The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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ARC provided by Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.

“That’s the point of luck: it happens when and where it happens.”

This is my favorite Christina Lauren book since Roomies! I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too in love with Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating or My Favorite Half-Night Stand, but this felt like the famous duo was back and resecured that special place in my swoon-worthy romance heart. This was so funny, this was so heartwarming, and since I’m leaving in a few weeks for Hawaii, the setting was pretty perfect for me, too! This is a hate to love, enemies to lovers, fake dating romance that features two characters who are forced to be around each other because their siblings are marrying each other.

Olive Torres – Biracial (white and Mexican), twin of the bride, has been unlucky her entire life.

Ethan Thomas – Brother of the groom, and Olive’s archnemesis.

“I want to say something sassy, but the only coherent thought that comes to mind is how insulting it is that eyelashes like his were wasted on Satan’s Errand Boy, so I just give a perfunctory nod and turn down the hall.”

And these two had a very rocky, and very confusing, first meeting. But they are trying their best to put their differences aside for this wedding, even if they are antagonizing each other every single chance they get. But the wedding takes an unexpected turn when everyone gets sick from the seafood buffet that was served, except for Olive and Ethan, since neither of them ate from it.

Their siblings insist that they take their Hawaii honeymoon, instead of letting the trip go to waste! And they both decide to, because once they get to Maui, they won’t have to see each other except for sleeping. That is, until Olive’s boss and Ethan’s ex fiancé happen to be at the same resort, and they are forced to play the part of happy newlyweds, because Olive doesn’t want to get caught using their sibling’s honeymoon by the resort and be forced to pay for it out of their own pocket, and Ethan doesn’t want his ex to see him single. And honestly? It was just the perfect fake dating setup, let’s be real.

“The problem with lying about relationships is that humans are fickle, fickle creatures.”

And I truly believe the banter in this book is the best that these authors have ever crafted. It’s smart, witty, and truly hilarious. I also just loved Olive and Ethan as characters so much, and I easily shipped them together; maybe harder than any Christina Lauren characters. The setting was perfect, the plot was genius, and this was just an overall really easy book to escape into and love.

But I am very curious to see how plus-sized reviewers are going to feel about the representation in this book. This is not my lane, so please know that while reading this paragraph, but this book puts a huge emphasis on how Olive thinks Ethan fat-shamed and body-shamed her. She constantly talks about her body, her curves, her stress baking and eating, and how things look on her body, and even tears clothing that’s too small for her, while always kind of comparing herself to her thin twin sister. Like, I was 100% sure Olive was plus-sized through the entire start of this book, but then, once they arrive in Hawaii, it seems like the only big and curvy thing about her is her breasts, which are obviously perfect! And then, at the end of this book it starts feeling like she and her thin sister are identical in bodies, too, and she also gets compared to Selena Gomez. Like, I just didn’t understand. It was like they wanted to have a plus-sized main character, but they didn’t want to actually go there or hire any beta readers. Like, again, this isn’t my lane, and I’m obviously not saying that thin people can’t have body dysmorphia or just have unhealthy relationships with food and their bodies, but the way this read personally felt bad to me. I just honestly think this book could be really triggering because of the emphasis it has on Oliva’s relationship with food and her inner monologue about her thoughts about her body, while also painting a very hazy picture of her actual body.

Also, there is a very small conversation between Olive’s family members questioning if a family member is queer, and… it was really badly done. “Because lesbians use those strap-on things” and apparently have short haircuts. And I completely understand it was supposed to be funny because older generations “don’t get it” or whatever, but it wasn’t cute; it was offensive and poorly done. And the mom saying she wishes she was born a lesbian, like… gag me with any spoon you can find. Like, it was so minuscule, and I have no idea why it was even part of the book or why editors thought it was a good thing to keep included, but it just made me side eye and put a bad taste in my mouth.

Okay, I know those last two paragraphs seem bad, and they are, I’m not making light of them whatsoever! But I will say that if you took those two elements out, this is a really good book. Like, the best I’ve read from Christina Lauren in years. It was laugh out loud funny, it was romantic and swoon worthy, and I really shipped this enemies to lovers dynamic. I never wanted to leave Olive, Ethan, or Hawaii, and I think this is just going to be the ultimate beach read of 2019.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for talk of cheating (not the main characters), A LOT of talk about food and bodies that I think could be potentially triggering, and the brief but questionable conversation about sexuality that I mentioned above.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals, #2.5) by Alyssa Cole

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#1.) A Princess in Theory ★★★★
#2.) A Duke by Default ★★★★

“Out of all the train cars in all the world you had to walk into mine.”

Oh my word, this was glorious. Alyssa Cole just keeps proving, over and over, that she is the queen of romance, and that the Reluctant Royals series is such a bright shining light for the romance genre. And I truly and utterly fell completely in love with Likotsi and Fabiola, and this is one of my new favorite f/f stories ever written.

Likotsi is the personal assistant to Prince Thesolo, who we get to know very well in A Princess in Theory! She is also Black, a lesbian, and (in my opinion) a sexual icon. Seriously, I haven’t swooned this hard over a character in a long time. But Likotsi finally has some free time and is planning on spending some time exploring the city, but technical difficulties make her train break down. But maybe fate is at play a little bit, when her ex spots her through the train window.

Fabiola is an up and coming jewelry maker, who is social media famous, bisexual, and is also Haitian and from a family of immigrants, who are having problems with deportation. This book is such a sexy second chance romance, but it really shines a spotlight on very real things that are going on here in America and weaves these important discussions into this beautiful story seamlessly.

But Likotsi and Fabiola decide to get some lunch together, which kind of turns into them spending the day together. And the chapters begin to alternate from the present, to them meeting on a Tinder-like app, and then to why they eventually called it quits eight months ago. And I was so damn enthralled in all the timelines. And the chemistry between these two? Out of this damn world.

Also, I just wanted to also say that this is ownvoices for the Black representation but also the queer representation! And if you all have time, you should check out this article from The Mary Sue because it is magnificent.

Overall, I hope Alyssa Cole never stops writing this series. I will honestly read ninety-nine more installments, with the biggest smile on my face. This series is the stuff that OTPs are made of and Once Ghosted, Twice Shy proves that the side characters are even equally as perfect. And friends, I don’t even have words for how excited I am for A Prince on Paper this April! Also, I totally think you could read this one without reading the previous full-length books in the series! And I completely recommend you do so, if you’re looking for something quick, steamy, and romantic.

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Content and trigger warnings for deportation and forced separation of families.

Buddy read with Kathy from Kathy Trithardt! ❤

 

Saga, Vol. 9 (Saga, #9) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

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Vol. 1 ★★★★
Vol. 2 ★★★★
Vol. 3 ★★★★★
Vol. 4 ★★★★
Vol. 5 ★★★★★
Vol. 6 ★★★★★
Vol. 7 ★★★★★
Vol. 8 ★★★★

“War can’t be ended any more than the rain.”

This is for sure the most emotionally driven volume of Saga yet, which is really saying something considering everything that has happened over the course of all of these issues. I can’t help being invested with each and every character, but this volume just hurts. Especially not knowing when Volume 10 will be released because the creators are taking a break. But this addition to the story was a masterpiece, a painful masterpiece, but a masterpiece nonetheless.

I’ve always said that it is completely genius to have this story be told with Hazel as the narrator, and Volume 9 really showcases that. Just seeing this baby, this toddler, this little girl, be forced to grow up in a world where hatred is bred. While also always being forced to live on the run, while being forced to grow up faster than anyone in the galaxy, while realizing that no one you love is ever safe. My heart breaks for Hazel and heals for Hazel every single page. And I truly think she is one of the best protagonists, of any story, of all time.

As always, Saga is a dark story that has very adult, NSFW content! So, please use caution! Content and trigger warnings for slavery, fatphobic comments, death, murder, talk of past child abuse, and sexual content.

As always, I’m now going to break down each chapter (single issue) in this bind-up. I mostly do this so I can go back and refresh what has happened in which specific issue. There will be SPOILERS, so please do not continue if you have not read this graphic-novel or the ones leading up to this volume!

“It takes someone you love to break your heart.”

CHAPTER 49
Ianthe has The Will and has forced him into slavery, while looking for Hazel. Petrichor and Prince Robot are officially a thing, and it’s the best. We get to see Upsher and Doff again, and they are still working on news stories, even off the grid with the gang. They are all on Jetsam, which what appears to be a planet with an abandoned amusement park. And Ghüs is the new babysitter.

CHAPTER 50
Oh boy, sexy times! Ianthe makes “The Help” kill. Squire, Prince Robot’s son, doesn’t want a new body or to leave with Petri and Prince Robot, after they tell their story.

CHAPTER 51
Marko is writing a secret book, that I’m sure is going to have a profound impact in the next volume. Doff is killed, but The Will is finally free, even if all he can see is rage and vengeance for The Stalk.

CHAPTER 52
Squire runs away, but soon runs into Ianthe. Meanwhile, Prince Robot and The Will meet up.

CHAPTER 53
Everyone is dying, The Will appears to have killed Prince Robot. Ianthe is hurt, but Alana is shot. Everything is falling apart.

CHAPTER 54
Marko and the Will have a fight scene to top all other fight scenes. And at the end, it appears that Marko dies. Friends, I don’t even have words. Only tears.

“At least I get to grow old.”

I truly believe that Saga is truly a once in a lifetime series, and this last installment has really left me speechless. This is just such a profound staple in not only graphic novels, but in the entire reading community. There is a reason so many people love this series, and it really proves over and over that no one is safe, nothing is safe, but the story always gets better and better. Okay, I’m off to go cry some more.

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Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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“Alone in the world and alone in my marriage. Alone in love, really.”

So, basically, I’m trying somewhat hard to hit 200 books this year. And last night I just couldn’t sleep, so in the late hours of the night, I decided to read this short little novella to help boost my number. Holy shit, friends, I went into this book not expecting much, but came out weeping over its beauty.

This is a very short read, that is told completely in the format of letters from the late seventies. Letters between two cheating individuals, but, more importantly, letters between the spouses of those cheating individuals, who are sharing the letters they find between each other. Taylor Jenkins Reid is kind of known for pulling off some powerful and emotional twists in her stories, but I am in awe of how flawless she was able to do it in such a short number of pages!

“Dear Mr. David Mayer, My name is Carrie Allsop.”

Carrie Allsop – A stay at home wife, who has always been happy with her dependable, yet boring, husband. Even though she is constantly questioning her worth because she is thirty and still hasn’t gotten pregnant in the decade she and her husband have been trying.

David Mayer – High school teacher, who loves his wife and four sons more than anything in this world. But he has also been questioning his self-worth because money has been getting tighter and tighter.

And I just loved the completely taboo and unconditional friendship that these two form over a horrible situation. I love how they were each other’s soundboards because no one else would even begin to understand what they are going through, the exact way that they understood it together. I don’t know, this was just a really beautiful story. And I really love the way TJR ended this book, too. Legit perfection.

I think this book really has a good discussion about love, and how it is not always that perfect, Hallmark picture that so much of the world will have you believe. Real love can be complicated, messy, hard, and something that you have to work for every single day. And sometimes it can be filled with forgiveness. And I think this book really does a great job at touching on how easy it is for people to judge other’s relationships, without having any empathy and without believe that something similar could ever happen to them.

“It is funny the crazy things our brains make up to save us from the truth.”

Overall, I really loved this. I was blown away and I will continue to read everything that TJR comes out with. She truly is becoming one of my favorite contemporary authors, and I think she is doing some really unique things with her writing. Also, as of today (December 14th, 2018) if you have Amazon Prime, this is FREE on Amazon US!

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Content and trigger warnings for infidelity and talk of infertility.

 

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare

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“Charming princes weren’t always what they seemed. Shining armor went out of fashion with the Crusades. And if fairy godmothers existed, hers was running several years late.”

Wow, The Duchess Deal single-handedly restored my faith in historical romances. Seriously, all of 2018 has been me being disappointed with every historical book I pick up, but this one? Friends, I was laughing out loud, I was clutching my pearls, I was melting into a puddle of goo on the ground. This book made me feel everything, and I can’t wait to read so much more by Tessa Dare in the new year!

The Duke of Ashbury – After coming back from the war, most of his body is completely burned and scarred. It has taken him a long while to recover, but when he does his engagement is broken off from his betrothed. Now, Ash keeps himself mostly locked away on his estate, but he is in desperate need to sire a son.

Emma Gladstone – Seamstress, who made the wedding dress for Ash’s fiancé. Yet, no one paid her once the wedding got canceled. But Emma has been living on her own, and is in desperate need of the money, so she marched right up to the Duke’s estate to ask for it.

“Your days will be yours to do whatever you wish.” His voice darkened. “Your nights, however, will belong to me.”

Yet, the Duke is not only willing to pay Emma for her dress, he is also willing to make her an offer that is very hard to refuse; he asks her to marry him and allow him to make her a Duchess, even though she has been on her own and doesn’t have a name that holds any power. But the marriage offer isn’t because of romance, but convenience. Ash will expect Emma to wed him in name only, but he will come to her every night to try to conceive a child, and once she is pregnant, he will give her a house of her own to raise his heir in. And Emma’s friend secretly needs a place to lie low for a few months, and Emma also realizes that this is an opportunity that could change her world forever.

I only really have two negative things to say. First being that Ash would jump to conclusions a little too much for me. Emma does every single thing to prove she is being sincere, and I get that because of what happened to him that it would be hard to believe, but my good dude was being pretty dumb at times. The only other thing, that completely doesn’t impact this review, is that the cover of this book is a little not cool. I do think Ash’s burns are mostly on one side of his body, but I still think that whoever picked this cover could have done better and given us some really cool representation.

“You’re here…In my heart. Somehow you crashed your way into it when I wasn’t looking. The same way you barged into my library, I suppose. But you’re here now, inside.”

Overall, this was just a treat to read. Every scene with the cat had me giggling out loud. The entire staff that Ash employs are the real MVPs and them just wanting him to be happy really warmed my heart. The banter in this book was perfection! I loved Emma so very much, and she was easily a main protagonist that I just wanted to protect at all costs. And this book was hella steamy. Like, unexpectedly steamy. But your girl was living for it. I can’t wait to continue on with this series and to devour much, much more by Tessa Dare!

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Content and trigger warnings for abandonment, emotional abuse, talk of past war themes, and just for a main character that has very low self-esteem, who is constantly belittling himself.

Buddy read with Julie at Pages and Pens! ❤

And I read this for #smutathon, which is being hosted by Lainey and Riley! ❤

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

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“In Innis Lear it was believed that the reign of the last queen had been predicted by the stars–and had ended, too, because of them.”

This is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear unlike any reimagining I’ve ever read before. Tessa Gratton stays very true to the original play, and really makes a feminist statement on all the themes, but she made something so unique, so powerful, and so much its own thing. And every book I read from her ensures that she is becoming one of my favorite authors of all-time. From the themes she creates, to the lyrical writing she weaves, to the beautiful stories she creates, I five star everything by her. And The Queens of Innis Lear was no different, it is a masterpiece.

King Lear is a story about a king who is ready to give up his throne to his three daughters, but they must prove that they are worthy and devoted. But the sisters decide to take their destinies into their own hands, whether that means betrayal of the King or not. And we slowly get to see the king descend into madness. And, again, The Queens of Innis Lear sticks very close to this storyline, too.

Gaela – the oldest daughter – represents ambition. Is a military commander.

“I will wear the crown, and I will get it like a king. Not as a mother and wife, but as the firstborn child, as the strongest.”

Regan – the middle daughter – represents lust. Wants to be a mother.

“The crown of Innis Lear is not made of love […] it is made of dying stars, and lying mouths.”

Elia – the youngest daughter – represents duty. Loves the island of Lear more than anything.

“You’re not the sum of your birth and stars.”

And these three girls, and everyone they’ve ever been in contact with, have had their fate decided by the stars. And they learned this the hard way from their mother, who was destined to die once Gaela turned to sixteen. In this world, the stars are blamed for people’s actions, so that they don’t have to be responsible for the horrible things that happen.

But ultimately this is a story about three girls battling against the futures that their father and the stars have in store for them. These girls are more than the legacy’s that are expected of them. They are more than the sins committed for them and in their name. People with wombs are more than those wombs and the babies they are able to carry inside them. And people are always more than good and bad, because we are complex beings with complex thoughts and actions. Seriously, this the morally grey character book of your dreams.

There are many more characters who equally broke and warmed my heart; Ban, the fox of the forest, Morimaros, the king who has only known how to be king, Brona, the witch of my dreams, and so many more. This is a full cast of players, set up on a stage that they never asked for. And this book inserts flashbacks more perfectly than maybe any other book I’ve ever read. And it creates a storyline that is complete magic.

“Maybe all three of us are cursed. Maybe this is the end of the kingdom of Lear, and the island will become something new. Maybe we never did belong here after all.”

I also want to take a second to talk about the representation. It is heavily implied that Gaela is aroace, but the word is never used on page. And I feel like every side character was implied to be pan or bi. Also, all the princesses are people of color, said to be biracial (black and white).

Overall, I just loved this. I never wanted to put it down. From the beautiful writing, to the important themes, to the enthralling story, this was just a masterpiece. I will say that this very much reads true to an Adult Fantasy, and the writing can be a bit unforgiving at times, but it is so worth it.

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Content and trigger warnings for miscarrying, domestic abuse, thoughts of suicide, suicide, self-harm, grooming, murder, death, blood depictions, rituals, animal deaths, and war themes.

Buddy read with Riley, Amy, Caidyn, Alex, & Jules! ❤

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

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This was my pick for the September 2018 Book of the Month box!

“Looking back, it seemed to me I’d been trying to escape not just from the camp, but from Achilles’s story; and I’d failed. Because make no mistake, this was his story—his anger, his grief, his story. I was angry, I was grieving, but somehow that didn’t matter.”

Hi, my name is Melanie and 2018 has been the year that I constantly talk about my love for Greek mythos retellings. The Silence of the Girls is a feminist reimagining of Homer’s The Iliad, centering on the Trojan War, but is told in a completely different light than ever before. Yes, we get to see the Trojans and Greeks battle and Achilles be the hero the world knows and loves, but this tale is all about a voice that is never heard in other renditions.

Briseis is a woman that has lost everything; her family, her city, her freedom, but this story gives her an actual voice, unlike all the other tales, but also shows how much more she was able to lose after Achilles is at the gate of her city. This is a very brutal book. Major content and trigger warnings for graphic murder, slavery, pedophilia, cheating, war themes, loss of a loved one, a lot of detailed rape, suicide, self-harm, abuse, PTSD depictions, animal death, sacrificial rituals, the death of children and babies, and heavy war themes and battle depictions. Please use caution with this book and make sure you are in a safe and healthy mindset.

“Another successful raid, another city destroyed, men and boys killed, women and girls enslaved—all in all, a good day. And there was still the night to come.”

I also want to say that I just reread The Song of Achilles a couple weeks ago, and I’m not sure if that heightened or lowered my reading experience. I will say that Patroclus is a sweet angel in every retelling of The Iliad and that didn’t change in The Silence of the Girls. But Achilles? This book makes you truly dislike him and… I just wasn’t expecting it. This book really shows how the stories are always told from a man’s voice and view, and they are always something to be glorified. But Pat Barker gives a voice to the women who are just background noise in all then men’s stories, deemed unworthy.

This reading experience is so unique because the Greeks are hailed as the heroes the entire time, but in this book we get to see behind the heartbreak and devastation they cause on and off the battlefield. Meanwhile, women are just prizes of the war that they never asked to be a part of. And even though Briseis has it a better than a lot of the women taken and enslaved by the Greek, seen as nothing more than spoils of war, her pain is never subsided and never viewed as lesser. Yet, that doesn’t make seeing things from her perspective hurt less. This book truly is heartbreaking.

“Nobody wins a trophy and hides it at the back of a cupboard. You want it where it can be seen, so that other men will envy you.”

My favorite part of this book, as heartbreaking as it is, is how each generation of children (girls, boys, nonbinary) are learning and living in this broken cycle with these expectations and gender roles forced upon them. The cycle never stops; it is just continuously passed down. Yeah, this is a Greek retelling trying to make a statement, but the parallels to our world in 2018 are thought-provoking and leaves an even scarier statement.

And there is a big emphasis on how war will also be passed down from father to son, generation after generation, along with their prejudices, their hate, and their need for revenge. Again, it is never ending and will never be enough. The suffering will just continue and continue being passed down. Meanwhile, the pain and fear will never subside.

“Silence become a woman.”

Overall, I think this is a really important book and I feel very fortunate that I was able to read it. I’ve always loved reimaginings of Homer’s works, but I’ve never read one like this before. Again, this is a really hard book to read and it gets very dark at times. But it really shows how rape will always be about power, not lust. And how men that lust for that power are capable of the evilest of things. And how these men can already have immense power, but it still won’t be enough. How these men and be rich, how they can be good-looking, how they can be the hero of the story.


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Buddy read with Imi at Imi Reviews Books! ❤