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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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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Mini-Reviews: Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, Little Moments of Love, & Nimona

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Sweet, funny, and quietly poignant, Debbie Tung’s comics reveal the ups and downs of coming of age as an introvert.

This illustrated gift book of short comics illuminates author Debbie Tung’s experience as an introvert in an extrovert’s world. Presented in a loose narrative style that can be read front to back or dipped into at one’s leisure, the book spans three years of Debbie’s life, from the end of college to the present day. In these early years of adulthood, Debbie slowly but finally discovers there is a name for her lifelong need to be alone: she’s an introvert.

The first half of the book traces Debbie’s final year in college: socializing with peers, dating, falling in love (with an extrovert!), moving in, getting married, meeting new people, and simply trying to fit in. The second half looks at her life after graduation: finding a job, learning to live with her new husband, trying to understand social obligations when it comes to the in-laws, and navigating office life. Ultimately, Quiet Girl sends a positive, pro-introvert message: our heroine learns to embrace her introversion and finds ways to thrive in the world while fulfilling her need for quiet.

I previously really enjoyed Debbie Tung’s Book Love, and it’s predecessor definitely did not disappoint. These little vignettes of Debbie’s life as she deals with anxiety and a world that always expects her to be “on” were so relatable. So many of the comics in this book were things that have happened to me over the years.

Panel from Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: Debbie is crying surrounded by negative comments. You need to make more friends. Why are you so shy? What's wrong with you? Are you all right? You seem really sad. You should talk more. It's not normal to not say anything.

The only real complaint that I have about this is that the themes are very repetitive. This is a book about Debbie being an introvert, and that’s it. There are only so many ways you can say you’re an introvert before you start to repeat yourself. But I, as an introvert, enjoyed seeing my life illustrated like this and I’d definitely recommend this book.

#wian: an antonym

Little Moments of Love by Catana Chetwynd
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 19, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Soppy meets Sarah’s Scribbles in this sweet collection of comics about the simple, precious, silly, everyday moments that make up a relationship.

What began as stray doodles on scraps of paper became an internet sensation when Catana Chetwynd’s boyfriend shared her drawings online. Now, Catana Comics touches millions of readers with its sweet, relatable humor. Little Moments of Love collects just that – the little moments that are the best parts of being with the person you love.

I love Catana’s comics so much, and after reading (and loving) my ARC of Snug, I knew I had to get to Little Moments of Love next. It was just as cute as Snug, and I enjoyed it just as much… if not more. I’d already seen most of the comics included in Snug, but since Little Moments of Love was published two years ago, I had either not seen (or forgotten about) most of these.

Catana comic: Catana has a low battery indicator over her head and hugs her boyfriend. The battery indicator raises until it shows that it's fully charged.

I always think that Catana’s comics are really relatable to anybody who’s been truly in love. Her comics never fail to make me smile, and I’ll happily read her next collection (while also checking out her comics on Instagram daily).

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source: Borrowed

The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it “a deadpan epic.”

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I previously read and really enjoyed Stevenson’s Lumberjanes series, and knowing that Nimona was pretty beloved in the book blogging community, I was excited to dive right in. Right away, I loved both Nimona and Ballister. I loved the way they interacted with each other, and we all know I love a good morally gray villain.

The only thing I could have hoped for was a little more backstory on Nimona. I would have loved a little bit more resolution on where she got her abilities and what exactly she’s capable of. Still, this was an excellent graphic novel that I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a good fantasy/adventure storyline.

Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart? 

When I first read the synopsis for Loveboat, Taipei, I really wanted to love it. I’m all for diverse stories being published, and this one, set at a study abroad program in Taipei, sounded so interesting! Unfortunately, regardless of how much I wanted to love it, I had a number of problems with the story.

The first problem I had was that this book is basically just a racier version of American Panda. Let’s break this down. Both books feature a Chinese main character born to immigrant parents who have sacrificed a lot to get the main character where they are. Both books feature a main character whose parents want her to be a doctor, and both books feature characters that don’t want to be doctors because of a phobia of blood/germs. Both books feature characters who would actually rather pursue a career dancing professionally, but both sets of parents do not support this career choice. Where Loveboat, Taipei deviates from American Panda is in the middle section of the book, in which the author attempts to tackle about 1500 issues, which I’ll address below.

There was far too much going on in this book. The book is 432 pages, which is pretty long for a YA contemporary, and it’s only that long because the author tries to tackle so many different issues. There was no reason for there to be so many dramatic events in this book, especially given that few of the events are ever resolved. You can’t just throw a ton of issues at a book haphazardly and expect everything to work out in the end.

A list of things that happen in this book, many of which could be triggering to some readers:depression, suicidal ideation/threat/attempt, graphic knife injury, abusive parents, abusive relationship (physical & emotional), leaked nude photos, victim blaming, racism, sex (not at all realistically portrayed, in my opinion), cheating, parent injured in car accident, very questionable drag scene that comes out of nowhere

Finally, everything wraps up far too neatly and far too easily at the end. Ever is unrealistically mature about everything, forgiving everyone for things that should definitely not be forgiven and conveniently achieving several goals she’d set for herself with seemingly few roadblocks. All of the problems are just forgotten, probably (hopefully??) to be addressed in the (entirely unnecessary) sequel.

I can see how some readers might enjoy this story, but it wasn’t for me.

Have you read Loveboat, Taipei? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: The Vanishing Stair, 19 Love Songs, & The Wicked King

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Source: Borrowed

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

Much like with Truly Devious, I wasn’t really fully convinced by The Vanishing Stair until partway through. I was worried that this was going to be a filler book, one where the characters sort of just wander around looking for clues until we hit the final book in the trilogy, where everything finally happens. That worry ended up being unwarranted, because a ton of stuff happens in this book!

With any mystery, I’m kind of hesitant to get into details because I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything. I just want to say that Maureen Johnson has clearly thought everything through in this series and planned out every detail in depth. I can’t wait to find out what will happen next!

19 Love Songs by David Levithan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Borrowed

The New York Times bestselling author of Every DaySomeday, and Two Boys Kissing is back with a short story collection about love–perfect for Valentine’s Day or year-round reading!

A resentful member of a high school Quiz Bowl team with an unrequited crush.

A Valentine’s Day in the life of Every Day‘s protagonist “A.”

A return to the characters of Two Boys Kissing.

19 Love Songs, from New York Times bestselling author David Levithan, delivers all of these stories and more. Born from Levithan’s tradition of writing a story for his friends each Valentine’s Day, this collection brings all of them to his readers for the first time. With fiction, nonfiction, and a story in verse, there’s something for every reader here.

Witty, romantic, and honest, teens (and adults) will come to this collection not only on Valentine’s Day, but all year round. 

I’ve been reading David Levithan’s books since I was a teenager myself, so when I saw that he had a new collection of short stories out, I had to read it. Levithan has written some of my all-time favorite books (The Lover’s Dictionary, You Know Me Well) as well as some books that I’ve really disliked (Every Day, the Dash & Lily books). He’s also written a ton of books that I’ve felt indifferent about, and I won’t link all of those reviews here, but they’re all on my “all reviews” page.

The point is, I can go either way on Levithan’s writing, and I went both ways on the stories in this collection. When they were good, they were really good. I loved the story about Taylor Swift fanfiction, the story about being snowed in, the quiz bowl story, and the Santa story. I also loved all of the music references. The stories I didn’t love mostly left me bored. This isn’t really Levithan’s fault, because I’m sure there are plenty of people who connect more with those stories than I did.

Overall, I think this evens out to a three-star read for me. If you’re into Levithan’s writing, a lot characters from his previous books make appearances in these stories, so you might be pleasantly surprised.

The Wicked King by Holly Black
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Source: Borrowed

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Well, 89% of people on Goodreads have given this book either 4 or 5 stars, and I am not one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this series or anything. I gave the first book four stars, mostly because it really grabbed me toward the end, but I definitely thought it had a rough start.

In The Wicked King, I had many of the same problems as I had in The Cruel Prince. Jude is less annoying than she was in the first book, but she’s equally dumb. Cardan is still mostly mean to Jude (that’s the point, I know) and I didn’t buy their “romance” at all. I found much of the plot boring, and the big plot twist at the end seemed so in-character for everyone that I wasn’t really surprised at all. In 336 pages, very little happens that actually advances the plot.

And yet. For however much I disliked this book, I still want to read The Queen of Nothing to find out how everything ends.

Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good YA recently?
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Book Review: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source: Borrowed

10:00 p.m.: Lucky is the biggest K-pop star on the scene, and she’s just performed her hit song “Heartbeat” in Hong Kong to thousands of adoring fans. She’s about to debut on The Tonight Show in America, hopefully a breakout performance for her career. But right now? She’s in her fancy hotel, trying to fall asleep but dying for a hamburger.

11:00 p.m.: Jack is sneaking into a fancy hotel, on assignment for his tabloid job that he keeps secret from his parents. On his way out of the hotel, he runs into a girl wearing slippers, a girl who is single-mindedly determined to find a hamburger. She looks kind of familiar. She’s very cute. He’s maybe curious.

12:00 a.m.: Nothing will ever be the same.

Before I start my review, I have to mention that the only reason I really wanted to read this book was that it made me think of the Keane song, which I was obsessed with when I was 14 years old. I just listened to it again and it took me right back!

Now that that’s out of the way, on to the review.

I’d previously read Maurene Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel in 2018, and felt that the characters were written to sound a lot younger than they actually were. The character I related to most in that book was the father, so yikes. In Somewhere Only We Know, that’s no longer the case. I felt like both Lucky and Jack were much more mature than I’d expect for characters of their age and it continually surprised me when I was reminded that they were supposed to be teenagers.

I think, overall, this book was pretty cute. I liked Lucky a lot, and Goo did a great job of making a celebrity seem relatable. I liked the exploration of mental illness in Korean culture and body image/dieting. I also liked Jack. He seemed to truly care what about what happened to Lucky from the first minute he met her. I’ve also never read a book about the paparazzi before, so that was an interesting wrench to throw in the story. All of the things that Lucky and Jack did on their romantic day out were so cute, too. This book made Hong Kong seem like the most magical place to visit.

With all of that said, there were also things that didn’t sit quite right with me. First of all, this book is heavy on the instalove. It takes place in one day, okay. ONE DAY. I’m a romantic at heart, but it was a little much even for me. The constant lying also bothered me. If you’re going to fall in love in 24 hours, at least be honest with each other! Good relationships are not built on a bed of lies!

Overall, this book kind of reminded me of a better executed Permanent Record. I still didn’t love it, and I’ll probably forget the entire plot by the end of the week, but it was fun while it lasted.

#mm20: winter wonderland

Have you read Somewhere Only We Know? Can you recommend any good celebrity romances?
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