This gorgeously designed package features three brand-new novellas, two previously published novellas, Steel Scars and Queen Song, and never-before-seen maps, flags, bonus scenes, journal entries, and much more exclusive content.
Fans will be delighted to catch up with beloved characters after the drama of War Storm and be excited to hear from brand-new voices as well. This stunning collection is not to be missed!
A bind up of novellas for the Red Queen franchise that follow secondary characters in this universe, and the final short story lets us glimpse into the further of Mare and Cal after ‘War Storm.’
It pains me to say, but this was the least interesting read of the series so far. That, in addition to the publishers doubling up on releasing two short stories previously published in another bind-up. Which left two novellas that I had not read that were so steeped in politics and descriptions of the nation (and historical research) that the tone was dry and boring. I seriously had a difficult time trying to stay focused on the page.
The ray of sun that broke through the clouds, was the inclusion of Mare and Cal reuniting in the last novella. Though not really explored, just a brief moment where they address feelings (not getting too deep) before the story ends.
So I got a brief moment of joy in a sea of lengthy beaurocratic red tape descriptions and two already-read short stories. I kinda feel ripped off.
There were moments of Victoria Aveyard’s writing that really drew me in, especially in the final novella, but the rest of the time the pacing was off and the plot so bogged down with situational recount, no compelling protagonist, for me to feel connected to the narrative, or even care where the story is going.
‘Broken Throne’ is more for the die-hard enthusiast for the Red Queen series. It has snippets from other characters, description of political movements and wars, history from present day to this dystopian powered world of Reds and Silvers. A great companion for the fans; but for me, a lover of the supernatural powers and a strong tale of a protagonist overcoming the odds, much of this did not appeal.
After one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to a remote Scottish island, hoping to mend their shattered lives. But when their surviving child, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing back down.
They know one of their daughters died. But can they be sure which one?
This was a spooky psychological thriller with a brilliant setting and unreliable narrators to keep you guessing.
‘The Ice Twins’ and I did not gel. I liked the unfolding mystery, but it took a long time to get interesting. I put this novel down multiple times due to boredom and read five other books intermittently before returning; it was only after reaching the halfway mark when the story finally got interesting.
The story is told in multiple perspectives – and when it was necessary to reveal plot points, it did so in an abrupt manner. No build up. Just – here is a twist you won’t see coming. There was no context, no grounding in the story. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Like the author was intentionally throwing in the wildest thing they could think of to shock and awe the reader. I would have appreciated this mastery if there had been some clue or precedence in the narrative… there was the teeny-tiniest hint, but not enough to give it any substance and make the reveal knock me for six.
There was so much secret holding and distrust within the family that it all left a bad taste in my mouth and prevented me from really getting into the story. What young family exists in this manner? It felt so unrealistic. It had a tough of a gothic thriller: over dramatized and spooky atmosphere.
Sarah dominates with her perspective throughout ‘The Ice Twins.’ While it is clear she loves her family and is trying to make things work after the loss of one of her twin girls in a tragic accident; slowly my unease with her grew. She was wishy-washy, impulsive, and at times unstable. There was a lot of naffing about that you simply don’t do when caring for the well-being of a child navigating grief. It’s like the Mamma Bear in me reared up and rejected half of the narrative of this book. So I did not connect with Sarah’s story, or any other characters for that matter, and consequently did not get immersed into the story of ‘The Ice Twins.’
Sarah’s husband, Angus felt distant the entire story. It was like his actions and motivations were in conflict. I felt he was pretty much useless apart from the sporadic plot reveals his narrative provided. And even then I was shocked at his inaction to take care of his family.
The twins, Kirstie and Lydia – such a tragic story. Their experience is the only thing that my heart went out to. They were neglected on so many levels before and after one of them reaches their demise. I liked the touch of the supernatural of this story (if you want to interpret it that way, others may see it in a more practical sense) but the beginnings of this storyline took far too long to set up.
This is my first foray into S.K. Tremayne, and I hate to say, but their writing style just did not do it for me. It felt dry, emotionless, and the characters not developed enough early on. But for building ambience and world building, their skills really shine. I think maybe a lack of empathy is what I’m sensing in S.K. Tremayne’s writing style. It was rich and colourful, but lacked an emotional connection. It didn’t help that any of the characters in the story were not relatable.
I don’t think I’m going to recommend this one. I’ve read so many other thrillers that I enjoyed much more; and, consequently, will not be going out of my way to purchase any more of Tremayne’s titles. It’s mainly the writing style that did it for me. But I can see how some readers will love ‘The Ice Twins’ or any other title from Tremayne’s catalogue.
The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…
This review comes from a re-read for me. I had read this initially about 7 years ago when it was first released but never wrote a review… and then abandoned the series when we moved states as the books were hidden away in moving boxes for an extended period of time. I think I initially had awarded it 5 stars. Now that I’m completing the series as a part of #BeatTheBacklist, I needed to re-read ‘Clockwork Angel’ to refresh and catch up to where I last left The Infernal Devices collection.
‘Clockwork Angel’ is a steampunk historical fantasy in the Shadowhunters universe, set as a sequel to the Mortal Instruments. I found this an easily engrossed read. I slipped into the past seamlessly and powered through this novel despite its 480 page length. It reminded me of all the things I enjoyed about The Mortal Instruments series all those years ago. I’m definitely excited to catch up on all the published novels in the Shadowhunter universe.
We follow Tessa Gray after her Aunt passes away and she is sent a ticket to travel to London to live with her last living relative, her brother Nathaniel. Upon arriving in England, she is secreted away by the Dark Sisters and forced into strange rituals that bring out her latent shape changing abilities Tessa did not know she had.
We meet Shadowhunters Will and Jem (James) who rescue Tessa from the Dark Sisters when they are investigating a murder involving Downworlders. From there Tessa is slowly introduced to all the elements of the Downworld and Shadowhunter alike, discovering that she is a part of this world too.
Tessa starts as a typical society lady, but soon notices that her deportment means little in the new magical world she has found herself in, and after having no-one to rely on but herself and her intuition, she has to find the strength to stand up for herself and carve her own path. I found Tessa endearing, if a little waifish at times – but that is a result of the society of the times, not of her character. And we see Tessa shed the older version of herself and become a strong and intelligent entity in her own right.
Will is a rakish teen, who’s good-looking and knows it. He’s rude and appears as being self-absorbed. I’m not a fan of intentionally rude love interests, so I’m not all that taken with Will. But we have only scratched the surface and I’m sure a tragic and involved backstory is going to be revealed in the next two sequels.
As too with Jem, a POC infected with demon poison which is slowly killing him. He’s all sorts of gentile, caring, and empathetic and I love the way both he and Tessa interact. Again, there is a backstory we’ve yet to uncover, which has me keen to jump into the sequel ‘Clockwork Prince’ as soon as possible.
We meet an early version of sorcerer Magnus Bane, and ancestors of the main characters from The Mortal Instruments. It had all the elements of magic that I loved about from the debut series, though I have to admit, I was hoping for more of this… and more action. But it’s just the introductory novel in this trilogy, so I’m confident that I’ll get my fix in the sequels.
Cassandra Clare’s writing style is eloquent and she painted the cold, damp, and drab atmosphere with aplomb. I was easily transported to 1870’s London. The pacing is what I’ve come to expect from her writing, she drops clues to keep us enticed every few pages, and does not neglect character development. If I was being really picky, I would say this was the tiniest bit waffly, but because I enjoy this universe so much, it did not bother me much.
I can’t say anything about the plot, because I had read this before, so there were no surprises… but I think on the initial reading the ending really got me. There’s a few twists and red herrings that make this an enjoyable read.
Happily recommend ‘Clockwork Angel’ to lovers of historical fiction, steampunk, fantasy, magic, and fans of the Shadowhunter universe.
Overall feeling: Felt like coming home after a long day.
Another twist in the saga as a bunch of powered teens battle hungry aliens…
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
No. of pages: 432
Fall down seven times, get up eight.
These are the words Kenzie has always lived by. The problem is, she’s fallen down too many times to count.
Kenzie and her friends have already escaped two vicious alien attacks—not to mention the corporate bounty hunters sent to capture them. They’re haunted by the friends they’ve lost and the hard choices they’ve had to make in this war they never asked for.
And now, thanks to superpowers she received from the very aliens she’s fighting, Kenzie has stranded everyone on a strange planet with no way off. She just wanted a safe place from the monstrous creatures terrorizing her world, but this new planet has dangers of its own, and Kenzie will have to uncover its secrets if she has any hope of ever making it home again.
Sacrifice is nothing new for Kenzie. She’ll do anything—anything—to destroy the aliens that killed both of her parents. But how can Kenzie save Earth if she can’t even save the people she loves?
‘Salvation’ is a wonderful and unexpected twist on the Sanctuary trilogy. This concluding novel really captured my imagination but managed to stay grounded in reality as protagonists have to face consequences of their actions.
We see more loss in ‘Salvation’ and I’m on the fence over how this is dealt with… but I guess for a YA novel, and needing to move the plot forward, the author did justice for the characters and story, despite the gruelling situations.
I don’t feel like we got much more character development in ‘Salvation’ – the characters have already been put through the ringer. Here, it is more about strengthening their resolve in the face of desperation and insurmountable odds.
I also feel, for the first time, the aliens were finally grounded in the narrative, their backstory is revealed and no longer felt like a two-dimensional, single-minded antagonist.
There is still a juvenile tone to the narrative – as that is the target market for this novel, but I would have liked a more mature and calculated tone to elevate the story and characters. I don’t think it would have isolated the target market, making them feel like intelligent readers.
The pacing is fairly steady and really ramps up in the last quarter of the novel, and had me eagerly flipping through the pages. Though in having said that, I did feel there was a long build up to the conclusion. This is only because we had to go through a whole lot of world building of yet another new environment we find our protagonists in. But it was a fun mystery to unravel… I certainly did not guess it.
In the beginning novels we see a lot of squabbling between the protagonists, but in ‘Salvation’ it is less so because they are a lone group of survivors, reliant on each other to get out of their situation alive. And while Lix does a great job at keeping the clashing personalities strong in the narrative, I felt a need for the characters to have different motivations to create tension, rather than grating personalities. But Lix has done a stellar job in crafting distinct characters that you love to hate, and love to love.
It was a great conclusion to the series, but I was left wanting a little more of resonance on that final paragraph to get a hint at the protagonists’ future… just a minor tweak to really fuel my imagination.
Certainly a great number of surprises and reveals that delighted me. I think it was more tone that stopped me from truly being immersed in the narrative.
‘Salvation’ has definitely returned to the standard and promise of ‘Sanctuary,’ where ‘Containment’ suffered a little of that middle-book-syndrome. However, a strong finish.
A hero’s journey from my favourite android of the Lunar Chronicles.
Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Graphic Novel
No. of pages: 238
When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity.
This was the graphic novel I didn’t know I needed. Iko is by far my favourite character from the Lunar Chronicles. She’s sassy, funny, and has a juvenile charm that I find endearing. A straight talker who is a girlie-girl and is always looking out for people to be happy and enjoy life. Not to mention how she angsts over cute boys. The fourteen year old girl in me is screaming.
The story takes place after the Lunar Chronicles, when Cinder has overthrown Levana and taken the crown. With the genetically altered Lunar soldiers wreaking havoc on Earth, Iko volunteers to form a one-android military unit to capture the wolf-pack insurgents and return them to Lunar and face consequences and undergo rehabilitation.
As much as I love the concept and following Iko as she stealthily traverses Earth, tracking down the rogue soldiers, the story is not complete – this is volume 1 of a two volume story. But I did get a small amount of resolution to the story, there is a plot twist and this volume ends on a cliff hanger.
Even though Iko is painted in the ‘born yesterday’ trope; highlighting her childish innocence, she is undertaking a very serious and highly stressful task and we start to see her character develop in the challenges she faces. Plus you will get to see all the main characters from the Lunar Chronicles, so this is a must for fans of the series.
Given the graphic novel format, there is not a lot of story packed into the pages and it is a very quick read. The artwork is beautiful, and ‘Wires and Nerve’ was a pleasant reprieve to reading novels, and a great addition to the Lunar Chronicles universe.
I’ve already ordered Volume 2 ‘Gone Rogue’ to complete the story, so look out for a review to complete this duology in the near future.
The Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…
Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?
This volume of ‘Heartstopper’ just upped the adorable factor! We start to get developed side characters and their own arcs, there’s more complexity in the plot, and Charlie and Nick are facing greater challenges. Again this is not a self-encapsulated story, rather just an episode in the growing closeness of Charlie and Nick.
The representation is handled with kitten gloves, but does not water down the fears minority groups face. ‘Heartstopper’ still manages to encapsulate that innocent charm from the previous volumes.
’Heartstopper : Volume Three’ deals with more issues around Nick’s coming out to a wider circle of people, and the pair heading off on a school trip to Paris. There they also start to address intimacy, and how far they are willing to go… and getting close to using the ‘L’ word. It’s nice to read a story that builds the relationship at a more realistic pace and have frank honest discussions about becoming intimate, and comfort levels. It feels like such an intelligent approach and is a great example for today’s youth. I’m sick of the trope when teens get into relationships and weeks later (sometimes much sooner) they sleep together and it’s a magical experience and like a love they could never imagined. That is so unrealistic and robs the characters of being able to grow the foundations of real (loving and intimate) relationships.
Queer relationships from others characters in Charlie and Nick’s immediate circle are also getting air time in the narrative, again giving examples of the many different hues of the rainbow. Tao and Elle. Tara and Darcy. Mr. Ajayi and Mr. Farouk.
We also get a touch on the bullying that Nick suffers from his older brother, and I’m interested to see how the family is going to handle this issue. There is a little more about Charlie and his eating disorder. And the friendship dynamics the pair face in their separate friend circles. There is a lot to unpack from these graphic novels – Such a master of subtext and frank observations on the issues raised.
I’m loving the complexity and scope of this series now, and am eagerly ready to jump into Volume 4. Also with all the updates coming in about the screen adaptation by Netflix with casting and shots from filming on set, I’m incredibly eager to see what they churn out. Looks like we are getting eight 30 minute episodes, but no release date as yet.
Again, ‘Heartstopper : Volume Three’ was another quick paced tome I finished in about an hour. So sweet. I’ve become a major stan.
An all-stakes battle with teens pitted against a sentient island in a pocket universe.
Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure
No. of pages: 416
Despite Rives and Skye’s attempt to destroy Nil, the island remains. And back in this world, Nil won’t let Skye go. Haunted by a darkness she can’t ignore, Skye wrestles with Nil nightmares that worsen by the day and threaten to tear her apart. As Skye fights to keep her mind intact, she realizes that to finally break free of Nil, she must end Nil’s vicious cycle once and for all—and she can’t do it alone.
Who are Nil’s new arrivals? Who will return to the island? And who will survive in the end? In this final installment of the Nil series, the stakes have never been higher.
Losing isn’t an option, but winning will cost Skye everything.
I have so many feelings about this fantastic concept – sentient portals abducting teens and depositing them in an alternate pocket universe to survive Island-style, and try and find a way home again before their time runs out.
I appreciated the narrative around colonisation and erasure of aboriginal culture underlying ‘Nil on Fire,’ but I still don’t think it was handled as delicately as it could have been, but the representation and exploration of the Polynesian culture was a big plus for me. So too was the diversity – many cultures and languages represented in the characters, yet still no getting a chance to lead the narrative.
Unfortunately there were drawbacks in this concluding novel of the Nil trilogy. This felt long, facts kept getting repeated and I did not like the direction the last instalment in this series took us. I struggled a bit with the narrative, losing interest many times, the characters started to feel more two-dimensional despite the hell they were being put through. The deaths were shrugged off a little at the end. It was just disappointing for me.
There are multiple perspectives in ‘Nil on Fire’ we follow Skye, Rives, and a schizophrenic omnipresence of Nil (the island) and the story picks up pretty much right after the events ending in the second book in the series ‘Nil Unlocked.’ I did like how we got all the characters from the first two novels in this final book of the trilogy, facing off against the island itself, and the mythology behind its creation. This concluding novel does offer explanation and wrap up the series well, but it was the mythology that did not sit well with me. It was a little too fantastical. Nil is a great series and the premise had me hooked… I would have loved this to stick to a more science fiction route than it had – given the alien consciousness presence and the alternate pocket universe. The precedence had been set. Otherwise maybe the series should have taken the more mystical route and leave the mythology grounded in the Polynesian culture. The philosophy of the Nil series felt like a jumbled mish-mash of both elements and lacked conviction.
As we are dealing with established characters, who have already run the gauntlet, there is limited space for them to develop further. In that sense we get the main cast helping secondary characters grow from their own experience. I guess that is another factor that separated from the narrative. I kept getting bored with too much detail, repetition, and short chapters jumping from perspective to perspective. The narrative didn’t sit long enough with a character for me to really get sucked into the Nil universe, or form strong emotional connections with the cast. ‘Nil on Fire’ is banking on the reader already having forged those bonds in the first two novels to carry you through this finale.
Lynne Matson has a great writing style for setting the scene and world building, I loved her descriptions of the island and its mysterious sway on the teens. She is also great at character development from the previous novels. I’d like to read something from her told in first person with no switches in perspective and see how that affects my reading experience.
So this was a mixed bag of feelings for me. I loved getting to meet all the characters again, and have the mystery solved… I just didn’t like the direction it took.
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.
Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.
This was an understated buddy movie. Individuals discovering who they are, getting separated, and finding their way back together. It’s as much a coming of age story as it is of long-lasting love and friendship… even if it’s not quite the human experience.
I say understated because there was no complex interwoven plot, no cinematic action scenes, rather an exploration of self-discovery and existence. It explores what it is to ‘be,’ and brings out representations of identity, gender expression, and sexuality. I feel like this is a champion to those who identify as non-binary, aro/ace, or genderfluid. It so succinctly describes individuals living that truth. Aspects of body dysmorphia, all wrapped in a science fiction medium. We also get the philosophical debate of what life truly is, as cognisant AI needs to hide, as they are still viewed as property.
Told in alternating perspectives of Jane, a genetically altered human bred for the sole purpose of working in a dump – recycling material while being watched over by scary ‘Mother’ robots. It screams child factory workers in third world countries to me. The second perspective is that of Sidra. Sidra is the AI that comes into existence when AI Lovelace reboots her system on board the Wayfarer that we were introduced in the debut of this series ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.’ Effectively erasing Lovelace, and Sidra felt out of place with the mourning crew of the Wayfarer and set out to make her own way in a synthetic body.
I didn’t get a whole lot of surprises from ‘A Closed and Common Orbit,’ though I loved the exploration of friendship and the core of identity, or soul, if you will. I must admit this was a slow start. It took me a few days and 100 pages of stop-and-start before the narrative really hooked me in. It’s not terribly fast paced, but very intriguing. The last half of the novel really picks up, and there is a twist at the end which adds some great character development.
I was expecting to get some more characters from the debut of this series. The Wayfarer crew. But this is more of an aside to that story. It seems that each instalment in this series is more about exploring identity and connection than a crew and the spaceship Wayfarer.
The dynamic between Jane and Sidra is beautiful, Jane has carved out her place in the world, but she is still dealing with the fear of hiding a secret. It reminds me of LGBTQIA+ people still in the closet or living in stealth. It is a heavy burden to bear at times. Sidra is that ‘born yesterday’ trope which was handled beautifully and I empathised with her a great deal, but I feel like I wanted more from her character, and have her face some bigger challenges… but that would have moved the story away from its core themes. It’s just a personal preference.
So finding out that we weren’t following the crew of the Wayfarer as a group, and the shift in tone from the debut to ‘A Closed and Common Orbit,’ left me wanting a bit more, and a little disappointed. But this is a masterpiece nonetheless. It’s a wonderful character study on identity.
It’s a strong recommendation from me and I am excited to jump into the next novel in this series, ‘Record of a Spaceborn Few.’
Overall feeling: Introspective science fiction (if a little slow.)
Another hilarious addition to the CONtemprary twists of fairy tales.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT
No. of pages: 320
Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.
On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.
When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.
But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.
This was an adorably cute, saccharine sweet tale inspired by ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for the Once Upon a Con series. If you love to indulge in the fantasy, then this title will tickle you pink. Being based on a tale as old as time expect to read a lot of tropes, but tropes done in a fun campy sort of way. The narrative definitely lends to a quick read with chapters alternating in perspective between love interests/protagonists Rosie and Vance. I took a little longer to read ‘Bookish and the Beast’ to have a short break every now and then because of the cuteness overload. Especially if you’re not in that mindset…
Rosie is a small town geeky type dealing with grief after the loss of her mother. She and her mother shared a love of the Starfield extended universe – the films, the television show, and the novels released under the franchise, and finds comfort amongst the collection her mother had amassed… but then they hit financial hardship and had to sell off all the collectibles to keep their head above water. So Rosie is clambering, feeling the loss, trying to shape an uncertain future after she graduates high school. I love how Rose is unapologetically a book nerd, and sci-fi geek, and have friends and family equally invested in these things. I really feel a modern twist on the wallflower trope. I loved her growth in learning how to feel deserving of things, and go out and grab them.
Vance in our bad boy. Aggressive attitude, rude, media fodder, and exiled to a small town mansion to decompress and let the string of bad press cool so he doesn’t destroy his acting career. He’s been burned by so-called friends many times when they cash in on his fame; he’s like a punching bag for social media. He’s sarcastic, sullen, and is always putting up a front. I seriously had a lot of eye-rolling in his chapters, but hey, it fit with the character and wasn’t without its comedic moments. In fact I laughed a surprising amount throughout ‘Bookish and the Beast.’ Vance has a great character arc in learning to let people in, be confident in himself instead of a persona he fronts in the public eye… and to stop punishing himself for his mistakes.
I love dogs, so the German Shepard Sansa was a great inclusion in the narrative and had me clucking at the pages every time he appeared.
I also like the topic of consent and how boys sometimes don’t really listen to girls, instead doing what they think girls want, and how this was approached through the character of Garrett.
We get a lot of pop culture references in ‘Bookish and the Beast’ that readers and Con enthusiasts alike will identify with. Though, this book does not indulge in the Con events like its predecessors.
As we are following a very over-represented tale in the media, it was so very easy to predict the story, but it was an entertaining modern twist. I loved Ashely Poston’s writing style, some of the phrases she uses are delightful and really stood out to me. My enjoyment for this series has definitely increased with reading ‘Bookish and the Beast.’ Though I would have liked a bit more complexity in this book to really push it over the edge.
Again we see some great representation of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum in a positive light that is a part of the characters – not their defining trait.
A pleasant ride through an old classic for anyone who loves retellings, cutesy contemporaries, and anything to do with nerd culture around conventions and reading. I’d recommend this, but make sure you read the two sequels as each book deals with other characters from the same universe and you may lose some context.
Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be….that it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love.
When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to steal away to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.
But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke. And Sage fears that things with Nick are getting too serious too quickly. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.
I had a lot of hopes for ‘If We Were Us,’ the blurb sounded like this would be a cute contemporary with a touch of diversity, and the cover art matches some similar titles in this genre, but that comparison left me wanting a whole lot more from this story. The narrative felt discombobulated. A lot of info dumping. And the fist chapters introduces a lot of characters on the way side. I felt like I was scrambling to catch up and make sense of what was happening in those opening scenes. The tone did not grab me… felt like smarmy teen characters without any likeable traits. ‘If We Were Us’ was really difficult to get into. The story is told in alternating perspectives between the ‘it’ couple Charlie and Sage. But there was something about the way closeted Charlie was written did not feel genuine – I feel like an #ownvoices author would have done him a lot more justice.
The pacing was really slow. So much info dumping. A lot of telling and not showing. The narrative felt flat – like a bunch of descriptions of college students going about their menial lives without any strong emotion behind it. It also did not feel like an authentic coming out. K.L. Walther missed so many nuances that on #ownvoices author would have given the story, or even an author who had done some proper research into real-life experiences of young adults coming out in college. On the plus side, there were some good scenes dealing with anxiety near the end, and the overall plot was cute – but it took way too long to get there, and the entire plot was handed to the reader in the first few chapters… no surprises were dealt along the way. This story would have greatly benefited from some sub-plots, a few unexpected twists, less descriptions of college life and more emotion driven scenes.
‘If We Were Us’ was okay, but not one I want to recommend to anyone. It felt like the author was trying too hard to look young, or appeal to a young audience and missed all the best things about that age – the uncertainty, angst, the adventure. And the college life was a little white-privileged experience to me.
Protagonist Charlie was stubborn and annoying, self-sabotaging. While interesting because of these conflicts, I found myself wanting some part of his personality and passion (outside of the relationship) to balance this character out. But unfortunately that’s all we got. So that, combined with the ‘telling’ of history and college, Charlie didn’t feel like he developed too much, his story felt flat despite his journey with anxiety and coming out.
Sage, though fiercely loyal, had little going for her other than pining for Nick. I grind my teeth thinking that female characters commonly come across as all about the love interest. I wanted more dimension form Sage. She felt like she was written as a much younger version of herself, like she was 13 or 14 years old.
This story was solely two dimensional about their relationships… there was no other complexity to the story or to the characters.
I also wanted to take out my red pen in parts because the editor had seriously let the author down with some amateur sentence structure. There was nothing particularly individual about K.L. Walther’s writing that made her stand out. This felt like I was reading one of my year 11 student’s English prose. I know this sounds harsh, but a decent editor/publisher team would have worked with and developed the story to shine Walther in her best light. I feel like they really dropped the ball with this one. I can see the bones of a good writer – hints of interesting and engaging characters, perplexing situations, a romantic notion, imaginative settings – it just needed to be pulled together more effectively. A good developmental editor would have pointed out the pacing issues and maybe suggested to increase the level of complexity for the plot.
It was a struggle to read apart from a few chapters near the end when all of a sudden there was tension… but besides that, ‘If It Were Us’ was relatively boring… and ultimately forgettable. Given this was K.L. Walther’s first published novel, I’m expecting her writing prowess to grow and develop and am interested to see how it presents in her second novel ‘The Summer of Broken Rules’ and the fact that it is not dealing with queer characters may play in her favour, but I’m not going to be rushing out to purchase it.