Book Review – ‘Love Is For Losers’ by Wibke Brueggemann

TITLE: Love Is For Losers
AUTHOR: Wibke Brueggemann
GENRE: YA LGBT/Contemporary
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages (paperback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Pan Macmillan AU on April 27th, 2021
RRP: $17.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

In this wry and hilarious queer romantic comedy, fifteen-year-old Phoebe realizes that falling in love is maybe not just for losers.

Did you know you can marry yourself? How strange / brilliant is that?

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe thinks falling in love is vile and degrading, and vows never to do it. Then, due to circumstances not entirely in her control, she finds herself volunteering at a local thrift shop. There she meets Emma . . . who might unwittingly upend her whole theory on life.

This is a laugh-out-loud exploration of sexuality, family, female friendship, grief, and community. With the heart and hilarity of Netflix’s critically-acclaimed Sex Education, Wibke Brueggemann’s sex positive debut is required reading for Generation Z teens. Think of this as Bridget Jones’ Diary, if it were written by Bridget’s daughter. 

LOVE IS FOR LOSERS is such a precious gem of a book, I want to hug it close and push it onto everyone to read. 

It’s narrated in the first person by Phoebe, a snarky, cynical teenager who is utterly self-aware about what a misanthrope she is and owns it. We witness every petty, immature thought that crosses her mind and while this is going to put off some readers, I LIVED for it. (only natural this resonated on a deep spiritual level since I myself used to be a petty, immature teenage girl) 

Phoebe has good reason to be a pent-up ball of insecurity and bitterness. Her best friend has ditched her for a boy just as her mother abandons her for yet another lengthy humanitarian mission. Sure, it’s selfish for Phoebe to begrudge her for caring about saving lives, but who wouldn’t be hurt in the same position? 

Fortunately, being in Phoebe’s head isn’t as miserable as you might think, I adored her sardonic inner monologue and biting, acidic observations about the people around her and society at large. She has a quirky, scientifically oddball way of analyzing things and it’s funny to read her conclusions.

This is a coming of age story that follows Phoebe in her transition from a loner who avoids people to…much the same, she’ll never be a people person, but  more vulnerable and allowing a select few people into her heart. A tentative friendship with fellow thrift shop volunteer Emma blooms into sweetest, most adorable slow-burn romance ever. And aside from dealing with normal teenage issues like crushes and exam stress, there’s also an examination of deeper themes of grief and depression which brought me to tears late in the book. 

Another winner for Pride Month, it’s a must-read! If the witty protagonist, female friendships and sapphic romance don’t reel you in, do it for the designer cats! (honestly died laughing every time they showed up on page)

Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book Review – ‘One Last Stop’ by Casey McQuiston

TITLE: One Last Stop
AUTHOR: Casey McQuiston
GENRE: LGBT/Romance/Contemporary/Sci-fi
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 432 pages (paperback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Pan Macmillan AU on June 8th, 2021
RRP: $26.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that will stop readers in their tracks…

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time. 

If you need a book recommendation for Pride Month, look no further! ONE LAST STOP is the sapphic rom-com of my dreams and I need everyone to experience this magic with me!

The bizarre premise of a time-displaced lesbian stuck on a train for decades wouldn’t normally fit in a contemporary setting, yet I bought it without hesitation because of how grounded the characters are, despite their fantastical circumstances. Jane’s subway limbo is a fascinating mystery running throughout the book, creating tension as the reader yearns for her and August to find their happy ending, but can’t visualize how that may be possible. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s beautiful and feels completely earned and YES, damn it, I shed tears. 

For a rom-com, the story is unexpectedly deep and emotional, and while our star-crossed lovers are the main focus, I appreciate how the importance of family and friendships is highlighted too. We meet August as a steadfast loner, then witness her barriers being eroded by her ‘aggressively friendly’ roommates even as she falls for Jane. Her world feels more real and lived-in with the care shown by the author in fleshing out numerous side characters and developing their complex social dynamics.

This book is a love letter to the queer community, from celebrating its vibrant culture to fierce moments of solidarity as characters band together to somber scenes delving into tragedies in queer history that many have forgotten. Jane’s character being entrenched in the 70s offers a unique perspective on these events and it ties into August’s life in an unexpected and rewarding way. 

Check this out for the swoonworthy sapphic romance and utterly perfect found family, hysterical banter and entertaining inner monologue, plus a nuanced exploration of queer identity and community. 10/10, whole-heartedly recommend.

Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book Review – ‘The Ever After’ by Amanda Hocking

TITLE: The Ever After
AUTHOR: Amanda Hocking
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 416 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Pan Macmillan Australia on January 12th, 2021
RRP: $17.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking concludes the magical world of the Trylle with The Ever After, the final book in her last Trylle arc.

Nestled along the bluffs of the forested coast lies the secret kingdom of the Omte–a realm filled with wonder…and as many secrets.

The Ever After closes the last trilogy of the long-running Trylle series.

My mind is reeling from the thrilling conclusion to the Omte Origins trilogy, what a rollercoaster ride! The first book was a pretty cozy read that set the scene for new readers, gently ushering us into the Omte universe. Things cranked up a couple notches in book 2 and then all hell broke loose for the finale! The word ‘epic’ barely conveys the grand scale of adventure, disaster and frantic adrenaline that lies in store for you.

Some readers may find the plot slow at the start because the memories of our heroes have been wiped after the end of the previous book, but given that my recollection was hazy and I couldn’t remember what happened, it worked well for me to see Ulla piecing together her experience and filling in the gaps since we last saw these characters. It felt so creepy knowing that they went through a traumatic event which they couldn’t recall, then realizing there is a big threat coming but not knowing precisely what it is creates this riveting tension. I couldn’t turn the page fast enough to see what happened next!

This is a fast-paced action-packed story that combines surprising revelations about character backgrounds and sheds new light on the history of the troll kingdoms with grim and gritty battle scenes, creative expansions on the world-building and bittersweet love and loss. A great wrap-up to a trilogy that has much to offer long-time Trylle fans while functioning as a good entry point to this world for new readers.

Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book Review – ‘The Good Sister’ by Sally Hepworth

TITLE: The Good Sister
AUTHORS: Sally Hepworth
GENRE: Contemporary, Thriller
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 336 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Pan Macmillan Australia on October 27th, 2020
RRP$32.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern’s protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart’s desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn’t realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all. 

This was my first time reading Sally Hepworth and I’ve turned into an instant fan thanks to this book! It’s a mesmerizing, tightly plotted domestic thriller that alternates between sweet, heartwarming scenes and then disturbing, uncomfortable moments that jolts the reader out of their complacency.

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Book Review – ‘If I Can’t Have You’ by Charlotte Levin

TITLE: If I Can’t Have You
AUTHOR: Charlotte Levin
GENRE: Thriller/Suspense
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 416 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Pan Macmillan Australia on July 14th, 2020
RRP: $32.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

Samuel, the day we met I knew I’d finally found what I’ve been waiting for.

You.

Happiness, at last.

Then you left me.

And now I am alone.

Everyone I love leaves in the end.

But not this time.

I’m not giving up on us.

I’m not giving up on you.

When you love someone, you never let them go.

That’s why for me, this is just beginning.

Isn’t that blurb just chilling? You know right away that the speaker is unhealthily obsessed and on the verge of making some really bad decisions! This is the type of character who is usually portrayed as the psycho ex-girlfriend or some sort of scorned vengeful rival, someone to be pitied and despised, a villain we root for the hero to overcome. And yet in this book, that character is the protagonist! Told from a first person perspective, the masterful debut novel If I Can’t Have You takes us down the rabbit hole of infatuation, betrayal and revenge…and makes us mostly sympathize with the damaged lead in the process.

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Book Review – The Omte Origins: Books 1 & 2 by Amanda Hocking

TITLES: The Lost City & The Morning Flower
AUTHOR: Amanda Hocking
GENRE: YA Fantasy
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages & 416 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Pan Macmillan Australia on July 14thAugust 11th, 2020
RRP: $17.99 AUD (The Lost City)$17.99 AUD (The Morning Flower)

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I’ve never read a book by Amanda Hocking before, but I’ve heard her name enough times through bookstagram where she’s well-known for her beloved Trylle universe. So after the publisher sent me the first two books in her new trilogy set in the same universe and which are meant to be accessible to newcomers, I decided to start reading over the weekend and see what all the fuss is about.

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Book Review – ‘Our Dark Secret’ by Jenny Quintana

Title: Our Dark Secret
Author: Jenny Quintana
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery & Thriller
Word/Page Count: 320 (paperback)
Publication Details: February 11th, 2020 by Pan Macmillan Australia
RRP: $29.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

From the author of The Missing Girl, Jenny Quintana’s gripping novel, Our Dark Secret, tells the story of two girls, two deaths and two decades of silence . . .

The crazy girls, they called them – or at least, Elizabeth liked to think they did. As a teenager in the late 1970s, she was clever, overweight and a perfect victim for the bullies. Then Rachel and her family arrived in town and, for Elizabeth, it was as if a light had been switched on. She was drawn to the bright and beautiful Rachel like a moth to a flame.

Rachel had her own reasons for wanting Elizabeth as a friend, and although their relationship was far from equal, Elizabeth would do anything for Rachel.

Then the first body was discovered.

Twenty years on, Elizabeth wants nothing more than to keep the secrets of her teenage years where they belong: in the past. But another body has been found, and she can’t keep running from what happened.

Can she?

2020 is the year of broadening my reading horizons and it’s really paying off! My preferred genre is YA contemporary, sci-fi and fantasy, but I’ve received a couple of ‘grown-up’ thrillers from the fabulous team at Pan Macmillan Australia and thought I should check them out. The result? WINNING. Just like ‘Big Lies In A Small Town‘, this is another addictive read with a compelling character-driven storyline.

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Book Review – ‘Big Lies In A Small Town’ by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies In A Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery & Thriller
Word/Page Count: 400 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Pan Macmillan Australia on January 14th, 2020
RRP: $29.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

This book isn’t the kind that I would normally read, but it’s made me realize what amazing literary gems I’ve been missing because of my focus on YA and sci-fi/fantasy. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, dual narrators, different timelines and stories about small towns brimming with secrets, this is the book for you. And if like me, quite a few of those elements don’t normally appeal to you, DEFINITELY pick up this book because it’s highly engaging, overflowing with charm and features two female protagonists who you will root for right from the start!

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ARC Review – ‘Oasis’ by Katya de Becerra

Title: Oasis
Author: Katya de Becerra
Genre: YA thriller
Word/Page Count: 320 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Pan Macmillan AU on January 7th, 2020
RRP: $26.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

The oasis saved them. But who will save them from the oasis?

Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archaeological dig site in the desert with four close friends . . . and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.

With their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed . . . until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.

The answers turn Alif and her friends against one another, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave . . .

Katya de Becerra’s new supernatural thriller hides a mystery in plain sight, and will keep you guessing right up to its terrifying conclusion.

I adored Katya de Becerra’s debut What The Woods Keep so I was thrilled to hear she had a second YA novel coming out. Although this is nothing like the plot of her first novel, what I’ve come to see as her signature style is an outrageously unique and imaginative genre-bending premise featuring a smart, level-headed female protagonist who has at least one close friendship depicted as well as a minor hint of romance set against a creepy mind-blowing background.

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Book Review – ‘Supernova’ by Marissa Meyer

Title: Supernova
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 560 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Pan Macmillan Australia on October 29th, 2019
RRP: $18.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

All’s fair in love and anarchy…

The epic conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s thrilling Renegades Trilogy finds Nova and Adrian struggling to keep their secret identities concealed while the battle rages on between their alter egos, their allies, and their greatest fears come to life. Secrets, lies, and betrayals are revealed as anarchy once again threatens to reclaim Gatlon City.

The publisher was kind enough to send me the whole Renegades trilogy, so for the past week, I have lived, breathed and bled Renegades (yes, bled, there was an altercation with my cat who was trying to tear apart my photo setup and dealt me a grievous wound when I had the audacity to intervene). And now that it’s all over, I have the worst book hangover of all time and I don’t quite know what to do with myself. But damn, it was an epic ride while it lasted! ❤

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