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!*

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!*

The Wicked Deep Is, Well, Wicked

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Published by Simon Pulse, Expected March 2018

Genre: YA, Paranormal

Pages: 322

I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR A GOOD WITCH STORY. And when I heard the pitch for The Wicked Deep, that it’s like Hocus Pocus meets the Salem witch trials? Umm, YAS. In a lot of ways, this book does not disappoint.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw

Can we please be real about how gorgeous this cover is? Come on.

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

Dear Dwayne With Love

The Premise of The Wicked Deep is what drew me in immediately. I LOVED the idea of more modern witch trials, especially because it has so many modern implications. And those implications are definitely explored in this book. With boys dying, the people of Sparrow go on literal witch hunts. But how important is it to get the right girl? Has that ever been the point? I hoped these ideas would be tested, and they are!

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

Is. Absolutely. Stunning.

The world-building? Insane. I feel Sparrow. I know it. I could draw it. And Lumiere Island, where our narrator lives. I don’t like boats and water creeps me out, but with these descriptions I can smell the sea, I can feel the boat rocking. I can hear the sisters singing, luring people into the water.

The Wicked Deep is eerie as hell. And given the subject matter? It absolutely should be. Teens drowning. Witches come back to life. I love feeling genuinely creeped out, and this book does it for me.

The pacing is on point. The book grabbed my attention from page one, and I read the whole thing in one sitting, other than a short break for dinner.

There are moments where I could not catch my breath, and others where I gasped aloud. One of the best compliments I can give!

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

The characters are the one area of The Wicked Deep that fell a little short for me, and the only area I’m not giving 100% love to.

The Swan sisters are awesome. We see them in action both in third person past tense, and through the eyes of our narrator in the current story line. For me, they’re amazing. Ultra believable. Their rage feels real, their quest for revenge makes sense to me.

Sadly I don’t love our two main characters. Their love story is, for me, a little too much, bordering on nonsensical. I don’t love it in theory or practice, and given that they’re our mc’s, they (rightfully) get a lot of page time.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I would, and will, read more from Shea Ernshaw.

The Wicked Deep is an amazing read. Stellar pacing, stunning world-building, and some really kick ass witches make for a quick, excellent read!

 

Each of these gorgeous photos links to the 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!*

Dear Dwayne With Love

I Love Love Love Dear Dwayne, With Love

Dear Dwayne, With Love by Eliza Gordon

Published by Lake Union Publishing, January 23rd 2018

Genre: Adult, Romance, Fiction

Pages: 380

I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH. I just had to get that out there first and foremost. I’ve been requesting a lot of women’s fiction (does this bother anyone else? Like is general fiction man fiction? Someone please make me feel better about this genre’s title) and I’m loving it!

Wannabe actress Dani Steele’s résumé resembles a cautionary tale on how not to be famous. She’s pushing thirty and stuck in a dead-end insurance job, and her relationship status is holding at uncommitted. With unbearably perfect sisters and a mother who won’t let her forget it, Dani has two go-tos for consolation: maple scones and a blog in which she pours her heart out to her celebrity idol. He’s the man her father never was, no boyfriend will ever be—and not so impossible a dream as one might think. When Dani learns that he’s planning a fund-raising event where the winning amateur athlete gets a walk-on in his new film, she decides to trade pastries and self-doubt for running shoes and a sexy British trainer with adorable knees.

But when Dani’s plot takes an unexpected twist, she realizes that her happy ending might have to be improvised—and that proving herself to her idol isn’t half as important as proving something to herself.

Dear Dwayne With Love

So! I’m not going to lie, I was weary. I very much felt this could go either way, and here’s why. I am just not going to like any story where the idea is “find yourself through weight loss” or, worse, “find validation through weight loss.” I am absolutely not cool with fat shaming, and I know a weight loss story can go there pretty quickly. Thank goodness, Dear Dwayne, With Love is absolutely not like that. Her weight loss is for the competition, and Dani is very confident in her skin both before and after.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

The characters MAKE this story!

They’re so. effing. quirky. I really feel like I don’t see enough quirky characters in adult novels! It made this so much more fun and such an effortless read.

Danielle Steele (with an e, that’s important to her) is our narrator, and I freaking love her. She’s a little nutty, maybe a lot nutty, and her obsession with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is very prevalent in her adult life. This felt like it could be super sad, especially given her tendency to imagine scenarios in which the two interact, but it’s not. It doesn’t come across as pathetic so much as… delightfully idiosyncratic. You can’t not love Dani.

Dani’s mom is the other real star of the show for me. We only see her through her faxes to Dani, and the fax chapters make me SO happy. She’s obsessed with aliens, grows marijuana, sells magic wands. And OH YEAH, she named all three of her daughters after romance authors. She’s just so solidly hilarious. I adore her.

The male love interest is a litttttttle too perfect for me? I like him for Dani, but I really need my main characters to have flaws and he has not a one. Still, this didn’t hinder my reading, and I swooned over their budding relationship.

Side characters like Dani’s sisters and coworkers are amazing color. And The Rock feels like a character? Because we see so many fake conversations between him and Dani, and I love him too.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

Dear Dwayne, With Love, pulls off something I didn’t know I would like quite well!

There are many chapters taken up solely by emails, blog comments, faxes, letters to The Rock. I didn’t know I would like these chapters, but I love them! The faxes from Mommy (that’s what they call her) are some of my favorites. The letters to The Rock are fantastic.

Aside from this, the writing is just fun. Easy. Eliza Gordon makes it look easy. It reminds me a little of Sophie Kinsella. The same hilarious but well-written, quirky stories.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I wish I read more like this! Dear Dwayne, With Love is fun and fantastic and you should read it.

(You KNOW I wasn’t going to talk about The Rock and not include this picture.)

Each of these photos links to the 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!*

Between Me and You, I’m Not Super Impressed

Between Me and You by Allison Winn Scotch

Published by Lake Union Publishing, January 9th 2018

Genre: Adult, Romance, Fiction

Pages: 364

Between you and me, Between Me and You leaves something to be desired.

You see what I did there? I know it’s not funny BUT I CAN’T HELP IT.

Between You and Me

From New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch comes an honest, touching, and funny exploration of falling in and out of love, told from two perspectives—one rewinding history, one moving it forward—and each with bias and regret.

When their paths first cross, Ben Livingston is a fledgling scriptwriter on the brink of success; Tatum Connelly is a struggling actress tending bar in a New York City dive. They fall in love, they marry, they become parents, and they think only of the future. But as the years go by, Tatum’s stardom rises while Ben’s fades. In a marriage that bears the fallout of ambition and fame, Ben and Tatum are at a crossroads. Now all they can do is think back…

A life of passion, joy, tragedy, and loss—once shared—becomes one as shifting and unpredictable as a memory. As the pieces of their past come together, as they explore the ways love can bend and break, Ben and Tatum come to see how it all went wrong—and wonder what they can do now to make it all right. 

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

I want to start with the writing because this is undoubtedly my favorite thing about this book.

Between Me and You has alternating timelines but with a very interesting take: our two narrators are telling the story in different directions. We have Ben, husband, telling the story from 2016 backward to 1999. And Tatum, wife, telling the story forward from 1999 to 2016. This is what I was most intrigued by even before reading the novel, and it’s what (mostly) kept my interest throughout. I think it could have been a complete disaster, but it is pulled off well and easy to keep track of.

My one problem with the writing is that both stories are told in first person, present tense narration, and they were not different enough. At first, for instance, we read a chapter from a 40 year-old man, immediately followed by a 23 year-old woman, and there’s no notable narration difference. This is just not what I expect going into a double narrative like that, I really need unique voices.

For me there are also some definite pacing issues. It starts off interesting enough, but toward the middle it becomes pretty slow and just kind of blah? This had to do a ton with the characters.

See All the Stars by Kit Frick

Oh. Boy. I wish I could share my notes with you guys. OH WAIT I CAN!

Okay whenever I start a new book I open up a laptop post it and write my notes so I don’t forget as I go. These are my notes for Between Me and You:

So. I mean. It’s not great. There are a lot more, but these are the ones I felt I would share. So characters, here we go.

Tatum. Tatum actually does not bother me. She definitely has some selfish attributes, she puts work before her marriage and sometimes before their child. These things aren’t cute. But she does genuinely love Ben and Joey and she tries so hard. So much of the time she takes the brunt of their issues, even though from my perspective, Ben is a giant douche canoe.

Ben. Well, you can tell from my notes that I’m not a fan. I think a big part of it is that Ben reminds me very much of a very real, very particular type of person. A toxic man baby. One who can’t handle his wife’s success, resents her for it, doesn’t particularly love being a husband or father but blames his wife for not being a better wife and mother. He’s the very stereotypical, mentally vacant husband. Obsessed with himself and how to further his career and jealous of his own wife.

Now, I don’t need to like characters to like a book. HOWEVER. When the book is possibly about reconciliation between our two narrators and I’m yelling, “DON’T GO BACK TO HIM, TATUM. YOU CAN DO BETTER, GIRL.” I am obviously not getting the full beauty of their love/loss of love/possible lean toward getting their love back.

A HUGE theme in the book is grief. Ben loses several people close to him, but we cannot go one. chapter. without hearing about what his dad would be doing. Keep in mind that these chapters are almost all entirely spaced a year apart. So we’re talking over a decade where Ben cannot stop. Of course I don’t expect grief to disappear overnight. What I do expect is that you move on and not let it affect every other relationship in your life.

All of these things made it very difficult for me to enjoy the book, because the entire book is about these two people and their marriage. Their marriage, for me, is not believable, and because of that, I can’t root for them.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I so wanted to love Between Me and You. I wanted to root for Ben and Tatum, I wanted to be excited for them. Unfortunately I was mostly bored or actively irritated, and the most emotional I ever was in the story was about an incident involving their dog.