IF I NEVER MET YOU by Mhairi McFarlane – double review!

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real? 

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend… 


Title : If I Never Met You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks/Harper Collins
Release Date : March 24, 2020/January 1, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

This is only my second McFarlane, whereas I’ve read a lot of contemporary writing by a lot of authors, but I think I can safely say that no one writes real life quite like her.

Laurie knew that most people were murdered by someone they knew; she’d stood up in court and argued or the killers’ bail applications while they wept not only about their fate, but about their loss. In this moment, she understood why.

IF I NEVER MET YOU is a women’s fiction title, much like the other one I read by her, DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME, but this one does have a higher romance-content than the latter. That isn’t to say you’re going to get any page time detailing swoony kisses or hot and heavies between the sheets, but instead you’re going to read a romance (fake romance, did I mention the fake dating trope?) that is heavily reliant upon friendship. And while I love me some romance, I love when the characters are friends, too.

Laurie noticed that someone “finishing” with someone else was such a savage language. They canceled you. You are over. Your use has been exhausted.

That said, I am finding it hard to nail down my feelings on this one. There is so much intelligence, strength, and emotion in McFarlane’s writing. This one deals with the emotional devastation and grief in the post-breakdown of an almost two decades long relationship, and where one goes after surviving that; particularly when one’s ex is a total cad. Throw in some maybe-not-so-healthy desire for revenge, the perfect playboy to get it with, and you have a fake dating meets office romance meets friends to real lovers story. But there’s even more than that, too.

“Oh, for fu– I’m sick of this perception of me as the greatest man slag of the northwest.”
Then be less man slag. Be the unslaggy man you want to see in the world.
Pfft. I’m selective.
Then select fewer of them.”

Complicated family dynamics, guilt and grief, enduring female friendships, and, of course, hilarity. And a cat named Colin Fur.

Are you girls ready to order? Need me to explain anything?
We’re not girls. So you can explain your mode of address.”
Hey, y’all look pretty young to me.
Oh, you dear sweet fool, she will now verbally decapitate you.”

I think part of why I find this one harder to rate than the other, which was such a no-brainer, is that for all the emotions, I didn’t quite get caught up in any of them. I very much liked both of these characters, each with their stories that made them so much more than what they were perceived to be, and also deserved so much more for themselves, and I quite liked their respective besties, but.. yeah, just not quite the same charm or outright love. But it’s still such a great story, and so well written, whilst balancing that very real ‘life is messy and sometimes imperfect’ dose of reality, and I’m still a thousand percent keen to dive into the author’s backlist that I’ve yet to explore.

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


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

It’s been a long while since I’ve read Mhairi McFarlane and I’m glad to be reacquainted. IF I NEVER MET YOU was a read of phases for me, one of difficult angst for the first part and then a slow relax into a great story for the rest. I think I was expecting lightness from the start and that early heavy context took me by surprise initially. On reflection, that start made this a deeper story which I really appreciate.

Laurie was an incredibly likeable heroine from the start and it was not at all difficult to get on her side when she was wronged. I hated that sitution, the perpetrator and the demise of things. I loved the strong, successful women that Laurie was and her ability to keep her professional head throughout; I honestly thought that was completely realistic of so many women.

The ensuing story of Laurie and Jamie was pretty damn fun, full of tension and banter. So many lines were highlighted and I loved being the fly on the wall, stalking their dates and plotting. Jamie was a deeper character than I expected but I still think I’d have liked to have known him a little better.

This book was a Mancunian’s gift, set in the city and even more fun for me, visiting places around my work setting. I loved every single Manchester bit.

This was delightful Saturday read, I powered through it in a day, reluctant to put it down. It had some shades of predictability but that made it no less fun. Highly recommended for the kind of romantic read that has you laughing out loud.

WICKED AS YOU WISH by Rin Chupeco

Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends. 

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….


Title : Wicked As You Wish
Author : Rin Chupeco
Series : A Hundred Names for Magic (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA fantasy
Publisher : Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I honestly try not to let other reviews and ratings affect me prior to diving into a book but unfortunately this one was definitely a victim of me doing a whole lot of side-eye as the GR rating went down, down, down in the weeks leading up to release (and, as of writing this review, there’s still three weeks to go..). I stayed away from reviews for the most part but I went into this with concerns not only due to the rating but also after seeing a few DNFs pop up in my feed.

Suffice it to say, I understand why this was a struggle for some readers. The worldbuilding, the mythology, the folklore, the history.. it’s so much. It’s so extra. This is a world where, like, fairytales are on crack. Think of every story, every myth, every legend, everything you’ve ever heard of or read, throw them into a blender, and top it all with a sprinkling of real-world concerns and politics. That’s what this universe is like. There is so much going on just in the every day common knowledge (or not, if you’re the MC, who knows almost nothing, Jon Snow), not to mention this big life-changing, world-altering event, of Avalon, a country where magic first began (or something..?) was frozen over by the Snow Queen, killing Avalon’s rulers, and sending the prince into exile and hiding. Said prince shows up into the armpit of Arizona, where most of this story takes place, and is now being taken in by Tala, our protagonist’s, family, who are all a bunch of famous ex-Avalonian.. militia, or something.

Anyway, eventually they are discovered, the Snow Queen invades a place they once believed she never could, and Tala, the prince, and a ragtag group of teens, find themselves returning to Avalon to break the curse. One of the many curses because, like, everyone has a curse or a doom or a geas and like.. I’m already tired trying to explain this. Because, again, it’s a lot. There’s a huge cast of characters. Prophecies and secrets abound and there’s a lot we, as a reader, are left in the dark about, while other characters seem to prefer to just spout weird prophetic statements without any care to shed light on things, and we bounce from one battle or confrontation to another, all while watching this group form rather predictable connections, despite themselves, and while the Prince acts like an ass.. for no discernible reason.

So, yeah, I have no idea what to do with this. This book was a big floppy trade paperback of an ARC, with tiny tiny writing, and I spent two days slogging through what was, admittedly, a clever and interesting world that I should’ve really loved reading about, but somehow never quite did, and dealing with a pile of characters who should’ve been interesting and fun and only ever sometimes managed a little of that.

The upsides? Beyond the creativity and the astounding amount of work it must’ve taken to put this together and keep it all consistent (seriously, my brain, it hurts), this is heavily steeped in the author’s own culture and there is a lot of representation. Also, I might even pick up book two. But that last point is probably less to do with the book and more to do with my stubbornness and curiousity, so. I don’t know. I can’t recommend. But nor do I think I want to not recommend. There are definitely going to be people who love this but I see just as many, like me, who won’t know what to do with it.. or can’t even get far enough to bother.

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

THE MIDNIGHT LIE by Marie Rutkoski – double review!

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

Set in the world of the New York Times–bestselling Winner’s Trilogy, beloved author Marie Rutkoski returns with an epic LGBTQ romantic fantasy about learning to free ourselves from the lies others tell us—and the lies we tell ourselves. 


Title : The Midnight Lie
Author : Marie Rutkoski
Series : The Midnight Lie (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ fantasy
Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date : March 3, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

D u d e.

That was my reaction at the close of this book. I had no words, really, beyond being stunned and shocked and so desperate for book two.

THE MIDNIGHT LIE was nothing I ever expected. Knowing this was connected to The Winner’s Trilogy doesn’t give you any insight into the story or themes or plot and honestly? I kind of liked that. This, as all my reviews tend to be, will be spoiler free in an effort to retain some of the mystery, that uncertainty, but even knowing how this book begins? You won’t see where it goes.

It was the kind of impossible wish you treat as though it is precious. You make a home for it in your heart. You give it the downiest of beds for its rest. You feed it the choicest pieces, even when the meat it eats is your very soul.

As far as the connection to the original trilogy, think of this spinoff as what SIX OF CROWS was to The Grisha Trilogy. Some similar worldbuilding, but different context. Some alluded to events, but nothing detailed. Maybe cameos. I won’t confirm or deny. But that’s what you’re getting here. Maybe that’ll change with future books? I don’t know.

What I will say, is this book was hard to read at times. Our protagonist, like many in her community, is not well treated. But reading what Nirrim, in particular, is forced to do, what she convinces herself she must do, and how she is gaslighted (gaslit?) at almost every turn, is horrible, horrendous, and hard. There were times I got so frustrated I had to set the book down. But it’s even more interesting to view in hindsight because of where she ends up.

[..] there is no possible way to understand fairness and guilt when your world has already determined a set of rules that don’t make sense.

Yes, I’m terrible, I’m not sorry.

As for the romance? Swoon.

I had every intention of rereading the original trilogy before this one but never did (lolz 4ever because I’m incapable of helping myself, I guess?) but honestly I think, considering where this book went, it was better that I didn’t. But I’ll totally be rereading before book two because I’ll want to reread this one, too.

It is a midnight lie, she said. A kind of lie told for someone else’s sake, a lie that sits between goodness and wrong, just as midnight is the moment between night and morning.

I can’t wait for more and I’m so happy that this author, with her beautiful prose, and her complex, complicated characters, is back. I’m just hoping there’s a foreign edition, yet to be announced, with a better cover.

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

Micky’s 4 star review

Sobs. How fast can Marie Rutoski write and get the next book published because ARGHHHHHHH. This was a book with a clever and intricate plot, things fell into place more fully only as the ending approached, then THAT. Okay, I’m going to calm the capitals now.

I am such a fan girl of The Winners Trilogy and this book set in that world was no disappointment. It was an island of class issues, prejudice, homophobia told through the eyes of seemingly gentle Nirrim. Nirrim had been living a life of oppression but she was beginning to spread her wings on her own, those wings were aided to flight by Sid. Sid was a character I loved, despite her elusiveness and secrets. I loved the build of more between these two, that part of the storyline was particulary fabulous.

Life in the wards had all the description of sights, sounds and smells that conjured a vivid impression despite the lack of actual colour. Discovering the differences between Half Kith, Middling and High Kith was such great plot development and observing Nirrim take steps in new places was intruiging.

I could not put this book down, I read it in a day, feeling fascination, excitement, frustration and desperation for answers. I loved the connection to the winners trilogy, some of which I guessed. This book killed me with the ending. I need more and I feel like I need it now but I am going to have to put my patient pants on and distract myself for a while.

Marie Rutoski has that talent of creating a fantastical world that feels so utterly different to any fantasy you have read before. I am here for her books, always.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

YES NO MAYBE SO by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saaed

Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state candidate – as long as he’s behind the scenes. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is cancelled, her parents are separating and now her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing – with some awkward guy she hardly knows …

Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer – and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural crush of the century is another thing entirely.


Title : Yes No Maybe So
Author : Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saaed
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This is a gift of a contemporary book that bravely tackles the political climate we live in. On top of this, YES NO MAYBE SO is loaded with cuteness. In this way, it balances the serious themes with some lightness very well.

YES NO MAYBE SO had two quirky and endearing characters in Jamie a Jewish teen and Maya a Muslim teen. They were childhood friends but they hadn’t seen one another for a long time. Suddenly, they were coerced into canvasing for a political leader’s election together. Along the way were a bunch of humps in the road, the personal humps were sad but more impactful were the polarising political issues affecting their cultures and faith. The writing was approached in just the right way, it was compelling, it wasn’t preachy and it immersed you in the personal stories of racism, prejudice and ignorance. I can’t speak to the representation of faith or culture in this book but both authors are own voices, that said, please also search out own voices reviews.

There was the sweetest of slow-building connections with these two, it was cutely awkward, especially with Jamie’s knack for saying the wrong thing. There was a lot of cringey, fun moments that made me laugh. I liked that these two were not immediately drawn to one another, at least Maya wasn’t but friendship and camaraderie was a persuasive allure. I did like Maya and Jamie but I didn’t always connect to their wider stories and the side characters. The wider stories were relevant and I think I just wanted something more from the storytelling.

This was a cute, joyful read that didn’t evade real life and politics. There aren’t that many books embracing this kind of context and so I say bravo to Albertali and Saaed for this.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK for the review copy.

LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI by Abigail Hing Wen

For fans of Crazy Rich Asians or Jane Austen Comedy of Manners, with a hint of La La Land

When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart? 


Title : Loveboat, Taipei
Author : Abigail Hing Wen
Series : Loveboat, Taipei #1
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Simon & Schuster
Release Date : January 7, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star read

LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI had a narrative voice that just shouted ‘give me more’ vibes and I enjoyed the reading experience. I’ve heard this book heralded as a more mature & Taiwanese ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ and it did give me some of those vibes at times. This is a more mature YA from a sexual perspective but the characters weren’t always mature in their decisions and actions.

This book brought an enjoyable coupling of American-Asian and authentic Taiwan culture as the protagonist Ever was sent to a summer school in Taipei. The students were all sent by their parents for a summer immersion into the language and customs, but that was not the focus for the students. They were rebellious rabble-rowsers, looking to hook-up, drink alcohol, have fun and break the rules.

Straight A’s
Dress like a Nun
Curfew of Ten
No Drinking
No Wasting Money
No Dancing with a Boy
No Kissing Boys

No Boyfriend

A triangle emerged that I wasn’t super excited about but in actuality, it was pretty palatable. Xavier and Rick were two very different characters and the more I got to know them both, the more I thought they were both great friends and potential boyfriends for Ever. There was a lack of tying up of ends in one direction and I am really hoping that book two will journey down this character’s path.

There were friendships that seemed empowering and positive and there were friends to hate with a passion. I struggled a little with Ever’s quick forgiveness and I’m still holding a grudge.

This book is generally fun but it did tackle some serious topics of domestic abuse and exploitation (of which, I’m not going to elaborate on). I appreciated that Abigail Hing Wen actually ‘went there’ with sexual relationships rather than glossing over or pretending that things wouldn’t go that far. This made it a much more tangible story.

I think this was a great author debut and I am definitely looking forward to reading the next book. I enjoyed the Taiwan context as I knew little about the country but I now know just a little more.

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

THE NIGHT COUNTRY by Melissa Albert

The highly anticipated sequel to Melissa Albert’s beloved, New York Times bestselling debut The Hazel Wood!

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Woodwas just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home…


Title : The Night Country
Author : Melissa Albert
Series : The Hazel Wood (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : January 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

This series has definitely been one of the darker, and bloodier, stories surrounding fairytales that I’ve ever read. And it feels very true, reads so much more honestly, than the versions our generation grew up with. I think it’s that darkness, that depth, that I love most of all. The creativity of twisting these tales, or letting them be their truth, is fantastic. I love it. But there’s also another side of these books that just doesn’t quite line up for me.

In book one, it was Alice’s unlikeable self, the strangeness of the set up, before it finally settled and things were explained. Once again, in book two, it’s the same early chapters where I’m just.. waiting. But this time, I’m waiting it out to understand and see where things are going.. and just how far we’re going to backslide.

This installment does reunite us with a character I didn’t think I missed as much as I did and yet I’m also a little confused about how his presence, and his role, jives with a throwaway line near end of book one? Curious. But anyway I enjoyed his chapters, I enjoyed all the fairytale/Hinterland characters and their backstory woven into their page-time, and I think the eerie disturbing concept around the whole big purpose of THE NIGHT COUNTRY was really interesting and weird, but like, getting there? I don’t know.

Also, I mean, how was it not obvious to an extent? I’m conflicted.

I honestly finished this book with no idea what to rate this. But as I sit here, typing these words, I know : it’s not a four, it’s more than a two, so I guess we’re going with the old faithful three. These are incredibly fascinating and creative books, written so well, but I guess my problem is not always enjoying where it goes? Or how we get from one point to the next? I don’t know, it’s weird. But I’ll definitely keep picking up this author’s books and hoping for a slam dunk win. I think there’s one out there for me.

If you read and enjoyed THE HAZEL WOOD, you absolutely need to pick this up.

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

LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn – double review!

In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts one woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . . .

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .


Title : Love Lettering
Author : Kate Clayborn
Format : ARC/ebook
Page Count : 320
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Kensington Books
Release Date : December 31, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This is a hard review to write because I want to get it right. Why I loved this. How extraordinary the writing is, the moments we were given, shown, even the ones that were hidden until they were ready to be told.

To me, this a love story for all the people who were told they were mistakes or were mistaken, and even felt it in themselves. Who never got a do-over, never got a second chance, or the opportunity to explain themselves. It’s a quiet story, in a way, one that just goes along with things.. until it doesn’t.

I’ll preface this, a little belatedly, by saying that if you don’t love a little whimsy in your novels, if you can’t use your imagination to bring something to mind, you might not always love this read. Fonts, lettering, as one might infer from the title, play a very big part. And I loved this. It offered a richness, a uniqueness, to the characters and this world — even if it is our own.

And speaking of the characters.. they were all, equally, in their own way, five stars. With exception to one obvious selection (Cameron) and one maybe not so obvious (not naming names, cough, Sibby, cough). Meg was a delight; watching her come into her own, every step she made, every mistake.. it was lovely. Reid, however, I almost have no words for. This is the most charming of all romance heroes. Not a grump, not an alpha, not a jerk. Just a giant, awkward, stoic creature. A total gentleman, a diehard math nerd, completely out of his element in almost every situation. He stole my heart, totally, and every interaction between them was just.. I want more.

Reid, did you make a joke?
Probably not. I’m not known for my sense of humour.

For such a quiet story, the plot of this did take me a bit by surprise, but in hindsight everything slots into place. Every t gets crossed, every i gets its dot. But the banter, the chemistry, the build up.. everything, was fantastic.

I hesitate to say more because, again, I really want to get this review right. I’m not sure I succeeded. Just know this book made me laugh, made me soft, made me gushingly share passages with a friend (who had already read it!) and, I mean, full stop, what better expresses a reader’s love than that? At this point, all I can say is : read this book.

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


Micky’s 2.5 star review

2.5 stars

saved this book for when I needed a go-to, guaranteed great romance. I had a number of friends singing it’s praises. Let me tell you, that backfired on me so bad. I’m not here to rant just to tell you why this didn’t work for me.

I was confused when by 20% I just did not get what was going on with this couple. I got that Meg was trying to engage Reid but what did Reid think he was there for? Reid was a super awkward character that I think may have had ASD (just my take, unconfirmed) and I really liked him. However, I felt like a spectator without a translator, missing half of the story and I promise, I was concentrating.

I can say I finally got into this a bit more by 60%, which is too much reading commitment for me to finally feel a bit of something. From there on I did feel chemistry with the MCs but overall, the story fell incredibly flat for me. Reid’s big secret seemed unnecessarily shoe-horned into the story but I’d lost my give-a-damn by then.

I’m sorry I missed what so many found special about this story, but it is what it is, a flop for me.

WHEN THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens

A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.


Title : Where The Crawdads Sing
Author : Delia Owens
Format : Paperback Arc
Page Count : 368
Genre : Literary Fiction
Publisher : Corsair/Little Brown
Release Date : December 12, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING was a singular story, carried by a cast of many in the background but only Kya in the foreground. It was a story evoking strong emotion, anger and empathy and I experienced all of these feelings many times whilst reading. It was also a tough reading experience from a contextual perspective in a number of way and therefore there may be trigger themes for some readers.

Kya was a young girl, a ‘marsh girl’ abandoned by first her mother, then her siblings and finally by her father. She resided in a shack in the marshlands and learnt how to live. This aspect was much of the early book and my heart ached on reading. Kya was vulnerable, naive but a survivor with the kind of resilience that was hewn out of circumstance; it was do or die. Seeing Kya’s unfulfilled longing for love and relationships was distressing. There were themes of racism, prejudice and extreme poverty. I felt that these aspects were written exceptionally well with such tangibility.

There were people who came into Kya’s life and made it bearable, Jumpin’, Mable and Tate. I adored Jumpin’ and I loved Tate’s desire to help Kya without wanting anything from her. The lack of plain sailing was inevitable but it stung to read how things turned out. Chase was rotten from the first encounter and it was hard to see Kya’s naivety lead her in a sticky direction. The mystery that later unfolded was fascinating in a painful way.

The narrative and description in this book was decadent in terms of the flora and fauna but there were no holds barred in terms of the reality of marsh and shack life. Delia Owens had a way of bringing nature to life, birds, trees and feathers, through their sights and sounds. My visualisation was vivid and that was down to the descriptive prose.

I was grateful for the time frame and the journey in this book. I was relieved to have answers at the end and some surprises. This book has the kind of story that would appeal widely, regardless of what genre you might prefer; it is worth any reader’s time. WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING was a rare case of a book that lasts a lifetime and I sense it could also stay with me as long.

Thank you to Corsair and Little Brown for the proof copy for review.

THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.


Title : The Hazel Wood
Author : Melissa Albert
Series : The Hazel Wood (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 365
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : January 30, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I knew so little about what THE HAZEL WOOD was about when I started it.. and as a result I don’t want to give it a review that could risk spoiling it for anyone else.

This is a story ripe with the darker side of fairytales, the ones with no happy endings, no lessons, just.. stories. Magic. But it’s also set in our world, or a contemporary one, and.. well. To be honest that’s all I want to say. That’s all I will say.

I’ll admit I didn’t quite love the characters at first (and, to be honest, I don’t think we’re supposed to, but I know that doesn’t make unlikeable characters easier to tolerate), and had no idea where the plot was going, but oh man, by the end? Actually, maybe.. halfway? I was completely enamoured. I got it. I understood the why and the how and, well, everything just clicked for me. That isn’t to say you won’t like the first half, but it definitely isn’t what you might be expecting, and takes a while to set things up, but things do shift into.. well, maybe what you’re expecting? But also probably not. But in a better way.

My understanding is that Albert’s second book, THE NIGHT COUNTRY, is either a companion or a sequel, but definitely set in the same world/universe, and I’m so so happy I have an ARC. I want to dive in right now. Instead I shall flex some of my willpower and resist — but that doesn’t negate my excitement.

** I received this ARC via trade (thanks Flavia!) and was under no obligation for a review. **

TEN BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?


Title : Ten Blind Dates
Author : Ashley Elston
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is the kind of read that is pretty much exactly what it looks like. It’s contemporary, it’s set around the holidays, there is a large boisterous family who conspires together to set up the newly heartbroken lead character on dates, of which there are ten of them. If this sounds like everything, or anything, you want from a romance, I don’t think you’ll have any complaints.

I definitely loved the concept of these dates, the strange charm of the whole situation. I loved the idea of this big family but I’ll admit.. in the beginning, it was too many names, too much at once, but it does get across that sense of chaos that comes from having many relatives — I assume. That isn’t my family at all — and, near the end, it does narrow down a bit to a few key players, which makes things easier.

What surprised me, and ended up being my favourite part, was the connection between Sophie and her older sister, Margot, who is on bed rest, and then hospitalized, due to preeclampsia. There were a few moments between them, conversations via text, heck, even a few conversations between Sophie and her mother about Margot, that really got me. It hit a little close to home for me but also it was just really well done and hella emotional and lovely.

There was also a reunion between a friend group, most of them cousins, that I thought was great. Both the ups and the downs. All of it just felt super realistic and, despite some of the “remember this, that, and when..” retellings of stories to tell us how close they used to be, instead of showing, I really enjoyed all their interactions.

The dates themselves, much like the family members who chose them, were mostly over the top and ridiculous but a few were also fun and sweet. I definitely had a favourite but for the sheer surprise hilarity of it I don’t want to ruin it. Ultimately, though, it’s obvious pretty much from the get-go who Sophie is going to end up with. And though I did like it, I did feel things got kind of serious kind of fast and, personally, I would’ve preferred things to have been a little.. slower, I guess? I don’t know. I wanted more engine revving than full throttle, I guess. Though I totally appreciate the maturity of how they are handling things big picture-wise as they prepare for university and the next stage of their lives.

Overall this was a fun read, with an emotional backbone, and a few laughs. Definitely one I would recommend for anyone looking for titles to add to their holiday tbr.

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