Review: Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via Edelweiss and libro.fm for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

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★★★★.5✩

If you like romance you just can’t go wrong with a Talia Hibbert book!

Sometimes you are so excited about a book you actually have to postpone reading it because you know it’ll be the perfect read for you in a different moment of your life. Well that’s what I did and because of *gestures vaguely at the state of the world* I decided now was the perfect moment to finally read it, and read it I did.

I listened to most of it and then read a few parts on my digital ARC. I have to admit I didn’t love the narrator and the steamy parts are just too awkward for me to listen to, but oh they are excellent otherwise, like in all the other author’s books.

What I love most about Talia Hibbert’s romances is the diversity and how casual and honest the characters are about their marginalization and/or issues they faced in their life. Here we have a Black female protagonist with chronic pain and fibromyalgia and everything about how she talked about how this affects her daily life was so honest and effortless.

Something else that is rare to see was the male character talking about his abusive ex. I think it’s important to show that men can be abused by their partners and can heal from it. Also: therapy! Therapy is good!!! Therapy for everyone!!!! I don’t necessarily believe that IRL men can be like Talia Hibbert’s male characters, but oh do I want to believe they can be.

And speaking of the actual romance: it was swoony and sexy as always, and I appreciated that the more “dramatic” moments were resolved quickly (at least compared to previous TH romances I read) because I hate reading those parts.

I am excited for the next book (where the main female character is bi/pan!!) and as always I am in awe of Talia Hibbert skills and recommend her to everyone.

TWs: mentions of domestic abuse in the past

ARC Review: Crystal Caged (Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #5) by Elise Kova

I was sent this book as an advanced copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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One way or another… she will be the end of the world.

With powers that weren’t supposed to be touched by mortal hands, Vi Solaris is determined to free herself and the world from the deadly vortex it’s trapped in. This mission has taken her to forbidden lands and has transformed her from a sheltered princess to a fearsome warrior.

But the ultimate triumph requires the ultimate sacrifice, forcing Vi to choose between the last tethers to her humanity and the very people she’s sworn to protect.

Vi’s story of magic, sacrifice, triumph, and love reaches its epic conclusion in Crystal Caged.

Release date: March, 14th

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★★★✩✩ 

This book was mostly fine, but I think it suffered a lot because of how it was structured. Potential spoilers below I guess?

The frequent time skips were its weakest point, starting from the fact that it starts a number of years after the end of the previous book. There were also months and years skipped here and there throughout the book and while I understand it was necessary it also made for a read that was hard to get invested into. I admit if it wasn’t for the fact that through it we got to see so many characters and events from Air Awakens my rating would be lower.

I made my peace very early in the series with the fact that I wasn’t invested in the romance and knew this final book wouldn’t change my mind about it. I did enjoy the friendships and the dialogues and interactions with old characters, even when they were painful (why did I have to experience [redacted] again???)

Overall I’m glad I read this series because it reminded of how much I loved Air Awakens, every book was an entertaining enough read but my reading tastes have changed too much since then and I can’t seem to get as emotionally invested as I was in that series.

ARC Review: Cancer Ships Aquarius (Signs of Love #5) by Anyta Sunday

I was sent this book as an advanced copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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Prepare to dip your toe into the biggest adventure of your life, Cancer. There’s romance in the air, and it smells deliciously salty.

Dumped by the fifth girl in two years and abandoned by his best friends, Reid Glover is alone and in need of a home.
Desperate, he interviews to become a live-in manny aboard widowed Sullivan Bell’s yacht, the Aquarian.
The job? Not to look after thirteen-year-old Joanna. No, this child-mastermind needs Reid to befriend her dad, urge him to participate more in family life, encourage him to date, oh, and become his closest confidant and help him unleash his bottled emotions.
No pressure.
At least he’s not entirely out of his depth.
Okay, so he may have a slight aversion to the ocean. And possibly attract more than his fair share of misadventure.
But he is a pro at crying.
Watch out, Sullivan. Reid is on his way with a family-sized carton of tissues. He will help Sullivan through his fears. Will help him find love again.
Will absolutely not fall for him in the process . . .

Caution, Cancer, how long will you fool yourself?

~ ~ ~

Cancer Ships Aquarius (Signs of Love #5) is an MM opposites-attract romantic comedy featuring a misadventure prone manny and a blunt widower.
More wit, banter and bad puns – and even more heart-stopping slow burn!
Can be read as a standalone.

Tropes: slow burn, will-they-or-won’t-they, opposites attract, 10 year age gap, manny loves widow,
Genre: New Adult, light-hearted contemporary gay romance

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★★★★


I absolutely loved this! It had been a while since the last Anyta Sunday book I read but I’m glad she’s back and in great shape. This whole series is so funny and both light-hearted and deep when it needs to be and I’m always in awe of the author’s creativity and how she can come up with so many different situations and scenarios.

This book had a lot of tropes I absolutely adore including single parent, living together and being an emotionally oblivious bisexual. I had so many moments where I was laughing to the point of tears and to be honest that’s all I ask when I’m reading a romance book. Okay, not only that, but I also got everything else I wanted, so I literally can’t have any complaints.

I also really liked both the cameos of previous couples and the presence of two queer women (even though they were mostly present on the phone more than physically), which is something I kind of miss in this series and in m/m romance in general. I’m actually really really hoping for a novella of their relationship because that would be so cute to read.

I know this is a short review but I really don’t want to say anything else about the story and couple because I believe it’s best to just start reading without knowing much about it, I can only recommend this book and the whole series wholeheartedly!

Rep: bisexual MC, gay LI

TWs: loss of a spouse in the past, grief, mentions of homelessness and child abandonment, alcohol, accidental alcohol consumption by a minor

ARC Review: The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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When she arrives for a working vacation, shy photographer Trisha Ivy doesn’t expect much from Cherrywood Grove. Then she runs into beautiful, confident Gabi Gonzalez, a caterer working all the same weddings… and also the daughter of Trisha’s favorite childhood TV star. Trisha can’t resist getting to know her. After all, she’s only in town for the summer, and Gabi is straight. What harm could it do?

But as it turns out, Gabi’s easy charm is a facade. Since the sudden death of her father, Gabi has been pulling away from her family and what she really wants, weighed down by secrets she can’t express. Trisha might be the perfect person to help her, but is getting so involved in Gabi’s life really the right choice?

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★★★★✩

This was a truly beautiful and well-written book. It dealt with so many different life experiences, especially about the many ways different people can come out to both themselves and others. I particularly liked and related to Gabi’s own path in coming out and how this isn’t always as straight-forward as media (or real life) usually portrays it.

On the other hand was Trisha’s own history as a gay trans woman, and I feel like both stories were dealt with in a very serious and delicate manner. There was definitely something in both of them that every queer person might relate to, and in many ways this book was a study in being queer, particularly a queer woman.

I haven’t read the previous two books in this series and this didn’t affect my enjoyment: past characters make cameos here, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about how I wish more romance series had a mix of queer pairings and experiences, and while I don’t know how male queerness is handled in the first two, I really appreciated that this third book focused entirely on being a queer woman.

We so rarely get to see this and there were certainly types of experiences that this book didn’t handle, but we have a gay trans woman, a young gay woman who’s never been in the closet, a bi woman married to a man, and a woman who, despite growing up in a queer family, still struggles with her own coming out process. It’s… real, and it’s raw and this is a book I would have loved to read when I was just past my own questioning and coming to terms with who I was for the first time. I still loved to read it now and there were so many moments I highlighted because they just fit.

There were other themes such as family, friendship, death and grief that, paired with how seriously everything else was handled, made this book rather heavy to read, particularly if you, like me, expect the uh, more “usual” kind of (lighthearted) romance. That is not to say that it was difficult to read or that I didn’t want to read: I basically read this in three sitting on three different days because every time I started reading I didn’t want to stop. But it was emotionally heavy and I saw it more as a study or queerness, like I mentioned before, and as a character study.

The best way I can summarize my experience with this book is in two very separate statements:

a) what a wonderful book;
b) I didn’t have fun reading this book.

The second thing isn’t necessarily negative; some books aren’t meant to be fun. Maybe if I had read the first two in the series I would have known what to expect, but I didn’t, and as a general rule I’m expecting to experience at least a little bit of fun while reading a contemporary romance.

Speaking of the romance itself, it comes, but it comes very late. It makes sense within the book, much more than if things had been rushed: the relationship is very well developed and sweet, but it’s a friendship for a higher percentage of the book than what I would expect from a book marketed as, you guessed it, a romance.

Maybe your best bet is going in without expectations of what this book is or isn’t, but if you’ve read this far into this review I guess I already gave you some expectations. In any case, this is a novel I would highly recommend for its many themes and a pairing we need more of (trans f/cis f). I don’t know if I will go back and read the first two books in this series, but I definitely want to keep an eye for future work of the author.

Rep: cis Mexican-American gay woman, trans gay white atheist woman

TW: grief, loss of family member, discussions of homophobia and transphobia, food, straight weddings, religion

ARC Review: The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.

Release date: March, 17th

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★★★★

Finishing this book felt like being the “I lived bitch” meme

The Electric Heir messed with my emotions in a way that The Fever King didn’t. I want to make it clear before we start that I don’t consider myself a survivor of the type of abuse portrayed here, and this is a duology that’s especially written for survivors. So there will be things I don’t get and all I can do is listen to those who see themselves in this series.

What I can say is that this book is very hard to read and I don’t know if I recall many books that made me have to stop reading and take a breath because it was becoming too much. I had expectations and thoughts on how this book was going to play out, but even aware of the content warnings I was not prepared for how sudden everything was and how we were thrown in the middle of that whole emotional mess. Saying that I loved it would be inaccurate: this book gets ugly and you can’t help but hate it a little, but it makes its conclusion all the more satisfying.

There isn’t a lot I can talk about while reviewing a second and final book in a duology, but I loved finally getting Dara’s POV and I liked his voice maybe more than Noam’s. I was also under the impression that this series was going to be a trilogy but while I was reading I found out it’s a duology and I have to say, I need more series to be written in this format.

This is a short review because anything I say would be spoilery both for this book and the previous book, but watch out for Victoria Lee and her ability to create unforgettable characters. I’m looking forward to reading whatever she comes up with next.

TWs: inter-generational trauma, genocide, violence, abuse, attempted rape, mental health and suicide, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, emetophobia, drug and alcohol, abuse, parental death, ableist language.

Audiobook review: In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

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In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

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★★.5✩✩

This book was eye-opening for me because I’ve had multiple realizations while listening to it, first and foremost the realization that not caring about a book is a much worse feeling than not liking it.

This book was… objectively fine. It had things I like in theory but didn’t care for here and things I actually liked. I just really didn’t care about any of it and I feel so bad but it is what it is.

It might be that as soon as I started listening I realized that I actually really hate the idea of B&tB retellings, so I started off with a bad feeling in my gut. When I continued listening I could see that the aspects that make me uncomfortable about B&tB retellings were handled well here, but I still might stay away from such books in the future.

It might also be that while I love f/f romances (obviously) I just couldn’t see why Yên had to be so fucking horny for a dragon like, the moment she saw her. No, not even if she has a human form. Maybe I’m just not into monster romances and that’s another things this book made me realize. Generally speaking, I don’t mind insta-lust in most cases but I also didn’t really see an actual relationship development and I just couldn’t care about the romance at all.

I also didn’t really like any of the characters except for the twins, Vu Côn’s children, and actually found them and their relationship with Yên more well developed than the one with Vu Côn.

The world…this is another one of the realizations I’ve had with this book. I like Asian-inspired fantasy but I really don’t like fantasy dystopia. Or at least I didn’t care about this one. Oh, and speaking of the setting: I also don’t like magical buildings. I can’t see stuff in my head anyway so if things are constantly changing and just plain weird it just becomes a nightmare for me.

What I really liked was the diversity, there was an all Vietnamese cast and things about the language were also present in English (like specifying different kinds of pronouns for different form of address depending on relative age/social status etc). I bet that’s going to throw off a lot of monolinguals and I secretly rejoice at the thought of confused English monolinguals growing a big question mark on their faces.

There’s also two secondary characters who use they/them and, from what I could tell, personal pronouns were never assumed based on a person’s appearance. It was nice and effortless and this is how it should be.

I considered hard whether this was more of a 2.5 or a 3 stars for me, considering that what I felt was “meh” and that I do consider it an okay book. But I decided to go with 2.5 because it just doesn’t compare to books I rated 3 stars (which are normally books where I at least enjoy most elements). Regardless of my rating, please still know that this is an objectively good book probably, it just ticked off a lot of points I don’t like or care about.

ARC Review: Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales // the queer Grease retelling that stole my heart

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease

Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.

Release date: March 3rd

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★★★★.5✩

I was taken by surprise by this queer Grease retelling, not because I didn’t expect it to be good (it sounded amazing) but because it kept trying to annoy me and it just…didn’t.

Only Mostly Devastated is both a light-hearted romcom and a book that has many heavy themes within it, and the two aspects felt well-balanced and well-researched. With so many delicate themes at hand, there is going to be space for nuance as every reader reacts to each instance according to their own sensibilities and life experiences. To me, there was so much I could see easily going downhill but instead going the opposite way. Comments that were immediately challenged on page, conflict that could’ve been easily dismissed by one character but instead was acknowledged and respected. (Only one thing that I could think of didn’t really leave me satisfied, because the apology came late and wasn’t really an apology but it’s seen as one because of the character’s personality.)

This is not to say it’s all black and white: these are teenagers and they make mistakes and in the process learn to navigate life, and to me that was enough.

If you’ve seen Grease you might already expect how the romance works: summer fling, same school, two groups of friends. Add in the queer element, and the major conflict becomes the fact that Will is deeply closeted. This constitutes one of the heavier aspects of the book, second to the illness plotline, so I wouldn’t call this story fluffy by any means. But to me it felt very real and all in all I feel like Ollie never expected Will to come out for the sake of their relationship, he was fully willing to keep it a secret from everyone while simultaneously rightfully being frustrated by some of the decisions that Will took in order to keep his sexuality safe.

Will’s sexuality is not the only one in question, and there is a secondary sapphic character who gets outed to the whole school and this kind of furthers the narrative in more than one way. This is not something I had thought much about while reading and ultimately I think it was done more for the sake of the Grease retelling than to further the m/m relationship, but I can see how it might not sit well with everyone.

Ollie’s aunt’s terminal illness is the other major aspect that makes this book not the easiest to read. I don’t want to get too personal but I had to force a sense of distance in order to power through the book, and I found Will’s emotions very real and the grief aspect one of the best I’ve ever seen handled in a book. I wasn’t surprised to go on the author’s biography and find out she works as a psychologist, because she really hit all the spots with this story line.

With so much that was ultimately emotionally heavy content, how come I still called this light-hearted? Ollie’s internal monologue was simply a delight, and this is coming from someone who’s finding herself more and more distant from the “contemporary YA 1st POV voice”, but I could simply not care. Was it over the top sometimes? Yes, but I didn’t care. I liked Ollie’s voice and I thought he was highly relatable and funny.

I also loved the friendships in here. I couldn’t immediately understand the girls but once I did I loved their little messy group, and the guys were annoying but ultimately not unredeemable, especially once they got educated.

Speaking of the girls, it’s the first time I see PCOS being talked about in a book, YA especially, and how it affects the girl’s life. It was something I wasn’t expecting and it almost brought me to tears since nobody ever talks about it.

So, I think it’s fair to say I loved this. I would recommend to make sure you check the TWs first in order to be prepared, and even if you’re someone who doesn’t read a lot of YA (in general or anymore) but you’re still curious to try this, I think you won’t regret it.

Rep: gay MC, bisexual Venezuelan LI, female bisexual side character, POC characters, fat character with PCOS

TWs: a character gets outed against their will, terminal illness (cancer), hospitals, fatphobic and fatshaming comments (not immediately challenged), talk of weight loss and dieting, talk of PCOS and its symptoms and how they affect the character’s weight loss/diet, homophobic comments, death of a family member, grief, underage alcohol consumption