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BEARD WITH ME by Penny Reid — double review!

No one is better at surviving than Scarlet St. Claire and making the best out of circumstances beyond her control is Scarlet’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, she’d be the last person on earth, hermitting like a pro, singing along to her CD Walkman, and dancing like no one is watching. 

Scarlet is clever, Scarlet is careful, and Scarlet is smart . . . except when it comes to Billy Winston.

No one is better at fighting than Billy Winston and raging against his circumstances—because nothing is beyond his control—is Billy’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, he’d be the first person on earth to lead others to safety, overcome catastrophe, or die trying. 

Billy is fearless, Billy is disciplined, and Billy is honorable . . . except when it comes to Scarlet St. Claire.


Title : Beard With Me
Author : Penny Reid
Series : The Winston Brothers (book 5.5/6)
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : September 16, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5 / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Here it is, the highly anticipated origin story about Billy and Claire (Scarlet), easily the angstiest ship in the Winston Brothers series. And wow, there’s a lot to unpack here.

I wished she’d stop making everything so hard. I wished she’d just let me take care of her. Tricking her into doing the right thing, the smart thing, made me feel like an asshole.

A lot of this story worked for me and also a lot of it didn’t. I was mostly just going through the motions (sad motions because there is some unfortunate content to work through but still, not hooked) until about 70%. At which point things take a turn and I was so so so so here for it. The last 30% isn’t all greatness, of course, and it certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As warned, as we all knew to expect, this isn’t a romance, there is no HEA. Not yet. But it was still probably my favourite part of the whole story.

Have you ever wanted something you know you can’t have?
All the time.”

I also have a sorta mild discomfort with some of said romance. At least at this stage. Well, not just the romance; this book — and series — is rife with uncomfortable things, dark things, violent things. For all the quirky, home cooked, sweetness and charm, of the south, which Reid definitely infuses these books with, there is a darkness to this series, too. But my issue with the romance is that, well. These kids are young. There’s nothing graphic, it stays pretty solidly PG-13, but there is a weirdness to reading about people being attracted to a fourteen year old. Even if the other protagonist is only sixteen. Reid addresses this, not only through Billy but another character, but still.

I would’ve called him a sonofabitch, but his mother was a nice lady.

It was strange, but also delightful, to see Cletus in his younger form.. and yet still very much the same Cletus. Most of my highlights were from him, naturally. Literal highlights I mean, on my kindle. Though I suppose the high points also included him. I’ll admit, though, that it was hard to remember that these characters were much younger than we’re used to them being. Both because of circumstance and attitude, I think. Either they weren’t written young enough or I’m just too used to their future selves. Not sure which. Maybe both. And maybe that’s where, as much as we all wanted this prequel, maybe it would’ve just been better in a smaller doses. Like flashbacks within a book. But either way, I’ll be glad to reunite with Adult Winstons and Adult Claire. Though I did love seeing Bethany, the Winston matriarch, again.

Cletus Byron Winston! Are you crazy? You asked your twelve-year-old brothers to get you a keg?
If by ‘crazy’ you mean genius, then yes I am.”

The end of this book is achingly tragic and sad as we expect, not just because of the Billy and Claire situation, but because of the Billy and everything situation. My heart breaks for him. There are so many characters to dislike, either because of their bad intentions or because of their good intentions that still make them unlikeable, but at the core I love the Winstons, always. The upside of reading this, too, is that I’m extra pumped for my full series reread now. All the little easter eggs, all the foreshadowing, I’ll be able to relive with new eyes, now that we have this story.

The last thing I ever want to be for you is a regret.”

I’m so looking forward to Billy’s happy ending and definitely Claire’s. These two deserve it. But I know it’s going to be hella rough along the way. And, complicating matters, knowing it’s going to be the end? I fully expect much tears to come in this final book.

** I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. ** 


Micky’s 4 star review

…and exhale. I feel like I’ve held my breath for the last 30 minutes reading this book. It’s been a journey, beautiful and tough in equal measure and I am left needing more from Billy and Scarlet, so much more. When will their next book be (rhetorical question).

The warning at the beginning of the book is right, there are triggers for days but call me up to the challenge and in I went. Clever Penny lulled me in with ease for a while until my adrenaline started pumping, my eyes filled and my heart hurt. This is an emotive story to the power of 10 and everything about Scarlet in particular, is tragedy with hope; it was that hope that kept me going in this book.

Amongst the tough and tragic is an engaging story of first love. What evolves between Billy and Scarlet is so tangible and everything lovely, that as a reader, I was on their side. Just as you get carried up in the lovely, it doesn’t matter because the story builds your trepidation, ready for the fall. Bonus time is that Cletus as a teen was pretty fun and this is a balm that will see you through the journey that this story takes you on.

BEARD WITH ME was discomfort sliced with beauty and it has left me discomforted now after reading. That said, I am glad I did and I feel that through all these Winston Brother stories I have read, I really was in the dark about the depth of what had gone on between these two. This is a story worth your time and unsettling.

Penny Reid wrote what is essentially a YA story but it felt more like contemporary romance because that is where I’m used to seeing this family. I am a mixed ball of feelings and I know I’m going to be thinking about this for a while when really I just want to move on. It’s hard not getting the ending you want, but I am ready to wait for it even so.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thanks to the author.

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NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!
As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


It released yesterday but shout-out to BEARD WITH ME, book six, in Penny Reid’s The Winston Brothers series. This is the prequel that all the Billy and Claire shippers have been waiting for. Reid has warned us this isn’t going to be pretty.. can’t wait. Look out for a double review on this one.

If you’re in the mood for a fascinating sounding dystopian/post-apocalytpic read then AFTER THE FLOOD is worth your time. A stunning UK cover and a blurb that just makes you want to read with half an eye on the world right now. It’ll be a challenging read in a climate change world but we’re excited about it. Micky has a review coming up for this one.

FAKE DATE has a cute cover to go with that cute sounding blurb. It’s a fake dating scenario (obviously) but the set up really has me wanting to read. I love a good pretend relationship situation and as long as you’re okay with a billionaire, this books sounds golden.


Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below!

THROWN OFF THE ICE by Taylor Fitzpatrick

Mike knew he was making a mistake when he let the rookie climb into bed with him. He just didn’t know it’d be a mistake that would follow him for the rest of his life.


Title : Thrown Off The Ice
Author : Taylor Fitzpatrick
Format : eBook (scribd)
Page Count : 224
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sports contemporary romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : December 13, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

No one grows up dreaming of being an enforcer.

What’s this, another m/m hockey romance that gets five stars from me? Am I becoming predictable? Well, no. Because nothing about this book was expected.

Why can’t I just stay with you?
Because I’m not a fucking lunatic. And I would become one if I had to deal with you all the fucking time.”
I’m here all the time anyway.”
And I’m already one day away from killing you.”

Starting with that summary : short and to the point, right? Sure, but no. But it does set up a certain expectation. The same one I had when I decided to fit in a “novella”-ish length story for the end of my night, not wanting to pick up something full length, something I thought would be happy times, or sexy uncomplicated hockey times, and, hahahahaha. I probably should’ve known better considering the two GR buddies who had both recently read it, and also rated it five stars, love the stuff that hurts.

Mike can’t help but want to shake some of that innocence out of him, knows he’s awful because all he wants to do is get Fitzgerald on a bed and make him fucking cry.

And wow did this hurt.

You remind me of that guy from Twilight.
You read Twilight, Tom?
Don’t need to, know all I have to. Old sulky dude obsessed with a teenager and being angsty about it. Sound about right?

As I write this review I have tears drying on my face and a twisted stomach left over from crying as long as I did. Probably some snot smeared around, too, let’s be real. Because for all that the age gap shenanigans between the effervescent rookie and the grumpy, reluctant, veteran enforcer, that made me laugh; for all the non-relationship and romantic angst, and push and pull that hurts, that you ache over; you won’t be prepared for where this story goes. And even if you see it coming, I challenge you to not be made a mess by it.

I’m not tiny. I’m concentrated.”
That’s what they’re calling it now?

This is a book I will absolutely read again, to hell with the heartache, and that is why it gets full stars from me. It’s sexy as hell, it’s funny, and I loved these frustrating and ridiculous characters. The only thing almost as devastating as parts of this book is knowing this author only has one other book in her backlist. Am I going to be reading it sooner rather than later anyway? Yes.

LOVE HACKED by Penny Reid – reread/audio review

There are three things you need to know about Sandra Fielding: 
1) She makes all her first dates cry, 2) She hasn’t been kissed in over two years, and 3) She knows how to knit.

Sandra has difficulty removing her psychotherapist hat. Of her last 30 dates, 29 have ended the same way: the man sobbing uncontrollably. After one such disaster, Sandra–near desperation and maybe a little tipsy–gives in to a seemingly harmless encounter with her hot waiter, Alex. Argumentative, secretive, and hostile Alex may be the opposite of everything Sandra knows is right for her. But now, the girl who has spent all her life helping others change for the better, must find a way to cope with falling for someone who refuses to change at all.

This is a full-length, 110k word novel and is the third book in the Knitting in the City series. All books in the series can be read as a standalone.


Title : Love Hacked
Author : Penny Reid
Narrator : Devra Woodward
Series : Knitting in the City #3
Format : Audiobook
Length : 13 hr 56 min
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Audible Audio
Release Date : March 2, 2014

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


This was a most intriguing story from Penny Reid; it’s full of mystery and fun. Alex is the most curious hero, a waiter who is clearly something more but that’s the big mystery. What or who is Alex? I’ve liked Sandra from the knitting crew but not really had the measure of her character properly until now. Sandra was a smart, witty lady, often found being sarcastic or self deprecating. I really liked her. Her lack of love life was hilarious and she was the woman who made men weep then get therapy.

The direction of this storyline was unexpected, unusual and had me reaching for the Internet to do some research. That’s not to say that background isn’t explained adequately, I just found myself curious as to the reality of the story context and it’s grounded in fact. Penny Reid bring her signature wit and intelligence to this series but I found this book a little hotter than previous books in the series. this was a slow burn connection with all the heat boiling to a frenzy; such a delight to listen to.

I drank in the connection between Alex and Sandra. I swallowed my frustration with Alex at times. I revelled in what could be. Most of all, I sat back and enjoyed almost every minute of this book.

This was a re-read by audio and second time round, it was a dream. The audio was a single pov, single narration audio and Devra Woodward did a fantastic job in general but also with male dialogue. She captured the snark and humour so well and brought these characters alive.

You can totally just listen to this as a standalone but to appreciate the full knitting crew, start at the beginning with Janie.

GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE by Beth Revis

When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s life–and the lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens–on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous corners–and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness. 


Title : Give The Dark My Love
Author : Beth Revis
Series : Give The Dark My Love (book one)
Format : physical book
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : September 25, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’ve had this book literally sitting on my nightstand for almost a year. I guess it’s better late than never but wow. I feel pretty accomplished and satisfied right now — calm down, Hollis, you tackled one book on your backlist. One.

Anyway.

This book was so good. I didn’t know what to expect beyond necromancy and a girl crossing over into darkness. I didn’t know why or how or what. What are those details, you ask? Plague. The desire of one small-town girl wanting to help. And then heartbreak and desperation pushing her to the brink.

“.. your path has always been longer than this little road. You were meant for the city streets, for ships across the sea, for places where there are no roads. I don’t want you to take my book cart. [..] I’d never fold you up into books sold to strangers. You’re going to live your own story.

This isn’t quite the anti-heroine story I thought it would be but that might very well change in book two; particularly considering how this ended.

Everything I’d done since arriving in Northface Harbour had been just a little off. I longed to fit seamlessly into a world with no openings.

The only thing that really knocked this down for me, which will explain my rating considering all the above buzz, is the romance. I saw book two pitched in a way that it was about the boy who loved the MC trying to bring her back from the darkness. I guess I expected a strong romance in here to be that backbone for what was to come. And I didn’t really get it. Sure, he’s a nice, kind, soft boy.. but he is really only those words. There wasn’t really any meat or substance to him. There was some connection, a good reason for them to have drawn to each other, pushed together, but I wish instead it had just been a case of strong, beautiful, friendship. I think we need more of those in YA. And it would’ve made this book pretty damn close to perfect for me if it had been present in this one.

I wondered if it were possible to remove myself from politics, or if my silence had been its own choice.

Alas, I still enjoyed it. This book is.. not depressing, but hard, maybe? For the characters. There is a bleak kind of desperation in this world’s conflict. There is a tirelessness to fighting something that can’t be stopped. And then the tragedy of losing one’s whole world. Before the rage that steps in to take its place, to do what shouldn’t be done, to fight back.

I guess sometimes it’s just easier to keep things they way that they are.”
I think that depends on what your now looks like.”

I loved the last minute twists, the turns, and I’m so keen to read on and see where Nedra goes next — and boy am I glad that I have an ARC of book two, I don’t need to wait to find out.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE BEST THING by Mariana Zapata

Some things are easily forgiven. Other things… not so much.

Lenny DeMaio made herself a promise: she was done.
Done thinking about him.
Done worrying about him.
Done reaching out to a man who clearly didn’t want to be found.

Too bad no one gave Jonah Collins the memo.


Title : The Best Thing
Author : Mariana Zapata
Format : ebook (KU)
Page Count : 493
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : August 7, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

I devoured this book in the best way I know how, on holiday, with my full and undivided attention, just what any Zapata book deserves. THE BEST THING gave me all the things I love from my favourite Zapatas – family and friends, the slow burn build and all of the stomach-crunching feelings. What was special about this book was that it went a direction that Mariana hasn’t gone before and it worked so darn well.

This story has a split sport context of MMA and rubgy…hello…this is fine by me. What a picture was painted, I loved the home of Maio House. This book delivered on some of the best characters I’ve read from a MZ book, Lenny (Elena), Jonah, Grandpa Gus, Mo (special squidge to the stomach here) and Peter. Each of these characters had my heart and all equally, I cannot favour one over the other.

Lenny was a woman let down, let down in the biggest way. Each chapter start gave a very brief past context to the ways in which Lenny had been let down and the more that the book progressed, the more those chapters starts kicked me in the gut. Jonah was the guy, THE GUY and it’s amazing how my heart, mind and affections moved towards understanding him. This big, bumbling, shy and gorgeous creature was swoon-heaven but guess what, Lenny was a champion MMA fighter, she could totally kick his ass with a foot swipe and her mouth.

There was nothing he could do that I couldn’t fight. There was nothing he could say that would possibly hurt me. I had prepared for this.

What was it that he wanted to explain? Why had he disappeared? Why hadn’t he called me back? What hadn’t he wanted to be part of…my life? Why he’d decided to come back now?

The unexpected element of this book was thrilling to me and this aspect was written so well, my heart was warm and cozy, wrapped up in the family-ness of this book. Sorry for the vagueness but it is necessary.

This second chance story with a deep connection at the heart, was fantastic. It was written with a style that just seemed to appeal to my mind and heart. I saved the last 6% for my flight home and what an idiot I am because that epilogue had my eyes sweating on take off. That said, that epilogue was just right for me.

Go read, go love, go savour.

A TREASON OF THORNS by Laura E Weymouth

Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.


Title : A Treason of Thorns
Author : Laura E Weymouth
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : alt-history YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

My issue with A TREASON OF THORNS is that I found the best parts of it to be in the synopsis.

The tightly framed concept sounds fantastic in short form but loses itself in drawn out translation. The characters are underdeveloped, the romance is.. a stretch, and the plot itself feels like it’s just spinning its wheels until it reaches a certain word count. It’s repetitive both in tone and vocabulary and, ultimately, just stuck in one gear. 

This is such a fascinating idea, and the author made it complex enough to be believable, but then dropped the ball by explaining very little. It still had the potential to be outstanding, though, and while I did like some the imagery, and the resonance of emotion Violet felt through her connection to the House, again, it just.. didn’t really work. It might make a great movie, though, if you had visuals to focus on and an actress who could pull of the range of emotions that I don’t think felt at all believable, or fully formed, from the MC.

I’ve now had two very perplexing reactions to Weymouth’s first and second novels and I’m realizing that she just might not be for me. 

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **