Mini Reviews: Alone With You in the Ether, Stella

Mini Reviews

We’re nearing the end of 2022 and I still have a couple books that I need to read in order to reach my book count goal (we can forget about the page count goal …). So, I didn’t really think it was necessary to do separate reviews for the following books and hope you enjoy their mini versions.

*links to Goodreads and Storygraph will be provided after the ratings!*

Alone With You in the Ether by Olivie Blake

Alone with You in the Ether by Olivie BlakePublisher description:
CHICAGO, SOMETIME—
Two people meet in the Art Institute by chance. Prior to their encounter, he is a doctoral student who manages his destructive thoughts with compulsive calculations about time travel; she is a bipolar counterfeit artist, undergoing court-ordered psychotherapy. By the end of the story, these things will still be true. But this is not a story about endings.
For Regan, people are predictable and tedious, including and perhaps especially herself. She copes with the dreariness of existence by living impulsively, imagining a new, alternate timeline being created in the wake of every rash decision.
To Aldo, the world feels disturbingly chaotic. He gets through his days by erecting a wall of routine: a backbeat of rules and formulas that keep him going. Without them, the entire framework of his existence would collapse.
For Regan and Aldo, life has been a matter of resigning themselves to the blueprints of inevitability—until the two meet. Could six conversations with a stranger be the variable that shakes up the entire simulation?

My Thoughts:

I’ve read three (four if we’re counting her YA story under a different name) books by Olivie Blake this year and only one of those was a reread. She was so excited to have her stories published traditionally, some with more edits than others to her previous versions, I was so hyped to get them straight on release day each time. Which is why I felt all the sadder when I didn’t initially vibe with Alone With You in the Ether at first.

While Blake definitely has a way with words, I struggled at the beginning. It took me a while to connect with the characters and I found it much easier once they had actually met each other. Starting from that moment, I could see the usual banter, the intricate psycho-analysis and peeling away of layers as well as tearing down of emotional walls. Those are the things I know, love and expect in an Olivie Blake book. Still, she chose to play with her writing in this one and I found the inconsistent style choices weren’t exactly for me.

“Can you love my brain even when it is small? When it is malevolent? When it is violent? Can you love it even when it does not love me?”

I know that this was a deeply personal story for the author and one she longed to tell. The characters both had mental health struggles and unique ways of perceiving the world, which I feel like that was something that was mirrored in the way the different parts of the story were written. So, it fitted the characters and their minds, but unfortunately not always my own. That’s all I’m going to say in terms of the mental health representation, just because I don’t have any personal experience and don’t want to speak on a matter I’m not informed enough on.

This might also make me sound like a hypocrite, because I would absolutely love for my partner to be my best friend, lover and confidant, but something about Aldo and Regan’s relationship sometimes just felt like … too much? I was worried for them and that’s not what you want in a romance – no matter how unconventional it might be. That’s not to say that there weren’t some truly beautiful moments of genuine connection, but I’m still not entirely convinced that their relationship is healthy.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! This won’t ever be my favorite Olivie Blake book, but it had some good moments.

Goodreads | Storygraph

Stella by Takis Würger

Stella by Takis WürgerPublisher description:
In 1942, Friedrich, an even-keeled but unworldly young man, arrives in Berlin from bucolic Switzerland with dreams of becoming an artist. At a life drawing class, he is hypnotized by the beautiful model, Kristin, who soon becomes his energetic yet enigmatic guide to the bustling and cosmopolitan city. Kristin teaches the naïve Friedrich how to take care of himself in a city filled with danger, and brings him to an underground jazz club where they drink cognac, dance, and kiss. The war feels far away to Friedrich as he falls in love with Kristin, the pair cocooned inside their palatial rooms at the Grand Hotel, where even Champagne and fresh fruit can be obtained thanks to the black market. But as the months pass, the mood in the city darkens yet further, with the Nazi Party tightening their hold on everyday life of all Berliners, terrorizing anyone who might be disloyal to the Reich. Kristin’s loyalties are unclear, and she is not everything she seems, as his realizes when one frightening day she comes back to Friedrich’s hotel suite in tears, battered and bruised. She tells him an astonishing secret: that her real name is Stella, and that she is Jewish, passing for Aryan. Fritz comforts her, but he soon realizes that Stella’s control of the situation is rapidly slipping out of her grasp, and that the Gestapo have an impossible power over her.
As Friedrich confronts Stella’s unimaginable choices, he finds himself woefully unprepared for the history he is living through. Based in part on a real historical character, Stella sets a tortured love story against the backdrop of wartime Berlin, and powerfully explores questions of naiveté, young love, betrayal, and the horrors of history.

My Thoughts:

I wanted to read more books in German this year and this was my feeble last minute attempt at doing just that. I was surprised that I flew through this book, making it one of the quickest German reads in a long time, even though the subject matter is quite literally WWII and the atrocities committed during that time.

Back in 2019, when this book was first published, it was just about everywhere and sparked quite a lot of discussions. Since Stella is in part based on historic facts (such as the title character, Stella) and part fiction (such as the lead character from who’s POV we’re reading the story), I understand the criticism the book is facing after I’ve now read it myself.
I know that a lot of people were bystanders in the war, their silence and passivity making them complicit in what happened. A larger portion of the population would probably fall under that category than the usual heroes and rebels that stories tend to be about. It’s one thing to tell the story of a citizen who was compliant with the regime for whatever reason and a totally different one to bring and outsider into this, who decides to go to Berlin in the midst of war to “learn how to draw”.

Friedrich was one of the most infuriating characters I have ever come across. He is passive, privileged and naive beyond reason. Everyone tells him that people are being murdered for being different in Germany and he wants to go see it for himself and experience a bit of music and art while he’s at it. Even though we get a lot of (quite horrible) historic facts at the start of each chapter and aren’t spared some truly gruesome moments in the story itself, they don’t seem to affect Friedrich in the way that they should. All he cares about is the woman he loves, despite us never understanding that supposedly deep and unwavering connection.

A story from the point of view of Stella, no matter whether you agree with her choices or not, would have been fascinating and an interesting historical study. Telling the tale of a lovesick puppy, who ignores literally every warning he is given in life, feels useless and disappointing.

Fazit: 2/5 stars! This was told through the wrong lens in my eyes.

Goodreads | Storygraph


Have you read either of those books? Do you plan to? Let’s chat!

Something Different: I was a Teenage Exocolonist (Game Review)

Something different
Or
That time I got completely addicted
to: I Was a Teenage Exocolonist

I’ve mentioned I was a Teenage Exocolonist in my November 2022 wrap-up post and I think it’s fair to say that I’m obsessed. When I first started playing the game, I sat there for 15 hours straight, not being able to tear myself away from the screen. You know I don’t do game reviews often, but I just couldn’t pass up the chance to talk about this one. But first things first!

*I have not been asked to talk about this game by the developers! I am sharing these views of my own accord.*

I was a Teenage Exocolonist is a single-player RPG simulation game by Northway Games and Finji. I played it on my laptop, but I think there are options for the PS5 and Nintendo Switch as well. Originally an indie game, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and I’d just love to add my voice to those. The game is currently 20% off on Steam, but you can find all that relevant technical data here.

What exactly is the game about? Well here’s how the developers put it:

Spend your teenage years on an alien planet in this narrative RPG with card-based battles. Explore, grow up, and fall in love. The choices you make and skills you master over ten years will determine the course of your life and the survival of your colony.

The absolutely adorable and beautiful design aside, I am always easily swayed by games where your choices matter and lead to different outcomes. What is so special about I was a Teenage Excolonist though is that you play it through once, encounter incredible losses and then … you get to do it all over again! As many times as you like! It’s a game that is designed to be replayed as you character remembers their past life/lives and can alter events based on that knowledge. I just wanted to save everyone and explore all possible endings, I got sucked in hard!

Why Do I Like It So Much?

  • SO MANY OPTIONS! Do you want to romance all the characters? Be in a poly relationship or are you not interested in romantic gestures at all? Choose your own pronouns? Do you want to be a bully or give back to the community? Do you want to commune with aliens or become part of a military complex? End famine or create a life-ending virus? Everything is possible! You might just have to do it a couple times over to get the outcome you want.
  • The developers created a beautiful world with intricate storytelling. They wanted to have inclusive storytelling, but also knew that not all subject matter was suitable for every player. Before you even start, you have the option to look at a list of content warnings, which I thought was very considerate thing to add to the home screen.
  • Every single character has a backstory, their own personality, desires, dreams and fears. You may think that they’re only side characters in your world, but they have a mind of their own and their choices make sense for who they are meant to be.
  • The mini-games to level up your skills are simple yet fun. Each memory is more or less transformed into a card, which you can then use to level up and do certain jobs in a card game. It’s not the hardest thing in the world to master the mini-games, but when your stress level is too high, you might curse them. If the novelty ever wears off, you can turn off the card challenges though.
  • The auto-saves are super solid and while you should “bookmark” certain milestones, I’ve used the auto-saves quite often to remedy a bad decision.
  • While the look of the game is definitely more cute and pretty than steamy, I still have to praise it. For me, it had the perfect visuals.
  • You really go through a whole bunch of emotions. Grief, loss, happiness, relief, joy, anxiety, anger, jealousy, … you name it, it’s packed somewhere into the game. I always tended to pick the kinder options, because even in a game, I find it hard to be mean to people, but you can even be as rebellious or compliant as you like.

Downsides?

  • As I said, it’s a game you start over again and again and again … with that come certain repetitions. You have the option to skip dialogue you have encountered before, but some tasks remain tedious and necessary regardless. I sometimes wish I could also keep some of my character’s abilities, but that is just me being greedy.
  • While you have the option to customize a lot about your own character, such as name, gender etc., you can’t really choose your appearance. I got used to it and definitely didn’t mind it in the end, but I would have loved to create my own look, hair or clothing choices.
  • You can’t change everything. I don’t want to spoil anything, but despite some people claiming you can save everyone, there are a couple character deaths that you simply cannot prevent, no matter how hard you try. They are necessary for other character’s story arcs, so there’s that. I was sad, but I also got it from a storytelling point of view.

In the last week, I’ve played this game for more than 50 hours and I can see myself putting in even more time. It just has such a special feel to it, that I keep wanting to come back. I know I could have gone more in depth on some parts, but where’s the fun in knowing all that could happen?

credit: Finji/Northway Games

Previous game reviews:


Have you played I was a Teenage Exocolonist? Can you see yourself giving it a try? Let’s chat!

Mini Reviews: Audiobook Edition!

Mini Reviews

As I’ve now mentioned countless times, I really slacked on the bookish content in August. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I didn’t read anything (more about that in the monthly recap), but I astonishingly checked out TWO audiobooks. I’m notorious for struggling with audiobooks (I wrote a whole post about it, which you can find here), because I find it so tough to focus on just sound without having anything to visually focus on. However, I got some free Audible credits this month, so I want to talk to you about the books I checked out!

*links to Goodreads and Storygraph will be provided after the ratings!*

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdyPublisher description:
Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.
In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.

My Thoughts:

The internet just about exploded when Jennette McCurdy’s book I’m Glad My Mom Died released. I think, despite the title, a lot of people expected a tell-all book on her life in showbiz, but it’s truly so much more personal than that. Yes, there are mentions of shows and movies we know as well as some other behind the scenes stuff that surely didn’t always better her situation, but the focus is really on her relationship with her mom and how that affected her relationship with herself and her body.

“She wanted this. And I wanted her to have it. I wanted her to be happy. But now that I have it, I realize that she’s happy and I’m not. Her happiness came at the cost of mine. I feel robbed and exploited.”

I can see I’m Glad My Mom Died being very triggering for many readers out there and I would caution them to pick it up if they struggle with detailed accounts of eating disorders and parental abuse. I, for one, am glad I chose to listen to the audiobook, which is narrated by Jennette McCurdy herself, but it made the situation all the more severe in my mind. This was such a vulnerable and raw account of her life and I wish her nothing but healing and love moving forward. Still, I completely emphasized with her conflicted feelings and am just in awe of what all she dared to share. She seems to be on a good track now and I bet she’s making more cash with this book than the Nickelodeon hush money could have ever been.

“Why do we romanticize the dead? Why can’t we be honest about them? Especially moms, they’re the most romanticized of anyone.”

CW: eating disorders, child abuse, emotional/physical abuse, death of parents, substance abuse

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Raw and emotional and brilliant.

Goodreads | Storygraph

Critical Role: Vox Machina – Kith & Kin by Marieke Nijkamp (narrated by Robbie Daymond, Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien)

Critical Role: Vox Machina—Kith & Kin by Marieke NijkampPublisher description:
Written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp, Critical Role: Vox Machina – Kith & Kin will follow a brand-new story, featuring the cunning ranger Vex’ahlia and the conning rogue Vax’ildan (and, of course, Trinket) years before they meet Vox Machina. After leaving the unwelcoming refuge of Syngorn, the twins become entangled in a web spun by the Clasp, and for the first time Vex and Vax find themselves on opposite sides of a conflict that threatens the home they have carried with each other for years.
This story lands in the canon timeline of Exandria before any of the events of both the home and livestreamed campaign and even prior to Vox Machina’s first meetings in Vox Machina Origins, our comic book series with Dark Horse Comics. Simply put, even if you’ve never met Vox Machina before, you can dive in right away and breathe in that fresh book scent without missing a beat. If you’ve already joined Vox Machina on any of their adventures, this novel grants a nostalgic return to these characters we love.

My Thoughts:

You know me, I haven’t shut up about Critical Role in MONTHS. I probably won’t shut up about it for a long time to come, because I really enjoy it with my whole being, but I’m not entirely sure I love it in all its iterations.

As the universe grows, the team of Critical Role seems to try and expand their way of telling the story of these fantastic characters in different media. We have comic books (which I’m yearning to get my hands on), games (the Mighty Nein Clue game is all I want for Christmas) and now also books/audiobooks. It makes sense, because the narration of Robbie Daymond with Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien voicing the twins again was all flawless. I adore their voices and will never not rejoice at hearing them in character, but the story itself? Unfortunately, it didn’t grasp me as much as some of their other content has.

Kith & Kin is part of Vex and Vax’ backstory and shows several crucial moments in their life. Now, I don’t know if it was the format, but it just sort of felt dragged out. Ultimately, w weren’t really telling the tale of the twins, who got separated in a conflict and ended up on opposing sides, but rather these NPCs we met along the way. There were several hooks to create an emotional connection, but I still felt like an outsider looking in rather than really invested. It’s a shame, because I love supporting all things Critical Role, but this was mostly just a joy because of the voice acting.

CW: violence, blood, slavery, racism, death of parent, grief

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! It wasn’t not interesting, just a bit too dragged out for my taste.

Goodreads | Storygraph


Have you listened to a good audiobook as of late? Let’s chat!

Ms. Marvel: Episode 3 “Destined” Review

It’s Marvel Wednesday and today that doesn’t just come with a review for Ms. Marvel’s third episodeDestined“! but also a little announcement from me. Spoilers ahead from here on out!

credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Kamala’s new acquaintances need her help, while her hands are full with her brother’s wedding and the looming presence of the Department of Damage Control.

Read More »

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub (ARC Review)

on the lefthand side is the cover for Emma Straub's This Time Tomorrow. There is not much on the cover, except for the author and title written in all kinds of muted colors on a beige background. The letters are disturbed by loops going over the entire cover. There is also a synopsis for the book stating the following: "On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice's life isn't terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn't exactly the one she expected. She's happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. But it isn't just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush, it's her dad: the vital, charming, 40-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?"

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Riverhead Books
Page Count
: 320
Release Date: May 17, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: loss of a loved one, mention of drug use, underage drinking, sexual encounters between minors (technically)

First, I feel like I need to apologize for being so late with my review for Emma Straub’s This Time Tomorrow. I always try to review ARCs I receive in a timely manner to make sure I can help create some buzz around the release date, but I really had to take my time with this one. This has very little to do with it not being good – on the contrary, it was gobsmackingly fantastic and I forced myself to not start another chapter several times – but rather with the fact that this currently hits way too close to home.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s work our way through this from the start to my emotional destruction.

A TIME TRAVEL LOVE STORY?

I’m sure when you hear “time travel love story” the likes of The Time Traveler’s Wife, 13 Going on 30 or the Lake House come to mind. This Time Tomorrow is no such tale. Instead it is the love story between a single parent and his daughter. It’s about the relationships we forge and neglect over time, the questions that remain unanswered and the very human urge to play with the very fabric of time if it meant to get a couple seconds more.

Told from Alice Stern’s perspective, we follow her from her 40s to her 16th birthday and back again. We get to see the consequences of her actions, but also the underlying motivation for everything – more time with her dying father. She’s a very chaotic, but relatable lead to follow and I could understand many of her choices, even if I didn’t agree with the selfishness of it all at times. I don’t know if I could live with fundamentally altering other people’s lives to gain something in mine, but as I said, I understood her motivations perfectly. A grieving heart can be capable of a lot.

THE SCI-FI ASPECT?

While I love time travel and science fiction (my Doctor Who phase is proof enough), this wasn’t really like anything I had read or seen before. To me, the take on how the time travel worked, what and how it affected things and people, felt very unique. And yet, This Time Tomorrow also felt very grounded. The present day New York City setting, the heavy focus on relationships and nostalgia rather than gimmicky machines or quantum physics and the almost meta approach of Alice’s father Leonard Stern being a renowned author of a time travel book series, made it approachable and charming, rather than confusing.

VERDICT

The author, Emma Straub, has mentioned in many interviews that this is a very personal, almost autobiographical story and I think that very much comes through when you read it. I wept early on in the book, several times throughout and then just plain through the entirety of the final part. As I said early on, it could have had something to do with it just being a little bit too close for comfort right now, but I strongly believe in books finding you at the right time. This one was another one that went straight for the heart.

Fazit: 4.5/5 stars! I silently cried through large chunks of it, what other rating did you expect?


If you see a pattern in the books I read, no you don’t! Do you think you’d enjoy This Time Tomorrow? Have you read it? Let’s chat!

Ms. Marvel: Episode 1 “Generation Why” Review

Why yes! Marvel Wednesdays have returned, although I won’t be so bold as to promise timely releases of these reviews/recaps every week. Toady we’re here to talk about Ms. Marvel’s pilot episode “Generation Why”! Spoilers ahead from here on out!

Kamala Khan lying in bed with the writing "Marvel Studio's Ms. Marvel"
credit: Marvel Studios

What was it about?

Kamala Khan’s head is firmly in the clouds, while her family would prefer her to remain in reality. What will she do once she finds out that her fantasies can become true?

Read More »

My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth (ARC Review)

Cover image of the book My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth, showing a girl with long dark hair in jeans and a light T-shirt holding a console looking at a slightly taller guy with light brown skin in brown pants, a white t-shirt and a blue sports jacket also holding a console. It also has the summary of the plot: Nerds are so hot. Especially battle robot building nerds.  Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn't seem to like her either.  Enter Mateo Luna, captain of the club, who recognizes Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel doesn’t care about Nationals, while Teo cares too much. But as the nights of after-school work grow longer and longer, Bel and Teo realize they've built more than just a combat-ready robot for the championship: they’ve made space for each other and themselves.  This sharply funny, academic rivals to lovers romance explores both the challenges girls of color face in STEM and the vulnerability of first love with unfailing wit and honesty.

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Holiday House
Page Count
: 273
Release Date: May 31, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

Earlier this year, I thought that I was slowly moving away from enjoying YA books, but My Mechanical Romance has enchanted me and brought be back into the fold! It was such a lovely, fast-paced and delightful read, I basically had to hold myself back from reading it through the night (and if I hadn’t had some other responsibilities the next day, I probably really just would have torn through it in one sitting).

While there’s always something great to say about a well executed teen romance, which this definitely is, I loved that it wasn’t the entire focus of the book. Yes, we had a bit of a rival phase that slowly (almost agonizingly) developed into something genuine and sweet, but we also had so much more.
Alexene Farol Follmuth managed to capture the intricacies of a teen at the brink of finishing school. There’s so many expectations from family, friends and teachers to know exactly what you’re going to do with your life. And in all honesty, some kids do know what they want, but it’s also okay to need time to figure it out. Life is long and full of surprises and sometimes it puts you on unexpected paths. But there’s not just pressure to get into the right school or to keep grades up, but there can be so many more contributing factors to make that time extra stressful. Sometimes it’s a crumbling family life, other times it’s the world being misogynistic or racist – paired with a blossoming first love, it’s bound to cause emotional chaos! I think the balance was handled so well in this book.

THE CHARACTERS 

There’s a very clear focus on Bel and Teo, who each have POV chapters of their own. They couldn’t be more different at first glance, but sort of complete each other in the cutest way. Seeing their relationship spark and grow was such a joy.
Sometimes I did wish we had learned some more about certain side characters (like Neelam for example, who was portrayed as unnecessarily harsh), but I understood people’s motivations overall and felt like they were all three dimensional characters. I can say that, because Dash is literally my favorite supportive foodie chaos character in the whole entire story. I also really liked that the parents were included in the story and even if they weren’t always 100% present, there was a reason for that too.

THE WRITING 

I really have to give Alexene Farol Follmuth credit for writing such authentic, quirky and fun dialogue. It’s what propels this story forward and keeps you invested and engaged throughout. If you like dialogue and inner monologues more than lengthy descriptions of surroundings and looks, this really is the book for you.

In addition to that, there was also a lot of use of text messages, which I think fits the vibe but also the age group really well. Let’s face it, I mostly communicate through text with people and I’m not even a teen anymore. I can’t really picture anyone calling anyone else all the time anymore …

VERDICT

I was one of the only girls in my mathletics team and I still remember clearly how surprised some people were that I was good at math, physics and chemistry. I was also really decent, although not patient enough, in shop class, having inherited some skills from my mom (who is the handy one when it comes to my parents). My school did not have a robotics team, but it’s definitely something I could have seen myself doing. I wasn’t really the type to participate in a lot of clubs and yet, Bel’s experience spoke to me. As I said earlier, My Mechanical Romance wasn’t just a fun and quirky romance, it was also heavily focused on girls in STEM and finding something you’re passionate about despite all the pressure and discouraging voices. I really hope this brings people joy and the knowledge that they can try anything they want, no matter what other’s say, and be successful, if they put in the work.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Such a lovely book!


Fun fact: Alexene Farol Follmuth is also the author behind the pen name Olivie Blake and therefore one of my favorite book series. Read my other posts here:


What do you think about My Mechanical Romance? Can you see yourself checking it out? Let’s talk!

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston (ARC Review)

The cover image of the book "The Dead Romantics" by Ashley Poston, showing two figures lying horizontally on the letters of the title, both reading a book. Also, the description for the book: A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.  Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.   When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won't give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.   For ten years, she's run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.   Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.   Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Berkley Publishing Group
Page Count
: 368
Release Date: June 28, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: loss of a loved one

The Dead Romantics has been on my radar, and frankly on my “most anticipated releases of 2022”-list, for the longest time now – so, when I was presented with the opportunity to read an advanced copy, I jumped at the chance! The official release is still a month away, but I just couldn’t stop myself from reading it and now you will all have to contend with me screaming about my love for it for eternity.

Sometimes, books just find you at the exact right moment in your life and I would say that The Dead Romantics is a prime example of exactly that happening. I’ve had the most fun with a romance in a while, but at the same time, there were instances where I just bawled my eyes out. This isn’t simply a story about love, but also grief and family and we all know I’m drawn to grief-books like moths to light. But at the same time, nothing about this book left me sad. I’d even go so far as to argue and say that it brought me hope, all the warm feelings inside and a whimsical smile on my face once I turned the last page.

THE CHARACTERS 

Florence Day – our narrator throughout the story – is the typical small bean but mighty and messy tornado of a person that I think many of us can relate to. She’s into fan fiction, buying books despite having a massive TBR already and she loves a good love story. In fact, she used to believe in the big love, in finding that one person who might be the exception to the rule, until she got disappointed in the worst ways. And you just understand her reluctance, her despair, and then life just knocks her down some more.
Enter – Benji Andor! He’s meticulous and tall as a tree (one would like to climb) and seemingly stoic, while actually being very kind and considerate once you get to know him a little bit and he definitely wants a happy ending for Florence. I loved him as a counterpart for Florence, although I would have loved it even more if we had gotten to spend some more time with him. I feel like, we, the readers, didn’t get to know him that much, but even Florence acknowledges that several times throughout the story. Their connection is based more on vibes and actions rather than exchanging hobbies and favorite songs, which is fine, but I just enjoyed his character and would have loved to learn even more about him. It really seemed like he had quite the story of his own.

Lee Pace entering the room with one hand on the door frame looking tall and sexy while doing absolutely nothing.
This is Benji Andor for me and I have a feeling Ashley Poston would be okay with that.

Aside from our two leads, there was an array of formidable side characters, many of which were also part of the LGBT+ community. We had supportive best friends, authentic sibling relationships and the despicable ex. A stand-out for me was Florence’s dad though, because his presence could be felt on nearly every page and that stuck with me. It very much reminded me of someone I lost and how sometimes a whole town can show up for that person and their family, when things get tough.

THE SETTING

First things first, I loved the supernatural twist to it all. It never felt forced or out of place, but just like something that naturally fit the story.

But the settings in general were so special and intriguing. On the one hand, you have the funeral home and something that usually holds a lot of sadness for people filled with so much life. A thing of beauty really! And then there’s just something so fun about reading a book that takes place within the publishing industry. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it felt like an inside look and gave way to a lot of references to real life publications, which I loved.
Parts of it are in the big city, parts of it are in a small town and it all just made sense?

VERDICT

I don’t know why writing reviews for books I absolutely adore is the hardest thing ever. It might be, because I just want to do a key smash and thrust the book into people’s hands for them to read it, but that wouldn’t be very informative now, would it? I hope this gave you a bit of a clearer idea of just how charming yet quirky I found The Dead Romantics! I genuinely hope that many people will pick it up, because it filled my heart to the brink and I would without a doubt just read sequels where they help different ghosts together. I’m greedy and just want more, please!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! There’s something so incredibly satisfying when an anticipated read turns out as amazing as you had hoped.


My other reviews of Ashley Poston’s work:


Do you plan on reading The Dead Romantics? Let’s talk about that!

Conversations with Friends: Book vs. TV Show

I love doing post where I compare books and their adaptations, so welcome Conversations with Friends into the fold. This is the second time I’m doing this for a Sally Rooney story, so I might have a lot of … thoughts.

General Plot

College students and former lovers Frances and Bobbi get swept up in the (romantic) life of married couple Nick and Melissa. Can they find themselves and the relationships they seek or will it all end in sorrow?

CW: adultery, self-harm, depression, blood, endometriosis, mention of miscarriage, alcoholism (+for the show especially: graphic nude scenes)

Book

I have an odd relationship with Sally Rooney‘s books. I love their impact on me, but I don’t always enjoy the content. This time, knowing at least a little bit of what I would be getting into with her style of writing, I felt more prepared to face it all. Reading it was still emotionally taxing and I don’t think that this is a story that’s necessarily for everyone.

Generally, an entire book about adultery with somewhat unlikable characters isn’t exactly a tale with universal appeal. That fact alone has put some people off reading it and I can’t blame them. However, as I mentioned, I felt much more ready when I started Conversations with Friends and found it flowing easier than Normal People. It could potentially be connected to the fact that this was one continuous story from one sole POV, that of Frances, instead of something that spanned ages with multiple time jumps.

Even if one can overlook the theme of “adultery” though, which is fairly easy if you approach this as an exploration of what “commitment” can mean to any one person and whether open relationships might even be for the better at times, there’s still the issue of it being incredibly hard to root for the characters. We are “trapped” in Frances’ head and while I could see some relatable traits in her, she is extremely self-absorbed and doesn’t always cast the people in her life in the best light – despite idolizing quite a few of them. She completely misjudged the way she feels inside and how different the things that she conveys to the outside world are. I still don’t know what it is she really wants, because sometimes I doubt that she truly understands that her actions have an impact/consequenes.
A lot of what drove me, as a reader, nuts was the simple fact that every single person in this novel was terrible at communication. If they had just openly shared their emotions and concerns, a lot of trouble could have been prevented, but in the end, you can barely blame them? They feel human, real and authentic. There’s things I don’t want to talk about or where I feel like I don’t want to burden someone else with what I’m going through, there could be so many reasons.

Ultimately I know that reading a Sally Rooney book will always leave me with nervous tension and a tightness in my chest. It seems so simple, but there is so much complexity hidden in seemingly plain sentences. The emotions of everyone go so deep and are so layered, but like many people in real life, they struggle to express themselves correctly. Adding to that the fact that a Rooney book always has an open end, ready to be interpreted in a million different ways by each reader, you can’t help but have the story be a lingering companion long after the last page has been turned.

Rating: 4/5 stars! I cannot explain why I gave it such a high ranking, it’s mostly just the amount of inner turmoil Rooney causes in me.

Page count: 323
Publisher: Faber & Faber

*For more information on the book, head over to Goodreads or Storygraph!*

TV Show

Normal People was one of the most accurate adaptations I had ever experienced – be it in terms of story, dialogue or just sheer vibes – and Conversations with Friends is definitely up there in terms of faithfulness to the source material as well. Seen as the shows were helmed by a close to identical creative team, I know that expectations were really high, but also suspect that people were bound to be let down because of them.

I understand that people wanted it to be more Irish, but I thought that the different accents made sense in the context of the TV show. I personally was really happy with all the cast choices. Everyone looked the part, fit the age group and helped in creating the awkward tension that is so key to the production. (Also, Joe Alwyn’s voice is just divine. I could listen to him talk all day long.) These shows live off of vibes and I thought they were captured perfectly again, giving each interaction meaning and weight, even if it doesn’t go smoothly or the way you want it to at all.

Something I have to criticize though and that felt a bit hindering for my enjoyment was the pacing. While it has the same number of episodes as Normal People (12 in total) and only a run time of 30 minutes each, it felt incredibly slow. I ascribe that to the numerous exposition and silent, lingering shots on Frances. Yes, she is our main character and I could fill the silences with the inner monologue I remembered from the book almost word by word, but I only just read the book. Had it been longer, had I forgotten more of the details, these scenes would have often felt pointless.

In general, I noticed that I often filled in the meaning of certain interactions by remembering what Frances’ thoughts were in that moment in the book. While I think that a lot of scenes were softened and maybe even lightened a little bit because of that, I couldn’t help but wonder what my experience as a non-reader would have looked like. I feel like some of the vast complexity might have gone out the window and not translated to just the visuals.

They also completely missed the opportunity to have a cameo of Normal People‘s Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne on the show. In the book, there’s a friend of Frances and Bobbi called Marianne, who they meet up with to chat about her trip to Brooklyn. I just *know* in my heart that a lot of Normal People fans would have appreciated that nod to the previous show, even if it’s not confirmed that the books are connected.

Lastly, I feel like I should praise the music coordinator again. Some excellent choices once more and I’m not just saying that because they got Phoebe Bridgers to do a song (and she feels connected to the Rooney universe by dating Paul Mescal).

Conclusion

While Conversations with Friends didn’t stack up to the phenomenon that was the Normal People adaptation, I still don’t think there is a clear winner or loser. The two go hand in hand and each medium enriches the other.


Previous book to adaptation comparisons:


Have your read or watched Conversations with Friends yet? Let’s talk about that!