LIKE A LOVE STORY by Abdi Nazemian

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.


Title : Like a Love Story
Author Abdi Nazemian
Format : ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA historical fiction, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : June 4, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating
: ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

LIKE A LOVE STORY is a little like a love story, really. But more in the sense of love for oneself, one’s body, and one’s community. I think it did a really good job of that, particularly when propped up against the setting, but when it comes to the love story, the romance, within the book.. it kinda failed. And by kinda I mean really.

Nazemian’s story takes place on the cusp of the nineties, in 1989, and is set against the AIDS crisis. Not as a backdrop but as a very real threat and very present player for our three protagonists. Art is out and proud and angry. His best friend, Judy, has an uncle dying of AIDS. And the new kid, originally from Iran, is Reza; someone both friends fall for but who, despite initially dating Judy, is closeted. 

I knew this wouldn’t be an easy story but I knew it would be an important one. It was a frightening time and is made even more terrifying when held up against the current social and political climate. Addressing the bigotry and the homophobia was all very visceral and awful but well done. I felt like I was living it. Where the fear of touch, of being touched, infected every interaction. Where not subscribing to white, heteronormative, ideals made you worthy of hate or shunning. Where it was acceptable to wish your son dead just for being queer. Where hate fuelled both sides of the equation; one side for being ushered into an early grave just for being who they were, and the other for not understanding or not accepting people different from themselves.

What I believe failed this story was the characters.

The romance is fast tracked as is fairly typical — though the fact that these two besties go from zero to eleven within half a page over the new kid is unlikely as it is; but for it to be turned into a triangle, infusing unnecessary drama into the mix, just becomes tedious — and ultimately, it’s the leads that do a disservice to the goings on around them. Or, rather, I feel they overshadowed the rest with their nonsense. I outright disliked two of the POVs (one more strongly than the other) but overall it was their behaviours, too, that I just couldn’t stand. 

The most important four-letter word in our history will always be LOVE. That’s what we are fighting for. That’s who we are. Love is our legacy.

I’m heartbroken that this didn’t work but I do think, if the synopsis draws you in, you should still pick it up. LIKE A LOVE STORY is a book that features a four star topic but is, unfortunately, saddled with one star protagonists. 

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


CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by André Aciman – double review!

Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.

The psychological maneuvers that accompany attraction have seldom been more shrewdly captured than in André Aciman’s frank, unsentimental, heartrending elegy to human passion. Call Me by Your Name is clear-eyed, bare-knuckled, and ultimately unforgettable.


Title : Call Me By Your Name
Author André Aciman
Series : Call Me By Your Name (book one)
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 268
Genre : historical fiction, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date : January 22, 2008

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : /


Hollis’ 1 star review

His words made no sense. But I knew exactly what they meant.
–> this is, I feel, a good expression of this entire book but flipped on its head. I understand what I read but I DON’T GET IT

I really don’t. Like, this isn’t me shitting on the overwhelming love people have for this book, or being contrary for shits and giggles.. I, personally, just don’t get it. 

Maybe I hyped this book up in my head for too long, maybe it was because I had these grand expectations, not to mention having put off watching the movie (which I will still) in order to read this first, but.. wow. Maybe, too, it’s my fault for not looking closely at the summary which does go on to detail some of the nittier gritty of what kind of relationship this book features but as I’m #TeamNoBlurbs.. it was obviously a surprise.

The first 60% of this was stream of consciousness confusion, was cringey secondhand embarrassment, was obsessive uncomfortableness.. it was so many things and none of them good. There was no characterization to these characters beyond Elio being consumed, forever fantasizing, and sifting through passages of is-it-really-happening-nope-just-dreaming chaos that made up the majority of his days; it’s intense but.. not in a good way. It’s discomfiting. I either skimmed because I couldn’t anchor myself to Elio’s internal rambling monologuing or because I just couldn’t bear to look too hard at his fixation. And Oliver was, well, a hot and cold dick of a human for the most part. And then suddenly he wasn’t, but it was all.. I don’t know, things being said, and not said, but they seem to understand it regardless? It just felt lazy and set up for the sake of drawing things out and drama. 

Not to mention they were both, at times, grossly childish or selfish.

s p o i l e r s   b e l o w

Case in point : Elio goes from screwing around with Oliver only to go to a girl’s house for more screwing around. Later, the boys have a nice afternoon delight together, then Elio heads out to meet with girl again, after having no discussion with Oliver about the logistics of this, and then when Oliver is missing upon Elio’s return, the latter is all bent out of shape and tied in knots and ‘how dare he make me wait’? Moments later Oliver’s ‘the best person he ever knew’. What the shit kind of whiplash nonsense is this? I actually refuse to tag this as a romance because, I feel, there was none. It was attraction, it was lust, it was physical intimacy (as well as certain intimacies that I believe were included in order to convince us of the existence love, make us believe there was a romance), but to me this wasn’t romantic. It was infatuation.

In the last 40%, however, there was a part or two that felt stronger (but it’s all relative, really) and yet it also transitioned into these scenes with other random characters I couldn’t care less about who rambled on about Bangkok, and various anecdotes as delivered by a poet we never see again, for eight to fifteen pages at a time. I honestly don’t know what was going on and I’m going to be fully honest : I skimmed most of it because I didn’t understand the point of it all.

There was a moving conversation between Elio and his dad near-ish to the end but then we have a time jump and weird transitions and odd conversations between adult Elio and older Oliver, reminiscing and yet not, where we’re supposed to believe this infatuation, this obsession, has endured for over twenty years, and I was just so done, long before this point, truthfully, but at least I saw it through to the end. Where the sequel goes I have no idea. And I definitely need some time to forget most of this experience before diving into the movie. 

That said, I think perhaps the movie will succeed where the book is too much for me. It wouldn’t be the first (and won’t be the last) time an adaptation succeeds in softening the edges of its source material. So I’m hopeful that a lot of what I hated about this book won’t apply to the adaptation but, for right now, I just need space from it all. I’m in no hurry.


Micky’s 1 star review …it’s pretty short

I know a lot of people loved this book but nothing about it appealed to me. In fact, I hated a lot of it. I listened to the first 35% on audio (and hated it), then a week later, I read/skimmed/read my paperback to the end (and still hated it). 

Why did I hate it? I didn’t like either character but I found Oliver to be a pretty awful person, with nothing to ingratiate himself to the reader. More than this though, 85% of the book is Elio’s inner monologue, his egotistical and obsessive mental ramblings poured onto the page for… ever. I disliked this style of writing, I found it incessantly dull and nothing about it worked for me.

Count me out for book two.


THE GOOD MAYOR by Andrew Nicoll

‘A triumph of tone, very moving, completely convincing’ – ANDREW MARR

‘A Baltic Brief Encounter’ – INDEPENDENT

Every morning, Mayor Tibo Krovic stops off at the local café on his way to work. He drinks his Viennese coffee with extra figs, leaves a bag of sweets for the owner, and then continues on to his office. There he awaits the arrival of his secretary: the beautiful, married, but lonely, Agathe Stopak.

In the respectable town of Dot, there is nothing the good Mayor Tibo can do about his love for Mrs Stopak. Until one day Agathe accidentally drops her lunch into the fountain and a family tragedy is revealed. In that moment, everything changes.

The Good Mayor is a magical story of fate and chance, of loss and love.


Title : The Good Mayor
Author Andrew Nicoll
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 352
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Black & White Publishing
Release Date : 16 May 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

THE GOOD MAYOR is a compelling, morally grey tale depicting tangible lives in a historical European context. I couldn’t predict where the story was going, nor could I look away.

In the town of Dot, a fairly bustling town in the Baltic, resided the ‘Good Mayor’, Tibo Krovic. Everyone called him good and so he was. He admired from afar, through the office door, his secretary Agathe Stopak. This story took a winding, lovely build from a professional relationship into something more. The routine working day between these two, emerged into a desperate love, with thoughts, little said, occasional touches, many lunches and no action. The feelings were mutual and despite Agathe’s marital status, I was invested.

“Tibo couldn’t help being kind. They warmed each other with those little gifts – kindness and beauty. They are precious. They are always in short supply.”

I thought I knew where this story was going, I didn’t. There were plot twists, there was warm, fuzzy and beautiful love, tempered by pitiful heartache. There were side characters to like such as the coffee shop owners with their supernatural sight and those to hate such as the Stopaks. I couldn’t fathom Agathe or Tibo’s decision-making at times and felt frustration but continued to hang around for this unpredictable ride, rather helplessly.

As the book sprinted to the end there was a rather weird story direction that I still don’t quite comprehend and the wrap up was a little rushed but I feel an overall satisfaction in this read. It felt different to many of the books I’ve read of late and so, a unique and unusual story is always welcome. I don’t know if I would call this women’s fiction or historical fiction with a strong romantic theme, maybe both. THE GOOD MAYOR is worth giving a chance and I would definitely read this author again.

Thank you Black & White Publishing for this early copy. Details of other blog stops are below.

FIELD NOTES ON LOVE by Jennifer E Smith

A delicious meet-cute romance about luck, love and serendipity from Jennifer E. Smith, author of Windfall and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

It’s the perfect idea for a romantic week together: travelling across America by train.

But then Hugo’s girlfriend dumps him. Her parting gift: the tickets for their long-planned last-hurrah-before-uni trip. Only, it’s been booked under her name. Non-transferable, no exceptions.

Mae is still reeling from being rejected from USC’s film school. When she stumbles across Hugo’s ad for a replacement Margaret Campbell (her full name!), she’s certain it’s exactly the adventure she needs to shake off her disappointment and jump-start her next film.

A cross-country train trip with a complete stranger might not seem like the best idea. But to Mae and Hugo, both eager to escape their regular lives, it makes perfect sense. What starts as a convenient arrangement soon turns into something more. But when life outside the train catches up with them, can they find a way to keep their feelings for each other from getting derailed?

Jennifer E. Smith’s YA novel Field Notes on Love is a heart-warming love story about grabbing opportunities and trusting your instincts.


Title : Field Notes on Love
Author Jennifer E. Smith
Format : eARC
Page Count : 262
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date : 30 May 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

FIELD NOTES ON LOVE was a sweet read. It was pleasant, easy to get into, with interesting characters. The premise for this storyline takes a bit of setting up before Hugo and Margaret make their epic train journey across the USA.

Hugo is a sextuplet (its relevant) from the UK and he needs a Margaret Campbell to use two tickets for his journey. Enters the perfect-aged Margaret Campbell. Both Margaret and Hugo had interesting families and they were cute to watch getting to know one another.

I didn’t make an emotional connection with the story or the characters particularly which left me feeling like an outside observer. I found the exes issue an irritation and perhaps a little bit of a predictable story arc. However, it was overall satisfying book.

This is an easy, appealing read with likeable characters. I would recommend for a day’s or weekend’s escapism reading.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. Thank you Macmillan and netgalley!

TIME’S CONVERT by Deborah Harkness 🎧

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches, a novel about what it takes to become a vampire.

Set in contemporary Paris and London, and the American colonies during the upheaval and unrest that exploded into the Revolutionary War, a sweeping story that braids together the past and present.

On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life, free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus’s deeply-held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.

Fast forward to contemporary London, where Marcus has fallen for Phoebe Taylor, a young employee at Sotheby’s. She decides to become a vampire, too, and though the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable in the modern world than they were in the 18th century. The shadows that Marcus believed he’d escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both–forever.

A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities for change, Time’s Convert will delight fans of the All Souls trilogy and all readers of magic, the supernatural, and romance.


Title : Time’s Convert
Author Deborah Harkness
Series : All Souls Trilogy
Format : Audiobook
Time : 15 hours 46 minutes
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Penguin Audio
Release Date : September 18, 2018

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I came late to the All Souls books and have read them all in the last eight months or so, thoroughly enjoying the first three as a whole. I’ve liked Marcus throughout the books and I thought this book was about him and whilst he is in the fore, alongside Phoebe, it is more the Bishop/de Clairmonte families as a whole.

TIME’S CONVERT picked up where THE BOOK OF LIFE left off and that feeling of continuation was familiar and comforting. The twins were important in this story, Diana and Matthew were finding their place as parents and the senior members of the family were equal parts infuriating and supportive.

What I loved about this story was the parallel journey of Marcus slowly revealing his past and his transition to a vampire as we simultaneously witnessed Phoebe doing the same in the present. The past was mostly intriguing but sometimes slow, thus the loss of one star. I came to appreciate the long life Marcus had had when I had previously misjudged him as a bit of a pup. Phoebe was a much more interesting character than I had given her credit for in THE BOOK OF LIFE. I continued to miss Gallowglass in this book and I hope this is purposeful building of anticipation for a story of his own.

The narration for TIME’S CONVERT was great. Saskia Maarleveld had an easy voice to sink into as she transitioned between a multitude of characters so seamlessly. I recommend audio as a format for this book.

AYESHA AT LAST by Uzma Jalaluddin – double review!

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist 

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on.  Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. 

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family; and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind. 


Title : Ayesha At Last
Author : Uzma Jalaluddin
Format : eARC
Page Count : 343
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : HarperCollins
Release Date : June 4 (US & Can), June 12, 2019 (UK)

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ /  ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

4.5 stars that I am rounding up.

I am buzzing finishing this book, I have devoured it in 36 hours as life made me put it down a few times. This was a loose pride and prejudice take set in the Muslim community in Toronto. Most importantly it is own voices written (and a debut).

Khalid is a beta-male character with little to paint an admirable picture of his personality. Khalid was a bit of a jerk, he lacked a verbal filter, judged too quickly but he was definitely misunderstood. Khalid grew on me, he was pretty endearing at times and he was a man with integrity and kindness. He didn’t know how he was perceived but awareness did begin to creep in.

Ayesha was a vibrant character, headstrong, a feminist, bucking some traditions that seemed unnecessary to her. I liked her immediately and her quirky ways. Khalid and Ayesha met through friends initially and later at the mosque organising a conference. Misunderstanding and chemistry seemed to be the nature of their relationship.

“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations are of secondary importance.”

This was a strong story, with amazing side characters, mostly family and community, that painted a rich depth. I was glued to this book and I thought about it when I wasn’t. The connection between Khalid and Ayesha was slow developing but full of feeling. This was a clean read along the lines of pride and prejudice but it didn’t need anything more. I could have done with a little more about Khalid and Ayesha in the end, however.

This is an amazing debut from Uzma Jalaluddin. Her writing flowed beautifully and I was hooked so easily; I am eager to read more from her and this context.

Thank you to Readers First for my review copy.


Hollis’ 2 star review

It pains me to rate this so low considering all the excitement I had surrounding this title, not to mention the brilliant diversity in this particular retelling, but..

If this story had been just about Ayesha and Khalid, with the former’s delightful grandparents thrown into the mix, I probably would’ve rated this much higher. But then it also wouldn’t have been as true to the PRIDE & PREJUDICE retelling. Or.. maybe it could’ve been! All I know is there were so many villains, so many unpleasant characters, and I was just bothered and frustrated by it all.

But even some of the non-villains were just.. annoying. The drama was really turned up and I know this is fictional but I was really uncomfortable, not to mention fairly rage-y, over the discrimination in the workplace plot line. Like.. no, I’m sorry. I just can’t see that going as far as it did; and maybe I’m extra sensitive about it because this took place in my hometown? I’m not saying I’m naive enough to believe things like this don’t happen in some form or another, as much as we think we’re all above it, but it just went too far.

I think what it comes down to, more than anything, is while I’m aware that most of these caricatures existed in the original, I’m honestly starting to wonder if I just can’t get behind the book anymore; if maybe I wouldn’t even like the original if I tried to read it today. Maybe I should just stick to movie or TV adaptations from now on.

I love that this book exists for the representation it brings, I did enjoy the changes to the family structures the author made, could appreciate the Toronto setting (even if it only amounted to random references to Timbits and a fairly loose, though accurate, description of Scarborough..), but.. lots of buts.

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

MY FAVORITE HALF-NIGHT STAND by Christina Lauren

From the New York Times bestselling author that “hilariously depicts modern dating” (Us Weekly) comes a sexy romantic comedy about online dating, and its many, many fails.

With a world-famous speaker at their university, Mille Morris and her four woefully single male colleagues make a pact that they’ll all find dates. Unfortunately, Millie has more success helping them make matches online than she does navigating the onslaught of lewd pics in her own feed. But when she creates a fictional name for a new account, Millie finds herself vying for the online attention of a man she sees every day in the flesh.


Title : My Favorite Half-Night Stand
Author Christina Lauren
Format : Paperback
Pages : 371
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Little Brown Piatkus
Release Date : November 21, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I can’t rationalise why but MY FAVORITE HALF-NIGHT STAND wasn’t high on my tbr agenda on release, I think the blurb didn’t capture my attention quite as much as Christina Lauren’s books normally do. Therefore, I ambled into this book just ambling, looking around…and wow, sneak attack, I got all wrapped, up all very quickly.

The story centres on a friendship circle that I found endearing but I wanted in on this circle myself. I think the setting of a bunch of academics reeled me in, as one myself, it was realistic and I thought, ‘why isn’t my faculty like this at lunchtime?’ Reid and Millie were the central characters and they had such a great, fun and platonic connection. But see that title up there? Yeah, it becomes something more, briefly.

As the story moves on, there’s a dating app all the friends engage in and there are messages and secrets. I found the whole story line appealing, a wee bit angsty and a whole lot of fun. The messaging was brilliant and some of that was definitely enhanced by the audio, more on that in a bit. I loved the role reversal on characteristics, Millie was the one lacking in emotional connection and Reid wanted that.

I loved the dual POV chapter approach and the characters were captured perfectly. The messaging was brought to life with quips and banter. I am definitely adding it to my bookshelf as a favourite for this year.

MARESI #1 THE RED ABBEY CHRONICLES by Maria Turtschaninoff

Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren’t allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe.

Then one day Jai tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty. And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her.

Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.

A story of friendship and survival, magic and wonder, beauty and terror, Maresi will grip you and hold you spellbound.


Title : Maresi
Author Maria Turtschaninoff
Series : The Red Abbey Chronicles #1
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 251
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Pushkin Press
Release Date : 5 January 2017

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

MARESI took me rather by surprise. I did that classic, ‘I’m just going to look what it’s about and read a few pages’ and found myself at page 40. MARESI is set on an island that holds only an abbey and many women (Sisters of the Goddess) and female children who may become novices in time or are given safety until they want to leave as adults.

The protagonist, Maresi herself, tells her story from a naive viewpoint, a young, innocent girl of indeterminate age but I felt her to be about 12-14. Although there is an initial innocence to her narrative, the storytelling evolves as events make her more wise to the society outside of the safe abbey walls. Key to Maresi’s awakening was the arrival of Jai, who she took under her wing. Jai slowly disclosed her experiences at the hands of the men in her life. The sense of friendship and family was earned in the abbey but it was powerful and had a loveliness to it.

Central to abbey life was the faith, mysticism and spiritual rituals that governed the lives of the women and children. I found the world building easy to follow and I really liked the context for the belief system and power that emanated from it. The goddess had three sides to her and one was pretty dark and intimidating. There was a real feminist thread weaved through this story that I can only think will be emphasised more in later books as Maresi is older.

I am all enthusiasm for books two and three. Book two seems to be the story of the first sisters who founded the abbey, escaping the palace of Ohaddin. Book three picks up with Maresi again as she leaves the abbey for the outside world. Book one has truly captured my imagination and I am here for more.

Thank you Pushkin Press for these books to review and the early copy of Maresi Red Mantle.

THE LOVELY AND THE LOST by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Kira Bennett’s earliest memories are of living alone and wild in the woods. She has no idea how long she was on her own or what she had to do to survive, but she remembers the moment that Cady Bennett and one of her search-and-rescue dogs found her perfectly. Adopted into the Bennett family, Kira still struggles with human interaction years later, but she excels at the family business: search-and-rescue. Along with Cady’s son, Jude, and their neighbor, Free, Kira works alongside Cady to train the world’s most elite search-and-rescue dogs. Someday, all three teenagers hope to put their skills to use, finding the lost and bringing them home.

But when Cady’s estranged father, the enigmatic Bales Bennett, tracks his daughter down and asks for her help in locating a missing child—one of several visitors who has disappeared in the Sierra Glades National Park in the past twelve months—the teens find themselves on the frontlines sooner than they could have ever expected. As the search through 750,000 acres of unbridled wilderness intensifies, Kira becomes obsessed with finding the missing child. She knows all too well what it’s like to be lost in the wilderness, fighting for survival, alone.

But this case isn’t simple. There is more afoot than a single, missing girl, and Kira’s memories threaten to overwhelm her at every turn. As the danger mounts and long-held family secrets come to light, Kira is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her adopted family, her true nature, and her past.


Title : The Lovely and the Lost
Author Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary thriller
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : May 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m a little conflicted about THE LOVELY AND THE LOST.

This book centers on Kira who, as a young girl, was found in the woods after surviving weeks on her own. She’s later adopted by one of the people who made up the Search and Rescue team and, now sixteen, Kira helps her foster mother, and her foster brother, train dogs for SAR work. There’s a lot of dogs. This made me very happy.

Part of me would never leave the forest. Part of me would always be wild and half-dying in that ravine.

What also made me happy was Jude, Kira’s brother. He was.. I don’t even have words to describe him. Hilarious. Precious. Relentlessly kind and understanding. The comic relief, the breaker of tension, first of his name. Barnes has written characters like him before in her other series and I’ve always loved them for all the reasons listed above. Jude is no exception. Kira, though.. this is maybe where things kind of stretch the limits of my disbelief.

Men like the park rangers looked at a picture of a lost little girl and saw an innocent, a victim, someone helpless and fragile and small. They had no idea what a child was capable of — really capable of — when the civilized world melted away and nothing but instinct remained.

Kira is just barely sociable. Her instincts are much like an animal. Her time alone, as a young child, has marked her. I don’t dismiss that those weeks, that experience, would have changed her or haunted her. I don’t doubt that she’d have flashbacks or nightmares. I just wonder.. after fourteen odd years, wouldn’t she have left some of that animal, some of that fear, behind? Particularly considering the socialized years far outweigh the others? How long does it take for a person to change so drastically, to be so altered by social norms? I don’t know. For all I know her behaviour is totally accurate to her circumstances. And if I accept that, I can love it. Well, more to the point, I can understand it. Hurt for her. Either way I do. That kind of trauma is horrifying. But, again, the not knowing.. I wasn’t sure sometimes about her lack of understanding sarcasm or jokes or facial expressions. After all that time, particularly after all that time spent with Jude and their other friend Free, it didn’t make me more likely to believe it, I guess. 

I understand now. The three of you share a single iota of common sense. I’m just a little unclear on which one of you has custody of it now.”

But anyway. That aside, this was a rather tense whodunnit, complete with a missing child, lots of dogs, family secrets, and a total lack of a shoe-horned-in romance (ten points). There’s angst and tragic backstory and family reunions of a few kinds.. and also dogs. I loved the dogs. Can you tell? There was also.. something.. at the end. It makes me wonder : is there more to come? Is this just open ended? Or will I get more dogs? This reader wants to know.

I’ve enjoyed, and outright loved, quite a few of Barnes’ books (forever crying about the lack of more Fixer books; woe is me). I so enjoy her writing and her characters. So if the plot intrigues you, THE LOVELY AND THE LOST, despite some of my uncertainties, is definitely worth picking up. 

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

CRASH by Harper Dallas

JJ Schneider has it all.

A high-octane career as a pro snowboarder. A ride-or-die crew. A seven-figure sponsorship deal.

None of it makes up for losing the love of his life.

It’s been a year since Raquel Sfeir walked away. From the man she loved. From the job of her dreams. She’s done with enabling extreme athletes to risk their lives for the next thrill… especially the one who chose his career—and its dangers—over her.

But when a life-threatening accident shatters JJ’s dreams as well as his spine, Raquel finds herself drawn back to the man who broke her heart.

This time, she’s not going to give him the chance. She’s going to get him whole and out of the house they bought together—and then she’s moving on for good.

Raquel won’t be anyone’s consolation prize. But JJ’s had a lifetime of pursuing impossible goals, and he’s determined to show the woman of his dreams that even hearts can heal.


Title : Crash
Author : Harper Dallas
Series : The Wild Sequence #2
Format : eBook
Page Count : 414
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : April 15, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

“I take a deep breath. Is it falling, if you decide to jump?”

First Harper Dallas gave us RIDE and then CRASH landed on my kindle. This book sucked me into it’s vortex and gave me that wonderful experience of devouring words that RIDE also delivered on. CRASH was a second chance romance but it wasn’t beautiful, it was painful, raw and hard fought for.

CRASH is set in the world of elite sports, with top athletes in the snowboarding world. I was already familiar with the protagonists from book one, particularly JJ. The laid-back JJ we saw in RIDE was not present here. JJ was a broken man both physically and psychologically and it was difficult to witness his struggle and circumstances. Raquel, his ex, found herself intertwined with his life again and it wasn’t a comfortable fit. The hurt between these two just rippled through the pages; I felt it all.

What was different about this second chance romance was that their love for one another was not the issue, I’ll leave the pages to tell you what was. I felt churned up and in turmoil with these two as they navigated the present, considered the future and remembered their shared past.

“Hope. It’s painful. It’s beautiful. It’s so much and God knows, it’s never enough. Because you always want more. Want to know what’s going to happen.”

If you loved Chase, Brooke, Hanne and Hunter from book one, there’s plenty of these characters to satisfy your need for more but it was Chase and JJ’s relationship that made this book extra special. Chase’s character development continued in CRASH and I soaked up these moments; this friendship was everything.

Harper Dallas has shown that her debut in RIDE was no fluke, this woman has talent and she can capture emotion, spinning it beautifully onto the page. I rarely cry at happy endings but I did with this one (that’s not a spoiler, this is romance, you guys, HEA guaranteed). Go click book one, if you’ve not read it and if you have, don’t hold back on CRASH.