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

First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn – Book Review

Title: First Comes Scandal (Rokesbys #4)
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Historical Romance
Publication Date: April 2020

She was given two choices….

Georgiana Bridgerton isn’t against the idea of marriage. She’d just thought she’d have some say in the matter. But with her reputation hanging by a thread after she’s abducted for her dowry, Georgie is given two options: live out her life as a spinster or marry the rogue who has ruined her life.

Enter option number three…

As the fourth son of an earl, Nicholas Rokesby is prepared to chart his own course. He has a life in Edinburgh, where he’s close to completing his medical studies, and he has no time – or interest – to find a wife. But when he discovers that Georgie Bridgerton – his literal girl next door – is facing ruin, he knows what he must do.

A marriage of convenience… (Goodreads).

Oh boy, this was a disappointing read.

Well, I should probably wait before writing this review as I’ve literally just finished reading the book but I have some pent up emotions that I need to get off my chest. The first being, where was the rest of the book???!!!! At a mere 288 pages this book was 100 pages shy of every other story in the series. Quite frankly (as this was not labelled a novella) it needed those extra pages.

The Rokesbys series (one that I truly adore from Quinn) has been a splendid mix of daring drama and adventure thus far, the likes of which you rarely see in historical romance. The previous book in the series, The Other Miss Bridgerton, is one of my all-time favourite historical reads. It involves pirates, an adventurous woman, a nomadic and witty man and a fast-paced plot of kidnapping followed by heroism.

When I compare that to this book… it’s like I’m reading an entirely different series and I didn’t get anything of what I had been after. I was expecting a reluctant marriage of convenience, built up tension, some medical emergencies (considering the ‘hero’ was a training physician) and a sweet HEA. What we got instead was a fast-tracked story with little to any conflict. It was purely boy meets girl, (almost) insta-love, then HEA.

This was such a shame as the story had so much potential. I really enjoyed reading the multiple POVs of Georgiana (a strong woman with an innate sense of curiosity and a wicked intelligence) and Nicholas (a man who values women’s intelligence and allowed Georgiana an almost unlimited amount of freedom). They were interesting separately and worked well together.

What I did not enjoy was the complete lack of a middle to the story. The beginning was so fun to read! I was hooked very quickly with Nicholas’ displeasure at having to marry for convenience (because he wanted to marry for love) and Georgiana’s great sense of humour in their interactions. After this, things very quickly progressed with zero conflict (between them or with others). Caught unawares I soon found myself at the ‘epilogue’. I mean… can you call it an epilogue if the story was severely lacking substance?

In this epilogue (without wanting to share too many spoilers) it became apparent that Georgiana’s fight for a woman’s right to an advanced education was never granted. That was it. WHY hadn’t Quinn explored this fight, Nicholas’ support of Georgiana’s plight and the resulting heart-break in the middle of the book? I’d have been happy with insta-love and outside conflict in the form of a fight for education. Instead we got none of this.

I’m sorry, this is turning in to a ramble. My disappointment is high and I just can’t stop. I’ve rated this two stars because there was some genuinely great potential here and Quinn’s characters were likeable (if not fully developed throughout the story).

A sad 2 Stars from me.

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.

Disney Parks Book Tag

I was tagged in this super cute tag last week by the wonderfully kind Brittany over at the Perfectly Tolerable blog. She claims to be only ‘perfectly tolerable’ and ‘average-ish’ but in reality she’s such a kind, supportive blogging friend that writes some amazing reviews. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet…. what are you waiting for?!

The Rules:

☆ Mention the creator and link back to original post [Alexandra @ Reading by Starlight]
☆ Thank the blogger who tagged you
☆ Answer the 10 questions below using any genre
☆ Tag 5+ friends
☆ Feel free to copy the heading graphics

The Questions:

I had a hard time coming up with a book for this one! All I could think of was the second instalment in the Dark Hunter series that follows Talon, the intelligent Dark Hunter that prefers to be elusive and lives near a swamp (they count as rivers right?). He even has a pet alligator!

I ADORED this sea-adventure. Poppy’s endless spirit and ability to cause mayhem was not only hilarious but endearing. Poor Captain Andrew had a lot to deal with when Poppy became a stow-away aboard his ship!

Told in verse, The Art of Taxidermy deals with some pretty gruesome (at least for me) themes of a child’s passion concerning the art of taxidermy. I mean… it’s great to have a passion but if my kid started bringing dead squirrels home to stuff them I’d be a little unnerved!

As one of my first space-set adventures, Illuminae had me completely hooked from the very first page to the last! It’s a shame the rest of the books in the series seemed quite repetitive but alas there’s nothing to do about that. At least the first book was brilliantly good!

I’m currently reading this book for next month’s book club and it’s set along the North Carolina coast. The book’s description of the natural environment so far has been nothing less than spell-binding.

While I didn’t enjoy this book very much, the castle of Emberfall played a prominent role in this book and it was the first one I could think of for this theme.

What more whimsy do you need than falling down the rabbit hole and embarking on a full-fledged adventure? My favourite was always the Cheshire Cat!

If anything, almost this entire story was about trekking through wilderness, plains, forests and mountains in search of help after having crash landed on a planet. While it’s not my favourite book from both of these authors it was still an enjoyable read.

While this story was a DNF for me, the strong latin culture and themes set within it make it suitable for this category. This is one of those books that I had such high hopes for. Unfortunately, the story never seemed to click for me.

Aurora Rising was a book I had to read as I’d fallen in love with the duo of Kaufman and Kristoff’s writing after having read Illuminae. This was a fast-paced adventurous story featuring kick-ass characters and a squad I’d love to join. Fin will always have my heart! I’m counting down the days until Aurora Burning (THREE) !!

I Tag:

As always don’t feel obligated to participate, but if you do then please tag me so I can see your answers!

Top 5 Sat: Retellings on my TBR

How is it May already?? April flew by in a blink. I’d like to say I accomplished a lot with isolation going on but that would be a lie. Instead, I got caught up in books and procrastinated my uni work. To add to this, my TBR seems to be growing this week with the Top 5 Sat theme of: Retellings. This meme was created by the lovely Mandy over at Devouring Books.

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales – SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease. I mean… just that description has me already saying YES, YES, YES. Who wouldn’t want to read a boy-meets-boy ‘summer loving’ Grease retelling??

Hunted by Meagan Spooner – Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. When he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. This book sounds amazing. I love strong female characters and this one seems sure to deliver!

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer – I wasn’t such a fan of the first book in this series but I ADORED Grey. His prominence in this book has it firmly placed on my TBR.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – With Russian fairy tales and (apparently) beautifully descriptive writing, this story has been high on my TBR for years now. Having just finished an MG fantasy with Russian fairy-tale influence I’m keen to compare the tales to TBATN.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer – I’ve read so many good reviews for The Lunar Chronicles over the years and yet I still haven’t read it. Here’s to hoping I give this series a read sometime this year!

Circe by Madeline Miller – Book Review

Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Fantasy / Mythology
Publication Date: April 2018

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. (Goodreads).

Mythology is not usually a genre I tend to read but Circe came up as a book club read and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I had been expecting to hate it, honestly. Generally, mythology tends to be very intense and this one was intense but in a way that was strangely relatable for a book of this genre.

Too often the protagonists in mythological retellings have morals and motives that aren’t necessarily relatable or understandable to modern readers (or maybe it’s just me??) and this generally makes me avoid the genre. In Circe’s case, she started off as a typical god-like character with little to relate to. What was different in Circe however, was her character development throughout the course of the book. It was captivating to read about. Despite being over 10, 000 years old it felt like the 300 year time span within this book was the true culmination of her life’s journey and experiences.

Miller’s ability to incorporate a wealth of mythological stories and characters in a way that not only seemed seamless but also provided an intimate insight in to the personalities of the Gods was enthralling to read about. Written in a tone that seemed fantastical but also modern, Miller managed to gain my interest and keep me hooked.

Despite the beautifully lush writing and great character development, this story had some down sides that leaved me rating it 4-Stars instead of 5. The beginning of the story was very hard to get hooked on. It dragged and I honestly wasn’t all that connected to the characters. After Circe was exiled to the Island however, things started to pick up and the story of her growth as a person began to form. Before this point it had just seemed like a host of short stories, about one character, had been lumped together.

Additionally, this book felt long. Really long. It’s only 300 pages but the pace and sheer volume of plot condensed in to the novel made it seem like a 500-pager. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that this is a story best appreciated in small bites. This is particularly important for readers that take on the emotions from the books they’re reading (me!) as this story isn’t one I’d consider light-hearted by any means. There’s depth and Circe’s poor plight that never seemed to end. Being continuously abandoned added a heavy weight to her character (spurring on some pretty great development) but also took a toll on the reader.

This was a brilliantly written story that will stay with me for a long time. That said, its emotional impact means I won’t be rereading this again anytime soon! For those of you that enjoy books with intense emotional impact – you’ll love this!

4 out of 5 stars.

Love Hard by Nalini Singh – eARC Book Review

Title: Love Hard (Hard Play #3)
Author: Nalini Singh
Genre: Sports Romance
Publication Date: March 2020

Jacob Esera, star rugby player and young single father, has worked hard to create a joyous life for his six-year-old daughter. After the death of his childhood sweetheart soon after their daughter’s birth, all Jake wants is safety and stability. No risks. No wild chances. And especially no Juliet Nelisi, former classmate, scandal magnet, and a woman who is a thorn in his side.

As a lonely teenager, Juliet embraced her bad-girl reputation as a shield against loneliness and rejection. Years later, having kicked a cheating sports-star ex to the curb, she has a prestigious job and loyal friends—and wants nothing to do with sportsmen. The last thing she expects is the fire that ignites between her and the stuffed-shirt golden boy who once loved her best friend.

Straitlaced Jacob Esera versus wild-at-heart Juliet Nelisi? Place your bets.

Let me start off by saying that I was so, so, so excited to read this book. My expectations were high and for good reason:

  • The author is Nalini Singh – She wrote the Psy-Changeling paranormal romance series that is one of my all-time favs.
  • This story has both sports and romance. Does it get better than that? Yes, yes it does. It’s better because the sport is rugby and the romance is set in New Zealand. As a fellow Kiwi, this synopsis was like crack to me. I NEEDED IT.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been so disappointed in a book in a long, long while. What was set up to be an emotionally packed story of a widowed single father and a feisty woman from his past just didn’t follow through. The story was all over the place. It began at a wedding of their mutual friends and by a third of the way through the book they were still at the wedding. Now I don’t mind a little bit of drag in stories but this seemed excessive. We’d barely gotten the chance to get to know the characters amidst all the wedding chaos and majority of the emotional build-up in the story up until this point seemed related to the couple getting married. Which is great and all except they weren’t who we were supposed to be reading about.

The budding love between Jacob and Juliet didn’t seem to take place? Like… ever? They just chatted to one another and then BAM. Love hits hard. I mean, if you’re into insta-love and a lacklustre emotional plot line then you’d enjoy this book. Otherwise, it just seemed that nothing much happened and then too much happened too quickly.

While I quite liked the little bit we were shown of Jacob, his role as a single father wasn’t explored much. We met his daughter and… that was about it. Similarly, Juliet was meant to be snarky and wild and a pain in the ass for Jacob. In reality though, they seemed to get along relatively well and Juliet kept crying over the sap of the wedding. She didn’t strike me as the fierce, snarky woman I had been expecting from the synopsis. That’s not to say fierce and snarky people can’t cry at weddings. Rather I was expecting some sarcastic remarks and snark in between the crying. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

Overall, I just did not enjoy this book. Perhaps my hopes were too high from reading Singh’s other works. She’s an absolutely brilliant paranormal writer and still one of my favourite authors. I’ll be sticking to her paranormal stories from now on though.

This is a 2 star from me.

*Arc provided to me by Independent Publishers Group via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.