Book Review | The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, Matt Cain

Goodreads Blurb:

Albert Entwistle is a private man with a quiet, simple life. He lives alone with his cat Gracie. And he’s a postman. At least he was a postman until, three months before his sixty-fifth birthday, he receives a letter from the Royal Mail thanking him for decades of service and stating he is being forced into retirement.

At once, Albert’s sole connection with his world unravels. Every day as a mail carrier, he would make his way through the streets of his small English town, delivering letters and parcels and returning greetings with a quick wave and a “how do?” Without the work that fills his days, what will be the point? He has no friends, family, or hobbies—just a past he never speaks of, and a lost love that fills him with regret.

And so, rather than continue his lonely existence, Albert forms a brave plan to start truly living. It’s finally time to be honest about who he is. To seek the happiness he’s always denied himself. And to find the courage to look for George, the man that, many years ago, he loved and lost—but has never forgotten. As he does, something extraordinary happens. Albert finds unlikely allies, new friends, and proves it’s never too late to live, to hope, and to love.

My Thoughts:

Oh my, this novel brought up all the emotions! And I absolutely loved it! Wonderful, vibrant characters, a sweet story line, personal growth, and a search for a lost love – what more could I want?

This novel was beautifully plotted, and while it was slow to start but I found it worked for me. In that wonderfully trundling slowness I saw how Alberts life was for him as he trudged through his day to day routine. There was something so beautifully simple about the story that made it even more charming for me. There was a lot of depth to story that shone through in both the plot and the characters. The characters in this story are what really brought the joy for me, and I loved the side characters and how fleshed out they were just as much as Albert which was so nice.

I loved that the story was told from two different points in Alberts life – I found switching between the two helped me to understand Albert more. It was interesting seeing how his early life and his relationship with his parents then affected him so much later in his life. This is so true of so many gay men of that time that it makes the story all the more heartbreaking. Though it was heartbreaking with a hopeful end, which I really loved. The end of this edition of the novel also included some interviews with gay men of Albert’s age with similar stories to Albert’s. I think this was a really lovely addition at the end.

Despite the very painful reality of Albert’s situation and his story, there is some really clever humour amongst the heartfelt or emotional moments of self reflection. These moments really make this novel an absolute joy to read!

Thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title was published 31st May 2022.

Book Review | Fates Illuminated, Aimee Vance

Goodreads Blurb:

The dawn of Shelbie’s 31st birthday found her melancholy, adrift in a world where she felt bound to be always a side character, never the star of her own story.

All of that changed when she spontaneously booked a trip to Sweden with an itinerary full of hiking and horseback riding – two things that weren’t exactly in her comfort zone.

She expected to see the Northern Lights, nurse sore muscles, and, heaven forbid, pee in the woods. Those things she had time to prepare for, even if none of her preparations went as she had planned.

What she didn’t expect, though, was for her Fate to be tied to a much larger story, one that had unfolded long ago, and would immerse her in a world of people and things she’d only ever read about in novels.

But was any of it real?

My Thoughts:

I finished this at 1am in the morning because it was such a fun read and I just couldn’t wait to see how it concluded. Everything about this novel was an absolute delight! I was drawn to this story first because of the protagonist – Shelbie Smith, 31 years old, and about to be thrown into a world she never expected. It was a breath of fresh air to read a more ‘relaxed’ fantasy with a protagonist who isn’t in their late teens/early twenties! Especially one who declares themselves a ‘Hot Mess Express’ (an expression I am going to be using for myself I am sure), and feels like she is drifting through life. The great characters didn’t stop with Shelbie either. I really enjoyed meeting them all as I read.

I loved the premise for this story. Late night, alcohol infused social media scrolling leading to the booking of spontaneous flights to Sweden – a trip filled with activities way outside Shelbie’s comfort zone. I loved how Shelbie decided to embrace the trip, even when things started to get whacky. She is thrown into a world that is not her own, and decides to roll with it, leading to a trip she never expected. The twist that throws Shelbie into this world kept me guessing right until the end. Wondering how it was all possible just as Shelbie was. I loved how she embraced what what was going on even while feeling confused and lost.

As the narrator of the story, Shelbie is hilarious. I love her inner voice, it’s relatable, and really fun to read. I was invested immediately. Especially with all the vibrant characters making this novel so good, Shelbie included. I loved that every character felt fleshed out, even those who weren’t the main focus of the story. I found myself laughing out loud while reading, but found myself really emotional the next moment. Aimee Vance writes beautifully, I really felt I was in the moment with Shelbie as she trundles through the new experiences life throws at her.

Fates Illuminated had me still grinning for ages after I finished reading, and I am still puzzling over the twist even now. If you are looking for a light-hearted, but still exciting fantasy read with wonderful characters and a steamy, slow-burn romance this is the novel for you!

Thank you to the author, Aimee Vance, for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title will be published 26th April 2022.

Book Review | It Sounded Better in My Head, Nina Kenwood

Goodreads Blurb:

When her parents announce their impending separation, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting or at least mildly upset. And now that Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, have fallen in love, she’s feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward.

Where does she fit in now? And what has happened to the version of her life that played out like a TV show—with just the right amount of banter, pining and meaningful looks?

Nothing is going according to plan.

But then an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

It Sounded Better in My Head is a tender, funny and joyful novel about longing, confusion, feeling left out and finding out what really matters.

My Thoughts:

I discovered this book a while ago at an Emerging Writers Festival during a talk by the author. My friend I was there with won a copy that day, read it, and loved it. She recommended I read it and even leant me her copy which I eventually returned, unread (I gathered I wasn’t in the mood). Then recently she reminded me of this book and I thought it was about time. I am so glad that my friend persisted with recommending I read it! This was such a lovely read!

All the characters were wonderful and relatable, and especially the MC Natalie. As the pov character and the narrator she was so entertaining to read. Plus her thoughts were so relatable. This is why I found it such an enjoyable read.

The romances felt realistic, and didn’t feel at all forced. This is something I find with romance in YA that will usually put me off the genre all together. The interactions between the romantic interests felt natural, was wonderfully fumbling and awkward, but equally sweet to read.

It was so nice as well reading an Aussie YA romance novel – all the references I just got and they made me smile too. These were just little things, but they made the novel so nice for me to read! They made it feel warm, and homely, which made this such a special read for me.

If you’re looking for a fun, relatable, and enjoyable YA romance this one is for you!

Book Review | This is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Goodreads Blurb:

Two time-traveling agents from warring futures, working their way through the past, begin to exchange letters—and fall in love in this thrilling and romantic book from award-winning authors Amal-El Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

My Thoughts:

This one was recommended to me by a friend and she was absolutely right in doing so. This is How You Lose the Time War was such an incredible read! Going into this I didn’t have any expectations, nor did I really know much about it, but I think that gave the novel the space to do what it needed to do. It is hard to put into words my feelings on this novel, as it is one which illuminates the power of words and their meaning beyond the surface. One of the characters notes at one point how words themselves, with their power to describe and create – can also compress. This is something I do not wish to do with my own review, so I will be brief, and I encourage you to pick this one up yourself.

At it’s heart, This is How You Lose the Time War is an epic, slow burn romance. It forges a love story through time as a game of tag neither side wants to end. As the novel progresses and the game continues, it becomes something more than either side could have expected. The game of tag comes in the form of forbidden letters, hidden in signs and symbols meant for the gaze of the main characters Red and Blue.

The language throughout this novel is rich, and almost fierce, but delicate when needed. It is poetic, lyrical, and it noticeably grows in passion as the story progresses. The words used both in the letters and as descriptors are almost tangible in the way that they bring the thoughts and feelings of the characters to the forefront. As I read, I could feel the urgency and the longing through the words and the way that they were collected together.

The novel itself is short, but to me it felt as if there was so much more that I read within the story than the near 200 pages the book held. This novel was a beautiful read, and for me, a lesson in language, and the power and emotion it can hold. I finished this last night, but I can still feel the words on my mind hours after I have closed the book. This is How You Lose the Time War really is something special.

Book Review | The Map to You, Rachel Stockbridge

Goodreads Blurb:

Sasha Deforest always seems to fall hardest for girls she can’t have. And she’s never fallen harder than she has for her tough, stubborn best friend Kinsey. Sasha can’t help all the outrageously flirty things that come out of her mouth when they’re together, even if Kinsey always plays it off as a running joke. Sasha doesn’t really mind, though. She likes that they’re just friends. It’s easy. Uncomplicated. And it means she has an excuse not to open up about her troubled family life back home.

Kinsey Han has been nursing one hell of a crush on sweet, sarcastic Sasha for the better part of the last year. Not that she’d ever let Sasha know it. Kinsey tends to express herself by frowning and ordering her loved ones around. Even if she thought Sasha meant all the flirty nonsense she’s always coming up with, Kinsey could never be the kind of cheerful, outgoing woman Sasha deserves to be with. It’s better for everyone if Kinsey keeps her true feelings to herself.

But when Sasha drops everything to drive Kinsey 600 miles to deal with a family emergency, things get complicated. The more time they spend together, the harder it is for Kinsey to keep her feelings for Sasha buried—and the harder it is for Sasha to remember why it’s so important to keep Kinsey at arm’s length. If they continue to conceal the depths of their feelings for each other, they’d be missing out on falling in love with the one person who could truly get them. But taking that chance also means opening themselves up to heartbreak. And neither is sure they’re willing to risk losing the other forever. 

My Thoughts:

I finished this one yesterday on the train back from visiting my Mum for the weekend, and it was the perfect travel read to take me back to Melbourne – a fictional road trip for a ‘road trip’ of my own. The Map to You was such a sweet read which made me laugh, cry, and feel the need to close my eReader occasionally to take a breath when the characters were just being way too adorable (or at times frustrating) for me to cope.

In The Map to You Rachel Stockbridge has created a collection of vibrant characters all with their own unique perspectives and backgrounds. I loved getting to know the two main characters Sasha and Kinsey through their point of view chapters. Their differences in personality and interests, as well as the way that each character deals with their emotions is wonderfully written.

The dual narration was perfect for this story, with each narrator having a deeper insight into the thoughts and feelings of that character, and so making the complications throughout the novel even more impactful. Especially with a romance, knowing what both characters are thinking or feeling before the other character knows makes for an interesting and at times suspenseful read.

The plot for The Map to You was engaging and entertaining and played with some of my favourite romance tropes. It was also nice reading a queer romance where those involved were already out to those who mattered to them, and so the focus could be on the romance plot. Don’t get me wrong, I love a ‘coming out’ novel, but it was a nice change from what I usually read. This was especially as while the queer characters were confident in their sexuality and who they were, they still had similar, very human insecurities as portrayed in more mainstream romance stories.

This novel is about love, trust, and learning how to be yourself when all you want is to be anyone else. If you are looking for a sweet queer romance story with great characters, an entertaining yet emotional plot, and more wonderfully cheesy pickup lines than you can poke a stick at, this is for you!

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sending me this free eARC (eAdvanced Reader Copy). I am leaving this review voluntarily. This title will be published 25th January 2022.

You can find where to pre-order your own copy of The Map to You by Rachel Stockbridge here!