Conversation Hearts ARC

It turned out to be a fabulous weekend for me, in terms of getting my hands on ARCs. I also got one from Kata Cuic for her third release in the Hectic Holidays series. I reviewed the first book, A Bird in the Oven, here earlier and I’ve read the second, Stocking Stuffer, although I didn’t review it.

I continue to be charmed and invested in Ollie and Olivia. They are working so hard to have a healthy, mature, fulfilling relationship and the world is determined to make it difficult for them. Olivia has always known that Ollie falls on the autism spectrum, but she’s learning that there are aspects of his life that she really doesn’t understand. Ollie depends on his logical analyses to navigate real world situations, but now he has to adjust when he learns that some of them are based on incorrect assumptions. And the aspect that makes it feel especially realistic is that I want to beat both their families with a big stick.

I am by no means an expert on neurodiversity, and even if I was, every person on the spectrum is unique, so you can’t write one “right” or “wrong.” But it’s a topic that a lot of people are uncomfortable with and that triggers a lot of big feelings in the community. To me, Ollie comes across as a well-developed and realistic person and I love Olivia for the way she loves him. Kudos to Kata Cuic for writing them both with such care and attention to detail. Their story isn’t done yet, and I look forward to the next holiday!

A Bird in the Oven

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Kata Cuic’s writing. When she released this Thanksgiving-timed story last year, I snapped it up and enjoyed it tremendously. The only problem is that it’s too short and I heartily agree with another reviewer who stated that a follow-up Christmas story is necessary.

I am not an expert of neurodiversity, but I’ve always been impressed with Kata Cuic’s ability to include characters who represent a wide range of human experience, and do it in a way that feels real and engaging. The range of experience and growth that Liv and Ollie have in the space of a novella is astonishing. I couldn’t love them more.

Review 47: Knitting in the City

I was able to hunt down the full series of Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City and I tore through them. I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of her books. Obviously, some of the couples appealed to me more than others, but overall, they are robust characters with strengths, weaknesses, foibles, and traumas. Watching them work through their issues to reach their happily ever afters is enthralling.

I love how Ms. Reid includes characters who are “outside the norm” – and does it with a deft touch and attention to detail. Some of her characters are neurodivergent, some are in the genius or prodigy pool, but she never presents them as the cardboard cutout stereotype or uses them purely as a plot point. I also like that for the most part, the characters don’t do stupid or out of character things just to create drama for the plot. Which isn’t to say that they don’t do stupid things or things triggered by their personal histories, because that’s what human do.

These books aren’t perfect, but they are highly enjoyable.

Review 46: Hart Series

Book 5 in this series, Matters to You, was released in January and I was lucky enough to win a copy in an author give away. I’d read Book 1, and I had most of the rest on my ereader, but hadn’t read them yet. So since I like to try and get reviews up when people are nice enough to gift me books, it was time to binge the series.

I found the first three books in the series to be deep, emotional, cathartic reads. I read them back-to-back and then had to take a break. They each tackle an difficult subject (cheating and unresolved relationships, childhood illness, rape) and drag the protagonists through a lot of personal growth before they reach their HEA. By contrast, Books 4 and 5 seemed to be a little lighter. Matters to Me features a heroine, Lauren, who suffers from anxiety. However, I found this aspect of her personality to be a bit too much something that she tells us about-a lot-but we don’t just see in her thoughts and actions. It dragged me out of the story every time and makes it my least favourite of the series.

Matters to You is the story of Paul and Kiersten and the trope is single parenthood. I don’t have kids, so I can’t reliably comment on the challenges of raising them-either alone or with a partner. But for me, this book lacked the angst of the earlier ones for several reasons. First, and probably biggest, single parenthood has become much more normalized; it’s no longer the scandal that it used to be. On top of that, while no one would call Kiersten’s life easy, she does have an eager support network, so that “one pay cheque away from disaster” terror isn’t there. This was still a fun story to read, and watching the back and forth between Paul and Kiersten was entertaining. But I’d say that this book turns the series from a deep, heart-rending experience to more of a sweet one.