Beatrice Reviews "The Insiders Club" by Echo Miller

“The Insiders Club” by Echo Miller
★★★★☆

The Insiders Club

Four social misfits: an 80s-obsessed eccentric, a movie-quoting mimic, a control freak, and a scrappy loner. They share a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, but can they create a home?

Keegan Harris has one weekend to persuade three other autistic guys to move into his group home. Using an 80s movie as his guide for socialization, he’s organized a series of adventures designed to form deep connections and create lifelong friends. But each stranger has packed emotional baggage and arrived with agendas of their own. Unless Keegan can convince everyone to stick to the script, his blockbuster plan may turn companionship into chaos.

When Monday morning rolls around, will they be best buddies or will Keegan’s community close before it officially opens?


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free on the Reedsy platform, for an honest and unbiased review.

I admit, I was a little nervous getting into this book. Fiction that deals with the representation of sensitive topics such as themes dealing with mental health issues or differently abled characters can be hit-or-miss.

Some authors lack the research and can be ignorant to their portrayal of such themes, leading to ill-advised stereotypes and a black-and-white picture of the diversity of a group of people that deserve far better representation in art.

However, with the very first words of this novel, my worry started to dissipate. Echo Miller tastefully brings to life colorfully well-rounded characters on the spectrum, presenting readers with a perceptive insight of a world that they may not belong to but can start to better understand.

Miller’s writing style equips wonderful imagery together with a descriptiveness that is a pleasure to read as the story continues to unravel. We are introduced to a cast of autistic characters, many of which are on the spectrum but are not defined by their autism but their individuality. Miller’s shaping up of each and every one through their unique personalities and quirks had the effect of creating emotional connections to them that linger far beyond the end of the story.

Paying tribute to the ’80’s classic film The Breakfast Club, “The Insiders Club” is a heartfelt story, grounded in the exploration of complex and beautiful characters whose autism does not limit them, but rather allows them to go farther and feel things on a greater level than most are capable of.

Although the book is quick read and can be done in one sitting, I recommend taking the time to absorb each word and description and allow yourself to live the story slowly but meaningfully. It’s an experience that will definitely stay with me and I look forward to reading the next instalment in the series.

A story of friendship, acceptance and truth in the eyes of people who are deemed to be “different”, I recommend this novel for any and everyone. Miller shows us through the characters on these pages that often, being different is what makes us human and it’s time to not only accept that diversity but embrace it.

Beatrice Reviews "Steel Strings" by Alex Hayes

“Steel Strings” by Alex Hayes
★★★☆☆

Steel Strings

Brianna Jones is a smart, biracial teen who dreams of bringing music to the world via orchestral instruments fashioned out of recycled materials. But Brianna must keep her project secret from her half sister, whose mission in life is to destroy everything Brianna holds dear. 

Marek Lakewood is one of the few guys who sees Brianna for whom she really is and has admired her from afar for years, but he’s never been a risk-taker, not since his father was killed on a black diamond ski slope.

When a physics project lands Marek in Brianna’s sphere, he finds himself taking bigger and bigger risks, and discovers Brianna’s life and aspirations are far more complicated than he ever imagined.


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free on the Reedsy platform, for an honest and unbiased review.

This was an enjoyable and fast-paced book, perfect for those looking for a one-sitting read into a literary getaway. Alex Hayes does a wonderful job of bringing life to Brianna Jones and Marek Lakewood, the two protagonists, by employing switching first person point-of-view chapters.

Having not read Hayes’ Chameleon Effects series, I was hoping I would be able to follow along and form the same connect with the characters one would expect from a stand-alone novel. There were some scenes of hidden significance (Easter eggs) that did little to further the plot of “Steel Strings” but, I suspect, were linked to her main series. Nevertheless, this did not rob me of any enjoyment to this novel which stood on its own two feet.

Hayes’ character development shines through the dialogue and writing style, bringing out the vibes of teen romance I haven’t felt in years and also the plights of the main protagonist, Brianna, who I rooted for throughout.

However, I do feel there were certain plot points that could have been explored further to create a better connect between the characters and myself, the reader. Juggling elements of music, love and family all together, some aspects were lacking in weight to another, making the read feel a little imbalanced and the ending rather rushed.

Although good, I didn’t feel like it delivered the excitement and thrill indicated in the synopsis and I felt a little let-down toward the end on how the story had progressed. In this sense, the novel did not ‘knock my (figurative) socks off’.

However, as a light breezy read, “Steel Strings” promises to entertain and enthrall. I also believe readers of the original series would enjoy the novel a step further and encourage them to give it a read and discover the aforementioned Easter Eggs for themselves!

Beatrice Reviews “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson (Novel)

“I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson
★★

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Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

 

Just before I had started to read this book, I had realized how much I’d been dishing out 5*s for different books and decided it was time to get serious and not give away that rating so easily. So when I started reading, I tried to keep that thought in mind and put on my micro-vision specs, determined to find at least one flaw with this book. The more I read, the more desperate I grew. I ended up fighting a battle in my mind as I gave I’ll Give You the Sun 5*s and adding it to my ‘all time favourites’ shelf on Goodreads because it is a literary masterpiece. 

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Beatrice Reviews “Maybe Not” by Colleen Hoover (Novella)

“Maybe Not” by Colleen Hoover

★★
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Colleen Hoover, the New York Times bestselling author of Maybe Someday brilliantly brings to life the story of the wonderfully hilarious and charismatic Warren in a new novella, Maybe Not.

When Warren has the opportunity to live with a female roommate, he instantly agrees. It could be an exciting change.

Or maybe not.

Especially when that roommate is the cold and seemingly calculating Bridgette. Tensions run high and tempers flare as the two can hardly stand to be in the same room together. But Warren has a theory about Bridgette: anyone who can hate with that much passion should also have the capability to love with that much passion. And he wants to be the one to test this theory.

Will Bridgette find it in herself to warm her heart to Warren and finally learn to love?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

*NOTE: This is going to be a spoiler-free review but I will be sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book, and general opinions on its’ characters, story-line, etc. No big reveals!*

“She’s mean, Warren. Probably the meanest girl I’ve ever met in my life. So if she murders you in your sleep, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

When I read about Warren and Bridgette’s relationship in Maybe Someday, I couldn’t help but fall in love with both of them, even though they weren’t the central focus of that story. They are in this book though, and that’s why I was flippin’ out about the fact that there is an actual spin-off dedicated to those two.

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“You kiss like you’re trying to resuscitate a dead cat,” she says, disgusted. “You kiss like you are a dead cat.”.

Warren and Bridgette have a love-hate relationship. You open the book having that piece of information about the two if you read Maybe Someday beforehand. But seeing as this novella is purely dedicated to letting us witness Warren have growing affections for his new roommate, we see sides to both of them that we never had the chance to before.

“You did smile, Bridgette,” I whisper. “And you need to own it, because it was fucking beautiful.”

There were moments that made me sigh and want to wish Warren were real so I could give him a huge hug, and moments that had me laughing really, really hard. Whatever doubts I’d had about the pair’s relationship while reading Maybe Someday vanished. Because they’re perfect for each other.

The very first chapter started off in such a way that had me shaking my head to myself in laughter, going “classic Warren”. I loved reading this story mainly because we got to learn about and explore more of other characters that hadn’t been the main focus of Maybe Someday. There’s more Brennan-interaction – which made me happy as he only appears a few times in MS. We also discover Bridgette’s full story, which for those of you who didn’t find her likable in the first book will definitely warm up to now.

Halfway through Maybe Not, we see the start of Maybe Someday‘s storyline with Sydney moving into their apartment. And while we already know what exactly is going to go down for Sydney and Ridge, we also get an extra glimpse of ‘behind-the-scene’ shenanigans through Warren’s perspective. For example, why Warren is so addicted to porn. And it’s not just cause he’s Warren, trust me.

“The only difference between falling in love and being in love is that your heart already knows how you feel, but your mind is too stubborn to admit it.”

Compared to its previous novel, Maybe Not lacks the magic and page-turning thrill that Maybe Someday provides us. But doesn’t have to be perceived as a bad thing as it’s a novella, and a light-hearted story compared to the angst-filled and emotional MS. It’s also a lot more smutty (it’s Warren and Bridgette we’re talking about here) but I saw that coming.

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Unlike other novels *coughs* 50 Shades of Grey and Bared to You *coughs* where the sex is absolutely pointless and does NOTHING to add to the actual progression of the story – it’s justified in this case. Besides, it’s Warren-smut. *wiggles eyebrows* A definite must read for fans of Bridgette and Warren! I give Maybe Not a Warren-ful 4*s (see what I did there)!

Beatrice Reviews “Maybe Someday” by Colleen Hoover (Novel)

“Maybe Someday” by Colleen Hoover  

★★ At twenty-two years old, Sydney has a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers Hunter’s cheating on her–and she is left trying to decide what to do next.

Sydney becomes captivated by Ridge, her mysterious neighbor. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. When their inevitable encounter happens, they soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one…

*NOTE: This is going to be a spoiler-free review but I will be sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book, and general opinions on its’ characters, story-line, etc. No big reveals!*

Where do I even begin with reviewing this book? It…I… *takes a moment to calm oneself*

This is the first novel I’ve read by her and I can already begin to tell that Colleen Hoover is an author that will make it to my favourites list (if she hasn’t already made it on there with this book). After reading the blurb, I had it pegged down as another cheesy YA romance in my mind. Having read several YA love stories before, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into when I decided to read Maybe Someday. I should have known better than to judge a book by it’s blurb, because I was completely thrown off by it. And it’s one of those rarities when you’re actually happy you were misled because the surprising read that follows is possibly one of the best you could ever get.

  “Nothing in my life has ever felt so good, yet hurt so achingly bad.”

I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster while reading this book. There were moments when I felt like this:

And moments when I did this:

 “I’m worried that feelings are the one thing in our lives that we have absolutely no control over.” 

I have nothing against the quality of the writing and the way in which the characters’ stories are delivered to the reader. The fact that it’s written in alternating points of view between Sydney and Ridge makes the reader grip their emotions on a higher level. This book packs a punch of the feels but there are also a lot of heartwarming moments, and pure comedy in the first half of the novel that’ll have you laughing out loud (or in my case, snorting orange juice out my nose). I read it in one sitting because of a combination of several factors that made it a wonderful read. Continue reading