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

Sins of the Father by Mary E. Twomey – eARC Book Review

Title: Sins of the Father
Author: Mary E. Twomey
Genre: Paranormal
Publication Date: May 2020

SYNOPSIS

When parents can send their children to jail to serve time in their place, corruption gets a free pass.

Arlanna’s life quickly turns upside-down when her father, the feared and revered mafia boss, finally gets caught in one of his many schemes and elects to send her to prison in his stead.

The broken system was never more than a frustration for her, but now that her freedom has been stolen away, Arlanna makes it her life’s mission to force the parents of the world to see the error of their ways. (Goodreads).

MY REVIEW

Twomey’s books are some of the most under-appreciated for their genre, in my opinion. Paranormal romance can often be judged harshly when compared to its ‘cousin’ fantasy, as the development of romantic storylines usually occur at the expense of world-building. While I’m content with this, Twomey stands as evidence that not all paranormal romances forsake world building. This book is a prime example.

The Sins of the Father bill allows parents to send their children to prison for their crimes. Arlanna, the fae daughter of a ‘mob boss’ father is sent to prison and soon meets her ‘merry’ band of rebellious friends. The side characters in this book brought this world to life. Each character had faced their own trials (legal and psychological) in regards to surviving the dystopian-like world of dwindling magic and increased corruption.

While prison stories aren’t my usual jam, Twomey weaved a captivating and unique plot. The struggles children faced to grant their parents freedom was brutal and Twomey did not hold back on darker themes in this book. As a fair warning triggers included physical abuse, flashback kidnapping, violence and self-harm.

That said, there were a lot of lighter moments to balance everything out. Arlanna, Cass, Charlotte and Gray had forged a friendship that withstood the uglier events of prison life. Cass and Charlotte’s relationship was so wholesome and sweet, especially considering Cass’ snarky personality. Gray and Arlanna’s budding romantic relationship also provided a light distraction from the darker tones in this book.

I rated this 4 out of 5 stars in light of the fact that some of the events were predictable (but still enjoyable) and some of the conflicts were resolved too quickly. I would have liked more development on them, considering their importance.

4 Stars.

*ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review*

Wolfsong by TJ Klune – 5 Star Book Review

Title: Wolfsong
Author: TJ Klune
GenreFantasy / LGBT
Publication Date: June 2016

Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road. The little boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the little boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the little boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane. (Goodreads).

THIS BOOK. It took my by surprise and then proceeded to steal an entire weekend. A situation I was happy to abide by!

First off, this book is long. Like, much longer than I was expecting and yet the story flowed with great pace and character development. The sheer amount of events in this was a tad bit overwhelming (in a good way!) and every page felt necessary. Which isn’t always the case for books of this length (600+ pages).

The story follows Ox, bless his kind heart, and his encounters with the Bennett Pack of wolf shifters. Ox’s steadfastness and kindness truly captured my heart. He was the pure definition of a protective, gentle giant.

I have to be honest, for majority of the story I actually forgot that this was going to be a romance. While I adored Joe, the young individual Ox meets, I mostly enjoyed the growth of Ox and Joe as friends over the years. Klune managed to expertly convey their growth as individuals, friends, family and finaly mates. I adore the fated-mates trope but find that it usually involves insta-love. That wasn’t the case for this book. This was pure gold slow-burn.

While I was initially a bit uncertain of the romantic undertones in this story due to Joe’s age when Ox first meets him, Klune handled this so well. Almost a decade passes over the length of this book and the character development is astounding. By the end, Ox and Joe feel incredibly mature as characters and nothing untoward happens until that point to make you uncomfortable as a reader.

What made this book a soaring 5 Star read was the side characters. They came to life in this book and felt unique. Klune kept things unique and original which I really enjoyed.

I say this book stole my weekend but in reality I read, devoured and LOVED the sequels Ravensong and Heartsong as well. I CANNOT WAIT for Brothersong in October, 2020.

5 Stars.

Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis – ARC Book Review

☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

Arc provided by Tor Ten via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Good Luck Girls was a book that took me by surprise. The beginning completely captured my attention, the middle lost it and the end had me eager to (FINALLY) find out what would happen. The dichotomy between the start and end with the lacklustre middle of the book was quite strange. Usually books start slow and build up momentum, or vice versa. Despite this, the story still made a positive impression and is one I’d recommend people read if they’re interested in kick-ass females, Western settings and a well-written cast of diverse characters.

Blurb:

Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

The premise of this book sounded phenomenal. I mean, how can you go wrong with a cast of characters such as this and such an intriguing story line?

The focal character Aster annoyed me SO MUCH though. I can understand why she would be apprehensive of men after her traumatic experience working as a Good Luck Girl however, there were a few cases where her unchecked anger management issues led to the neglectful care and lack of consideration for those she was unofficially in charge of. Her change toward the end of the book and character development was refreshing and (mostly) redeemed my opinion of her though.

Added on to this, the POVs at the start of the book featured Aster as well as her younger sister Clementine. I love (LOVE) books that use multiple POV and was really excited to see this at the start of the book. Then…. it went away and all we got was Aster’s POV.

This felt like such a loss as the cast of characters were really interesting and unique. I would have loved to have learnt more about them as well as have an inside look at their relationships with other members of the group. Everything felt diluted by Aster’s anger though and it was a shame to have lost that potential. This is a story that could have been amazing had it been told from five perspectives. That’s just my personal preference and opinion though. I’m aware not everyone is a fan of reading in this format.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, the middle of this book was incredibly slow. Their journey to escape felt like it dragged on endlessly. We learnt about all of the small details of their journey. While some of it was interesting, there was quite a lot of it that I would have been happy to miss out on in order to speed up the pace of the book.

Despite this, the characters and world-building were really well done. It felt original and fresh. The beginning and ending had great pacing. I loved the inclusion of paranormal elements in to this story. It created a tension at the start and end of the book that was gripping and interesting to read about. I haven’t seen this take on a Western-set book before and I can see why some reviewers have absolutely loved this book. If you don’t mind pacing issues, you’ll most likely LOVE this.

// have you read this book? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver – 5-Star Book Review

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☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

I Wish You All the Best was such an angsty and achingly honest depiction of mental illness, gender identification, sexual exploration and the confusing experience of being a teenager. While I could sing the praises of this book for it’s quiet, yet significant contribution to acceptance of identifying as non-binary, what this book really does well (almost better than any book I’ve ever read in this genre) is relate an almost perfectly accurate depiction of the teenage psyche. The messiness of finding yourself, lack of self-confidence and inability to maturely respond to complicated situations was present throughout this book.

That’s not to say that this is one angst-filled ride full of bad choices. It’s a very well-written and believable portrayal of the experiences associated with growing up and the slow adaption to change that is a fundamental part of maturing. While the angst in this book could get frustrating at times, it was so unabashedly honest in its authenticity. I couldn’t help but relate to my own similar experiences. This is a book that will break your heart, patch it back up again and leave you with the scar to remember. I loved every word of it!

Blurb

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

I waited a few days after reading this book to write the review. My emotions were all over the place, I had too much to say and quite frankly everything I want to say will seem inadequate. That’s not to say this book is a literary masterpiece. It’s written simply in a direct and open manner that forces you to pay attention and truly hear what Deaver is trying to say. While this book plays an important part in providing acceptance and raising awareness for recognition of non-binary as a gender, in addition to the notion that gender should not be limited to traditional conventions, it also speaks out about parental influence and how acceptance can mean so much to individual’s who’ve had their own path to accept their identity.

The romance in I Wish You All the Best was slow-burn, thoroughly developed and even at the end (quite) tentative. It felt like the first time you fall in love. The increased attraction, sharp emotions, confusion over mixed signals and all-encompassing joy. Deaver captured and highlighted the small instances that can seem all so important when you’re young and in love. Holding hands. Sharing music, art, memories. It wasn’t rushed and there was no all-is-perfect HEA. It was a well-balanced ending that suited their age, lack of experience and uncertainty in the near future. I was SO HAPPY to see a novel finally write young love in a way that wasn’t insta-love (although that’s not entirely inauthentic for the age group) but instead put emphasis on the slow growth of feelings. It was aching and sweet and oh, so relatable.

What I also adored about this book was its portrayal of a dysfunctional family and the complications associated with beliefs that condemn the actions and decisions of those you love. It was heart-breaking to see the seemingly perfect (from the outside) De Backer’s unravel bit by bit. No single character in this book was without flaws and questionable decision-making. Nothing is easy when it comes to family and Deaver’s honest approach showcased the long-lasting impact one small decision can have on the lives of those you love and change a family’s dynamic forever.

While I don’t have any bad things to say about this book (I loved it!) I would feel remiss not to note that I don’t think this book would be rated the same by everyone. The teenage confusion and angst written by Deaver can be frustrating to read at times but its authenticity made this enjoyable for me. I’m not sure if everyone else would find it so. I can relate to this from my own experiences but if you were a very well-adjusted teen perhaps this might not be as relatable to you? It’s something to bear in mind at least.

// have you read I Wish You All the Best? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – Book Review

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☆ ☆ ☆

What initially drew my attention to this book was its cover. The colours and artwork were stunning! As well as this, I’d read Brittany at The Book Guru’s review and knew that this had to be up next on my TBR. With a premise that promised a sapphic romance, a seedy King and darker themes of sexual abuse, Girls of Paper and Fire sounded like a gritty fantasy that would perfectly match my mood. Unfortunately, while most aspects of this book were great there were a few significant issues I had with it that severely down-graded my rating.

Blurb:

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.


Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

Pros:

Ngan’s writing style had a brilliant flow and pace. The dialogue seemed realistic, if only a bit too modern for the chosen setting. I really adored how she went in to depth on the other eight Paper Caste characters who were also selected to be the King’s concubines. Lei’s strength and genuine kindness as a character made the abuse she suffered so heart-wrenching to read.

The world-building in GOPAF was extensive and painted a vivid picture of an Asian-inspired culture that had been forced in to segregation of castes by a prejudiced society, mostly spurred on by the assumption that Moon’s were the strongest caste as they represented the King’s race. Ngan’s rich description of the setting and inclusion of the Kingdom’s history, associated with the events that occurred to Lei, completely immersed me in her story. I was enthralled and transported to this world in the manner that only a well-written fantasy novel can achieve.

A few of the side characters, like The Wolf and Blue really caught my attention and interest. Their pasts were clouded in mystery and added intrigue to the story. They could have been written in their designated roles as blindly loyal followers of the King but Ngan’s exploration of their motives and conflicting loyalty brought their characters to life. Despite their actions, I couldn’t help but sympathise with the hard situations they were put in. I would have liked to have seen more exploration of their futures but perhaps that will happen in the second book?

Cons:

Oh boy. I knew going in to this novel that things would get dark. I mean, you don’t sign up for a book that openly states the inclusion of sexual abuse to minors and expect it to be a light read. That said, since this was classified as a YA novel I had expected quite a lot more discretion on the sensitive matter than was presented. Bearing in mind that I’m familiar with scenes like this from the adult genre, I was able to finish the story mostly intact however, youths reading the YA genre can be as young as 12 and I definitely would not recommend this book to a 12 year old. Although, maybe that’s just me.

I also had a hard time believing the chemistry between Lei and her love interest (I don’t want to spoil anything). It seemed like they went from hardly knowing one another to being in love. A few kind acts, which weren’t all that extreme considering the circumstances they were under, were suddenly enough to form a strong and long-lasting connection between them. While I would believe this to be the perfect basis for the development of a friendship, the romantic chemistry just didn’t seem there for me.

// have you read Girls of Paper and Fire? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen

HeartStopper by Alice Oseman – Book Review

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☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ FIVE STARS

THIS BOOK. What can I even say, other than it’s SO SWEET and makes me want to melt like a puddle of ice-cream? As someone who hasn’t really read or enjoyed graphic novels before, I’ve challenged myself to start branching out. My first pleasant experience was reading Mooncakes (my review) which was so freaking adorable.

Heartstopper was even better though! Charlie and Nick stole my heart completely. Be prepared, this review is pretty much just going to be me GUSHING about how much I LOVED IT. I couldn’t really find a fault (other than my NEED for MORE).

Me while reading all of the cute-as-pie moments

Heartstopper follows the story of Charlie, an out and proud popular student, when he meets Nick in their new homeroom. As they’ve been assigned seats, Charlie and Nick soon become friends. What starts as a supportive friendship soon begins to blossom in to something more. The slow-burn nature of this story really does it justice. Oseman has perfectly captured the confusion, longing and excitement that make up teenage sexuality and exploration.

As much as I adored Charlie, I’d have to say Nick was my favourite character. His vulnerability and confusion really pulled on my heart strings. We can all empathise with these feelings from our own youth. What really made me ADORE him was the way he never let his confusion get in the way of doing the right thing. He was so loyal and supportive of Charlie, regardless of how it impact on his own feelings, social status or made things more complicated. He was a down to Earth, wholesome guy that deserved to be happy and find love.

This story struck a chord with me. Not only was it adorable but Oseman created a masterfully artistic, yet respectful story about two individuals falling in love. The story had great pace and seemed realistic. I’m completely smitten and CANNOT WAIT for volume 2. I’ve put in a reservation at the library and am counting down the days… but unfortunately I’m WAAAAAY back in the line. It’s gonna take a while.

In the mean time though… I think I’ll re-read Volume 1 again to get another boost of adorable FEELS. This book certainly has it in spades. I read this in one sitting in around an hour and a half. If you’re considering whether to give it a try nothing should convince you more than that. It’s SHORT in length but SO SO WORTH IT!

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

Jen

What if it’s Us – a cute coming-of-age love story with unexpected depth.

Buy it here: AMAZON KOBO B&N

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ FIVE STARS

This story kinda broke me. Without sharing too many spoilers, it’s safe to say that I’m not a resilient reader and the ending of this story completely blindsided me. Maybe in a good way. I haven’t quite come to terms with it yet. Or perhaps I’m just too much of a sap. Either way, this is one story I think I’ll read again. If only to re-write the ending in a way that makes my heart beat a bit better!

As an avid fan of romance and YA novels, this was a must read for me. If anything, it felt like my most anticipated book of the year. With that hype to live up to, it’s surprising that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Usually I tend to be in the 1% of people who don’t get the lovey-dovey feels for a fan-favourite read. What really drew me in with this novel was the contrast between a budding teen romance (with ALL of its awkward quirks and small moments of LIKE-AT-FIRST-SIGHT) and yet a surprisingly deep emotional journey. The disparity between this was startling at first, I hadn’t expected so much from a book aimed to younger readers, and yet I absolutely adored it for this very reason.

“I don’t know if we’re in a love story or a story about love.” 

This quote, in my opinion, completely sums up my thoughts on this book. It was an almost unconventional read in its exploration of love and the meaning behind people coming in to our lives when they do. This book certainly had me thinking about my own experiences in this. Which is a sign of a good book, in my opinion. I love books that subtly attack your mind and make you think. When you sit down expecting a light and fluffy read and instead get a trip down memory lane with a dash of inner turmoil attached.

While this book was deep in some ways, the budding and awkward experience of first love made for a great contrast. Who doesn’t love LOVE? It’s impossible to dislike reading about the slow-burn, cute encounters that slowly sum up to a full-blown teen romance. The build-up was the best part of this book. As the character’s experienced mishaps (which are almost impossible to avoid at that age) it was endearingly sweet how they went on multiple first dates to make up for their blunders. Within the first chapter, and especially after their second first date, this book had completely stolen my heart.

“He laces our fingers and shrugs. And I’m dead. I am actually dead. There’s no other way to explain it. I’m sitting in fucking Herald Square, holding hands with the cutest boy I’ve ever met, and I’m dead.”

Even though the ending of this story was not the cookie-cutter one I was after, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book and am eagerly awaiting future novels by this author duo. At least I can binge-read older novels by this duo to tide me over until the next is out!

// what is your most unexpectedly deep young-adult read? //

Jen