Tag «LGBT»

DNF Series Review: Prisoners of Peace by Erin Bow

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 1: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Scorpion Rules (from Goodreads):

The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.

Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.

As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Cover Love
Series: Prisoners of Peace; The Scorpion Rules
Author: Erin Bow
# of Books: 2 (The Scorpion Rules, The Swan Riders)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2015 – September 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading The Scorpion Rules at 18% (middle of Chapter 6). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

There was a lot that drew me to this series. It’s written by a Canadian. It has political intrigue. Its unique concept. The cover. I quick marked it as an anticipated read upon its release in 2015 but let it slip away after I read some mixed reviews.

Despite that though, I was eager to read it and that was why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2018.

What I Liked about The Scorpion Rules:

–The Concept–

The whole setting of this novel is really intriguing. Children of political leaders are used as pawns in the hopes that forfeiting their lives in order to go to war will prevent the battle from even taking place–because who would sacrifice their own child?

Like many political things, this one is convoluted and that does result in some info dumping moments. I found the whole idea straight forward though I will admit I struggled with the AI portions of the information.

What I Didn’t Like The Scorpion Rules:

–All the Characters Seem to do is Farm–

I’ve got nothing against farming (where I live is predominately farms) but I didn’t pick up this book to read about Greta and company milking goats or making cheese.

I wanted back stabbing and conspiracy theories. I wanted a little more action and drama.

Instead, I got polite teenagers doing chores. Yawn.

My Audiobook Experience with The Scorpion Rules:

I do think part of the reason I DNF’d this so quick was the audio version (though truthfully, I would have found it boring either way). While I appreciate that each of the Children of Peace had their own accents, I found everyone seemed to have a slow drawl that proved to be distracting. When we would get those info dumping moments (usually when the teens are answering something in class or talking to each other), I just couldn’t concentrate on their words or the importance of what they were saying. I also thought the that narrator sounded to old to be Greta’s age so that was off-putting as well.

Will I Finish The Series?

Nope. I read the synopsis for Book 2 and I don’t think much really happened to get to that point.

Series Rating: DNF

The Scorpion Rules DNF | The Swan Riders N/A

overall

If you like slower books that take their time or want a book that is completely unlike any other out there, check this out.

Read if You Like: LBGTQ characters, slow novels, lots of detail about the world
Avoid if You: want action, want conspiracy theories

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Have you read this? Should I return to this series? Leave a comment!

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ARC Review + Blitz: Defensive Play by Jamie Deacon

Synopsis for Defensive Play (from Goodreads):

One glance is all it takes to bring his defences crashing down…

Seventeen-year-old Davey has never made friends easily. Shy, geeky, crippled with social anxiety, he feels isolated from his peers, and only his position as defender for the school football team fills the void of loneliness. On the pitch, his deft footwork has earned him the respect and acceptance of his squad, though at a price. Desperate to hold onto this camaraderie, Davey conceals the truth from everyone, even his own family.

Then, during the annual Brookshire football tournament, his eyes meet those of a rival player across the field and a spark flares between them, one neither boy can deny. Adam is everything Davey longs to be—confident, popular, comfortable with his sexuality. Davey aches to explore their connection, to discover where it might lead, but how can he follow his heart and risk rejection by his teammates, the closest thing to friends he has ever known?

Other books in the series:

breakdown

Series: Boys on the Brink
Author: Jamie Deacon
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order:  Standalone
Complete?: Unsure
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports, LGBT, MM Romance, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: November 30, 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / KoboiBooks

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Over the course of the last year, I’ve had tremendous luck with gay romances; specifically, adult sport ones. So when Jamie asked me to read his newest YA sports novella, it just seemed like an obvious “yes” to me.

The Plot:

I always worry when I pick up a novella that things will seemed rushed or underdeveloped; but I’m happy to say that wasn’t the case here! This was a quick read but one that packs a lot of punch and love into it.

And it is also so genuine! I could easily see this story happening in real life and I think that’s part of the charm of it. The problems and insecurities these characters have could happen to anyone and are likely happening right now. It’s just a beautiful story that doesn’t rely on overdramatic plot devices to be an entertaining read.

The Characters:

I loved watching Davey become confident in himself. I think his story is one many people (boys and girls, regardless of sexual orientation) can relate to–finding the confidence in who you truly are. He transforms before your eyes and I always appreciate that in my stories.

Adam is this great counterpart to Davey’s story in so many ways. He isn’t perfect–he too has had some bumps along the way–but I think that makes this story all that more charming by showing off those all too human qualities. It would have been great to get his POV as well but I learned enough about his through Davey to be satisfied with his character.

The Romance:

Simply put: adorable! I loved the slow burning tension this one had! It starts as a friendship and slowly becomes more. It was the perfect vessel to get the point of the story across.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

This is the only story I’ve read in the series, but it has definitely impressed me so I can’t wait to further explore this series!

My Rating: 4/5

Caught Inside N/A | [Defensive Play 4/5]

overall
A sweet, realistic read that will no doubt charm your heart!

Read if You Like: realistic fiction, LGBT stories
Avoid if You: want a longer story

The rain has stopped. A soft mist hangs in the air, turning the distant streetlights a hazy orange. After the stuffiness of the clubhouse, the night is bitterly cold and I pull on my sweatshirt against the chill. I sit on the steps overlooking the car park, heedless of the damp that seeps through my jeans. Elbows on knees, I rest my chin in my hands and close my eyes, attempting to clear my mind. I don’t want to think anymore. I just want to sit with nothing but the dark and the quiet for company.

I haven’t been hunched there long when the door opens, ejecting a stream of warmth and thumping bass. I glance behind me, although I know who it will be. My body goes still. Adam lets the door swing shut and, just like that, we’re alone.

He doesn’t seem surprised to find me on the steps. Perhaps he saw me leave. Has he followed me? My insides clench. What if Adam thinks I did it deliberately, that I meant to lure him out here. Maybe I had. Maybe, deep down, a part of me hoped Adam might come, even while the rest of me prayed he wouldn’t.

This time, when our gazes connect, there’s no one to see, no football match to act as a buffer. I drink him in. Even in the faint glow filtering through the frosted pane in the door, his eyes are a vivid blue.

“Hey,” Adam says. Such a simple word that expresses so much. There’s recognition there, like we’re childhood friends meeting after years apart, but uncertainty, too. He has a nice voice, I register through my turbulent thoughts—warm and slightly husky.

“Hey.” My reply emerges somewhere between a croak and a squeak. Cringing, I stare down at my feet.

“It’s Davey, right?”

I fling him a startled look. Had this boy—this confident, gorgeous boy—actually gone to the trouble of finding out my name?

One side of Adam’s mouth lifts in a crooked smile. “Well, I had to know who the lunatic was who almost took my leg off.”

“God.” I bury my face in my hands. Of course Adam was going to ask about me after what happened on the pitch. “I’m so sorry.”

He laughs and nudges my thigh with the toe of his trainer. “I’m kidding. Seriously, you did us a favour.”

I dare a peep at him, unable to rid myself of the thought that he has pursued me out here to take the piss. That wouldn’t be anything new, after all.

“It’s true.” Adam crouches on the step beside me, his expression amused but without malice. “Rob warned me about you. He said the rest of your defence was pretty solid, but probably weren’t quick enough to catch me. You were the real threat.”

I grimace. “I’m guessing he wasn’t expecting me to take you out quite so spectacularly, though.”

“Funnily enough, that wasn’t included in the pep talk. Still, I should be thanking you. You made our job a whole lot easier.”

“Don’t remind me. You should’ve heard the guys after the match. I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Adam laughs again, and I can’t hold back a smile. Here I am, having an actual conversation with an amazing-looking boy—a boy who’d caught me checking him out, no less—and I’m not making an ass of myself.

The door behind us bursts open and several guys spill out. I tense, guard raised. Will they think it odd us sitting out here alone? I scan their faces, but none are from Farnstead. A moment later, they barrel down the steps without giving either of us a second look and head for one of the cars parked nearby.

As they pile in and the engine growls to life, I exhale, shoulders slumping. I can feel Adam studying me and keep my gaze lowered.

“You’re not out,” he says, “are you?”

“What?” My entire body goes rigid. He knows. I’d already guessed as much, but suspecting it is one thing; being confronted with the indisputable truth sends me spiralling back into panic mode. Why had he really followed me out here? I’d thought…been sure I’d read something in his eyes when they locked with mine, but what if I’m wrong? Do I truly believe someone like Adam, someone popular and self-assured, would have sought me out? Unless…

I see again the Brookminster players in their huddle, sniggering, moments after Adam caught me staring. I’d reassured myself they weren’t laughing about me, but perhaps my fears had been well founded. The cold certainty settles like a snowball in my gut. I’d given myself away, and now the other lads have sent Adam out here to chat me up, trick me into an admission I won’t be able to take back. For all I know, his mates are somewhere close by as we speak, listening in.

“Hey.” Adam extends his palms in what is probably supposed to be a calming gesture. “It’s all right. I know and it’s all right.”

“You don’t know anything,” I snap. The instinct for self-preservation, to keep my protective wall intact at any cost, propels me to my feet. “You hear me? You don’t know anything about me.”

Before he can respond, I’m down the steps and sprinting into the darkness, phone already out to call my parents. All I want is to go home, crawl into bed, and forget today ever happened.

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Jamie Deacon

Jamie lives in a tranquil spot close to the River Thames in Berkshire, England, and has always been just a little out of place—the only redhead in a family of brunettes; an introvert far more at ease with dogs than with people; a connoisseur of simple pleasures in a society intent on the quest for wealth and fame. Despite an outward cynicism, Jamie is a romantic at heart, and, when not immersed in a book, can mostly be found writing emotional stories where young men from all walks of life are forced to navigate the sometimes painful reality of growing up, coming out, and falling in love.

Author Links: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

To celebrate the release of Defensive Play, Jamie Deacon is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card. For your chance to win, simply enter via the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is open to entrants world wide, and closes at midnight EST on Friday December 7, 2018.

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Blog Tour: Illusions by Madeline J Reynolds

Synopsis for Illusions (from Entangled Teen):

Dear Thomas,

I know you’re angry. It’s true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I’ve fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you dead—I’ll do it. I’ll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I’ve done and what I’m about to do next. I promise, it’s one magic trick no one will ever see coming.

Love,
Saverio

breakdown

Author: Madeline J Reynolds
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, LGBT, Magic
Heat Rating: cool **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to this title for a number of reasons. The first is its historical setting–I love a good Victorian Era YA novel. The second is the gay romance between the leads–I haven’t read too many books set in this era with that romance. And the third is the premise itself–who doesn’t love some good magician sabotage?

The Plot:

This book took me awhile to get into probably because it is told through (primarily) journal entries and that delivers the story in a different way. You focus more on the characters, their feelings and daily events more so than the setting or interactions with other characters. In a sense, you are getting the story secondhand story because they are describing what has happened without you experiencing it first hand. But once I got into the groove of the POV format, the story was easy to read.

I, personally, would have enjoyed a more amped up rivalry between the two master magicians; with more sabotage. Instead, the focus remains on the two apprentices creating a very character driven story that is still very enjoyable to read because there is some great character growth (in addition to the very sweet romance).

The Characters:

It was amazing to watch these two transform before my eyes as the story progressed. The Thomas and Saverio we get at the start of the novel definitely aren’t the same boys we end the story with. I just loved the personal growth we see in these characters. I think the journal entries provided that touch of intimacy into these characters’ emotions and inner thoughts that really adds to the characters’ many layers.

The Romance:

These two were simply adorable together! I always enjoy romances that don’t start out with the nicest intentions, yet twist into something real and strong. When the plot isn’t focusing on them as individuals, I like how it concentrated on how they navigate their relationship given the various circumstances (their rivalry, the nature of their relationship in society, etc.). I also appreciated how it took the time to tackle them realistically; nothing ever felt rushed in that sense (and that isn’t always the case).

My Rating: 3/5

overall
Despite a slower start, this is a great read for fans of character driven historical YA reads!

Read if You Like: historical, stories told through journal entries
Avoid if You: want more than romance

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Madeline J Reynolds

Madeline J. Reynolds is a YA fantasy author living in Chicago. Originally from Minneapolis, she has a background in journalism and has always loved storytelling in its various forms. When not writing, she can be found exploring the city, eating Thai food, or lost in an epic Lord of the Rings marathon.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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DNF Standalone Review: Kens by Raziel Reid

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Kens (from Goodreads):

Heterosexuality is so last season: Kens is the gay Heathers meets Mean Girls, a shocking parody for a whole new generation.

Every high school has the archetypical Queen B and her minions. In Kens, the high school hierarchy has been reimagined. Willows High is led by Ken Hilton, and he makes Regina George from Mean Girls look like a saint. Ken Hilton rules Willows High with his carbon-copies, Ken Roberts and Ken Carson, standing next to his throne. It can be hard to tell the Kens apart. There are minor differences in each edition, but all Kens are created from the same mold, straight out of Satan’s doll factory. Soul sold separately.

Tommy Rawlins can’t help but compare himself to these shimmering images of perfection that glide through the halls. He’s desperate to fit in, but in a school where the Kens are queens who are treated like Queens, Tommy is the uncool gay kid. A once-in-a-lifetime chance at becoming a Ken changes everything for Tommy, just as his eye is caught by the tall, dark, handsome new boy, Blaine. Has Blaine arrived in time to save him from the Kens? Tommy has high hopes for their future together, but when their shared desire to overthrow Ken Hilton takes a shocking turn, Tommy must decide how willing he is to reinvent himself — inside and out. Is this new version of Tommy everything he’s always wanted to be, or has he become an unknowing and submissive puppet in a sadistic plan?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Worst Read 2018
Author: Raziel Reid
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Parody, Humour, LGBTQ
Heat Rating: unsure
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source & Format: Early Reviewers–Hardcover | Thank you Penguin Teen!

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Kens at 13% (Page 35 of 272). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When you pitch a book as the “Mean Girls” for a whole other generation you set up some very high expectations. I was really excited to read this book for that reason and because of the gender swap aspect. It was a very intriguing concept.

Image result for october 3 mean girls pink
Fun Fact: I wrote this review on October 3rd!

What I Liked:

Not much. I guess you can say that I liked the idea of what this novel could be than anything it actually was. I only got two chapters in before I realized this was not going to be the book I wanted it to be.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Setting–

Ok, this takes place in Wisconsin. I don’t know much about Wisconsin (other than the fact that it’s close to Canada) but it wouldn’t be where I would set this novel. Perhaps that is the point or the parody? These characters are so very stereotypical Hollywood that it just made this whole thing seem outrageous…and not in the smart parody way.

–Goes for Shocking, Not Witty–

After reading this book, I’ve discovered book parodies just don’t work for me. I think this is the third one I’ve attempted and things are just lost on me. What is is about parodies that make them come across as so far-fetched and just plain not funny?

Definition of parody 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule

–wrote a hilarious parody of a popular song

2a feeble or ridiculous imitation

–a cheesy parody of a classic western

~Merriam-Webster

Yes, I get that parodies are supposed to be ridiculous–you are making fun of something–but this one just takes it to a whole other level that comes across as dim-witted and sometimes just plain rude. I like to think I’m an intelligent person and can see the bigger picture, but this (bigger picture) was just lost on me here.

I got the sense that this book was written with the intent of pure shock-factor for the readers. To be so out-there that it gets people talking about its wacky cast. However, everything is taken to an extreme that sucks out the realm of probability.

But the problem is when you bill something to be like Mean Girls–which I hold in very high esteem in terms of writing, humour and message–you have to deliver. There is a reason why people still talk about that movie years later and they’ve made a Broadway show about it!

Sure, Regina George is an extreme character. She is literally the mix of every mean girl you will ever encounter in your life in one person but that’s the point. But you can still appreciate what she is as a character at the end of the day and what she does for the story, even if you don’t like her as a person.

Here, in Kens, not so much. There’s nothing redeemable about these characters at all and the hero you are supposed to root for is so “blah” you understand why he has never resurfaced onto Ken Hilton’s radar.

Will I Finish It?

Not a chance.

My Rating: DNF

overall

Others who have read the novel have critiqued it for how it represents LGBTQ characters but I didn’t get far enough to get a firm grasp on that aspect. So I encourage you to read other reviews if that is something you look for in a novel. Otherwise, if you enjoy reading hot messes or need a guilty pleasure read, this might be for you. But if you are looking for the next Mean Girls, this is far from it.

Read if You Like: parodies, melodramatics
Avoid if You: want a smartly written parody

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Series Review: Montague Siblings by Mackenzi Lee

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (from Goodreads):

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

breakdown

Series: Montague Siblings or Guide Series
Author: Mackenzi Lee
# of Books: 2 (Reading Order Here)

There is a novella: #1.5 The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: June 2017 – October 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook; Audiobook (Petticoats)

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t think I could escape this book if I tried in 2017. Not that I wanted to. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun but people also said that about My Lady Jane and I didn’t “love” that one either.

So I was hoping for more of a Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda type of experience going into this. I didn’t know what else to expect plotwise but I was ready to be surprised!

What I Liked:

–The Tension–

I’ll be honest, I mostly picked this up for the romance between Monty and Percy. I just love all the tension that comes from “off limits” romances. And this is a romance that is off limits in a lot of ways which makes it such an intriguing one to read. Not only are the two best friends but they are two males in a time when that relationship isn’t accepted in popular society. Add to that their ranks in the peerage, race and their own coming of age stories, you have a lot of factors telling these two to stay away.

Which makes those moments of letting go so enjoyable as a reader. These two are just so genuine with each other that you immediately want them to be together no matter the obstacles in their way.

–Slightly Dry Humour–

When everyone mentioned the humour in the book, I was worried I wasn’t going to find it funny. I’m a girl who laughs at everything but humour in books sometimes escapes me. That’s why I considered listening to the audiobook instead because I find it easier to get the sarcasm and laughs. But when I listened to the sample, the narrator didn’t sound like what I imagined Monty would sound like so I stuck with the print.

I’m glad I did because I did find myself chuckling quite a bit at this book. Monty has such an interesting perspective and his off-hand, dry comments just seemed so “British” to me.

–Felicity–

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Monty as a lead. As I mentioned above, he’s witty and dramatic and he’s a lot of fun to read about. But Felicity really surprised me as a character. I didn’t think she’d have much of a role but I loved all the little tidbits we got about her and her attitude in general. She’s a fantastic supporting character.

–Diversity & The History–

Like I said in the “Tension” section, you have a lot of social issues/topics at play here. When they are used all together you feel as though you are transported to the 1700s. It just adds this depth and realism to the world by highlighting various things.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It Felt a Little Long–

I definitely missed the “manhunt that spans across Europe” in the synopsis. And while I enjoyed that plot (I’m glad there was something else at play besides the romance) I felt like it took far too long to get resolved. I just found myself getting a little bored with it near the end. While that dramatic plot was moving forward I felt like everything else went to a standstill. For me, this book could have been 50 pages shorter and I would have been more than satisfied.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Obviously I enjoyed Felicity’s character so I’m excited for her to get her own book!

updates

–November 9, 2018– Book #2: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

Felicity was one of the highlights of the first book so I was very excited for her novel.

But I was pretty disappointed in this one. I think I was expecting a different type of novel. I wanted a pirate adventure (I kept reading “piracy” as “pirates”) and that’s not what this is. Not that the story we get is bad–I appreciate the science angle–but I didn’t enjoy the pacing of this novel at all. I thought we spent far too long rehashing Felicity’s constant rejections and it took a long time to get to the “adventure” part of the story.

I respect Felicity’s drive and passion to study medicine. I also liked the fact that she doesn’t really have a romance plotline either. All too often the girls who strive to defy societal norms find love–and that isn’t a bad thing–but I really respected the fact that not every girl wants or needs a romance in her life; that they can want other things and they aren’t any less (or more) of a woman because they don’t want that.

So this book was a bit of a miss. I think if I had a better idea of what to expect my review and rating would be different but this was just so-so for me.

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue 4/5 | The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy 3/5

overall

This is a great read for historical YA fans without a doubt or if you love stories that take you on a fun and heartwarming adventure, pick this up!

Read if You Like: adventure, historical, GLBT
Avoid if You: dislike adventure, historical

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Single Sundays: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Black Iris (from Goodreads):
It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She’s going to show them all.

breakdown

Author: Leah Raeder
Genre: New Adult, Suspense, Romance, Mental Health, LGBT, Dark
Heat Rating: hot
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember where I found this book. It was either on someone else’s blog, NetGalley, a “can’t wait for” list or through a book on Goodreads. Regardless, I wanted to try my hand at a New Adult suspense novel. Normally, I go for the more romance focused New Adult reads but this one had a darker spin, a LGBT aspect and a revenge based premise.

I was really intrigued by the synopsis (and the cover) and couldn’t wait to dive into this one when my hold finally came in!

The Concept:

This story is told completely out of order. Each chapter is clearly labelled so it is easy to keep track of the timeline…for the most part. I do recommend trying to read this book in bigger chunks than littler ones so that you can keep everything straight. Because it does move around quite a bit. For example, one chapter could be May 2015, next is Feb 2014, followed by March 2015. It isn’t a simple alternation between the past and the present…and it really works with this story and its unreliable narrator.

Also, the LGBT premise is really fantastic! I kinda forgot about it when I picked it up so it surprised me a bit when I first started. Nevertheless, struggling with one’s sexual identity is the backbone of this book. It’s very heartfelt and real and grounds the story with its very dramatic revenge plot line.

The Plot:

As the reader, you spend most of your time trying to put together what has really happened to Laney that has caused her to go down the path of revenge. Laney is an unreliable narrator and completely knows it (she tells you multiple times throughout the book). So that can make it frustrating to read at times because you know you aren’t getting the full story. But only getting little breadcrumbs at a time also makes it equally exciting and captivating. I had a hard time putting this book down because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It really reminded me of watching How to Get Away with Murder because we only get fragmented pieces at a time, leading up to the big reveal.

While Laney’s mental health issues as a result of her family life and sexual identity are very realistic and an important part of the plot, don’t think book is meant to be one of those realistic fiction reads about someone who is suffering a sexual identity crisis and has a major epiphany. Because it isn’t. It’s a revenge story about a girl who wants to hurt everyone who ever hurt her. Who those people are and how she is going to do it is the main plot line of this story. It’s dark, it’s gritty and it takes no prisoners and compared to my usual New Adult fodder I found it to be very refreshing.

But I also found it to be detrimental to a certain degree. I don’t mind drug and sex references in my books, I might not like it, particularly the drug usage, but I won’t let it prevent me from reading a story. And while the drug usage and sexual situations worked for this story (ie they moved the plot forward and weren’t in there just for shock factor), I think there was just too much of it earlier on, especially the drug usage, and that dampened the experience for me a bit. It shifted the focus away from the larger issue of the plot for me which is the need for revenge.

The Characters:

This book has quite the cast of characters! They are all deeply flawed and so layered that it definitely keeps things interesting.

Laney was a very complex character and because she is an unreliable narrator, I had a hard time deciphering what was real and what wasn’t in terms of who she was as a person. Part of the problem lies in the fact that she is a character going through an identity crisis, so she doesn’t even really know herself. It was cool to see her evolve into her “true” self. But the execution, at times, makes it hard to get a read on her and her true motivations.

I would say overall, I didn’t really connect with any of these characters despite understanding them. I didn’t find myself rooting for Laney to succeed like I thought. But at the same time, I’m not sure if you are supposed to or not. Laney straight up says she isn’t your typical heroine in your typical story and that is 100% true. So I think it is expected that you aren’t going to root for her but you will understand her character and her motivations. You may not agree with her motivations or methods but you get why she feels like she has to do it that way.

The Romance:

I think this is the first book I have ever read that has a “true” love triangle. What I mean by true love triangle is that all three people involved are in love with each other. Person A is attracted to B + C, Person B is the same with A + C, etc. The only one that comes close is No One Needs to Know but it doesn’t really count because two of the people involved are twin siblings with no incestuous tendencies. It makes for an interesting dynamic and one that I really enjoyed watching unfold.

I find for the most part, the romantic relationships are based on physical attraction. It’s never really elaborated (at to me) why they all shared some inexplicable connection with each other initially. But by the end of the story, it became slightly more apparent to me why these characters were drawn together. I personally just like that little bit more for my characters, especially near the start, when it comes to their romantic relationships. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because the romance is just a tool to drive the plot forward and what we have is more than enough to satisfy that requirement.

My Rating: 4/5

I really struggled to rate this book when I finished it. While reading, I would say it was at a solid 4 and then the big reveal happened and I immediately thought 5 stars! But when it came to picking my rating on Goodreads, I hesitated. I adore books that give you all the clues throughout but prevent you from putting everything together until the big reveal–which is what this book did and that was why I wanted to give it 5 stars. However, I dropped it to a 4 because I did spend a lot of the time reading confused as to what was happening and keeping the plotline straight. And the dramatics (like the drug usage) slightly killed it for me as well, especially near the end. I just felt like it was a little too much when all was said and done, thus a 4 star review.

overall

I think a lot of readers will struggle with the format/execution of this book. The flip-flopping between past and present can be difficult to follow at times. It is also a book that slowly builds up to the big reveal so you may be left scratching your head for quite awhile. But overall, I found it to be enlightening and entertaining and it’s encouraged me to pick up other New Adult suspense novels.

Read if You Like: diverse books, books with GLBT themes, books dealing with mental health
Avoid if You: don’t like unreliable narrators, stories with drug usage

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Single Sundays: No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for No One Needs to Know (from Goodreads):
Sometimes, the cost of love is too steep

Olivia’s twin brother, Liam, has been her best friend her whole life. But when he starts dating, Olivia is left feeling alone, so she tries to drive away Liam’s girlfriends in an effort to get her best friend back.

But she meets her match in Zoey, Liam’s latest fling. A call-it-like-she-sees-it kind of girl, Zoey sees right through Olivia’s tricks. What starts as verbal sparring between the two changes into something different, however, as they share their deepest insecurities and learn they have a lot in common. Olivia falls for Zoey, believing her brother could never get serious with her. But when Liam confesses that he’s in love with Zoey, Olivia has to decide who deserves happiness more: her brother or herself?

Review:

Yet again, this was a random pick from my library after browsing the new books. Normally, when I see books with 3 people on the cover, tangled in some sort of embrace, I avoid them at all costs because they tend to only mean one thing: love triangles–my least favourite plot device in the history of romance novels. But what grabbed my attention with No One Needs to Know is that instead of the guy holding both girls hands, the two girls are holding hands behind the guy’s back. Interesting.

I think it is fairly obvious what this book is about after you read the synopsis and despite the promise of a love triangle, I decided to give it a shot because this isn’t your everyday love triangle in a novel–which is a whole other topic for a whole other time.

This book was a really cute and quick read. The love triangle part never really bothered me because I knew how it was going to end within the first few chapters. But that really wasn’t a bad thing because I liked watching the characters develop to reach that ending together.

And while the main focus on the novel might be on the girls’ relationship with each other, it also focuses on growing up to be your own person and sibling relationships as you grow up. I think anyone with a sibling of the opposite gender who is close to their age can agree that your relationship dynamic changes when your in high school and this book deals with that.

What stopped me from giving this book a higher rating was that it was a little too simple for me. Coming of Age novels aren’t my favourite genre because I find they lack alternate plotlines besides character development and I like my books to have a good mix of both. Overall, I think this book is realistic but I wish it delved into some of the more thought-provoking topics that it could have given its subject matter. However, I love the message that it sends: be yourself no matter who you are, how much money you have or who you love because people will love you regardless.

Conclusion:

Although the book didn’t wow me per say, it did manage to keep my attention. It’s a cute quick read that fans of Young Adult coming of age novels will enjoy!

Rating: 3/5
Would I Recommend this Book to a Friend: Perhaps

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Young Adult, Coming of Age, Coming Out, Romance,
Recommended for: 16+
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating

Similar Reads:

  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
  • Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti

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