The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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Lucy Hutton hates her co-worker Joshua Templeman, with a capital H. The hate is mutual and the two stop at no lengths to make sure the other never forgets. Lucy and Josh are the executive assistants of the Co-CEOs of a publishing company. When the new executive position of chief operating officer is created by their bosses Helene and Mr. Bexley, both Lucy and Josh are determined to win, because how could either of them bear to work beneath the other. Thus begins a story that reminds us just how thin the line between love and hate truly is. As Lucy begins to realize that they may not harbor as much unadulterated hatred for each other as she once believed they did. 

I have been hearing about The Hating Game for a few months now and I never foresaw myself ever giving it a read because I’m not the biggest fan of adult contemporaries. I finally decided to give it a chance because, 1) I had heard such great things about the novel from Chelsea from ChelseaDolling Reads on BookTube (you should totally check her out) and, 2) It was available in ebook format at the library on a day when I wasn’t interested in reading the physical book I had brought with me to work. Lol, I feel like every “how I ended up reading this book”  story involving a book I wouldn’t normal read has some mention of the library. What can I say…I’m a mood reader lol.

One of the sources of my greatest trepidation going into this story is because the novel is presented as an enemies-to-lovers, office romance. When it comes to literary tropes, the ‘enemies-to-lovers’ is one of the least enjoyable for me to read because it plagues sooooo many contemporary/romance/new adult novels. So, needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much better from The Hating Game. The story surprised me, or I should say, how much I ended up enjoying it surprised me. The dynamic between Lucy and Josh is golden. Granted there are moments where I had to roll my eyes, muttering “How did you not foresee ‘that’ getting lost in translation.” Also, there’s another trope that’s in this novel that if it wouldn’t be a spoiler I would mention, but spoilers are a thing, and the rest of the story makes up for it. 

The Hating Game is incredibly funny, witty and smart. It was fun reading a story that is largely set at a publishing company. Lucy is a reader, has a large smurf collection and grew up on a strawberry farm. She’s a dynamic, layered quirky female character without the author dragging her into “manic-pixie dream girl” territory…which I greatly appreciated. Josh is a smart, difficult, and uncompromising love interest. He’s a great character to be opposite Lucy and their characters complement each other in numerous ways. The two are able to challenge each other and bicker in the most entertaining ways. Although Lucy and Josh have spent so much time hating each other, their descent into their romantic feelings for each other is believable. I give this novel a rating of 8-out of-10 unicorn horns. Although this is Sally Green’s debut novel, it feels that the novel accomplishes what it set out to do, and that comes through during the reading experience.  

 

 

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Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

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Tanner Scott is one semester away from being done with High School and free of Utah.  Before their final semester of High School begins Tanner’s best friend, Autumn, dares him to register for a  Seminar class at their school and after being accepted into the class he must draft a book. In only four months Tanner, and the other students in the class are expected to complete a novel. Sebastian Brother, is a Mormon student, who has returned to Provo High to mentor the Seminar Class. He  was able to sell the book he wrote in Seminar after he graduated. Somewhat of a local hero and the son of the local LDS church leader, Sebastian is the boy Tanner never pictured himself falling for but, as life would have it, Tanner begins falling for Sebastian and it would seem the feelings aren’t as one-sided as you’d expect. 

I was excited for this novel because I was in the mood for some LGBTQIA+ YA Fiction around the time that I discovered this book. I had been anticipating the releases of They Both Die at the End and Release both of which feature queer main protagonists. While in the store picking up those two titles I stumbled upon Autoboyograpy and I decided…what the hell, might as well pick this one up too. I do have a gift card…and I sure am glad that I did. When I got around to reading the novel and went to add it to my Goodreads account I realized that the author duo, Christina Lauren, are the same people that wrote the Beautiful Bastards series and I began to anticipate the horror show that I thought this book would be. I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up not despising this book.

One of the highlights of the writing in Autoboyography is the fact that the characters are fairly well-rounded and fleshed out. Each and every character felt believable, relateable and individual. Tanner’s parents were lovely, his best friend Autumn felt over-the-top but in a way that just seemed so ‘her’, and Sebastian’s parents were very well thought out and layered.

There were some things that I went into the reading experience incredibly hesitant about or came to be weary of as I discovered certain aspects of each character. As this story is not own-voice and on top of that, the authors are both women, I had very low expectations of the representation and portrayal of a bi-sexual, male main-protagonist. Once again, their writing surprised me on that front. Tanner is a bi-sexual guy who stands by being bi-sexual and even addresses some of the stereotypes that are associated with bi-sexual people. Sebastian’s character is not portrayed in the clichéd -closeted, hyper religious guy  discovers that he likes boys, or at the least, this one boy. But due to his religious beliefs and/or family, he is unable to display his feelings/attraction to the guy. So, this story is going to end with a lot of sexual tension and a heart-broken protagonist who fell for the “straight” gay guy- but, instead his character is complex. A lot of the aspects of Sebastian’s religious beliefs and trepidation with being attracted to Tanner are explored and explained throughout the story and dialogue between them. This provides a particular sense of believe-ability and authenticity to the story and to these characters. 

If you have tried reading either of this writing duo’s series’ (Beautiful Bastard or Wild Seasons) and were not a big fan…or in my case couldn’t even make it through one quarter of the first book in the Wild Seasons series before DNF’ing the book…I would highly recommend you still give Autoboyography a chance and not let those reading experiences deter you, like I almost did. This novel is such a far departure from their previous “popular” series’. I give Christina Lauren’s novel Autoboyography a rating of 7.5 out of a possible 10 unicorn horns. I would definitely recommend this novel to Contemporary lovers, especially those looking for LGBTQIA+ stories.   

 

 

Arata: The Legend Vol. 1, by Yuu Watase 

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Completely disinterested. That’s how I felt about this series at first. I came across  this series a few years ago, took one look at the cover, and decided it wasn’t for me. I figured that was the end, but a few months ago I was forced into a game of Jack in the Box. No matter where I went- online forums, the library, Goodreads recommendations, random book comments- this series would make an appearance. To be honest it started to creep me out, and so (of course) I became interested enough to give it a try! I have never been so happy to be stalked by an inanimate object before 😃

Synopsis: On one side you have Arata. This young adult is the next in line to lead the Hime Clan- long line of females who, every 30 years, have proudly produced a new ruling princess for the kingdom. Only thing is…Arata is a boy.

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On the the other side we have the leading protagonist, Arata Hinohara, a regular high school student with great athletic skills and the grades to go with it, seems to just be starting over from a complicated past. That is, until said past seems to follow him to his new school.

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These two very different worlds clash when Arata (the Hime Clan leader), is falsely charged with the murdering the ruling Princess during a sacred succession ceremony and chased into the human devouring forest.

This is when Hinohara (the regular school student) takes centre stage. As the mysterious forest forces a body swap between these two characters, Hinohara finds himself in a magical kingdom being hunted down by the 12 Sho (12 chosen rulers welding the most powerful Kamui– gods in the form of weapons).    

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Rating: 9/10 Unicorn Horns!

Needless to say this was an unexpectedly non-stop, action packed read. The action and adventure the series begins with only continues to increase as Hinohara finds his place in the new fantasy world, and discovers a power of his own. The characters, setting, dialogue (the humours banter was a real bonus), and touch of romance, are all things that came together to make this one of my favourite series.

A big part of what makes this series great for me is the main character Hinohara. The way he faces and overcomes his own weaknesses, quickly becoming a stronger person who does his best to actively grow and stick to his moral convictions is something that I find was approached/written beautifully (. I recommend this one to any action, adventure, and fantasy lover! 

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There is also a 12-episode anime version if you want to check it out. Though it covers only a very small portion of the manga, it does adapt most of the important parts (with a few changes of course) up until the last few episodes where events start showing up out of chronological order.

Half a King (A Shattered Sea novel) by Joe Abercrombie

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I’d be surprised if any of you actually remember (I certainly didn’t until recently lol), but some time ago I had made a resolution, which only lasted a couple weeks, to actually read some of my most neglected possessions. This is one of the many series I’ve had on my shelf for more than a year that I finally got around to reading. I’ve been hearing the hype about Abercrombie for a long time so, as I’ve yet to reading something by him, I decided this would be a good way to get back in to my forgotten resolution. Glad to say I’ve found myself another favoured author!

Half a King is an Abercrombie Y.A. fantasy series (a complete trilogy), and revolves around the young crippled prince of Gettland named Yarvi. The story begins as Yari studies to become part of an order of scholars, history keepers, linguists and anthropologists, geographers, and philosophers who’s craft is knowledge of all kinds.  These Ministers, who often act as advisers to high ranking officials and royals, live the kind of knowledge driven lifestyle that is everything Yarvi could hope for. Unfortunately, of course, things don’t go as planned as the night before Yarvi is to become an official Minister, his uncle brings the unwelcome news that both his father and older brother were murdered. This leaves the only remaining heir, constantly taunted and called “half a man“, to sit on the throne.

Rating: 9/10 Unicorns Horns!

This is a series I would recommend to most fantasy readers, as it has many of the elements that makes this genre so appealing: mystery, political power plays, betrayal, adventure, and a touch of darkness. This fast paced novel was honestly one of he best fantasy reads I’ve come across. Each and every character is this book was amazing. They stood out to me as unique in there own right. Yarvi, the underdog of this wonderfully crafted story, is an amazingly sharp and quick witted character that plays well to his own strengths and limitations. He felt quite human to me and even his weak moments were relatable rather than grating. His companions and other supporting characters, of which I cannot give too much away, were all…well except for one…people who I’d love to get to know more about and made me want to keep reading, sometimes even more than the actual story itself did.

I have more questions than ever after finishing Half a War than most other series I have read lately. It’s a pleasant surprise how much this book got me thinking, and how much I found myself excitedly trying to read into the smallest of comments, actions, and events thinking it might to a clue to the many mysteries this book held. I cannot wait to get on the the next one!

 

 

 

 

Talon by Julie Kagawa

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I’ve been waiting to read this series since the first time I heard the premise. A book about dragons in a modern day setting? Count me in! So of course I dived in the moment I saw the last book in this 5 book series set to publish next year. Overall I enjoyed the read, but unfortunately I have to day I may have over-hyped the series a bit.

Synopsis: Talon is set in modern day California and follows main character Ember Hill as she and her twin brother, Dante, are finally set free to complete the final part of their training to successfully infiltrate human society for a few months in incognito. Ember and Dante must learn about the outside world of dangerous humans, how to act and be one of them, all in order to continue to provide and keep safe their secret society of ancient dragons masquerading as humans (known as Talon). And of course, there is the evil society of dragon hunters of watch out for. But things aren’t what they seem. After Ember comes across a dangerous rogue dragon named Cobalt begins to question everything she’s been taught and been training for her whole life.

Rating: 6.5-out-of-10 Unicorn Horns.

Overall I enjoyed this story and the magical otherworldly aspects. The way the dragons have evolved and adapted over time in order to assimilate into human society is something that has kept me interested enough to keep picking up the next in the series. Normally this is the kind of story I love to pieces; ancient dragons, secretive societies, mysterious-not-what-they-appear characters, and a defiant, strong heroine, but the characters seemed to fall a bit flat. I kept recognizing them in the many other similar Y.A characters I’ve come across, and so found them all a bit too predictable for my liking. The only characters that really stood out to me were a couple antagonists.

Even though the story is interesting, I felt that the characters brought things down for me, that and everything seemed to be heading down an all too predictable road. I’d still recommend this book to teen urban fantasy lovers as the story begins to grow more complex in later installments, but would warn away those looking for stories with unique characters/character driven stories. 

Pre-Hiatus Review Highlights

Hey guys! I’d just like to do an overall highlight of some of the reviews posted before I went on hiatus. I missed doing one for the months prior and would still like to highlight a few, so here’s a condensed overview of the reviews I posted before going on break (Click on the title to read more):

Best Snowball (Series)
*By “Snowball” I mean a series/book that starts incredibly slow, but is worth the wait*

Shaman King, Vol.1: A Shaman in Tokyo by Hiroyuki Takei

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The series is about a young Shaman named Yoh, who in the first volume is starting at a new school in Tokyo…Through a series of events which involve ghosts, supernatural occurrences, and encounters with a “thug” named Ryu, Manta and Yoh become friends…In this volume we are introduced to Admidamaru, a 600-year-old samurai ghost and to a fellow Shaman named Ren who has a particularly sinister interest in Yoh and Admidamaru…

I give Shaman King, Vol. 1: A Shaman in Tokyo a rating of 7 out of 10 Unicorn Horns. Overall the story was not amazingly entertaining, but that did not bother me at all because the story quickly picks up towards the end and you can easily identify the main focus/purpose of this initial volume in the series.

Best Artwork

Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

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After their father is killed, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode move to the family estate, Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts with their mother Nina….The youngest of the Lovecraft siblings, Bode, comes across a key that unlocks a Ghost Door which separates the soul of the person who “walks” through from their body. In the nature of all good fiction the story is not easy sailing from then on and the family soon has much more to worry about than just healing and moving forward.

I give Locke and Key a well deserved 7.25 Unicorn Horns out of a possible 10. In addition to the well executed storyline this graphic novel has exceptional artwork. Gabriel Rodríguez’s illustrations in this series is mind-blowing and his art style lends itself so well to the story.

Best Character Development

Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

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Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy set in a kingdom called Kohka. The story centers around main character princess Yona as she prepares for her 16th birthday. Yona, the only child of widow King IL, is a pampered young lady, but things quickly change. Very quickly. As most know nothing good happens for royalty on their coming-of-age birthdays. 

Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns. I did NOT at all expect for this story to turn out the way it did. I can promise watching this fiery spirited princess transition into a determined warrior with open eyes to the reality of her kingdom is every bit worth it.

Most Thought-Provoking Story

The Beauty, Vol. 1 by Jason A. Hurley & Jeremy Haun

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“Two years ago , a new sexually transmitted disease took the world by storm. This S.T.D. was unlike any other that had come before. This was a disease that people actually wanted. “Victims” of this epidemic were physically changed by the virus. Fat melted away, thinning hair returned, skin blemishes faded, and their facial features slimmed. It became known as the beauty.” Pg. 1 of The Beauty

Rating: 9.5/10 Unicorn Horns! One thing I loved was the bits of real life socially controversial thoughts and ideas about beauty woven in here and there…

Wayward: String Theory, Vol. 1 by Zub, Cummings, Rauch, Bonvillain, & Dillon

*This Review Is Spoiler Free*

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Hey mom…I’ve been seeing invisible glowing lines in the air that lead me to important places or terrifying supernatural shit

I picked this one up by random…okay, no, that’s a lie. I picked this up and decided to review it purely because it has a ton of kitties on the cover accompanied by a chick looking like she’s ready to kick-ass. Other than that I knew nothing about this series going into it. So never expected to find that this story is almost like a Japanese comic (manga) in American comic form. 6.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

Synopsis: This story, largely translated from Japanese, begins with main character Rori Lane moving from her father in Ireland to start over with her mother in Japan. On her way home from giving her new settings in Tokyo a quick tour she gets surrounded by a clan of cats, attacked by kappa (monsters/demons from Japanese Folklore), and saved by a strange cat-like girl. This of course, along with the strange red threads only she can see, leaves her beyond confused. As she obeys her urge to follow these threads before a dark threat descends over the city, she’s lead to dive further into her strange new power, and unveil the “patterns” to the puzzle of ‘what the heck is going on?’. These patterns often lead her to a variety of new people. All with strange powers of their own.

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Overall I enjoyed this story and liked all the characters- Rori, Shirai (Rori’s first friend who has strange powers of his own and must eat living spirits in order to survive), the strange-cat-girl named Ayane, and others we meet later on. Though I have to admit, the dialogue/character interactions felt off here and there. I also can’t say the story always flowed well, as there were some odd transitions and things that didn’t quite add up or felt choppy/rushed. Either way this urban fantasy is set in a different country from what I’m use to (outside of most manga/anime I’ve read/seen), and riddled with Japanese Folklore which makes it very unique in many ways, and stands out from the crowd (there are notes in the back of the book providing snippets of background information). 

The pictures on the other hand were beautiful and I LOVED all the pretty colours. According to the forward at the beginning of this volume the scenes of Tokyo, the high school Rori attends, the city’s people, and the overall feel of Japan were truthful depictions of the country as opposed to an Americanized and glorified view. I’ve never been to Japan so can’t really comment, but will say that it was pretty cool seeing a realistic depiction of Japan in comic format (again outside of some manga/anime). 

Though the execution of the story wasn’t the best the overall idea is very intriguing, and with the way the 1st volume ended I get the feeling things will get better. Much better. I can honestly say I am looking forward to more. This wasn’t a favorite, but I’d still recommend this to most urban fantasy, folklore (especially from Japan), and superpower fans.