Review: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

I Kissed Shara WheelerI Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After being unexpectedly kissed by her only rival for valedictorian, Alabama High School Senior, Chloe Green’s life begins to unravel.

Shara Wheeler, the kissing bandit, then disappears, leaving nothing but a series of cryptic clues in her wake.

Chloe isn’t the only student being dragged along on this unconventional scavenger hunt. She’s also not the only person Shara Wheeler kissed.

Joining Chloe on this misadventure are Shara’s long-time boyfriend, hunky football player, Smith, as well as Shara’s bad boy neighbor, Rory, who has been crushing on the girl next door for years.

After the trio discovers the game includes them all, they put whatever petty grudges they may hold aside and begin to work together.

It’s a wild ride. Shara must have been planning this for months. It’s intricate and over-the-top.

Chloe becomes so obsessed with getting to the truth that she ends up neglecting her other relationships; her best friends that have been there for her all throughout high school. Will Chloe be able to mend those fences by graduation?

This novel is Casey McQuiston’s first foray into the YA space. Obviously, not a challenge for her; absolutely seamless. She kept her signature, lovable, heart-warming, sweet, sentimental, funny style all whilst keeping it relatable and applicable to a younger audience.

As for me, I’m all for snarky, funny, chaotic self-discovery, so I Kissed Shara Wheeler was a great fit for my tastes!!

I loved getting to know all of these characters. They were each well developed and had their own challenges that they were working through. Throughout it all, watching their interactions unfold was a lot of fun.

Chloe grows and learns so much about herself just through the process of trying to figure out Shara’s game. Chloe starts to recognize some blind spots she may have had over the course of her high school tenure.

Overall, this was a delightful read. It’s fun, smart and explores some important topics. It’s clear McQuiston delivers no matter what age group she is writing for.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me copies to read and review. I am already highly anticipating whatever McQuiston comes up with next!!

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Review: Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

ManhuntManhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holy Splatterpunk, this was good!!
Caution: Don’t read whilst eating…

Honestly, I don’t even know how to begin going about reviewing this book. While it technically fits into genres that I have read, it’s like nothing else.

Manhunt is like being punched in the face repeatedly and enjoying it. Maybe even asking for more…

This is like an unrated version of The Walking Dead, but with trans and other queer main characters.

Basically this story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a virus has turned the entire male population into horrifying creatures; like walkers.

We follow two best friends, Beth and Fran, trans women, trying to survive in New England. They are manhunters. For reasons I won’t go into here, they kill the infected men and harvest certain parts of them.

Any time they are out hunting they are in terrible danger. This entire setting is incredibly risky. There are not just the infected men they have to deal with, but also bands of TERFs scouting certain areas, as well as other general apocalypse survivors.

Everything and everyone poses a risk.

Over the course of the first part of the story, Fran and Beth join up with a trans man named, Robbie, and their long-time friend, a fertility doctor named, Indi.

Basically, as you can imagine, living situations in this world are highly unstable. We follow our quad as they move from one place to another, trying to find a safe situation for themselves. It ain’t easy and a lot of blood, guts and various other bodily fluids get shed along the way.

Y’all, wow. I haven’t read something this bloody, gorey, toe-curling, gag-inducing, addicting, erotic and uncomfortable, well…ever.

I love how Felker-Martin never lets up. It’s not a super gore-filled scene followed by 50-pages of nonsense. It is balls to the wall, pardon the pun, the entire way through.

The post-apocalyptic setting was so well done. I loved the idea behind the virus, how it struck men and how society tried to rearrange itself after. That was very creative.

Additionally, the characters were well done. I wish I had gotten to know each of them a little bit more, but I understand you can only make stories so long. The important bits were all here.

Towards the end, it did get chaotic for me. The perspectives were shifting so rapidly, it was sometimes hard to follow. In particular, as the final showdown approached, a few times I lost track of whose perspective I was reading from.

Overall, this was such an addicting story. Holy smokes. I feel like I need to take a recovery day to get over it. It’s violent, erotic, thought-provoking, visceral…did I mention erotic?

Proceed with caution, but also, don’t. It’s a ride worth being a little uncomfortable for. You can eat again after it’s over.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I cannot wait to see what Gretchen Felker-Martin dishes up next!!

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Review: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Razorblade TearsRazorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Ike Randolph’s son, Isiah, is brutally murdered, Ike isn’t just heart-broken. He’s also filled with regrets.

When Isiah came out to him, Ike handled it poorly and never ended up fully accepting Isiah’s relationship with his husband, Derek.

Derek’s father, Buddy Lee, struggled with his son’s sexuality also and knows all too well the regrets Ike is experiencing.

Although Ike and Buddy Lee have never really associated, Buddy Lee seeks Ike out after their son’s murders. He wants to get to the bottom of it and thinks that Ike will be able to help him.

Besides their son’s relationship and subsequent deaths, Ike and Buddy Lee have something else in common. They’re both ex-cons. A fact that put additional strain on their relationships with their boys.

Initially, Ike is offended that Buddy Lee has come to him in such a way. He feels like Buddy Lee wants to use him on his mission of revenge, but then something happens that Ike can’t ignore. He won’t see his son’s memory scandalized in such a way.

After that, the two men pair up and an investigation of epic proportions ensues.

Ike and Buddy Lee are like the lovable odd couple in every buddy cop movie, except that they’re ex-cons. Which personally, I just think added to their depth of character and likability.

Neither one of them is perfect. They’ve both made a lot of mistakes and done many things they aren’t proud of. They’re open about that though and I appreciated that about them.

The conversations between the two men, as they got to know one another, were quite moving to read. They had frank discussions involving race and sexuality that really packed a punch, but in a natural way. It never felt overdone, or in your face.

I feel like Cosby did an incredible job of incorporating such social commentary seamlessly into the narrative.

I grew so attached to these characters over the course of the story; not just Ike and Buddy Lee, but side characters such as Ike’s wife and a woman named, Tangerine.

As I raced towards the conclusion, I knew this one would break my heart and it did, but in a good way. That doesn’t really make sense, does it?

I think if you read this, it will become clear. At it’s heart a story of revenge, this is also a story of hope, personal growth, change and possibly even redemption.

I grew to love these two men, flawed though they were. Cosby’s writing is captivating from the very start. This was expertly-crafted for maximum impact. If you don’t have this on your TBR yet…

I had the pleasure of Buddy Reading this one with my fabulous niece, Alyssa. We had some great discussions throughout.

I would definitely recommend this one for Book Club, Buddy Reads, or even a solo venture. In summation:

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Review: If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

If This Gets OutIf This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

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Ruben, Zach, Angel and Jon are all members of the American boy band, Saturday.

This fabulous foursome is currently riding sky-high on the wings of their world-wide popularity, but their lives are not as carefree as they first appear.

The boys are fiercely controlled by their management company, pigeon-holing them into preordained personas that they are heavily pushed not to stray from.

Particularly struggling with this is Ruben, who is gay. He has been asking management to let him come out to their fans, but he is continually told that it isn’t the right time.

Ruben feels stifled, like he is unable to be his true self in any public way. This fact is beginning to weigh heavily on him.

On a European tour, Ruben and Zach begin to grow closer as Ruben confides to Zach how he has been feeling. Zach, for his part, discovers he is having feelings for Ruben that he has never experienced before; at least not that he has admitted to himself.

As their friendship evolves into romance, they decide that they want to be able to live openly, not just with their friends and family, but with everyone; particularly with their fans.

It becomes clear this will never be acceptable to their management. What are they to do? They can’t let down their best friends, Jon and Angel, sacrifices need to be made to be in a group, but how much is too much?

I really enjoyed my time reading If This Gets Out. I became so attached to these characters. The boys were all well-fleshed out and lovable in their own unique ways.

While this story is sticky sweet, it also explores a lot of challenging topics. I thought the authors beautifully blended the light-hearted aspects with the serious. It really is a well-rounded Contemporary.

I love stories featuring music, or musicians, so I had a feeling this one would work for me, but I was truly impressed with how deeply I came to care for these guys.

I will say, it did feel a little long to me, but in the end, that is a minor complaint compared to all the goodness I received within these pages.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I think this is a top-notch story and look forward to reading more from both of these authors. Also, if they could work together again, that would be so fantastic. Clearly, a great partnership!!!

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Review: Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Summer SonsSummer Sons by Lee Mandelo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Andrew and Eddie were best friends, closer than brothers. Their level of attachment to one another went above and beyond what you would even expect of the closest of friends.

When Eddie left Andrew behind to begin his graduate studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, it was unsurprisingly a tough transition. At least from Andrew’s perspective.

Six months later, just before Andrew was getting ready to join Eddie in Nashville, Andrew receives news that Eddie has died, an apparent suicide.

Now Andrew has inherited Eddie’s house in Nashville, complete with a roommate he doesn’t know, or necessarily want. Andrew is also left with the haunting suspicion that Eddie’s death isn’t as cut and dry as the authorities are making it out to be.

As Andrew begins to settle into the Nashville house, becoming involved in Eddie’s University studies and his friend group, he learns there was a whole side to Eddie he didn’t know.

Street racing, hot boys, late nights, hard drugs, ominious topics of study and dark family secrets; Andrew doesn’t understand how all of this could have been going on with Eddie without him knowing it.

The deeper he gets into Eddie’s secrets, the more out of control he feels. Not helping matters is the strange presence haunting him, wanting to possess him.

Summer Sons is a Queer Southern Gothic story incoporating a cut-throat academic setting with the dangerous and exciting world of street racing. With this description in mind, this should have been a great fit for my tastes.

I did get some of the Southern Gothic vibes I was hoping for, as well as a desirable level of angst and grief. I also got a touch of academic atmosphere. Unfortunately, I also got bored and confused.

I did end up listening to the audiobook, which I actually feel is the only way I was able to get through it. I may have given up otherwise.

The narrator was fantastic. I loved how he had the accent to fit the story; that’s always a plus for me. I definitely recommend if you are interested in checking this one out, that you give the audiobook a go.

Overall, I think this just wasn’t the story for me. The writing is strong, and I can get behind the ideas that set the foundation of the story, the execution just fell flat for me.

I know a lot of Readers are going to absolutely adore this story, however, you can tell that already by the reviews!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I am glad I gave this one a shot and look forward to seeing what else Mandelo comes up with in the future.

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Review: The Sisters of Reckoning (The Good Luck Girls #3) by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The Sisters of Reckoning (The Good Luck Girls, #2)The Sisters of Reckoning by Charlotte Nicole Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sisters of Reckoning is the sequel to Charlotte Nicole Davis’s 2019-release, The Good Luck Girls; it’s one I have been very highly anticipating.

Truly a powerful follow-up, I felt like Davis’s writing really blossomed within these pages!

Set in the fictional world of Arketta, the action takes place close to a year after the conclusion of the first book. Please note, as this is the second book, there may be some mild spoilers within this review.

Proceed with caution.

After successfully fleeing their Welcome House, Aster remained in Arketta and has become a Lady Ghost, while her fellow Green Creek girls have now settled themselves in the country of Ferron, across the border.

With her work as a Lady Ghost, Aster continues to assist Good Luck girls to escape from their various Welcome Houses; but the progress is slow.

When Aster hears that her enemy, the despicable landmaster Jerrod McClennon, is planning to open a brand new Welcome House, as well as lower the age nationwide that girl’s will experience their Lucky Night to 13, she knows she has to do something.

It is no longer good enough to try to save one girl at a time. Aster wants to free all dustbloods from the the landmasters who oppress, abuse and degrade them.

She plans to hit them where it hurts; their money sources. Gathering up the old crew, as well as some bold new allies, Aster leads a movement, known as The Reckoners, who are willing to fight for a new system for Arketta.

Sacrifices will need to be made and the fight may be long and bloody, but Aster and friends, feel like they have nothing left to lose. They are tired, they’re frustrated, but they are not weak and they will not rest until they get the justice they deserve.

Y’all this is an impactful story. Davis did a great job of expanding and building on the groundwork that she laid in the first book.

There is a ton of thoughtful social commentary woven throughout the narrative; it’s not subtle and I appreciated that. The issues Aster and the other Good Luck Girls are dealing with are not unique to them; they’re systemic and Aster realizes they must tear down the system in order to build a new one where dustbloods can be free.

I loved watching Aster grow in confidence and leadership ability. She was still suffering from PTSD related to her time in the Welcome House and that was handled beautifully as well.

My only slight criticism would be somewhere in the middle, it began to feel a little drawn out. The pace decreased a bit and some of the circumstances felt repetitive, but overall, this is an incredible continuation to this story and I loved the ending!

If you haven’t picked up The Good Luck Girls yet, you really should. It would be the perfect time to binge the two back-to-back!! I personally would love to see more from Davis in this world.

A hearty thank you to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. Davis is so talented and I definitely plan to pick up anything she writes!!!

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Review: She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emporer #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor, #1)She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Initially, I was going to think on this for a bit before writing my review, but I am just going to do it. Bite the bullet, say what I have to say and no doubt, tick a couple of people off along the way.

She Who Became the Sun was one of my most anticipated releases of the Summer. I fully expected to give this one 5-stars. Unfortunately, that’s not the experience I had with it.

The first 25%, I was hooked. We meet a young girl, a peasant of the Central Plains of China, who adopts her brother’s identity after he tragically dies in order to enter a monastery as a young male novice.

More importantly, Zhu Chongba, her brother was fated for greatness and she plans to take that greatness for herself. She will make her fate a choice, instead of a chance.

The last 25%, I was so engaged. There’s a lot of action, brutal deceptions and pivotal moments that tied me right back into the story.

The central portion, however, was a mixed bag for me. I couldn’t focus, my eyes kept glazing over; to be honest, I was bored.

I felt like a ton was happening, while simulataneously nothing was happening. Trust, I understand this makes zero sense, but it’s how I felt.

With my slight disappointment out of the way, I will say that Parker-Chan’s writing deserves all of the stars.

Their ability to create a beautiful sense of place, evoke strong emotions with their characters and seamlessly incorporate multiple perspectives into one linear narrative, is top notch. I did feel like I was in 14th-Century China.

Additionally, I enjoyed the exploration of gender identity and gender fluidity. With both Zhu and Ouyang, a eunuch general in the Mongol army, their gender identity was a large part of the development of their characters over the course of the story.

Obviously, I am giving this book 4-stars. I clearly enjoyed it. Even though I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I expected, it’s still a really good start to a series.

Although I am not sure how many books The Radient Emperor series is slated to be. I will definitely be continuing on.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and am confident a ton of Readers will love this one!

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Review: Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries #2) by T.J. Klune

Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries, #2)Flash Fire by T.J. Klune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars **

Flash Fire is the second book in T.J. Klune’s trilogy, The Extraordinaries. Set in the fictional town of Nova City, this novel takes place in a world where Superheroes are real.

They’re called Extraordinaries, have secret identities, wear costumes, save the day and sometimes cause a lot of damage. They’re worshipped, they’re feared and they’re a constant source of mystery and rumor.

Nick Bell is a Extraordinaries superfan and the author of their most popular fanfic. He also struggles with ADHD, the loss of his Mom and with maintaining a open relationship with his Dad.

One major plus is that he now has the Superhero boyfriend of his dreams. However, with new Extraordinaries arriving in Nova City, including powerful new villains, and hormones raging like never before, life is suddenly more complicated than ever.

Nick and his friends, Seth, Gibby and Jazz, must team up to protect Nova City from these evil forces, all while trying to figure out their regular teenage life stuff and PROM!!

I had so much fun returning to Nova City and this incredibly lovable cast of characters. Klune writes with such intention and that can definitely be felt within these pages. It filled my heart with so many emotions.

While this is set in a world with fantastical elements, there are also so many relevant contemporary topics explored. I personally enjoy that mixing of real-life with the fantastical. It’s a novel you can sink your teeth into.

Even though I enjoyed this story throughout, particularly Klune’s continued witty writing and Nick’s character growth, I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as the first book.

For me, this was a pretty solid 4-star read for the majority of the book. I was really enjoying it, but not in love.

Then, the ending. The freaking diabolical cliffhanger ending that left me with my jaw on the floor and my head screaming, I NEED THE NEXT BOOK!!!

Well played, Klune. This is a fantastic series. It’s funny, it’s heart-warming, it’s full of action and uncomfortable teenage moments. I am so excited to see what happens in the next book. I can’t imagine how this series is going to end.

Obviously I am hoping for a happily ever after…

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I am in love with these books and am really looking forward to the final installment!

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Review: The Sky Weaver (Iskari #3) by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Sky Weaver (Iskari, #3)The Sky Weaver by Kristen Ciccarelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Sky Weaver is the third, and sadly, the final installment of companion novels within Kristen Ciccarelli’s Iskari series.

I started this series on a whim earlier this year and immediately fell in love with it. It’s so underrated.

In this edition we get to follow a character who has intrigued me from the very first book. Safire, a soldier and cousin to the new King, Dax, and his sister, the Last Namsara, Asha.

We also follow a new character, a pirate, Eris, known as the Death Dancer, who has the power to travel between worlds, thus making her next to impossible to catch.

When important items begin to be stolen from the kingdom, Safire, commander of the King’s forces, determines the Death Dancer may be plaguing them.

She’s correct and in fact, Eris has taken a special interest in the beautiful commander.

The two play cat and mouse for a bit, which only piques their interests more.

As their fates are pushed further together, both seeking Asha, albeit for different reasons, the two women build a tentative alliance, learning more about one another and about their greater world in general.

I loved this story so much. My favorite of the series. It was action-packed, full of reveals, high stakes and swoon-worthy pining.

An Enemies-to-Lovers trope set in a dragon Fantasy world, with beautifully told lore for the world sprinkled throughout. What is not to love?

Additionally, I enjoyed how the three storylines all really came together in this one. Ciccarelli wrapped it up nicely, although I will say, if she ever chooses to write more in this world, I will be the first one to line up to buy it.

One of my favorite aspects of this series, was the lush and lyrical legends Ciccarelli created as a base for this world. Those sections are included in all three books and are connected to Gods, Goddesses, Myths and Lore of the world of Iskari.

It connected so well with the main storyline and characters; absolutely seamless.

If you have had this series on your radar for a while, you should definitely check it out. I am so happy that I did and now consider it to be one of my favorite YA Fantasy series!!

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Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last StopOne Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Casey McQuiston!!!

I’m going to find it close to impossible to write this review without swooning like a fangirl, but I’ll give it my best shot.

In One Lost Stop, we follow 23-year old college student, August, who has recently moved to New York City.

Amongst the hustle and bustle of the city, August is on a journey of self-discovery. She’s on her own for the first time and is a little desperate to find her place.

Securing a room in an apartment with three other people and taking a job at a 24-hour pancake diner seem like steps in the right direction.

August is establishing herself as a functioning adult, no matter how meager her resources, yet she still feels alone.

The stars align one day, however, as she meets a girl on the Q. The sexy and mysterious, Jane, gives August a scarf in her hour of need. After that, August cannot get her out of her mind.

Subsequently, she runs into Jane every time she is on the train and a relationship develops. It very quickly becomes clear that something about Jane is a little off.

Jane’s not just a random punk rocker, razorblade girl with a cotton candy heart, taking her style inspiration from the 1970s. She’s actually from the 1970s, and somehow, someway, finds herself trapped on the Q-line.

I know this seems like a bit of a trippy idea, but it was such a phenomenally fun and creative way to frame this story.

August coming to the revelation that Jane cannot leave the train and trying to figure out what exactly that means and why; it was bloody fantastic and so incredibly entertaining.

August’s roommates, Myla, Niko and Wes, all become involved in the relationship, as well as their neighbor, Annie. Together this vastly diverse group of souls evolve into one of the most beautiful found-families that I have ever read.

Each person had their own unique story, voice, personality and contribution to August’s growth and maturation. I absolutely adored the way they interacted and supported one another.

Friendship goals, for sure. McQuiston packed so much into this book and watching the evolution of August’s character was immensely satisfying.

There were so many moments when I laughed, a few when I felt my heart-breaking and times where I was just left contemplating this thing we call life.

The release date for this book coinciding with the 1st day of Pride month, couldn’t be more perfect!

The representation includes a plethora of Queer identities and romances. I particularly enjoyed how OLS is just a story of Queer individuals living their lives in the way they choose.

It didn’t really have individuals having to hide who they were, or having to come out to anyone in a dramatic way.

They all just were living their day-to-day lives in New York City; dealing with family, work, relationships, LIFE. There was a certain sense of peace to be found in that, even when the narrative got a little crazy!

I think August learned a lot from her new friends. Particularly how to open up, be herself and allow herself to need other people in her life.

That it was okay if things were complicated, what with her love interest being trapped in time and all.

Jane was a fascinating character as well. I loved how her life was pieced together through her continual interactions with August.

It was particularly clever how McQuiston used Jane’s character, in a way, as a plot device to compare the experiences Jane had, as a Queer woman, in the 1970s, versus the experiences that August and her friends have in the present time. It felt like a subtle, respectful nod to those who came before.

At the end of the day, this book has it all. If you enjoyed Red, White & Royal Blue, you should love One Last Stop. It’s next level. This book made me overflow with feeling!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I greatly appreciate the opportunity!

A new favorite!!!

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