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

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia – DNF Book Review

Is it just me being super picky or am I having really bad luck with books lately? I thought it was just the books but perhaps I’m not in the mood for this genre, or something? I’m grasping at straws as to why I’ve had some really low book ratings lately. It makes me feel awful to rate them so low but on the other hand… I’m being honest.

I was really looking forward to reading We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. I mean it’s steeped in feminism, latinx own-author cultural influences and what sounded like a really intriguing premise. Ultimately though… it’s just so boring. I’ve been picking this one up and putting it down so many times lately that I’ve finally decided to just put an end to it and finish off with a DNF.

Synopsis:

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society: Primera’s and Segundas. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, respectively. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

The political machinations and rebellion in this book were what had initially drawn my attention, along with the beautifully vibrant cover. Set in a dystopian LatinX society, the stark difference between poverty and wealthy was incredibly clear. I was excited to read about Dani’s role in influencing change and braving the dangers of being a rebel inside the strong hold of the politically prejudiced leaders.

What I got instead? A few small rebellious events on Dani’s behalf and a lot of writing concerning her psyche and conflicted emotional state in the build up to those events. Why should she sacrifice her well-earned, illegally created livelihood for those in the poorest part of the country? Despite her upbringing from that very same area. I mean… I get wanting to be safe but all the internal angst being repeated after ever small rebellious event she conspired in got tiring. Especially as once she had decided to rebel it was like her fears were magically gone? The they’d pop back up again after another 50 pages though… I lost patience haha.

The actual writing was decent in this book (if only the pace being really slow) but I couldn’t connect with the characters and for me that’s a deal breaker in books (almost always). Dani set me on edge. I get that she was trained to be a Primera and that they value above everything else being unemotional, capable women. I understand the feminist angle this book was taking but it felt like the characters were shut inside their little boxes and were incapable of doing anything outside of what they had been ‘trained to do’.

I mean, the character Carmen was trained to be the loving wife and woman who would bear and raise children. Therefore it was seen as almost impossible by Dani that she would ‘critically observe those around her’ simply because she hadn’t been trained to do so. I mean… the toxic environment these women were living in meant that you had to be on your guard. How is it hard to imagine that the Segunda’s would also have their own best interests at heart??? Training does not always override natural instinct.

Anyway, I tried to finish this book but eventually felt like I was taking away time from other books that I was genuinely eager to read and enjoying. I DNF at 50%. If you don’t mind a slow book that is very character driven and enjoy reading about rebellion and dystopian LatinX then I think this book is still one worth trying. The writing is done pretty well and if you end up enjoying the characters then I think you’d enjoy this book overall.

Jen

Throwback Thursday – Talon by Julie Kagawa

Buy it on AMAZON
☆ ☆ ☆ THREE STARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jen

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

First Lines Fridays #1

Hi all!

Welcome to my first ‘First Lines Fridays!” This is a weekly meme for book lovers to judge a book by its opening lines rather than by its cover, its author or its prestige. I saw this on Mani’s Book Corner but was originally hosted by Wandering Words.

Rules:

  1. Choose a book from your shelves/ current read.
  2. Open the book to the first page.
  3. Copy the first line on the page, making sure you don’t give away the book title.
  4. Reveal the book.

First Lines:

At the age of eleven

I fell in love

with death.

I found a gecko

in a dark corner

of a room.

Its lifeless eyes open,

its small bulbous toes

splayed

as if about to leap away.

Do you recognise which book these words come from?

This week’s book is…

Buy it here: AMAZON KOBO B&N

Lottie collects dead creatures and lovingly cares for them, hoping to preserve them, to save them from disintegration. Her father understands—Lottie has a scientific mind, he thinks. Her aunt wants it to stop, and she goes to cruel lengths to make sure it does. 

And her mother? Lottie’s mother died long ago. And Lottie is searching for a way to be close to her.

The Art of Taxidermy is a heartbreaking verse novel exploring love and death, grief and beauty, and the ways we try to make sense of it all. 

Have you read this book? How did you find it? Share your thoughts down below.

Jen