Mini-Reviews: Heartstopper Vol. 1, Super Chill, and Heavy Vinyl

Heartstopper, Vol. 1 by Alice Oseman
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2018
Source: Won in Alyssa’s giveaway!

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

Okay, so I’ve been anticipating Heartstopper since approximately forever, and I finally got the chance to read it when I won Alyssa’s giveaway! I was about 99.9% sure that I would love this book to pieces, and I was correct.

I absolutely loved Charlie and Nick and all of the little interactions that they had. Watching Charlie fall for Nick and Nick fall for Charlie was just… so… cute. This is the most adorable, wholesome friends-to-(not quite yet)-lovers story, and it also does a great job of really subtly addressing a bunch of important topics like consent and how to be a good ally.

I’m so mad that it ended on that cliffhanger because I need to know what happens next.

Super Chill by Adam Ellis
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2018
Source: Borrowed

From former Buzzfeed illustrator Adam Ellis comes a collection of autobiographical comics that follows a year in the artist’s life.

Adam’s comics deal with weightier topics like seasonal affective disorder and struggles with self-esteem, while also touching on the silly and absurd—like his brief, but intense obsession with crystals. With a bright, positive outlook and a sense of humor, Super Chill tells a story that is both highly relatable and intensely personal. 

I’ve been a fan of Adam’s comics since he worked for Buzzfeed, so I was pretty excited to find his book available on Hoopla. I already knew that I liked his art style and his sense of humor, so there wasn’t much of a surprise there. Like with most comic collections like this, there were some that I really enjoyed and some that I didn’t.

The ones I enjoyed were the ones I related to most, like the comics about Gudetama, Dr. Feelbad, and moms with wrapping paper. Some comics seemed to go on a bit long, though, and others I just didn’t really react to. That’s to be expected, though, and I’d still recommend this one if you’ve previously enjoyed Adam’s work.

Heavy Vinyl, Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Source: Borrowed

When Chris joins the staff at her local record store, she’s surprised to find out that her co-workers share a secret: they’re all members of a secret fight club that take on the patriarchy and fight crime!

Starry-eyed Chris has just started the dream job every outcast kid in town wants: working at Vinyl Mayhem. It’s as rad as she imagined; her boss is BOSS, her co-workers spend their time arguing over music, pushing against the patriarchy, and endlessly trying to form a band. When Rosie Riot, the staff’s favorite singer, mysteriously vanishes the night before her band’s show, Chris discovers her co-workers are doing more than just sorting vinyl . . . Her local indie record store is also a front for a teen girl vigilante fight club! 

Follow writer Carly Usdin (director of Suicide Kale) and artist Nina Vakueva (Lilith’s World) into the Hi-Fi Fight Club, where they deliver a rock and roll tale of intrigue and boundless friendship.

Heavy Vinyl is a super fun story about a group of crime-fighting record store employees in late 1990s New Jersey. It’s a great concept and I loved the setting (never thought I’d see an NJ Transit train in a graphic novel, but I did), the representation, and all of the characters. It also gave me a huge rush of nostalgia for the 90s!

The only reason I didn’t give this five stars was that I felt the resolution of the mystery was a little odd. It didn’t make a ton of sense to me, but I also feel like that wasn’t the point of this graphic novel, so I’ll let it slide. I’m excited to read the next volume and also happy that it coincides almost exactly with me finishing this one.

Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good MG recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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WWW Wednesday

It’s time for another WWW Wednesday!

WWW Wednesday is hosted over at Taking on a World of Words and just involves answering the 3 Ws!

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR? Did you do your own WWW Wednesday post today? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I read because the internet told me to

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! This week’s theme is ten books I bought/borrowed because… and I decided to go with books I read because the internet told me to! These are all books that I read (and loved!) that I picked up only because I saw constant posts about them.

An alternate description of today’s post would be “the hype was real.”

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Did you do your own Top Ten Tuesday post today? Feel free to leave your link in the comments and I’ll check it out! Have you read any of these books? What are some books you’ve only picked up because of the hype? Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Source: ARC via publisher

In this coming-of-age romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, scandal and romance collide when an ambitious teen returns to her hometown only to have her plans interrupted after falling for the town’s “bad boy”—a.k.a. her childhood best friend.

Sometimes to find the good, you have to embrace the bad.

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

In case you weren’t aware, Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite authors. I absolutely adore her contemporary romances, and Starry Eyes especially is one of my all-time favorite books. (See below, where there’s a drawing of me holding it.) Chasing Lucky was probably my most-anticipated book for 2020, and it definitely did not disappoint.

As always, the characters in this book felt so real. Josie was dealing with so much — an absent father, a flighty single mother, gossip far beyond what an average teenager should have to handle — and yet she stayed so strong and tried so hard to rise above it. Lucky also had his fair share of problems, ranging from childhood trauma to a savior complex to his own (often exaggerated) rumors, and I loved watching Josie try to navigate her way through all of that to find the real Lucky inside.

There’s a lot of commentary in this book on honesty, trust, and communication, and I loved that. That’s not to say that sometimes the characters didn’t make absolutely terrible decisions or jump to entirely ridiculous conclusions, because what teenagers don’t, but I really loved that, even while all of that was happening, Josie questioned what she was doing and why she was doing it.

I really thought that I’d end up rating this one five stars, so now I’m going to talk about why I didn’t. The biggest reason is that some of the plot points, especially the story line with Evie and her ex, just felt too open at the end. There was a lot of time dedicated to that particular part of the story, and then it just kind of disappeared. I also would have liked a little bit more resolution of Josie’s family problems.

But, overall, this book was amazing. I flew through it, reading huge chunks of the book without even realizing that time was passing. At one point, I had to pause and say (out loud, to my cat), “I just love friends-to-lovers.” If you’ve previously enjoyed Jenn Bennett’s books, or if you’re looking for a good contemporary romance, I’d happily recommend this one.

#wian20: a given/first name

Have you read Chasing Lucky? What’s your favorite YA contemporary romance?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Borrowed

The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife. 

Fun fact: I wasn’t planning to read The Bromance Book Club. Between the title and the synopsis, I really wasn’t interested. But then I saw the cover reveal for the third book in the series and found out it’s about the owner of a cat cafe, and well, here we are. Needless to say, based on that shining one-star rating (the first of the year!), I will not be continuing on with this series.

Unpopular opinion time, because I’m definitely in the minority for this one.

Initially, I didn’t hate this book. I was mostly ambivalent until the halfway point, and then something happened and I just kind of snapped. I want to make it really clear that my main objection to this book is based on my own personal experiences and the bad memories this book brought back, and I can completely understand how people who like second chance romances and books about married couples getting their act together might enjoy this. I was going to try to keep this to a short and sweet mini-review, but the thoughts just kept coming. I’m going to put this very long and very personal rant under a read more tag in case of spoilers.

Click here for a rant.The premise of this book is that Thea and Gavin have been married for three years and it’s just not working. The communication is awful on both sides, with Thea thinking Gavin doesn’t care and Gavin deluding himself into thinking that everything is fine. Thea asks for a divorce. Gavin doesn’t accept it.

The thing is, I’ve been Thea. Not married, but in a long-term relationship of ten years, with our lives entirely built around each other, or, I guess I should say, my life entirely built around his. I’ve had a partner hide from big, uncomfortable conversations, thinking that if we just didn’t address the elephant in the room, it didn’t exist. I’ve had a partner that expected me to carry the whole relationship. I’ve had that “why didn’t you just say you weren’t happy” conversation more times than I can count, and somehow he still “didn’t know” I wasn’t happy. I’ve been accused of “not trying” when all I did for years was try. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve lived the first part of this book, with one difference — I got out. I cut off contact. And Thea might be a fictional character, but I’m so sad for her, because I didn’t even realize how unhappy I was until I moved on with my life. When you’re in a bad relationship, you know it. If your gut is telling you to get out, get out.

Because the thing is, people show you their real selves after you’ve lived together for a while. It’s easy to be polite and helpful and emotionally available for short periods of time, especially if there’s a lot at stake. I can’t tell you how many times my ex told me he’d change, he’d work on himself, he’d do whatever I wanted, we could get married and start a family right now, if only we could get back together. But did he change? No. Of course not. Sure, he’d be nice for a bit, but then he’d go right back to how he’d been, or worse, because he was mad that I’d broken up with him. If I’ve learned one thing in my 29 years on this planet, it’s that people don’t change. You can quit a bad habit. You can’t completely overhaul who you are. Who you’ve been for the last three (or, in my case, ten) years is you, and eventually those personality traits are going to come right back out.

It was little things that Gavin would do that took me right back to that bad relationship. There’s this scene where Thea has two sick toddlers, both of them vomiting (and, side note, why is there so much vomiting in this book?!), and she asks Gavin to grab her some towels. He asks her where they keep the towels, and she looks at him, kind of incredulous, and says something like, “Where we’ve kept the towels as long as we’ve lived here.” And it comes out that Gavin doesn’t even know where the linen closet is. Even after she explains to him exactly where the towels are, he comes back and says there aren’t any in the closet when they’re right there. This is exactly the kind of thing my ex would do and it absolutely infuriated me to read about it.

“You make it sound like things were horrible between us, Thea. They weren’t.”
“Is that the highest standard you aim for? Not horrible?”

Replace “Thea” with “Sara” and you’ve got an exact transcript of probably the last fifteen conversations I had with my ex before I turned off all notifications for him and moved to a different apartment. It’s entirely possible that I’m interpreting all of Gavin’s behavior very differently because of my past experiences, but so many things he did and said came across as manipulative. Like, of course not every minute of the relationship was terrible. That doesn’t mean it was healthy and that doesn’t mean it needs to continue. Can Thea have some agency? Can she make a decision for herself?

More evidence of manipulation:
‣ Gavin must move back into the house and be allowed to kiss Thea every night for a month before he’ll allow her a divorce.
‣ Gavin makes Thanksgiving plans for Thea (without asking!) to hang out with a group of women that constantly berate her, gets mad when he finds out she’d already planned and bought everything to cook her own Thanksgiving dinner, guilts her into attending that event, and even goes so far as to tell her she should have asked him before making plans for herself. After she told him she wants a divorce. After he’d moved out of the house. Of course, this all ends badly when the women (as expected) spend the entire event berating her.
‣ Gavin also refuses to knock on the bedroom door before entering because it’s “his room too,” despite Thea telling him that one of her conditions for him moving back in would be him sleeping in the guest room.

I’m all too familiar with both the Thanksgiving thing and the bedroom thing, so I reacted more strongly to both of those than I think the average reader probably would.

I’m not trying to say that Thea was without her faults. She could have definitely communicated better, especially regarding the main conflict of the book, which isn’t that her husband is manipulative and never helps her, but that she’s been faking her orgasms for the entirety of their marriage. (Though I will say that I think Gavin’s reaction to learning that was a little… over the top.) I think both of the main characters in this book would have benefited from an honest, genuine conversation and a marriage counselor.

I’m also unclear on whether the author knows that there are ways to create conflict and tension that aren’t (a) lying, (b) assumptions and misunderstandings, (c) keeping secrets, and (d) vomiting, because that’s all any of the characters ever do in this book. Well, I guess they have a ton of sex in the second half, but that’s also not without its issues. It’s no wonder Thea never had any orgasms with Gavin because of how absolutely cringey he was in bed, telling Thea to have an orgasm over and over again until she’d lost the mood altogether. Also, he got so pouty when she didn’t have an orgasm, as if it was something she did on purpose! I mean, way to put more pressure on her to have one the next time. No wonder she faked it.

The last thing I want to say is that I had some real traumatic flashbacks when Thea’s sister told her that Gavin was hiding something in the guest room closet, because my ex actually did hide something in the guest room closet. Here I was expecting something bad, and it turned out to be… wait for it… a box of romance novels. God forbid. I wish I would have found a box of romance novels in my guest room closet.

Let me end this rant with two quotes that made me absolutely cringe:
‣ “He looked up with a smile that made Thea’s heart swipe right.” 😬
‣ “You have to find her emotional g-spot.” 🥴
‌ ‌

All of that said, I didn’t hate everything about this book. One thing I appreciated was that the male characters in this book tried to fight against typical gender roles. It was little things, like drinking pumpkin spice lattes and reading romance novels, but for famous athletes, who are so often depicted as almost cavemen in romance novels, it was a nice and refreshing change. I also thought that the premise of the book was great — a group of men reading romance novels in order to save their relationships. I don’t know how much that would actually help in real life, but it was cute that they were willing to try.

Unfortunately, those two small points weren’t enough for me to rate this book any higher than one star, and they definitely aren’t enough for me to recommend it or to continue on with this series. I’m incredibly disappointed, but as I said, I fully realize that my major problems with this book were specific to me and my personal experiences and not anything to do with the book itself.

Have you read The Bromance Book Club? Are there any books you’ve disliked just because they brought back bad memories?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Weekly Update

In case you missed it, here are this week’s blog posts:

I’ve been reading:

Recently acquired:

  • #famous by Jilly Gagnon (blind date with a book)

1 thing this week:

  • I finally got a new phone, so that’s pretty exciting. Other than that, I barely left my apartment.

Song of the week:

How was your week? What’s the best thing you read or listened to? Anything interesting happening in your life? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
Source: Borrowed

In a dramatic account of violence and espionage, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow exposes serial abusers and a cabal of powerful interests hell-bent on covering up the truth, at any cost.

In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family. 

All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance that could not be explained – until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood, to Washington, and beyond. 

This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability and silence victims of abuse – and it’s the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.

Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power – and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook the culture.

So far in 2020, I’ve given the books I’ve read an average of a little over three stars. I’ve been mostly indifferent to what I’ve read, and very few books have blown me away. I didn’t expect much when I picked up Catch and Kill. After all, it’s not like I particularly enjoy reading about rape, sexual assault, or Harvey Weinstein, but this book was incredible.

CATCH AND KILL: an old term in the tabloid industry for purchasing a story in order to bury it

In Catch and Kill, Farrow is relentless. He gives a voice to many of Weinstein’s targets while naming and shaming the seemingly countless people who worked to bury their stories. The conspiracy to hide the many rapes and sexual assaults perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein is more extensive than I’d ever imagined. From police officers to network executives, from attorneys to surveillance teams, the amount of work that went into making sure Weinstein’s actions stayed buried is mind-boggling.

This is a nonfiction book that never quite feels like nonfiction. It’s an amazing story of the struggle to bring down a notorious rapist when the entire media industry seems hell-bent on covering it up. Farrow’s journalistic integrity and refusal to give up this story are so admirable. Because the very thought of what Weinstein did is so sickening, I could never say that I enjoyed this book. But I think it’s a worthy and important read, and I’d give it more than five stars if I could.

Content warning for very matter-of-fact descriptions of rape and sexual assault.

Have you read Catch and Kill? Can you recommend any good investigative reporting books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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