A MURDEROUS RELATION by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell navigates a dark world of scandal and murder in this new adventure from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l’Etoile, and the proprietess, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper–and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore’s high class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family–and it’s up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it’s too late for all of them.


Title : A Murderous Relation
Author : Deanna Raybourn
Series : Veronica Speedwell (book five)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : historical romance/mystery
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : March 10, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Listen, I already know I’m going to be an outlier on this one (again!) so you should just scroll right past this review before you get too sad about this rating.

For various reasons, the last two books in this much beloved series have just not done it for me. Book four because of what I felt were out-of-character behaviours for characters I had grown to love so much, and in book five, it’s the mystery. This book had a lot of expectation riding on it because of where things ended in the previous installment and while it started out hopeful.. it kind of rambled about in another direction, putting certain things on hold, only to pick up a plot from a few books before; one I kind of thought we had moved on from. Only now do I see that this particular bit has finally (please?) run it’s course.

The particular investigation in this book runs parallel to when Jack the Ripper is rampaging around London and I definitely thought there would be some crossover with that. It seems a popular, or common, event for this time period. Strangely, we ended up bypassing it, and in some ways that was a refreshing choice. But there was a moment.. oh, wow, it perked me up. What a brilliantly written interaction.

As for the will-they-won’t-they-have-they-finally-just-got-on-with-it question, whether things progressed or not, you’ll just have to read to find out.

Considering my rather lukewarm feelings about this one on the whole, however, I wonder if this series has just run its course for me. I hate to think it so, I’ve so loved so much of this (again, books one to three? great, delightful, the best kind of frustrating), but lately? Again, I doubt this’ll be the common feeling. So definitely be excited about more Stokewell on your kindles or on your shelves. I’ll just be over here hoping to find the love again in book six. Not willing to throw in the towel quite yet.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – MARCH 10, 2020

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


A MURDEROUS RELATION by Deanna Raybourn is the fifth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. After the events of book four, there is a lot of pressure to get this particular couple together. Will it happen now? Get dragged out some more? Who knows (other than the author)! But this particular historical fiction/murder mystery series definitely needs to be added to your TBR, if it isn’t already there.

UNDERCOVER BROMANCE is the second in Lyssa Kay Adam’s Bromance Book Club series about men who read romance to woo, or win back, their lady loves. This one features a character who we were pretty excited about in book one. Can’t wait!

Kylie Scott has a new release this week called THE RICH BOY. It is about a couple from different sides of the track, interfering families and how these things can affect a burgeoning relationship.


Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below!

THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


Title : The Fever King
Author : Victoria Lee
Series : Feverwake (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 376
Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Skyscape
Release Date : March 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This is a book that my mind is shying away from being too critical about because it’s doing a lot of great things. And yet..

Beyond the representation offered in Lee’s characters (one lead is bisexual and Jewish/Latinx, the other is black, I believe), this is a sci-fi/dystopian story that heavily deals with how society treats refugees. For all that this is set, like, a hundred years (or something?) in the future, this is a very timely narrative and I felt the author did a good job of making this less of just a conveniently relevant backdrop and, instead, you really feel the struggle, the disparity between the social classes, which is made more dramatic by the haves, and the locals, being magical while the have-nots, those who have fled their home, are not.

But I found the worldbuilding somehow overly complex, or confusing, and I’m not entirely sure why. It centers around this big event that tore apart the US and left the remaining habitual areas into their own countries, the wars and tragedies that ensue, and along the way we’re given glimpses into that history, and particularly the figureheads of that time; one of which happens to still be around, now that he’s not only all powerful but also immortal. Somehow Carolinia is the only place in the world where it’s okay to be witching, someone who survives the fever brought on by a magical surge (or something.. notice a trend?) and Britain and Canada had tried bombing them, because to hell with magical people, but now.. they don’t? But, instead of Carolinia being a refuge for people, they close their borders? And, specifically relevant to the current plot, there’s the Carolianians vs the Atlantians conflict, because in Atlantia apparently it’s really terrible and toxic and you die, but somehow they make it to Carolinia anyway, but Carolinians want nothing to do with them, and.. I don’t know, like, I get what was happening but I also feel like I have no idea what was happening. Even in writing that summary (ish) I confused and doubted myself. I have no idea what’s just happened, I think I blacked out.

This paragraph is where I had a bunch more words written that I’ve since deleted. I mention this to honour their memory. You tried. You tried to make this review work. But it just didn’t.

Suffice it to say, this book is doing a lot. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters we don’t know if we are supposed to like, and a hate-to-love romance I wanted to get behind.. but only sometimes did. This book should’ve been a new favourite because of all that, plus a lot of darker and adult themes which made this YA the least YA-feeling YA book I’ve read in a long time (take a shot for every time I said “YA”) but I found it easy to put down, either because I was bored or my brain was just processing white noise. This should’ve been action packed and thrilling (and I guess it sort’ve was in a muted kind of way) and I should’ve been speculating and making theories (some of which I did, shoutout to my buddy Amanda who loves this book and got some of my reactions), and while I was clearly invested and following along enough to guess some things correctly, to see things coming, I’m still not sure what to do with any of it. Particularly after that ending. I think half the problem is there’s so much still not being revealed, or left unknown, and that is why I have one foot out the door on this one.

I can only hope book two has me diving into the feels, and the love, with both feet.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando – double review!

An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.

When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.
Al was special.
Al was talented.
Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?


Title : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly
Author : Danielle Jawando
Series : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly #1
Format : Paperback ARC / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Simon and Schuster UK
Release Date : March 5, 2020

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY is the kind of book you do need a snapshot of insight into before you enter, in this case I do recommend reading the blurb. This is a story about suicide, grief, bullying and social media. It is powerful and painful, chilling and stunning. I think it’s a really important book and it’s 100% worth the emotional investment.

The book started and ended with an author note, I had the privilidge of hearing the author read the beginning note and the first chapter at a publisher event. There wasn’t a whisper in the room and I fought tears listening to her. The reading experience is pretty much like that, the story and the characters plunged me into their worlds, wrapped me up in their fraught emotions and spat me out a bit of wreck.

Nathan was the brother, grieving his older sibling and questioning everything; he needed the why to these events, some reason and he was determined. Alongside Nathan were family, other siblings, his mother, his friend, Al’s friend Megan and some nasty characters. This was a intricately woven story, where as the reader you were alongside Nathan, searching for answers.

“My chest goes all tight, knowing that I’ll never see him for real again, that he’ll only ever be this person in a photo.”

Eli’s character was tangibly written, believable in his cruel manipulations and plain bullying. Tara and Lewi were more subtle in their connections to the situation and how events finally wove together was pretty shocking. Social media was the weapon wielded in this book and some of the elements took my breath away.

The picture of grief was palpable, I could feel the anger, despair and sadness rising out of the pages, I’m not an easy crier at books but I was an easy crier at this book. Nathan’s emotions had the power to affect me deeply as did Al’s short chapter starters.

For me, as a Mancunian, this book was gift in dialogue and narrative. It was written as Mancunians speak, quite literally and I found it easy to sink into. I don’t think this element will be difficult for any other readers, but you might wonder for the first few pages as you settle into this.

Danielle Jawando captured the issues in this book with honesty, she didn’t hold back on the difficult stuff, this was an absolute strength of this book. These issues shouldn’t be diluted to make it more palatable, your heart should break as you navigate this with the characters. I am beyond impressed with this fictional debut and I will be watching avidly for more from this author.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for this early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

Despite what this book made me feel, and the tears, I’m happy I read this book. Not just because it helped to haul me out of a slump but also because this story is so important to read, particularly for teens, and was done so beautifully.

I went into this read pretty unaware, as per usual, and knew only that Micky, blog buddy extraordinaire, has been raving about it for what feels like ages now. I’m so thankful she put this on my radar.

When you’re angry, it takes you away from the pain somehow. Stops it from tearing into you.

I truly don’t have much to say, and certainly nothing to add to my partner’s great review, but I couldn’t not make a point to add something, to repost this, boost it once more, because this story deserves more awareness and, most importantly, deserves your time. It’s heavy but never without hope, without light — just like stars; though they aren’t seen until it’s dark.. they shine so bright.

KISS OF VENGEANCE by S. Young

A standalone adult paranormal romance from New York Times Bestselling author Samantha Young writing as S. Young.

Fionn Mór was once a high king of Ireland; a fierce warrior who led his tribes against the invading fae. It was a war he couldn’t win and to save his family he turned consort for the Fae Queen. Fionn escaped as the thing he once despised, and the people he loved betrayed him for it. Now, centuries later, it’s time to reopen the gates to Faerie to take his revenge against the Faerie Queen.

At sixteen Rose Kelly discovered family secrets that changed her forever. Years after, she’s still lost, traveling across Europe in search of that elusive missing ‘something’. When she’s attacked by a vampire, not only is she wrenched into a supernatural underworld she never knew existed, a knock on the head releases a spell on her mind and unlocks powers beyond her wildest imaginings. And with them more questions. Questions Fionn Mór claims to have answers to.

Following the powerful and enigmatic Fionn to Ireland, Rose quickly realizes she’s a pawn in his plan for vengeance. What begins as a passionate battle of wills leads to an inexplicable but undeniable connection. One that will force them to face an impossible choice between the deepest love… and the darkest revenge.


Title : Kiss of Vengeance
Author : S. Young
Series : True Immortality #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : Paranormal Romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★. 5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This second in the True Immortality series is definitely a standalone, the characters do ultimately connect to the wider story but you could start here if you wished (don’t do that, read book one). Thea and Connor from book one do make an appearance later in the story too. This book however focused on Rose who briefly appeared in WAR OF HEARTS. Rose was roaming Europe, stopping to work in cities when she encountered a bunch of odd people one evening in the bar she worked in. One of those people was Fionn, there was something strange immediately about how he made her feel.

Fionn was a character I really struggled to get on with. He was fae like Rose, he was arrogant and he had an obsessive focus with revenge at the exclusion of everything else. Even over time when he and Rose became more, he prioritised his obsession. I struggled with his superiority, egotism, his closed-off feelings and redemption on this front came late.

Rose however, was a character I liked. I enjoyed her experience of coming into her powers and she had integrity, maybe her character brought balance to Fionn’s. Sometimes, I didn’t know how she persevered with Fionn.

The story itself was interesting, pretty fast-paced and through it, I learnt more about the Immortality world. I am definitely interested in this world and how the supernatural creatures interact, fight and exist. I am so very excited about the next couple, especially because the male character I like and seems less like Fionn.

Overall, I had a few problems with the male MC but I am invested in this as a series.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

GRIEF ANGELS by David Owen

15-year-old Owen Marlow is experiencing a great, disorienting loss after his father suddenly passed away and his mother moved them to a new town. None of his old friends knew how to confront his grief, so he’s given up on trying to make new ones. There is one guy at school who might prove to be different if he gives him a chance but lately, Owen has been overwhelmed by his sadness. He’s started to have strange, powerful hallucinations of skeletal birds circling above him. Owen tells himself that these visions are just his brain’s way of trying to cope – until one night, the birds descend and take him to an otherworldly forest. There, he is asked to go on a dangerous journey that promises to bring him the understanding he so desperately seeks – if he can survive it.

Grief Angels is an urgent and heartfelt look at the power of nostalgia and the many different forms of grief. It’s about young men learning how to share their stories, and teens discovering who they are, and who they might one day become.


Title : Grief Angels
Author : David Owen
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Atom Books
Release Date : March 5, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 2.5-3 star review

Let me preface this review by saying that I really felt drawn to this book and its themes of grief. I have a professional and research interest in grief and for me this means that my mind is open, I respect utterly how people grieve according to their individualised needs and nature. I am sad this didn’t work for me in some aspects.

GRIEF ANGELS is an unusual read in many way, I truly appreciated this story that took young adult male friendships, didn’t sexualise them and realistically depicted a compelling story through them. The narrative was told through the two main characters of Duncan and Owen. Duncan was a young guy dealing with depression and toxicity in his long standing friendship group. Owen was a new guy in school, grieving the death of his father and finding himself along the way.

What was unique about this story was that Owen was whisked off in his grief by the ‘grief angels’ (read birds) to a fantastical land where he went on a quest with someone to do something. I remain unclear about some of this, so excuse the vagueness. I do not know if this part of the story was magical realism, analogy, hallucination or what. I feel that by the end I should have known this. I kept reading, kept pushing through with this element, wanting to find out the answer. I can make my best hypothesis about this but this element needed some world building and structure.

It is testement to the great YA story in the contemporary setting that I haven’t rated this book lower. I loved it when the story switched back to life at school and in the friendships. I wanted to stay there.

I’m sad this particular story didn’t work for me but I would definitely read David Owen again. I liked the characters he created and I enjoyed the larger parts of his writing.

Thank you to Atom books for the review copy.

WICKED AS YOU WISH by Rin Chupeco

Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends. 

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….


Title : Wicked As You Wish
Author : Rin Chupeco
Series : A Hundred Names for Magic (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA fantasy
Publisher : Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I honestly try not to let other reviews and ratings affect me prior to diving into a book but unfortunately this one was definitely a victim of me doing a whole lot of side-eye as the GR rating went down, down, down in the weeks leading up to release (and, as of writing this review, there’s still three weeks to go..). I stayed away from reviews for the most part but I went into this with concerns not only due to the rating but also after seeing a few DNFs pop up in my feed.

Suffice it to say, I understand why this was a struggle for some readers. The worldbuilding, the mythology, the folklore, the history.. it’s so much. It’s so extra. This is a world where, like, fairytales are on crack. Think of every story, every myth, every legend, everything you’ve ever heard of or read, throw them into a blender, and top it all with a sprinkling of real-world concerns and politics. That’s what this universe is like. There is so much going on just in the every day common knowledge (or not, if you’re the MC, who knows almost nothing, Jon Snow), not to mention this big life-changing, world-altering event, of Avalon, a country where magic first began (or something..?) was frozen over by the Snow Queen, killing Avalon’s rulers, and sending the prince into exile and hiding. Said prince shows up into the armpit of Arizona, where most of this story takes place, and is now being taken in by Tala, our protagonist’s, family, who are all a bunch of famous ex-Avalonian.. militia, or something.

Anyway, eventually they are discovered, the Snow Queen invades a place they once believed she never could, and Tala, the prince, and a ragtag group of teens, find themselves returning to Avalon to break the curse. One of the many curses because, like, everyone has a curse or a doom or a geas and like.. I’m already tired trying to explain this. Because, again, it’s a lot. There’s a huge cast of characters. Prophecies and secrets abound and there’s a lot we, as a reader, are left in the dark about, while other characters seem to prefer to just spout weird prophetic statements without any care to shed light on things, and we bounce from one battle or confrontation to another, all while watching this group form rather predictable connections, despite themselves, and while the Prince acts like an ass.. for no discernible reason.

So, yeah, I have no idea what to do with this. This book was a big floppy trade paperback of an ARC, with tiny tiny writing, and I spent two days slogging through what was, admittedly, a clever and interesting world that I should’ve really loved reading about, but somehow never quite did, and dealing with a pile of characters who should’ve been interesting and fun and only ever sometimes managed a little of that.

The upsides? Beyond the creativity and the astounding amount of work it must’ve taken to put this together and keep it all consistent (seriously, my brain, it hurts), this is heavily steeped in the author’s own culture and there is a lot of representation. Also, I might even pick up book two. But that last point is probably less to do with the book and more to do with my stubbornness and curiousity, so. I don’t know. I can’t recommend. But nor do I think I want to not recommend. There are definitely going to be people who love this but I see just as many, like me, who won’t know what to do with it.. or can’t even get far enough to bother.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

GLOVES OFF by Louisa Reid

A page-turning and immersive YA novel in verse, telling the story of Lily who is mercilessly bullied at school and who turns to boxing in an attempt to fight back; a story of hope and resilience breaking through even the most difficult situations.

Lily turns sixteen with two very different sides to her life: school, where she is badly bullied, and home with her mum and dad, warm and comforting but with its own difficulties.

After a particularly terrible bullying incident, Lily’s dad determines to give his daughter the tools to fight back.

Introducing her to boxing, he encourages Lily to find her own worth. It is both difficult and challenging but in confronting her own fears she finds a way through that illuminates her life and friendships.

Meeting Rose, and seeing that there is another world out there, enables her to live her own life fully and gives her the knowledge that she is both beautiful and worth it.


Title : Gloves Off
Author : Louisa Reid
Format : Paperback
Page Count :
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Guppy Books
Release Date : March 5, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

GLOVES OFF was a quick but satisfying read of a young person going through a transformation of identity, poor self image and sexual identity told in a backdrop of hideous bullying. The whold book is told in prose and I loved that aspect. I slipped into the style of prose immediately and I found the words powerful.

butterfly bright,
dragonfly gold,
(their teeth as sharp as fangs
their nails like claws.)

Lily was sixteen, living in a household where food and weight were issues and that seemed to be taking a toll on how she was perceived and treated at school. She had no real friends and she was utterly isolated in her misery. As events escalated, Lily’s father called time on what was happening and motivated Lily to fight back in both a psychological and literal sense; she started boxing training.

The story was engaging, the characters were very much so. The story was told mainly from Lily’s POV but there was the occasional Lily’s mother POV. Lily had great character and identity growth. The sexual identity issues were in the background but they were handled well. It was good to see Lily find some friends, a sense of community and something more.

i am going to be the girl
who rises up
out of the mud
out of the gutter
out of silence
out of a void that has been carved for me

This is not your average story, it is special, especially considering how well the prose was written.

Thank you to Guppy Publishing and Darkroom Tours for the review copy.

DOCILE by K.M. Szpara

There is no consent under capitalism 

Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles.

To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future.

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.


Title : Docile
Author : K.M. Szpara
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : science fiction / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Hello darkness, aka I don’t know what to rate what I read, my old friend..

So my biggest problem with this book had nothing to do with this book. I got stuck at 30% for almost two weeks after being beat-up by the flu and then I went into a slump. I felt no motivation to pick this back up (or anything else, really, though I felt honour bound to finish what I had started) because the beginning of this book is the most uncomfortable part.

In the beginning we are neck deep in watching Alex, our rich entitled ‘thinks he’s a do-gooder’ protagonist train our Docile protagonist, Elisha, into being the best little slave he can be — all so his family’s debt can be paid and they can be afforded a stipend so they can try not to incur any more debt. Yes, Elisha’s signed away all but his most basic rights, though some apparently still exist and yet everyone is shocked when they are called into play, but he exists inside a system where a drug was created so that you can be treated more or less like furniture. Worse than furniture, even. Anything can be done that does not do harm. That’s a.. broad range, particularly when you’re the Docile of a trillionaire and feel you are afforded the right to do anything.

But outside of the framework itself, and beyond the knee-jerk sympathy felt towards Elisha, I didn’t feel much for either of these characters. Elisha is in the unenviable position of having to sign over his life to clear his family’s debt, sure, and Alex is trying to do the best he can for his Docile who he has to actually consider a real person because he’s not on-meds, and the whole thing is just uncomfortable because until this moment, Alex never did. Consider them real people, I mean; not that anyone but the poor seem to, either, but still. The drug is his family’s legacy but, more than like, like all of the haves vs the have-nots, there’s just no consideration, no awareness, and this ends up being a thirty-year-delayed wake-up call for him — and, maybe, for society?

I’m not saying this isn’t supposed to be uncomfortable. It definitely is. And I suppose it’s no different than comparing District Twelve to District One in THE HUNGER GAMES but, like, add sex instead of violence? It was definitely good at spotlighting at decadence and depravity of this society’s culture in stark contrast to the fact that people are literally signing over years of their lives so that they, and future generations, can avoid prison or worse. But halfway through this took a sharp turn into a sorta conspiracy and then courtroom drama, all while one character is trying to recover from trauma and rediscover their agency, and it’s just a lot of things.

This was a story that I requested because I wanted to be shocked, made angry, even heartbroken, but I think I wanted to feel those emotions from the complexity of the story and less uneasy over the spoiled antics of the rich. But I think therein lies the problem. Even today, the rich are just so rich, while so many people have so much less, and it’s a tough pill to swallow to think that one day they might own people, too.

Ultimately, DOCILE seems to follow the standard (from what I know which, is, admittedly not much..) tropes of slavefic stories and I think if you go in knowing that, you’ll appreciate what Szpara does. I just wish there’d been more explored for how this had started, whether or not the rest of the world followed along (this deals primarily with only one State and while it’s mentioned vaguely that Maryland isn’t the only one, I have to wonder..) and.. I don’t know, I think I just wanted this to feel bigger than it did. But maybe I would’ve minded less if not for the slump? Which is why, well, there’s no rating.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED by Sophie Gonzales – double review!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless, inspired by Grease.

When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country—Will’s school—where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted—and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship. But as Will starts ‘coincidentally’ popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.

Right?

Right.


Title : Only Mostly Devastated
Author : Sophie Gonzales
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ romance
Publisher : Wednesday Books/BKMK
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★  .5


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’ll admit that this didn’t end up being the most amazing wonderful adorable hilarious queer YA rom-com I expected it to be back when it was first announced. But I think, based on how insane my expectations were, this was still a pretty good read; even if, despite the ages of the characters and some of the subject matter, it did read a little on the younger of the YA side.

If you’re picking this one up hoping to see some Grease references, you’ll be pretty happy, I think. They weren’t overdone, it didn’t stick to the script half as closely as I expected, and it ended up being very much it’s own thing — with it’s own emotional backbone to set it apart — but you don’t need to go hunting too hard to see some parallels. Though I’m still waiting to understand the Clueless connection, so, fair warning for that comparison.

That said, it was also kind of hard to read at times, too. I definitely didn’t expect the conflicts between the leads to hurt as much as they did. For all we are told of the sweetness of Will, mostly through flashbacks, and in a few quiet one-on-one moments, he did and said some pretty unforgivable things to keep up his “straight” pretense; and while I appreciated some of the lightbulb moments on Ollie’s side, some of which I agreed with and others I think just created so Will wasn’t made out to be, like, a villain, it was still pretty unbalanced between them. Actions speak louder, sure, but words are still hurtful af.

That emotional backbone, I mentioned? Well, it was emotional. And while there were times I disliked both of Ollie’s parents, I think in the context, some of it is forgivable. And in that same vein, it was nice to see a story like this were a teen is facing hardship and not resentful about it. Which, I mean, would be a completely valid thing but it was nice that this book didn’t lean too hard into that potential for angst. There was plenty as it was.

So, yes, not quite the lighthearted-adorable-this-was-everything that I wanted, but this was diverse, and queer, and I know that plus the adorable cover is going to make this a hit for so many readers.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I feel completely gushy about this book because I’ve devoured it in a day and it gave me fun, laughter, heartache, tears and complete escapism and enjoyment. This book exceeded all my expectations and I know for certain that I’m going to re-read this book.

This is a Grease retelling with fantastic LGBTQ+ characters front and centre. I can atest to how good the Grease framework to this story was, it was rich and familiar but with its own unique takes. The protagonist, Ollie was such a genuine nice guy, already out to his family and friends, he was pretty comfortable with himself. Family illness meant that he stayed past his summer vacation and his summer fling, Will found that to be a problem he hadn’t antipcated. He wasn’t secure in his sexual identity and he wasn’t out to anyone.

“What’s so funny?”
“We’re in a closet.” “I told you, I didn’t want -“
“You dragged me into a closet to have this conversation. Did you do that on purpose, or what? Unbelievable.”

ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED narrated the story from Ollie’s perspective with wit and heart. The family stories were strong and poignant, they caused my heart to ache, my eyes to leak and still I felt some warmth even in difficult parts. All that said, it was a bright and hopeful story and I was rooting for Ollie and Will as a couple. They were cute and lovely.

The friendships were definitely a building project in this book. After all, Ollie was new in the school and trust took time. I loved how this aspect developed and that what started as insecure, snarky interactions became true friendships with characters I came to like.

I don’t want to say anything more about the family story, I thought that was special and sensitively written. I thought the closeted and coming out elements were well written but please do check some own voices reviews on this book to be sure on that point.

Sophie Gonzales wrote in a way that engaged me from the first few pages and clearly I couldn’t put it down. I think this book has wide appeal and I want it to smash into the world.

Here walks Ollie Di Fiore. Master of his feelings, expert detacher, only mostly devastated.

Many thanks to TeamBKMRK for the early review copy.