Chaotic Good: YOU HAVE TO READ IT

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Published by Knopf, scheduled for March 2018

Genre: YA, Contemporary

Pages: 256

THERE AREN’T EVEN WORDS. I INHALED Chaotic Good. I read it in one sitting and will absolutely, definitely be buying a copy to read again. It’s my favorite book of the year. Of several years. Let’s get into it.

Can we please talk about this cover? It’s so beautiful. I’m in love.

Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious. 

Dear Dwayne With Love

The premise of Chaotic Good intrigued me immediately, because your girl is a nerd. I’ve played D&D, Call of Cthulhu. I’ve spent many a Friday night in a room with a bunch of dudes playing tabletop games. I kicked EVERYONE’S ass at Geek Battle. This book sounded like it would be a love letter to nerdiness, and I knew if that was the case, I would adore it.

It does not disappoint.

It brings up SO many points about what it’s like to be a girl in nerd culture. Some MUCH needed reflection on the male gate-keeping of nerd culture. I knew I would love it, but I didn’t know just how much.

I also really love the girl-dresses-as-guy-to-infiltrate-guy-space thing.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

The writing is perfect. Effortless, easy. Hilarious.

There are also many cartoons throughout the book, showing what is happening within the D&D campaign, and I love this touch.

The pacing is spot on. I flew through this book in a couple of hours. It’s also exactly as long as it needs to be, which isn’t super long! Every word is absolutely necessary. A perfect YA novel.

(These are the chapter headings, can we please talk about how cute they are?)

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

I LOVE these characters.

We have Cameron, our narrator, who is funny and smart and witty and so passionate about what she does. I love a YA with a narrator who knows exactly what they want and goes the hell after it. Cameron goes through some very significant harassment, the kind we all remember from the likes of Gamergate, and she throws herself further into her work, her designs. We need to see more of this. Cameron also stands up for herself, which is gorgeous and beautiful and I’m here for it.

Cooper, Cameron’s twin brother, is amazing. Their dynamic, their effortless back and forth, is one of the beautiful things about the novel. He plays D&D with her even though he’s not about it, and lets her borrow his clothes. That’s a pretty damn good brother.

Why and Lincoln, two of the guys from their D&D campaign, add SO MUCH to the story. Again, here, every character is necessary. There’s no fluff. Lincoln’s grandma who runs the fabric store, Cameron and Cooper’s parents, even Brody, the dudebro in the description. Every character brings something unique to the novel.

Cameron stays in her boy clothes for a bit longer than is necessary, because she relishes the safety and anonymity of being an average guy. It’s all throughout the story: at one point she mentions how much easier it is to shop in a comic book store as a boy. In another part, walking alone at night, she talks about how she would normally be scared. But she’s in her guy clothes, and thus, “invisible.”

I think everyone can benefit from reading something that shows so clearly what it is often like to be a girl and eventually a woman. It goes way beyond being a D&D geek or cosplayer, these things are practically universal.

We also have two main gay characters, woot woot!

I’m gonna do something I never do here, and tell you beautiful people a personal story.

I am a HUGE fan of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I have a tattoo on my book arm of a 42 that says “DON’T PANIC” going through it. Walking along in Portland, one day, I saw a guy in a DON’T PANIC shirt, and I stopped him and said, “Hey, omg I love your shirt!” And was gearing up to nerd out with him, and he literally, to my face, said, “Please, bitch.” And walked away from me. Stuff like this happens ALL. The. Time. Nerd girls will forever have to prove their nerdiness, and it’s honestly bullshit. Soooo maybe you can see why this book struck such a chord with me, and why it probably will with many others.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I honestly squealed out loud. I cried. I screamed. I ADORE THIS BOOK. The general geeky goodness combined with an important message simply cannot be beat. Readitreaditreadit.

Each of these gorgeous photos links to the IG post, show these some love!

*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*

Friends and Other Liars and My Misplaced Expectations

Friends and Other Liars by Kaela Coble

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, Feb 6th, 2018

Genre: Adult, Contemporary

Pages: 368

Hmm! I’m pretty torn on Friends and Other Liars, and I think it comes from how I just expected something drastically different. So let me go ahead and explain what did and didn’t work for me, and see what you think!

Loving this cover.

To all my old friends:
So here you all are. Nice to see you can show up for a person once he’s dead.

When Ruby St. James returns to her hometown, it is to the grave of her old friend Danny, a member of a group that was, ten years ago, Ruby’s whole world. The crew made a pact back then: stay together, stay loyal, and stay honest. But that was before all of the lies.

Because even friends keep secrets. They just don’t stay secret for long.

Now Danny has left behind a letter for each of them, issuing one final ultimatum: share your darkest betrayal to the group, or risk it coming out in a trap he has created. When past mistakes resurface, the lines of friendship blurb, and four old friends are left trying to understand what it means to lie to the ones you love best.

Dear Dwayne With Love

So when I heard about Friends and Other Liars, I was immediately on board. It combines SO many things I love: secrets, lies, alternating timelines, multiple POVs, big ensemble cast, big group of friends, someone returning home after a long time away, letters from beyond the grave, BLACKMAIL FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE.

I was SO here for this book.

So… I’m sorry (and surprised) to say I don’t really love it. I expected mystery, suspense, a Pretty Little Liars vibe. Friends and Other Liars is actually, really, a pretty run-of-the-mill contemporary story. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s just not what I expected, and because I was always waiting for the mystery and intrigue to start, I was left feeling fairly unfulfilled.

I expected dark and twisted, and was given a will-they-or-won’t-they love story.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

I like the writing. Simple and effective. We have two timelines: now, when the characters are all around 28, and then, which goes through their time in high school.

Narration is first person and switches between three characters, though through the vast majority of both present and former timelines, Ruby is our narrator. I think this is one area where I was a little let down. When the narration first switched, I thought we’d get to see through the eyes of everyone in “the crew,” which is what they call their friend group.

I kept thinking there was a pacing issue, which turned out to be my misplaced expectations. It starts awesome, with Danny narrating his own funeral, and all the characters gathering to receive their blackmail letters. Then it slows way down, with Ruby telling us the story of her and Murphy, her best friend and something of a love interest.

I guess I thought the secrets, the blackmail, would play a bigger part. After the initial excitement, we don’t even hear about them again until about halfway through.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

This is another disappointment, as the crew is such a huge part of the story, yet most members of the crew get very little screen time. Until halfway through, I barely felt I knew any of the members other than Ruby and Murphy.

I like Ruby. I feel for Ruby, I root for Ruby. The rest of the characters I barely feel I know well enough to judge. Except Murphy, who I don’t love. He treats Ruby terribly, both in present and past timelines, and she pines, and it’s exhausting.

I went in expecting this full and rich friend dynamic, and ended up feeling underwhelmed by it. I wanted a big ensemble, not just Ruby and Murphy.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I think this is just one of those times where I, personally, could not connect to what is not a bad book. I just wanted something different, and didn’t know until much too late that I had expected all the wrong things.

*Each of these beautiful photos links to an IG post, show these people some love!*

*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*

Hearts Like Hers

Hearts Like Hers by Melissa Brayden

Published by Bold Stroke Books, Feb 13th 2018

Genre: Adult, Romance, LGBT

Pages: 233

YAY for an adorable lesbian love story! I adore Hearts Like Hers. Let’s get into it!

Loving this cover, too. So simple, but immediately invokes feelings of summer!

All work and no play has Autumn Primm in the market for a little excitement. Her Venice Beach coffee shop, The Cat’s Pajamas, is her pride and joy. While she doesn’t mind the long hours, she finds herself staring dreamily out the window, imagining the life she’s yet to lead. The time has come to take off the apron and see what the world has in store. 

Kate Carpenter needs to get away. And quick. A small-town firefighter, Kate’s been crowned a local hero for reasons she can’t quite get behind. An open highway and some time off have her fleeing the scene to sunny California to catch her breath and put some distance between herself and the unwanted acclaim. Dreamy Autumn Primm was never supposed to be part of that bargain. What Kate needs is a temporary escape, emphasis on temporary.

Dear Dwayne With Love

So I’ll be real here, basically the lesbian love is what called me to what is otherwise a very run of the mill story. I need more LGBT romances in my life. That said, the premise of Hearts Like Hers actually is very cute. Autumn, bored with her life, has decided to try to become pregnant on her own. Kate is in Venice on vacation, trying to escape a traumatic fire. The two meet and connect and it’s all very adorable.

Something I REALLY love about this is that Autumn owns a coffee shop, and much of the story takes place there, in The Cat’s Pajamas. I LOVE when a book has a place that takes on its own personality, that becomes like another character you can love. I love the coffee shop, and I love all the time spent there. There’s also an ongoing bit about Autumn having to repeatedly hire new help that is funny and adds color.

I also adore that we have a lesbian woman trying to become pregnant on her own. I love any stories surrounding pregnancy, really, but I love any with a “non-typical” family.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

What I love most here is the brevity. The writing is simple. It’s a very quick and easy read. It’s also short, coming in at 230ish pages, and it’s exactly the right length. I love a book that doesn’t fill up extra pages with nonsense, but uses exactly enough to tell the story.

The pacing is great, also, Once I was about thirty pages in and had a handle on the main characters, I was in and wanted to keep reading.

Also, the sex scenes are super hot and that’s worth mentioning.

It’s set in Venice, too! I may be biased because I’m from LA, but I LOVE that setting!

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

The characters really make Hearts Like Hers for me!

Autumn and Kate are great together, funny and witty, quick and intelligent, and their banter is really great. The way they interact is, for me, the highlight of the novel. We are also given a TON of screen time for their relationship, like the majority of their relationship happens “on camera”, which makes their relationship feel very real and makes it easy to root for.

The side characters are wonderful, too. If anything, I would have liked to see a lot more of them. Autumn has three close friends who support and love her, and I am ALL ABOUT those women friendships.

Also some cool family members: Kate’s brother, whom we love, and Autumn’s mother, whom we love to hate. Both add something special.

I will say that both Autumn and Kate were lacking any discernible flaws, and that didn’t work for me. It made it feel just this side of realistic. Still, I love them and root for them.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Hearts Like Hers is a quick, fun, very cute read. I am thrilled to find out that this is part of a series, each focusing on one of the girls (Autumn and her three friends) and I will definitely be looking into the rest!

*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*

Not Quite Loving The Beloveds

The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley

Published by Gallery Books, scheduled for April 2018

Genre: Contemporary, Adult

Pages: 336

Well, y’all. The Beloveds has me stumped. I wanted to love it, I should have loved it (female psychopathic narrator? Come on). I loved some parts and really, really didn’t love others. So! I haven’t done a pro/con list in some time, here we go.

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

An exploration of domestic derangement, as sinister as Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, that plumbs the depths of sibling rivalry with wit and menace.

Oh, to be a Beloved—one of those lucky people for whom nothing ever goes wrong. Everything falls into their laps without effort: happiness, beauty, good fortune, allure.

Betty Stash is not a Beloved—but her little sister, the delightful Gloria, is. She’s the one with the golden curls and sunny disposition and captivating smile, the one whose best friend used to be Betty’s, the one whose husband should have been Betty’s. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Gloria inherits the family manse—a vast, gorgeous pile of ancient stone, imposing timbers, and lush gardens—that was never meant to be hers.

Losing what Betty considers her rightful inheritance is the final indignity. As she single-mindedly pursues her plan to see the estate returned to her in all its glory, her determined and increasingly unhinged behavior—aided by poisonous mushrooms, talking walls, and a phantom dog—escalates to the point of no return. The Beloveds will have you wondering if there’s a length to which an envious sister won’t go.

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

The Writing

I have to say I was drawn in by The Beloveds immediately. Sister stories of all kinds intrigue me, (is there a more complex relationship dynamic than that of one between sisters?) and the book opens immediately with Elizabeth confessing that she has hated her sister from childhood on. That, to me, is compelling. The writing feels almost antiquated, but not in an unpleasant way. I could easily see it happening any time within the last fifty years, which makes the novel feel timeless. It is clever, very witty and sharp. The writing is probably what kept me intrigued through my cons.

Elizabeth/Betty/Lizzie

I am SO here for female psychopathic narrators. With men there seems to always be a sexual element to insanity that I simply cannot get behind. Elizabeth is brilliant, maniacal, manipulative, and completely unaware of how crazy she is. I adore it. I adore her. I can’t help it. She’s COMPLETELY unlikable, so don’t confuse my meaning, but I cannot help rooting for her even when she’s planning murders because she is so damn believable. THAT’S what I need from a narrator. They can be a heinous individual, but I need to believe in their causes and somehow root for them. And this accomplishes that for me. If you need a narrator you can love, Elizabeth is not for you. But I bet she’ll keep your interest.

The Art Gallery

(I almost wrote “Art Dealership”? It’s eleven at night. I’m tired.) For a portion of the book, Elizabeth works at an art gallery with her husband. The way she speaks about art is absolutely gorgeous. I’m a painter and art history nerd, so I may be partial. But this was also part of what makes Elizabeth’s love for her childhood home so believable. She doesn’t love people, doesn’t appreciate them. She loves and appreciates beauty, and it’s so apparent in how she speaks about art.

The House

Pipits! The House, called Pipits, is something really interesting. Elizabeth speaks about Pipits like it’s a lover. Like she’s in love. That sounds crazy but it works for her. The house speaks to her, she talks often about its voice. The house agrees with her, is occasionally disappointed in her. Pipits has personality.

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

The Pacing

About 100 pages in, things nearly come to a halt. From this point, all the way to the end, for me, the book crawls and drags. Many, many pages of “I hate them, they’re in my house, I should be in my house, I must get them out of my house,” to then get to a couple pages of action, and back to the inner monologue. Again, I love the writing. I find Elizabeth’s inner monologue fascinating. Absolutely not for this much of the story, though. The Beloveds takes place over many years, and boy does it feel like it. “Angry Woman Wants Her House” is a good enough premise, but certainly not enough plot. It was all I could do to keep from skimming after a certain point.

The Characters

The peripheral characters have very little life or personality. I am willing to give (only slight) allowances on this, and here’s why. Elizabeth is clearly psychotic. She has no regard for a single other human being. So, I can see how, through her eyes, other characters could be flat. However, I really needed more. Henry, Elizabeth’s brother in law, has at least some dimension. He has anger, he has emotions, he has a hobby. Gloria really has none of this. She’s a complete dud. She’s boring, simple, lacks any discernible personality. For me, it would have been better had Gloria been an actual person, rather than a symbol of everything Elizabeth has wanted but not obtained.

The Total Lack of Closure

Basically, Elizabeth spends a good portion working on one plan to get what she wants. Then a little bit planning her next scheme. Then? Nothing. I mean. Actually nothing. She messes with her neighbors, spends more time angry. I cannot stress this enough: nothing else happens. There’s no real ending, no closure, no sense of anything having really taken place. This is just incredibly upsetting for me, and ultimately my least favorite part of a novel that showed promise.

Each of these gorgeous photos links to the IG post, show these some love!

*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*

Off the Bookcase: We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Published by Delacorte Press in 2014

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Suspense

Pages: 224

SO! I have decided that this year I’m going to do “Off the Bookcase” posts, where in between arcs I also read the lovely books that I have had on bookshelves, some for years.

So I started with We Were Liars by E. Lockhart! I knew nothing about it, I didn’t even know it was YA! (I have had it on the wrong shelf for years.)

If, unlike me, you know about it, you may know that everyone says it’s best to go in knowing nothing. And that’s fairly accurate. So I’m going to do a short review, explaining what I liked about it but with very few details.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Dear Dwayne With Love

Now if you’re like me, you’re like WHAT PREMISE? Because that blurb is aggravatingly, intentionally vague. For me, that’s incredibly upsetting. In fact, when I bought it, I remember very clearly thinking, “What the fuck is this?” But I opened it up and read the first page, and I knew I’d like the writing, and that had to be enough.

And really, the blurb does tell you what the book is about. A rich family, their island, and lies.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW COOL IT IS THAT A CONTEMPORARY HAS A MAP IN IT?! I was so stoked on that. I LOVE maps. One edition of the book apparently has E. Lockhart’s hand-drawn map, also, which is very cool.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

Are mostly terrible. Just expect that. And, I mean, they’re rich people with a private island? So like really, who is even surprised that they’re obnoxious.

I will say that I like Cadence, our narrator. And the characters I actively dislike, I really dislike. Which is great. There’s nothing I hate more than lukewarm. I can’t stand bland characters, and these are definitely not that.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

THE WRITING THOUGH. This is what got me through a book about privileged kids on a private island, complaining about their lives.

The writing is honestly unparalleled. It shows how you do not need long, flowery sentences to say really profound things. Lines from this book will stick with me for a LONG time.

Cadence writes beautifully disgusting metaphors about what her headaches feel like. She writes little, short fairy tales. I really enjoyed these most.

And the formatting! Parts of it are written almost more like poetry than prose, with fascinating line breaks that make it almost difficult to catch your breath.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

If, like me, you have somehow managed to avoid We Were Liars, it’s definitely worth the read. It’s short, only about 220 pages, and easily read in an afternoon.

Each of these gorgeous photos links to the IG post, show these some love!

*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*