Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

Unlikely FamilyFrom Goodreads: When Joshua Anthony finds himself homeless at fourteen, he is determined to survive on his own. With the help of motel owner Curt, Josh is doing just that when he encounters three other homeless teens; Charles, Elise and Leah. They decide to band together, pool their resources, and form their very own unlikely family. Along the way, they encounter Liz, a 27 year old woman who is down on her luck and needs a break. Will these teens be just what she needs to get her life back on track?

This is the story of four resilient teenagers, determined to thrive in spite of their circumstances. They encounter many hardships on their road to adulthood, but also learn to love, hope, and find success.

Join this unlikely family on their journey of discovery. Laugh with them, cry with them, fall in love with them as they do with each other.


This story is indeed amazing. Told from five different first-person perspectives, readers get to know five homeless people, four teens and one adult, as they make an unlikely family. Though the story sometimes reads a bit clipped, it drew me in as a reader and captivated me. These kids are amazing, and as the story unfolded, I found myself drawn to them and their plight, rejoicing with their triumphs, and crying with their failures. Adams has written a clean read–though homeless, there is no sex or prostitution, an aspect that generally is prevalent in stories I’ve read about homeless teens. While not every situation in the novel struck home with me, I connected very much with the characters, and by the end Adams had me ugly crying so hard that I had to set the book aside–it tour my heart out, and yet it was a most beautiful scene… be ready to have your world rocked as you fall in love with the five main characters.

Honestly, this is a beautiful, poignant story that is definitely a must read. Yes, it made me cry, but overall it’s a story of triumphs, and there is a believable happy ending. In my opinion, the only aspect that needs work is the cover. Unfortunately, the cover is one I would definitely pass up in a bookstore or anywhere I saw it, truth be told, because it looks too fake and it just isn’t interesting to me. A new cover, sleek cover would grab readers’ attention, which needs to happen because this is an amazing, poignant read. And you really do need to read it. Five stars.

5 stars

I purchased this novel from the author at a book festival.

Amazon Paperback | Kindle


Side Effects May VaryFrom Goodreads: What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.


This was an interesting read, though I’m sorry to say that I really disliked the main character, Alice–she’s a user and, as she was told many times in the novel, she’s just plain mean. Although Alice tries to blame many of her actions on cancer, it’s more that she’s a jerk who wants to make sure she gets back at everyone she feels hurt her in some way before she found out she was dying. But, lo and behold, she’s now in remission. Unable to deal with what this means—she can’t continue to lead on her best friend Harvey, she has to go back to school and face the people she tormented (granted, they tormented her too, but come on now… that’s your dying wish?), she can’t waste away in her room all “woe is me,” and she can’t avoid the world anymore—her life begins to spiral out of control.  While I understand that it’s a shock for her when she hears she’s in remission, that she had resigned herself to death, while everyone else celebrates, she hates every minute of it, and that’s hard for me to swallow. And so were her actions throughout much of the novel. She’s just mean–and karma always comes back with a vengeance. The fact that she doesn’t seem to learn from any of her mistakes also drove me crazy–and I ran out of sympathy for her fairly quickly as the novel unfolded.  Now, I’ve never ever been in Alice’s shoes, so I’m on the outside looking in, but I just couldn’t connect with her.

Harvey, on the other hand, I get! He’s a bit gullible and allows Alice to treat him like dirt time and time again, but he’s such a sweetie and… he reminds me of myself as a teen, a long time ago, when I used to pine for people who weren’t worth my time; I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment.  And I’m so glad he finally takes a stand for himself, even though it hurts him to do it.  He’s what made the book for me.  Three stars.

3 starsHarperCollins Childrens has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Edelweiss, prior to its release on March 18, 2014.

Amazon | Kindle | Barnes and Noble

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: