. Lord did a great job of dealing with death and grief in a respectful but realistic way. I really appreciated that she wasn’t flippant about certain details. It felt like every serious moment in this book had appropriate weight if that makes sense.

Overall, this book completely shattered my expectations. You know when you just pick up a book randomly to have something to read and then you actually start reading and are completely blown away by how good a book it is? That just happened to me in a major way. I will DEFINITELY be reading more from Emery Lord. Welcome to the #instaread club.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Quinn’s boyfriend, Trent, died in an accident 400 days ago. He was an organ donor and Quinn has met everyone who received one of his organs except for the boy who received Trent’s¬†heart. On this 400th day since the accident, Quinn decides it’s time to find the heart recipient. She just wants to see him. What she doesn’t want is to talk to him or interrupt his life in any way. And she DEFINITELY doesn’t want to fall in love with him.

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The premise of this book was a little disturbing to me. It almost felt wrong to have the protagonist fall in love with someone who had received an organ from her boyfriend. I was ready to feel a little creeped out and thought that the plot probably wouldn’t be very realistic. I’ll admit, I was wrong. Okay, okay, there was a little bit of insta-love going on. But besides that, the rest of the book seemed very real and plausible. Quinn did struggle with her feelings. She felt that maybe what she was feeling was a little wrong and betraying her boyfriend in a way. But she worked through it in a very realistic way and in a way that I could buy and feel comfortable with as a reader.

There was drama, obviously, but again, it wasn’t too over-the-top. The reader definitely can¬†anticipate/predict some of the things that are going to happen throughout the entire book, but at the same time I wouldn’t say that the book is predictable in an unpleasant way. I liked seeing Quinn’s relationship with her family. Her dad, sister, and grandma in particular. I love just seeing that kind of dynamic in books because it makes characters seem more real to me.

Overall, this book was fun and romantic, but there was a darker, more serious undercurrent running throughout the book as well. You really get the whole array of feels and I think that’s what makes this book standout when compared to some other YA contemporary romances. I’m definitely interested in looking into some other titles by this author.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild
Violence: None
Sexual Content: Mild. One scene in particular, not explicit.
Smoking/Drinking: Mild