Rating: 4 STARS
How I got this book: Bought
It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .
This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
Review by Sophie.
TW: Physical (domestic) abuse, homophobia, kidnapping, slavery (selling people), death/murder
Rep: F/F romance. Black, lesbian and gay characters
I’ve been wanting to read this for a while and was so glad when we chose it for the Turn the Page Book Club this month. This is my first fairy tale retelling and honestly, I didn’t know what to expect!
“Do not be silent. Raise your voice. Be a light in the dark.”
The book has a really strong opening, and the author does a fantastic job of setting up this dark and cruel, almost dystopian, world where women have no rights, no freedoms, and their only purpose is to serve and obey the men of Lille. In Marseilles, if you’re a woman, your fate is sealed at an annual ball where girls are presented in the image of Cinderella to be chosen as a wife. For these girls, there is no one to turn to and no escape.
We meet our main character, Sophia, sneaking around, hiding from guards and trying to find the girl that she loves. Queer relationships are forbidden in Lille and the two girls face a prison sentence or death if caught. Straight away we learn that Sophia is loyal, headstrong and not afraid to fight for her rights as she tries to convince Erin to flee before the ball.
“I was twelve when I told my parents that I would much rather find a princess than a prince.”
Sophia, like all the other girls her age, is expected to attend the annual ball, so that she can be chosen as a wife. Those who aren’t chosen after the third time are considered forfeit and disappear, never to be seen again. The atmosphere in the story really builds as we begin to see the oppression of Lille's women and hints of something more sinister at play.
“The palace underestimates the resourcefulness of women forced into a dark and dangerous place.”
Soon, Sophia is on the run. Aided by her very sweet friend, Luke, she escapes the ball and seeks refuge in Cinderella's tomb. Here' we're introduced to the mysterious and seductive Constance, who I loved, even though I had my suspicions about her character!
The two then set off on a journey to uncover the truth about the Cinderella story in an attempt to free the women of Lille.
“That you try to flatter me when I have a blade at your neck makes me want to slit your throat and spare the world your ignorance.”
Constance is totally badass, and I actually love her! I love how sassy she is, but also how collected she is too. She always seems to have it together. She’s quirky, fun, loyal and caring, and she’s got style.
Together, Constance and Sophia make a great team, and author does a great job of building their relationship over the course of a relatively short period of time, in a fairly small novel.
When we're introduced to Amina, the sarcasm and constant bickering between her and Constance had me laughing out loud, and I loved it. I really enjoyed how the writer created moments of fun and happiness during dark and difficult times.
“The pockets,” she says. She puts her hands in them and gives a little twirl. “I love pockets.”
I wish there was more of Constance in this story. Yes, she was one of the main characters, but I still kind of feel like I was missing a huge part of her in the book. I wish there was more about how badass she was, and more of what she was doing with her time before Sophia.
The same goes for Amina. I loved her character and her personality, and even though I didn’t agree with all of her actions, I thought her character was brilliant and witty and funny.
The ending was a little predictable, but all in all I loved this queer, feminist story. The writing was strong and compelling, and I loved the dark, twisted plot.
Cinderella is Dead, was a great read and has set the bar for me regarding fairytale re-tellings. I can’t wait to discover others and can only hope they draw me in and capture me as well as this tale did.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
How I got this book: Bought
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda goes to Italy in Arvin Ahmadi's newest incisive look at identity and what it means to find yourself by running away.
Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy--he just didn't think it would end in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right?
Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like second nature... until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now, Amir has to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.
TW: Racism (racial profiling), bullying, homophobic behaviour and language, blackmail
This book has been on my TBR for a while now, and I was really excited to read it. The writing and 'voice' of Amir instantly drew me into the book and his character. He's an instantly likeable narrator, and Ahmadi's writing style is easy to fall into.
That being said, this book didn't really read like a Young Adult novel, or at least not a modern YA. It felt a little more classic and 'grown up' than the typical YA, more so than Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Neither was better or worse than the other. This just felt a little more adult and also hugely autobiographical, which after reading the author's acknowledgements makes sense.
I really liked Amir, his voice and his story are immediately gripping, and it's so easy to understand why, when caught between blackmailing bullies at school and a family he's certain won't accept him, he feels the only solution is to run away.
When Amir finds himself suddenly in Rome, the overwhelm and the feeling of being lost is extremely clear, but I absolutely loved the 'found family' element of the story as Amir makes new, albeit much older, friends and is welcomed into a new circle of people where he's able to be himself for the first time in his life.
“The thing about bigots is they always go out of their way to acknowledge my fabulous existence, when I hardly notice theirs.”
A fantastic thing about Amir is that he's not at all perfect. His decisions are in the heat of the moment, rash and at times disastrous. He's a messy character, but this only serves to make him more realistic as he struggles to find his place in the world. However, it comes with a slight downside in that the plot and character development didn't always feel as though they were moving as much as they could have.
Amir's story takes us across Rome and feels at times like part YA coming-out story and part Italian travel guide as we're taken along to various landmarks and treated to a full tour of Rome, both the tourist attractions and the LGBT+ scene.
Amir's new crowd is flamboyant, with complex characters who bring life and colour to Amir's story and add new depth through their own challenges and relationships.
For me, what made the book really powerful were the interrogation room scenes, which run throughout the novel as Amir and his family recount the events that lead to them being there. Amir's father's scenes were particularly brutal and heartbreaking as he had to deal with being detained and separated from his family while trying to come to terms with the love for his son battling the ideals he'd been taught.
The representation of Iranian culture and characters felt authentic. However, the portrayal of the Italian characters felt a little on-the-nose and cliche. Most of the characters Amir meets in Italy are American and the only Italian characters he meets are stereotypical, somewhat problematic (an unhappy, unfaithful, semi-open relationship) or almost an afterthought, added only to benefit a particular scene or moment.
I had some questions at the end of the novel, particularly the references to the previous time that Amir ran away, which wasn't really elaborated on, and so I would have liked a bit more information there. I did like the ending, but it was much more of a mellow, uplifted feeling than the overjoyed, positivity I'd almost expected.
Overall, I think young and older readers would enjoy this poignant coming-out story as Amir is a character who feels accessible to all ages and walks of life as he reminds us that the most important thing in life is to own your own truth.
"The ship is turning around. It will be a stormy ride, but we are going to make it through this journey together. All of us."
Rating: 4.5 STARS
How I got this book: Bought
Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family's sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt's promises of eternal glory. For years she's pushed away any thought of revenge against the man--now a god--responsible for their deaths.
Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.
The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore's decision to bind her fate to Athena's and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost--and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.
TW: Attempted rape of a child, child marriage, child abuse, murder (incl. children)
We selected this book for the April 2021 Turn The Page book club.
Can I just say that this book really exceeded my expectations?! I haven't read any other books by Alexandra Bracken, and this book seems to have some mixed ratings, but the Hunger Games/Divergent comparisons initially put me off, as dystopian fiction isn't really my thing. Thankfully, while this book reminded me of both, for me at least, it outshone them.
“Scars are tallies of the battles you’ve survived.”
The book begins with a poem from Zeus before we're launched immediately into bloodshed as a new God murders an old God. It's a short but bloody and brutal introduction, setting the tone for the rest of the book.
I absolutely love Greek mythology and had sort of forgotten how much until I started reading this book. And regardless of what happens, Artemis is still my queen!
The first chapter introduces us to Lore, fighting in a boxing ring. She basically kicks ass and is immediately compelling in her ferocity and through her struggle with grief.
“It wasn't that anger was inherently good or bad. It could lend power and drive and focus, but the longer it lived inside you unchecked, the more poisonous it became.”
Lore's character makes this story work. Without her, it wouldn't have gripped me how it did, forcing me to keep reading even though the plot, for at least the first quarter/third of the book, is quite slow and drawn out.
Miles, Lore's best friend and housemate really helped as well. He's funny, sweet and caring, with a sarcastic, edgy side that comes out later, and I love him! He deserves all good things, and I'd have loved some chapters from his POV.
As Lore finds herself face to face with a wounded Athena on her doorstep, she's suddenly plunged back into the world she's spent seven years hiding from, and things get interesting. The entire story flits back and forth across New York as Lore does what she feels is necessary to avenge her family and save Athena.
I really enjoyed the contrast of the new gods and the old gods, and while some of the history, politics, bloodlines etc was a bit confusing, I think the mythology and the backstory it provided added to the story enough to make it less dystopian in style and allowed the fantasy to take a better hold of the story.
What really kept this plot moving was the sheer amount of twists and treachery. Honestly, it got to the point where I expected every single character to betray Lore with their ulterior motives, or to end up murdered themselves. At one point, things got so bad (in a good way) that I was begging Lore to just murder everyone, and had to take a quick emotional support break via a tub of Ben & Jerry's.
“Monsters lived in the shadows. To hunt them, you couldn’t be afraid to follow. And the only way to destroy them was to have the sharper teeth and the darker heart.”
The author did a fantastic job of revealing just a snippet of information, forcing me to keep reading, while never giving too much away. Until when she finally did, it had the most impact. Making it so that I couldn't stop reading.
I was worried about the LGBT+ characters in this book who I was really hoping wouldn't go down the usual, 'let's kill them to hurt the chief character' route. While I don't want to give too much away, I really enjoyed the direction the author took, in a way that was much more compelling than the storyline between Lore and Cas, her childhood best friend. I really didn't like these two characters together at first as Cas seemed to tame some of Lore's wildness and the relationship felt a little forced after 7 years apart.
I did, however, love the ending, which wasn't a cliffhanger (thank the Gods!!) and left me reeling from everything that had happened.
There are some difficult themes dealt with in this book, as outlined in the trigger warnings above, but what the author does well is she uses them to make Lore an advocate for women's rights and a spearhead for change among the bloodlines (districts, factions.....)
“Monsters had fangs, but that was why lionesses were given claws.”
Overall, I really enjoyed the characters, the unexpected twists and deceptions and the brutality of this story which, while painful, felt necessary to the story and in keeping with the darkness of Greek mythology. I think fans of Percy Jackson, The Mortal Instruments, and The Hunger Games would particularly enjoy this diverse feminist fantasy.
“A person alone could be controlled, but a person loved by others would always be under their protection.”
Rating: 4 STARS
Genre: F/F Contemporary Romance
How I got this book: Bought
After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.
Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy... a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle's new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because... awkward.
When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they’re dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family over the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship.
But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?
TW: Cheating (past)
I'm really annoyed at myself for waiting so long to read this!
It's an 'own voices' f/f romance, with lesbian and bisexual rep with influences from Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones, and it was so much fun to read.
“There was only so much chafing a girl could handle, and Elle Jones had reached her limit.”
Darcy and Elle are complete opposites. Meticulous, realistic, and standoffish on one hand and an ever-optimistic, free-spirited astrologer on the other, they're a match made in disaster! A blind date gone wrong, Elle and Darcy get off on completely the wrong foot, neither one expecting to see the other ever again.
But a little white lie grows out of control, and the two soon form a truce through a mutually beneficial fake relationship.
Fake relationship and slow burn, enemies-to-lovers are some of my favourite tropes! I love the tension and chemistry build between two characters who, at first, don't see eye-to-eye and have to fight their feelings for each other.
Both characters are complex and well-developed. Darcy is struggling to cope with heartbreak and her meddling, over-protective younger brother. Elle is trying to make a success of her business while dealing with the constant overshadowing of her family and feeling like a disappointment.
“Elle loved herself, but what a feeling it must be, being loved by someone else exactly as you are, quirks and warts and all. She wouldn't know.”
Elle is definitely my favourite character. I love her carefree, ditzy spirit, which is a brilliant contrast to Darcie's standoffish persona (although she's a complete marshmallow on the inside).
The only thing I wasn't a huge fan of was the misunderstanding towards the end, but I loved the steaminess!
So, if you like grumpy cinnamon rolls and free-spirited optimists, you'll love this sweet and steamy LGBTQ+ romance.
“Life would be a lot better if we all spent a little more time staring at the stars.”
Rating: 4.5 STARS
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Series/Standalone: Love, Austen #1 (can be read as a standalone)
How I got this book: Bought
Emerett “Lake” Lakewood has a healthy ego and a flair for the dramatic. After losing his best friend to marriage—completely crushing his heart—he deems it prudent to distract himself, and what better way than playing cupid?
He’s already got his eye on two young men desperately seeking romance, and he has a plan to hook them up.
Reciting Shakespearean love declarations.
Lake is killing it. Love is positively pulsing in the air. Anyone could see it.
Well, anyone other than Knight, his best friend’s dad, who cautions Lake to stop meddling. To leave love to its natural course.
Lake has always valued Knight’s frankness, but this time he’s wrong. Without him, two hearts might be doomed never to find love.
Besides, what does Knight know about romance? He’s barely dated in all the seven years Lake’s known him. He’s clueless.
Though, there’s a thought. Knight has everything going for him. Sensibility. Kindness. Generosity. And for a forty-four-year-old, he’s—objectively—freaking hot.
Why is he single?
Emerett Has Never Been in Love is another prime example of why Anyta Sunday is one of my absolute favourite feel-good authors.
This book is the first in Anyta Sunday's brand new, Love, Austen series. A series where each book will be a contemporary m/m retelling of a beloved story by Jane Austen. This one was inspired by Emma, one of my favourite Jane Austen characters, and I couldn't wait to get started.
As always, Anyta sucks you in with goofy and naïve but completely loveable characters. Emerett and Knight are quite frankly adorable and a perfect pairing. Emerett is hilarious. He's young and completely hopeless without his best friend, who just got married and left Emerett with nothing to do but play match-maker, with hilarious implications.
Enter Knight, father of Emerett's best friend. He's good-looking, he's single and up until now, Emerett hasn't really noticed him, but Knight has certainly noticed Emerett, not that Emerett has any idea. He's completely clueless when it comes to love...but all that is about to change.
Anyta Sunday writes absolutely brilliant slow-burn romance and watching Emerett and Knight tiptoeing around their feelings in a will they, won't they dance, is equal parts frustrating and satisfying, with a great pay-off when they finally get together.
What's great about this book is that Anyta perfectly captures the comedy of Emma through the supporting characters and all the bad match-making attempts by Emerett.
Overall, this was a really brilliant start to a new m/m romantic comedy series. There' are plenty of laughs, likeable characters and a delicious slow burn.
Rating: 4 STARS
Genre: Contemporary YA
How I got this book: Bought
If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.
If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.
For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.
But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.
Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?
TW: Racism, hate crimes, immigration trauma, loss/grief, PTSD
This book was our sixth Turn The Page book club selection.
The story centres around two rival Vietnamese-American families who run opposing restaurants across the street from each other, with two teens who, while attending the same school, can't be friends because of a family feud that no one knows anything about or what started it.
What I really loved about this book was how the author combined a really sweet teen love story with a harrowing tale of grief, loss and trauma, while also highlighting the effects of racism in the community and the struggles of being forced to leave your home and make a new home in a strange country that isn't always welcoming.
Loan Le does a fantastic job of making the reader really feel for these characters and what they've been through, and are still dealing with, while also delivering a fun story full of hope for the future.
The characters were definitely my favourite part of the book because they're so relatable and realistic.
Bao is our hero, he's funny, charming and completely lost. He isn't sure what he should do with his life; he has no drive and feels like a bit of a letdown at school, with his friends, and at home.
Linh is a hard-working, over-achiever with a passion and talent for art, something her parents don't understand or approve of. She's trying to pursue her passion in secret while sparing every moment to help her parents as they struggle to compete with the restaurant across the street and the hurtful rumours being spread about them.
Linh and Bao are enemies, but they don't know why. Their shared past is full of secrets and pain that Linh and Bao struggle to uncover after unexpectedly spending time together. But as the secrets and pressure mount, things crumble around them.
Linh and Bao both struggle with being true to themselves, and it was a great journey to see their flaws on full display and to watch as they grew and learned to trust themselves, and each other, as the story progressed.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Pho Love Story, and while it was more character-driven than plot-driven, there was plenty to keep the pace moving; from the struggles faced by just Linh and Bao to their parent's struggles and those of the community.
The author made this book feel really culturally vibrant, and with the vast array of foods, the language and the setting, the locations, characters and smells came to life.
I also loved the mix of Vietnamese and English when reading this and, as an English-only speaker, I found it really easy to understand the gist of what was being said. It didn't detract at all from the story, only made it more immersive.
I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a sweet but emotional YA rom-com full of realistic, relatable characters and incredible food!
Rating: 4 Stars!
How I got this book: Gift
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can't get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school's resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He's determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Ah, this book hit me right in the feels!
"You don't need anyone's permission to be you, Yads”
Cemetery Boys is the story of Yadriel, a young trans man who, after losing his mother, and his number one supporter, is fighting for recognition as a brujo in his very traditional community. With the help of his best-friend Maritza, he performs a ritual that sets a chain of events in motion that he never saw coming, accidentally summoning the wrong spirit and entwining their fate.
I loved the beginning of this book. Aiden paints a beautiful picture filled with Latinx culture. The imagery is beautiful and the interweaving of Spanish with English made this book a truly cultural experience and reignited my desire to learn Spanish.
The tension at the beginning of the book is perfect and builds into something palpable and almost dangerous as the book progresses and new dangers and obstacles arise.
“You know who you are, I know who you are, and our Lady does, too." She said with fierce conviction. "So screw the rest of them!" Maritza grinned at him. "Remember why we're doing this.”
I immediately loved the obvious love and friendship between Maritza and Yadriel as she helps him perform the ritual that will grant him the powers of the brujo, without getting caught. Maritza is supportive in all the right ways, without ever trying to force Yadriel into doing things he doesn't want to. She's a great person to have in your corner.
Yadriel is such a fantastic character to root for, made even more powerful because this book is own voices. His moving and emotional struggle to prove himself and then to accept who he is, despite what others think, is poignant and makes for an eye-opening read with a perfect fantasy twist.
"Queer folks are like wolves," Julian told him. "We travel in packs."
Then, we meet Julian, a riot of a character who has a tough, no-nonsense exterior at first, but proves himself to be a complete puppy with boundless energy, enthusiasm and acceptance for all. Julian is my favourite character in this book. He's perfect for Yadriel, complimenting Yadriel's reserve with plenty of daring and excitement. He's loving and delivers some of the deepest insight in this book, both for Yadriel and for the reader; while delivering what I felt was one of most powerful scenes in the entire book; full of raw, unguarded emotion.
Watching Yadriel and Julian grow closer and push each-other was the genuine delight of this book, and so enjoyable. Until finally we got an ending that fit the book perfectly.
“You ready?" Julian asked, a curious look on his devastatingly handsome face.
"No," Yadriel confessed, his voice tight.
Julian grinned. "Do it anyways.”
My only very slight issue was that the plot and the 'big twist' were really predictable BUT because the tension and the build-up between Yadriel and Julian built so beautifully, and the ever-looming deadline to their journey was constantly at the forefront of the story, it more than made up for it.
Overall, I loved the setting, the scenery, the culture, the language and the relationships, even the ones that weren't so great as they provided a brilliant contrast for the strong, healthy relationships. I also loved the magic and how it completely entwined with the everyday.
I'd highly recommend Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas to anyone looking for a truly diverse and powerful paranormal YA.
“Julian's chuckle was wet. "Valió ... la pena."
Rating: 3.5 Stars
How I got this book: Bought - Fairyloot
Sinister sorcery. Gallows humor. A queer romance so glorious it could be right out of fae legend itself. Master of One is a fantasy unlike any other.
Rags is a thief—an excellent one. He's stolen into noble's coffers, picked soldier's pockets, and even liberated a ring or two off the fingers of passersby. Until he's caught by the Queensguard and forced to find an ancient fae relic for a sadistic royal sorcerer.
But Rags could never have guessed this "relic" would actually be a fae himself—a distractingly handsome, annoyingly perfect, ancient fae prince called Shining Talon. Good thing Rags can think on his toes, because things just get stranger from there...
With the heist and intrigue of Six of Crows and the dark fairy tale feel of The Cruel Prince, this young adult fantasy debut will have readers rooting for a pair of reluctant heroes as they take on a world-ending fae prophecy, a malicious royal plot, and, most dangerously of all, their feelings for each other.
I have so many mixed feelings about this book, and I've been torn over how to rate it. So, I'm going to start at the beginning.
I've been excited to read this book ever since I first heard of it, and so I jumped at FairyLoot's December box once I knew it was inside. I imagined The Cruel Prince meets Six of Crows, which just sounded fantastic.
I started reading with high expectations. I loved the idea of a heist-style plot and the unexpected LGBT romance, and that a queer couple wrote it was really exciting.
In the beginning, I was not at all disappointed. The prologue was unexpectedly brutal, but it was incredibly gripping and had me hooked immediately.
Then, in chapter one, we meet Rags. He's a cocky, sarcastic thief from the slums who's found himself on the end of a job gone wrong, bruised and battered in the royal dungeon, trying to plot his escape.
I love Rags. He's the perfect incarnation of the loveable rogue. A sweet-heart with a rough, sardonic exterior and I instantly wanted the best for him.
"Daring a ravens, rich as magpies."
As Rags sets off on his journey, I flew through the pages. The pace was brilliant, the deception and trickery gripping, and that puzzles and challenges that Rags has to face are really interesting.
I was convinced that this book was going to be a 5* read for me.
The next character we meet is Tal, affectionately referred to by Rags as Shiny and, even though something between them felt a little 'off' for a while, I grew to enjoy their connection and the scenes they shared.
However, shortly after this point, the narrative completely changed and split into multiple POV's. After 20 chapters of focusing solely on Rag's perspective, it felt really jarring to suddenly have POV chapters from completely new characters.
The pacing also took a bit of a nosedive from here and I sped through to find Rag's chapters, which were easily the ones I enjoyed the most.
A couple of the characters, to me, felt a little stiff and lacking depth and it took a while for me to settle back into the story.
Saying that though, as I neared the end of the story, the pace, the danger and the intrigue picked up again to where, upon finishing the book, I'm back to feeling how I did at the beginning and really wanting to read the next book (although it hasn't been confirmed yet) to find out what happens next and how it all plays out. (Read: I really want Rags to get the happily ever after he deserves.)
Can you see what I meant now about not knowing how to rate this one?
So, I've decided to go for 3.5 stars because I loved Rags and enjoyed the plot itself but just felt that the pace took a nosedive once the additional POV's were introduced.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: MM Romance/Christmas/Fantasy/Comedy
Series/Standalone: A Snow Globe Christmas #1 (Can be read as a standalone)
How I got this book: Bought on Audible
Despite growing up in a family of villains, I’d rather curl up and read than commit crimes. When I get coerced by my brother into helping him rob a bank, I run into August, my childhood crush—also known as Chrono, the city’s greatest superhero. He’s sexy, sweet, and suddenly he’s asking me to Thanksgiving with his parents. It’s probably because he doesn’t realize that I’m Leviathan, a villain with the power of telekinesis. And I can’t tell him because he’d never forgive me and would stop doing things like cooking for me—wait, maybe that would be a good thing, since he’s a terrible cook. It doesn’t help that my parents think they’re the ultimate villains and won’t stop getting in my way, although they can’t even steal toilet paper without getting caught.
But when real supervillains (not the wannabe kind that I grew up with) start targeting August, I might be forced to show everyone who I truly am: a slightly warped and snarky man who’d really rather read a book than save anything… besides August. I’ll tear this world apart just to get another glimpse of him in those glasses and spandex suit. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep him safe, even though it means exposing my true identity. Luckily, August still cares about me, proving that even a villain and a hero can fall in love. Hopefully, we’ll be able to save the world in time for Christmas.
Fans of TJ Klune will devour A Villain for Christmas.
I started this book on a whim because of an Audible recommendation.
It's narrated by Michael Lesley, one of my favourite narrators; he's a sassy and comedic genius who effortlessly brings characters to life.
About a minute in, I had to go back and check that the author wasn’t actually TJ Klune because, honestly; it sounds like him to the point where I wondered if it was intentional, especially when the protagonist begs the villain to stop monologuing (which is a recurring joke in Klune’s Tales from Verania series).
The absurd characters and Lesley’s exaggerated narration drew me into the story immediately. He's a perfect Landon, with his fun, sassy wit. It’s the perfect combination of hilarious and completely heartfelt, and his delivery had me in stitches from the beginning.
Landon is a super-villain with a secret - he hates being bad! He's also crazy powerful and has a huge crush on the city's biggest superhero.
Landon is an absolute sweetheart. He's hilariously funny and sarcastic, but he wears his heart on his sleeve and delivers some truly emotional and heartbreaking scenes in the book.
August is loads of fun. He's also extremely sweet, and so adorable when Landon brings out his 'bad' side. Together, they're hilarious and once you add in the random, diverse cast of superheroes, villains, and the hairless cat, A Villain for Christmas will have you laughing out loud from start to finish.
I admit I didn't expect a lot from the plot, but it's actually really enjoyable. There are a couple of great twists and surprises that really drove the plot forward and kept me listening.
However, I’m not really sure that you would call this a Christmas story, other than it taking place in December and featuring a small Thanksgiving and Christmas scene, it's very much a funny superhero story, but it works.
Anyone who loves outrageous, OTT characters that make you laugh out loud will love A Villain for Christmas.
In particular, if you've read TJ Klune's The Extraordinaries and would love a more 'adult' superhero/super-villain rom-com, this checks all the boxes.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary YA
How I got this book: ARC via NetGalley and UCLan Publishing
When his dad moves out, Jamie tries to fill his shoes. He needs to become head of the household – right? With his mum dealing with the aftermath of toxic masculinity at its finest, and his little sister Bex struggling to understand what’s going on, Jamie has to navigate the choppy waters of what he thinks it means to be a man.
Having learned that the best way to deal with feelings is to push them down as far as they’ll go, he finds help from an unlikely source. Drinking makes him feel invincible – Super Jim can take on anything – and anyone… But how long will it be before this particular well of wisdom runs dry? And what will it take for Jamie to realise that help was at hand all along?
From the author of the Geekhood series, the first of which was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Award, comes Smashed by Andy Robb. Funny, touching, with a narrator readers’ will instantly love, Smashed is a rollercoaster exploration of young masculinity. The story would appeal to fans of Me Mam, Me Dad, Me and Noah Can’t Even.
TW: domestic violence, emotional abuse, manipulation, blackmail, kidnapping, depression, teen alcoholism, sexism.
The main reason I was drawn to this book was that it was recommended to fans of Noah Can't Even, which I adored.
It becomes very clear, very quickly, that this book centres around domestic violence. Jamie is struggling to cope after The Night Everything Went Weird when his mum got The Rainbow Eye and his dad started sleeping downstairs. He now finds himself as 'man' of the house, responsibilities stacking up as he has to mediate his mum and dad's relationship, take care of his younger sister and bear the 'Weight of Manhood'.
I really liked Jamie at first, he's a compelling character, with an inner voice that draws you in and makes you hope everything will work out for the best.
Just thinking of Bex saying those words is enough for the recently installed radiator in my throat to get hot and my eyes to blur with the sting of salty tears.
But, there came a point where his inner voice stopped being an almost 16-year-old boy and instead took the tone of a grown man trying far too hard to be funny and falling completely short (to put it simply, the voice of the author overtook Jamie's voice, and it wasn't enjoyable). When he describes his English teacher's breasts as 'pendulous milk tanks' I almost threw up, threw the book, and stopped reading.
The writing reeks of sexism, even though the supposed point is to make a stand against toxic masculinity.
So, I was at the point where I felt convinced I wouldn’t finish this book. The choice of language, the toxic masculinity and the blatant sexism annoyed and disgusted me, but something was compelling about Jamie and his plight that almost forced me to keep reading.
I blink twice, before smearing on the smile I rehearsed in the mirror. "Oh, you know me, Becky" I nod. "I'm fine."
Jamie finds that the 'Weight of Manhood' becomes harder and harder to carry, but he's got no choice. His mum needs him, his little sister needs him, and he doesn't know how he feels about his dad. Add to this a girlfriend he feels is smothering him, Jamie needs an escape, and his mum's drinks cabinet is right there...ready for the taking.
There were a few things in this book that made me cringe. If it hadn't been for the sexist language (I mean, for god's sake, he literally gives a girl the nickname 'nipples' at one point), the almost forgiveness for unforgivable acts and some really stupid decisions that would NEVER EVER HAPPEN.
At no point would you EVER freely allow your young child to go off with a man that a.) hit you, b.) stole from you, c.) basically kidnapped your child, d.) has previously used said child to manipulate/blackmail you and the child in question.
You'd literally call the police and keep the man as far away from your children as possible.
The secondary characters do add a lot to the story. Jamie's best friend is a great character, and I'd actually love for him to have his own story. His girlfriend is sweet and his little sister is both adorable and heart-breaking as she struggles to understand what's happening at home.
One thing I can say for Andy Robb is that he can write a villain with scary accuracy. I held my breath through the entirety of Chapter 30 and wanted nothing more than to see Jamie's dad behind bars.
The pacing also is fantastic. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, watching with wide eyes as Jamie's life crashes and burns around him.
Overall, Smashed is a heart-breaking journey of a young boy who spirals out of control as he attempts to deal with the aftermath of domestic violence and to come to terms with what it truly means to be a man.
I can't deny that it was compelling, but I think that some language choices and messages left a lot to be desired.
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About Kayleigh (She/Her)
Book addict, film mad, music lover, business owner, writer and mum (not necessarily in that order), living in the UK.
About Sophie (She/Her)
Sophie loves books (obviously). She has a passion for photography and spotting wildlife, and is interested in anything made with passion and creativity.
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5 Stars - AMAZING!!
4.5 Stars - Almost perfect!
4 Stars - I really loved it
3.5 Stars - I liked it alot
3 Stars - I liked it
(I don't typically review books that I rate below 3 stars)
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