Review: Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .

. . . she is not the hero.

To say I have mildly conflicting feelings about Only a Monster would be an understatement. I possibly should have waited a while to let those feelings settle before writing this review, but I just have to get them out there now. This book took a little while to hook me in but hoooo boy, when it got me it got me! I was absolutely absorbed and when I had to pause reading for a little while because of Christmas festivities I was just itching to get it back open.

I think for me, the power of this book is in the ending. The start was a slow burn for me, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to push through. The middle does a lot of set-up and worldbuilding and starts building a lot more on the characters and the lore and the powers in the book. The ending was just fantastic though. Gripping, powerful, romantic, poignant and almost perfectly wrapped up aside from a lot of questions which have me soooo ready for the sequel. Like this book could probably work as a standalone, but I am not upset that there's going to be more. I was just starting to get my head around some things and then woosh more questions and more drama and... gah!

To start with, I didn't really love Joan but she grew on me. Aaron was an immediate winner (I love the rich boy with a secret soft spot trope and Aaron is just a perfect for it). Ruth was rough and ready and a great support. Tom was a fantastic side character and I am so glad that he got extra dimensions and became a big part of the story. I'm conflicted about Nick, which I think I'm meant to be. Vanessa Len manages to build this love triangle that I am already invested in between Joan, Nick and Aaron without it being overbearing. In fact until the last 20% of the book, the romance is very much barely there, but I love the set up for the sequel so I am so onboard with it. I am so hoping the triangle skews in the direction I am supporting but the set up towards the end makes me think I may be a little disappointed on that front.

I can't say this book is the best I've read because there were definite flaws. Obviously the fact that I struggled to get into it at the start is one of them, and I think it's just because while the story and the characters and the world was standout, I didn't feel the same way about Len's writing. It wasn't bad, but at times I found the dialogue a little... unnatural? I also felt that there was a habit of repeating previous character's quotes to push the story forward and remind us of previous conversations and sometimes it just didn't fit for me.

That being said, Only a Monster is definitely a standout book, and one of the best urban fantasy titles that I've had the pleasure of reading in a long time. I love the darker undertones and the world building and I can't wait to dive a lot deeper into that with the two remaining titles in this series. 

Book released february 22nd 2022 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theater rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.

But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off script. Matt Olsson is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.

Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship.

It has to be said that I have never read this author's most famous book, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, therefore I had no idea what to expect from her with this book.

That being said, I love a good theatre book. I have rewatched Wicked like 300 times on Youtube, and I know all of the good musical songs (even though I can't sing to save my life) and I have always enjoyed a bit of Glee, so this was a fun book that I had to throw myself into blind.

I loved it.

Okay, so maybe loved is a tiny bit of a strong word. After all, Kate in Waiting doesn't really offer anything too out of the box - aside from solid LGBTQ+ representation and inclusivity better than a lot of other books that try and offer it - but it was so fun that I really didn't care at all. I loved Kate and her friends, and whilst at times I didn't like Andy a lot, I've come to the conclusion that had the book been written from his POV I would have felt the same about Kate. The friction between the two of them at certain points was so well written and I love the way Albertalli tackled the tension in their friendship. It was warm and lovely, and having Brandie and Raina in the background through that just improved it.

Every time Noah showed up, I immediately knew that it was going to be a fun scene - I loved him and I am so glad the book ended how it did for him. By far he was my favourite character.

I also really liked the fact that Kate has a lot of confidence issues to deal with, and watching her bloom through this book and get over the baggage that she has was a treat. The back story added some depth that this book would have otherwise been lacking, and it made me care a lot more about Kate than I thought I would to start with.

Overall, I really enjoyed Kate in Waiting - a lot more than I'd expected, in fact. This book is Glee, but with a more natural inclusivity message. It's High School Musical meets High School Musical The Musical: The Series. I loved the characters and the story and the writing was so fun and relatable.

Book released  20th April 2021 by Balzer + Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: XOXO by Axie Oh

Waiting on Wednesday

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released.

Review: Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

Sea Witch (Sea Witch, #1)

Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

This is a book of two parts and it makes it such a hard book to review and rate, because I both loved it but also thought it was quite 'meh' at times.

My main issue with this book was the pacing - this isn't an action packed book. This book focuses on building relationships between the main characters - Nik, Evie and Annemette (Anne in the past bits) and revealing the secrets bit by bit, which I must admit did mean that at times I lost the will to continue reading because it was so slow. Not a lot happens until the end and even then the book doesn't hit you hard.

But I did really enjoy the relationships between the characters, and the writing flowed so beautifully in places that it became a pleasure to read even when the pacing was atrocious. I really enjoyed the characters - Nik especially was just cute

Overall, Sea Witch was an okay read, with poor pacing but characters and writing that made an attempt to redeem it. 

Book released  21st July 2018 by Katherine Tegan
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Waiting on Wednesday

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released.

Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

I don't know why I requested this book - I hate zombies! I guess I was probably swayed by all of the black girl kicking zombie butt action. I got that. I got that and so much more.

The great thing about going into a book with no idea what to expect is that it is so easy to be impressed and that is what Dread Nation did for me. We get kick ass characters - Jane and Katherine - but we also get narration that feels authentic, we get atmospheric horror and we also get that whole southern gothic historical feel and it all just hit the bullseye for me. 

It took me a little while to get into this book, so much that I put it down one day and didn't pick it back up for a week, still though when I eventually got into it I was into it and the pacing stayed up from that point on.

This book isn't just superficial though. There are racial undertones that in this day and age must be commented on. Look, I'm a white women, I'm not sure how much I am allowed to speak about representation for a whole-ass culture and race that I am not part of. I will say though that I loved what Ireland created just in the main character. Jane kicked booty, she was strong, stubborn and flawed and it made her so much more real. Even in an alternative history book with zombies, a realistic character makes it so much better. I also think that the lack of a humongous romantic subplot definitely made the characters stand out on their own.

There are some parts that missed the mark a little for me. Mainly that there are references to real events from the American civil war etc which I am not knowledgable in. Still, that's not exactly the author or the book's problem, mainly mine.

Overall, Dread Nation was a really fun book to read, but at the same time it was important culturally and socially. 

Book released  3rd April 2018 by Balzer + Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review