Lately I’ve really been trying to “theme” my ARC reviews and have three books that are at least in the same genre. But this set of reviews is coming to you courtesy of my reading slump that has meant reading books for review has been… slow. And therefore, I have three books to tell you about today and they’re not really similar at all. First up, we have What the Hex by Alexis Daria, an Audible Original that I’m fairly certain I did receive as an ARC, although I didn’t get an email telling me that. Anyway, I figured better safe than sorry and am going to review it for you today! It’s also a part of the Audible Plus program so I would have listened to it regardless because (a) I love Alexis Daria and (b) I’m an Audible Plus member so I had nothing to lose anyway. Then we have What If You & Me by Roni Loren, a contemporary romance I received as an ARC, but also purchased a physical copy of in the hopes that it would be everything I wanted it to be. Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Casablanca for the review copy! Third, we have Well, This is Exhausting by Sophia Benoit, a memoir that I received an e-ARC of via Netgalley and Gallery Books, but actually read via an Audible copy I purchased myself.
What the Hex by Alexis Daria
What the Hex is a paranormal, witchy romance from Alexis Daria and I felt like you could tell it was a book that Daria had fun writing. She’s talked about how her roots are in paranormal romance and I think that with a full length witchy paranormal, all of her strengths would shine. That’s not to say that this short novella length audio wasn’t showcasing her strengths, but I wanted more of everything. I loved the world Daria created with so few words, but I want to know more about everyone and everything. I’m pretty sure this is the start of a series so I’m consoling myself with the fact that I should get more details in future installments.
There’s an underlying humor in this book that belies the fact that Daria’s love interests are trying to figure out what’s wrong with their siblings and how to fix it, while also rediscovering one another. I loved the set up for the romance and thought it worked really well. They were rivals in high school and are now the only two they can trust as they try and unravel this mystery. It’s cute and sexy and I enjoyed it a lot. I definitely do not regret the hours spent listening to this one!
What If You & Me by Roni Loren
What If You & Me is the second book in Loren’s Say Everything series and I really enjoyed it. It’s still not totally perfect, but I really loved Andi and Hill as characters. Loren’s character work in developing Andi and Hill was really well done as they felt like real people to me. Andi is a horror writer and host of a true crime podcast that’s supposed to help people learn how to be safe, while Hill is a retired firefighter dealing with his new physical disability of having an amputated leg. The two are neighbors who meet when Hill thinks that Andi is being murdered because of a horror movie she’s watching on television. Andi has a lot of hang ups about men, for good reason, and is hesitant to allow Hill into her life, but slowly their acquaintanceship turns to friendship, which turns to friends with benefits, and more.
This book took me a long time to read and I still can’t parse out if that’s my fault or the books fault, but I think it’s probably mine. I haven’t been reading quickly or consistently lately because I’ll either read a book in one go or it will take me AGES to chip away at it until I finish it. I still enjoyed this book every time I picked it up, I just wasn’t compelled to pick it up again when I would sit it down. The book is good, the romance was definitely believable, and I liked a lot of the choices the author made. I really liked the way she addressed trauma. I even like the way she handled the ex-girlfriend even though at first I was like, “ugh, this trope?!” But, there were just a few things besides the pacing that just irked me enough to keep me from giving this book four stars. But in a different mood? I could definitely see me rating this higher.
Oh! I almost forgot to mention that the anxiety rep was well done, in my opinion, although I didn’t love that Andi gets therapy from her best friend? My best friend is also a therapist and although sometimes she helps me reframe what my therapist tells me into something that actually makes sense or gently suggests I unpack something WITH my therapist, she is very careful to not give me therapy. It’s an ethics thing and also kind of a friendship thing if we’re being honest. Anyway, the representation itself felt really nice to see. Also, I loved, LOVED how both Andi and Hill worked through a lot of internalized ableism because that was pretty great to see on page. It didn’t feel like too much for me, but if that’s likely to be something that would be frustrating to you, maybe steer clear!
Well, This is Exhausting by Sophia Benoit
Sophia Benoit is pretty open in this book about a lot of topics we don’t tend to discuss as a society (American) in polite conversation and a lot of what she had to say struck a chord with me, another 20 something (for now), cis-white woman raised in a comfortable middle class upbringing. From talking about taking on responsibility as a child because it was expected and not wanting to make her parents lives more difficult to dealing with anxiety in social situations and… the problem of the first boyfriend when you’re not used to being wanted and have no idea how to draw boundaries and stick to them. There were also things in here that could probably grate on someone’s nerves if a myriad of things about their life experiences or viewpoints differ from Benoit. It’s also a book that might be hard if you’ve dealt with body dysmorphia, eating disorders, cancer and/or cancer scares, or if casually dismissing your own sexual assault because you still have a hard time recognizing it as such would make it difficult for you to read. I have previously DNF’d a memoir because of the way it approached a situation that read to me as sexual assault, so I will give Benoit credit for the fact that she is so open about grappling with the fact that she said no and her partner did not respect that. Without saying too much, that grappling and the questions she posed felt familiar.
I also really appreciated how honest she was about how college is what made her a better person. That college is what forced her to realize she was privileged in a way that in white suburbia, white people are often not required to face. I appreciated how she talked about how twitter made her a better person because it was a space where she was able to read from voices different than her own in a readily accessible way. I liked this aspect of the memoir, in part, because it felt like I could have written it. Not in the same way, of course, but the experience she narrated fit mine so well, it was nice to feel not alone in that. I appreciate knowing that there is someone else who went on such a similar journey as me and is still working to learn and unlearn today.
In sum, I wouldn’t say this memoir is my favorite I’ve ever read, but I enjoyed the audiobook quite a bit and would recommend if the things I’ve mentioned here sound appealing. Also, despite the fact that Benoit has a sort of comedic background and occasional tone in here, on the whole, I didn’t think she was trying particularly hard to be funny.
So, there are my thoughts on three ARCs that I’m way overdue to tell you about. Hopefully I’ll get my butt in gear on ARCs again in the next three months. I may have deliberately planned my #FallInLoveBingo squares so that I can target a lot of them as you may have noticed from my TBR! Anyway, have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? Do you want to read any of them?