Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #1)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Date Published: June 5, 2012

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Shadow and Bone is the first book in the trilogy of the same title and of the larger Grisha-verse.

It’s basically a generic Chosen One fantasy book with vague Russian “inspiration.” That’s really all there is to say about this book; it literally is not deeper than that.

First of all, let’s talk about the Russian-esque setting and culture of the book. The title Grisha makes me raise my eyebrows a little because I recognized it as the name of the dad from Attack on Titan, and then after some very quick research (that apparently the author was too lazy to do herself) I found out the word is basically the Russian version of Greg. Then, I had to look up why Leigh Bardugo chose to call her magic-users Greg and I found out she fucking did it on purpose? She knew it was the diminutive name for Grigori, and she still thought, “Yes, that’s the perfect thing to call magic-users in this fantasy world that I’m writing.” Somehow that pisses me off more than just assuming she didn’t do her research. I can’t even take this whole Gregverse seriously now that I know this.

And that’s not all. For me, the other most noticeable error was the way that surnames are used completely incorrectly. The main character is Alina Starkov rather than Alina Starkova, and there’s another person named Ilya Morozova rather than Ilya Morozov (Ilya is a male first name, and Morozova is the feminine surname.) And this doesn’t seem to be an intended switch.

Honestly, I mean, I’m not even Russian, and all this stuff annoyed me. Like, come on. If you can’t put in at least minimal effort, how is anyone supposed to take this story seriously? I don’t doubt that she made even more mistakes than those if someone like me with a very loose grasp of Russian even could see those.

Mostly, though, the Russian setting meant random possibly Russian words being thrown around and italicized but none of it really added any depth to the world. It’s a generic fantasy world with some Russian language sprinkled on top to try to trick the reader into thinking the setting was unique even though it’s really not. It’s every other Western fantasy world just decorated with Russian-esque words and names.

That is just one of the ways in which the book remains superficial.

Let’s start with Alina. I liked her at first, and I really wanted to continue to like her, but then her character hit a wall. Full disclosure: I don’t generally like Chosen One main characters. I was pleasantly surprised that Alina had to put in a little effort to reach her potential as a Greg and the Sun Summoner. But other than that her character saw no development at all throughout the 350 pages of this book, and occasionally it was inconsistent, and it’s especially noticeable because it’s written in first-person. Sometimes she’s sarcastic and snarky, but in general she’s naive and makes a lot of stupid decisions. Can we pick one characterization and stick to it?

The Darkling has the potential to be interesting, but he falls short too. I found his evil-ness sort of contrived and unbelievable. His manipulative side is actually decently written, though. There just isn’t anything more than that. Again, the key word is potential.

Then there’s Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend and main love interest. There is nothing here. He’s a good tracker so he’s used as a plot device to this end a few times, but he has no actual depth and when he shows back up after Alina’s stint in the Little Palace I found myself bored to tears because there’s no actual chemistry here due to the lack of being developed characters in any meaningful way, so their interactions are about as interesting as watching paint dry.

The pacing is this book’s only saving grace. The majority of this book I read in the span of 2 days. And at no point did I think it was an amazing book, but it was fun. Well it was fun until I found myself bored during the last 20%. After that, even The Darkling’s catching Mal and Alina wasn’t enough to pique my interest in the story once again.

The plot is very formulaic. Plain girl is secretly Super Special and is the only hope to save the world. This is why I don’t generally like Chosen One stories, they all follow the same set of instructions and I don’t like reading the same thing over and over.

Despite all it’s flaws, I will be reading the next two books in the trilogy and hoping to see improvement. This was Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel so I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Admittedly, I’m only reading this trilogy to get to Six of Crows, because I want all the context of the world-building in these books before going into that duology. Though the near complete lack of world-building in this first book makes me wonder whether I’ve made a mistake in choosing to read these first.

Anyway, yeah, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re stubborn like me and I guess want to read them to get to the later books in the world.

Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist

Genre: Non-fiction (Essays)

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Date Published: August 5, 2014

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays that are in some way related to feminism. The Goodreads blurb describes the book as “funny and insightful.” I wasn’t expecting funny going in, because I had heard this book described by other reviewers, and I’m here to tell you that the blurb calling this book funny isn’t only misleading, it’s objectively wrong. I’m almost 100% sure this book isn’t intended to be funny at all. But as Gay mentions in one of the essays within the book, writers who go the traditional publishing route don’t get to choose how their books are marketed.

All that being said, I am glad I listened to this book, even if it wasn’t quite what I was expecting and even if I wanted more from it. I listened to it on audio and the narrator does a great job of keeping the audience engaged in Roxane Gay’s essays.

Because I listened to this on audio, I don’t have a whole lot to say about the writing itself. It does come off as easy to read, but nothing really stood out to me one way or the other.

Some of the essays in this book are directly related to feminism, others are more loosely related to feminism but are about women and more subtle gender issues. There were some insightful moments in this book but unfortunately there was no information I didn’t already know nor was there any conclusions I haven’t ever made on my own, so there’s wasn’t much I gained intellectually while reading this.

This book is clearly for women who call themselves feminists. This is not a book for men in any way— it paints men in very broad strokes and doesn’t make any mention at all in the ways men are or can be allies to women and feminism— and it is not a book for women who, for whatever reason, choose not to call themselves feminists. Her arguments for the issues she discusses are very one-sided and lacking in nuance. Because I tend to agree with her conclusions this was fine for me, sometimes it just feels nice to hear other people agreeing with us, but unfortunately even I had criticisms about the way some topics were handled, particularly when she starts talking about reproductive rights.

Had I read this during my stint in the skeptic community (a time when I identified as egalitarian rather than feminist, as if somehow those are two conflicting things) I think it would have done more harm than good in my journey back to calling myself a feminist. So it’s not a very good jumping off point for people new to feminism nor for changing the minds of people who are educated about feminist issues who still don’t call themselves feminists. This is essentially written for people who already agree with what Roxane Gay has to say about women’s issues and feminism.

So this is a three-star book for me, but I’d be careful about recommending this because it’s not a book that’s going to change minds or hearts.

Review: A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson

A Nearly Normal Family

Genre: Thriller

Publisher: Celadon Books

Date Published: June 25, 2019

My Rating: ★★★★

A Nearly Normal Family is a legal thriller that takes place after Stella Sandell is arrested for murder. It takes place in three parts, the first part of the book is from her father’s point-of-view, and then Stella’s, and in the end we get her mother’s. The book tries to explore whether members of the same family know each other as well as they think, and where the limits of loyalty lie.

I rated this five stars not because it’s flawless, because it’s not, but because it was the first book in a long time that had kept me captivated enough to finish it in one day, because it did everything it set out to do, and because I fell in love with the Swedish family at the center of it all.

This book is translated from Swedish, and so the writing is a tough thing to talk about. There are parts of the book where the language seems choppy and doesn’t flow perfectly, which would bug me a lot in a work that was originally written in English, but I don’t know the difficulties in translating Swedish to English and keeping all the nuances of the narrative intact, so I was willing to overlook it. Plus, it was a huge improvement from the last thriller and first-person narrative I read which was originally written in English and which I DNF’ed.

The plot itself is pretty typical for a legal thriller. There was a murder, a suspect is being tried, but did they do it? And if they did will they be found guilty?

Admittedly, one of the interesting parts of this book was reading about Swedish prisons and the legal system in place. I don’t think any country has found the magic formula for a fool-proof system, but it was interesting to read a story written by a Swedish man that touched on how things worked, what the general population in Sweden thinks about their own legal system, and how prisoners are treated. This is still a work of fiction though so everything I read was taken with a grain of salt.

The twists in the plot aren’t super unpredictable. They were fun, sure, but it wasn’t quite a roller-coaster. I didn’t mind that at all though, and I still enjoyed this immensely even if I did start to work it out for myself before the ending. Half the fun though is the anticipation of finally getting the confirmation of being right.

What really kept me reading, though, where the characters. The further you get into this the more you learn about the night of the murder and what happened leading up to it, but with each perspective you learn more and more about the family.

When you read from Adam’s perspective you think he’s just a protective father who loves his daughter, though some of his decisions were frustrating, part of me actually thought he was justified.

That being said, my favorite part of the book was the middle. Stella’s perspective because the most surprising part of the whole book was how much I liked her. I don’t want to give away too much, but, in my opinion she reads like a teenage girl, which isn’t a perspective I often find is done well by adult male authors.

I don’t want to say too much about what I liked about them because in a way, the twists are as much about the family and how we see each of its members as we find out more about what happened leading up to and in the aftermath of the murder as they are about the murder case itself.

I’m hoping that this author continues to write and that his works continue to be translated into English because I’d love to read more of his stuff. Maybe the translations will lose their choppiness as time goes on as well.

I’d highly recommend this book, it’s one of my favorites that I’ve read in 2019.

Review: ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

'Salem's Lot

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Anchor

Date Published: October 7, 1975

My Rating: ★★★★☆

When I read a book that a good chunk of people agree is one of the scariest they’ve ever read, I expect it to be scary. And ‘Salem’s Lot got a lot of people’s votes for being King’s scariest novel, with a good chunk of people admitting to it being one of the scariest books they’ve ever read.

Two notes: First, I admittedly cannot compare the scariness of this book to any of King’s other works because this is the first book of his I’ve ever read. Second, I read a lot of this during the day time, and everyone knows that horror is best read at night when everyone else is asleep, but what can I say? I’m a morning and day reader. Evening and night are for video games or Netflix.

‘Salem’s Lot is a book about vampires, and an old creepy house, but more than that it’s about a town. ‘Salem’s Lot or just The Lot is how the locals refer to Jersalem’s Lot, Maine.

Writer Ben Mears returns to The Lot as an adult, after having spent a short part of his childhood there, at the same time that the Marsten House, the site of a murder-suicide and known to the town for being creepy as hell, gets bought by two men who plan to open an antiques shop in the town. Shortly after his arrival, things start getting weird. Two boys disappear in the woods, and only one returns home. From there, the story takes off.

I really enjoyed this book, and it was a great read for the month of October, what with the main antagonist being a vampire. It did make me want to play the Sims and create some vampire sims or re-watch Castlevania.

There are a couple of scenes here that are creepy, and after reading the prologue you know only two of the main cast likely survives the goings-on in town, and I did feel a lot of anticipation for what would happen to all the characters. I felt particularly attached to Matt Burke and Father Callahan, despite knowing they probably wouldn’t make it to the end.

Otherwise, though, I didn’t feel as scared as I expected to after all the people who said this book was actually scary. It is scary, of course, but not in the way I was expecting, outside of a few dark scenes at the beginning of the book.

The way vampirism spreads through the town reminds one of a disease. It’s like reading a story set during the black plague, not knowing who’s going to catch it next, but knowing that not everyone will make it out alive.

It’s not scary in as gory of a way as others in the genre might be. Sure, there is some gore, but the bulk of that takes place in the last part of the book. I didn’t mind this, and the anticipation of what was going to happen to each of the characters kept me turning the pages- most days I read over 100 pages at a time.

The characters are what really shine. There wasn’t a single member of the main cast that I disliked. Mark Petrie was probably my favorite of them, but I liked Ben, Matt, Susan, and Father Callahan. I didn’t feel like I had enough time with Jimmy to care about what happened to him all that much- and when it did happen I felt worse for Mark.

As for the writing itself, there were scenes where the writing really shined- the scenes at the beginning that actually made me feel a little scared are the best example of this. But for most of the book the writing ranged from good to fine. There were some places that I ended up skimming because there was a little too much description of things that didn’t have anything to do with the plot.

I really enjoyed this book, and I may end up changing my rating up to 5-stars, depending on how I feel about this book after I’ve a week or so to digest it. I would highly recommend this, and it’s the perfect time of year to read it, so if you haven’t I suggest picking it up.

Review: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Tor Books

Date Published: July 3, 2018

My Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Normally, I don’t like having to defend my opinions on books. After all, there’s no accounting for personal taste. But, I do feel like I have to defend my position here a little bit. First, there’s a couple things you should know about me before reading my review of this book. First, I’m a feminist. Second, I have a degree in physics. Also, Hidden Figures is one of my favorite movies of all time.

So I’m fairly sure that this book was written for someone like me. I was convinced before starting this book that it was going to be a 5-star read, maybe 4-stars if there was some flaws or it didn’t emotionally connect because how could a book about women in a space program eventually living in space possibly disappoint me that badly?

Well, it managed to disappoint me that badly. And I’ll tell you how.

Per usual I’ll start with writing style. The writing of this book isn’t bad per se, but I also wouldn’t call it good. It’s fairly mediocre. On top of that it’s written in first person which generally isn’t my cup of tea to begin with. I do understand why the first person choice was made though, so I’m not going to dock points for that. Anyway, the writing style never really shines anywhere, but it really flounders during the sex scenes between the main character and her husband. Like, those were so bad I had to pretty much skip over them because I wouldn’t have been able to keep going… luckily they were mostly short and fade to black.

Overall, it’s readable as a writing style, but in my opinion it borders on too simplistic. And that’s coming from someone who generally likes more straightforward styles over poetic and flowery ones.

I also had trouble connecting to the characters, including the main character which shouldn’t at all be an issue in a first person narrative. Writing in first person can often be a crutch for novice writers who don’t know how to portray a character’s thoughts or experiences without using the word ‘I’ but that wasn’t the issue here. The issue was that I straight-up didn’t like Elma. I couldn’t find her relatable- which, as a woman with a physics degree is probably the last thing the author was aiming for- and in fact I found her selfish, annoying, and too fucking perfect.

The least relatable thing about Elma is that she’s so smart that no one else can match her. She went to college at 14. She does math in her head. Oh, you have to solve differential equations with a piece of paper and a pencil? You’re actually a dumbass in comparison. This annoyed me to no end because even the smartest people I knew in my own physics program worked through the math on paper. Maybe there are people out there who can do linear algebra no problem in their head, but they’re few and far between, and they’re far from the average woman in physics, I’ll tell you that.

In fairness, I generally hate stories about exceptional main characters. I have this problem with fantasy novels, too, where the MC has to put in essentially no work to master things others have put years and years into practicing. I just find it really hard to root for characters who have it easy. Which, when we’re talking about a woman physicist in the 1950s, even a genius like Elma shouldn’t have it easy, right? I think Hidden Figures did a much better job of portraying this, and I actually liked all the main characters in that movie. This book, though, had me rolling my eyes.

The biggest obstacle that Elma faces throughout this novel has nothing to do with her gender at all. It’s her anxiety. Honestly the amount of time spent talking about how she has such bad anxiety in front of reporters and cameras and how it makes her throw up really came at the expense of the actual plot of the novel and the feminist narrative. Elma is a woman physicist in the 1950s and this is the biggest obstacle we could come up with for her to face?

Then there’s her husband Nathaniel. I was hoping we’d get a realistic look at marriage in the 1950s, but instead Nathaniel’s traits boil down to he’s an engineer and he’s Jewish. Other than that he has no personality, no motivations outside of supporting everything his wife does including when she forgets to pay the electric bill, and he has absolutely no agency. Their relationship is so unrealistic. Even the most supportive of couples will argue once in a while. Even the healthiest of couples don’t agree on everything. Yet, Elma forgets to pay the electric bill (which she always does because she can do math in her head and Nathaniel can’t) and Nathaniel barely bats an eyelash about it.

The other supporting characters honestly aren’t even worth mentioning, except for Parker. I found him genuinely interesting, but we’re supposed to hate him because he’s trying to keep Elma on the ground and out of outer-space. The only male character in the whole book with agency is, of course, the antagonist.

Writing a feminist book doesn’t mean that the only male characters with agency should be antagonists and that male significant others or romantic interests should be some robot-like unquestioning domestic servant following you around like a puppy-dog.

This is the second book I’ve picked up in less than a month where the feminism part of the story was something I was excited about and then disappointed me greatly. I am a feminist. This does not mean I think only female characters should have any type of agency, or that the only male characters with agency should be on the side of the patriarchy. Ideally, men and women characters should be equally well-developed. In my own experiences, sure men were the causes of some of my biggest problems in my undergrad career in physics. But there were other men who were some of my best friends, some of my biggest allies, and even one I considered to be a mentor. This lack of nuance in “feminist” stories is starting to get on my nerves. Granted, if you can’t develop your main female character, expecting a well-developed cast of supporting characters male and female is probably expecting too much.

Additionally, there’s such a heavy-handed attempt to show Elma off as super woke. This would be fine if it felt natural, but it doesn’t. It’s forced and it’s a weird insertion of our current climate of progressive social values being projected onto a character living in the 1950s. Either way, it should have certainly been executed in a way that didn’t just amount to Dr. Martin Luther King’s name being dropped every other page. It was just as heavy-handed and lacking in nuance as the attempt at feminism.

Frankly, the author’s mediocre writing ability was just not good enough to pull off taking on these important topics.

Now there’s the plot. The plot, in this case, comes as less important than the heavy-handed feminism and Elma’s severe anxiety. Which is interesting, seeing as the plot is that’s it the end of the world and they have a limited amount of time to colonize other planets before the ocean starts to literally boil.

After the first section of the book when the meteorite strikes, which is high-action and actually intriguing, there’s a time-skip. After the time-skip it’s back to business as usual. There’s no sense of urgency, really, and that made it really hard for me to continue turning the pages. The pacing was so uncomfortably slow, but by the time I realized just how bad it was I only had 100 pages left in the damn book so I pushed through it.

We spend so much time on Elma’s anxiety and her problems with Stetson Parker that it’s almost like the fact that the habitable world is literally ending has been all but forgotten by the author. Which is unfortunate, because that’s the book I signed up to read, not a book about a woman with crippling stage-fright (but who also happens to be a natural on camera?)

I’ll save you some time. We don’t get to space until the last line of the book. What was the point of the 300-ish pages between that and the beginning of the time-skip? We don’t even spend a lot of time focusing on preparing for colonization of space in those pages.

I was going to give this book a generous 2 stars. But after writing all this I just realize that I’m so disappointed that I can’t bring myself to do it. This is a one-star read for me, and I wish it were the 5-stars I was expecting. If you’re looking for a story that empowers women in STEM and has important themes of equality, just watch Hidden Figures. If you’re looking for a story about going to space or the end of the world, find some other sci-fi novel.

This ain’t it.

Review: The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia #1) by Sarah Beth Durst

The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia, #1)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Date Published: September 20, 2016

Date(s) Read: August 29, 2019 – September 1, 2019

My Rating: ★★★★☆

The Queen of Blood is the first book in a High Fantasy series. The world has spirits, who exist solely to create and destroy things, and one of the things they want to destroy is Humans. Some humans are born with the affinity to spirits, which gives them the ability to bend the spirits to their will. Only women have the affinity, and so queens are chosen to keep the people (and the spirits, as well) safe. A new queen is chosen from a pool of “heirs” who have been trained extensively and hand-picked by the queen herself.

Despite there being a queen in power there, attacks on outer forest villages have been happening more and more frequently. The Champion Ven and his candidate to become heir (and our main character) Daleina try their best to help these villages, while not breaking the “Do No Harm” command between the spirits and humans.

I don’t want to give away too much, but a lot of politics and magic ensues.

Some people have this shelved as YA on Goodreads, enough that it’s only second to Fantasy, but it actually is not marketed as a YA series and was shelved with adult books at my library. However, I do see the crossover appeal. Our main character is a young woman who for a good part of the book is training at a magical school and then under a mentor. There are trials that then take place before the girls are selected as heirs. There’s background romances, strong female friendships, and a big part of this book is grappling with the idea of growing up and leaving home and coming to terms that home isn’t going to stay the same forever. Also there’s not any vulgarity, gratuitous violence, and there’s only mild sexual situations, so it’d definitely be appropriate for teens.

As far as writing style goes I can’t say I noticed it at all while I was reading it, which generally for me means it was pretty good. There were no distracting attempts at abusing a thesaurus nor were there any glaring flaws. It’s a straightforward style, which I tend to like.

The plot had a decent amount going on. Our main perspective is from Daleina, but we also get chapters from Ven, and occasionally from Queen Fara.

I really enjoyed the world here. The spirits are more a part of the world than they are anything else (except for one, but I won’t say more than that) even as a large part of the plot revolves around them. Aratay is a forest kingdom complete with houses and entire villages in the trees. It was such a fun setting to read and it was easy to become immersed in throughout the story.

There’s enough going on to keep things moving and intriguing, but not so much that I think it would confuse anyone. As far as fantasy goes this one is fairly accessible, and you know, I like that. Not every fantasy has to go out of its way to make the world and plot as complicated as possible (though I do love intricate world-building and plots with a lot of different folds, too, when done well.)

The stakes are high, and I won’t spoil anything, but the ending had all the payoff I was looking for.

The characters felt decently fleshed out to me.

There were points where I didn’t feel super connected to Daleina or where her choices and frustrations didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. But that wasn’t a problem throughout, and the times I felt that way didn’t ruin the overall story for me. Overall I enjoyed her a lot as the main character.

It was extremely refreshing to have a fantasy story revolve around a character that actually had to work hard to achieve their goals. I’m so sick of these perfect men (and women, though that’s more in YA) that are great at absolutely everything without even trying. Oh, and if they’re a man they also get all the ladies with just the bat of an eyelash. Those characters are hard to connect with, annoying to read about, and I don’t even want to root for them because I know they’re going to succeed no matter what. In this story, there was a real chance of Daleina not succeeding; there was a lot of emphasis on how much harder she had to work than all of her peers- not even to excel at the magical school she was at, but only to passably get through her training- and that makes her one of the more admirable main characters I’ve read about. I really cannot stress enough how much I appreciated this.

That said, Champion Ven was absolutely my favorite character of the whole thing. He’s disgraced toward the beginning of the book, and spends the rest of it adventuring among the outer forest and trying his best to save villages from spirit attacks. He tries his best to do the right thing and to be noble, but he has one major thing holding him back, a past affair with the Queen.

On that note, Ven and Queen Fara’s romance didn’t really translate well, in my opinion. The chemistry felt fabricated. There was a lot of telling rather than showing, and I didn’t feel any romantic or sexual tension in the scenes I think I was supposed to. It was in the background enough that it didn’t bother me too much, but I did sort of find myself rolling my eyes whenever they were together or whenever Ven thought about how beautiful she is.

Daleina and Hamon on the other hand were a couple I really liked. Their chemistry felt real, at one point they have an argument and that tension feels real and relatable as well, and I just really appreciated what we got of their romance, and I’m also glad it stayed mostly in the background.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I am planning on continuing this series. This series deserves way more attention than it’s got- if this first book is indicative of anything- and I’m so glad I gave it a shot. I literally only decided to see if it was at my library because I had nothing else to read and sorted my goodreads shelf by random to pick the first three books that came up. And I’m glad I did.

Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue

Genre: New Adult Fiction, LGBT Romance

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Length: 423 pages

Date Published: May 14, 2019

Date(s) Read: May 26, 2019 – Jun 2, 2019

Goodreads Synopsis: A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him. 

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


My Rating: ★★★☆☆

My Review:

I don’t read a lot of New Adult nor a lot of romance. Not because I don’t like it but because I just don’t tend to pick it up. There’s something about romance between characters I’m already otherwise invested in that just makes it a lot more meaningful to me, so I prefer it in the background of other stories instead of as the main focus.

So I went into this book hopeful but a little skeptical.

Now, I have to say that this book read like a fan-fiction and I mean that in the best way. It was captivating, the characters felt like people I could know in real life, and they talked like people I do know in real life (which is amazing to read in a book, and I hadn’t realized how much I needed that until I read this.) It is a very real portrayal of the Older Gen Z/Younger Millennial crowd. Alex and Henry talk like real young people. There’s one part of the book where the author inserted a group-chat text thread and I loved that to pieces because it’s actually how my friends and I talk in our own groupchats.

I know it’s probably a strange thing to focus on, but that is what I loved most about the book.

It’s not the only thing I loved though. Alex’s realization that he was bisexual was both funny and realistic and reminded me of my own realization about my sexuality. For me it was very “Oh, so much makes sense now” when I put two and two together in a sort of underwhelming realization. And it was a similar realization for Alex, you know it was sort of an identity crisis but not at all portrayed as the end of the world, and I’m so glad that the author portrayed a bisexual character so damn well.

The romance itself was lighthearted and fun. The enemies-to-friends-to-lovers trope is one of my ultimate weaknesses as far as tropes go, and it was done so masterfully here. I swear this author has definitely written fan-fiction before, I refuse to believe otherwise, and once again I mean that in the best way.

This is definitely one of the best romances I’ve read recently (not that I’ve read many) and it’s definitely worth the read, even for people who might not normally pick up romances.