4 star, YA

ARC Review: Accomplished: A Georgie Darcy Novel by Amanda Quain

Georgiana Darcy gets the Pride & Prejudice retelling she deserves in Accomplished, a sparkling contemporary YA featuring a healthy dose of marching band romance, endless banter, and Charles Bingley as a ripped frat boy.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

– Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
– Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
– Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.



***Accomplished: A Georgie Darcy Novel comes out July 26, 2022**

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

CW: bullying, emotional manipulation/toxic relationship

Are you a fan of Pride & Prejudice? Have you read all the retellings that you can possibly get your hands on? Well, this may not be focused on Lizzie Bennet but you can bet Accomplished still has plenty of heart, romance, and family issues to deal with.

Georgie Darcy is the younger sister of Fitz Darcy, the sole Darcys left in their family now that their father has passed and their mother ditched them (whoops, motherly instincts were never her strong suit). But that’s okay because Fitz is all the family Georgie needed, or so she thought before everything came crashing down.

This retelling focused on the younger Darcy sibling surprised me in more ways than I anticipated. I barely remember her in the original story so I suppose that helped with minimal expectations. Georgie was by far a perfect protagonist. At the start of the book, we already knew she had a very tumultuous previous year with Wickham, an unfortunate family friend who took advantage of her while Fitz was away at college. Yet she was also someone I highly empathized with. Bullied and isolated by her classmates for things that she didn’t necessarily do or deserve (why do teenagers insist on liking the drug dealer over the patsy he controlled?), Georgie displayed more strength than even I would have as she devised a plan to gain the respect of her peers and her brother once again. Honestly, if I were in her shoes, I’d probably want to hold up in my room and just cry.

I liked how her character grew through the ordeal. She struggled and tried in the only way she knew how to – by sometimes throwing around her Darcy money to help make grand gestures to show she cared about those around her. Yes, perhaps she may have needed to learn to read the room, but it all came from a place of genuine want to fit in and to do good for the people around her. I was also happy to see a little conversation with Fitz at one point discussing their privilege. While being rich (or SUPER rich in their case) did NOT negate the bad things that happened to them as they’re still very valid hardships they suffered, it did provide a large cushion that did in a number of ways make things easier for them than a lot of others in the same situation.

Of course, the romance was a large feature in the book and I’m not just talking about Fitz and a certain Lizzie Bennet who aggravated him unlike anyone else did (aside from Georgie). I’ll get back to them. No, I’m talking about Georgie’s band classmate, Avery. When no one else gave her the time of day or even a nod of acknowledgment in the hallways (like, come on, how hard is it to even just acknowledge someone’s presence?), Avery did.

After everything with Wickham which could only be described as emotional manipulation where Georgie struggled to feel like she could be on her own without him, Avery was a breath of fresh air and exactly what she needed after she healed. I don’t want to spend too much time talking about Wickham because it was a little sickening the way he practically groomed her and isolated her from everything except to say it’s a large part of her story. It’s not heavily focused what he did exactly but the aftermath is definitely present. Thankfully, Avery is the complete opposite and their friendship-turned-romance was everything I was here for. He grounded her but also liked who she was. She wasn’t just her name, her money or the legacy being a Darcy brought, which frankly mostly associated with negative things.

For P&P fans, no worries, we do get to see Lizzie and Fitz in more than a cameo appearance. I liked the reimagination of these two iconic characters in a modern setting, not to mention Charlie Bingley as a frat boy. It felt realistic to the core characters Austen brought to life while fitting seamlessly into Georgie’s story here. One reprieve from the more emotional aspects of Georgie’s life is her scheme to matchmake them to get Fitz off of her back and simultaneously do one good thing for him to make him happy after all the stress she gave him. Her plans and set ups were surely fanfic level ideas, something Georgie is also super into, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing whether they would actually bring these two stubborn people together successfully.

Whether you’re a fan of Pride & Prejudice or not, Georgie Darcy’s story stands out on its own. With such an empathetic character even with her flaws and her failures, maybe because of them, she shines bright as we follow her attempts to accomplish all that a Darcy should be and find herself in the process. Is she only a Darcy or can she be more as simply Georgie? This isn’t a story that sees happily ever after dependent on some boy righting her world but rather about a young woman learning she can be happy for herself with the help of those she loves. If that’s something you’d cheer for, then this is the book for you, my friend.

Overall Recommendation:

Accomplished delivers an emotional coming-of-age story about Georgie Darcy, the younger Darcy sibling, while featuring familiar names from Pride & Prejudice. After disappointing her brother, all her peers and herself when she got entangled with the toxic Wickham, Georgie tackles a grand plan to win back everyone’s respect and approval by being the best Darcy she could be with the help of her only friend, Avery. Their friendship and romance was a highlight, but what really tugged my heartstrings is Georgie herself as she navigated her struggles and failures. I laughed and cried with her as she learned more of who she wanted to be, not only who everyone expected her to be. This is a retelling you don’t want to miss.

4 star, YA

ARC Review: Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

THE SUBURBS, RIGHT NOW . . .

Seventeen-year-old Ivy’s summer break kicks off with an accident, a punishment, and a mystery: a stranger whose appearance in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, heralds a string of increasingly unsettling events. As the days pass, Ivy grapples with eerie offerings, corroded memories, and a secret she’s always known—that there’s more to her mother than meets the eye.

THE CITY, BACK THEN . . .

Dana has always been perceptive. And the summer she turns sixteen, with the help of her best friend and an ambitious older girl, her gifts bloom into a heady fling with the supernatural, set in a city of magical possibilities and secret mystics. As the trio’s aspirations darken, they find themselves speeding toward a violent breaking point.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana’s shared story will come down to a reckoning among a daughter, a mother, and the dark forces they never should’ve messed with.



**Our Crooked Hearts comes out June 28, 2022**

Thank you Flatiron Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Chilling, gripping and full of familial drama, Our Crooked Hearts blew through all my expectations and I couldn’t put it down.

At the heart of this story is the bond between Ivy and her mother. Which isn’t a very good one as Ivy knows Dana is keeping something big from her (and the rest of the family). Although the synopsis suggests it’s evenly split between Ivy and the flashbacks to Dana’s childhood, it doesn’t really start off that way.

We get a lot of chapters about Ivy’s current life in the suburbs. All is well…that is, until she encounters a strange woman in the middle of the road late at night who may have more than a passing curiosity about Ivy. The story dives into this really quick, which I thoroughly appreciate, and sets the tone for the following strange events to come.

Once Dana’s flashbacks start coming, it provides great context to us, the omniscient reader, about what she’s hiding from the family – and perhaps how this stranger in the present day is related to what once happened. I’m normally not the biggest fan of two alternative POVs in different timelines as one is normally stronger than the other and I would much prefer to stick with the one I like. However, I found myself not begrudgingly reading Dana’s POV but also coming to like those chapters too. They filled in gaps we’re still piecing together, but the anticipation for figuring out how everything related was oddly satisfying.

I had the privilege of hearing Melissa speak about the writing process for this book and I fully understand how the story needed to be told from both Ivy and Dana’s POVs. It might’ve started off as Ivy’s story, but humanizing Dana instead of making her the enemy in Ivy’s eyes shows the complexity of humans, not just the black and white we sometimes get depending on whose perspective you’re told.

This book is also full of magic. It’s not very specific to any witchcraft practiced in modern society but a little bit of everything. Melissa did her research and it showed. The end result was an eerie tale that highlighted the price one pays when they meddle with forces they do not understand.

The pacing was excellent and the time really flies by as you switch from Ivy to Dana and back again. The underlying mystery, the strange events occurring present day and the secrets unfolding were the perfect balance to drive momentum to the climax. The one thing I will add is that I had hoped for more resolution in Ivy and Dana’s relationship. While we get a lot of information about them separately in their individual POVs, there’s not a lot of interaction between them and I feel that could’ve been explored a little more.

If you’ve read any book by Melissa Albert before, you already should know she’s a masterful storyteller, but if you’re new, then you’re in for a treat. Our Crooked Hearts presents a perfect story in the dark with plenty of magic, mayhem and mystery. You should definitely grab this one when it comes out!

Overall Recommendation:

Our Crooked Hearts is a fast-paced tale with a supernatural mystery that may tie to a family’s past. Excellently told in two alternative timelines featuring mother and daughter, I found myself loving both POVs as they blend the perfect story together, each adding pivotal information as we race to solve the present day’s strange occurrences before something terrible happens. Melissa Albert’s latest novel is another showcase of her amazing storytelling. Trust me, it will grip you in its hold until the end.

4 star, YA

ARC Review: This Place is Still Beautiful by XiXi Tian

Two sisters. A shocking racist incident. The summer that will change both of their lives forever. 

Despite having had near-identical upbringings, sisters Annalie and Margaret agree on only one thing: that they have nothing in common. Nineteen-year-old Margaret is driven, ambitious, and keenly aware of social justice issues. She couldn’t wait to leave their oppressive small-town home and take flight in New York. Meanwhile sweet, popular, seventeen-year-old Annalie couldn’t think of anything worse – she loves their town, and feels safe coasting along in its confines.

That is, until she arrives home one day to find a gut-punching racial slur painted on their garage door.

Outraged, Margaret flies home, expecting to find her family up in arms. Instead, she’s amazed to hear they want to forget about it. Their mom is worried about what it might stir up, and Annalie just wants to have a ‘normal’ summer – which Margaret is determined to ruin, apparently.

Back under each other’s skins, things between Margaret and Annalie get steadily worse – and not even the distraction of first love (for Annalie), or lost love (for Margaret) can bring them together.

Until finally, a crushing secret threatens to tear them apart forever.



**This Place is Still Beautiful comes out June 7, 2022**

Thank you Edelweiss and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

There’s so much I can say about This Place is Still Beautiful but I’m not sure my rambling will do it justice. This is such a gorgeous story about sisterhood and dealing with racism in different ways as an Asian growing up in America.

Older sister Margaret and Annalie are half Chinese living in a town with very few visible minorities. Near the start of the story, we jump right into the heart of the plot: someone wrote a horrible racist slur on their home. That then brings the question that both sisters have to digest and wrestle with for the rest of the story – what would you do in the aftermath of such a brutal and directed attack from people who could be your neighbors, friends or coworkers?

The girls go about it in two different ways, which I very much appreciate the author taking the time to explore. Annalie wants to forget and move on from the whole incident, and I, as an Asian Canadian, feel that would be a big struggle for me too if this were to happen to me. Obviously one would want to seek justice and retribution for such a wrong done to them. But it’s another thing to be the face in the fight against racism.

And that’s exactly what Margaret does. She fights for what’s been done to their family, moving back home even though she had left town for college. While Annalie feels her sister is victimizing them, Margaret is taking control of a situation that wasn’t their choice to spread awareness and teach others this is NOT acceptable.

Reading this, it makes me reflect a lot too. Which sister would I be more like? I definitely liked Margaret’s side a lot more, especially when both Annalie and their mother wanted to pretend nothing happened and to not pursue more because no one would do anything about it. However, I understood why they would feel that way and it’s not such an easy answer if I were in their shoes.

While this aspect on racism I felt was fleshed out very well, there’s more to this story than just this. It’s really all about the sisterhood and family dynamic. Margaret and Annalie’s relationship is so fraught with tension and the inability to understand one another from their opposing viewpoints and personalities. To add to this dynamic is the typical Asian mother, but one who had to raise her daughters alone when her white husband walked out and left them all many years ago. The racism plot line surely takes up most of the story, but what connects it all is this deep exploration of family in an Asian household.

I also really loved the romance brewing in the background for Margaret and Annalie to kind of give some lighter reprieve around the heavier topics. Rajiv’s relationship with Margaret was my favourite. There was history there in this second chance love trope and I loved how it re-grew and matured in some way through the hardships she was facing.

I wasn’t sure going into this book how I’d feel reading about Asian hate and racism. It felt a little too close to home and personal, especially with the rise of anti-Asian views in the aftermath of the pandemic. But like XiXi mentioned in her author’s note, we may not intend to talk about it yet perhaps it’s exactly what we need to do instead of avoiding the very real problem at hand.

So that’s what I’m doing here. Please go read this book. It’s more than I anticipated and it’s worth reading regardless if you’re Asian or not.

Overall Recommendation:

This Place is Still Beautiful demonstrates how good storytelling can create such powerful messages that stays with readers. In the aftermath of an anti-Asian attack, sisters Annalie and Margaret explore what it means to be victims of racism as Asian women. I loved the honest struggle and reflection of what I’m sure Asians do feel and face unfortunately in today’s society at times. The interweaving of their specific family dynamic made the story all the more compelling as they individually and collectively grapple with the harm one action can leave behind. It’s a must read for sure.