Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU
Free On KU

All the Love Songs by Nicole Pyland


Super-famous straight girl meets famous (closeted) girl, falls in love almost instantly and doesn’t fight the attraction.

Peyton Gloss (a barely veiled version of Taylor Swift) has a ‘squad’ of women friends – all famous in their own right – and has a week-long July 4th celebration with them in her version of a summer camp. Lennox Owen, a mega famous actress and America’s Sweetheart is Peyton’s best friend, ergo, an automatic invitee. Lennox’s parents are both successful actors and acting is all Lennox knows since almost birth. She has a younger sister, who she has almost brought up single-handedly, on the autism spectrum. The fallout of her fame is that Lennox’s personal life is fodder for media and her three relationships with men have been widely reported, though no one really knows the details of what happened in the relationships or why they ended.

Mackenzie (Kenzie) Smyth auditioned for a TV show on a dare and landed the job. Unexpectedly, the show was successful and when it was cancelled after four seasons, Kenzie got more offers for TV and in films. She is now starring in a zombie show which is also successful. What is not known about Kenzie is that she has Asperger’s which makes her socially awkward. Kenzie has also nurtured a long-time crush on Lennox. She is a new addition to Peyton’s squad. When Lennox and Kenzie meet at Peyton’s camp, there is an irresistible attraction between them. While this should’ve scared Lennox, she is brave enough to embrace it and strong enough to recognise Kenzie’s problem and take care of Kenzie tenderly and gently.  

As the week draws to a close, the new couple are avoiding thinking about how their relationship will work when they are out of the bubble but the question looms large. Particularly since both have successful careers and said careers will put them in different cities and continents almost as soon as they leave from the idyll of the camp.

We were totally into Lennox and Kenzie’s relationship. Completely invested in the growing emotions and closeness. And then at around 65%, it all completely fell apart. Up until then we were appreciative of Kenzie’s efforts to deal with her condition and be in the relationship. Yes, mostly it was Lennox doing all the heavy lifting in the budding relationship, but Kenzie was at least trying. Then Kenzie discovers that Lennox has been offered a fantastic role in a series which will require her to be in New Zealand of eight months each year for four years. Lennox hasn’t accepted the offer that comes with a huge salary plus almost certain awards in the future – it is still only an offer. Kenzie discovers about this offer when she reads incoming texts on Lennox’s phone while Lennox is sleeping. And Kenzie runs away. All of Kenzie’s behaviour up until this point was somehow not so awful because it was a result of her Asperger’s (at least that’s how it’s explained). But this? This running away? It is only self-preservation so that she doesn’t have greater heartbreak in future. It is completely selfish, inconsiderate and hurtful. What makes it worse that Lennox’s best friend (and almost sister), Peyton, makes it possible for Kenzie to run away.

And then Kenzie ghosts Lennox. Not answering text messages. Not replying to voicemails in which Lennox is clearly falling apart. How is that okay?

Later, when Lennox flies to London (where Kenzie is shooting) to at least have a conversation with Kenzie, Kenzie’s actions out them. The price of this outing is way higher in Lennox than on Kenzie because Lennox is the mega-star and she’s had past relationships with men so she is vilified endlessly. Yet, it is Lennox who holds the relationship together and returns to London to be with Kenzie. Once again, Kenzie’s actions are responsible for the media getting details about their relationship resulting in a media circus because of which they are practically under house arrest.

Justifiably, Lennox needs time to deal with all this and flies back. And here is the other huge problem in the book. Lennox taking the time to deal with her life basically falling apart is equated with Kenzie running away for self-preservation and Peyton actually guilts Lennox about it. Kenzie also plays victim though her autism starts feeling more of an excuse than a reason because she knows exactly what she is doing.

Past the 65% mark, this book actually hurt us. It broke our heart that someone with the ability to love as deeply and as tenderly as Lennox is ultimately alone in the relationship – without even her friends having her back. She works on the relationship single-handedly with nothing coming from Kenzie. Lennox carries the entire burden of making the relationship work – emotionally and practically. Lennox first lets go of the amazing show she’s been offered and the completely sacrifices her career. For Kenzie. Lennox deserved so much more.

This book is very well written, has some great lines (including the title phrase which is beautifully explained in the book), some wonderful moments but clearly, this one didn’t work for us at all – in fact, we are still physically hurting for Lennox and don’t see this emotion ending anytime soon. 


Nottingham: The True Story of Robyn Hood by Anna Burke


Set in medieval England, Nottingham re-imagines the story of Robin Hood and his merry men in the Sherwood Forest with an entire female, lesbian cast.

The Sheriff of Nottingham is a cruel man given to punitive acts of terror and brutality. Robyn and her brother, Michael, are fletchers but are far from dear to the Sheriff because of lovely Gwyneth who chose Robyn’s brother over the Sheriff. Life is difficult enough for the Fletchers, but when the Sheriff finds and excuse, he gladly hangs Michael leaving Robyn and the very pregnant Gwyneth in dire straits. In a moment of desperation, Robyn does the same thing for which Michael was hanged – poaches in the prohibited parts of the forests. She gets caught and ends up killing one of the Sheriff’s men. To save herself, Gwyneth and her little boy, Robyn takes the help of her cousin, Midge, fakes her own death and disappears into the depths of Sherwood to become and outlaw. Marian, daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham, is one of Lady Emmeline’s handmaidens along with Willa and Alanna. Politics and their fathers’ greed sees Willa and Marian promised to undesirable, but rich and higher-ranking men. The man Willa is promised to is much-married, a known wife-beater – and most importantly, Willa is in love with Alanna, a minstrel. The worlds of the genteel ladies and the outlaws are set on a collision course with the Reverend Mother of the Edwinstowe Priory playing and anchor to the lives tossed in an upheaval.

The fraught times in Nottingham, and of all the characters, are evocatively written. The desperation of the townspeople evokes strong empathy much like in Hunger Games. Burke writes a whole cast of very strong women who are strong and loyal. They have an unshakable commitment to their convictions and emotions. Interestingly, the most impulsive character is Robyn. When compared to the others, she is emotionally immature and doesn’t have the same strength of commitment to her feelings or respect for the others’ in her orbit. However, as a story it all works because the others are just so awesome.  

If romance and action float your boat, you can hardly go wrong with this. Truly. 


Say Her Name by Stefani Deoul


We feel that YA novels usually are more layered and tackle many more subjects than the regular novels for not-so-young. There is also more idealism in the characters, which is always nice.

Sid Rubin, a nerd and coding-queen, has a group of five close friends – Imani, Jimmy, Ari, and Vikram. When Sid sets eyes on her Mystery Dream Girl (MDG), the group gets behind her effort to find the green-eyed beauty. MDG is Ava who turns out to be deaf. A determined Sid decides to learn sign language and Imani accompanies her for the classes. The ‘posse’ is with Sid every step of the way till Sid and Ava start dating – and Sid is unable to balance her romantic and friendship relationships. A snowball fight in Central Park which includes Sid, Ava, Sid’s friends and Ava’s bestie, Joe leads to Imani tumbling down and landing on a skeletal hand. Turns out to be eight skeletons literally chained together and the group sets out to find out who they were even as Ava leaves Sid and Sid struggles to get back her footing with her friends – especially with best friend, Imani.

Though the books starts off with the romance, the mystery and group dynamic is more the focus. However, Ava is an intriguing character. We’d love to know her better and so, so want a happy romance and life for her. Though Ava leaves Sid, we empathised with Ava more than with Sid. We found Ava completely justifiable and justified. The other character that we totally loved was Imani. (A side note: we are expected a romance between Imani and Sid soon.) And yes, the whole ‘posse’ of friends is also cool. We loved the writing style. YA novels tend to have youth-speak, created new words, lots of pop culture references, and in this case a huge amount of extra bits of interestingness thrown in because of Sid’s propensity for digressions which make them highly readable and entertaining. We loved Imani’s sentiment of returning respect to the unknown people they’ve literally stumbled upon (that’s the idealism we spoke about earlier).

This is a fast moving, very entertaining YA read.  


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