Book Review: Honey Girl

In the Author’s Note, Morgan Rogers mentions her agent, Holly Root, describing her writing voice as a vibrant blue house – some people would love it, and some people would think it is too much. Well, along with Holly, I love this blue house. Honey Girl is a romance for sure, but romance isn’t it’s central theme. It centres on perfectionism, on expectations set by your family that you take on yourself. I felt it and it hurt and warmed my heart. This blue house felt like home.

Star rating: 5 stars

The one time Grace Porter decides to really let loose after she is awarded her PhD, she gets married to a woman she just met in Las Vegas. The trip is just a catalyst for Grace, who has spent the last 11 years of her life throwing everything she has into her education in order to be the best astronomer only to find the world of astronomy doesn’t want a young Black queer girl.

Back home in Portland, Grace finds herself falling apart. Rejection after rejection sends her spiralling. She has pressure from her Dad, who she refers to as Colonel. He’s a really interesting character in the story, having been injured while deployed, and clearly suffers some PTSD. Colonel hoped Grace would study medicine, but she had her own ideas. He is the driving force behind her perfectionism, and adult Grace has turned his expectations into her own. Their relationship was one I felt deeply, for reasons.

Grace also has a complex relationship with her mother, who is opposite of Colonel in many ways. She’s been away travelling for a lot of Grace’s life trying to find herself. Now she is looking to get married again.

Grace leaves behind her friends (Ximena ,Agnes, Raj and Meera) to stay with the woman she married, Yuki, hoping some space will help her work out what she is going to do. They have a really strong connection, both women lost, lonely and romantic. Grace befriends Yuki’s flatmates (Fletcher, Sani and Dhorian), who become a found family away from home.

Honestly, Yuki and Grace do not spend a lot of time together in this book, but that’s because it focusses on Grace’s journey to heal all these wounds she has been carrying for so long. I really loved that, even if I did go into it expecting it to be more about romance. I feel like it was a book I needed to read – how best doesn’t have to mean the most prestigious, how you have to have room in your life for family, friends and all kinds of love. I loved all of the friendships, and the family dynamics. I loved the positive representation of therapy. I cursed all of the people that never gave Grace a chance because of her race and sexuality, who didn’t believe her work was her own.

Overall this is an amazing debut, and I can’t describe it but the book felt like honey to me. Goopy, thick, sticky and sweet when you taste it. I am very excited to see what Morgan Rogers writes next.

Book Review: A Court of Silver Flames

In all honesty, I had no idea what I’d think of this book going in. Let’s just say that after the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy, I was not a fan of one Nesta Archeron. However, I was very curious to see how Sarah J. Maas would approach her story, and so I started this book eagerly on release day. Did I like this book? Did my feelings about Nesta change? Read my review to find out.

Star rating: 5 stars (Spoiler alert, this is my favourite Sarah J. Maas book now.)

I’ll admit I was sceptical about opening up this world again but I was absolutely wrong. Nesta Archeron is an absolute queen and I am officially a stan now. We open the book in a similar place to the end of A Court of Frost and Starlight, with Nesta revelling in alcohol and sex, isolated from her sisters and their new Night Court family. They decide to extract Nesta from her life of seedy taverns (and seedy males), giving her an ultimatum. She must live with Cassian in the House of Wind until she heals.

Don’t get me wrong, the romance in this book is great, but where it really shines is in Nesta’s journey. It was going to take a miracle to make me like her, but I felt her pain almost instantly and was completely drawn into her story. She is far from perfect, but a completely engaging character with so much depth. Nesta’s relationship with the House of Wind is unique and heart-warming, and the friendships she developed with some of the other characters had me in tears at times (both happy and sad).

This is a book about overcoming the self-loathing that comes with trauma, and it does not let the reader forget Nesta’s experiences. It incorporates exercise, mindfulness, purpose and friendship to show Nesta and her new friends’ healing journeys. We also get more insight into the history between Nesta and Feyre and the complexities of their relationship and how fractured their family had become. Sarah J. Maas has grown dramatically as a writer, this was not an easy story to tell and she did it with such care and empathy for her character.

Not forgetting Cassian, who has is own demons to deal with. I enjoyed his arc too, loved the journey Nesta and he went on together. There is so much more depth to him in this book too, giving him a role that distinguishes him from Azriel. I wasn’t that drawn to him in the original trilogy, but that has all changed. (But oh, there is so much smut in this, no holding back from Sarah J. Maas this time).

Overall, I loved this book. It was heart-breaking and heart-warming, and ended so perfectly that I wouldn’t change a thing. Mostly, the empowerment of women is such a strong story and I felt every word.

Will you be picking up A Court of Silver Flames? Let me know! I hope I get to be united with these characters again (Azriel book please?).

Book Review: The Ex Talk

I can’t say I know a lot about public radio in America, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book overall. Rachel Lynn Solomon writes a romance unlike others, and sure, I had mixed feelings on our romantic pairing, but I don’t think it stopped me from having a good time when reading this.

Star rating: 4 stars

Our protagonist is Shay Goldstein, a producer at a public radio station in Seattle. She has been working the same job for 10 years (right since she left college), and has managed to convince herself that she’s happy just being a producer even though she always dreamed of being on the radio.

In comes Dominic Yun, fresh out of a Masters Degree at Northwestern. He is the new prodigy of the small team at PPR, and Shay can’t help but be jealous of the opportunities he is given. Personally, I felt this was Shay’s way of expressing her suppressed unhappiness at her own progression. But it’s not really Dominic’s fault as such, he creates his own opportunities and is lucky to have a sexist boss who gives him so much freedom. Shay, unfortunately, is only a good note taker that’s good with detail in Kent’s eyes.

PPR is really struggling for cash, so when opportunity presents itself, Shay and Dominic are roped into faking being each other’s, presenting their own show called The Ex Talk. Plot twist, they start to fall for each other.

So what did I like about this book? I liked it’s representation of adult loneliness – both Shay and Dominic have few friends and it shows. The characters are far from perfect but I could empathise with them. I genuinely had a good time reading this, especially in the first 75% or so. I felt Shay an Dominic had really good sexual chemistry which was a pleasure to read. The mixed media approach to story-telling (extracts from transcripts and social media) were fun to experience and added to the humour.

There were some aspects that I didn’t like but didn’t really affect my enjoyment for the most part. I just can’t see Shay and Dominic lasting as a couple – Dominic has so much to figure out in his life since he’s only 24 and his immaturity definitely shows in the latter parts of the book. Shay is at a different stage of her life than he is, and I feel like she still has some healing to do before settling down. Also, I feel like their loneliness drew them together but they have to work out whether there’s more than just sexual chemistry between them.

Overall, a great adult debut for Rachel, that I had a great time reading. One thing that really did make me angry though was Shay’s whole adoption of her dog? The rescue centre really wanted an experience dog owner yet they just let her adopt Steve? And then she’s barely ever home because she works until 8pm, no dog should be left alone for that length of time never mind a rescue with issues!

Anyway, this is a long review. Have you read The Ex Talk? What did you think?

Book Review: The Project

I read Sadie last year after my friends recommend it as a book that would make you kill all men. They weren’t wrong. So after that amazing book, I had to get my hands on The Project as soon as it released. This is a YA thriller that is really, really twisted, with five parts that increase in what-the-hell moments. There are some really nasty people in the world, that’s all I’m saying.

Star rating: 4 stars

The Unity Project is a big help in the community. It has a good reputation thanks to its community outreach and charity work, but Lo knows there’s more to it than that. Her sister Bea joined after Lo and her parents were in an accident, seizing contact with Lo and leaving her alone.

When a man shows up at Lo’s workplace (journalism), claiming that The Unity Project killed his son, Lo is one of the only people who believe him. She’s spent the last 6 years of her life trying to prove it herself, but now it’s time to really prove herself to be the writer she knows she can be and find the truth of The Unity Project and its leader Lev for good.

This book is a story of a master manipulator and his power over people. It takes place over two timeframes in two perspectives – older sister Bea joining and becoming part of The Unity Project, and younger sister Lo trying to prove that they aren’t what they say they are. Lev worms his way into people’s thoughts, praying on their trauma, their poor self-esteem, and their vulnerability. It is painful to watch him do this to our protagonists, who have been through so much during their lives.

I think I was expecting the ending to be more explosive, which is why I haven’t given the book 5 stars. I was expecting a mystery to be sold, but the book isn’t told like that. The rating may increase on a re-read knowing where the story is going to end up. But my heart felt so much for Bea and Lo, and the others in The Unity Project who deserved so much more love and compassion than they were receiving.

Overall another heart-breaking book by Courtney Summers – it has lots of content warnings so I recommend looking them up in goodreads reviews beforehand. Who knows what this author will throw at us next?

Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter

The Bone Shard Daughter was one of the Book Coven’s book club picks for January, so I’ve been reading it over the last couple of weeks. The book is full of chapter cliff-hangers, tension, twists and characters the grow on you throughout the course of the story. This is an ambitious debut with lots of points of view, and unique world-building that will leave you very curious.

Star rating: 5 stars

Lin is the daughter of the Emperor – in constant competition with his foster son to be his heir. The only trouble is, a sickness took her memories when she was young and the Emperor won’t approve of her unless she gets them back.

Jovis is a criminal who gains a reputation for saving children from the Tithing. One day while out at sea he saves a strange creature, and the two are bonded in a way he can’t explain.

Phalue is the daughter of a governor – sheltered with no idea how her people really live. But with the help of her girlfriend Ranami, will she change her worldview?

Ranami grew up on the streets but now she’s dating the governor’s daughter. She’s mixed up with rebels, but can she get Phalue on side to really make a difference in the world?

Sand is the final point of view, with rare chapters brimming with tension. Who is Sand? Who are the others she lives with? Why don’t they remember where they came from? It’s one of the biggest mysteries in the book.

I’d describe this book as fast paced with plenty of mysteries to keep a reader gripped, revealing just enough with each chapter. The world-building is revealed gradually with the characters, with no info dumps in sight (much appreciated). The magic system is unique, and I felt like the book had just enough darkness to not be too overwhelming.

What really makes this book is the last third when it all comes together at a ridiculous speed. The end quite literally flies right before your eyes. It took me a while to warm to the characters but the definitely have my heart now.

I’m really excited to see what Andrea Stewart brings in the sequel given the reveals in book one! Have you read The Bone Shard Daughter yet? If you want a book with characters that really make you think, this is the fantasy for you.

Book Review: Such a Fun Age

This is the second time I’ve read Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and it certainly won’t be the last. This is a coming of age story with race at the centre, with a cast of very realistic characters with plenty of depth. Even though the book is character driven, I was gripped from start to finish – there is so much to analyse and think about.

This review will have some spoilers.

Star rating: 5 stars

The book centres on two main characters – Emira, a Black woman of 25 (we’re the same age, and I felt that), and Alix, a woman of 32. Emira’s the sitter of Alix’s children Briar and Catherine, but spends most of her time looking after Briar. I felt a little bit like Briar might be autistic, but it isn’t mentioned in the book specifically.

Emira is so lost – she has no idea what she wants to do with her life (hey me too), but she enjoys looking after Briar and also does a few days at a transcription job. One day, Alix asks her to come and take Briar out late at night (aside, Alix’s husband said something racist and sexist on TV so people are throwing rocks through their window). Emira, needing the cash, leaves a friend’s birthday party and takes Briar to the grocery store and the girl likes smelling tea and looking at nuts. Whilst there, people question why the child is with Emira and a man captures the situation on video.

Alix is a 32 (ish?) year old who is basically an influencer in New York, but when she gets pregnant with her second child she has no choice but to move out of the city. And so Catherine is born, and Alix works from home on her new book, hiring Emira to look after her kids. After the situation at the grocery store, Alix feels really guilty and tries to make amends, amends that Emira doesn’t really want.

Emira dates the person who took the video of the grocery store, Kelley. Turns out, Kelley dated Alix in high school, and the two have a complicated past. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Kelley and Alix when the two meet for the first time in 15 years. Both are convinced the other is bad for Emira, and that the other is being a bad white person. Turns out, they both have their own racial biases and micro-aggressions. Who’d have thought?

Emira’s realisations about the people around her are some of the most powerful in the book – I really loved the way she fights back. I also enjoyed her relationship with the child, Briar. Emira’s the only person in her life who seems to give her the attention and love she deserves.

I was particularly happy to see what the end gave us flashes into the future for each of our central characters which was a really complete way to end the book. Overall this is a fantastic debut and I will definitely be picking up Kiley Reid’s future novels.

Book Review: The Switch

The Switch is a heart-warming contemporary novel with some romance, but it’s about much more than falling in love. It follows a Grandma – Granddaughter duo who have both lost their way a little through the tragic loss of a family member. The two decide to swap places for two months which forms the basis of the plot.

Star rating: 5 stars

After Leena loses her sister to cancer, she’s falling apart and using work to escape. But once anxiety driven disaster (oh Leena, I relate), her boss sends her on two months leave. Eileen, Leena’s Grandma, is single after her useless husband cheated on her. Now it’s time to move on, but the dating scene in rural Yorkshire really isn’t looking all that appealing.

When Leena visits her Grandma, the two decide to switch places – Leena will take over Eileen’s duties in the small village community, and Eileen will live with Leena’s flatmates in London. During the two month life swap, both women learn new things about themselves and each other, and bring a different perspective to the new people they befriend.

I absolutely adored both points of view. This is a really hopeful family story, and I loved the close relationship between Leena and Eileen. The side characters are also wonderful – both the oldies in Eileen’s village that Leena gets to know, and Leena’s friends back in London who are charmed by Eileen.

The romances in the book are also really, really sweet. I saw both coming from a mile away but it was so, so cute. I loved how the romance didn’t dominate the story though, there is so much more to it than that including the importance of family and friendship, and learning to live with loss and grief. There’s even a domestic abuse story, that shows that abuse is not age-confined in the slightest.

Overall, a charming book that made me laugh and cry, that has humour amongst it’s serious moments. I honestly think most people would enjoy this story, it reminded me of my own family during a time when I can’t visit them.

Have you read any Beth O’Leary books? After enjoying The Switch and The Flatshare, I’m really excited for The Road Trip.

Book Review: Allegedly

After loving Monday’s Not Coming I just had to try the other audiobook of Tiffany D. Jackson that my library had. That book is Allegedly, her debut. It is a Young Adult mystery / thriller with very, very dark themes, and it worked well in audio format. Did I really expect to pick up a book about a girl that allegedly killed a baby when she was nine years old? Not really. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.

Star rating: 4 stars

Mary B. Addison killed a baby when she was just 9 years old, or so they think. She lived in baby jail for 6 years, before ending up in a group home with other girls that committed crimes of varying severity. The book delves into Mary’s past through various interviews and records from after she killed Alyssa, along with Mary’s only reflections on what happened. I loved this multiple source approach to Mary’s character, it was difficult to tell what the truth was.

Mary has a complicated relationship with her mother, and this is one of the main things the book centres on. She was often neglected as a child, and her mother had an abusive boyfriend who assaulted Mary too. Mary’s mother visits her every couple of weeks at the group home, displaying signs of mental illness.

Group home life isn’t easy for Mary – her story is famous (there are books about it and it is studied in law schools) so the other girls don’t like her. She spends her time reading and prepping for the SATs, hoping to make a better life for herself despite her criminal record. She also volunteers at a nursing home, where she meets Ted, her secret boyfriend (a very morally grey boyfriend, to be honest).

At the beginning of the book, Mary finds out she’s pregnant and it changes her mindset on what she was accused of as a child, wanting to prove herself innocent so her child is not taken away from her. Mary meets sympathisers and haters throughout the story and I found myself as a reader torn about her character. The book is really thought-provoking in terms of personal morals and ethics.

Overall this is an exceptional debut, and I appreciated the story being told through audio. It was a bit long and repetitive at times, but I was really desperate to know what the ending would be!

Thanks for reading, hope everyone is doing well. I’m in lockdown again, which means working from home a lot. Keep safe.

Book Review: Monday’s Not Coming

So in true jump straight into your goals, I listened to an audiobook from the library! We won’t mention that I listened to a 10 hour audiobook in ten days but this one was really addictive and I enjoyed the narration which is a rarity. Monday’s Not Coming is a crime / mystery YA novel by Tiffany D. Jackson. It includes grief, child abuse, and the realities of friendship in your teens.

Star rating: 5 stars

When Claudia’s best friend Monday doesn’t turn up at school, she’s really confused. There’s no answer when she calls her, and the school office says she’s not a registered student anymore. But Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable, so Claudia begins to worry but nobody else seems to care.

What follows is split into 3 parts. The Before (when Monday is missing but before Claudia knows why), The After, and Before the Before, exploring Claudia’s friendship with Monday. It was really clear which time period was which in the audiobook which I really appreciated.

The two girls have grown up in two vastly different environments – Claudia’s parents are protective and supportive and she’s an only child. Monday has lots of siblings, her Mom is a single parent and Claudia’s never been to her place. The book shows the inequality through Claudia’s young eyes, who doesn’t really understand why her friend is the way she is. Claudia even imagines that Monday has her own bedroom with nice decoration, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Nobody cares when girls like Monday disappear. Claudia tries to explain her worries to so many adults throughout the book, and none really give her the time of day. But when Claudia is missing for a few hours, her parents have the whole church out looking for her.

Claudia ends up talking to Monday’s older sister April a fair bit, and starts to wonder if she knew Monday at all. Monday had to mature so much quicker than Claudia and her experiences are really traumatic. I think everything Claudia discovers is even more damaging to her mental health because she’s so sheltered and innocent.

Overall this is a shocking book that is just so sad. Reading it you just want to slap all of the adults who don’t care. Girls going missing shouldn’t be normal, and they shouldn’t be ignored. I think listening to the audiobook made it even more emotional for me as the narrator had such a young voice.

Have you read any books by Tiffany D. Jackson? I really want to pick up Grown at some point, hopefully my library gets it soon because I’d like to listen to it.

Book Review: The Fifth Season

Wow, this book is awesome, you can definitely understand why each book in the trilogy won the Hugo Award. N.K. Jemisin has created a science-fiction / fantasy blend that makes for such amazing world-building. The characters are really pushed to their absolute limits and I was gripped from start to finish.

Star rating: 5 stars

We have Essun, Syenite and Damaya as the points of view. Each is at a different stage of life. All have big struggles going on and challenging plots. Essun’s story is told in second person present which is so unique and done really well, I felt like someone was telling me a story.

What really captured me was the world-building. The world is different to Earth, but the same. Earth is wrecked by earthquakes, tsunamis and huge volcanic eruptions. This wild seismic activity leads to seasons, apocalyptic events that happen every 100 years or so. The orogenes, which our characters are, are linked to the seismic activity, can stop it and use it to cause their own devastation. Because of this, they are hated members of society, often killed.

Damaya is a child, an orogene who has been taken to the Fulcrum. This is where she will learn how to use her power to be useful to society – that’s if she can learn to control it. Syenite is older, a Four Ringer at the Fulcrum who is looking to advance. She’s sent on a mission out to the coast with the only Ten Ringer to mentor her. Essun is the oldest, living in a small village called a Comm with her kids and husband. But in this world, all is not what it seems.

I definitely suggest giving this book 50-100 pages to get going because it takes a while to understand the world it is based in. There are so many twists and turns throughout that it is worth the wait and scene setting. The story is really dark in places – this is for sure an adult book that I wouldn’t recommend to teens.

With it’s amazing character diversity and crazy twists, The Fifth Season is not one to miss out on reading. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next after the cliffhanger at the end!