Cover Image: Something Wild & Wonderful

Something Wild & Wonderful

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Imgur links to Instagram image scheduled to go live March 30th
Blog Post scheduled to go live April 2nd

    Something Wild and Wonderful by Anita Kelly might be in the running for my favorite romance of 2023, and it’s only March. This is the story of Alexei and Ben, both of whom are hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). They meet early on their solo adventures when Alexei stops Ben from accidentally stepping on a rattlesnake. From there they cross paths repeatedly till they begin to hike together - and they begin a relationship along the way. 
     For a short book I would call this a slow burn, and wow was it worth it and beautiful to watch. Alexei, who I felt was the most developed of the two main characters, reads very neuroatypical. He’s also struggling with the loss of his family. After coming out as gay his very conservative Russian parents cut him off. He meets Ben, who is a happy and lovingly wonderful person. Ben is attempting to put his life back together after a string of heartbreaks that lead to an abusive relationship and the fall out from that. 
     The little things are what truly made this for me. Alexei’s love of ornithology, and the inclusion of a Tamora Pierce book. Ben’s soft and constant humming and singing, all of it made the characters feel rich and real to me likely because those are all habits and loves of my own. The third act breakup as well was something that felt believable and warranted. Real life can get in the way of a dream romance, and this showed that well. 
     And have no fear! The story, while it takes place on a long hike up country does not feel so much like a hiking story. The setting is perfect, and we do get descriptions - when appropriate, of the hike but it is only the vehicle in which our characters are traveling. We are not swamped with details or focused on the trail. 
     Overall this is a powerful new romance. There are heavier moments and topics, and I’ll list those below, but for the most part it’s inspiring and uplifting. I’d recommend this to any fan of romance. Anita Kelly is quickly climbing my list of favorite authors - I expect more fantastic work from them!
Was this review helpful?
This book was so sweet. I think the author managed to capture the exploratory first steps of being a baby gay in such a tender and endearing way. The two characters showed so much care for each other, and I loved witnessing how their own personal journeys intertwined. 

The one thing that bothered me though was how often they would say each other's names in conversation. At one point, it was quite literally in every sentence. People do not talk like that!!! But otherwise, this was a very solid novel.
Was this review helpful?
I loved love and other disasters so I was so excited to read this book. I really loved the cameos of London and Dahlia!

Overall this book was cute but I felt like I didn’t really get hooked until almost the 70% point. It took me to so long to read because I found myself just getting distracted from it constantly. Unlike L&OD, it just didn’t have as strong of a hook to me. 

That being said, I did enjoy it! It just wasn’t my fave book.
Was this review helpful?
In this stunning queer romance, Alexei and Ben meet on the Pacific Crest Trail and slowly build a friendship mile after mile while taking in the beautiful scenery, the wild nature, and other hikers. While some books can feel heavy on description, this novel provides just enough to set the scene and the cutest interludes of animal life to bring a smile to your face.

When I say I walked into this book expecting another cute, smile-inducing queer romance from Anita Kelly, I mean I did not expect to be crying my eyes out at midnight on a Monday reading a portion of this book.  For those who have read it, I’m sure you know which part I’m referring to.  To be honest, I felt like I went through several months of therapy with Alexei in his letter writing and journaling, and I feel so close to this character that I wanted to hug him through the pages over and over again.  Alexei’s story felt so real and personal to me that I know I’ll never forget him. 

I thought Love & Other Disasters would always be my favorite book by Anita Kelly because it was my first queer romance, and it stole my heart.  But somehow, a year later, this author has exceeded all my expectations of the queer romance genre and helped stitch back tiny pieces of my heart and soul.  

Thank you so much to Forever Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an E-ARC for review.
Was this review helpful?

PLOT - Alexei Lebedev is all set to conquer the Pacific Coast Trail solo but it begins with an encounter with a snake and a hot stranger- Ben Caravalho.
They somehow end up trekking this most difficult trail together and it's like they are instantly attracted to each other on their biggest adventure of life.
But halfway through their plans are turned upside down but can Ben and Lex understand and fight to hold on to something wonderful.?

Oh my !! This book was everything !! It made me smile, laugh, cry in short gave me all the feels 
Its a queer romance but it has some underlying serious issues which are addressed and so well incorporated in the story ( grief, alienation, homophobia) 
The setting of this book was so wonderful..i didn't know about PCT..till now and am intrigued to know more.
Check this book for.
Grumpy vs sunshine
Friends to lovers MM romance
Forced proximity
Unique setting of an adventurous trek
Self discovery.
I will read anything by Anita!!
Trust me just fo blindly for this book.
Was this review helpful?
There will never be anything that ever motivates me enough to undertake a journey like Alexei and Ben do in this book (wayyyyy too much walking) but somehow the physical journey aspect matched their emotional journey and it was absolutely beautiful. Was my first of Anita Kelly's books and I will definitely have to take the time to go back and read Love and Other Disasters as this one was just incredible, leaving my heart just feeling so incredibly full. I can't wait to Staff Pick this one at work!
Was this review helpful?
Anita Kelly was one of my favorite new authors I discovered in 2022, so their new 2023 release was instantly added to my TBR. Something Wild & Wonderful is about two men at crossroads in their lives who individually decide to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (which I mainly knew due to Cheryl Strayed's Wild) but meet up and begin to hike together while mutually developing romantic feelings. Like other Anita Kelly books I've read, Something Wild is at its core big-hearted and centered around people trying to work through their emotions and find their paths in life. The trail setting added a unique component to the romance, presenting obstacles that the main characters had to work through together while simultaneously building up their relationship from friendship to something more. I didn't love this one quite as much as Love & Other Disasters (which was one of my favorite books of 2022) but I found it a sweet and well-written romance that I'd absolutely recommend. I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
~Thanks to Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Something Wild & Wonderful in exchange for an honest review. ~

GUYS, this was so damn cute! Both of these love interests are absolutely adorable!

We’ve got Alexei (or Lex, as only Ben calls him(be still my heart)) who’s dealing with the trauma of being disowned due to coming out as gay and has been struggling with his sexuality. He’s still trying to be comfortable as himself and is attempting to figure out on this hiking trip who the new Alexei will be. He’s full of fun nature facts and is tooth-achingly sweet. On the opposite side, we have Ben, who’s finally figured out a career path for himself but is worried that he’ll self-sabotage. He’s laid back and funny wears his heart on his sleeve, and charms every person they meet. While Ben is trying to keep from opening his heart to Alexei, Alexei is trying to do the same, because he doesn’t realize that Ben is also gay.

I love that this balances between a slow romance and two coming-of-age stories. Both characters are fleshed out and have solid personalities, their perspectives aren’t too similar to get confused, and their dynamic is adorable. They’re both just so sweet and have found solace in each other, first as friends and now as something more. Once they're officially a couple, I’ve just been squealing over the cute moments and sweet lines they say to each other. I’m so completely wrapped up in their romance, it’s ridiculous. The spice is also fantastic, 4 chilis worth.

Though, of course, there’s the looming concern about what will happen when they reach the end of the trail since Ben is from Nashville and Alexei is from Seattle. However, this did take me by surprise when there was a change in plans halfway through, which I appreciated, so it wasn’t too predictable. Although I was a bit frustrated with the third-act conflict that occurred due to a lack of communication, I also think it made sense for the characters and what we’ve seen of their personalities. Each of their actions did make sense for what had been created. It then led to some tear-worthy letters that made me pause and take a breath more than once. We really get to see more of Alexei’s struggles with his identity and his faith and his loss of his family because of those two things. There was one line that really made me stop because I nearly lost it crying.

The reunion was so damn sweet in different ways. The emotional healing both characters had done in their time apart made me have even more faith in their relationship. I had also been curious if Alexei was coded as autistic and his diagnosis allowing him to further understand his own identity made me love him all the more. I’m going to have to get my hands on a copy of this book so I can go back through and annotate all these heartwarming and adorable moments!

The atmosphere is also fantastic, really taking you on the trail with these two and describing the scenery spectacularly.
Was this review helpful?
So incredibly tender, textured, and healing. I loved following Lex and Ben's adventures and the ways their paths crossed, diverted, and crossed again. It's about the paths and people you choose.
Was this review helpful?
Ooof. This one hurt, but it was so, so soft and beautiful. Alexei has recently come out to his very religious parents and is figuring out a new normal after they disown him. Hiking the PCT all the way to Canada is how he plans to work through his grief and figure out who Alexei 2.0 will be. Ben just passed his nursing exam and wants to hike the trail before settling down into a new job. The two unexpectedly cross paths twice before deciding to walk together for a while. What follows is an unforgettable story of love, friendship, redemption, and found family. 

If you loved Wild but wished it were gay and steamy, this one is for you. It's strangers to friends to lovers who share tents and listen to birds together and read to each other. The letters near the end of the book that Alexei writes to his family and to Ben are some of my favorite parts of the whole book. Anita Kelly is a treasure and I will read whatever they write.
Was this review helpful?
3.5/5 stars. There was a lot I liked about this book, but overall I think it was trying to do too much and there wasn’t enough space to fully explore what mattered most in the story. 

I loved the Pacific Crest Trail setting, but it didn’t feel convincing to me. There was very little focus on the isolation, physical and mental challenge, and self-reliance that non-fiction books about through-hiking always emphasize, and most of the hiking scenes felt like they could have been about day hikes or overnight camping. The characters spent just as much time in civilization and with other people as they did on the trail, and the life-changing nature of the experience was told to us rather than shown. 

Alexei and Ben have complicated reasons they’re on the trail and serious issues they’re trying to work out in their personal lives. Unfortunately, the book spends much more time setting these up than it does exploring or resolving them. All of the characters’ major issues and feelings are worked out off-page and told to the readers through letters that only show the resolutions the characters came to, but not how they arrived at them. Because this is a romance, none of those resolutions were surprising; what mattered was the characters’ perspectives on what was happening, but the reader is denied even a glimpse of that. My connection to the characters was severed by this writing decision and the ending didn’t feel satisfying as a result.

Similarly, there were several times when the book brought up and resolved complex issues in just a few sentences, and it felt like a box-checking exercise that didn’t add anything to the story. Mentioning that a Black character talked to the MCs about racism on the trail without any concrete details, or having Alexei’s autism diagnosis mentioned in two sentences in the epilogue, does not do justice to these issues and feels dismissive. 

As for the portrayal of Alexei’s autism, I thought Kelly did a good job treating Alexei as a person instead of a collection of stereotypes. However, as with many books about autistic characters, I felt at times that the focus was more on how Alexei’s traits were externally perceived rather than on his internal experience. For example, Ben seems to have a lot more thoughts and feelings about the times when Alexei doesn’t participate in group conversations than Alexei does; Alexei’s perspective never really explores anything beyond “we didn’t have anything in common so I didn’t say anything.” This isn’t to say that Alexei was poorly written; I just know from Kelly’s other book that she’s capable of nuanced, piercing character explorations and would have liked to see her delve more deeply into Alexei’s thoughts.

I also struggle with how Alexei really didn’t have any autistic traits other than social communication differences. Writing about disability is complicated because not every story with a disabled character is about the experience of being disabled, and disability representation certainly doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) only show disabled characters struggling. So I don’t think writers need to fully explore every aspect of disability in every story, but at the same time, it’s frustrating to read yet another autistic character who isn’t shown to have any traits in any of the categories that make up the autism spectrum except social communication differences. It just doesn’t feel authentic, and reinforces the stereotypical view of “high-functioning” autistic people as socially awkward but otherwise no different from anyone else. That other potential traits were referenced only in an offhand way, like having Alexei’s only sensory processing issue being irritation at the feel of a motel comforter, isn’t enough, and shows a lack of understanding of how these traits actually manifest. 

I think the autism portrayal here is more positive than negative, and I think some autistic readers will feel represented by it, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for from this author.

After Love and Other Disasters, I had very high expectations for this book, so maybe I’ve unfairly judged this book as a result. I just think Kelly is capable of showing how people work through thorny issues and would have liked to see more of that here.
Was this review helpful?
The final 15% of this book took it from okay to great for me - I loved the letters so, so much and cried while reading a number of them!

I really loved how soft and tender this love story was. There wasn’t a lot of tension between Alexei and Ben, just a steady thrum of attraction and comfort, and while I loved the ease of it, I do wish a little more push and pull would have been added to their story.

I felt like the PCT aspect was done exceptionally well and I loved the journey that both men went on, both emotionally and physically. Alexei’s in particular was incredibly heart wrenching, but so fulfilling by the end. I didn’t love how the author pushed the characters apart at the end, but if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have gotten the letters, soooooo…. 

All in all, this was a really beautiful strangers-to-lovers story with a unique, moving setting and a cast of loveable, easy to root for characters!
Was this review helpful?
I knew I was going to love this book from the first chapter. Ben and Alexei's story was like a warm cup of cocoa. It made me feel so happy. And as someone who is absolutely an inside cat, I loved getting to live vicariously through them as they hiked the PCT. I feel like the conflicts in the book felt realistic, especially Alexei going no contact with his parents. This is something a lot of queer people have to go through, and seeing Alexei's journey of healing and finding himself was so wonderful.

Ben's family is what I wish all families could be. But I'm also glad to see that Ben's life wasn't totally perfect. He had his own stuff to figure out, and while Alexei helped him realize that, he didn't need to put that pressure on Alexei to fix everything.

I really hope Anita Kelly keeps writing books in this universe because they just make me so happy. Seeing queer joy is so important, and we need more books like this.
Was this review helpful?
“They called it a trail magic, the things that appeared on the trail when you needed them most.”

It has:
Character growth and development 
Family estrangement 
Queer identity 
Romance 💗
(Check TW)


Not normally a nature girlie - I skimmed through the nature descriptions at first (hi. I’m the problem it’s me). This was a lot more setting focused than the one other hiking book I read (All Rhodes Lead Here). By chapter 4, I was fully immersed and appreciated what nature-y adventure they were about to get into next. 

✨ “Moving forward was different from running away.”

As I continued to read, I expected an outdoorsy book with a dose of romance but what I got was a heartwarming story of discovering oneself, the search for true family and dealing with the aftermath of being shut out from people you thought loved you. It was also a story of faith and what exactly that means. 

It was also a swoony, steamy story between two different people who came into each others’ lives in the most unexpected time. Alexei + Ben’s journey was equal parts endearing, gut-wrenching & explosive in the best possible way. 💗

✨ “Mainly, I am sorry for getting so attached to you when I knew the whole time that I was broken.”

I thrive on happily ever afters; it’s the reason I read romance/romcoms. This story has one but it also doesn’t. And I appreciated that Anita Kelly wrapped it up this way. Their writing is so immersive, like one of those books you can pick up anywhere and not feel like you put it down at all. 

Some of my favorite quotes:
🌲 “I don’t know where I belong, and everything hurts.”

🌲 “Rattlesnakes, at least gave you a warning. Mostly, like anything else, they just want to exist. Mostly, they just wanted you to listen.”

🌲 “And your interpretation of God is a tragedy.”

🌲”I came to the PCT to find this new version of myself. But sometimes, since coming back here, I only feel more lost.”

Thank you to Forever Publishing for this arc; all opinions are my own.”
Was this review helpful?
Anita Kelly is quickly becoming one of my favorite romance writers. What a fun concept, strangers meeting while walking a months long hike. Both characters were great but Alexei has my entire heart.

Thanks to netgalley for arc.
Was this review helpful?
I don't think that I'm properly capable of articulating how much I loved this book. It was deeply emotional, yet funny at the same time. Anita Kelly is truly a fabulous author. Their character writing was stellar; I loved both Alexei and Ben so much, and their relationship was adorable right off the bat. The pacing of the story was perfect, and the writing was incredible; this is truly a new favourite.
Was this review helpful?
There was really something special about this book which follows Ben and Alexei on their hiking journey but also a journey to healing and self-discovery. I fell in love with the characters and how they encouraged growth and supported each other. Alexei was an absolute gem, dealing with his coming out, his distance from his family and how to move forward in his life as a gay man. Ben and his family were the beautiful counter to that with their warmth and acceptance.  

What threw me off a little was the pacing of this book- it is not your typical pacing for a romance story, but then again this is not your typical romance so I can understand that. There was also a lot of hiking and talk about hiking, for those who are less-hiking inclined. Overall though, the feeling that I took away when finishing this book was a butterscotch warmth in the middle of my chest and the beautiful way that this author maneuvered a very difficult- and real- subject and for that reason I would recommend.
Was this review helpful?
This book is a perfect example of how I like romance books. It is soft and swoony and so sweet but not saccharine. There's real baggage for each of the characters and struggles that they have to get through in order to be together. The writing is very atmospheric and as someone who would stay indoors all day if possible, the descriptors of the PCT were at the same time terrifying and beautiful. I could never but it made for a great setting. 

I listened to this whole book trying to pinpoint exactly what it was about Alexei that I just resonated with and then we find out that he's autistic and yeah that tracks 😂 

My favorite part of this whole book though was the last third and the letters. If you know you know. This felt so, I don't even know what the right descriptor is, but the entire premise of it plus the execution of the letters was just absolutely top tier. I loved it so much.
Was this review helpful?
With the release of Something Wild & Wonderful, Anita Kelly has truly cemented themself as an auto-buy author.
Was this review helpful?
It's only March but this is hands down my favorite read of 2023 so far. I could not put it down. Anita Kelly' writing is so cozy and sucks you right into the lives of the main characters. The plot was fantastic and the love story was incredibly heartwarming. Anita Kelly is an auto-buy author for me now!
Was this review helpful?