Y’all, there are a lot of books that have come out this month! I hope my reviews can help you figure out where to prioritize your money/library requests based on your tastes, but I’ll be honest, these three were all pretty good depending on what you want! More than Maybe by Erin Hahn was my first young adult read of the year, which is wild. It came out last week so you can get your hands on it already. I received an advanced e-copy from Wednesday Books via Netgalley. A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane also came out this past Tuesday and it was INCREDIBLE. I received an advanced e-copy from Berkley (a miracle) via Netgalley. Finally, Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha comes out Tuesday and it’s absolutely phenomenal. If you like Ilona Andrews at all, I think you’ll really like this series starter. I am already so eagerly anticipating book two! I received an advanced e-copy from Tor via Netgalley (THANK YOU).
More than Maybe by Erin Hahn
More Than Maybe is an interesting YA contemporary that I’m still not sure I’ve fully wrapped my head around. On its face, it’s a book about music, which is why I loved it. But it also weaves in bits and pieces of Vada’s journey with faith (Christianity) and a really lovely familial storyline for her as well. And Luke’s own storyline is mostly about music, but also a little about a strained relationship with his father. I think despite the alternating points of view, this book is really Vada’s, although I did like Luke a lot.
Vada is determined to to move to Los Angeles for school and she’s already in to her dream university. Now she just needs her dad, who likes to forget she’s his daughter, to step up and help her pay for it. She works at a dive bar known for putting on great shows in Ann Arbor and she knows she will write for Rolling Stone one day. Luke tries to avoid the spotlight, but he’s really into composing and writing lyrics, and his voice can definitely carry the songs. But that’s not the life he wants. The two are thrown together for a school project and can finally discover the person behind their crush.
The romantic aspect of this book is slow moving and beautiful. I liked the way there were hints of mutual pining and I loved the way Luke seems to respect Vada. I thought that their habit of texting each other songs from YouTube was so perfectly high school and I adored that aspect. I do feel like Vada and Luke both read older than high school aged, to me, but the book still feels grounded in that phase so that was interesting. And I absolutely adored all of the musical elements of this book, from dancing to singing to reviewing to the conversation about “eye-closers”. It made me really nostalgic for concerts I’ve gone to in the past and also desperately sad I can’t go to Lover Fest this year since it’s been postponed.
The part of the book that I was a little less sure I loved was the whole faith aspect. I have zero issues with faith being explored as part of a book, especially given it’s such a huge part of so many people’s identity. But it didn’t feel like it flowed? And I’m not sure if that’s just a me thing, but it felt very jarring every time we got a bigger scene. Also weird is that there is a scene where Vada goes to a youth group thing because her best friend is singing and then it cuts away and the next scene with Vada is her reflecting on her own faith and it felt like something big happened at that service, but like… What?
However, that really didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book and I’m really happy to have read it. Another aspect I really liked was Vada’s mom and Vada’s boss. These are adults in YA that are good and stable and I really, really loved seeing that. I also loved how much we got to see Luke’s brother, Cullen, and his boyfriend, Zach. I think they were really excellent side characters. Actually, I loved all of the side characters really. So, all in all, a really good read, but I definitely think people who don’t like faith storylines should tread lightly.
A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane
Y’all. This book was so good. Set two years after the events in the first book, A Touch of Stone and Snow could definitely be read as a stand-alone so if the alphahole nonsense of Maddek in the first book is going to be a deal-breaker, just skip straight into this one. We follow Lizzan, a disgraced and outcast soldier from Koth, who has developed an addiction to alcohol and is kind of aimless at the moment. She’s dealing with some post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, I think, and self-medicating. She feels betrayed by the man she was essentially engaged to, who she views as having abandoned her. That man is Aerax, a bastard prince who has now been essentially legitimized but is still viewed as lesser. Lizzan was the first person to ever say Aerax’s name and they came together as children but they have very disparate views of the relative importance of Koth as a country. Anyway, Aerax is actually close to where Lizzan is, which she realizes when she sees Caeb, the snow leopard pet she and Aerax essentially share, and she’s like, “Absolutely not, let me get out of here RIGHT NOW.”
Of course, Lizzan and Aerax catch up to one another and there’s just so much. I don’t want to spoil anything because watching things unfold is absolutely captivating. But Aerax is so… He loves Lizzan SO much and I just, I love the way the two of them wind up coming back together. It’s just really beautiful.
Also, this quote: “If I have to become a monster to save you, that is what I will do.”
Aerax has big Kaleb energy, if you know what I’m saying. But he’s also just genuinely a better person than Kaleb. So basically… if you love Psy-Changeling by Nalini Singh for the Kaleb or Arrows content, you should 100% read this book. I loved it so much and I hope you will too.
Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha
Deal with the Devil was one of my most anticipated reads of the year where I didn’t really know anything beyond “murder librarians.” I am so pleased to report that it more than surpassed any expectations I had from my enjoyment of the Beyond series. There’s something about these characters that just captivated me instantly. I love all of them. Our librarian group is comprised of Dani, Maya, and Nina and they were all genetically manipulated in different ways, but have since banded together and are working to make a difference in their community. At this point, there’s been an apocalypse, essentially, and we’re following people in Atlanta where the public response to these solar flares really relied on pharmaceutical and medical technology companies that make their home in Atlanta. Despite, you know, the Hippocratic oath and things, these medical companies aren’t exactly the most ethical. So anyway, Dani, Maya, and Nina are trying to make a difference. Dani is the true murder librarian of the three, but Nina was also trained as a fighter. Maya was trained more as a spy so she remembers everything she’s ever heard and has to learn to fight. The three have this intense sisterhood and it’s really lovely.
Anyway, the plot takes off when Knox, Captain of the Silver Devils (super soldiers who finally noped out of working for the evil company), determines that he can’t take Nina out to trade her for the woman who can save his and his men’s lives. So instead, he and his men set up a double cross and they go on an adventure together. Knox is this slightly broken man who is trying to remember what it’s like to have things to actually guide him besides just his loyalty to his men. And then there’s Gray, a dark assassin type who keeps doing all these cute things but silently. Plus, Rafe is this playboy with a really sweet heart. And tech genius, Con(ner? nard?) (y’all, I’m so bad at names), who I adored because he’s just so kind and also smart and a little arrogant.
So, yeah, I love the characters. I love the action on the adventure. I love the romance between Knox and Nina. I love the side romances starting to develop between the other characters. I SHRIEKED when that reveal happened. And then the end?? I am distraught we have to wait until August of next year for the sequel! I need it now. I’m more of a character than plot person when it comes to sci-fi, but I really do think this book was a great blend of both. I can’t wait to have a physical copy and also to read this six times waiting for book two because it’s that kind of book for me.
Since we ended talking about bad medical companies, let’s talk about two things. (1) Please wear your masks when you go out around people because Covid-19 is apparently not going anywhere and it’s so scary. (2) Please look into the United States disparate maternal heath/mortality statistics because they are alarming on 100 different levels. Black women are especially at risk and there’s absolutely no discernible reason why the U.S. should have rates as high as we do for mothers dying with childbirth related issues. Like… What is happening? Anyway, those are the two things I want to plug today.
Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? I can’t wait to have physical copies of Deal with the Devil and A Touch of Stone and Snow on my shelves!