Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Review: Never Been Kissed by Timothy Janovsky

Never Been Kissed
(Boy Meets Boy #1)
Timothy Janovsky
Release: May 3, 2022
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Dear (never-been-quite-over-you) Crush,
It's been a few years since we were together, but I can't stop thinking about the time we almost...

Wren Roland has never been kissed, but he wants that movie-perfect ending more than anything. Feeling nostalgic on the eve of his birthday, he sends emails to all the boys he (ahem) loved before he came out. Morning brings the inevitable Oh God What Did I Do?, but he brushes that panic aside. Why stress about it? None of his could-have-beens are actually going to read the emails, much less respond. Right?

Enter Derick Haverford, Wren's #1 pre-coming-out-crush and his drive-in theater's new social media intern. Everyone claims he's coasting on cinematic good looks and his father's connections, but Wren has always known there's much more to Derick than meets the eye. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way about the infamous almost-kiss that once rocked Wren's world.

Whatever. Wren's no longer a closeted teenager; he can survive this. But as their hazy summer becomes consumed with a special project that may just save the struggling drive-in for good, Wren and Derick are drawn ever-closer...and maybe, finally, Wren's dream of a perfect-kiss-before-the-credits is within reach.

A feel-good summer LGBTQIA+ New Adult RomCom, perfect for fans of Red White & Royal BlueBoyfriend Material, and What If It's Us.

This is one of those books where I read the synopsis and immediately knew I would be reading it. A queer romance that revolves around saving a drive-in? Yes, please! I grew up going to the drive-in and some of my best memories from high school revolve around my friend group piling into a couple of pickup trucks and going to see the newest releases. Never Been Kissed is the debut novel of Timothy Janovsky and it incorporated so many of the tropes I love! I would describe it as a coming-of-age, second chance romance and it was utterly delightful!

This book was the queer version of To All The Boys I've Loved Before that so many of us wanted. Wren Roland is still waiting to have his first kiss and he wants it to be movie perfect. Unfortunately, real life is not like the movies. After a disastrous birthday party, Wren drunkenly decides to send the emails he has written to the four guys he's almost kissed. The next morning brings regret and embarrassment of the OMG! WHAT HAVE I DONE?!? variety and it was so perfectly done!

Timothy Janovsky packed a lot into its 288 pages. Not only was there the romance and save the drive-in plots, this book was an exploration of the uncertainty that defines the transition from college student stage of life to the working adult stage. Wren and his friends have dreams but also have no idea how to achieve said dreams now that they have their respective degrees. Working at the drive-in is supposed to be their last hoorah before moving on to a 9-5 job. What Wren wasn't expecting was having to work with his former best friend who ghosted him freshmen year and one of the email recipients.

I loved the romance so much! Wren and Derrick have a lot of baggage and watching them work through it and start to fall for each other was *chef's kiss*. It was a little more dramatic than I am used to reading but it fit the story. I've seen mixed reviews on the Alice plot of the story and personally I loved the whole thing! Watching Wren and Alice both come out of their shells and learn to love other people was so heartwarming!

This story was also a beautiful and relatable exploration of what it means to be queer. And had the resounding message that it is okay to take your time. There is no deadline that you have to have your identity figured out by or that you have to hit any romance milestones by. Wren has figured out part of his identity but feels like gay is only the beginning of who he is. Labels are so important and when he finds that last missing piece of his identity so many things and past experiences fall into place. Wren's experience learning about the ace spectrum paralleled my own experience so much. I have started to see myself more and more in the queer books that have been released recently but this one made me feel so fully seen that I cried a few tears. Thanks for that Mr. Janovsky!

I loved this book so much and can't recommend it enough! I have already bought a physical copy to add to my personal library. I loved the cover! And I cannot wait for the second book in this series coming out this fall! I need it in my hands yesterday!

Also, can I say that it is so exciting and refreshing to see more and more romances written by queer authors?!? We definitely need more m/m romances written by more queer male authors like this one.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  4.5 / 5 Stars


Recommended for fans of:
To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Review: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

The Charm Offensive
Alison Cochrun
Release: September 7, 2021
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Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.
Y'all. I get the hype surrounding this book now and it deserves it all! And I’m sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner. I was a bit skeptical that I would like it going in because I'm not usually a fan of reality TV dating shows like Ever After but I found myself fascinated with those parts of the story. Once I started reading I couldn’t put it down until I was done because I had to know what happened next.

I loved so much about this book! It was heartwarming, tender, and so, so queer! I wanted to give all the characters a hug from the start. I quickly fell in love with Charlie and Dev and their friends! And let’s just say that the romance is total relationship goals! The way Charlie and Dev were there for each other and were more than willing to give each other the support they needed just got me right in the feels. I was rooting for them from the moment Charlie fell out of the limo at Dev's feet. I wanted them to have a happily ever after but I couldn't see how they were going to end up together through most of the book. Was the end kind of cheesy and over the top? Yes, but I love it! I'm going to put this out in the universe. I would read a whole second book of just these two hanging out, doing their own things, being in love, and interacting with their friend group. Someone write me that slice-of-life fanfic stat! 

I will admit that I came for the romance but I stayed for mental health and queer rep! The ways mental illness and identity were discussed in this book were amazing and so essential! I was so here for the demisexual rep! It's nice to see yourself in a book. I cried a few times while reading this and that's not something I get to say often. It totally hit me in the feels though. I can't recommend this book enough! I also need more books with all of these characters! I am especially shipping Parisha and Jules and would love a book about them!

  4.5/ 5 Stars


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Review: Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances by Aliette de Bodard

Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances
(Dragons and Blades #2)
Aliette de Bodard
Release: June 28, 2022
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From the author of the critically acclaimed Dominion of the Fallen trilogy comes a sparkling new romantic adventure full of kissing, sarcasm and stabbing.

It was supposed to be a holiday, with nothing more challenging than babysitting, navigating familial politics and arguing about the proper way to brew tea.

But when dragon prince Thuan and his ruthless husband Asmodeus find a corpse in a ruined shrine and a hungry ghost who is the only witness to the crime, their holiday goes from restful to high-pressure. Someone is trying to silence the ghost and everyone involved. Asmodeus wants revenge for the murder; Thuan would like everyone, including Asmodeus, to stay alive.

Chased by bloodthirsty paper charms and struggling to protect their family, Thuan and Asmodeus are going to need all the allies they can—and, as the cracks in their relationship widen, they'll have to face the scariest challenge of all: how to bring together their two vastly different ideas of their future...

A heartwarming standalone book set in a world of dark intrigue.
One of my favorite books from 2020 was Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders and I didn’t know until a week ago that it was going to become a series with a second book coming out this month. Y’all! My favorite dragon prince and his murder husband are back to solve another murder mystery! I loved Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances even more than the first book and it will definitely be on my favorites list of 2022.

This novella was everything! It starts off with Thuan (the soft bookish dragon husband) and Asmodeus (the stabby overprotective fallen angel husband with lots of knives) babysitting while visiting Thuan’s family. They soon find a ghost and uncover a murder that leads them into all sorts of troubles ranging from being attacked while babysitting to an ex-lover making an appearance. It’s mixed together with a hefty dash of emotional struggle, knives, and romance. I don’t think that these two will ever get to have a normal vacation ever.

Aliette de Bodard has built such an intriguing gothic fantasy world that instantly sucks me in. Her writing is beautiful and I adored the Vietnamese mythology mixed with the lore on fallen angels. The plot was intriguing and was a good mix of action, romance, and comedy. The babysitting scenes alone had me grinning like a loon. My heart didn’t know it needed the scenes with Asmodeus and Thuan being uncles to Camille and Ai Nhi but it did. It's now a huge pile of goo because of all the stabbiness and cuteness!

My favorite part though was the romance. Thuan and Asmodeus have come a long way since the first book but their marriage isn’t without its struggles and issues. The fight between them kept me on the edge of my seat and made me more than a little snippity to my family when my reading was interrupted. I just had to know if everything would work out and they would be fine.

Full disclaimer, I still haven’t read the original trilogy this series is a spin-off of despite having plans to do so in 2020. We all know how that year went. In this novella, we got a look at the start of Thuan and Asmodeus’s relationship and I’m dying to know more! The Dominion of the Fallen series is one I will definitely be continuing and finishing this year!

This series is so masterfully written and I can’t recommend it enough! It’s also a perfect Pride read with both bisexual and gay rep. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope with everything I have that we get even more novellas about my favorite murder husbands! I really can’t get enough of them or this world.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
Of Dragons, Feasts and Murder by Aliette de Bodard

Friday, June 10, 2022

Review: The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton

The League of Gentlewomen Witches
(Dangerous Damsels #2)
India Holton
Release: March 15, 2022
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Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the teahouse...

Miss Charlotte Pettifer belongs to a secret league of women skilled in the subtle arts. That is to say—although it must never be said—witchcraft. The League of Gentlewomen Witches strives to improve the world in small ways. Using magic, they tidy, correct, and manipulate according to their notions of what is proper, entirely unlike those reprobates in the Wisteria Society.

When the long lost amulet of Black Beryl is discovered, it is up to Charlotte, as the future leader of the League, to make sure the powerful talisman does not fall into the wrong hands. Therefore, it is most unfortunate when she crosses paths with Alex O'Riley, a pirate who is no Mr. Darcy. With all the world scrambling after the amulet, Alex and Charlotte join forces to steal it together. If only they could keep their pickpocketing hands to themselves! If Alex's not careful, he might just steal something else—such as Charlotte's heart.

I finally read The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels earlier this year and I adored it! Lady pirates! Assassins! Flying houses! So many gothic romance references! I fell for not only the main characters, Cecilia and Ned, but also for Ned's best friend and pirate, Alex O'Riley. Let's just say I squealed in excitement when I found out the next book in the series was his story! Add in the fact that we'd get to learn more about the witches that were mentioned a couple times and I needed to get my hands on a copy immediately!

I didn't know what to expect going into The League of Gentlewomen Witches but I was hoping for a similarly delightful and fun story as the first book. And it blew all of my expectations out of the water! In fact, I loved this book even more than the first one. Part of that is because I was already familiar with the world so this book read a lot smoother and I was instantly pulled into the story. The shenanigans in this book are still absolutely bonkers but they are also delightful! I thought flying pirate houses were an excellent and refreshing twist. I didn't know I needed these witches in my life who were constantly trying to slightly maim or murder each other!

I loved Cecilia in the first book but Charlotte quickly replaced her as my favorite! I loved seeing her interactions with Cecilia and the other lady pirates! But what I adored was her interactions and constant banter with Alex! Y'all! The romance hit me in the feels and I just needed everything to work out for them to get their happily ever after. They both have some serious baggage they needed to work through.

And can we talk about all of the Jane Austen references in this book! It made my inner Austenite so, so happy! I found myself loving the side characters in this book as much as the first one. I can't be the only one absolutely intrigued by the butlers and maids in this series, can I? Y'all! They could easily have their own series and it would be just as delightful and bonkers! It was also fun seeing so many familiar faces from the first book as well as seeing a different take on the overbearing aunt trope.

My one critique of this series in general is that there isn't much plot in the two books. It is a very character driven series. That being said, I think that the lack of plot didn't phase me as much as it would in other books because the book was just so much fun to read! Honestly, I didn't recognize there really wasn't a plot besides steal the amulet until I started to write this review because of how delightful the story was.

I ended up listening to the audio of this one on my morning commute and Elizabeth Knowelden did an amazing job on the narration! I would highly recommend picking it up! It's one of my favorites of the year so far!

I hope we get more books in this series! Hopefully, one that follows a certain butler.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  4.5 / 5 Stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Review: Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir

Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower
Tamsyn Muir
Release: November 30, 2020
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When the witch built the forty-flight tower, she made very sure to do the whole thing properly. Each flight contains a dreadful monster, ranging from a diamond-scaled dragon to a pack of slavering goblins. Should a prince battle his way to the top, he will be rewarded with a golden sword—and the lovely Princess Floralinda.

But no prince has managed to conquer the first flight yet, let alone get to the fortieth.

In fact, the supply of fresh princes seems to have quite dried up.

And winter is closing in on Floralinda…

I'm not quite sure what I was expecting when I picked this novella up but it was definitely not what I read. This book read like a Gail Carson Levine novel but with a mean streak. It started out like so many fairy tale retellings and then proceeded to turn so many of the tropes we've come to expect of story of a princess trapped in a tower on their heads. 

I kind of really loved this messed up fairy tale! The story begins with Princess Floralinda being stranded in the tower by a witch to whom setting challenges is an art form. At first, Floralinda is hopeful that she will be rescued quickly by a prince. But as days and weeks pass and the dragon on the first floor's kill count increases, her hope begins to wane as she gets dirtier and dirtier and sick of the food the witch left. There comes a point where Floralinda has to make a decision on whether she's going to stay in the tower or try to rescue herself. And that choice dictates the rest of the story and it is a doozy and more than a little bit macabre. Which, truth be told, is very on point for the author of Gideon the Ninth.

This is a novella so I'm not going to tell you anymore about the plot. It's a story I believe that you should go into not knowing much about. It made the story intriguing and enjoyable for me. 

I listened to the audio of this novella on my commute to and from work and would highly recommend it. It is narrated by the always amazing Moira Quirk who also narrates most of Gail Carriger's Parasolverse books as well as Tamsyn Muirs Locked Tomb series. I would highly recommend listening to it if possible. Moira Quirk's narration takes an already amazing story and elevates it to mind-blowing.

ARC provided by the Publisher via Netgalley

  4 / 5 Stars

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Review: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

The Love Hypothesis
Ali Hazelwood
Release: September 14, 2021
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As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford's reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive's career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding... six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

Do you ever read the synopsis of a book and immediately know you are going to adore it? Then you get the book and can't get yourself to pick it up because there is so much hype for it and what if this is the one time that your gut leads you astray and you don't like it? There is no hypothetical you here. This is totally my experience getting my hands on The Love Hypothesis.

This book blew up on social media and everywhere I turned was another raving review. I just kept putting it off because I've been burned by the hype monster before. So instead of picking this up first, I dipped my toe into Ali Hazelwood's STEMinist Novellas series and fell in love with her writing. Armed with the knowledge that I loved the novellas, I finally picked up my copy of The Love Hypothesis. And wouldn't you know it, I loved it so much! I want to go back and kick past me for not reading it as soon as I got my hands on it

I'm a sucker for a good enemies-to-lovers book and Ali Hazelwood delivered that trope with a book that read like the most delectable ReyLo AU fanfic ever! I quickly fell in love with Olive and her science nerd awesomeness. She might be one of the most relatable characters for me in recent years. As someone who went to grad school in a STEM field, I have never read so a realistic portrayal of being a female science grad student ever. It truly transported me back to my grad school days and made me feel seen. It really does takes someone from STEM academia to write it correctly. Thank you for putting it out there, Ali Hazelwood!

Olive's friends, Anh and Malcolm, were amazing! Anh is tenacious and blunt and Malcolm is calm and supportive. They really balanced Olive and her dumbassery out. The one character I loved just as much would be the love interest, Adam Carlsen. Now that I've finished the book, I can totally see why everyone loves him. He's a taciturn and stern person but totally gone and soft for Olive and I love him! He is the grumpy to her sunshine and I couldn't get enough of either of them!

I loved everything about this book but I don't want to go into details about the plot. It's definitely worth it going into the book as blind as you can. One thing I have come to appreciate about Ali Hazelwood's writing is that there has been demisexual rep in almost every one of her stories I've read so far! And it makes me so happy! I love that I can see myself in more and more in the books I read!

I actually listened to the audio of this book and it was freaking fantastic! Callie Dalton's narration was on point and I'd highly recommend reading this story that way! If you haven't picked this one up yet, do yourself a favor and a get a copy! You won't be disappointed! I cannot wait to get my hands on Ali Hazelwood's next novel, Love on the Brain! I need it!

Also, can we appreciate how beautiful this cover is? I love it so much that I had to get the BOTM hardcover edition for my shelves.

ARC provided by the Publisher via Netgalley.

  5 / 5 Stars!!!

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