FIRST COMES LOVE by Emily Giffin

What happens when love, marriage and children don’t come in the expected order?

Fifteen years after the tragic death of their older brother splintered Josie and Meredith’s already fragile relationship, the two sisters are following very different paths.

Hardworking, reserved Meredith thought she’d done it all the right way round – married the perfect man, had the perfect daughter – but now she’s wondering if she got the love part wrong.

Impulsive and spirited Josie has been single for years. She wants a child so much that she’s preparing to head straight for the baby carriage all on her own.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and secrets from the past surface, Josie and Meredith must come to terms with their own choices. Perhaps they’ll find that they need each other more than they know…


Title : First Comes Love
Author : Emily Giffin
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 351
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : September 22, 2016

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


I like Emily Giffin’s writing style and have previously enjoyed a number of her books. She writes good, reliable women’s fiction about families, relationships and the challenges that arise in life. That said, FIRST COMES LOVE was just an okay read for me.

The book starts very strong with a family tragedy and the story centres on the ripples going out from this event 20 years later. Central to this are the joint protagonists, sisters called Meredith and Josie. Imagine two 8 year old sisters biccering and this is much of how these two behave in the book but with adult themes. I think the reason I only found this an okay read was because of the juvenille relationship these two had. I much preferred the focus on their lives seperately.

Meredith’s life centred on her husband and child but there really was a ‘finding yourself’ theme to her story which I quite enjoyed. Josie’s story was more about reaching her goals and she had a couple of friendships that were fun reading. I did find Josie’s obsession with previous failed relationships a bit irritating. The story isn’t heavy on romance but had a relationships focus, mostly family and platonic relationships.

This book did have a reasonably good culmination. Although this wasn’t my favourite Emily Giffin, I still enjoyed her writing style and I’ll be back to read more from her.

Thank you to Hodder books and amazon vine for the review copy.

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HEARTSTOPPER VOL 1 & 2 by Alice Oseman

Volume One

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…? 

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

From the author of Solitaire and Radio Silence comes a bind up of the first two chapters of Heartstopper, an ongoing webcomic.


Volume Two

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. An LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the second volume of HEARTSTOPPER, for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon. 

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t. 

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself. 

Heartstopper is about friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us. 

This is the second volume of Heartstopper, with more to come.


Title : Heartstopper Vol 1 & 2
Author : Alice Oseman
Series : Heartstopper
Format : Paperback Graphic Novel
Page Count : 278/315
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : February 7, 2019/July 11, 2019

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


Volume 1 – 5 stars

What a blissful, sink-into-the-story book this was. I was engaged from the first block and page with first Charlie and then Nick. It had my heart and my emotional buy-in immediately.

The protagonist, Charlie is 14, he’s gay, mature but knows his identity. He’s emerged of the other side of his coming-out and survived some intense bullying. Nick is in the year above in their boy’s school and he’s 16 and straight. These two are in the same form and their friendship is just gorgeous to observe evolving. The gentle interest, slow touches and flirtation were absolutely captivating.

Charlie’s identity as a gay young person was handled well in this storyline; he didn’t have it all sorted. Even better, I appreciated how Nick’s character and sexual identity emerged, how he handled his growing feelings and how natural these two were alongside one another.

There was realistic depiction of other friends reactions to both Nick and Charlie as individuals but also as friends, not all positive and empowering of course. The storyline of Ben was tough reading but gave some important representation of power, abuse, assault and broke through the stereotypical perception of these issues for young people.

I can’t describe how much I adored the illustration of this story brought to life. Alice Oseman narrated the story well but conjured it into being with the visuals of the characters and nuances of their characteristics.

This was an empowering read and I loved it.


Volume 2 – 5 stars

HEARTSTOPPER 2 blew me away as equally as Volume 1. This was cute but so real and raw. This volume deals with Charlie and Nick’s evolving relationship but it has a specific focus on Nick’s search for a sexual identity. It was quite beautiful.

Charlie was all insecurity and disbelief in this story, he had a sense of undeserving which was no doubt part of the bullying legacy he’d experienced. I loved the small snippets of Charlie’s family who were full on support and love. His sister cracked me up with her swift appearances and en-pointe observations (sip, sip). There was also a great concerned dad moment.

Heartstopper Vol 2 (p, 461). Written and Illustrated by Alice Oseman

Nick’s storyline was intense to watch and read, full of beautiful emotion and difficult confusion. What came across throughout his story arc was what a bloody, great guy Nick was. He was just a great human, with admirable morals and natural loyalty. His nervousness with Charlie was adorable and these two together packed all the welcome heart thumps, all at once.

Friends had more of a focus, both good and bad in this book. Alice Oseman dealt with stereotyping, so-called good-natured (not so good-natured) teasing and exposed these experiences for what they were – unacceptable. However, this was a credible and tangible storyline where of course Nick and Charlie were encountering challenges and prejudice.

Heartstopper Vol 2 (p.433). Written and Illustrated by Alice Oseman.

I simply could not be more enamoured than I am by this series. I continued to adore how Alice Oseman illustrated the emotions, chemistry and feelings on the page. I cannot wait until Volume 3 is ready.

Thank you to the publisher and amazon for this review copy.

MONTHLY WRAP UP – JULY 2019

To close out each month, we’ll be posting a break down of everything we reviewed, beginning with the reads we loved.. and ending with the reads we didn’t. Not only does this compile all our reviews in one handy summary for you to peruse, or catch up on, it also gives us an interesting birds eye view of the month and our reads. And maybe, even, our moods.


☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL by Eric Lindstrom — see Micky’s review here
EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER by Linda Holmes — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

RAZE by Roan Parrish — see Hollis’ review here
THE MERCIFUL CROW by Margaret Owens — see Hollis’ review here
PAN’S LABYRINTH : THE LABYRINTH OF THE FAUN by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke — see Hollis’ review here
DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone — see Micky’s review here
LIES by Kylie Scott — see Micky’s review here
THE AU PAIR by Emma Rous — see Micky’s review here
CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT by Brigid Kemmerer — see Micky’s review here
THE MARRIAGE CLOCK by Zara Raheem — see Micky’s review here
THE FRIEND ZONE by Abby Jimenez — see Micky (and Hollis’ June thoughts) review here
MAGIC BREAKS by Ilona Andrews — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by Abbi Waxman — see Hollis’ and Micky’s review here
WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power — see Hollis’ review here
THE RAGE OF DRAGONS by Evan Winter — see Hollis’ review here
HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK by Kristin Rockaway — see Hollis’ review here
THE SHAMER’S DAUGHTER by Lena Kaaberbol — see Micky’s review here
HE’S A BRUTE by Chloe Liese — see Micky’s review here
HOOKED ON YOU by Kate Meader — see Hollis’ review here
GOOD GUY by Kate Meader — see Micky’s review (and Hollis’ 2 star review) here
A HIGHLANDER WALKS INTO A BAR by Laura Trentham — see Micky’s review here
HOW TO BUILD A BOYFRIEND FROM SCRATCH by Sarah Archer — see Micky’s review here
OUR STOP by Laura Jane Williams — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

GOOD GUY by Kate Meader — see Hollis’ review (and Micky’s 3 star review) here

star reads

THE HELPLINE by Katherine Collette — see Hollis’ review here
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by Andre Aciman — see Micky’s (and Hollis’ June thoughts) review here



additional reads not reviewed for blog : 3
total reads by Micky : 24
favourite read of the month : A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL
least favourite read of the month : CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
most read genre : contemporary

total reviews by Hollis : 10
favourite read of the month : THE MERCIFUL CROW
least favourite read of the month : THE HELPLINE
most read genre : contemporary

THE MERCIFUL CROW by Margaret Owen

A future chieftain
Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they’re called to collect royal dead, she’s hoping they’ll find the payout of a lifetime.

A fugitive prince
When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie’s ready to cut her losses—and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can’t refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he’ll protect the Crows when he reigns.

A too-cunning bodyguard
Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas’s life before his, magically assuming the prince’s appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own?


Title : The Merciful Crow
Author : Margaret Owen
Series : The Merciful Crow (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : July 30, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m super glad I’ve just bemoaned all the disappointing YA fantasy so far this year because the universe sat up, said, ‘oh yeah?’, and tugged the rug right out from under me.

Bookies, I present to you : THE MERCIFUL CROW. I knew nothing about this before beginning (#TeamNoBlurbs) and was delighted at every turn the story took.

This world is made up of Castes centered around various birds : Crows at the bottom, Pheonixes at the top. We see the world through the Crows’ eyes; they are mercy killers, resistant to the plague that sweeps the nation, able to draw power from teeth (it sounds weird but it’s so cool), and overwhelmingly reviled by everyone else. They are spit upon, treated abominably, and yet every dying soul calls to them for mercy. They keep the realm safe because without them plague would run rampant, everyone would die. And yet..

Fie and her father’s band of Crows are called to the kingdom to dispose of two bodies. This is a rare event because royals, for whatever reason, haven’t been struck down by the plague in centuries. And when they are moments away from burning the corpses.. it turns out they are far less dead than everyone thought. And that one of them is the prince.

THE MERCIFUL CROW then goes on to weave a breakneck tale of disaster, betrayal, acceptance, more disasters, more betrayals, and on and on. This world was so rich and fascinating and holy forking hell was it diverse and delicious. Skin colour, sexuality, talk of periods.. Owens tackled them all without ever feeling like she was checking off a box for including one element of another. I loved that so so much. It felt effortless. Infact her writing in general was smooth and fierce and fraught with emotion. Just like her characters. 

My one complaint is that, and it might be my fault for missing it though I’m not sure I did, I’m not entirely clear why there is a plague in this world. It was never explained. But I thought every other bit was. Jasimir, the prince, was mostly a naive, spoiled, shit — as one expects — but through him we get a closer look at the prejudice and discrimination and ignorance of this world and the thoughtlessness (which is the kindest form of treatment they ever receive) towards the Crows. How the whole world is built on hating these people.. and yet relying on them. How no one has thought to question why or wonder about them. Or treat them as something more than trash. It was insidious, underlying every interaction or belief, and the author did a fabulous job at making this treatment abhorrent without ever making the story depressing. Just tense and brutal.

As for Fie, our lead and sole POV, she was.. wow. Brave and angry, fierce and uncompromising, full of doubt as she remained strong. She burned herself out, sacrificing not only for her people but for two individuals who hadn’t known her name, hadn’t cared about her Caste until they needed her; time and time again she pushed herself. For a promise, for the hope of a better future, even if it meant she wouldn’t see it herself. 

We also had a love interest and I won’t say I saw it coming but.. I did. And that was okay because I was totally onboard, totally shipping it, and the fact that we had some excellent exchanges around consent as well as discussion around sex itself..? Hello hi here for more of this in YA please.

When it comes to the ending, I’m also a huge fan of it. This is apparently a series (duology? trilogy? don’t know) and yet the ending was perfect. I am so satisfied and yet curious and excited and maybe a bit worried. Nothing has really resolved and yet it doesn’t really feel like anything is left hanging, either. It’s a great balance. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be clamouring for book two.

I’m totally shocked this is the author’s debut and highly anticipate this’ll be something of a surprise hit for many readers. You definitely need to keep this one on your radar. I totally recommend.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JULY 30, 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.


DARK AGE by Pierce Brown. Does this book need any further introduction? The fans have been waiting and it’s finally here!

THE MERCIFUL CROW by Margaret Owen is one of the few YA fantasy releases that lived up to the hype. Owen weaves a breakneck tale of disaster, betrayal, acceptance, more disasters, more betrayals, and on and on. This world was so rich and fascinating and holy forking hell was it diverse and delicious. Look for Hollis’ review on the blog tomorrow!

HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK by Kristin Rockaway is a fun story featuring all the pitfalls of app-dating, online culture, and toxic workplace culture, particularly as a woman in tech. Hollis’ review will be posted today!

BRAZEN AND THE BEAST by Sarah MacLean is book two in her Bareknuckle Bastards series. I absolutely loved the first book and I cannot wait to get my hands on this one. I’m forever looking forward to more of this series as the author has even teased book three and I’m already dying for it.

Kate Meader has a brand new series opener with GOOD GUY which is a hockey romance series that is spinning off from the Chicago Rebels series. This one features a sports reporter and the rookie who is a Special Forces veteran? That’s checking a lot of boxes!

A HIGHLANDER WALKS INTO A BAR by Laura Trentham is set mainly in the US in a small Scottish transplant of a town thats rather quaint. The story centres around two couples, one more at the fore, both American women, both Scottish men and the build-up to some highland games. Definitely a fun read.


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

HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK by Kristin Rockaway

Swipe right for love. Swipe left for disaster.

By day, Mel Strickland is an underemployed helpdesk tech at a startup incubator, Hatch, where she helps entitled brogrammers—”Hatchlings”—who can’t even fix their own laptops, but are apparently the next wave of startup geniuses. And by night, she goes on bad dates with misbehaving dudes she’s matched with on the ubiquitous dating app, Fluttr.

But after one dick pic too many, Mel has had it. Using her brilliant coding skills, she designs an app of her own, one that allows users to log harrassers and abusers in online dating space. It’s called JerkAlert, and it goes viral overnight.

Mel is suddenly in way over her head. Worse still, her almost-boyfriend, the dreamy Alex Hernandez—the only non-douchey guy at Hatch—has no idea she’s the brains behind the app. Soon, Mel is faced with a terrible choice: one that could destroy her career, love life, and friendships, or change her life forever.


Title : How to Hack a Heartbreak
Author : Kristen Rockaway
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : Graydon House
Release Date : July 30, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

What I loved most about HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK was Melanie. Our lead character is doggedly using the author’s version of Tinder, Fluttr, to try and find a connection. An enduring one. Not just for the night, though she’s willing to compromise, at least, on The One. She’d be fine with The One For Now. Unfortunately she’s constantly stood up or fielding dick picks. And by day, she’s working in a toxic start-up culture populated by frat bros who treat her, and her role as technical support, with sneers and abuse. Worse, she’s forever undermined as a coder just for being a woman.

This was far from the lighthearted rom-com I thought it would be. It actually read’s a bit less like a romance and more women’s fiction. Melanie has to face up to her own issues of paranoid and insecurity surrounding potential love interests, issues that harken back to her past, all while not letting the world around her drag her down. Even when it does.. repeatedly.
Rounding out the mix, though, is a great group of girlfriends who I would totally read more of. I don’t always just assume we’ll get follow up stories for members of the girlgang but in this case.. I’d love to read more about Whit! And get Lia a happy ending, too.

This story was smart, filled with clever and ingenious ladies, and yet didn’t shy away from the toxic internet and dating culture, whether it be through trending hashtags, reddit threads, or otherwise. I felt this perfectly reflected everything about my world but was still made interesting, too.
While the romance wasn’t my favourite thing, and I don’t know if that’s maybe because some of Melanie’s paranoia about Alex rubbed off on me as a reader, I did enjoy everything else in the story. And the writing. Like I said, I would totally read more of this group, and this world. Or whatever else Rockaway has to offer.

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

A HIGHLANDER WALKS INTO A BAR by Laura Trentham


The timeless romance, soaring passion—and gorgeous men—of Scotland comes to modern-day America. And the rules of love will never be the same… 

Isabel Buchanan is fiery, funny, and never at a loss for words. But she is struck speechless when her mother returns from a trip to Scotland with a six-foot-tall, very handsome souvenir. Izzy’s mother is so infatuated by the fellow that Izzy has to plan their annual Highland Games all by herself. Well, not completely by herself. The Highlander’s strapping young nephew has come looking for his uncle…

Alasdair Blackmoor has never seen a place as friendly as this small Georgia town—or a girl as brilliant and beguiling as Izzy. Instead of saving his uncle, who seems to be having a lovely time, Alasdair decides he’d rather help Izzy with the Highland Games. Show her how to dance like a Highlander. Drink like a Highlander. And maybe, just maybe, fall in love with a Highlander. But when the games are over, where do they go from here?


Title : A Highlander Walks Into A Bar
Author : Laura Trentham
Series : Highland, Georgia #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : St Martins Paperbacks
Release Date : July 30, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

I think I shot myself in the foot a bit with this read because I had self-hyped it such a lot. I loved the title, I loved the synopsis and the cover is pretty cute too. However, for me, this was just a cute, okay read; it didn’t blow me away like I wanted. That said, I want to tell you what worked and some of things that didn’t.

Firstly, it’s important to understand going into this that it is set in the US not in Scotland, if you’ve read the synopsis, you’ll know this. It is a story of two couples coming together in a mirrored way. Rosie and Izzy (mother and daughter) run an estate that is a piece of Scotland in Georgia, US. Izzy’s mother returns from a Scottish trip with a highlander as a ‘souvenir’. Soon enough, his nephew Alasdair comes to investigate who has captured his uncle’s interest and what her intentions are. From this, Izzy and Alasdair find themselves thrown together for practical reasons.

I found Rosie and Gareth’s story incredibly cute, even though their story was very much in the background. The secrets and lies were less appealing and made for something of a predictable plot point. I found Izzy to be a character that was rather difficult to get to know and this was a barrier to liking her overall. Alasdair was infinitely more likeable. The chemistry between Izzy and Alasdair made for the best part of the book.

My main issue with this story was pacing and the slow sense of the story moving along. I can’t quite put my finger on why I felt a difficulty pushing through but it was pretty consistent. I’ve read and loved Laura Trentham’s books before, so I know this isn’t her normal style of pacing.

The story wrapped up in an amusing and sweet way, also laying the foundations for book two. I am undecided whether I will continue with this series.

Thank you to netgalley and St Martins Press for the review copy.