Review: Meet Cute by Various Authors

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Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors. 
Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants. 
This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to short story collections, because they can be so hit and miss. But this one didn’t let me down, and overall I enjoyed all of the stories in some capacity. In some ways the stories being so short (20-30 pages each) was good, because I didn’t have to spend too much time on those I didn’t like as much.

I really liked the concept of these books, with each short story being about two people meeting, and you have no idea where the relationship heads afterwards. It’s such a cute idea, and leaves a lot up to the imagination of the reader! A few of these were LGBTQIA+ and diverse in other ways, including race and a plus size character.

‘”What do you think the difference between wanting to be friends and wanting to be more than friends is?”

As with anthologies, this book included many different concepts that varied by author. This was so fun – we had a lot of contemporary, but also some magical realism and fantasy! I’m going to go through each one to give my opinions.

Siege Etiquette by Katie Cotungo ★★

This story was about two people meeting in the bathroom at a party and kind of hitting it off. Unfortunately it felt flat to me, had a weird writing style I wasn’t used to, and I really didn’t see the connection between the characters. A poor start!

Print Shop by Nina LaCour ★★★★★

Thankfully, the book greatly improved for me with Nina LaCour, who frankly will never let me down. I love the creative idea, with the main character working in a print shop and meeting one of her clients when her order went wrong. Very cute with great characters!

Hourglass by Ibi Zoboi ★★★

I don’t want to give this a bad rating but the fact I don’t remember anything that happened is really not a good sign? It definitely wasn’t all bad, featuring a girl who doesn’t want to go to prom and her friend who does. Great diversity with a cute ending, but unfortunately very forgettable.

Click by Katherine McGee ★★★★

This one featured an interesting futuristic concept where people meet via an app in which they are matched with others. It reminded me of the Black Mirror episode Hang the DJ, and I really enjoyed it. It had a unique concept that stood out for me, and sent out a good message!

The Intern by Sara Shepard ★★★

Another one which wasn’t bad as such but was just lacking. Of course this book includes many stories and it’s hard to stand out from the crowd, and this one blended in too much for me. It was very insta love, with a celebrity and intern who worked at a music shop.

Somewhere That’s Green by Meredith Russo ★★★★

This story included a transgender character and a character struggling with accepting her sexuality. They had great chemistry and an interesting story. I loved the different PsOV, and found the characters compelling and touching.

The Way We Love Here by Dhonielle Clayton ★★★★

The only fantasy story in this collection and that definitely made it memorable! I’m not usually one for stories like this, but I really enjoyed it. The two main characters are born on an island where everyone has soulmate bands that lessen as the date to meeting their soulmate gets closer. It was so touching and heartwarming with enough twists to keep me on my toes.

Oomph by Emery Lord ★★★★

I read a review on Goodreads that describes this story as a Hayley Kiyoko song, and I cannot describe it better. Two girls meet in an airport, and one overcomes her anxieties to connect with the other. Overall, a fluffy and cute read that worked.

The Dictionary of You and Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout ★★★★

Another really cute read, but set in a library. Yes, the perfect setting for bibliophiles to read a romance story set in. This story was so sweet and touching, and I loved the awkward but adorable characters.

The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love – Jocelyn Davis ★★★★★

This story was definitely one of my favourites, and followed a girl studying the statistic of whether she was going to see a guy she was attracted to on the subway. I loved it all. The concept, the characters (the classmates were super cute), the setting. So well executed!

259 Million Miles by Kass Morgan ★★★

This one focuses on two people interviewing to be sent off on a mission to mars, and end up being locked in a room for 24 hours as part of their interviews. I loved the concept, but the ending really let it down. I just didn’t feel enough hope for these guys to be honest.

Something Real by Julie Murphy ★★★

This story was cute, and had really good elements, but I also didn’t click with it as much as I’d have liked. It featured two girls competing for a date on a reality TV show, and ended up liking each other instead. It was definitely the funniest of the stories, but something felt so cliche about it and let it down a little.

Say Everything by Huntley Fitzpatrick ★★

I had such high hopes for this story because of how much I love My Life Next Door, but ugh, no. It focuses on a waitress going on a date with one of her customers, and then finds out she has a weird connection to him. This one just felt kind of creepy and sinister, and didn’t work for me in such a short format? It needed more explanation to work!

The Department of Dead Love by Nicola Yoon ★★★★★

I loved this one. Of course Nicola Yoon wouldn’t let me down! This story is set in a futuristic world where you can have your memories of someone erased, have relationships studied by experts etc. and that’s what our main character thinks he wants. It had such a cute twist and I adored the concept.

‘”Some people you want to get to know and some people you want to know you. I think that’s the difference.”’

So overall, such a mix of short stories, but only let down by a few. I’d love to go back and read my favourites sometime, and it’s definitely a book you can just pick up if you want a heartwarming read.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

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17 year old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.
But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective. 
Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life? 

What a perfect book to start pride month with! I delved into this book with little expectations and not knowing a lot about it, and I ended up really enjoying it. I always like contemporaries with a twist that stand out from the crowd, and this one did because of it’s Bengali culture and diverse characters. Reading about how other people live is so important and fascinating, and so fun to find out how other cultures celebrate.

In fact, the representation of Bengali culture and Rukhsana’s religion (Muslim) were probably my favourite things about the book, and made me want to go back to it. Learning about how deeply flawed Rukhsana’s parents/families viewpoints are kept it so interesting and engaging, but was also written really well. For example, she understood that even though they were misguided more because of their culture, Rukhsana made us understand everyone is flawed, no matter their background or religion. Hence this quote, which I loved and found so important: “Every time I say something bad about my family, it becomes more about where I come from than just regular stuff people go through with their parents.”. Discussing this topic felt so needed.

‘We must be the masters of our own destinies. I did not learn that until it was too late. You have to fight to take back control of your life.’

From a plot point of view, this book flew by. It’s only short but not at all lighthearted, and discusses super heavy topics that left me with tears in my eyes at points. I just couldn’t help but feel heartbroken over Rukhsana’s situation, and that shows how emotionally connected to her I felt. However, it wasn’t all sad and the lighthearted scenes were so fun and heartwarming, and often included lots of food! I think the descriptions of food and drink meant so much in this novel, specifically because it pushed the feeling of Bengali culture.

Talking of more heartwarming parts, I adored the cast of characters. Rukhsana’s friends and distant relatives, plus people she found along the way, made this book what it is. Considering we had such a large group of people, I also coped pretty well, and rarely got confused. That’s definitely a testament to the writing!

‘Sometimes you will hurt the ones you love the most. But in the end, it will always have to be your choice.’

Which brings me onto my only real issue, and unfortunately the reason this book didn’t get 5 stars for me. The writing felt very disjointed and jumpy in places, especially when Rukhsana would change her mind about things so quickly. It’s very hard to describe how the writing impacted the book, but it’s almost as if the book had a very detailed plot line with a timeline of events, but the jumps between those events didn’t run as smoothly as they could have?

However, the writing only stopped me from enjoying the book a little bit, and it’s definitely something I can see improving as Khan writes more. Because of that, I’d definitely pick up other books by her!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Midnight Bites by Rachel Caine

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MIDNIGHT BITES, the new Morganville Vampires short story anthology! It will bring together almost everything that I’ve written in short form about Morganville … though I did leave out some of the original “diary” entries that appeared on an earlier version of the Morganville website, simply because they were just scenes and not stories, and were generally really short snippets. This is all short fiction, and it’s been carefully organized into the timeline, so you can read from the earliest adventures (some of which belong to vampires) all the way through some post-Daylighters goodies.
MIDNIGHT BITES includes a total of more than 50,000 words of brand new content, which makes me very happy indeed (and I hope will also make you happy, too). From stories featuring our favorite bunny-slipper-wearing mad scientist to a mystery solved by police chief Hannah Moses, I think you’ll find this is a diverse group of stories that will shine a little more light in the murkiest corners of Morganville.

This was such a lovely way to wrap up and leave Morganville. I love reading short story collections, and even though they hardly ever meet my love of whole books, they provide such a great way to revisit worlds we know, love and miss.

And this book was just the same. I know that if I ever need a Morganville fix, I’ll go to this alongside my favourites from the series!

‘“Just wanted to remind you that we’re out of milk again. And hot sauce.”
“Why are those two always out at the same time? Because those do not go together.”

These stories were such a mix, and I loved how they were in order of how they would be if they were in the series. Each one seemed to have a new narrator and style, and they each stood out from each other. They all gave me the great atmospheric feeling only Morganville has in that creepy way.

I love the mix of romance, action, humour etc. Each story brought something new, or had a mixture of scenes which was great. Some of the stories were included in my UK paperback editions, so I’d read them as I went and that meant the book wasn’t too daunting for me as a whole as I skipped those. However, the 500+ pages and small font threw me after such an easy to read series!

‘”I suspect Shane. He’d put hot sauce in anything,” Michael said.’

Overall, a great way to finish up this series for me. I’ll be sad to leave this eccentric and brilliant cast of characters behind, it’s been a fun ride!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Daylighters (Morganville #15) by Rachel Caine

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Something drastic has happened in Morganville while Claire and her friends were away. The town looks cleaner and happier than they’ve ever seen it before, but when their incoming group is arrested and separated – vampires from humans – they realise that the changes definitely aren’t for the better. It seems that an organisation called the Daylight Foundation has offered the population of Morganville something they’ve never had: hope of a vampire-free future. And while it sounds like salvation – even for the vampires themselves – the truth is far more sinister and deadly. Now, Claire, Shane and Eve need to find a way to break their friends out of Daylighter custody, before the vampires of Morganville meet their untimely end …Includes a brand new and exclusive Morganville short story. 

Wow, it’s so weird, sad and exciting to be leaving Morganville behind. Although I don’t feel like I’m truly finished with this town as I’ve just picked up Midnight Bites, the short story collection, I know I’ll feel the loss of such a wonderful town and cast of characters.

As we saw in Last Breath and Black Dawn, this book carries on from the last. With the Daylighters being such a threat in Fall of Night, I was ready for this, and expectant. Overall, this book didn’t disappoint, and I found it was layered wonderfully.

‘But if these past years in Morganville have taught me anything, it’s that sometimes you have to just . . . jump.’

Of course, this book focuses on Claire and her friends, but I also enjoyed the little wrappings-up of other characters stories. It really felt like a bittersweet ending to such a long journey. There are so many aspects of this book that I didn’t expect, including the massive part the Hellhounds played. But I think we needed new, fresh ideas to keep the story alive even in it’s final moments.

I was so happy the last book took place almost entirely in Morganville! After a bit of a break in book 14, I was missing the atmosphere of the town I’ve grown to know and love. These books have taken me through many twists and turns, and the town was one of the most atmospheric settings I’ve ever read about.

‘It’s not safe. It’s never safe. But sometimes you have to live dangerously.’

It’s going to be very bittersweet leaving these books behind, and once I’ve got Midnight Bites out of the way, I’m going to be writing about my experience of reading my way through Morganville, the longest series I’ve ever read.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Fall of Night (Morganville #14) by Rachel Caine

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Claire thought she’d never get to leave Morganville, but she can’t pass up the chance to finally attend her dream school, MIT. After all, getting to invent anti-vamp devices with Professor Anderson – a Morganville exile herself – sounds like a dream come true… until Claire realizes there are sinister forces at play, and she’s not the only one with a vampire-related agenda.
Without her friends Shane, Eve, and Michael, Claire finds that surviving a killer schedule may be hard… but with them, it might turn out to be impossible.

I’m so glad Morganville picked up again after the disappointment that was the 13th book. I find when any of the gang leave Morganville it can be really hit and miss, but I definitely needed a break from the crazy town after book 13.

Having Claire finally leave to follow her dream of studying at MIT (in one weird way or another) really worked for me. Her standing up and proving to herself, her friends, and us as readers, that she can leave Morganville, gave me new found respect for her. In fact, I spent a lot of this book respecting and evaluating how far the characters have come!

‘In real life, you don’t get a reset,’

I did miss the antics of the other Morganville residents, and the atmosphere of the town itself however, and I was grateful for the different POV showing what everyone was up to back home. I guess I was a little torn between leaving Morgnaville, but when a series is based on a place and is 15 books long, it does need some breathers.

Even though we’d left Morganville behind, of course Claire’s life isn’t without new adventures and dangers. It wouldn’t be this series without a little danger, and at least one mention of vampire bunny slippers, would it? I have to say, Caine also didn’t disappoint with action, adventure and twists and turns that made this book fly by!

‘and you don’t get extra lives, and I got the crap pounded out of me.’

So overall, I’m very happy to say book 14 has picked this series back up off the ground. Bring on the next and final book!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Bitter Blood (Morganville #13) by Rachel Caine

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For years, the human and vampire residents of Morganville, Texas, have managed to co-exist in peace. But now that the threat to the vampires has been defeated, the human residents are learning that the gravest danger they face is the enemy within…
Thanks to the eradication of the parasitic creatures known as the draug, the vampires of Morganville have been freed of their usual constraints. With the vampires indulging their every whim, the town’s human population is determined to hold on to their lives by taking up arms. But college student Claire Danvers isn’t about to take sides, considering she has ties to both the humans and the vampires.
To make matters worse, a television show comes to Morganville looking for ghosts, just as vampire and human politics collide. Now, Claire and her friends have to figure out how to keep the peace without ending up on the nightly news… or worse. 

Maybe it’s because of the 11th and 12th Morganville books being so good, but I was so disappointed with this one! I guess I did expect a bit of a lull after so much action, but this one seemed downright ridiculous.

As with most of the books, it really picked up in the last 100-200 pages. But I keep thinking was it enough? Sure, I enjoyed this book and I’m still loving the series overall. But compared to the recent marvels Caine has come up with, it left me feeling…kinda flat.

“It’s not your enemies who are likeliest to hurt you.”

Not all was bad about these books and as I said above, I still enjoyed it. We had a number of small plotlines happening alongside each other, which was kind of fun and made the pacing pretty quick. I also still enjoyed flicking between different characters POV.

As always, the characters were the best thing about this book. I love the main 4, and we had a new member of the Glass House that gave a completely different and fresh addition I loved. I can see Claire growing up and developing as her own person, and looking back on her at the start of the series makes me feel like I’ve really followed her journey. However, we also had some Morganville visitors which felt flat and just annoying.

“It is, always, those you trust.”

Overall, very mixed feelings about the book itself and it’s definitely the most disappointing yet for me! But I have to say, I’m still enjoying the series and I know I’ll miss it when I finish.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Black Dawn (Morganville #12) by Rachel Caine

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The Morganville vampires are fighting a losing war, and it will fall to the residents of the Glass House: Michael, Eve, Shane and Claire, to take the fight to an enemy who threatens to destroy the town, forever.

For the first time in the Morganville books, this one carries on with the same subplot as the book before it. Usually, the books kind of wrap up at the end of each, and just leave a small something for the next one to continue with. Here, we have two books taking up one subplot, but it really works. The story Caine started in Last Breath definitely needs time to finish!

There was a very emotional aspect of this book that is possibly one of my favourites, if not my absolute favourite part of the whole series. Shane is a big focus in this (trying not to give giant spoilers here!), and I felt so deeply connected to the characters because of it.

‘”News flash, lady. There are no queens anymore,” Shane said. He loaded shells in a shotgun and snapped it shut, then searched for a place to strap it on that didn’t interfere with the flamethrower.’

This plotline is just epic, and I was once again kept guessing and on the edge of my seat. I think it’s just getting predictable again, and then Caine will throw me a massive twist that makes me react out loud. What a feat. And alongside this, we had numerous subplots (romantic, political, etc) that kept me interested.

These books might be fun and I do love them so much, but they’re not without their problems. Sometimes I struggle to find the things that keep the group tied to Morganville, especially in the middle of chaos like this. Like why not just leave? Even though my niggles have explanations, it doesn’t stop the annoyances sometimes.

‘”No queens, no kings, no emperors. Not in America. Only CEOs. Same thing, but not so many crowns.”’

I think it’s because this series is so long that despite my small annoyances, Morganville always feels like coming home. I can’t quite believe I only have a few books left, because I’ll definitely be sad to leave it behind completely!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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