Accomplished: A Georgie Darcy Novel by Amanda Quain #bookreview #YA #contemporary

Georgiana Darcy gets the Pride & Prejudice retelling she deserves in Accomplished, a sparkling contemporary YA featuring a healthy dose of marching band romance, endless banter, and Charles Bingley as a ripped frat boy.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
– Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
– Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

I’m a Pride and Prejudice fan and a prior member of marching band, so I was excited to come across this retelling on NetGalley.

Georgie is not in a good place. During her sophomore year at Pemberley, she fell into a toxic relationship with long time crush Wickham Foster only to discover by the end of the year that he’d been dealing drugs out of her dorm room. To say brother Fitz was enraged and disappointed is an understatement. She’s lost all her friends since she ignored them and her studies while basking in the glow of Wickham’s attention. Junior year is a fresh start, and she’s determined to set things right.

After the death of their father and abandonment by their mother, Fitz and Georgie are learning how to be a family without them. As her legal guardian, Fitz assumes more of a paternal role, but Georgie misses her brother/best friend even as she continues to disappoint him. She believes Fitz is unhappy because of her, so she schemes with his best friend (and frat boy) Charles Bingley to get Fitz to fall in love with Lizzie Bennet. I loved how this retelling takes characters and places from the novel and reworks them into a modern day setting. In every scene with Fitz and Lizzie I pictured younger versions of actors Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightly from the 2005 movie. I couldn’t help it, and their banter was perfect.

Even with the best intentions, Georgie is met with one closed door after another while trying to set things right – her list of friends remains a short one, the honor roll is a distant dream, and the trombone section has all but frozen her out. Band was her happy place and her community, but now she doesn’t fit in there or anywhere it seems.

This is a fun modernization of Pride and Prejudice, and watching Fitz and Georgie redefine their sibling relationship was a high point for me. Georgie may stumble and make mistakes, but she realizes the importance of family and friends by the end. No one should have to go it alone.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Blaine for the Win by Robbie Couch #bookreview #YA #romanticcomedy #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

After being dumped so his boyfriend can pursue more “serious” guys, a teen boy decides to prove he can be serious, too, by running for senior class president in this joyful romp from the author of The Sky Blues.

High school junior Blaine Bowers has it all—the perfect boyfriend, a pretty sweet gig as a muralist for local Windy City businesses, a loving family, and awesome, talented friends. And he is absolutely, 100% positive that aforementioned perfect boyfriend—​senior student council president and Mr. Popular of Wicker West High School, Joey—is going to invite Blaine to spend spring break with his family in beautiful, sunny Cabo San Lucas.

Except Joey breaks up with him instead. In public. On their one-year anniversary.

Because, according to Joey, Blaine is too goofy, too flighty, too…unserious. And if Joey wants to go far in life, he needs to start dating more serious guys. Guys like Zach Chesterton.

Determined to prove that Blaine can be what Joey wants, Blaine decides to enter the running to become his successor (and beat out Joey’s new boyfriend, Zach) as senior student council president.

But is he willing to sacrifice everything he loves about himself to do it? 

I was in the mood for a lighter read, and the description of this one screamed Legally Blonde to me, a movie I was always a fan of.

Blaine has the “perfect boyfriend”, and they have a date to celebrate their one year anniversary at an exclusive restaurant – one Blaine’s family would never be able to afford. He’s sure Joey will ask him to spend spring break with his family at Cabo. Instead, he breaks up with Blaine because he’s too unserious. Turns out Joey the “perfect boyfriend” is slime.

Blaine is a sweetheart and so easy to like. He paints murals (for very little money) for local businesses to spruce up the neighborhood, adores his temporarily unemployed aunt (she’s awesome in every way) who lives with them, and longs to spend more time with his hard-working parents. He also has a couple of best friends who are there for him no matter what. When Blaine enters the running for senior student council president it’s for all the wrong reasons, but he discovers some important things about himself along the way. He may also meet a cute guy who’s more deserving of him.

Important themes of finding your path, following through on promises, and knowing your worth are addressed, as well as mental health issues high school students deal with – don’t underestimate the pressures they’re under. This novel is tons of fun, has memorable supporting characters, and is guaranteed to leave you with a smile.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Howl by Shaun David Hutchinson #bookreview #YA #LGBTQ

From critically acclaimed Shaun David Hutchinson comes a gritty and raw portrayal of the oftentimes traumatic experience of growing up.

Virgil Knox was attacked by a monster.

Of course, no one in Merritt believes him. Not even after he stumbled into the busy town center, bleeding, battered, and bruised, for everyone to see. He’d been drinking, they said. He was hanging out where he wasn’t supposed to, they said. It must’ve been a bear, or a badger, or a gator—definitely no monster.

Virgil doesn’t think it was any of those things. He’s positive it was a monster. But being the new kid in a town where everybody knows everybody is hard enough as it is without being the kid who’s afraid of monsters, so he tries to keep a low profile.

Except he knows the monster is still out there. And if he isn’t careful, Virgil’s afraid it’ll come back to finish him off, or worse—that he’ll become one himself.

Be forewarned – this is a visceral, gut-wrenching read, but you won’t be able to put it down. I finished this novel in less than a day.

Virgil’s parents are going through a tough divorce, and he’s ripped away from his boyfriend and best friend when his father relocates them across the country to his hometown. It’s a very backwards and unwelcoming small town. To make things worse, after Virgil’s attacked by a monster, no one believes him – including his own father and grandparents – even though he has over sixty stitches to show for it. Kids at school bully him and play pranks on him. No one listens or pays attention to his silent cries for help. He suffers from terrifying nightmares, sleeps in his closet, doesn’t eat, and flinches when touched. It’s implied what happened to him was his fault, and he should suck it up and box up his feelings. My heart broke for him.

Luckily, he has two supportive people in his life – his cousin Astrid and Tripp, a friend he makes at school. Both are standout characters, and Tripp’s humor brings some lighter moments to the story. At his previous school, Virgil was in the drama club and has a talent for acting. Becoming someone else on stage brings him joy, and his new drama teacher goes above and beyond to provide a safe space for him in class and on the stage. He also connects Virgil with an out-of-town therapist since the only local one is the homophobic pastor.

Howl is a powerful story that will stick with you long after reading. The author does an incredible job of writing about trauma and the stigma associated with it. It’s relatable on so many levels and will resonate with readers in different ways. Although a tough read at times, it’s absolutely worth it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Golden Boys by Phil Stamper #bookreview #YA #LGBTQ #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

National bestselling author Phil Stamper crafts the perfect summer friendship story, starring four queer boys with big hearts and even bigger dreams.

Gabriel, Reese, Sal, and Heath are best friends, bonded in their small rural town by their queerness, their good grades, and their big dreams. They are about to embark on the summer before senior year of high school, where each is going on a new, big adventure. Reese is attending a design school in Paris. Gabriel is going to Boston to volunteer with a environmental nonprofit. Sal is interning on Capitol Hill for a U.S. Senator. And Heath is stuck going to Daytona Beach to help out at his aunt’s beachfront arcade.

What will this summer of new experiences and world-expanding travel mean for each of them—and for their friendship?

After reading a few heavy, postapocalyptic-type books, I wanted something lighter. Filled with ride or die friendships, found family, and dreams of the future, Golden Boys was exactly what I needed.

Don’t get me wrong – these boys are each dealing with their own problems and challenges. Gabriel is afraid he doesn’t know how to make friends outside their close circle and lacks self-confidence. Reese is secretly in love with his best friend and an ocean away from him for the summer. Sal is learning his path in life may not be exactly what he’d thought. Heath’s parents are divorcing, money is tight, and his childhood home is on the market. All of them are reluctant to be apart for the summer, afraid things won’t be the same after time away, but each has adventures and life lessons ahead of them.

Written in four different POVs, I struggled a bit at the beginning with keeping the names straight, but as I got to know and love these boys I knew exactly who was speaking without rechecking the chapter heading. As the only queer teens in their small school, they gravitated toward each other and have been tight friends for years. All are in the running for class valedictorian, but even that doesn’t threaten their strong bonds. On the verge of adulthood, the boys are excited for what’s ahead, but also afraid of stepping outside their comfort zone in small town Ohio. The world’s a scary place filled with uncertainty. Will their relationships change after a summer away? Will they even be the same people?

This coming of age story was a delight, and I enjoyed every page. One review I read demands a movie, and I’m one hundred percent on board with that idea. According to Goodreads there will be a sequel to this novel, and you can be sure I’ll snatch it up. Very highly recommended.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich #bookreview #YA #contemporary #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

I’m not revisiting my love of boybands with this book – I was never a fan. But after reading a string of heavy fantasy books, this contemporary story was exactly what I needed. I’ve read the fabulous Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzalez, but wasn’t familiar with Cale Dietrich. Don’t go into this expecting a sugar-coated love story – it deals with some substantial topics.

Fans screaming your name everywhere you go, crying hysterically as they try to get to you, bodyguards surrounding you to prevent you from being trampled, the glamour, fame, and spotlight. Fans see artists on stage, follow them on social media, and read everything about them they can get their hands on. Some of the more obsessive fans think they know the real person behind the public persona. This story shows how little of the boys’ true selves are ever revealed. They’re assigned a character type to portray, dressed for every public occasion, instructed how to wear their hair, and told what to say in interviews. They’re branded and owned by the record company they make money for. It’s not the dream they’d imagined when signing their contracts at such a young age.

Although the record company and management team know Ruben is gay, he’s not permitted to make that public knowledge. He’s had a crush on best friend and band member Zach for a while, but knows nothing will come of it since Zach is straight. Or so he thought. When Zach begins to have confusing feelings about Ruben and memories about other boys resurface, he realizes he’s bisexual. After they begin a romantic relationship, Zach and Ruben want to be honest with everyone in their lives about who they are, including their fans. For their management team, it’s not an ideal situation, and the boys are given one excuse after another about why they should wait before coming out. Disagreements with their manager are made even more tense and awkward since he’s the father of Jon, one of the band members.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the unconditional support all four boys give each other. Sure, they have their squabbles and differences, but when the chips are down, they have each other’s backs no matter what. Their personalities are very distinct, and chapters are told in the alternating POVs of Ruben and Zach. Angel injects humor and snark into several scenes and had me laughing out loud. Drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, exhaustion, and the constant pressure of being monitored almost 24/7 are also dealt with. The authors did their research on the exploitation of artists in the entertainment industry.

This novel deals with some important and incredibly personal topics and handles them well. I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and it’s one I’d recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Roxy by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman #bookreview #YA #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

From the team that brought you the New York Times bestselling Dry comes a riveting new thriller that proves when gods play games, even love is a lie.

The freeway is coming.

It will cut the neighborhood in two. Construction has already started, pushing toward this corridor of condemned houses and cracked concrete with the momentum of the inevitable. Yet there you are, in the fifth house on the left, fighting for your life.

Ramey, I.

The victim of the bet between two manufactured gods: the seductive and lethal Roxy (Oxycontin), who is at the top of her game, and the smart, high-achieving Addison (Adderall), who is tired of being the helpful one, and longs for a more dangerous, less wholesome image. The wager—a contest to see who can bring their mark to “the Party” first—is a race to the bottom of a rave that has raged since the beginning of time. And you are only human, dazzled by the lights and music. Drawn by what the drugs offer—tempted to take that step past helpful to harmful…and the troubled places that lie beyond.

But there are two I. Rameys—Isaac, a soccer player thrown into Roxy’s orbit by a bad fall and a bad doctor and Ivy, his older sister, whose increasing frustration with her untreated ADHD leads her to renew her acquaintance with Addy.

Which one are you? 

Every book I’ve read by Neal Shusterman has held me spellbound, and this one was no exception. It’s unlike anything I’ve come across. Just be prepared to have your heart ripped from your chest and put through a meat grinder.

You know from the first few pages one of these two main characters isn’t going to live. During the course of the story I changed my mind countless times about which one it would be. The second chapter flashes back to two months earlier, and that’s where the story begins. Isaac seems to have his life together – good grades, plans for college and a career. His sister Ivy isn’t quite as organized. Because of untreated ADHD, she’s at risk of failing her senior year of high school and also has a history of trouble with drugs and alcohol. Both of these characters are extremely well-crafted and easy to connect with, and their paths to addiction are very plausible and relatable.

The conversations between Roxy (Oxycontin) and Addison (Adderall), as well as others (Al, Lucy, Molly, Crys, and Phineas to name a few – all types of drugs) are wildly imaginative, thought-provoking, and profound at times. But also sad. Bringing these two teens to “the Party” is only a game to them, and seeing Isaac’s and Ivy’s downward spirals makes for a gut-wrenching, difficult read.

Roxy is an incredibly dark, gritty novel that focuses on the devastating effects of addiction and how anyone can be susceptible to dependency. It will gut you, but is so well-worth the read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz #bookreview #contemporary #LGBTQ #YA

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

With the highest recommendations from book club friends, I listened to the first book in this series over the summer, and then was ecstatic when I received an ARC of this highly anticipated sequel.

These boys grabbed my heart in the first book and didn’t let go – Ari, who would rather spend time with his dog than anyone else while pondering the meaning of life, and Dante, a born romantic who wears his heart on his sleeve. They squeezed my heart even tighter this time around and even shattered it at times. This novel is set in the eighties when the AIDS epidemic made headlines every day – when two teenage boys tragically had to hide their sexuality because it wasn’t safe for them to admit they were gay.

“My love for him is silent. There are a thousand things living in that silence.”

Fortunately, these two have a strong support system in their parents and a few select friends. That doesn’t mean they don’t have doubts about who they are. When Ari asks his mother if he’s a sin, it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Plenty of these heartfelt conversations may require tissues, so be prepared.

Ari finally steps out of his comfort zone and allows people who’ve had their hands extended in friendship for years in. He also discovers maybe he and one of his enemies have more in common that he believed. You can never be sure what people are dealing with in their lives.

“When you are standing all alone, the people who notice – those are the people who stand by your side. Those are the people who love you.”

Something I found amusing was how Ari comes to the realization his parents are actual people. After mending the relationship with his father, the two of them spend time together that will profoundly affect Ari for the rest of his life. He also sees the influence his mother has had on her students and the sacrifices she’s made along the way. How his parents met and fell in love.

This is a coming of age story that deals with love, loss, grief, homophobia, and racism, but also offers hope for a better future. As you can see from the above quotes, the writing is beautiful and inspirational, and the characters undergo tremendous growth. It’s a series I’ll continue to recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#BlogTour You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith #YA #contemporary

YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY by Eric Smith

On sale: November 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1335405685

Inkyard Press

Teen & Young Adult; Romance

$18.99 / $23.99 CAN

336 Pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:

A sweetly charming love story that leaves the reader with a lasting sense of hope.” —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star

“The perfect novel to snuggle up with.” —Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read

No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?


Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. Her boyfriend dumped her. Her friends seem to have changed overnight. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/You-Can-Your-Own-Way/dp/1335405682 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/you-can-go-your-own-way-eric-smith/1138256191 

Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9781335405685?AID=10747236&PID=7651142&cjevent=c39c9d3b5dee11eb83ba01ab0a240614 

IndieBound:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335405685 

BookShop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/you-can-go-your-own-way/9781335405685 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/you-can-go-your-own-way/id1540270939 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Eric_Smith_You_Can_Go_Your_Own_Way?id=9soIEAAAQBAJ 

MY REVIEW

Contemporary fiction isn’t my first choice when it comes to genres, but if it’s written by this author, I don’t even need to read the description. I’ll grab it immediately.

Adam and Whitney are dealing with some heavy issues. Adam is still grieving the loss of his father, who passed away just before Adam started high school. He keeps him close by wearing his vintage concert t-shirts and REM jacket and working on a pinball machine designed by his father. He and his mother are struggling to keep their pinball arcade afloat, and Adam is determined to hang onto the business his dad started. Whitney is still adjusting to her parents’ divorce and spends hours every day handling social media for her father’s company. Although her heart lies with the plants at her mom’s shop, she believes working for her dad is the only way to spend time with him. Despite her efforts, he’s laser-focused on his business and unaware of what’s going on in her life. Adam and Whitney were childhood best friends, but grew apart the summer before high school when Adam lost his father and Whitney found new friends. Their dynamic now is combative at best, but their mothers push for them to patch up their relationship.

Smith’s characters generally fall into the nerd category, something that’s made me a confirmed fan. He mentions several bands I’ve seen in concert, and although many of them wouldn’t be recognized by teens this age, Adam’s dad introduced him to their music – as any cool parent would. In their small slice of Philadephia, I adored the strong community among the small businesses surrounding the pinball arcade and how they supported each other. Their comedic social media comments gave me plenty of laughs. I was delighted when two characters from Don’t Read the Comments (Smith’s previous book) made an appearance.

Because at the end of the day, it isn’t about the place. It’s about who you shared it with.

The above quote is something that stuck with me, and it’s perfectly suited for this story about dealing with loss, learning to heal, and rekindling relationships. If you’re a fan of well-developed characters, offbeat plots, heartfelt moments, and YA books without the typical high school drama, I can’t recommend this author enough.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

ERIC SMITH is an author and literary agent from Elizabeth, New Jersey. When he isn’t working on other people’s books, sometimes he tries to write his own. He enjoys pop punk, video games, and crying during every movie. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and best friend, Nena, and their son, Langston. WWW.ERICSMITHROCKS.COM

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericsmithrocks

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/ericsmithrocks 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/55920774-you-can-go-your-own-way 

A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell #bookreview #YA #contemporaryfantasy

When her siblings start to go missing, a girl must confront the dark thing that lives in the forest—and the growing darkness in herself—in this debut YA contemporary fantasy for fans of Wilder Girls.

Derry and her eight siblings live in an isolated house by the lake, separated from the rest of the world by an eerie and menacing forest. Frank, the man who raised them after their families abandoned them, says it’s for their own good. After all, the world isn’t safe for people with magic. And Derry feels safe—most of the time.

Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left. Even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices.

As Derry spends more time amidst the trees, her magic grows more powerful . . . and so does the darkness inside her, the viciousness she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. But saving her siblings from the forest and from Frank might mean embracing the darkness. And that just might be the most dangerous thing of all. 

A dark thing living in a forest, siblings going missing, magic – who wouldn’t want to know about the nefarious goings on in those trees?

Derry and her siblings have lived in a secluded house with their guardian, Frank, since their parents abandoned them due to difficulties with their magic. They don’t share the same parents (except for two sets of twins), but have been raised together and formed very close bonds as a result of their circumstances. Although most of the siblings fear Frank a little and dislike him, he takes care of them and offers protection from the nearby townfolk (they call the siblings witches), but they never leave the grounds and have no connection with the outside world. Each of the siblings possess different types of magic, and Frank teaches them not only how to enhance their abilities, but also how to control them.

The author provides a wonderfully diverse and inclusive cast with representation of different sexualities, body types, and races. The relationships between these siblings are one of my favorite aspects of the novel – they’re ride or die for each other – although I have to admit the introduction of so many characters in the first few pages is a little overwhelming. Even so, you’ll settle in and find it easy to empathize with them. Something seems off with Frank and his methods, and you can’t help but root for them to find a better living situation.

Although the end is a whirlwind of action, pacing was a little uneven for me in the middle. Derry is forced to make some difficult choices and cross into morally gray areas, but it all seems justified and I had no trouble going along with her decisions. Once the whirlwind is over, I appreciated that the author gives the reader a glimpse of what’s in store for these characters in the future.

This standalone novel offers an exceptionally inclusive cast of characters and provides a nice blend of mystery, a touch of horror, and magic for an enjoyable read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune #bookreview #fantasy #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

After reading The House in the Cerulean Sea, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this author’s newest release. Ecstatic doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when I received an ARC from NetGalley.

Once again, this author has left me awestruck. It’s hard to convey how much I loved this book and the feelings it evoked in me, but I’ll give it a shot.

Wallace is not a nice person. At all. He’s a workaholic who cares very little for the employees at his law office. After he dies of a sudden heart attack in his 40s, all he leaves behind is a failed marriage and his firm – no family or friends, not even a pet. At his sparsely-attended funeral not one person has a kind word to say about him. There, he meets a feisty reaper who escorts him to a peculiar tea shop to meet the ferryman. The tea shop is a kind of layover for the recently deceased until they’re ready to move on. Here, Wallace experiences the five stages of grief – anger is a big one for him – and eventually has some earth-shattering moments of self-realization. He may have been alive, but he never really lived.

Besides the ferryman and reaper, there are a couple other characters at the tea house, and I fell in love with all of them. They felt like family by the end of the story. As with The House in the Cerulean Sea, humor is still prevalent along with plenty of heartfelt moments. I’m not a person who cries easily over books or movies, but I’m batting a thousand with Klune.

This novel is about love, grief, friendship, family, a wide variety of teas, and truly living. It’s also about death and what might come after, but it’s dealt with in a light-hearted, thought-provoking, moving, and beautiful way. As with The House in the Cerulean Sea, it’s a book I’ll recommend to everyone I know, reader or not.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.