ARC Review: Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee

Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 14, 2017
Source: ARC from publisher

The only thing worse than not being able to tell your best friend you’re head over heels in love with him? Having to smile and nod when he enlists your help to ensnare the girl of his dreams. 

Braylen didn’t even want to go to Lennon Pryor’s epic graduation-night party, but when Fynn begs her to be his “wingwoman,” she can’t deny him. Talking up her BFF—how he’s magic behind a camera, with a killer sense of humor and eyelashes that frame the most gorgeous blue eyes in the history of forever—is easy. Supporting his efforts to woo someone so completely wrong for him? Not so much. 

Fynn knows that grad night is his last shot before leaving for college to find true love. And thanks to Bray, he gets his chance with the beautiful Katy Evans. But over the course of the coolest party of their high school careers, he starts to see that perhaps what he really wants has been in front of him all along. Bray’s been his best friend since kindergarten, though, and he’d rather have her in his life as a friend than not at all. 

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains one epic party, complete with every high-schoolers-gone-bad shenanigan, and two best friends whose sexual chemistry is off the charts…if only they’d succumb to it.

After enjoying Molly E. Lee’s Ask Me Anything a few weeks ago, I was pretty excited to get an email offering Love in the Friend Zone. Friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes, but I just couldn’t get on board with this one. I suppose I should say that this isn’t necessarily a bad book, it just wasn’t for me.

The first thing I want to mention is that there’s a whole lot of drama in this book with very little actual plot. The entirety of the plot is that Fynn has asked for Braylen’s help in hooking up with the girl of his dreams, not realizing that Braylen has been secretly pining after him for years. That’s it. That’s the plot.

Nearly the entire book takes place over a single evening — a party, to be exact — and it’s pretty much just one cliche after another that keeps these kids from getting together. In general, I don’t have a problem with tropes. What I have a problem with is when a book relies on one cliche after another to move its non-existent plot along, and this book was full of cliches. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a scene where the lights go out, and I could have told you exactly what was going to happen because I’ve read it so many times.

Another thing I want to talk about is the friends-to-lovers trope itself. When it’s done right, I absolutely adore it. Some examples of books that have done it right are Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi, Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, and Not So Nice Guy by R.S. Grey. The thing that sets these books apart is that the progression from friends to lovers feels natural. It’s not like a switch flips one day and both people are like, “whoa, I love you, where did that come from.” Here, I’d say that, for maybe 90% of the book, Fynn is entirely focused on a different girl, a popular girl nicknamed “Killer Boobs” who has a history of bullying his best friend. (So, basically a classic teenage girl stereotype.) Am I really to believe that Fynn just suddenly loses his feelings for this girl in favor of his best friend, who’s been there all along?

I feel like I can’t really say any more about this book without spoiling the whole thing, so I think I’ll just end by saying that I was really disappointed by this book. I think I would have liked it a lot more as a teenager than I did as an adult.


Have you read Love in the Friend Zone? What’s your favorite friends-to-lovers book?
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Book review: Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart

Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 14, 2006
Source: Purchased

At the Manhattan School of Art and Music, where everyone is unique and everyone is ‘different’, Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. It doesn’t help that she’s known as the girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of her favourite superhero, just so she won’t have to talk to anyone. Her best (and only real) friend is there for her, but that’s only if she’s not busy – she’s always busy! 

It’s no surprise that Gretchen isn’t exactly successful in the boy department. Her ex-boyfriend is a cold-fish-sometimes-flirty ex who she can’t stop bumping into. Plus, she has a massive crush on a boy named, Titus but is too scared to make the first move. One minute he seems like a sensitive guy, the next, he’s a completely different person when he’s with his friends. She can’t seem to figure boys out!

Gretchen has one wish: to be a fly on the wall in the boy’s locker room. What are boys really like? What do they talk about?

I can’t review this one without spoilers, sorry.

I’ve had Fly on the Wall on my TBR since it came out thirteen years ago. I never quite know what I’m going to get when I read an E. Lockhart book. There are some books by her that I’ve liked (like her Ruby Oliver series) and others that I really haven’t (like Genuine Fraud). It seems like a lot of her books have really mixed reviews, and Fly on the Wall is no different.

Let me start by saying that this is one of the easiest books that I’ve read in the last few months. It took very little effort to read it, and before I knew it, I was done. I don’t think I spent more than two hours reading the whole thing. There were parts of it that I really liked. The ending, in particular, was very cute. I also liked Titus and the way he stood up for Brat, and everything that happened with Malachy and Katya. All of this is why I gave it two stars and not one.

Everything else, though? Weird at best. Incredibly problematic at worst.

This is where the spoilers really get going.I’m going to be blunt here. You see how, on the cover, it says in big, bold letters, “How one girl saw EVERYTHING” — well, everything is referring to penises. I think it’s really important to just put that out there. A good chunk of this book is made up of the fly version of Gretchen sitting on a locker room wall and ogling her classmates’ penises. She flies up close to one guy to get a good view. She makes comments about penis size and compares her ex to his classmates. It’s all very creepy.

As if that isn’t weird enough, Gretchen also decides to grade all of the boys based on their butts. Like… letter grades. How odd. There are full descriptions of so many butts. It was like being inside Tina Belcher’s mind.

I mean, I don’t really have a problem with teenage girls exploring their sexuality. I think it’s great that this book talks about how Gretchen gets turned on when she sees a naked guy, how it’s a totally different experience than seeing her classmates clothed. Especially in 2006, this wasn’t really a thing in YA books. But let’s be honest here for a second — these guys have no idea that one of their female classmates is creepily staring at them. I could not get over how weird and creepy it was for this girl to be nonchalantly examining her classmates’ penises and butts without their knowledge and not finding anything wrong with it. I would’ve hoped for this to be challenged at least a little bit, but nope. Gretchen just resumes her normal daily activities one day and it’s like none of this ever happened.

Can I also talk for a second about two MAJOR plot points that were never resolved? First, we have Carlo and Xavier who get bullied for taking an African dancing class instead of a sport that the other boys in the grade deem acceptable. I can definitely see this happening. Gretchen witnesses them being made fun of and even beaten up for it, and then… nothing happens. It’s totally forgotten about, despite multiple scenes featuring these characters. I didn’t necessarily need justice, but something would have been nice. And then, my biggest question while reading this book, what exactly was happening to Gretchen’s body while she was a fly? Was she just kind of in a coma? If she wasn’t eating or drinking, how did she stay alive? How did she even become a fly? How did she get turned back into a human? SO MANY QUESTIONS. NO ANSWERS.

One thing that I didn’t really understand was the slang in this book. Literally every character refers to penises as “gherkins” and breasts as “biscuits.” Gherkins… okay, I guess that makes sense. But BISCUITS? It took me some time to figure out what that was referring to. It was just… so weird. What was the point? It was almost like either the author or the publisher was afraid to use any anatomically correct terms (or actual slang words) and had to make up these weird food-related words for an entire school to use.

I don’t know that I can really recommend this one as anything other than a very odd, very fast read.

#killingthetbr: three months on shelf


Have you read Fly on the Wall? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: How Fascism Works by Jason Stanley

How Fascism Works by Jason Stanley
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Fascist politics are running rampant in America today–and spreading around the world. A Yale philosopher identifies the ten pillars of fascist politics, and charts their horrifying rise and deep history.

As the child of refugees of World War II Europe and a renowned philosopher and scholar of propaganda, Jason Stanley has a deep understanding of how democratic societies can be vulnerable to fascism: Nations don’t have to be fascist to suffer from fascist politics. In fact, fascism’s roots have been present in the United States for more than a century. Alarmed by the pervasive rise of fascist tactics both at home and around the globe, Stanley focuses here on the structures that unite them, laying out and analyzing the ten pillars of fascist politics–the language and beliefs that separate people into an “us” and a “them.” He knits together reflections on history, philosophy, sociology, and critical race theory with stories from contemporary Hungary, Poland, India, Myanmar, and the United States, among other nations. He makes clear the immense danger of underestimating the cumulative power of these tactics, which include exploiting a mythic version of a nation’s past; propaganda that twists the language of democratic ideals against themselves; anti-intellectualism directed against universities and experts; law and order politics predicated on the assumption that members of minority groups are criminals; and fierce attacks on labor groups and welfare. These mechanisms all build on one another, creating and reinforcing divisions and shaping a society vulnerable to the appeals of authoritarian leadership.

By uncovering disturbing patterns that are as prevalent today as ever, Stanley reveals that the stuff of politics–charged by rhetoric and myth–can quickly become policy and reality. Only by recognizing fascists politics, he argues, may we resist its most harmful effects and return to democratic ideals.

If I’m being completely honest, I have absolutely no idea how to review this book. I added it to my library wish list — where I track books I want to read, just not immediately — shortly after it came out. I happened to be scrolling through Overdrive one day when I saw it was available as an audiobook, so I figured I might as well listen.

And the book is fine. Really, it is.

But is it good?

I’m not sure.

As I was listening, I was reminded of both Madeleine Albright’s Fascism: A Warning and Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die, both of which I read last year. I even thought of Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen, which touches on the same topics (sort of), but in a much more engaging way. What I’m getting at, I guess, is that this book wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before.

As a primer for fascist politics, it’s fine, if a little… dramatic. I understand what Stanley is getting at, but it seems that any political ideology that he doesn’t agree with could be considered “fascist,” and although I am in agreement with his politics, it still didn’t sit right with me. I don’t think that conservative politics are inherently fascist. They’re just conservative.

In the end, if you want a pretty basic introduction to fascism, check out this book. If you’re looking for something deeper, you can probably give it a pass.

Have you read How Fascism Works? Do you like political nonfiction?
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ARC review: Midnight Radio by Iolanda Zanfardino

Midnight Radio by Iolanda Zanfardino
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Source: ARC via Edelweiss

An intriguingly interwoven tale of four lives changed by a mysterious late-night radio broadcast that wakes them up from their mundane existences. Each tale speaks to different social issues without pandering to a political agenda: LGBT+ rights, racism, social network addiction, and the difficult decision between settling down versus following your dreams. Each tale is told in a vivid, polychromatic illustration style that flows from one character to another and back again in a uniquely identifiable fashion.

I downloaded Midnight Radio from Edelweiss on a whim. Not having read anything from this author or publisher before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I figured that a 160-page graphic novel was pretty much risk-free.

The first thing I want to say is that I’ve never read a graphic novel with this kind of art before, but I really enjoyed it! I also really enjoyed how each of the four stories was illustrated in a different color. It really helped me keep track of what was going on in which story and it clearly differentiated scene changes, both definite pluses.

Of the four stories, I think Stephen’s was my favorite. Stephen is Insta-famous, with hundreds of thousands of followers that dote on his every word (or, I guess, photo). Behind the scenes, Stephen is dealing with family and friendship issues and, for reasons we never quite find out, never speaks. I would have loved to read an entire graphic novel just about Stephen. (Not that the other three stories weren’t also good.)

What kept me from rating this five stars was two things. First, the stories do come together at the end, but I wanted more from it. Second, I would have liked to have gone a little more in depth with these characters. I feel like we only scratched the surface of their lives and could have gone so much further.

All in all, I really enjoyed this one! I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it if you’re looking for a good graphic novel.


Have you read Midnight Radio? Is it on your TBR?
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ARC review: Blackbird, Vol. 1 by Sam Humphries

Blackbird, Vol. 1 by Sam Humphries
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Source: ARC via Edelweiss

Nina Rodriguez knows a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals is hiding in Los Angeles. When a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past (and her demons) to get her sister back and reclaim her life. Don’t miss the first collection of the smash-hit neo-noir fantasy series from fan-favorite writer SAM HUMPHRIES (Harley Quinn, Nightwing) and red-hot artist JEN BARTEL (Mighty Thor)!

I noticed this graphic novel when I was scrolling through Edelweiss one day. The cover alone made me download it. I mean, the color palette! The artwork! Amazing. I’m a sucker for this kind of art style.

I read this book in one sitting. It’s an interesting enough premise. We start out with adult Nina working as a bartender, addicted to pills, and constantly arguing with the sister she lives with. It seems that Nina can’t get her life together and it all goes back to a traumatic event from her childhood, an earthquake that everyone she knows insists was a normal event but that she knows was supernatural. Turns out there’s a secret society of paragons living in plain sight in modern Los Angeles. Nina has been noticing their existence ever since the earthquake, but not really understanding what was happening.

The story handles the fantasy world well enough. It’s set up in a very basic manner, but this is only the first volume, so I have faith that it’ll be expanded in the future. The issue I took with this story was Nina’s “real” life. At the beginning of the book, Nina is struggling with her addiction. She’s constantly thinking about more pills, more pills, more pills. Then, all of a sudden… she just isn’t. The story surrounding her family and her childhood also felt very repetitive. I get it, okay. Her mom died, her family thinks she’s crazy, she pretty much raised herself. It’s all very sad. I didn’t need to be reminded of it every few pages.

I’ll end on a positive note — if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you probably know that I love cats. (And if you didn’t, now you do.) Sharpie was easily one of the best parts about this book for me. Just look at him.


#romanceopoly: kickass lane

Have you read Blackbird? What’s the last urban fantasy you read?
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ARC Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

I almost always love Christina Lauren books, so I was very excited to see The Unhoneymooners pop up on Netgalley. After I requested it, I kind of forgot that I had it until about three days before its release, when I panicked and started reading it immediately. Luckily, this book was very fun and I read it in two sittings. The 432 pages honestly just flew by.

I always love Christina Lauren’s heroines. They’re usually goofy, clumsy, and often embarrass themselves. But they’re also confident, intelligent, and just the right amount of snarky. Olive is no exception. She has a bit of a reputation for being prickly, but she’s just honest. She doesn’t put up with any nonsense. I could probably learn a thing or two from her.

It’s not just their heroines that I love, though. Their heroes are great, too. Aside from a few rather frustrating scenes, Ethan was a great love interest. While he initially came off as kind of stand-offish (or even rude), once he and Olive got over their differences and actually talked, he was a great guy. I loved how particular he was about the food he’d eat because SAME.

I loved the way the relationship developed between Olive and Ethan. Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes, and Christina Lauren did it perfectly here. The teasing, the banter, and the turn to romantic feelings was done so well. Another of my favorite tropes? Fake dating. Watching Olive and Ethan pretend to be newlyweds while being so uncomfortable about it was great. I loved it.

So, why not five stars? There were a few things that didn’t sit quite right with me, but I think that getting into them would be kind of spoilery. I will say that they were still small enough issues that I flew through this book and ended up loving it. I’d highly recommend this to anybody looking for a cute enemies-to-lovers romance.


Previously: AutoboyographyDating You/Hating YouJosh and Hazel’s Guide to Not DatingLove and Other WordsMy Favorite Half-Night StandRoomies


#killingthetbr: 4 months on shelf


Have you read The Unhoneymooners? Is it on your TBR?
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Book Review: Dearest Clementine by Lex Martin

Dearest Clementine by Lex Martin
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 17, 2014
Source: Freebie

Twenty-year-old Clementine Avery doesn’t mind being called bitchy and closed off. It’s safe, and after being burned by her high school sweetheart and stalked by a professor her freshman year of college, safe sounds pretty damn good.

Her number one rule for survival? No dating. That is until she accidentally signs up for a romance writing class and needs material for her latest assignment. Sexy RA Gavin Murphy is more than happy to play the part of book boyfriend to help Clem find some inspiration, even if that means making out … in the name of research, of course.

As Gavin and Clem grow closer, they get entangled in the mystery surrounding a missing Boston University student, and Clem unwittingly becomes a possible target. Gavin tries to show Clem she can handle falling in love again, but she knows she has to be careful because her heart’s at stake … and maybe even her life.

DEAREST CLEMENTINE is a stand-alone novel with two companion novels. This New Adult romance is recommended for readers 18+ due to mature content.

I don’t give away any of the major plot twists in this review, but there are some spoilers.

Oh dear. It’s time for another negative review. I wanted to love this book. I really did. Once upon a time, it was recommended by Krista & Becca Ritchie. It was a recommended new adult book for my Romanceopoly reading challenge. It has a 4.11 average on Goodreads and 4.6 average on Amazon. Did I read a different book than everybody else? I don’t even know where to start.

I guess the first thing I want to say is that if you’re not okay with women constantly being referred to as sluts, whores, skanks, and prostitutes, you should probably avoid this book. I have never understood why women have to make these kind of comments about each other, and this book has characters doing it in both a loving way (weird) and a negative way (just inappropriate). It was so odd because Clementine’s roommate, Jenna, is almost celebrated for having constant sex with her boyfriend, but other women in the book are disparaged for it. I get that you hate your crush’s ex, but is it really necessary to talk about her like that? (Answer: No, it’s not.)

The next thing I want to talk about is the whole publishing aspect. I mean, I’m not even a writer, but I’m pretty sure the way publishing is talked about in this book is not at all realistic. Like “oh my professor really liked this story I wrote so he got me published.” WHAT? In what universe does a random professor at a random university have that much influence? Or “a blogger with a big following stumbled across my book and it became an instant bestseller.” It’s nice to think that one blogger could have that much influence, but it’s just not realistic.

I also didn’t feel much of a connection at all between the main characters. I’m pretty sure that Clementine and Gavin only start hooking up because they both think the other is hot. Which is totally fine (and at least realistic) but then don’t have them be “in love” a few chapters later. They hardly even talk! Just because Gavin carried drunk Clementine home from a bar one time doesn’t mean that they know each other.

Now let’s move on to the mystery. This is the most ridiculous mystery I have ever read. The disappearance of a student is something that happens, sure. But, honestly, the perpetrator was blindingly obvious from the beginning of the book. I almost expected the twist to be that this particular character didn’t commit the crime, because there were about twelve thousand hints dropped that he did.

And Clementine’s family? Their dynamics didn’t make any sense to me. Supposedly Clementine is an heiress to a financial mogul father and famous fashion designer mother. Her family cut her off for some vague reasons that I completely did not believe, but nobody in her family knew that she was struggling financially. I mean… it just didn’t make sense. Why did they cut her off? What really happened? How did nobody notice?

The only saving grace in this book was that Gavin wasn’t the typical broody jerk love interest. In general, he was a really kind, patient, and understanding. He didn’t pressure Clementine to do anything she wasn’t ready for and seemed like he genuinely tried to be a good guy. That said, the way he expected full honesty from Clementine while refusing to tell her why he was spending so much time with his ex (and giving a pretty unrealistic reason for his ex randomly being half-naked in his dorm room) was totally unfair.

All in all, this is a pretty stereotypical new adult book. It falls into a lot of the common new adult tropes without adding anything new to the genre. I can’t say that I enjoyed reading it at all, but at least it’s off my TBR now.

#romanceopoly: taxi
#killingthetbr: 1 year, 1 month on shelf


Have you read Dearest Clementine? Do you read new adult books?
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