ALL THIS TIME by Mikki Daughtry & Rachel Lippincott

Kyle and Kimberly have been the perfect couple all through high school, but when Kimberly breaks up with him on the night of their graduation party, Kyle’s entire world upends—literally. Their car crashes and when he awakes, he has a brain injury. Kimberly is dead. And no one in his life could possibly understand.

Until Marley. Marley is suffering from her own loss, a loss she thinks was her fault. And when their paths cross, Kyle sees in her all the unspoken things he’s feeling.

As Kyle and Marley work to heal each other’s wounds, their feelings for each other grow stronger. But Kyle can’t shake the sense that he’s headed for another crashing moment that will blow up his life as soon as he’s started to put it back together.

And he’s right.


Title : All This Time
Author : Mikki Daughtry & Rachel Lippincott
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Release Date : September 29, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★


Micky’s 2 star review

I’m sorry to say this story didn’t work for me on any level, so I’m going to keep my review short. I really enjoyed this author duo’s FIVE FEET APART, so I was eager to see another story from them. The cover is pretty and it felt like a style that fitted with their previous book.

This story takes the reader through death, loss, grief, healing, recovery and yet, does it really? From the first few pages, this story forced a seemingly emotional story on the reader. It felt too much, too soon. The protagonist Kyle was going through so much and yet I had a sneaking suspicion.

Honestly, the story didn’t relent, lurching from one emotional event to another, with Kyle, Sam and Kim then Kyle and Marley. I found the plot utterly ridiculous when at 65% what I suspected was coming, was realised. How I limped to the end, I’m unsure. This felt like an immature plot and read for me and I’m gutted to be saying that so plainly. I suspect this will work on a surface level for teen readers and for that I’m glad.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the early review copy.

BREATHLESS by Jennifer Niven

The much anticipated new novel from international bestselling author Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places.

You were my first. Not just sex, although that was part of it, but the first to look past everything else into me. Some of the names and places have been changed, but the story is true. It’s all here because one day this will be the past, and I don’t want to forget what I went through, what I thought, what I felt, who I was. I don’t want to forget you. But most of all, I don’t want to forget me.

For her last summer before college, Claudine Henry and her mother head to a remote island off the Georgia coast. There, amidst the wild beauty of the place, she meets the free spirited Jeremiah Crew. Their chemistry is immediate and irresistible, and even though they both know that whatever they have can only last the summer, maybe one summer is enough . . .


Title : Breathless
Author : Jennifer Niven
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Random House Children’s UK
Release Date : September 29, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★.5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

I’ve found this to be a hard one to find a comfortable rating and so I’ve settled at the 2.5 point after much pondering. Reading BREATHLESS proved to be a frustrating experience. The main character Claud felt all over the place and while she had reasons, the drama whiplash was severe at times.

I felt a little more settled in the story when Claud got to her island summer home, I liked the vibe of the place and the eclectic mix of people. Claud however, remained chaotic and sex-obsessed when she got there. I did feel that she seemed written a little young for her character’s age.

Sadly the story, whilst it had some definite highlights like the parental story line and Claud’s relationship with her father, there were a lot more dull periods. And then there’s the ending, which I hated as much as drinking a glass of sour milk. Sadly, this book didn’t hit the spot for me and there was more I disliked than liked.

There are triggers for days in this book, so if you need that information, please go and look for warnings.

Thank you to Random House for the early review copy.

ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne – double review!

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London’s most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips…Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women…and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?


Title : All Scot and Bothered
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : Devil You Know (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : September 29, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was pretty close to rounding up on this one but couldn’t quite tip it over the edge. But this was still a fun read.

He said he and I were similar souls. It was though he could see parts of himself in me.
I can guess which parts.”

I found I got off to a bit of a rough start with this because we’re thrown into a weird situation out of nowhere, alongside one of our MCs, but while she got some answers along the way, I still felt it took too long to settle into the goings on. Likewise, I felt it dragged just as things started to really settle. But then near the end? I was crying. I was moved. And then wham bam we had lots of action and reveals, ma’am. Things wrap up pretty quick, in fairly predictable ways — though we had a delightful tease and set-up for book three — but I was still feeling those earlier lovelier feels.

I am a woman, Ramsay, I am used to pain.”

Jean-Yves is the star of this show, yes he is. I want a devoted French butler, please.

Are you all willing to resort to violence?
No.”
Yes.”
Only if strictly necessary.

This series is definitely a highlight when it comes to strong female characters but also fantastic female friendships. The depths the author gives these Red Rogues is just delightful. I was really happy with the dimension Byrne had given to book one’s hero but found this one a bit less memorable and a little more typical and/or standard for HR. That said, I think we’re going to get a change-up when it comes to the next man in this round up (or at least I hope so!). And with that said..

Looking forward to book three.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I definitely like the vibe that Kerrigan Byrne brings to these stories and her character creations. ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED was a good second instalment in the Devil You Know series but I liked it a little less than book one.

Cecelia and the Red Rogues found themselves a little more separate in this story but Cecelia and Ramsey took up that space nicely. Cecelia’s character felt a little ellusive to me throughout this read but I did like her, I just wanted to feel a little more immersed in how she thought rather than just how she acted. She was a feminist, a carer for others, but also naive. Ramsey, the stubborn, hard-headed and arrogant hero was also strangely likeable despite his thick skull.

But he knew that if he relented, her flames could prove to be hellfire, consuming everything good about the life he’d built from nothing.

The story wandered from London to the lowlands of Scotland but I didn’t get the feels for Scotland in this one and I longed for that a bit. Nevertheless, Scotland did bring an impasse of understanding between these two, a place to be on the same page. Jean-Yves and Phoebe were sweet side characters who enriched the narrative.

What would a lifetime of her smiles do?

I really liked the story in the background for the first three quarters but that lost a little traction for me in the last quarter. All that said, it was a very satisfying story and I’ll definitely be here for the next book in the series. It was easy to read over a weekend and brought some welcome escapism.

Thank you to St Martins Press for the early review copy.

A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik – double review!

In the start of an all-new series, the bestselling author of Uprooted and Spinning Silver introduces you to a dangerous school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death – until one girl begins to rewrite its rules.
_______________________________________

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.

There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal.

Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.

El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.

Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.
_______________________________________

Wry, witty, endlessly inventive, and mordantly funny – yet with a true depth and fierce justice at its heart – this enchanting novel reminds us that there are far more important things than mere survival.


Title : A Deadly Education
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : Scholomance #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Random House UK/Cornerstone / Del Rey
Release Date : September 29, 2020

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


Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

I’m a bit dithery over that rating, take it as 4.25 if that helps! I just about devoured this book whenever I could and it made for tasty reading. The Scholomance was a school like you’ve never imagined, a school trying to kill its pupils with brimming magic, a void and tonnes of deadly creatures.

This was a witty read and that really surprised me. We’ve definitely seen shades of Novik’s sarcastic humour through Uprooted but this story had a lighter, laugh-out-loudness to it. I thought the whole concept of The Scholomance (the boarding school for wizards) was unique. Add to that the snarkiest heroine I’ve read in a while in Galadriel (El) and it was hard for this book to put a foot wrong.

When I want to straighten my room, I get instructions on how to kill it with fire.

Odd right? Spells didn’t flow in the expected way for her, but Galadriel was not a conventional wizard by Scholomance pupil standards, she was quietly and covertly exceptional. I loved reading about her systems, her talents and the languages she was studying. Most of all, I enjoyed reading her growth in friendships. El was almost made perfect with her use of British swears. I can say that Novik wrote a Brit (she was actually Welsh) particularly well.

The begrudging friendship/white knight (not needed) in Orion made for hilarity and chuckling. It was hard not to like Orion despite his saviour complex but there’s definitely more to unpack with him and I’m so glad we hopefully get to do that in the next book.

“You know, it’s almost impressive,” he said after a moment, sounding less wobbly. “You’re nearly dead and you’re still the rudest person I’ve ever met.”

The heirarchies in the school were something else and the void was just nausea-inducing to me. This truly was the school of nightmares and I wouldn’t last more than a minute in there! I simply cannot wait for the next instalment. And so I leave you with my favourite line (kudos to Jane Eyre here).

Reader, I ran the fuck away.

Thank you to Cornerstone/Random House for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

A DEADLY EDUCATION is like a dark mashup of Harry Potter — if the only class was Defense Against the Dark Arts — complete with the magical puberty problems and monster-attraction issues ala Percy Jackson, but if instead of Buffy we had Faith saving the world all the time.. though hella reluctantly. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This book is nothing like what I expected a book by Novik would be. This, for all the darkness and the fact that it’s set inside a castle that seems to be actively working to kill it’s residents — or at last lead it’s inhabitants into a position to die and casually look away — is funny, quippy, and strange.

Unlike Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or even Faith, we are tossed into the depths of things via Galadriel’s (El’s) point of view. She isn’t a noob blinking big innocent eyes as she wanders into this new world, no. She’s in her second to last year, having survived many years, many near deaths, with a prophecy already hanging over her head; she’s full of the bitterness and disdain from years of rejections, years of loneliness, and completely unimpressed when the school’s hero not only suddenly takes a shine to her but also saves her life.. a lot.

I liked our MC so much. I thought El’s snarky voice, her rudeness, was great. She has cultivated her niche deliberately because of circumstances completely out of her control but as delightful as she is at the onset, I loved her journey and evolution even more. Equally fun was Orion, the hero, the saviour, was equally not as one-note as he could’ve been. There are layers to both these characters and their interactions were a lot of fun as this definitely leaned into the enemies-turned-reluctant-allies-turned-friends trope. Infact, I don’t think I disliked a single character? Yes, I, too, am shook.

Though we never leave this young-person death trap of a school, Novik still manages to make her world feel big. This is helped not only because of the diversity of the students we are exposed to but, more importantly, all the Enclaves all over the world (think of them as Shadowhunter Institutes) they might be invited to after graduation if they are smart, skilled, or sought after enough. The rules are strange. I won’t explain further but.. don’t expect House points!

I had such a good time reading this, despite how different it was from my expectations, and I devoured it in less than a day. I enjoyed this so much and am very intrigued and very keen for more.

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

THE RETURN by Nicholas Sparks

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with a moving new novel about an injured army doctor and the two women whose secrets will change the course of his life.

Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, North Carolina. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked as an orthopedic surgeon sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he’d inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any.

Tending to his grandfather’s beloved bee hives while preparing for a second stint in medical school, Trevor isn’t prepared to fall in love with a local . . . yet, from their very first encounter, Trevor feels a connection with deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson that he can’t ignore. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she’s hiding.

Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road. Claiming to be 17, she works at the local sundries store and keeps to herself. Discovering that she was once befriended by his grandfather, Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, but she offers few clues – until a crisis triggers a race that will uncover the true nature of Callie’s past, one more intertwined with the elderly man’s passing than Trevor could have ever anticipated.

In his quest to unravel Natalie and Callie’s secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness . . . and that in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began.


Title : The Return
Author : Nicholas Sparks
Format : eARC
Page Count : 296
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Sphere
Release Date : September 29, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Nicholas Sparks excels on the quirky, small-town feel with this book. He created some rather ordinary characters, at first glance uninteresting and at second glance, they were everything I wanted to read.

The protagonist Trevor, recovering veteran and retired doctor had a life that was secluded, involved focus on recovery, health and bees. Bees…honestly, I adored this aspect of the story, the foundation and focus it brought to all the characters in the book . And my favourite character? Trevor’s grandpa, what a man. Alongside Trevor, there were a small cast of characters and they were all interesting, especially Natalie and Callie.

This was a story of why a loved one died mid-adventure and what he was up to, who was Callie and why was she so closed up and why was Natalie the way she was. It was a tale cleverly woven together, I felt like I almost got there with some of my guesses but they were just out of reach. When the reveals came, I was all ‘oh my’.

I actually only acrued two cry counts for this Sparksy. I don’t cry easily at books but Sparks can usually eek out a little more from me. That said, I was glad not to be a weeping wreck.

THE RETURN was a generally enjoyable, quirky, small-town story with grief, illness, bees, romance and that signature lament. It was pretty wholesome and it left a good feeling on completion.

Thank you to Sphere, Little Brown UK for the early review copy.

WELL PLAYED by Jen DeLuca

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.
 
When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.
 
Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.


Title : Well Played
Author : Jen DeLuca
Series : Well Met (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : September 22, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I have to be honest, I’m a little disappointed about this one. It’s not remotely a bad book but I expected more of the delight of book one’s banter and chemistry to show up here and, due to circumstances of the meet/genesis of the relationship, we don’t quite get it.

Stacey was really relateable character in a lot of ways; stuck in a small town, post-college plans derailed, days spent looking at the lives of others through social media or her phone and feeling like she’s missed opportunities for more. And equally, I felt a lot of things about love interest, who was quite soft and sweet; even though in critical moments he just completely left Stacey hanging out to dry. Neither were perfect, of course — I found Stacey randomly being annoyed by people sometimes jarring because it seemed to come out of nowhere — but I think this is going to be a situation where we all might be wishing for a bit more groveling on the side of the guy. I know I did.

What the hell is wrong with you two? You’re both nerds, you know that? In this century we don’t go straight for a Cyrano reference. We all it catfishing.”

Overall though I think that’s maybe what’s missing and letting this one fall a little short. It’s just missing that edge, that extra bit of something something. I also wonder if maybe Emily and Simon, book one’s couple, were just a little too centre stage in some of the plot. I suppose to fits with the theme of Stacey feeling like she’s just stuck in place, watching life happen around her, but.. maybe without them being so present it would’ve just been a sadder book?

Also, if you wanted higher heat levels in the wake of book one? Well, you’ll get them.

It was nice being reunited with everyone, we get to see all the familiar faces, and I’m excited at some of the breadcrumbs laid in preparation for book three, but while there were some sweet moments.. it won’t be anywhere near as memorable as WELL MET.

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

THE SILVERED SERPENTS by Roshani Chokshi

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumoured to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.


Title : The Silvered Serpents
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Series : The Gilded Wolves (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA historical fiction / fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 22, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

You know the chorus from Paramore’s Decode? How did we get here? I used to know you so well? Well that’s what was running through my head as I finished this book. How did I go from confused tolerance for book one to.. exceedingly enjoying this one? Every now and then this happens to me and it only reinforces my behaviour to read on in series that I maybe didn’t love or had mixed feelings on. Yet when it works in my favour I’m still always surprised.

Be a light in this world, [..], for it can be very dark.

I mean, it could still all go to shit in book three, but right now? Hi hello. We like.

As per usj, this is a sequel, so there’s not much I can or will say. But if you loved book one? I think you’ll love this, too. And for those, like me, who were uncertain or confused or not wholly into it? I might suggest you push on. Everything is still the same, I can’t quite articulate how things have changed (besides the obvious spoilery ways), but I found this one a lot easier to follow.

You rescued us. This almost feels like a fairy tale, and I’m the damsel in distress.
You’re not a damsel.”
I am in distress, though.
But–
Let me have this.”

While I don’t think I ever really got sucker punched in the feels, or felt anything was particularly funny or humourous, I nonetheless felt more connected to these characters and their myriad tragedies, losses, or heartbreaks. It’s weird. I was so disconnected from them in book one but now? I don’t know how it happened.

When she thought of evil, she did not think of mechanical monsters swimming in lake waters, but of people; [..] the people who hid cruelty behind politics.

I will say this was also an easier book to visualize (always my number one problem with this author’s writing) but there were still two scenes that stuck out to me where I was really grasping to understand how things were happening or what it looked like. So, like, literally almost everything I struggled with in book one doesn’t apply to this one. We love that!

My life, and whatever is left of it, will not be what his soul gnaws on to regain its strength. My death is not in service to his character, and I will not be a sacrifice simply for him to find peace of mind. He is not my responsibility to save.

I’m definitely keen to see these characters come back from where they’ve ended up and how this whole story wraps. Bring on 2021 (.. and for more reasons than just this book! all the reasons!).

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

TOOLS OF ENGAGEMENT by Tessa Bailey – double review!

In Tessa Bailey’s latest rom-com, two enemies team up to flip a house… and the sparks between them might burn the place down or ignite a passion that neither can ignore!

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.


Title : Tools of Engagement
Author : Tessa Bailey
Series : Hot & Hammered (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : September 22, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Possibly my favourite of the series?

We love a hate-to-love in this house, or at least a somewhat antagonistic dynamic hiding attraction, particularly when the pair are opposites, but throw in an age gap and a single dad-situation, too? I mean, c’mon. Catnip.

I like being referred to as your foreman. It’s got a nice ring.”
Especially compared to what I usually call you.”
Truth. It’s a definite improvement from dickhead.”

The build-up for this match up has been bubbling away in the background of this series for a while and, for this reader, it was definitely worth the wait. Pretty much everything about this just worked for me (maybe also helped by a bit of a dry spell in the contemporary romance genre?). Besides the delightful tease and torment, the peeling back of layers, I just really appreciated all the situations navigated. Bethany’s insecurities, Wes’ impermanence, and the fact that as they tear down a structure to rebuild, and do it together, they realize how well the fit. How one has a house — though it isn’t a home — much less one filled with joy, while the other is only ever a guest, never asked to stay. Never needed or wanted.

Can you tell this book made me cry?

Don’t worry, though, it’s also sexy and hot af, as one expects from a Bailey.

I’m not interested in a fling — and even if I was, you’ve wisely removed sex from the equation–
Deepest regret of my life.”
Yeah, pretty shortsighted of you.

I’ll admit the introduction of the reality show element wasn’t my favourite, though it worked as the spark to kick things off and ramp up the intensity and the stakes. And I didn’t love the big reconciliation moment (I think I said the same about book one? I’m just not always into these big showy expressions, I think). But I appreciated that things ended happily though not with every bit tied off in a bow; and but that I mean with the characters and their journeys, too. It helps shave off a bit of cheese from the whole HEA and makes it much more palateable.

That was poetic.
Your epitagh is going to be poetic once I strangle you.”
Having your hands on me is the ideal way to go.”

If you’ve enjoyed the books in this series, I think you’ll definitely like this one, too.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This was another fun instalment in the series and what I’ve loved about the series, are the characters Tessa Bailey creates. Bethany and Wes were no exception and probably the most endearing characters so far. Bethany was a perfectionist with sometimes crippling anxiety and Wes was an ex-bullrider, trying to parent his niece. Said niece was funny and adorable. I love flawed (normal) characters so I found this set up appealing.

This was a bit of an age-gap romance (7 years) however at 23 and 30, it didn’t feel that much of an issue to me, but it was to Bethany. I was glad to see Bethany in close focus in this book and she was much more than the perfect house and event stylist I’d seen from other books. The tension between her and Wes was pretty hot-banterish with a side of snarky fake-hate. The dialogue was extremely fun.

Wes was adorable, parenting his niece, making it up as he went along but he was such a good guy despite the innuendo towards Bethany. He was protective to them both without being overly alpha-ish , which I really appreciated. The story was predictable but fun.

I don’t exactly know why this book didn’t hit the 4 stars having said all the above but I did keep putting the book down and it didn’t hold my attention on holiday, with no outside stressors. By 70% I wanted to get to the end, the predictability had won over and I knew there would be a hurdle then smooth. However, it left me with all the good feels with a strong ending.

This was a good instalment in the series, but book 2 remains my favourite.

Thank you to Avon for the early review copy.

COMMON GOAL by Rachel Reid

New York Admirals goalie Eric never thought his friends-with-benefits arrangement with much-younger Kyle would leave them both wanting more…

Veteran goaltender Eric Bennett has faced down some of the toughest shooters on the ice, but nothing prepared him for his latest challenge—life after hockey. It’s time to make some big changes, starting with finally dating men for the first time.

Graduate student Kyle Swift moved to New York nursing a broken heart. He’d sworn to find someone his own age to crush on (for once). Until he meets a gorgeous, distinguished silver fox hockey player. Despite their intense physical attraction, Kyle has no intention of getting emotionally involved. He’ll teach Eric a few tricks, have some mutually consensual fun, then walk away.

Eric is more than happy to learn anything Kyle brings to the table. And Kyle never expected their friends-with-benefits arrangement to leave him wanting more. Happily-ever-after might be staring them in the face, but it won’t happen if they’re too stubborn to come clean about their feelings.

Everything they both want is within reach… They just have to be brave enough to grab it.


Title : Common Goal
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changers (book four)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 282
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sports romance
Publisher : CarinaPress
Release Date : September 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Do you continue to pick up books in the Game Changers series because you want Ilya cameos? Because hi, it me.

Ilya Rozanov wants to hang out with you tonight? At a gar bar?
Apparently.”
That guy is so weird.

Just kidding. I’m also here for the hockey and the romance. And surprising no one, in a series of hockey romances, we had both here.

Dating a much younger man would pretty much make him a walking midlife crisis, and Eric really didn’t want that kind of attention. He couldn’t stomach the idea of being a recently divorced man rebounding with a pretty young thing. And then there was the fact that Kyle was a man.

This was definitely the strongest in this series post, and pre, HEATED RIVALRY, and I’m so relieved about that. The dynamic of this couple, the age gap and the fact that it’s the older man needing guidance as he explores his hitherto unexplored attraction to men, was so sweet without ever getting into book one levels of sucrose. I think what really helped this romance for me was that I believed in the friendship that was the foundation for what later bloomed. And, honestly, the first kiss? Heart eyes. Pure heart eyes. This is actually one of those romances where I was less into the hot and heavy scenes and more into the burgeoning affection between the leads.

Not that I’m not happy for Scott, but I’ve been thinking about my own wedding, I guess.”
You can remember back that far?
Shut it.”
I forget. Was Holly a war bride? Was she your nurse after the Germans shot you?
All right, I’m going home.

As I’m forever saying, I’m a sucker for an ensemble, particularly when it’s a sports team ensemble. These players? I adore them. There were so many hilarious little moments and yes, as I teased above, Ilya was at the center of a lot of those funnies. Getting those moments with him, particularly when sharing page time with Hollander, and knowing we’re finally getting a sequel? I’m trying to cram my expectations into a small box but it’s hard, yo.

Who knew Rozanov had such a big heart?
I had a hunch. I think he might secretly be a big softy.”
He does a damn good job of hiding it.

Back to COMMON GOAL, I want to mention how awesome it was to see dialogue about consent and expectations about intimacy between two men because even in m/m romances I don’t think that’s really talked about. Safety, protection? Sure. But feeling obligated to put out, or return the favour, especially if you aren’t comfortable or as enthusiastic as you might have been? We love to see that. Also the discourse around the validity of bisexuality even if you haven’t explored part of that spectrum? Fabulous.

Toronto was a team of weirdos. <– this quote isn’t included for any context, it just made me laugh

Overall, I had a really good time with this read and would definitely recommend fans of this series who may (or may not) have been a little less enthusiastic about book three, particularly in the wake of Ilya and Hollander, to give it a go. I was also about to suggest those missing hockey to dive face first into this to get your fix but hockey is, like, back now? But weird? In August? 2020 man, it keeps on keepin’ on.

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

THE STONE SKY by N. K. Jemisin

This is the way the world ends… for the last time. 

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.


Title : The Stone Sky
Author : N. K. Jemisin
Series : The Broken Earth (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 324
Genre : fantasy / science fiction / dystopia
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : August 15, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

Despite the fact that there were some truly lovely bits in this final installment, overwhelmingly this doesn’t rate as high as the rest of the series — particularly book one. And that’s due to many factors. Not the least being that this just felt like.. too much for my brain to grasp. And it was already trying to handle a lot; there was just so much extra info that just buried us (me). I feel like for every two things I could absorb, I was missing three more things. Maybe. I don’t know. I feel overwhelmed right now. Maybe it’s just because it’s one AM and I’m tired. But beyond that, another factor, was also because I’m not sure I ever connected as much to what become a critical second (third, fourth?) POV in this race to the end.

There are none so frightened, or so strange in their fear, as conquerors. They conjure phantoms endlessly, terrified that their victms will someday do back what was done to them.

And yet it’s clear this story, the whole shape of it, couldn’t exist without those things, so that’s why I’m likely to round this up. Because it is complex, it is unbelievable, it is lovely, it is heartbreaking, it is terrible.

[..] for a society built on exploitation, there is no greater threat than having no one left to oppress.

This might be one of the most true, most relevant, SFF stories I’ve ever read. Because so much of our world is built into this, even if it’s made up to be fantastical. And that’s equal parts frightening and hard to swallow. But it’s also so worth your time.