Book Talk: Mechanical Hearts by J.C. Lillis

Book Talk: Mechanical Hearts by J.C. LillisHow to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis
Series: Mechanical Hearts #1
Published by Author on September 21, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 255
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book Depository

Eighteen-year-old Castaway Planet fans Brandon and Abel hate bad fan fiction—especially when it pairs their number-one TV crushes of all time, dashing space captain Cadmus and dapper android Sim. As co-runners of the Internet’s third most popular Castaway Planet vlog, they love to spar with the “Cadsim” fangirls who think Cadmus will melt Sim’s mechanical heart by the Season 5 finale. This summer, Brandon and Abel have a mission: hit the road in an RV to follow the traveling Castaway Planet convention, interview the actors and showrunner, and uncover proof that a legit Cadsim romance will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN.

A Brandon and Abel romance: also not happening. Brandon’s sick of his struggle to make “gay and Catholic” compute, so it’s safer to love a TV android. Plus Abel’s got a hot new boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and how can Brandon compete with that? But when mysterious messages about them start popping up in the fan community, they make a shocking discovery that slowly forces their real feelings to the surface. Before they get to the last Castaway Planet convention, Brandon’s going to find out the truth: can a mechanical heart be reprogrammed, or will his first shot at love be a full system failure?

Sometimes I feel like the worst friend ever. Okay, hyperbole. More accurately, I feel like a super-annoying friend. Why would such a beautiful, hilarious, and insightful person like me ever feel that way? Social anxiety! I’m always asking people for book recommendations, but then I’m pretty bad about actually reading those recommendations. Like, Dahlia recommended How to Repair a Mechanical Heart to me years ago. And that one’s not hyperbole. I know Angie and Katie also told me to get on that. But I’m a human who hates to make choices and likes to live on a schedule apparently, even though my little kid self would be shocked to hear that. The point of all that is (if it can be counted as a point) that I am actually listening to friends when they recommend things.

As per usual, people were right about recommending this to me. People meaning Dahlia. She knows what I like. Admittedly, it did take me a little while to get into this one, but by the time shippy trope heaven (aka shipception) happened, I was totally on board and ready to trim the sails (which I thought sounded kind of cute and shippy but actually sounds more like it’s about pubic hair grooming in this context but oh well).

Brandon and Abel run a vlog together about their favorite show Castaway Planet. The two of them make a charming duo, fitting a classic comedy duo with Brandon being the straight man (the irony!). Abel and Brandon are pretty much opposites, sharing only their love of Castaway Planet, their hatred of the Cadsim ship (and its shippers), and the fact that they like boys. Abel’s out, proud, vibrant, and experienced. Brandon’s out, too, but his orthodox Christian upbringing has him feeling conflicted, even though he really doesn’t want to be. He dresses and acts in ways that will help avoid attention.

It’s basically impossible for your heart not to go out to Brandon. The poor kid’s parents and minister are just hoping one day he’ll magically not be gay anymore, and they’ve made him read this terrible book about celibacy and god that he can’t help quoting to himself anytime he’s about to have any fun. The end result of this, obviously, is a lot of self-loathing and insecurity.

In How to Repair a Mechanical Heart, Brandon and Abel (and Brandon’s bestie Bec) go on a road trip to all of the Castaway Planet cons. Brandon lied and told his parents that he was just going Bec, because for some reason they don’t like him being friends with Abel but are totally okay with him sharing an RV with Bec and want them to eat a nice dinner out. Hmmm.

Brandon has a bit of a thing for Abel, which he is deeply in denial about. This comes to the surface when they discover that some of the people in their community are shipping them and trying to get them together. Brandon feels freed by his fictional self’s ability to overcome his upbringing and seize romance. They begin to act out a romance for the fans. Or are they just acting? You can probably guess, but omg the shipcetion is excellent. I also think that it’s handled really well, how much this frees Brandon but that it’s a temporary fix and not the real solution. He was basically cosplaying himself, not actually wrestling with his issues and overcoming them.

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart is a cute and nerdy story on the YA/NA border and sure to appeal to fans of Queens of Geek.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


Book Talk: Mechanical Hearts by J.C. LillisA&B by J.C. Lillis
Series: Mechanical Hearts #2
Published by Author on November 29, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 326
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased

Eighteen-year-old Barrie Krumholtz is a super-tall optimist hell-bent on a single goal: securing a slot on Pop University, a reality show for singer-songwriters helmed by her #1 musical idol. When she humiliates herself on national TV and loses a spot in the finals to smug balladeer Ava Alvarez, the door to Barrie’s well-hidden dark side swings open. Never a quitter, she uses her bitter envy of Ava to shape a bold new artistic direction, and people love it. But when Ava ropes her into a secret collaboration, it sparks feelings neither girl expected—feelings that might threaten their creative identities and distract them from their professional goals.

Can love and ambition live side by side? Is happiness an art-killer? They’ll figure it out with the help of a blue guitar named Fernando, a keyboard named Rosalinda, and a few new friends who feel like home.

So I really liked How to Repair a Mechanical Heart, but I loved A&B. For ages I’ve been looking for more f/f romance to love, and I’ve finally found another one. So much f/f can be really angsty and instalovey, but this one is hate to love snarkbanter cuteness and I am so about it. Also, it’s about a reality show and Brandon and Abel are here and I just.

Initially, reading the description, I was not sure about this, because I wanted to know where the hell Brandon and Abel were. The answer to that comes pretty quickly, but thankfully I was already invested in Barrie’s voice and story before I found out that I wouldn’t initially be happy about the state of Brandon and Abel’s relationship. Don’t worry, though, it turns out super cute, but I am not the reader to ever be thrilled about my ship having problems. I want fan fic basically okay so sue me.

Barrie immediately won me over. Unlike Brandon, her voice is immediately engaging and sparkly and powerful. No offense to Brandon, but they’re just very different people, and he’s closed off where Barrie’s a live wire of hope and dreams and friendliness.

A&B opens with Barrie auditioning for a reality show for singer-songwriters run by her idol, pop star Tera, only to crushingly not make the show, beat out by Ava Alvarez, a hipster who wins for her voice not her composition skills. Raised by an angry, bitter mother who lives for schadenfreude and judgment, Barrie was inspired by Tera’s music to be positive and to fight for her dreams, despite the constant drumbeat of her mom’s negativity and disbelief. After losing out on her last chance at the show, though, Barrie indulges in a bit of jealous rage through song, which happens to get caught on film and released to the internet…where it goes viral. Whoops.

Not wanting to go home just yet, Barrie had wandered into a rundown bar that happens to be run by none other than Abel (and, yes, it’s Castaway-Planet-themed. He convinces her that she can make something of this upset, and together they dream up the Sour Grapes cabaret, where Barrie sings of jealousy and hurt feelings and all those not-so-nice emotions she’s been squashing for years. I absolutely love the Sour Grapes cabaret, and Lillis does such a great job showing how getting those emotions out can be healthy but living there is absolutely not.

To fuel the fire of her envy, Barrie talks to Ava, who smuggled a phone into the show. In exchange for details of everything Ava’s getting and not appreciating, Barrie helps her come up with catchy choruses so that Ava can do well. This works perfectly for both of them, until the hate begins to turn into flirting and Barrie finds it hard to be so mad anymore.

The concept is shippy perfection, and it’s done so well. I love the reality show setting, especially since Tera clearly takes inspiration from Tyra Banks and I am OBsessed with ANTM. Barrie and Eva have fantastic chemistry. And the subplot about Brandon and Abel totally works too, adding icing to the cake.

This series is one of those rare finds that manages to be super duper cute but also about real things at the same time. If you’ve been looking for cute f/f ships, don’t say I didn’t point you in this direction.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


One response to “Book Talk: Mechanical Hearts by J.C. Lillis”

  1. Dahlia Adler says:

    😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

    I really wish smugness came through more clearly in emoticons.
    Dahlia Adler recently posted…Announcing His Hideous Heart!My Profile

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