I was fortunate to receive an audiobook copy from the publisher and author through Netgalley in exchange for feedback and my honest review. These are my opinions, uninfluenced.
Social Queue by Kay Kerr is a young adult, contemporary novel releasing tomorrow! Zoe Kelly is finally done with High School, and she’s so over the bullying and autistic masking. With an internship at a media company, Zoe ends up writing an article on her non-existent dating life which ends up going viral. Turns out, Zoe had just been missing the signs. Now, with a list of contenders from her past, Zoe’s spun away in a ride full of confusing signals, old sparks and new articles.
This was such a heart warming and fun read. It definitely delivered what the synopsis sold.
I loved Zoe’s character and found it easy to root for her. I can quite easily get bored with monologues but I found Zoe’s thoughts pretty fun to follow. She was a refreshing and quirky character.
Zoe’s relationships with the people around her (beyond romance) was a delight to read. I loved getting to know her sister. I didn’t enjoy the romance as much as I had expected. It’s not to say, I didn’t like it, I just wasn’t that invested in. However, that didn’t diminish my enjoyment for the story, I still cared a lot about where Zoe’s story went.
I was really happy with how the social anxiety portion of this story was handled. It felt honest and authentic. Personally, this was such an insightful read. I haven’t read a young adult book with autism rep (mc) before, so I’m glad we’re getting more neurodiversity.
I really liked the writing style. It was easy to read and enjoy. There was a great balance of dialogue and monologue. There were some moments that tugged at my heart strings and did make me emotional. They were probably some of my favourites.
If you’re looking for a refreshing coming of age story that tugs at the heart, I highly recommend this one.
This was an incredibly successful month of reading for me. Almost makes up for the rest of the year, when I wasn’t reading. My favourites this month would be The Bridge Kingdom, Cemetery Boys, We Were Liars and The Trouble With Hating You.
My month started of with A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson.
In a small town, school girl, Andie Bell is murdered. Her boyfriend, Sal Singh, becomes the prime suspect and a few days later, he commits suicide closing the case. Fast forward five years, Pippa is convinced there was more to the open and shut case. As she chooses the case for her final year project, she uncovers more than she expected.
It was exactly what I needed to drag me out of my reading slump.
The next book I dived into was the first book in my TBR for August. Confessions About Colton by Olivia Harvard has an interesting concept as it follows Elliot, who’s best friend, Colton has just been murdered. As Elliot finds letters from Colton’s killer he’s dragging into a mystery of solving not only who killed Colton but if he really knew his best friend at all.
This was a roller coaster of ups and downs for me.
The ups for me were the thrilling, risky scenes. My heart raced through these fast paced scenes. Olivia Harvard did such a great job writing them. I loved how Elliot’s relationships with people especially his mother developed through the book.
The biggest down for me was the ending. It was definitely a plot twist but one that didn’t feel justified. I think I wanted some more set up for it or even more of an explanation – anything that would help me understand the motive.
In saying that, it was a great debut novel, especially for a mystery. I definitely enjoyed reading it and would pick up another book by Olivia Harvard without hesitation.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
I listened to You Have A Match by Emma Lord as an audiobook through Libby. Up until she does a DNA test, Abby’s biggest problem was the B.E.I. (big embarrassing incident). When the DNA results show that Abby has a full-blooded sister out there, Abby is thrown into a roller coaster with a new love, a sister she didn’t know about and one hell of a summer.
There is nothing I despise more than the best-friends to lovers trope. I just can’t deal with it. And despite that, Emma Lord managed to create characters that I loved reading about. I was so invested in Abby’s new relationship with her secret sister, Savannah and the new life at the camp.
I would be listening to this as I walked around uni and I’d have to hold back a laugh at the risk of looking crazy. This was light, sweet and an ideal summer read (despite it being Winter here in NZ).
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Be a little kinder than you have to
We Were Liars, E. Lockhart
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is the kind of book you need to go in without knowing anything. Just trust the process. If there is any way to describe this book, it is: well-crafted.
In my opinion, the best sort of endings are the ones that surprise you but when you look back, it all makes so much sense! This is the feeling I missed out on in Confessions About Colton but E. Lockhart did not disappoint.
The writing style is so unique and poetic. What I found even more interesting was her utilisation of fairy tales.
I can’t seem to find the right words to explain how much I enjoyed this book. The characters were flawed and so real. Everything about the story came together in the most satisfying and mind-blowing way possible.
This is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but one you must try.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I love listening to audiobooks while I drive anywhere and Auckland traffic gives me ample time to enjoy them. So, the next audiobook I picked up was The Knockout by Sajni Patel. We join Kareena Thakar, a high school student and training Muay Thai fighter with a father that’s really sick, financial problems that are becoming harder to ignore and a culture she’s distanced herself from. Through it all, there’s one saving grace: Amit Patel, the genius who strangely needs tutoring from her.
The thing that initially drew me into this book was the cover. Specifically, the mehendi/henna. And from there, I was hooked. I loved this book as much as Kareena Thakar loves the colour pink.
Deciding to delve into the world of fantasy, I dove into Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, a new release YA Fantasy.
The retelling follows Shiori, the princess of Kiata as she tries to keep her forbidden magic a secret and get out of her arranged marriage. When her step mother curses her and turns her brothers into cranes, Shiori is left without a voice and a home. Without anyone but the same boy she didn’t want to get involved with, Shiori has to figure out how to break the curse.
This was rich with culture and action-packed. If you want to hear my thoughts, check out my book review.
After Six Crimson Cranes, I was desperate for another fantasy. So, I picked up Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. This book has been on my TBR list for years so it was high time I gave it a shot. The high fantasy novel is set in a world where magic is barren and the lands are perishing except for one kingdom. Four different people are placed against each other, all with their own reasons to survive and gain.
This book took me a long time to get into. There were a few scenes that I enjoyed through out the book but it wasn’t until the last 50-100 pages that I was really invested.
The negatives for me were some of the dialogues and the romance. Some of the dialogues and scenes felt weirdly unnatural and it was so jarring that it would pull me out of the world. And the romance. For the first time, I disliked the romance. Morgan Rhodes sets up two tracks of romance, neither of which I liked. The first one, was too Insta-lovey and rushed and I don’t even want to touch on the second one.
The best thing about Falling Kingdoms is the characters as individuals. They are so interesting, with their motives and backgrounds. They’re not necessarily perfect or morally clear but you can completely understand why they do what they do, even when it’s not right.
The story has always been pitched as Game of Thrones and I totally see it! The way the first book ends, it sets up the opening for the rest of the series well so I’ll definitely be giving the next book a go!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
But fate was fickle, and the gods were cruel just as often as they were kind.
The Raven and the Dove, Kaitlyn Davis
Perfect for the fans of Sarah J. Maas, The Raven and the Dove is a fantasy retelling of Tristan and Isolde. As the avian kingdoms in the sky prepare for the courtship trials, Princess Lyana of the Doves and House of Peace gets ready for one last adventure where she ends up rescuing the Raven Prince from a dragon. Rafe, is the bastard son of the late Raven King, and he’ll do anything for his half-brother the prince, including posing as him in the courtship trials. As the world below the avian kingdoms prepares for war, everything Rafe and Lyana know and love is at risk.
A forbidden romance, wings and dragons. What more could you ask for? I flew through this book, it was so much fun and interesting. To hear more about what I thought, check out my review!
Liya Thakkar is independent, a force to be reckoned with, and against arranged marriages. After she walks out on her family’s attempt to set her up, she doesn’t expect the same guy she walked out on to walk into her office. Jay Shah is charming, infuriating and Liya’s last hope at saving her crumbling company. As office banter turns into late night chats, Liya’s forced to reconsider everything she knows about love, marriage and everything in between.
I loved The Knockout by Sajni Patel and naturally, I loved this one too! This was so much fun. I loved Liya and Jay and everyone around them. I feel like we got to see the supporting characters a lot more in this than we did in The Knockout. I felt so much reading this, I felt so attached to the characters and I was amazed by how desperately I needed a happy ending for them. It was so satisfying seeing every bit get tied up and come together. In closing, I hate Mukesh with a passion.
I highly recommend this for anyone wanting a diverse love story that will have you laughing, crying and rooting for the characters like never before.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson is a standalone young-adult, fantasy novel. Elisabeth has grown up amongst shelves full of grimoires that can transform into monsters. When Elisabeth is implicated in a crime she didn’t commit, she’s torn away from her home and shipped away for justice with Nathaniel, a sorcerer that can’t be trusted and his demonic companion, who’s even more untrustworthy. As a century-old conspiracy unfolds, Elisabeth’s only hope is Nathaniel and his strange friend.
First of all, I love this idea of a dangerous library. This was so well done and I loved the world Margaret Rogerson had created. This was a really great read, well paced and with great characters. My only complaint: this was a standalone. As soon as I finished this, I was so disappointed that there wasn’t more. Not to say, I wasn’t satisfied with how everything wrapped up. I just loved the world and characters so much, I need more!!!
This is the first standalone fantasy novel that I’ve actually enjoyed thoroughly. Normally, I find the world to be underdeveloped and I don’t become as invested in the characters due to it being plot driven. I don’t know how Margaret Rogerson did it, but she hit it out of the park.
I loved the romance between Elisabeth and Nathaniel, it took its time to develop and I loved every bit of interaction. Speaking of Nathaniel, hands down my favourite character in this book. He was such a fun, complex and refreshing character.
If you’re looking for a fantasy book that you get completely immersed in without committing to an entire series, this is the one for you!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The Endless Skies by Shannon Price was an ARC received from the publisher and author through NetGalley. The story is set in Heliana, a floating city with winged-lion shapeshifters. As a disease begins to threaten the children of Heliana, our main characters have to race against dwindling time to find the cure.
I had a few issues with this book, but still think it was worth the read. If you want to know my detailed thoughts, you can check out my book review!
Another ARC I received through NetGalley was One Last Kiss by A. S. Kelly. I ended up DNFing this fairly quickly. There were too many dialogues and not enough action. I’m talking, pages on top of pages of consistent dialogue without any dialogue tags, description or clue about who is speaking and what they’re doing. It was really confusing and hard to follow.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman follows Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens, an orphan who ends up living in a graveyard being raised by ghosts. When the murderer that killed his family is back and searching for Bod, he must decide between the safety of the graveyard and the world waiting to be explored.
I don’t normally pick up middle grade novels. More than that, I don’t normally enjoy them. But I loved reading about Bod and his quirky family in the graveyard. Neil Gaiman did an exceptional job introducing such unique characters from such different timelines. There was a portion of the book that felt a little slow and took me longer to get through. But other than that, I really enjoyed it. I flew through the last hundred pages, my heart racing for Bod. The ending was so satisfying and I reckon, perfect for Bod’s story.
If you’re looking for a middle grade fiction to pick up, this is the one.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
We Are Not Okay by Natalia Gomes follows four girls in high school as they are silenced. Lucy, who points fingers and shames everyone in an attempt to hide the secret she ashamed off; Ulana, who comes from a conservative Muslim family as she deals with racism and trying to keep any rumours (true or not) from destroying her reputation; Trina, who’s raped at a party and even more broken when no one believes her; and Sophia, who’s betrayed by her boyfriend in the worst ways.
This is the definitely the kind of story that makes me grateful for managing to get through high school with a good experience. The book highlights exactly how cruel teenagers can be. It touches on important topics like: eating disorders, cheating, bullying, mental health, sexual assault, racism and more. I think it did a fair job at dealing and juggling with them all. This book was thought provoking and painful to get through. I was frustrated and heart broken by how terrible these girls had it, it was just so unfair. Especially, how the book came to an end.
We Are Not Okay is told from four perspectives, and I found none of them had very different voices. Though their lives and problems were different, I couldn’t tell them apart without the help of the chapter title. In saying that, I loved seeing the overlap in their perspectives and thoughts.
Two things disappointed me in this book. One was the ending. We spend so much time reading how these girls get dragged through the mud and I was hoping for a more empowering ending but it all seemed too simple. I don’t feel like all the characters had the developmental arc I was hoping for. The second thing was the implication that rape victims that do not report the crime are cowards. Even though I understood where the thought was coming from, I wish it had been explored more to show that it’s not correct, but instead a very harmful way of thinking.
Ulana is a Muslim character, and I think her internal conflict was done well. In terms of the rep, I cannot comment. I would love here an ownvoices opinion.
Overall, I did enjoy this and would recommend as this touches on issues we definitely should be talking about.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
The next book I picked up was a graphic novel provided by NetGalley. Good Girls Don’t Make History by Elizabeth Kiehner is a non-fiction historical, graphic novel that you’ll hear me raving about for some time to come. It explores the women’s suffrage movement in the US. It is fast, doesn’t bog you down with a lot of details and extremely empowering. I have a detailed book review if you’re interested.
Meet Me at the Summit by Mandi Lynn is a young adult, coming of age story about Marly. After her parents death in a car accident, Marly’s family executes an intervention and forces her into a trip around the country. Through hiking adventures, her photography and a new guy named Dylan, Marly learns to cope with her grief.
This definitely eased my cabin fever from being in a lockdown. Beyond that, the characters felt two dimension and it was a slow paced read.
Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas is very loved on Booktok. It follows Misha and Ryen, who are pen pals. As the tagline suggests, they are perfect together, until they meet. Chaos ensues and they hate each other. Underneath all of that, are some mysteries. Who is behind the vandalism occurring at school? Why did Misha really move to Ryen’s high school out of the blue?
This was a lot. I can definitely see why everyone loves it the way they do. Unfortunately, I did not. In saying that, I didn’t dislike it. There were just some aspects of Misha and Ryen’s relationship where it went too far for me. The bullying, and just the downright horribleness of their interactions made me grimace at times. Other times, I was so there for it. Like this book was so scandalous that I read it in one sitting.
I loved the mysterious aspects of this book. The plot twist at the end came as a surprise, possibly because I was so distracted by the disaster that was Misha and Ryen’s interactions.
Ryen was definitely a flawed person (she was so horrible at times). It didn’t make me want to DNF, because I’m so here for some good character development. Which happened to an extent, but not enough to make me completely forgive everything she had in the past.
Disclaimer: this is definitely an 18+ book.
Conclusion: enjoyable read with some problems that I’m too soft to ignore.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas follows Yadriel, who raised in a traditional Latinx family just wants to be accepted as a Brujo. In order to prove himself, Yadriel summons a ghost as a part of a ceremony. The next step is to release the ghost, but unfortunately for Yadriel, Julian Diaz is not going to go quietly. He has some unfinished business and until Yadriel helps him with it, he won’t leave.
THIS BOOK WAS SO WORTH THE HYPE.
Now that that’s out of the way. Going into this, I was so nervous that it wouldn’t be as good as everyone was saying it to be. But it was so amazing. I loved Yadriel, I loved Julian and I loved them together. I loved the plot, the world around them and all the supporting characters. The way Yadriel’s journey of not only being accepted by his family but also coming to terms with the fact that he didn’t need permission to be himself, was just amazing.
By the time I finished this book, I was glowing and over the moon. It captured everything perfectly. I learnt so much from this book and it’s one that’s going to stay in my heart with a warm, glowy feeling.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao is a young adult mystery thriller that was a part of my TBR for this month. A dark academia story that I was really excited for. In short, it was underwhelming but not a bad a read. I recommend checking out my full review.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar is a YA Fantasy about Sheetal, who is the daughter of a star. On Earth with her mortal father, Sheetal hides her true self from the rest of the world. When she accidentally injures her father and the only cure is her mother, Sheetal ascends to the sky, in order to compete in a tournament and win the help of her father.
I had seriously high hopes for this one, but in the end it didn’t satisfy me. I really enjoyed some aspects of this book. For example, the focus on Hindu astrology is one that I haven’t seen in books before and it was really well done. It was super interesting and I loved the magical feel. The execution of the culture itself was really great. The representation was spot on.
Other than that, Sheetal and the rest of the characters felt very ‘plain’. I didn’t feel like she had a personality, so I found it hard to connect with her. Because of the blurb, I went into this feeling like the stakes were going to be high but it was actually very ‘chill’. The pacing was also very slow and the tournament itself was near the end and even then it wasn’t that thrilling.
A slow but magical read. I’d be interested in seeing what the author puts out next.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is so talked about that I’m not going to bother with a summary. Just know: missing wife, suspicious husband, and a lot of questions. This was really brilliantly written and planned, so brilliant that I’m concerned for Gillian Flynn. I was able to guess the ‘plot twists’ but it didn’t diminish the enjoyment for me. The characters were disturbingly complex and the ending had me sitting there and contemplating everything. There are so many paragraphs that will stay with me because of how raw and vivid they were.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Magi Menagerie by Kale Lawrence is a young adult novel releasing in September this year. I won’t talk too much about it as I have a full review on it. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. Diverse characters, forbidden romance and an incredible world building.
The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen follows Lara, a warrior princess trained in isolation to be ruthless and her enemy and future husband, King Aren. All Lara knows is bringing down Aren is the key to saving her kingdom. But as she infiltrates his home, she begins to questions who the villain really is.
I had no intentions of this picking up, because I’m simply not great with adult book. BUT THIS WAS SO GOOD. LIKE SO GOOD. The enemies to lovers, the angst, the slow burn, the betrayal, the politics. I could go on. It was easy to stay up all night to read this, more than that, it was easy to shelf it as a favourite. I need more people to pick this up and gush with me about it. Readers of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir and Shelby Mahurin will eat this up.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Traitor Queen by Danielle L. Jensen is the sequel to The Bridge Kingdom. I loved this just as much. The angst and oh gosh, the pain. This was so so so so good. I won’t stop talking about this one for some time to come.
In Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim we join Shiori, the princess of Kiata. In this YA fantasy, Shiori’s biggest problem seems to be avoiding her betrothed, until her step-mother curses her and turns her brother into cranes. Without money and her voice, Shiori has to not only survive without the perks of her title but also find a way to save her brothers and free them from the curse.
The fairy retelling was an excellent concept that was executed really well. I fell in love with the culture, the tales and the song. Lim had created a wonderful world that I was able to be dive into.
The characters were so interesting, especially Shiori, Seryu, Raikama and Takkan. Speaking of Takkan, he is such a cutie! I loved these characters and felt like there were so many dimensions and layers to them. My only issue with the characters were probably her brothers, I couldn’t tell them apart except maybe two? They all seemed the same and I hope we get to know them a bit more in the upcoming books.
I loved the romance in the book, it wasn’t overwhelming or in your face. Subtle, and slowly burning in the background.
There were some bits I found to be a little predictable and other bits that caught me off guard. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, but I love the direction this book went in.
I haven’t quite made up my mind on the pacing of this book. It was fast paced and kept me hooked but there were some bits that gave me whiplash and felt rushed. This felt jarring and would bring me out of the book, and it would take another few chapters to get back into it.
I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I stayed up to read more of it. And I’ll be eagerly waiting for the next book in the series.
I highly recommend this for anyone that loves an action-packed book.
The Knockout by Sajni Patel/ S. A. Patel is a young adult standalone following Kareena Thakkar, a high school student and Muay Thai fighter. When Kareena gets a chance to enter the competition of her life, she’s more than excited. But reality is quick to check in with a really unwell father and even more severe financial debt. Kareena struggles with the challenges of being a female athlete in a time and cultural society that judges and ostracizes her for it. Through it, her saving grace comes in the form of Amit: a genius who strangely needs tutoring from her.
Female athletes are a power move and this book really showed that. I loved entering the world of Muay Thai, learning about it and reading about Kareena’s fight scenes. They were absolutely badass. Sajni Patel’s writing was vivid and easy to imagine. My heart raced through it all. One of my favourite aspects of this book was watching Kareena’s confidence with her body grow.
Kareena is easy to love and relate to. At times, she’s frustrating but even then it’s consistent with her background and history. I loved seeing Kareena grow and become the best version of herself despite her struggles.
Kareena’s relationship with her family is goals! Their dynamic was sweet and refreshing to read. Young adult books tend to skip over familial aspects but Sajni Patel dove right in. Amit, the love interest, has to be one of my favourite love interests from a contemporary novel. He was so supportive, sweet and perfect for Kareena. Amit had his own life and problems, making him feel quite real. I wish Kareena’s best friend, Lily had been developed a little more like Amit was.
Kareena’s story resonated with me more than I had expected. The Indian rep and culture was executed so well, I couldn’t have asked for more.
When we join Kareena, she has a very complicated relationship with Indian culture and society. She has a more ‘Western’ approach to things and I expect other readers who are more religious or involved in society may feel attacked by some of Kareena’s early thoughts and approaches. Personally, this made it more satisfying to see her grow into accepting her culture. I do wish that we got to see her become more accepting of the people around her as well.
The only thing that would take this book up a notch for me were that some of the high school drama felt a bit juvenile to me. But in saying that, I probably would’ve enjoyed it if I were younger.
This book frustrated me, made me cry, laugh and smile in all the best ways. I felt so much reading it. I highly recommend this for anyone looking for more South-Asian and/or female athlete representation in books. If you’re a sucker for underdogs, this one’s for you!