Thursday, October 12, 2017

In a Nutshell Reviews

In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

Lauren Oliver
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, SciFi
Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Like its ambitious companion novel, Replica, this far-reaching novel by powerhouse bestselling author Lauren Oliver digs deep into questions of how to be a human being in a world where humanity cannot be taken for granted.

In the world outside the Haven Institute, Lyra and Caelum are finding it hard to be human—and neither of them knows where they belong or who they can trust. When Caelum leaves without warning to pursue the dream of a place he belongs, Lyra follows him, convinced that together they will hunt down a cure for the illness that’s slowly consuming her mind. But what they uncover is a shocking connection to their past—even as their future seems in danger of collapsing.

After discovering the uncomfortable truth about her connection to the Haven Institute, Gemma struggles to return to her normal life. But when she learns that her controlling and powerful father has new plans for Lyra and Caelum, Gemma and her boyfriend, Pete, leave in the middle of the night to warn them of the danger they face.When an untimely accident derails them, they are mistaken for the escaped replicas and seized by strangers hired to capture them. The Haven Institute wasn’t destroyed after all, and now Gemma is the one behind the walls.

Lyra’s and Gemma’s stories can be read separately—with either story first—or in alternating chapters, but no matter which way you turn the book, the two distinct stories combine into one breathtaking experience for both heroines and readers alike.
  • Pro: Action packed
  • Pro: We learn all the whys and whats regarding Haven
  • Con: There was a little bit of politics thrown in, and I am so over everything being politicized
  • Pro: The exploration of what defines our humanity was very interesting
  • Pro: I was really interested in the bioethical discussions that took place
  • Pro: I was pleasantly surprised by some of the characters
  • Pro: Oliver gave Gemma and Lyra the love they were seeking, both familial and romantic
  • Con: Not sure this needed to be a series. 
  • Pro: The format was used quite well, as there were a few great reveals. (I read Gemma first)
  • Pro: Both Lyra and Gemma get satisfying endings

Overall: An enjoyable and action packed journey of self discovery. I appreciated many of the themes explored - love, family, humanity, but not sure we actually needed a second book.

Kids Like Us
Hilary Reyl
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Neurodiversity
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Martin is an American teen on the autism spectrum living in France with his mom and sister for the summer. He falls for a French girl who he thinks is a real-life incarnation of a character in his favorite book. Over time Martin comes to realize she is a real person and not a character in a novel while at the same time learning that love is not out of his reach just because he is autistic.
  • Pro: The author takes us to France, delights our senses with delicious food, and even interacts with locals. 
  • Pro: Martin just touched my heart. He was so genuine, and being in his head was pretty interesting. 
  • Pro: I learned so many things about neurodiversity that I did not know. It wasn't done in an info dump way, it was told through Martin's self reflections. 
  • Pro: Martin's sister, Elisabeth was pretty special, and so was their sibling bond. She loved Martin for Martin, and they shared some really beautiful moments in this story. 
  • Pro: I really loved the Skype session with Martin's friends from the center, but my favorite was Layla. The way she expressed herself with Martin, how she did not feel the need to adopt neurotypical ways, and the fact that she kept asking, "Do you think our phones are instruments of communication or torture?"
  • Pro: This book's tagline hints at romance being the focus of this story, but that short changes this story. The romance is so secondary to Martin's summer of coming into his own, his journey, and it's a wonderful one. 
  • Pro: This one gave me a lot to think about. There is this awesome scene between Martin and his mother, where he is trying to express his autism is a part of who he is, not a disease to be cured, and I think neurotypical people lost sight of that. 

Overall: A beautiful and touching coming of age story, which filled me with warm-fuzzies and made me look at autism in a different light.

A Messy, Beautiful Life
Sara Jade Alan
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: EntangledTEEN
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Life is funny sometimes.

And not always the ha, ha kind. Like that one time where a hot guy tried to kiss me and I fell. Down. Hard. And then found out I had cancer.

I’m trying to be strong for my friends and my mom.

And I’m trying so hard to be “just friends” with that hot guy, even though he seems to want so much more. But I won’t do that to him. He’s been through this before with his family, and I’m not going to let him watch me die.

So, I tell myself: Smile Ellie. Be funny Ellie. Don’t cry Ellie, because once I start, I might not stop.
  • Pro: Improv! I can honestly say, this is the first YA book I have read that features improv, and it was really fun. Plus, I got a good education on improv too. 
  • Pro: I felt a lot of feels. I laughed, I cried, I swooned, my heart raced from excitement. Alan did an excellent job bringing me on this journey with Ellie and her family. 
  • Pro: Ellie was fabulous. I found her funny and so real. She had wit, charm, and a great attitude, but she was also vulnerable. 
  • Pro: This is a cancer story written by a cancer survivor. 
  • Con: I swear, this is going on my tombstone. The ending was ok, but I wanted a little more. This was such a fabulous story, and I was left somewhat wanting. 
  • Pro: Alan kept this story from entering melodrama land, and it made it more enjoyable for me. 
  • Pro: Ellie and Jason were so good together. I was shipping them after their very first meeting. 
  • Pro: The way Craig and Ellie's relationship blossomed filled my heart with joy. I like that there was a lot more to him than met the eye, and I am a fan of non-traditional type families too. 
  • Pro: Ellie's mom is a star. 😘
  • Pro: Friendships! So many great friends in this one, and they really stepped it up in Ellie's hour of need. 

Overall: This was a beautiful and funny story about something not funny. It made my heart ache and made my heart fill with joy. Alan gave us a story with depth and weight, but kept us from drowning in sadness by tempering it with humor and lots of love. 

**I would like to thank the publishers for the advanced copies of these book.

Have you read any of these books?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Nice to see your thoughts on Ringer! I'm just about to start it, so we'll see how it works for me. :)

    1. It was entertaining. So, not disappointed with my experience at all.

  2. I think I am skipping Ringer. I usually love Lauren Oliver but I didn't love the first book. The cover of A Messy, Beautiful Life is gorgeous and sounds good! Great review!

    1. A Mesy, Beautiful Life was a surprise for me, and a great surprise at that. The author actually had the same cancer as the NC, so that made it even more meaningful for me.

  3. I love the sound of Kids Like Us. I love pretty much anything set in Paris, but even more so the main character sounds really wonderful. And I love to see a good sibling relationship!

    1. It was a really enjoyable read. I thought the author did a beautiful job bringing us into the neurodiverse world and the family dynamics were awesome too

  4. Great mini reviews. I love this format of pro and cons it is easy to follow. Kids Like Us sounds really good I love a book about growth.

    1. Kids Like Us was really good. I will truthfully admit I wanted to read it for the cover, but I found it quite hearfelt

  5. Too bad Ringer wasn't a bigger hit. When you say a second book wasn't needed, do you think both stories could have been condensed into one book? Or was the first book fully complete on its own and #2 wasn't needed at all?

    So glad you loved A Messy, Beautiful Life! I thought the improv thing was so unique. Never seen that in a book before. And that fact that Alan was writing from experience... that got to me. I loved Jason even though he sometimes fell into the too good to be true category for me. You and your endings... LOL

    1. The whole second book didn't really bring the story any further. I felt like we kind of learned everything we needed to know in the first book. I guess the characters got some closure, but that probably could have been done with another chapter each in the first book. It wasn't bad, I just didn't see the point. (?) I read fiction to get to bask in the beautiful perfection of the characters, so I never mind that.

  6. Great reviews! I'm glad to hear you overall enjoyed Ringer. I just got it in my mailbox today and I'm eager to read it and see how the whole story ends. I'm a bit sad that you felt like this book did not bring something more to the story - from what I understood of you previous comments, that's what happened? . I'm still curious to read it :)

    1. It did explore things that weighed on both Gemma and Lyra, and you get a few more details about Haven. I liked the endings Oliver gave to both characters too. Not a bad book at all.

  7. I love the format of these mini-reviews. Giving the pros and cons really helps me figure out if it is something I want to read. I felt like Ringer would have gotten 3.5 stars for me, if I did half stars. I rounded up because I loved the originality of the series, and that Gemma got her happy ending.
    Kids like us sounds amazing. I didn't even realize Neurodiversity was a genre, but I love the sound of it. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts here.

    1. I thought Oliver gave both Gemma and Lyra special endings, but I feel like she could have tacked an extra chapter in the first book. There wasn't enough new reveals to warrant another 500+ pages. It was entertaining, but I question the necessity of the second book. Neurodiversity is the term (which I learned) is being used to refer to those disabilities that fall on the spectrum. I sort of love the term, and this book is definitely a stand out book featuring someone on the spectrum, because it teaches us neurotypicals a few things.