Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales – Book Review

Title: Only Mostly Devastated
Author: Sophie Gonzales
Genre: Retelling/ LGBT Romance
Publication Date: March 2020

Summer love…gone so fast.

Will Tavares is the dream summer fling―he’s fun, affectionate, kind―but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairy tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted―and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

This was such a cute read! I started this book before bed and lost most of my night’s sleep eagerly reading it all in one sitting. It’s been a while since a book has stolen my complete attention (and sleep) like this!

I initially added this book to my TBR as it was said to have been a retelling of the movie Grease which is one of my ALL-TIME comfort-watch faves. What more could you ask for than summer romance followed by an enemies-to-lovers?

Ollie was such a genuine and open character in this story. I truly felt for him and this put me at odds with the obvious HEA that was to come. Will just wasn’t a great character at the start of this book (as expected, I suppose?) however, I dislike him more than I had expected to. His rudeness and ignorance of Ollie’s feelings was pretty harsh. I kept hoping that Ollie would give up on him. There were parts of the book where I wanted to shout at Ollie “YOU’RE PERFECT AS YOU ARE. YOU DON’T NEED A MAN TO COMPLETE YOU.”

At which point Ollie stole my heart (even more, if that’s possible?) by declaring the same thing to Will. There was a lot of (silent) cheering on my end at this. It was 2am, of course.

Despite my dislike of Will, he slowly won me over with his thoughtful actions (near the end of the book). It did seem to take him longer than necessary to get to this point though and if I’m being honest, I think Ollie still deserved better.

The side characters, Ollie’s friend group, were a take on The Pink Ladies and made up for any of my anger toward Will. They were real, angsty teens with relatable struggles concerning their futures, sexualities and self-esteem. I adored them!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am rating it 4 stars. Despite disliking Will throughout (almost) the entire book, I adored Ollie and The Pink Ladies. This story dealt with some deeper themes that are relatable for anyone experiencing/reminiscing their teen years.

4 STARS

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – Book Review

Buy it on AMAZON
☆ ☆ ☆ STARS

For those of you who may have tuned in to my posts this last week, you may have noticed that ACSDAL is a book that I’ve been going up and down over. First I hated it and put it down. In a fit of stubbornness, I picked it up again and soon got enveloped in its subtle dark tones and great illness rep for Cerebral Palsy. I was enjoying it!

Then came the ending. I can only say that my feelings left over from ACSDAL are: slightly angry, frustrated and yearning for an alternate scenario in which I could change everything that happens after 75%. So be prepared… this is going to be an up and down review!

Characters:

HARPER – Was such an amazing heroine. She was strong in spirit and will, while still being inordinately kind and loyal considering her circumstances. Harper truly embodied what disability rep should be about in books. There was no hiding her illness. Rather, ACSDAL painted her as a heroine who truly challenged her limitations while embracing all that she was. Her illness was a part of her and always would be.

RHEN – Was my least favourite character. Honestly, characters for me are a huge factor in my enjoyment of a book. I don’t necessarily have to like them as people but I do generally need to respect their POV or see a good character arc. I felt like this was missing with Rhen. He did have some development, don’t get me wrong. But it seemed like he was CONSTANTLY doubting himself. Even when everyone was rooting for him and things were finally going his way. I honestly don’t think the ending could have been possible if he was doing things alone. I can’t say the same about Harper or Grey.

GREY – My absolute favourite character. I’m HOPING and PRAYING that he’s going to get a bigger part in the next book. I really, really wanted to see something happen between him and Harper. THE SPARKS WERE THERE. I’m going to give the next book a try and hope that good things happen between them!

SIDE CHARACTERS – There were a host of great side characters in this book that made me adore Emberfall. From Freya to Jameison to Zo. They were resilient in the face of Emberfall’s slow downfall and they had become stronger for it. I loved how they banded together and were willing to risk it all for the sake of freedom and prosperity.

What I loved: I loved that this book had some pretty epic characters with solid story arcs. I’m a complete sucker for that! I also loved the disability rep with Harper’s Cerebral Palsy and how this wasn’t ignored, patronised or made her appear ‘lacking’. It was dealt with respect and embraced as something that made Harper more resilient in life. I also thought that there was a decent amount of action in this story from about the halfway point onwards. There were some surprising moments which I hadn’t been expecting but enjoyed immensely!

What I disliked: Oh boy. The whole first half pretty much. RHEN. If Harper and Grey weren’t so damn great I’d have DNF this book at 30%. The pacing seemed a bit off in the first half and things were a bit too slow for me. I have to admit though, I’m not usually someone who is a fan of retellings so this one is probably on me. For those of you who like, or at least don’t mind, retellings this would probably be a great read!

Overall, I mostly enjoyed this book once I really got in to it. I disliked the ending and its predictability since I was anticipating something more original and inventive. Despite this, Harper and Grey are phenomenal and I’ll check out the next book just for them!

// have you read ACSDAL? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen

Throwback Thursday – Talon by Julie Kagawa

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☆ ☆ ☆ THREE STARS

Talon was a book that took me by surprise and then hurled me down a VERY LONG and PREDICTABLE rabbit hole and yet, I STILL ENJOYED reading it. Which is really strange as I generally dislike books that are easily predictable and seem pointlessly long. My love for character-driven stories was definitely a perk in reading this. If that’s not your thing, the middle of this book may lag a little. The saving grace for Talon were the characters and their dynamics. There was just something so appealing about them. So, my true reaction to this book is one of slight disbelief and grudging respect. Kagawa can spin a line and keep you interested… even if it’s something you’ve read many times before!

The story follows dragon cructchmates (AKA twins) Ember and Dante Hill, two teenagers apart of the secret Talon organisation, as they assimilate among human society. Their training at Talon had been focused on learning how to survive by blending in amongst humans in order to avoid their merciless enemies, The Order of St. George. St. George are constantly on the look out for dragons to slay, as they view them akin to murderous beasts. The ensuing story of Ember and Dante’s survival when members of St. George start sniffing around their new town is one full of action, drama and unexpected loyalties.

I could imagine this story being turned in to a popular Netflix show. Hot characters. Sand. Sun. Secret organisation. Corruption and the temptation to go rogue. It has that teenage angst flare deeply inserted in to the premise which aims to gain your approval in a similar vein to Ember and Dante having to insert themselves in the popular group to ‘assimilate’ as per Talon’s instructions. Is anyone else imagining Archie and Cheryl from Riverdale as Dante and Ember (not in a romantic way of course! Just their appearance)? Let the teen drama commence!

While there were a lot of predictable and unoriginal aspects of this story, I still enjoyed the reading experience overall. Ember was a feisty, independent and compassionate character that was easy to like. Her vulnerable side and confusion at the hinted corruption in Talon was interesting to read about. She was a very well-written and flawed character. Kagawa managed to capture my heart with almost all of the characters. Even those that weren’t overly likeable. They were still interesting and that, along with great dynamics between them, made up for a lack in the story’s originality.

Besides for originality, I also had an issue with the story’s pacing. This book was near 500 pages, which I don’t usually mind but it felt like it could have been condensed in to a fast-paced and impactful 300 pages. The world building was done well, despite the fact that it followed some well-known tropes. It was easy to imagine the places, events and get an understanding of the intricacies surrounding St. George, Talon and the Rogue dragons.

Overall, this book was still an enjoyable read and I’m keen to see where the series leads in the sequel. Talon finished off with a cliff-hanger of sorts, so there are still quite a few questions unanswered. One namely being the outcome of the budding love triangle that slowly began to emerge in this story. I’m looking forward to trying out Rogue next to see where it goes!

// have you read Talon or any other books by Kagawa? what were your thoughts on them? //

Jen

You Can Have Manhattan – a marriage of passion, humour and convenience

Arc provided by Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Buy it on: AMAZON
☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

All I really need to say about this book: TROPES. You Can Have Manhattan has a combo of my all-time fav tropes which are: marriage of convenience, enemies to lovers and COWBOYS. This honestly had me SOLD on signing up for an ARC before I’d even read any previous reviews on it. All of my favourite tropes in one book? It was pretty much a no -brainer.

While I was expecting a delightful combo of grumpy cowboys and a swift trip to the alter, I didn’t go in to this book with high expectations in regards to writing quality and character development. This story surprised me though! In a good way. It had a great combination of strong-willed MCs and loveable side characters that I can’t wait to read more about – at least I HOPE they get their own stories!

CHARACTERS

SYDNEY – What a gem of a woman. She was strong, intelligent and fiercely loyal. My kind of character. I love reading about someone confident in their capabilities and willing to go the extra mile for those they care about. Sydney was all of this and a little bit more. She had hidden depths of vulnerability that pulled on my heart strings. After an abusive childhood she really deserved to get her HEA!

SCOTT – Unfortunately got on my nerves. He had so many moments of joyous goodness that I was tempted to scream at him when he treated Sidneys so awfully. I know that it’s an enemies to lovers and SOMEONE has to be the bigger ass… but Scott went just a TEENSY BIT OVERBOARD in taking his anger out on Sidney. It felt drawn out and honestly took away from my enjoyment in this book. When he finally decided to be a good guy though I LOVED HIM. If he’d been like that throughout I’d have given this book a higher rating.

While I loved the pace and dialogue in this book (some of it was so witty and well written that I could imagine it as an epic rom-com…) I did have a few issues with originality in the story line. I’ve seen some authors write these tropes in a way that was completely original and stole my heart – such as in Her Cowboy King – but unfortunately this author didn’t sell me on that. Despite this, it’s still a great summer day read that will leave you feeling happy and glad you picked it up.

// what are your thoughts on the enemies to lovers trope? yay or nay? //

Jen

The Bride Test – a quirky, sweet and only slightly insane romance.

Buy it here on: AMAZON

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ FIVE STARS

If my squeals of delight and joy while reading this book were any indication, then it’s safe to say I loved it! The Bride Test was a refreshingly honest and quirky read – quite a feat to manage in a genre that’s not always known for unique characters and story lines.

While some aspects of this book are well-known tropes – arranged marriage as well as the haters to lover’s trope – this story featured unconventional, diverse characters with an unusual dynamic between them. I definitely enjoyed getting to know Khai and Esme. As fans of The Kiss Quotient would know, Khai’s autism made dating difficult as the potential for misunderstandings was high. Hoang’s authentic, yet respectful, approach to writing about Khai’s autism and the cultural difficulties associated with immigration gained my approval.

What I really loved about this book was the way Esme and Khai gradually learned to communicate with one another. Khai’s insistence on open lines of communication in concern to his inability to anticipate the emotional needs of others completely won me over. He was such a sweetheart underneath all of his aloofness! He genuinely had a kind heart.

My favourite character in this book though was Esme. Which was surprising as I really, really liked Khai. His straightforward nature, politeness and modesty were adorably charming. It was Esme’s inner strength and perseverance throughout the story that truly won my heart over, though. She had come from a life of almost no material assets and laborious work to America. Having put the future of her family first she embarked on a journey that while unconventional, would have been terrifying. Her aplomb and dedication to understand Khai and the foreign land she was in was endearing and you couldn’t help but hope for the best for her. She deserved a happily ever after and some independence for her own dreams!

“How did you change your life when you were trapped like this? Her history didn’t define her. Her origins didn’t define her. At least, they shouldn’t. She could be more, if she had a chance.” 

While this book wasn’t very steamy, there was still a dash of it. The physical connection between Esme and Khai was not an easy venture and I loved that the author had taken the time to express this to the reader. The slow-burn romance made the wait for a physical connection worth- while.

“Warm. Content. Safe in his arms. Him safe in hers. She hugged him tighter. He was bigger and stronger, but she would protect him with everything she had.” 

Overall, this book was very well written, entertaining and highly enjoyable. It surpassed my love for The Kiss Quotient to be my favourite Hoang book as of yet. I’m eagerly awaiting future novels in this series!

// have you read any of Helen Hoang’s books? did you enjoy them? //

Jen

Throwback Thursday Read: My Commander by Alanea Alder

My Commander (Bewitched and Bewildered #1) – Alanea Alder

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme that was originally created by It’s Book Talk as a way to share reviews on old favourites as well as books that we FINALLY got around to reading. Our endless TBR list continues to grow, so this is a great opportunity for us to get around to all of those books we’ve been wanting to read! 

As our first pick, we’ve decided to cover an old favourite…

Book Blurb

Published October 2014 by Sacred Forest Publishing

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Buy it here: AMAZON KOBO B&N

In book one you meet our delicious Alpha Unit leader Aiden McKenzie. When the topic of grandchildren comes up during a weekly sewing circle the matriarchs of the founding families seek out the witch Elder to scry to see if their sons have mates. They are shocked to discover that many of their sons’ mates are out in the world and are human! Fearing that their future human daughters-in-law will end up dead before being claimed and providing them with grandchildren to spoil, they convince their own mates that something must be done. After gathering all of the warriors together in a fake award ceremony the witch Elder casts a spell to pull the men’s mates to them, whether they want it or not. Aiden is adamant that he doesn’t need a mate and that they would only get in the way, little does he realize Fate is sending him his mate first! He meets his destined mate Meryn Evans and things go downhill from there. In the first twenty four hours she kicks, screams and knocks her bear shifting mate unconscious. They eventually discover that life before finding each other may have been good, but life afterwards is perfect, even if it involves super soaker battles and accidentally discharging hand grenades.

THIS BOOK. What more is there to say other than it’s one of the funniest reads we’ve had in a long while. As a third re-read we’re still in love with Meryn and her hilariously eccentric nature. Poor Aiden. He was not at all prepared for the whirlwind that is Meryn Evans. The slow manner in which he became accustomed to her quirky, nerdy personality was a delight to read and made this paranormal romance not only exciting but also a breath of fresh air! Why do all paranormal romances have to be so serious? Although Meryn’s antics were a bit immature for her age it made this book a simple, funny read that was highly enjoyable.

When the founding matriarchal mothers of the Elders decide that their sons have waited too long without their mates (…is there anything better than fated mates in paranormal romance?) they convince the witch Elder to scry in search of them. What may have been a simple case of curiosity is met with the beginning of chaos for Aiden McKenzie. Chaos in the form of pint-sized, laptop-loving Meryn Evans. A human unaware of the shifters, vampires, fae and witches that secretly reside in the World around her.

Meryn’s expected refusal of fated mates and violent tendencies to thwart any attempts to steal her freedom is a hilarious and surprisingly realistic reaction that leaves the reader sympathetic for her position. My Commander refrains from being the usual insta-love trope that is common in paranormal stories about fated mates. Rather, it takes a firm stance on independence and Meryn’s right to decide her own fate when met with the prospect of being a bear shifter’s mate.

CHARACTERS

Meryn’s frank, yet compassionate, nature is conveyed well throughout the book despite her initial aversion to claiming her mate. This reaction, while still following the fated mate trope, gained my respect as she had come to the decision to love Aiden on her own and not from a predetermined destiny.

Aiden’s role in this book is understated and yet no less important. Meryn’s dominant and hilarious appeal quickly gained our attention however, it is Aiden’s understanding nature and consideration for Meryn that quickly captured our hearts. His unabashed acceptance of Meryn for who she is, without the necessity for change, was endearing. Although their relationship had a rocky start (after she bashed him on the head with a toilet seat) his patience for Meryn and acceptance of her quirks made up for it. He truly did grow to care for her in a way that we absolutely adored.

Overall, the hilarity of Meryn and the sweetness of Aiden made this book a charming, captivating read that I will re-read for years to come. It’s certainly one for the favourites shelf!

// what are your favourite tropes in paranormal romance? //

Nen & Jen

The Flatshare: Love in the whimsical time of post-it notes.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

★ ★ ★ ★ FOUR STARS

Ooh boy! This was a fun read. I love a good post-it note romance, with a dash of witty comments and eccentric ornaments added in. The Flat-Share was everything I wanted it to be – light, heart-warming and delightfully funny. If it was summer in my hemisphere, I’d conclude that it was the perfect beach day read. Since its mid-winter and cold as balls out, I’ll just say that it’s a great read for anytime, anywhere. You really can’t go wrong with picking up this book.

The story follows the lives of Leon and Tiffy as they embark on the (initially cringe-worthy and funny-as-hell) journey of living together. Not at the same time. But still sharing a bed. Confused yet? As a palliative carer, Leon works nights while trying to save up every last penny in order to help out his brother. Tiffy, after having broken up with her abusive ex-boyfriend is in need of a place to stay. Namely, a cheap place to stay. What could go wrong when they’re forced to share a space and bed without ever having met each other? Pretty much, everything.

CHARACTERS

TIFFY – My favourite part of this book was Tiffy. While it was written well and I enjoyed the rest of the characters, I adored Tiffy. She was super sweet, quirky as hell and enviously confident. It was great to finally read a story of a woman who embraced her flaws and was perfectly imperfect. I loved her witty honesty. She was self-deprecating but confident and strong in her own beliefs. She was also a fan of craft. Who doesn’t love that? As an amateur hobbyist of almost everything at some point (I tend to go through them like lunar phases) it was nice to have a character I could relate to. As someone who is also a fan of crochet, it was an odd thing to relate to in a character but I did. We now share a crochet-lovers’ soul. It’s official.

LEON – In comparison to Tiffy’s heart-on-her sleeve approach to life, Leon was a suitably appealing contrast. While he initially came across as unemotional, his big heart was slowly revealed throughout the story as we saw him truly care and devote his time to helping others. Especially the efforts he went to in his own time. He’s just a solidly good guy that has been taken for granted in the past. This book raised awareness of fact that not everyone needs to be outgoing to be caring, and not everyone who cares a lot needs to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Leon’s devotion to his work and his genuine care for his patients was charmingly sweet. I’m glad O’Leary explored this in the book. Too often introverted characters are associated with being shy but also uncaring. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Often it is those who don’t say much who feel the most.

Book Blurb

Buy this book: AMAZON KOBO B&N

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
 

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.  But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this book. While it’s not a 5-star rating (that’s reserved for stories that leave me reeling) this was by no means a less than perfect book. It was the perfect balance between sweet and witty and I hope others enjoy it as much (or even more) than I did! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future books by this author!

// do you enjoy books with alternative forms of communication? could you ever flatshare? //

Jen