Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia – An Insightful Depiction of Online Community, Privacy, and Mental Health

Text: Eliza and her monsters, Francesca Zappia. Image: A sketch of a girl and a boy, facing each other, reading a book.

Blurb:

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

Joce’s review:

Eliza Mirk is a high school student who lives in Indiana and anonymously writes and illustrates the famous webcomic Monstrous Sea, read by millions, as her online persona LadyConstellation. She feels out of place at her school and experiences anxiety, including social anxiety. She develops a close relationship to Wallace, who experiences selective mutism, and he seems to understand what it’s like feeling truly at home online and less so face to face. However, their friendship is somewhat one-sided because Eliza knows that he is the most famous Monstrous Sea fanfiction writer, but he does not know that Eliza is actually LadyConstellation. They communicate mostly online, and a budding relationship, whether it be friendship or romantic, that transpires mostly through written word, is my favorite.

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Lock Every Door by Riley Sager – It Was Great! … Until It Wasn’t.

Text: Lock Every Door. A Novel. Riley Sager. Image: A silhouette of a woman entering a door.

Blurb:

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story… until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Joce’s review:

Riley Sager’s thrillers, with their vibrant covers and original premises, have been on everyone’s radar ever since the publication of FINAL GIRLS a couple years ago. I had mixed opinions about his previous two books – I enjoyed FINAL GIRLS but found THE LAST TIME I LIED to be tedious and lacking tension. Even so, I was intrigued by the modern haunted house style basis of LOCK EVERY DOOR. As I have been reading a lot of contemporary fiction lately, I was in the mood for a thriller, and buddy read this with Heather from her Booktube channel Bookables

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – An Unconventional Lesson in Flirty Note Writing

Text: The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Blurb:

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.

Joce’s review:

I was first introduced to THE FLATSHARE when I saw someone ask on Twitter for the title of a novel they’d heard of in which two roommates who share a house at opposite times write notes to each other without seeing each other for a long time and eventually fall in love. That truly sounded like the most ingenious idea for a book so off I went to look for it! Tiffy, who is an assistant editor at a publisher of DIY crafting books, answers an ad that Leon, a night nurse at a hospice, puts in the newspaper, asking for a roommate who would occupy his apartment at night when he works his shifts. 

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Moonstruck, Volume 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle – Cute But Somewhat Confusing

Text: Moonstruck by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle. Image: A brown girl with dark brown natural hair and a light brown skin with blonde hair, sitting across from each other.

Blurb:

In the little college town of Blitheton, fantasy creatures live cozy, normal lives right alongside humans, and werewolf barista Julie strives to be the most normal of all. But all heck breaks loose when she and her new girlfriend Selena go on a disastrous first date that ends with a magician casting a horrible spell on their friend Chet. Now it’s up to the team of mythical pals to stop the illicit illusionist before it’s too late!

Joce’s review:

The first volume of MOONSTRUCK is divided into five different issues, focusing on the main character, Julie, who is a werewolf and plus-sized Latinx woman. She is in a relationship with Selena, who is a werewolf and Black woman. Julie is a barista at the Black Cat Cafe in a small college town where she works with her best friend Chet. Chet’s gender identity is never explicitly stated, but they use they/them pronouns, and at one point, a male character and Chet show romantic interest in one another. Throughout the story, we meet different creatures, animals, and spirits who live in Blitheton, including Dorian the magician, whose magic show Julie and Selena go to for their first date and who casts a spell on Chet.

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Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – The 2020 Presidency We All Need

Text: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Image: on the left, a man with light-brown skin with brown hair, wearing a white shirt and blue slacks crossing his arms and leaning to his right; on the right, a white man with light brown hair, wearing a red and royal military uniform, and black slacks, crossing his arms and leaning to the left.
Blurb:

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.

Joce’s Review:

RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE takes place in a United States, where, following Obama’s presidency, Ellen Claremont, a Democrat and a woman, has been elected to be president and is running for a second term in 2020. The First Son of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz, is forced to spend time with Prince Henry of England for reparations’ sake after a very public disaster of epic proportions worth $75,000 in cake and frosting, and a romance blossoms.

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