Unexpecting by Jen Bailey


Unexpecting is a YA novel about unplanned pregnancy, expectations, parenthood, and found family. While it is compared to Juno and Heartstopper, it is much closer to the former. There's a budding romance, but you'll be disappointed if you're expecting something reminiscent of Charlie and Nick's relationship.

Ben, the sixteen-year-old gay narrator who gets his best girl pal pregnant after a science camp experiment, is immediately adamant about keeping the baby, despite Maxie's (the mother's) wishes to give it to a couple wishing to adopt. While his intense drive to make young parenthood work, everything seems to stack against him. He lets down his team at the robotics tournament, consistently breaks dishes at his bussing job, and cannot seem to find the time to study on top of enrolling in parenting courses and sitting in on adoption interviews. In many ways, the constant wave of shit makes it unbelievable.

While the prose was written well and Ben was easy to empathize with, some plot points were too over the top, and Ben's drive to be a teenage father didn't make sense halfway through, given how many opportunities and academic programs he would have to give up—things he had been planning for since elementary school. I was also hoping for more when it came to his relationship with Gio.

Despite some of the issues, I thought it was an interesting read. I haven't read many novels about teen pregnancy, and never have I come across one written from the perspective of the expecting father. I commend Bailey for taking on this subject and would readily pick up her future works.

*Thank you to St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books, and NetGalley for the ARC.*

The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older

The Mimicking of Known Successes

The Mimicking of Known Successes is a mystery novella set on a platform constructed around Jupiter. While the world-building is great, there isn't enough of it. I loved the descriptions of the platforms and how sections and railways are set around the uninhabitable gas giant—not to mention the university's large role in the future reintroduction to life on Earth through meticulously planned ecosystem building. Unfortunately, that was the only thing I really enjoyed about this book and there wasn't enough of it to paint a full picture.

The main plot centers around a mystery regarding a missing person and what could have become of him. Though there are numerous snippets of information thrown at Mossa and Pleiti, most of it seems disconnected, and the ending proves unsatisfying because there aren't breadcrumbs sprinkled throughout the story for the reader to pick up on. If I'm reading a mystery, I don't want to come to the end without having seen it coming. I should at least be able to look back, knowing everything that led up to that point, and stitch clues together. This story did not offer that, and for that reason the ending fell flat.

I also disliked the overstated romance. Mossa and Pleiti's relationship is paper thin, yet the narrator (Pleiti) never lets up about how she wishes Mossa will give her a sign that their relationship—which Pleiti broke off—might be rekindled.

All in all, I believe there was too much going on in this 176-page novella. If it had been novel length, there would have been time to flesh out the world, mystery, and romance.

*Thanks to Tordotcom for the physical ARC.*

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a light-hearted novel about a teenage boy's online relationship with a mysterious boy from his school. I enjoyed the ambiguous nature of their budding romance and loved Simon attempting to piece together the clues "Blue" left for him.

Though the blackmail aspect grew tiring, I was happy Martin didn't turn out to be the love interest.

If this had been published when I was in high school, I believe I would have enjoyed it more. As a 28-year-old mother of two writing a YA romance, this didn't live up to my expectations--especially after all the hype the book and movie received.

Nevertheless, I'd recommend the novel to younger LGBTQ+ readers looking to see themselves in print.

The Alkonost's Egg by K. Panikian


*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*

The Alkonost's Egg is the final book in a trilogy but works just as well as a standalone novel. If you're looking for a quick fantasy with a dose of romance, I recommend giving this a go. The characters were interesting and fleshed out, the world-building was great and easy to digest, and the plot didn't drag. I appreciated the detailed fight scenes; instead of getting caught up in the placement of limbs and weapons, thoughtful descriptions were used. My only criticism is I felt the romance between Callie and Bard didn't receive the attention it so needed; I never invested in their future and felt their connection was never as strong as it could have been. There needed to be more intimate scenes between the two of them to make it 100% believable.

Though I did not read the first two novels in this series, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will definitely be giving the preceding titles a look.

Burning for the Beast by Nara Jade


*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.*

Burning for the Beast is Nara Jade's debut novel. Though PNR (paranormal romance) isn't my go-to genre, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The characters, Evaline and Ulric, were fleshed out and believable. I appreciated the tension highlighted in the first half of the novel; it's easy for the "will they, won't they" plot to become cloying but I felt it worked for this particular story. Due to Evaline's health condition and Ulric's immortality, they are consistently faced with obstacles that many couples would never dream of overcoming. Add in a dying life source and a demon king's thirst for power and it makes it that much harder.

The descriptions and worldbuilding were also on point. Despite the book being PNR and not fantasy, Jade took care to offer details where they were needed. Personally, I liked how some of the battles were brushed over; there's only so much action I want in a romance novel.

Speaking of romance, there are quite a few spicy scenes. If you're looking for well-written, explicit sex scenes, you've come to the right place.

I enjoyed the novel and look forward to reading what Nara Jade writes next.

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer


Much like everyone else who read Twilight as a teen, I decided to scoop up this latest edition just to see if Meyer offered anything of note to the original plot. Even though I never cared much about Edward and Bella’s love story, I thought revisiting Forks through the eyes of Edward would provide me with a deeper understanding of who he is outside of his association with Bella. Despite setting the bar low, I was disappointed.

Admittedly, Stephenie Meyer’s writing has improved. Her prose is easier to digest and she offers adequate description and detail without bombarding you with the shit you don’t care about. That is, of course, unless you despise vampire baseball. There’s a whole chapter on that car crash of a sport.

From an editing standpoint, the end product needed to be passed over a few more times. I counted more than 30 typos, misused words, and just straight-up missing words throughout the book. One or two is common, but come on. Did the editing team want to be rid of it that badly?

Now let’s talk about Edward’s level of stalking. It’s somehow cute when he does it, but I’m sure Joe Goldberg creeping on a girl while she’s asleep would elicit a much stronger reaction.

Then we come to the realization that, despite Edward being 104, he has never had sex with another being, alive or dead. Sure, he never felt a strong connection with another vampire, but Tonya was more than willing to sleep with him. It’s unrealistic to think he never considered fucking someone.

When we get to know Bella a little more, we realize she still doesn’t have a personality. The fact that we waited ten years to finally catch a glimpse of the person hiding under the paper-thin Bella Swan we grew accustomed to is ludicrous, especially when you consider she’s nothing but a bland Mary Sue that every guy falls for… for essentially no reason. There’s nothing significant about her apart from the pure ecstasy that is her blood.


To keep it short and sweet, this book wasn’t worth the time. You don’t learn much more about Edward, and what you do learn is so insignificant that it never needed to be explored. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to pick up something more worthwhile.

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins


*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

The Wife Upstairs is a passable retelling of Jane Eyre. I’d like to note that, apart from the names of the main characters and the “wife in the attic” plotline, there’s virtually nothing Hawkins includes from the original text.

Now, let’s assume (incorrectly) that I’ve never read Jane Eyre and, therefore, have no complaints about what did and did not make it into The Wife Upstairs. I’ll begin with Jane. She’s shallow, judgmental, and annoying. Her backstory was bland, though Hawkins did her best to offer her an arc — and perhaps an explanation — as to why she is so devoid of feeling. You can’t sympathize with her, unless you’re a reader who roots for the snotty young adult who believes she deserves everything handed to her just because she had a rough childhood.

Then we have Bea. She’s the perfect everything: wife, businesswoman, friend. That is, until she turns out to be anything but. All I can say is read the novel and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Eddie is your run-of-the-mill rich dude. He’s attractive enough but there’s nothing else to his character. He’s shallow, going after Bea initially because he knew she had money. Jane sees him as a ticket out of her mediocre life, even if his wife recently disappeared and everyone in Thornfield Estates is suspicious of their relationship. There’s nothing to him; he might as well be a cardboard cutout of the stereotypical wealthy male.

The ending, without spoiling anything, is lame. After reading Hawkins’ acknowledgments, I was surprised to find that this novel was her response to believing Jane Eyre deserved better from Rochester. If anything, she makes out much better in Charlotte Bronte’s work.

Overall, this book was okay. I was mostly interested in how the author intended to turn Jane Eyre into a modern thriller. I wasn’t surprised to feel dissatisfied after closing the book and returning it to the shelf, longing to reread the classic novel it borrowed from.