THE GRAVITY OF US by Phil Stamper – double review!

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.


Title : The Gravity of Us
Author : Phil Stamper
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA romance/contemporary
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA
Release Date : February 4, 2020/May 14, 2020

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


Hollis’ 2 star review

I wish I could say this was everything sweet and lovely and as interesting that I hoped it would be.. but it wasn’t.

This is a story about a space mission, social media, and first love. But the space mission never really felt real until near the end, there was so much streaming or reality tv that I felt like shaking my fist and yelling at kids to get off my non-existent lawn, and the first love was hella insta-love-y and took off at the speed of light.

Additionally this ARC was brutally formatted and the little chapter break sessions with the company running the reality tv show were unreadable. So if there was an added element that might’ve explained something.. I missed it. It was just not comprehensible and my brain bled trying to make sense of it.

That said, there is a dramatic element that results in a cool viral campaign to save NASA and I did like how that was done. It gave me the feelings of watching similar movements unfold on twitter and all the traction it gets and all the positive and, unfortunately rare, good things that happen as a result. But it was pretty late in the game to redeem the story on a whole, or even the characters — the one who spearheads the videos is the MC who is, almost in every other situation, a grade A knob.

But maybe this isn’t as bad as it seemed to me. Maybe some of my technical issues contributed to what should’ve been only minor disappointments. But I didn’t enjoy the writing or the characters and any of the good, the diversity and the mental health rep, it was all overshadowed by the unbelievable romance, the self-centered MC, and the boring everything else.

Sadly this debut didn’t wow me and I probably wouldn’t pick up anything by the author again. But I’m glad we’re getting more queer stories (particularly #ownvoices ones) and the effort was made to be inclusive, so, that is why I’ve rounded up just enough to not drop this into one-star territory.

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


Micky’s 2 star review

Gutted is how I feel if I compare my excitement at the beginning and my feelings over this by the end. I feel like THE GRAVITY OF US had all the potential but none of the execution. I couldn’t have been more excited for this context of two NASA teens finding a connection, I couldn’t have felt more let down by the characterisation and plot lines, sadly.

What didn’t work then, you might ask? The protagonist Cal didn’t work for me at all. I was actually invested for the first 25% of this book, overlooking some of the egocentric side of Cal but this all fell flat once the family had moved to Texas. Cal’s character was a lot to handle, the ego, the selfishness; he was bold to the point of being obnoxious to me.

Sadly the story went down the route of insta-touchiness, insta-feelings and insta-love with none of the narrative to make this even slightly tangible. Added to this, I found the handling of mental health issues to be problematic. Depression and anxiety were factors for some of the characters and the lack of time to work on these topics within the story really let that representation down.

I don’t want to flog this horse any more, it’s a painful review to write when I wanted this to be such a different experience. I guess it could work for readers if they are happy to read at the surface only, but really I’m only guessing.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA for the early review copy.

ROAM by C.H. Armstrong

Seventeen year-old Abby Lunde and her family are living on the streets. They had a normal life back in Omaha, but thanks to her mother’s awful mistake, they had to leave what little they had behind for a new start in Rochester. Abby tries to be an average teenager—fitting into school, buoyed by dreams of a boyfriend, college, and a career in music. But Minnesota winters are unforgiving, and so are many teenagers.

Her stepdad promises to put a roof over their heads, but times are tough for everyone and Abby is doing everything she can to keep her shameful secret from her new friends. The divide between rich and poor in high school is painfully obvious, and the stress of never knowing where they’re sleeping or where they’ll find their next meal is taking its toll on the whole family.

As secrets are exposed and the hope for a home fades, Abby knows she must trust those around her to help. But will her friends let her down the same way they did back home, or will they rise to the challenge to help them find a normal life?


Title : Roam
Author : C.H. Armstrong
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 303
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Central Avenue Publishing
Release Date : February 5, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This was our January bookclub pick and I am to thank for this month’s read. ROAM was a sweet and gentle contemporary YA exploring the experiences of a homeless family through the eyes of seventeen year old Abby.

This was a read that immediately sparked compassion for the family’s situation but there was an underlying conflict in the family that made their situation even more discomforting. Abby’s family were living in a van, in a Walmart car park, in winter. Meanwhile, Abby was conveying the appearance of a normal teen at school when life was anything but normal.

What I liked was the narrative about homeless life. I felt emotion over the difficulties this family was experiencing. There was Abby’s younger sister, her step father’s love, shame and difficulty over their situation and then there was the difficult relationship between mother and daughter; that was just a hot mess. I liked learning and reading about life eating at soup kitchens, relying on charity and trying to keep things quiet. The storyline of illness was a bumpy ride and had me feeling the stress.

Things I wasn’t so keen on was the teen life in high school, it was a little predictable and cliche at times. I was glad that Abby had Zach and some good friends on her side but sometimes it came with a slice of seeming to be unrealistic.

ROAM was a generally enjoyable and sweet read. I appreciated a book tackling these themes and we’re off to discuss at bookclub this weekend. There are some discussion questions in the back of the book, so that’s super handy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – FEBRUARY 11, 2020

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.


WHEN YOU SEE ME, book eleven in the Detective D.D Warren series by Lisa Gardner, feels like a direct continuation to book ten. This isn’t one of those mystery/procedural series I think you can just jump into but Gardner always does enough catch-up on backstory that you could probably stumble along without too many questions. This wasn’t Hollis’ favourite of the series but she still enjoyed reuniting with all the familiar faces. Expect her full review tomorrow!

BOOK OF ORLANDO by Laura Lascarso actually released on February seventh but this is our first chance to truly celebrate it. This is the first in a paranormal trilogy about angels, devils, and so much more. It’s a little dark, a whole lot queer, and hot as hell. Check out Hollis’ review here.


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

THE SKY IS MINE by Amy Beashel – Blog Tour

No one has ever asked Izzy what she wants. She’s about to change all that…

In a house adept at sweeping problems under the carpet, seventeen-year-old Izzy feels silenced. As her safety grows uncertain, Izzy know three things for sure. She knows not to tell her mother that Jacob Mansfield has been threatening to spread those kinds of photos around college. She knows to quiet the grief that she’s been abandoned by her best friend Grace. And, seeing her mother conceal the truth of her stepdad’s control, Izzy also knows not to mention how her heart splinters and her stomach churns whenever he enters a room.

When the flimsy fabric of their life starts to unravel, Izzy and her mum must find their way out of the silence and use the power in their voices to rediscover their worth.

For fans of Sara Barnard, Louise O’Neill and E. Lockhart, The Sky is Mine is a powerful exploration of rape culture and domestic abuse, and a moving story of women learning to love themselves enough to demand to be heard.


Title : The Sky Is Mine
Author : Amy Beashel
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 304
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Rock the Boat
Release Date : February 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

See that bright, shiny cover? THE SKY IS MINE is a book that shines but not with cheery goodness. No, this isn’t a story to get comfortable with, it’s a story to get uncomfortable with but it’s really important. This is a spoiler-free review though, so expect a little vagueness.

Izzy was a young woman crushed. Crushed by her home life, crushed by manipulation and crushed by the demise of the most important friendship of her life. Izzy had lost her voice, herself and her perspective. This was a story of spiralling down and then the slow, long swim to the surface.

If things had been different, maybe I could have told Mum…
If things had been different, maybe my dad would have opened his door and his arms…
Things aren’t different though. Things are what they are.

The themes in this book couldn’t be more relevant than they are to contemporary times. The story explored how social media, something said or captured and tracking apps can all make life seemingly impossible. Izzy’s life was on overload but in so many ways. Her story was about trust, grief, finding her voice and her way back to relationships.

THE SKY IS MINE was incredibly discomforting to read but completely worth the journey. There was hope housed within the pages of this book and that made the journey a path that was doable. The narrative voice conveyed by Amy Beashel was compelling and absorbing, taking the difficult and making it readable without losing impact or power. I admired her ability to tackle the subjects in this book, it was a difficult task which she accomplished so well. I am excited to read more from her.

Thank you to Rock The Boat for the finished review copy.

THE MERCIES by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.

Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil.

As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization. 


Title : The Mercies
Author : Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Format :
Page Count : 352
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Pan Macmillan
Release Date : February 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

THE MERCIES was all dark atmosphere, engaging story, conspiracies and foreboding. It required my total engagement from the first page and I gave it willingly. The writing was sublime and something special that it could take such a bleak context and turn it into such an exciting read.

Narrated from the POV of two very different young women, THE MERCIES told the story of a remote fishing village at the remotest tip of Norway. It started in the midst of a storm that wiped out the men on their boats, leaving the women of the village bereft, grieving and with a need to sustain themselves. The slow revealing of characters in the village was a strength to the storytelling, which was very much about trust and mistrust. Maren was a strong and vital young woman, caring for her family and village. They were Lutheran (I think) but they also kept some Sami traditions and rituals.

Time passed and with it, it brought a man tothe village. His purpose was to herald structure and Christian godliness back in the village, with him came his wife, Ursa, the second protagonist. She was weak and unused to hardship but she had character growth that was a great part of the story.

Remember the mistrust? What started as a rumble, became a full blown witch hunt in literal terms. The patriachy was in full throttle and the pack behaviour of some of the women had me wanting to disassociate myself with my gender. That said, I had all sorts of feelings and inner monologue about women knowing only patriarchy and how that affected them when all the men had gone. It was a mess, it was unsettling and then it was hideous.

Suffice it to say that this read gave me all the feelings, some good, many not. Some of the best reads are unsettling, make you feel extreme emotions and drop you at the end. I felt winded and rewarded. What a read, what a writer Kiran Millwood Hargrave is and please can I devour all her books now?

WHAT KIND OF GIRL by Alyssa B Sheinmel

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions: Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true? Some girls want to rally for his expulsion – and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out. 


Title : What Kind of Girl
Author : Alyssa B Sheinmel
Format : Paperback Arc
Page Count : 366
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Atom Books
Release Date : February 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

WHAT KIND OF GIRL was such an interesting read that addressed some relevant but less written-about themes in the context of physical abuse in a dating situation in YA. There are some additional trigger warnings at the beginning of the book for those who seek this out.

This story asked the question, what kind of girl would let something like this happen and focused on the individuals but also very importantly, it focused on the reactions from friends, enemies, family and the school community. I can tell you it frustrated me and infuriated me at times with people’s reactions and turns of events but it was utterly compelling.

The way the story was told was innovative and clever. It was told from mulitple POVS (not too many, I hasten to add) but for the first part of the story, you don’t have names for the characters. This worked really well and there came a point where it was all woven together and the reveals came. Interestingly, this story was also told over one week and yet the level of depth to this story was impressive. I loved the style and structure, it felt fresh. There were moments where I felt in the dark but I enjoyed the veil of mystery until the reveals.

There were two key characters in this book and some strong supporting characters. I loved Maya, Hiram and Junie, although there were moments for each of these characters where I felt unsure about who they were, how loyal they would be and how true to themselves they could be. This is the kind of story that builds and builds and really, you don’t know the full story until the final page.

The writing was inviting in story-telling and mysterious voices. I couldn’t put the book down and read it in less than 24 hours. Alyssa B Sheinmel has a strong narrative YA voice that captured my attention with its themes and ability to immerse me in a situation.

Plenty of women never tell. They don’t come forward and say their boyfriends are hitting them. They find thicker cover-up and better cover stories. They opened a cabinet and a mug fell on their faces. They walked into a doorknob in the middle of the night. Sure, it’s completely implausible-why would anyone be eye-level with a doorknob?-but that’s what women in the movies say. They cover for the men in their lives, at least at first. Eventually the woman stands up for herself and says: Enough.

Thank you to Atom books for the early proof copy in return for an honest review.

GROWN UPS by Marian Keyes

They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?


Title : Grown Ups
Author : Maria n Keyes
Format : eARC
Page Count : 656
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Release Date : February 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

GROWN UPS as you might guess, really showed what a mess grown ups can be. This was a family saga of epic proportions both in length of book but also in depth of shambled relationships and lives. This was definitely a less funny offering from Marian Keyes, but I wouldn’t have minded the lack of humour if the story had worked better for me.

The story centred on three families, brothers, wives and children. The brothers weren’t particularly close but the other people around them included some particularly strong personalities in Jessica, Ferdia, Nell and Liam. The character I probably liked the most was Nell but like is too strong a word, the rest of them I disliked or felt ambivalent about. I didn’t make connections with the characters as I had hoped at all.

The pacing of this story is somewhat slow, every element of the story was told in great depth, usually from multiple perspectives. So you can imagine that it takes 650 pages. This was like observing a slow motion house of cards collapsing over time. At the end, I did not feel wowed in any way or particularly satisfied at any of the outcomes.

I’m sad about this book, having read most of Marian Keyes books but you can’t like them all, I guess.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the early review copy.

BOOK OF ORLANDO by Laura Lascarso

Henri has a policy of not interfering with human affairs—he’s a courier of souls, no more, no less—until he happens upon a boy who reminds him there is goodness and light amidst the sorrow.

Orlando is in a vulnerable situation when Henri intercedes on his behalf and initiates the bond between them. Despite being punished in the past for similar transgressions, Henri finds himself getting more entangled in Orlando’s life over the years, doling out “justice” to those who mean to harm his beloved friend.

In time, Orlando ages into a beautiful young man with agency all his own, and he harbors desires only Henri can satisfy. But there are grave consequences for the mortal and divine when they consort with one another, and the gods will have their sacrifice.

The first of a trilogy, Book of Orlando is a work of adult, erotic fiction. It contains violence and moral ambiguity.


Title : Book of Orlando
Author : Laura Lascarso
Series : Mortal and the Divine (volume 1)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 358
Genre : paranormal / erotica
Publisher : indie
Release Date : February 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I am not sure where to begin with this one.

I want to impress upon you how this isn’t quite like any other paranormal you’ve read; sure, you might be familiar with the usual angels and demons in your fantasy, but this is something new. Are you tired of the same old immortal bloodsuckers, sparkly or otherwise? Lascarso’s got you covered. Want all that and for it to be hot and.. well, scorching hot? Yep and yep.

I find writing this review impossible, and have written and deleted innumerable iterations of this, because I was trying to detail the story and give nothing away and that is just not happening. Everything feels like a spoiler, everything feels like I’m saying too much and ruining the surprise. And that’s the last thing I want to do.

So, suffice it to say that this book deals with trauma, agency, sexual discovery, consent, assault, and abuse, but is also sweet, tender, sexy as hell, and so much more. Orlando is the sassy sweet brat you never knew you wanted to read about, Henri is the epitome of a gentleman demon, and their connection, their love, is everything. The world around them, the magic and the immortals, the age old grievances and the blood, is fascinating, complex, and dark.

I need book two, like, now.

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

THE WORST BEST MAN by Mia Sosa

A wedding planner left at the altar. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s managed to make other people’s dreams come true as a top-tier wedding coordinator in DC. After impressing an influential guest, she’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials. 

Tired of living in his older brother’s shadow, marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning—absolutely off-limits—ex-fiancée. And she loathes him. 

If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own. 

But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again…


Title : The Worst Best Man
Author : Mia Sosa
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

On paper (hah), there’s nothing wrong with this story. It’s diverse, there’s communication, it’s sorta-enemies-to-lovers, or reluctant-rivals-y-to-lovers, whatever, there is friction, and there’s other good things. But I was bored pretty much from 8% right on through to the end. Suffice it to say, my Wheel of Fortune app got a lot of attention the last day or so.

But anyway.

Yes, points for diversity, points of tackling sensitive and relevant topics such as “acceptable” behaviours for people — specifically women — of colour. Except.. I didn’t feel anything. The playful almost-hate banter in the beginning? Odd or juvenile and sometimes both. The sudden attraction? Not a single zing. The touching warming-up-to-each-other moments? Yawn. The sexy times? They felt.. I don’t know, awkward. Too much talking. Too much.. something. I don’t know. The weird transitions? Weird.

Also, this is a weird criticism, and one I’m making again that I made in another review just recently, but this whole going hard to be socially savvy or relevant, by having all this dialogue around certain topics is.. I don’t know, overkill. I’m sure there’s a way to touch on all these hot button issues without making the reader feel like they are being condescended to, or preached at, but maybe some readers aren’t as dialed in or don’t mind? I don’t know what it is. And I doubt I’ll ever be able to articulate my feelings on this properly. But. It’s just a lot.

Anyway, this never really got better, but nor did it deep dive into anything terrible, and yet here we are. This was my first Sosa and while the concept appealed enough for me to request it, there was no feeling in the writing or the story. Or at least nothing that made me feel anything. So I doubt I’ll pick up this author again.

I think other readers will like this, particular those who enjoy Sosa’s writing. So don’t take my word for it. Try a sample and see how it goes.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – FEBRUARY 4, 2020

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.


AN EVERYDAY HERO by Laura Trentham is, per Micky’s review, “this heartwarming story has all the feels and is almost guaranteed to make your eyes leak. [..] This isn’t a dramatic, high action military romance, it is the quiet, sneak up on your feelings type and I couldn’t be happier about that.”

ALONE IN THE WILD by Kelley Armstrong is the fifth book in the Rockton series, about an off-the-grid town in the Yukon. Rockton is a town populated by people who have escaped horrors, are on the run from something in their pasts, and have found a place where they can disappear for a few years. This is one of Hollis’ current favourite series, by a favourite author, but this installment wasn’t as great as previous ones. Her review will be up tomorrow.

THE GRAVITY OF US by Phil Stamper is a story about a space mission, social media, and first love. Hollis didn’t end up loving this one but it’s got a cute cover and it’s queer and she’s sure it’ll do the trick for many readers. Review to come.

THE KING OF CROWS is the final book in the Diviners series by Libba Bray. Hollis read book one a million years ago and meant to reread, and continue in the lead-up to this release, but.. welp. I smell a binge a’coming, though! If you don’t know, this is a paranormal historical fiction series set in the 1920’s New York. Are you excited? No spoilers please!


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