Book Review: Bigger Love (Big Love #2) by Rick R. Reed

Bigger Love by Rick R. Reed book cover

Truman Reid is Summitville High’s most out-and-proud senior. He can’t wait to take his fierce, uncompromising self away from his small Ohio River hometown, where he’s suffered more than his share of bullying. He’s looking forward to bright lights and a big city. Maybe he’ll be the first ever genderfluid star to win an Academy Award. But all that changes on the first day of school when he locks eyes with the most gorgeous hunk he’s ever seen.

Mike Stewart, big, dark-haired, and with the most amazing blue eyes, is new to town. He’s quiet, manly, and has the sexy air of a lost soul. It’s almost love at first sight for Truman. He thinks that love could deepen when Mike becomes part of the stage crew for Harvey, the senior class play Truman’s directing. But is Mike even gay? And how will it work when Truman’s mother is falling for Mike’s dad?

Plus Truman, never the norm, makes a daring and controversial choice for the production that has the whole town up in arms.

See how it all plays out on a stage of love, laughter, tears, and sticking up for one’s essential self…

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How was it?

For a queer YA novel with some adult themes, Bigger Love has a predictable set up, with Truman, one of the main characters, living in a small-town with small-minded people. So you can easily imagine the bigotry and hypocrisy surrounding this young openly gay, gender-fluid boy.

However, where this novel stands out is how Truman is written. He is resilient and brave, it becomes quite easy to cheer him on. You see him struggle, internally, with what he has to deal with living in his small-town, but the way he faces these people and deals with the hurt they cause is inspiring. Also the fact that he has the mother he does – Patsy is the best – is a breath of fresh air. He’s not completely alone.
Often in young adult romances – at least the ones that I’ve read – the queer teen has little to no support, and a big effort is made for us to pity them.

As for Mike, the boy who caught Truman’s eye, he could have remained Truman’s crush for all I cared. But I found interesting that Mike decided to be more private about his sexuality once he moved into this small town – I can’t seem to remember the name of it. Because it seemed like he wasn’t as much in the closet beforehand. To me this illustrate how as queer people we sometime have to adapt to our surroundings for our own safety. Next to Truman it seemed to be a cowardly move, since Mike can pass as straight and Truman can’t. Yet seeing this difference in their experience of being young queer men was nice.

This story is a nice example of how one character can make a big difference in a story that may seem run of the mill. Truman really pulls you in, he’s kind, mature, and strong-willed. I enjoyed his story.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Bigger Love is available on Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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I received an advanced copy of this audiobook and this is my fair and unbiased review.

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Book Review: Fable by Adrienne Young

For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

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How was it? Well it took me a little over a year to finish this book. I know that sounds bad but some books are like that, they take me months to finish them. I read half of it in one sitting and was enveloped in the world building but just has everything was set up – because that the first half is mostly that – I stopped reading.

As much as I ended up liking this book, it has some aspects that are eye roll worthy, bringing the quality down. I paused right in the middle of an action sequence, which is odd for me, but the book was getting to a point where I felt that most of the world building was done. The setting of this book is one of the best thing about it. I loved learning about it, the different places, what made up the crew of a ship, the trade guild or the idea of Gem Sages, the author does a great job at laying all that out. It’s not too complicated and it feels real.

However, when the focus was shifting more to other characters and tried to move the plot forward, the story lost its shine a bit. The problem is part of the plot is vague and the other is predictable; as for the other characters – mainly the crew of the Marygold – the further you got from West, the less you knew about them. I can barely remember their names and am not sure how many of them there were. Also as charming as these characters were, they’re not believable as the crew of a ship. Their young age might make them seem like underdogs compared to the other ships but given how these other crews are described it’s a wonder that they’re still alive and retained their ship.

There’s also some romance in this book, thank goodness it’s doesn’t take much space but it’s USELESS. It seemed liked an obligatory added on thing, as if it can only be a YA novel if someone catches feelings. I don’t mind romance, in fact I read a lot of it but it was unnecessary here.

Besides the world building, the other aspect of the book that I liked is Fable. She’s driven, brave and a great character to follow. I may not have liked all of her choices but I enjoyed going on this adventure with her.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fable is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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Book Review: One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. 

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How was it?

I’ve had this book, and its sequel, since they came out with the intention of reading them at some point. However I was rushed to get to it when I found out that the television adaptation was days away from premiering. I don’t know how I didn’t catch that but the fact is that the book shot to the top of my TBR. I dove in hoping that I didn’t waste my money in 2017 because I bought this book and then its sequel without having read a review, or due to a friend’s recommendation. The title and the sense that there was a crime that had been committed were the deciding factors. And I’m glad to say that it was money well spent.

The story has clear nods to The Breakfast Club (1985) and Gossip Girl but it’s a full on crime mystery novel, and as mystery novels go this one is pretty good, despite being somewhat predictable. I can’t say that I figured out who did it because I didn’t, not until it was close to be revealed. Maybe that’s due to me rushing to read it, or I’m not as smart as I think I am. However at some point, maybe almost halfway through, it became clear to me who didn’t do it. I was so sure about the innocents that if it had turned out to be any of them, I would called bullsh!t. I still had one suspect for a long time, because I saw their secret coming from a mile away, I think I figured it out when they were first introduced. I suspected them for one reason, because I expected the author to choose that character to be the vilain and I would have criticized the heck out of this book if that was the case.

So if the book is kind of predictable, what makes it worth while? The characters. They are grounded and relatable, even the one whose ramblings annoyed me to no end at the beginning because by the end that character’s growth was astounding. They’re all like that by the way, a representation of their stereotypes at first but as we go along they quickly become more fleshed out and well rounded. They became more interesting than the mystery itself. At many points I was more entertain by the effect the tragedy had on them and their lives than figuring out who was behind it.

I’m not going to say much more about this book because it’s better to go in with the least information possible but I’m open to discuss spoilers in the comments. I also can’t wait to see how the show will turn out because there are some sensitive subjects in this book that I’d like to see how they’re tackling them for the screen.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

One of Us Is Lying is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

The sequel

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Book Review: The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

Published 13 July 2021

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

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How was it?

I meant to read a couple of chapters to decide if I was starting this book or another but just a few paragraphs in I was pulled in. This book has a solid plot but it’s emotionally charged and can be quite heavy. Yes there are gruesome murders in it that makes it spooky, but it’s the way it depicts these little cuts that hurt more in the long run that I gravitated toward.

This book dives into trauma and micro agressions but does it in a clever way. Because it’s not just Jake, the black queer kid, that is the target of this kind of death by a thousand cuts, Sawyer, our now powerful and vengeful ghost, was also a target. Both in their own way are somewhat victims of circumstances. In Sawyer’s case it’s not used as an excuse for what he did but showcases what lead him to it. As for Jake the author does a great job at telling what it’s like to surfer race based micro agressions on top of being gay in an unwelcoming environment.

The story is dark and has a lot of paranormal elements in it but it depicts the bullying, violence, and abuse well. I also enjoyed how the story showcased how some parents are more concerned about how bad a child with mental health problems make them look rather than helping the child get better. It’s a hard situating to see, it’s disgusting but feels all too real. In facts, the quotes “She checked on me at  heptfill only to harass my crisis counselor about when I could leave. Threw a fit when Tom said I’d have to decide that For myself.”, or “The trouble with my mother is that she’s too busy pretending problems don’t exist to ever really fixed them.” really got to me.

All the heavy stuff aside the story is visually interesting and I could see a live action version of this. The budding romance was also nice; I could see myself checking out another story about this black queer teen who sees dead people.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Taking of Jake Livingstone is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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Book Review: Ashfall Legacy by Pittacus Lore

Pittacus Lore finished telling the story of the Lorien Nine. Now, he’s back to recount an all-new adventure rooted in the real mysteries surrounding Roswell, New Mexico, that will enthrall fans of Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman, and Brandon Sanderson.

We have waited generations for you…

Syd Chambers knows that there’s life on other planets because he’s descended from it. His father was from a distant world called Denza, and has been missing—presumed dead—for years.

When Syd discovers a device his father left behind that shows not only that he’s alive, but where he is, Syd must set out on a mission of his own. But along the way, he discovers a deadly, unbearable secret that could destroy Denza, Earth, and the universe. 

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How was it?

I don’t know if I’m the only one who noticed this but when this book was announced, it was marketed as a spin-off or continuation of the Lorien Legacies. I read all of the Lorien books and really enjoyed them, so I very much expected this book to be linked to the previous series by Pittacus Lore, but it’s not, not really.

By the end of part one, I felt betrayed, like I had been duped. There was no way this book is related to the Lorien Legacies and there was a shroud over this book that had some effect on my enjoyment. However, *minor spoiler/* There’s a blink and you miss it mention of Mogadorians, well more like a suggestion of them, just enough of a description for fan to make that assumption. 😒 *\minor spoiler*

Beside that the story was interesting enough for me to go through it with ease, but I wasn’t very engrossed. In other words it was good enough to keep reading but just as easy to put down. This could have been a book that I’d forget to pick back up if another book had caught my eyes at the time.

The premise is a mash-up of many intellectual properties, you can tell where the inspiration was pulled from. There’s a bit of star wars, a kind of reverse superman – with no heat vision or flight so far, and a famous mythology mixed in toward the end. The mix kind of works for me but the execution is choppy.

However there are clever bits, like in the beginning when my expectations were subverted, or the thing that makes the lost people venerable – it’s a great commentary on that particular race. The characters are almost great but for some of them I barely remembered what they were, between the half-human half-alien ones, and humans born on Denza I got my wired crossed.  As for the different species of aliens featured here they were cool and interesting looking.

Ashfall Legacy is a nice set up for a series that has some potential, the world building and the reveals makes the bulk of what’s interesting about it.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Ashfall Legacy is available on The Book Depository, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

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