THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins – double review!

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie­ Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?


Title : The Wife Upstairs
Author : Rachel Hawkins
Narrators : Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Fortgant
Format : Audiobook / eBook (overdrive)
Length : 8 hours 39 minutes / 277 pages
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : MacMillan Audio / St. Martin’s Press
Release Date : January 5, 2021

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Morally grey characters in every direction
Unreliable narrators
Twists in unexpected ways
A side order of Big Little Lies feeling

I heard the words Jane Eyre re-telling and I ran pretty fast to this audiobook. The Wife Upstairs mostly had the atmosphere I was seeking and I totally enjoyed seeing a contemporary envisoning of the familiar characters of Jane Eyre, especially Eddie, Jane, Blanche and B. Adele was a treat too.

As you would imagine, the focus started on Jane and I liked that Jane was not the angel she was in the original book, this made me feel more invested because I knew this was going to be different. Jane was a plotter, a climber and she had goals, so much so that I thought I knew where this would lead; I was wrong.

Blanche and B ‘Bertha’ were like the ugly sisters or mean girls all rolled into one. Blanche being a more fleshed out character was a very welcome element to the story. Eddie was never really likeable and that crushed my Rochester-loving heart a little but then this wasn’t a romance.

The storyline was pretty clever and this audiobook kept me guessing and invested. I did sometimes get confused with Bee (or B) and Blanche and the two female narrators didn’t sound that different to me, even with their different accents, so I had to really concentrate at times.

The culmination was good, if quick wrap up. The Wife Upstairs was an addictive and enjoyable listen. I would love to see some more classic re-envisioning as thrillers. Such a great idea.

Thank you to LibroFM and MacMillan Audio for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything Rachel Hawkins has released (notably mostly YA stuff but hey!) so this was on my radar even before I knew it was a Jane Eyre-inspired retelling; and not only that but a thriller/mystery to boot. Lots of boxes were being checked here.

I’ll admit this was kind of a slowburn for me that never really built the blazing inferno I might’ve expected.. or at least wanted. But at the same time it dragged me away from other distractions throughout the day and I chewed through it pretty quick. So maybe it was less of a build and more just a steady solitary flame?

Either way, if you’re a fan of the original classic or just know the bare bones this’ll definitely appeal to both kind of reader. There’s enough that sticks true to the story but so much, too, that differs; and I was particularly interested in which characters Hawkins decided to flesh out, and how.

If you’re looking for a Southern Gothic vibe kind of mystery, with twists and homages, you should give this one a try.

A DEAL WITH THE ELF KING by Elise Kova

Perfect for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses and Uprooted, this stand-alone, fantasy romance about a human girl and her marriage to the Elf King is impossible to put down!

The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.

Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.

To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.

That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives… for her.

Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.

The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another… but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.

A Deal with the Elf King is a complete, stand-alone novel, inspired by the tales of Hades and Persephone, as well as Beauty and the Beast, with a “happily ever after” ending. It’s perfect for fantasy romance fans looking for just the right amount of steam and their next slow-burn and swoon-worthy couple.


Title : A Deal With The Elf King
Author : Elise Kova
Series : Married To Magic #1
Format : ebook
Page Count : 338
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Silver Wing Press
Release Date : November 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This was my first read by Elise Kova after hearing great things about the Air Awakens series. I picked this up on a whim from Kindle Unlimited and it gave me what I was looking for – light fantasy, easy to read and a completed story.

I do like an Elf King-type story and this is pitched as a Hades & Persephone retelling. I can see the retelling in there, but it wasn’t overt. The characters of Eldas and Luella were easy to get to know and the story had page-turning properties. King Eldas was predictably autocratic and paternalistic but there was character growth. I enjoyed Luella’s craft and affinity with plants. Hook the wolf was a lovely animal character.

I enjoyed the kingdoms and description, I do think that the author captured my imagination and painted a picture I could easily see. The story was light but lacking in depth at times. The storyline played out with predictability but it was nevertheless enjoyable to read.

Book one, whilst complete as a story, is the start of a series in these worlds. Having read the bonus epilogue on the author’s website (which I loved), I am definitely down to read more from this world. I’m definitely going to seek out Air Awakens and hope it’s a little deeper.

CHARLOTTE by Helen Moffett


Everybody thinks that Charlotte Lucas has no prospects. She is twenty-seven years old, unmarried, plain, and seemingly without ambition. When she stuns the neighbourhood by accepting the proposal of buffoonish clergyman Mr Collins, her best friend Lizzy Bennet is angry at her for undervaluing herself. Yet the decision is the only way Charlotte knows to provide for her future, and marriage will propel her into a new world, of duty, marriage, children, grief and ultimately illicit love, and a kind of freedom.

Jane Austen cared deeply about the constraints of women in Regency England. This powerful reimagining takes up where Austen left off, showing us a woman determined to carve a place for herself in the world. Charlotte offers a fresh, feminist addition to the post-Austen canon, beautifully imagined, and brimming with passion and intelligence.


Title : Charlotte
Author : Helen Moffett
Narrator : Isabella Inchbald
Format : ebook/audiobook
Page Count : 368/8 hours 17 minutes
Genre : Historical/Retelling
Publisher : Bonnier Books/Manilla Press
Release Date : September 3, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

This continuation story of Charlotte’s character in a full book was surprising, it was unexpected in terms of the story direction and wholly enjoyable overall. Charlotte is a character who has always had my attention every time I’ve read or watched Pride & Prejudice. I think we’ve all struggled to understand her decision over Mr Collins, at least initially. This book explored her as a person but also their relationship as a couple. However this book is all Charlotte as a women in all her facets.

The book joined Charlotte seven years into her marriage to Mr Collins with three children, but tragedy was around the corner. This book navigated Charlotte’s journey through life’s hurdles, difficulties and grief. How Charlotte got through her emotions, anger and desire sometimes made by eyebrows raise but it felt tangible and good storytelling.

The cast of characters in the background of this book were rich and familiar. Lizzy, Anne de Bourgh and Catherine de Bourgh brought some excellent reading and some surprising elements. I enjoyed the friendship and confidence between Anne and Charlotte and Charlotte had also won the respect of Anne’s mother.

“But what really has my admiration is that my mother considers this an excellent plan of action. This leads me to all but suspect witchcraft on your part, Mrs Collins. Did our gypsy friends weave a spell, perhaps?”

Some of Charlotte’s experiences were heart-aching and on the flip side, her passionate nature was surprising. I liked where the story ended up in terms of her passions and I will say no more.

I had both an ebook ARC and an advance audio copy. I listened mostly and read some by ebook. The narration was perfect for the book and really conveyed Charlotte as a character.

Thank you to Bonnier Books for the early review copies.

HADES AND PERSEPHONE: CURSE OF THE GOLDEN ARROW by Heidi Hastings & Erica Hasting

A Cursed Love…When Persephone is forced into the Underworld, she fears the Dark Lord who rules the shadowed kingdom. A curse has brought them together, and the Goddess of Spring wars against Hades, the King of the Dead. But as time passes, she begins to wonder if he is truly the monster she fears or if he may be the very answer her soul calls out for. Lies, jealousy and betrayal combine to keep them apart. Together, they battle against an unknown foe, but is there enough time to reveal the dark truths of the God before his kingdom falls? 


Title : Hades & Persephone: Curse of the Golden Arrow
Author : Heidi Hastings
Illustrator : Erica Hastings
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 428
Genre : Retelling
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : January 16, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

I’m a long-time fan of greek mythology and definitely a fan of retellings. That being said, Hades & Persephone is a tale I know less well, so I came into this book with open expectations. The cover, synopsis and promise of illustrations were enough to push me to buy this book but I have to say, the execution did not let me down.

The story of these two was very much push and pull, hate and love. The descriptions of the underworld and its different lands within the world really conjured a great idea of life there. Persephone had such character growth in this book, from seemingly innocent forest goddess to a formidable Queen. The reveals in her story were pretty heartbreaking.

Hades was very likeable from the start. He had little of the heavy-handed god about him and his genuine attachment to Persephone was endearing. Added to that was seeing his work as the god of the underworld, it showed him in a variety of lights, not all scary. There was a lot of chemistry going on between these two and it was a slow-burn romance.

The original stories of the greek mythology gods were dramatic and there was a taste of this throughout the book with twists and turns in the plot. The story was fairly fast-paced and it didn’t lose my attention once. The sinister beings existing in the dark nooks of the underworld were incredibly creepy.

Reading HADES AND PERSEPHONE: CURSE OF THE GOLDEN ARROW was a full-on experience. I cannot express how much the illustrations brought this story to life and made it so much more than your average retelling. Compared to other books I have read with illustrations (like Folio Society books) there was an illustration every 10 or 15 pages, so considering this was a 428 page book, there were lots. I can’t speak for how the kindle book looks, but if you want to read this, I would definitely recommend the paperback format.

The writing, story and characterisation was great in addition the visual. I cannot wait to read more from this author and illustrator and I’m really hoping to see this particular story continue.

THE COURT OF MIRACLES by Kester Grant

A diverse fantasy reimagining of Les Misérables and The Jungle Book.

In the dark days following a failed French Revolution, in the violent jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, young cat-burglar Eponine (Nina) Thenardier goes head to head with merciless royalty, and the lords of the city’s criminal underworld to save the life of her adopted sister Cosette (Ettie).

Her vow will take her from the city’s dark underbelly, through a dawning revolution, to the very heart of the glittering court of Louis XVII, where she must make an impossible choice between guild, blood, betrayal and war.


Title : The Court of Miracles
Author : Kester Grant
Series : The Court of Miracles #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 464
Genre : Historical Retelling
Publisher : Harper Voyager
Release Date : June 4, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Damn but it feels good to have read a book that was 5 star from beginning to end. THE COURT OF MIRACLES was a page-turner and a half and I am truly sad it is over. I’ve heard all the rumours of Les Miserables and Jungle Book in the same breath as this release and in my opinion, it sits well with these ideas in the background. The execution of this kind of retelling was superb in every way.

Eponine (Nina) but mostly referred to as ‘Black Cat’ was a young novice of the Parisian underworld. She was equipped with the kind of foolish courage you see in someone young but that nerve and intuition moulded her into a thief admired by seasoned Masters of the Court. This was a world that was easy to understand despite the complexities that were apparent, I never once felt lost in the world building. This court of different ‘tribes’ of the city’s underworld had so many great characters to cheer for. I adored the ghosts, the thieves, the assassins and the people of the pen.

I’m the Black Cat of the Thieves Guild and these are the things I have done.

Life was tough for Nina, but she staunchly fought for her two sisters, she was loyal and sneaky and unrelenting; I adored her. I also enjoyed the humble ignorance she had for those three young men that admired from a distance (this is not a romance, by the way). Her little sister was annoying and fun, her big sister was tragic. What I admired most about Nina was that she brought the different guilds together in a way they never had before; she sparked loyalty in the senior people because of her courage and ingenuity.

The best thing about this book was the not knowing where-the-heck the plot was headed, what would happen around any turn and the pacing alongside the excitement. It was a tale told over years and so also, there was no rushing. Kester Grant is a name to watch and an author to anticipate more from.

THE COURT OF MIRACLES was a stand out read for me this year (so far). I have that itching desire to pick it up again, maybe I’ll wait for my precious hardcover to arrive.

Thank you to Harper Voyager for the early review copy.

DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier – rereading a favourite!

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift – by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all..


Title : Daughter of the Forest
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 544
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : TorBooks
Release Date : March 14, 2001

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

We’ve talked on this blog before of rereading, and what inspires us to do so, and when we reach for favourites. I remember mentioning how my rereads tend to be done over the holidays, for nostalgia and comfort, but, yikes. This is no holiday, quite the opposite, but definitely a time for comfort and self-care. Even if this book put me through the wringer.

Most people can’t choose a favourite book; and rightly so. With so much choice, so much to love, it’s akin to picking a favourite child (though we all know those exist.. I see you, parents). But if you asked me? I would say DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier. All of the original Sevenwaters books, actually, as it’s really just one long story.

If I were telling this tale, and it were not my own, I would give it a neat, satisfying ending. [..] In such stories, there are no loose ends. There are no unraveled edges and crooked threads. [..] But this was my own story.

There is something so magical about slipping into a favourite, particularly one you haven’t read in some time, and when the story itself is magical? The experience is so much more. This story is deeply moving. It’s a story of family, of loss, of tragedy and violence, healing and love, sacrifice and hope, and magic and wonder. It’s also one of the most perfect (in my opinion, obviously) portrayals of the complexity of dealing with the Fair Folk, who demand much of the mortals they encounter, who make bargains and promises, all in an effort to guide events and people to a desired end. No matter who gets hurt, or how, in the process.

This story isn’t always easy. The road Sorcha walks is treacherous, the task she must complete to reunite her family is unimaginable, and she is young and alone. Until she isn’t. At which point she’s among her enemies, far from home, and still darkness dogs her steps. But it’s her strength, her perseverance, even when faced with more tragedy, with uncertainty, even when tormented by her own doubt and despair, that is truly incredible.

Marillier’s prose is enchanting, resonating with emotion, and gorgeously descriptive. There are characters to love, and characters to hate, and though I’ve read this story countless times (seriously, I couldn’t even guess), I still dreaded certain events, I still wept; everything hit just as hard. And if that isn’t a sign of a great book, I don’t know what is. What made this particular reread even more special was being joined by a friend who experienced it all for the first time.

I have never tried to review this, all my reads predate the blog or my reviewing on GR, and I know I haven’t done this book any justice at all. It’s impossible to express my love for this book because it’s honestly so deeply embedded in my soul. I read this as a young human and it’s been with me, and I’ve relived it, over and over throughout the years, and we are irrevocably entwined. Some books you lose the love for other the years, as your taste or perspective or style as a reader changes. This book, this series, isn’t one of those.

Would I recommend? Absolutely. This story has something for everyone. Particularly if you’re a fan of fantasy, folklore, and retellings. Because this is all of that and more. And if you discover you don’t like it? That’s fine, we just can’t be friends — kidding.

Maybe.

BREAK YOUR GLASS SLIPPERS by Amanda Lovelace

more forgetting time.
more midnight dances with yourself
.”

amanda lovelace, the bestselling & award-winning author of the “women are some kind of magic” poetry series, presents a new companion series, “you are your own fairy tale” the first installment, break your glass slippers, is about overcoming those who don’t see your worth, even if that person is sometimes yourself. in the epic tale of your life, you are the most important character while everyone is but a forgotten footnote. even the prince.


Title : Break Your Glass Slippers
Author : Amanda Lovelace
Series : You Are Your Own Fairytale #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 160
Genre : Contemporary Poetry
Publisher : Andrews McMeel Publishing
Release Date : March 17, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

I got the early review copy of this poetry retelling and cracked it open immediately, I had zero chill. It was a good call because this is my favourite read so far from Amanda Lovelace. It was definitely less sad than some of her previous work and it was incredibly empowering.

The poems are told in a way that depicts a retelling of Cinderella. There are various narrators such as fairy godmother, Cinders and Charming. Fairy godmother was my favourite, instilling sage words for any women to have affirmed to them. The prose was simple and yet beautiful, it touched me on an emotional level.

her precious fairy tales showed her what would happen if she found her prince, but they never prepared her for what she should do if her prince turned out to be her unhappily ever after –cinderella

This book is so easy to read front to back, and I can definitely imagine myself rereading it but also dipping in and out of it. From what I can see from the electronic copy, the illustrations are beautiful and colourful but also simple. I can’t wait to see them in the flesh in a real book.

This is poetry that is suitable for young women and older alike. There are f-bombs that might make this unsuitable for younger girls however, the messages are powerful and empowering. I will be buying this for my daughter.

you are the only set of keys to your castle.
the rest of them are nothing but bad copies.

Thank you to Andrews McMeel Publishing for the early copy to devour.

THE STARS WE STEAL by Alexa Donne

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.


Title : The Stars We Steal
Author : Alexa Donne
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA Sci-fi/Retelling
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

THE STARS WE STEAL had the ingredients for Micky kryptonite with space, sci-fi and YA…that was before I even heard it was a retelling of Persuasion, so I was truly sold at that point. The execution didn’t let me down and won’t let fans of the original down if they have an open mind about the age of the characters and an in-the-future interpretation.

Leo was a likeable heroine from early on. She was a feisty, curvy feminist with a little more confidence than the original ‘Ann’. The premise for this world, included an ice-age on Earth, a huge fleet of ships and a royalty system. There was a context of haves and have-nots. I enjoyed the politics, corrupt as they were and nepotism was the flavour of the month. Leo navigated this world, the fleet of ships with quiet insight, courage and snark.

I was a commodity in a pretty dress, on display for all to see.

Captain-to-be Elliot Wentworth returned to Leo’s life in unexpected way and they were not fast friends. Old hurts, jealousies and feelings were a roller coaster for these two. I struggled to really like Elliot, there was nothing essentially wrong with him but he didn’t give me the feels that the character he’s based upon demanded. However, when they were together, the chemistry was catchy.

Great side characters, both good and downright nasty, aiding this book along. There were family, friends and acquaintences that offered a rich tapestry. I liked Daniel and Evgenia a lot but Leo’s close family were hard to fathom until they weren’t.

The fast-paced story that ensued had me glued to my book, I found it difficult to put down and there were some mysteries along the way. This was truly a cast of YA characters, so lovers of Persuasion have to be ready accept this different age range and some of the decisions and behaviours that come with that age. I loved the conceptualisation in space and in YA, I appreciated the fun that they had on their ships and I enjoyed the ‘vlag’ season.

I highly recommend this fun, dynamic retelling of a classic in space. I think readers will engage with the fun characters and setting.

Thank you to Titan books for the gorgeous finished copy for review.

BLOODLUST & BONNETS by Emily McGovern

From the creator of the hit webcomic My Life As a Background Slytherin comes a hilarious graphic novel pastiche of classic Romantic literature led by a trio of queer misfits—and several angry vampires.

Set in early nineteenth-century Britain, Bloodlust & Bonnets follows Lucy, an unworldly debutante who desires a life of passion and intrigue—qualities which earn her the attention of Lady Violet Travesty, the leader of a local vampire cult. 

But before Lucy can embark on her new life of vampiric debauchery, she finds herself unexpectedly thrown together with the flamboyant poet Lord Byron (“from books!”) and a mysterious bounty-hunter named Sham. The unlikely trio lie, flirt, fight, and manipulate each other as they make their way across Britain, disrupting society balls, slaying vampires, and making every effort not to betray their feelings to each other as their personal and romantic lives become increasingly entangled.

Both witty and slapstick, elegant and gory, Emily McGovern’s debut graphic novel pays tribute to and pokes fun at beloved romance tropes, delivering a joyous, action-packed world of friendship and adventure.


Title : Bloodlust & Bonnets
Author : Emily McGovern
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 203
Genre : Fantasy graphic novel
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Release Date : September 19, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

Today is my day for the Bloodlust & Bonnets tour. This book is a fun graphic novel in the mode of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies.

This was a fast moving story, where the grass never grew under the protagonist Miss Lucy’s feet. With a full cast of humans, vampires and other beings it was exciting and sometimes it took a moment to catch up. Miss Lucy along with her sidekick or was she his sidekick…Lord Byron were trying to solve a grand mystery/reveal and battling anything standing in their way. There were some interesting side characters.

The illustration appealed to me with a simplistic approach to faces but great detail to costumes and background. That aspect really worked for me. It was colourful, somewhat bloody with great shading to various scenes.

Overall this is a couple of hour’s read that will appeal to fans of regency with a paranormal twist.

Thank you to Darkroom tours and Simon and Shuster UK for the review copy.

IF I’M BEING HONEST by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.

In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…

But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.


Title : If I’m Being Honest
Author : Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 370
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 23, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

IF I’M BEING HONEST is something of a love letter to the archetype of the mean girl. The girl who is pretty, blonde, popular and always there with a harsh barb. What these authors do with that character, however, is somewhat different from what we’ve come to expect.

If every glare I earned, or didn’t earn but received nonetheless, bothered me, I’d drown in the judgment.

Cameron is beautiful, blonde, popular.. but she’s not rich. She doesn’t have a string of broken hearts in her past — infact, she’s been very purposefully single for two years. She has plans for her life and she executes them accordingly, each task an item on her list to be crossed off. She’s methodical because it’s something she can control. Because her home life is complicated, fraught with emotional minefields, and her honesty — her drive — is a direct result of the neglect and belittling from her father, and the disdain she has for her mother’s string of failed jobs, failed motivation, failed ability to parent. Cameron feels driven to prove to her successful, and absent, father that she can be worthy of his attention, worthy of his love, that she is unlike her mother who earns only his scorn. She puts in the work because she can see, with her own two eyes, that work gets results.

Which is why she spends a year planning out her perfect relationship. She meets the guy, likes the guy, and waits. She wants to see that he has drive, has ambition. And when she finally makes her move.. it, unfortunately, backfires. And the boy in question no longer wants her, much less likes her, as a result.

I didn’t understand it at first. Wouldn’t a person be a better friend if they told the truth? [..] I’ve always thought of honesty as helpful even if it’s hurtful.

It’s in studying THE TAMING OF THE SHREW that Cameron sees so much of herself in the main character and decides to reinvent herself, to prove herself worthy of being liked, to soften her edges; to self-tame. And so begins her road of apologies, of amends, to reinvent herself.

I would have to be pretty desperate to put my fate in the hands of Cameron Bright, the girl who wrecked my life in the first place.”
Grant, you passed desperate when you were modelling lingerie for the innocent bystanders in a bookstore.”

IF I’M BEING HONEST is a retelling/reimagining of the aforementioned Shakespeare play, as well as Ten Things I Hate About You, and honestly? By about ten percent I wanted to shout my love of this book from the rooftops. It was funny, it was unflinching, it was heartfelt, it was raw. The evolution, not only of Cameron but the relationships — platonic and romantic — was so.. organic? Genuine? Real? Sure, it occasionally journeyed a somewhat expected path as far as plot progression, and emotional speed bumps, but it was the strong writing, and the solid characters, that carried it. That, infact, made it soar.

The ending doesn’t wrap everything in a bow; not every broken or bruised relationship is mended, not everyone is perfect and pleasant. The characters don’t change, they evolve. They don’t just apologize, they forgive.

Nobody’s ever bothered to figure out what would be the exact right thing to say to me. What I need to hear.

This book made me laugh (a lot), tear up (a few times), and even had a few less-than-subtle ‘these characters are from our first book’ cameos shoehorned in at near the end. I didn’t even really mind, even if it felt a little clunky, and I have no problem taking the hint and have, in fact, already put a hold on that first book. But other than that little tease, this is a true standalone, so don’t worry about missing anything.

It’s like there’s this horrible thing eating me from the inside, and the only way to let it out is to fall apart — or to lash out. To leave someone else with hurt and doubt and insecurity just to know they know how it feels.

If you appreciate characters being unfiltered and far from perfect, as well as a story that has plenty of grand gestures, fandom, and real issues that never cross the line into overwrought drama, you should definitely pick this one up. Sure it doesn’t get full marks from me but it’s really close. All the greatness is great and even the stuff I didn’t super love.. it’s still so good. This is a perfect summer-y kind of read, because it’ll make you feel good, but don’t expect too much fluff (not used in a derogatory way). This definitely has substance, and weight, and will be well worth your time.