I’m really late to the party on this book, but hey! At least I got here, right? “Simon vs.” is a cute, contemporary self-discovery book that had me on the verge of tears on occasion. We get a close-up view of Simon who KNOWS he’s gay, but no one else does. When he finds a Tumblr post from his school from another gay boy, he responds, and a whirlwind email pen pal relationship ensues. But there’s one problem: these boys don’t actually know who each other are, and because neither is out to their friends and family, they decide to keep their identities secret. But part of the thrill is getting to know someone without fear of judgment, because they don’t really know you, right? But then these adorable boys catch a case of feels, and suddenly the excitement of anonymity begins to slip away… Except anonymity is only fun with Blue, Simon’s crush, but that secret is important for Simon to keep from the wider school. Now he just has to keep the guy blackmailing him from spilling the beans to everyone… This story was endearing, and fun, and quick, and each time I was CONVINCED I knew who Blue was, the author did the old switcher-roo, which kept this otherwise straight forward story exciting.
“A Darker Shade of Magic” was one of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year, so I was so excited to read the sequel with my friends again and dive back into these magical London’s, and snuggle up next to my favorite sad boi—Kell—and most deadly and clever of thieves—Lila. “A Gathering of Shadows” takes place 4 months after the end of the first book, and all our favorites are dealing with the repercussions of that epic battle. Well, except Lila, she does what she wants, consequences be damned, but more on that later. Kell remains in the palace with Rhy, who he sacrificed everything for. But instead of being thanked for this sacrifice, his adopted family drops all pretenses of Kell being their son. And while Rhy and Kell struggle to find a new balance, to move on, to come to terms with what their lives are now, Lila lives her dreams by being part of a pirate crew, finally “getting” her own ship. Which also introduces us to a new main character—Alucard. Who is really everything you want in a pirate so I loved his introduction to the story. I loved the all too real pain of what Kell goes through now, ostracized and trapped in his gilded cage of guilt and power, but, where I ADORED Lila in the first book, in the sequel, I found myself wanting to shake her.
I won’t lie, I got this book because I am fascinated about true crime; particularly the mindset of these offenders and serial killers. So, of course, I wanted to read the famed “Mindhunter’s” take on a series of cases that are, for all intents and purposes, unsolved to this day. The authors do a great job of analyzing the facts available for these cases, and provide a brief overlook on the kind of person and criminal who would perpetrate such a crime, along with what a law enforcement official would need to do, or look for, before and after the case in order to apprehend the offender. And, for the most part, this book did not disappoint in that regard. I found the authors straight forward—if sometimes dry—presentation to be illuminating when it came to the kind of behaviors and motives that particular killers would show, or how police could have found them “back in the day” had things been different. But, sometimes, one of the authors does let his bias and ego show too much for my tastes.
“The Spec Set” is a little piece of neurodivergent lit that is part superhero adventure, part spy thriller, part alien encounter, and sprinkled with a healthy dose of coming-of-age drama for our MC, Emile. Emile has always taken care of his little brother Max; making sure he gets around, that he’s safe, that he has what he needs. But Emile knows that Max is brilliant, that he is capable of more, even though he doesn’t talk, if only their over protective father would stop coddling the kid. Then Max finds a therapist whose young daughter (Lily) not only helps Max, but introduces Emile to a whole new world, one where he can play a part—as long as he, too, can see his little brother for who, and what, he truly is. I really loved the narrative voice of this novel from the onset, it’s fun and just my kind of sarcastic. I also really loved how Emile views Max early on; as someone with a neurodivergent brother, I related to being a sibling’s keeper, and feeling like they were playing the system more than necessary. But there was also a lot happening in this short read, and I often felt like chunks were missing from the story.
If you’ve read or heard or even watched anything even remotely centered around Alice in Wonderland, then you’ll understand “Queen of Hearts” which is a Wonderland retelling, but focused on the future Queen of Hearts, and without an Alice. The twist the author gives her version of Wonderland is truly stunning, it sounds like a beautiful and terrifying land all at once. I also really enjoyed the twist she gave to familiar elements of Wonderland: The Cards aren’t actual cards, but different ranks and classifications for soldiers. Cheshire is a conniving, manipulative advisor to the King instead of a cat, the Mad Hatter is the main character’s (Dinah) troubled brother who does love making some pretty lovely hats, and while there is no white rabbit, we all know Dinah’s tutor is the little rabbit always afraid of being late. Unfortunately, that about sums up the things I really liked about this novel.
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