LITTLE WHITE LIES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

“I’m not saying this is Sawyer’s fault,” the prim and proper one said delicately. “But.”

Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother’s “society” might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father’s identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn’t expect to find is friendship, but as she’s drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn’t the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother’s glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer’s search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning.

Set in the world of debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines a charming setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off. 


Title : Little White Lies
Author : Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series : Debutantes (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Freeform
Release Date : November 6, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

My love for this book has definitely been helped by a string of disappointing and/or boring reads but that’s not why I loved it. It just gave it a bit of a boost, is all.

I’m a big fan of Barnes’ writing, catch me in the corner forever mourning the fact that we only got two books in her Fixer series, but. But. If not for that fact, maybe this book, and series, wouldn’t exist. And that would be a crying shame.

This story follows Sawyer, raised by her single flighty mother, who has never known her father or family, until the moment her very polished, very Southern, grandmother shows up with a proposition : spend nine months in the place her mother grew up, before getting kicked out when she was a pregnant teen, in exchange for an all-expenses paid college tuition. Sawyer is suspicious but takes it. Because maybe, just maybe, she can figure out who her father is.

From the tone in her voice, you would have thought we were in a life raft in the middle of piranha-filled waters. Then again, I was about to make my debut in high society. Maybe we were.

Naturally drama ensues but maybe not the kind you’d expect. There’s blackmail, and kidnapping, and violence, and betrayal, and it’s a riot. Sawyer, the girl from the other side of the tracks, thrown in amongst the rich, the elite, the debutantes, makes friends, finds family, but both are somewhat fluid, and yet the journey is fabulous. It doesn’t exactly follow the same path as you might expect from a story with that bare bones concept and, as an added bonus, Barnes keeps you guessing, keeps things twisty, right up until the very end. Almost every character is flawed, or layered, and fascinating. The wit and charm that I love from this author is also present in her characters, in the dynamics, and I enjoyed the hell out of it all. Like in the last book I read (in fact, maybe all since her Naturals series), there’s no real romance plot for her protagonist. And I can’t tell you how much I love that. These stories stand on their own, with deep friendships, and family connections, that negate the need for added drama or angst or entanglements. I won’t be sad if a certain something happens between Sawyer and a certain guy but if it doesn’t.. I still won’t be sad.

Clearly, I’d been mistaken for the help. Unfortunately for Campbell, there were two kinds of people in this world : those who weren’t condescending and needlessly cruel and those I was pretty content to leave duct-taped to a chair.

I’m ever so happy to have an ARC of book two in my hands because I’m running high off the joy of this story and I can’t wait to see the trouble these girls get into next. And what mysteries, and what heartbreak, lies in wait for them.

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WORK FOR IT by Talia Hibbert

In this village, I’m an outcast: Griffin Everett, the scowling giant who prefers plants to people. Then I meet Keynes, a stranger from the city who’s everything I’m not: sharp-tongued, sophisticated, beautiful. Free. For a few precious moments in a dark alleyway, he’s also mine, hot and sweet under the stars… until he crushes me like dirt beneath his designer boot. 

When the prettiest man I’ve ever hated shows up at my job the next day, I’m not sure if I want to strangle him or drag him into bed. Actually—I think I want both. But Keynes isn’t here for the likes of me: he makes that painfully clear. With everyone else at work, he’s all gorgeous, glittering charm—but when I get too close, he turns vicious. 

And yet, I can’t stay away. Because there’s something about this ice king that sets me on fire, a secret vulnerability that makes my chest ache. I’ll do whatever it takes to sneak past his walls and see the real man again. 

The last thing I expect is for that man to ruin me. 


Title : Work for It
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : Just For Him (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 283
Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Nixon House
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Goodness. I.. goodness.

So I treated myself to this book after a disappointing read, which felt good because I love supporting delightful authors, and then I ended up sorta impulsively buddy reading it with friends who also deserved a treat (also hahaha sorry guys, as always, I am the worst buddy reader), so generally everything about this read was heading towards a good time. And then I started getting sucked into this book and things got even better.

I may not be built like a lorry, like some people–
I prefer ‘brick shit-house’.”
–but I’ve been told I have a terrifying aura.”
Would be more terrifying you didn’t talk about auras.”

If you like Roan Parrish’s Riven series, you’ll love WORK FOR IT. Hibbert infuses this slowburn m/m romance with the same kind of mental health focus that Parrish does and she, too, does it so well. It adds layers to a story that didn’t need them, because it would’ve been good even without, but with them it’s delicious and emotional. Even better it’s a hate-to-love — in a broad sense, that is, but more specifically it’s a attracted-but-prefer-to-bicker-instead-of-bone which eases into friendship and then more. It’s not only beautiful but it’s a delight. 

How, exactly, does one say, “I assumed you would stop loving me if you found out how depressed and anxious I am,” without making it sounds as if you think the other person’s a bit of a prick?

This book steamed up my glasses, made me cry, made me laugh, made me swoon. There are passages that are angsty af as well as heartbreaking but the emotional evolution, the character growth and the challenges they face, it’s all such a perfect balance. For all the quick build of the connection, it’s equally glacial. The pacing between them is the perfect kind of slow, of cautious, of clear consent, and it’s completely and categorically hot. Also the feeeeeels.

What the fuck am I supposed to do with him if he doesn’t want tea? He’s just exhausted my social knowhow with five words.

I now realize I’ve said nothing at all about the book itself so let’s break it down :

depressed former playboy. reclusive grumpy farmer. opposites attract. age gap. size gap. wait, that last one sounds awful, I just mean one of them is Very Big and the other is Not As Big. kitchen hijinks. Soft Men (not boys, they are older, it’s great). trying a little tenderness. supportive friends. also some sheep.

This is how he wins, how he makes me all dizzy and soft: he smiles, for real, and for me.

I’m not sure that break down accomplished anything at all so instead you should just read this book.

For Christ’s sake, did he have to insult me with Scrabble words? Couldn’t he have just called me a tosser?

I will mention that in writing this review I discovered this is the fourth book of a series which does make sense considering some side characters who were woven in and out with backstory that was both briefly explained and implied, so. Maybe that’ll keep you from picking this up right away but. It definitely stands on its own. Though I may find myself working my way through the right order sooner rather than later..

THIRTY by Christina Bradley

Thirty days till she turns thirty… Just thirty dates to find The One…

Bella Edwards is a hot mess.

Days away from turning thirty, single, struggling to reconcile where she is with where she imagined she’d be by this point in her life, Bella has come to believe her entire future happiness is based on meeting ‘The One’.

After an unfortunate encounter with a fortune teller, where it seems Bella’s single fate is sealed, she hops on a plane from London to New York to seek the wisdom of her best friend who, in turn, presents Bella with a challenge: thirty dates in thirty days before Bella turns thirty.

Challenge accepted, Bella embarks on a crazy road trip across America to San Francisco, with one clear objective: to find ‘The One’ and prove the fortune teller wrong. What ensues is a raucous adventure of dating, love, and – mostly importantly – self-discovery. 


Title : Thirty
Author : Christina Bradley
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 421
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Headline Books
Release Date : August 22, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

This is a light, entertaining read with a good dose of fun as the story follows Bella. Bella was trying in her own chaotic way, to prove a fortune teller’s predictions about her chance of a happily ever after…wrong.

Bella immediately came across as a flawed heroine with relatable personality traits. Everything was not together, in fact, the whole premise of this story was built on the tower of cards that had fallen. Bella had amazing inner monologue and banter moments that I found incredibly funny and sometimes endearing.

As Bella traversed geographical travels and different potential men in her goal to find ‘the one’, there was a rich and detailed story. There were many varied side characters. There was also a theme underlying of Bella finding herself, being satisfied with her lot, who she was and the value of friendships. There were also some great romantic moments. This story was definitely more than I expected from the synopsis because whilst this was rom-com territory, there were moments of poignancy and hurt that hit you right in the gut.

This was a generally satisfying read and a great one for a weekend or holiday.

Thank you to Headline Books for the review copy.

THE PLAY by Elle Kennedy

What I learned after last year’s distractions cost my hockey team our entire season? No more screwing up. No more screwing, period. As the new team captain, I need a new philosophy: hockey and school now, women later. Which means that I, Hunter Davenport, am officially going celibate…no matter how hard that makes things.

But there’s nothing in the rulebook that says I can’t be friendswith a woman. And I won’t lie—my new classmate Demi Davis is one cool chick. Her smart mouth is hot as hell, and so is the rest of her, but the fact that she’s got a boyfriend eliminates the temptation to touch her.

Except three months into our friendship, Demi is single and looking for a rebound.

And she’s making a play for me.

Avoiding her is impossible. We’re paired up on a yearlong school project, but I’m confident I can resist her. We’d never work, anyway. Our backgrounds are too different, our goals aren’t aligned, and her parents hate my guts.

Hooking up is a very bad idea. Now I just have to convince my body—and my heart.


Title : The Play
Author : Elle Kennedy
Series : Briar U (book three)
Format : eRC
Page Count : 422
Genre : NA contemporary romance
Publisher : Elle Kennedy Inc.
Release Date : October 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Okay, it’s official. I’m tapping out of this series. I’ve clearly outgrown it or maybe it’s just the genre itself. I don’t know. I love hockey romances, enjoy ensemble casts that lean heavily on hijinks as the comic relief, but while I did recently reread (and love, again) the series that spawned this one, nothing since THE CHASE has worked. So I guess that was the fluke.

This is everything that you would expect it to be, both as a fan and from what it says on the box. It’s got a reformed playboy who meets a girl he has to remain platonic with both because of her boyfriend and his vow of celibacy — a vow he’s taken in order to do right by his team, to succeed and lead sans distractions, and atone for his previous mistakes. But then the boyfriend goes buh-bye, girl wants a rebound, so, you see where this is going.

I didn’t love Hunter or Demi, but neither of them annoyed me the way Hollis and Rupi annoyed me in the background of THE RISK. Even though they were both present in this one. Again. Sigh.

The conflicts were fairly predictable, the speed bumps, too, and honestly everything was pretty standard. No surprises, no real joy, no real laughs, either. Definitely sucks to have to tap out but it’s not worth reading on when it’s doing both the author and me as both a reader and longtime fan a disservice.

So, yes, I think this will satisfy and entertain many. But just like in book two, I’m not one of them. In which case, please take this feedback with the tiniest grain of salt. As always.

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

THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA by Julia Drake

The Larkin family isn’t just lucky—they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.

But wrecks seem to run in the family: Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.

Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece-the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.

She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.

Epic, funny, and sweepingly romantic, The Last True Poets of the Sea is an astonishing debut about the strength it takes to swim up from a wreck.


Title : The Last True Poets of the Sea 
Author : Julia Drake
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating: ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This is such a lovely, and rather hard-hitting, story (and from a debut no less!) that it feels a little strange to not rave about it and slap it with a high rating. But while there was so much good, so much of it moving, some of it also left me a little unmoved, too.

I became a bad sister and a bad daughter in an hour; an exile in just under two. By comparison, the Titanic sunk in two hours, forty minutes. Pretty impressive, to have sunk to the bottom even faster than the twentieth century’s greatest shipwreck.

Tackling issues of depression, anxiety, self-harm, grief, and self-destructive behaviour, the story takes place against the backdrop of a small seaside town in Maine, featuring the mystery of a shipwreck, a romance that bloomed after, and focusing on the ancestors of the sole survivor of that long-ago tragedy.

I didn’t think it was possible to be blindsided by a truth you’ve always suspected, but there you have it. As it turns out, it’s devastating.

The story is queer, and lyrical, and funny, with quirky weirdness and awkwardness and charm. All from the perspective of a tall girl — woo! It’s got a lot of things going for it and I really did love the writing, too. So while this one maybe, for whatever reason, didn’t quite hit the mark, I will totally be keeping an eye on this new author and definitely picking up her next book.

There wasn’t going to be magic healing; there’d be only a strong of ands on which we’d thread our survival.

This is definitely going to be a hit for a lot of people, I think. I just wish I could count myself among them.

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

GOALIE INTERFERENCE by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn

It’s goalie vs. goalie in this brand-new enemies-to-lovers hockey romance from Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn… 

Ryu Mori has had a stellar season as goalie for the Atlanta Venom. So when he’s called into management’s office, he’s expecting to hear he’s the new starting goalie for the team, not that some new guy—an incredibly hot, annoyingly bratty rookie—is here to compete for his spot.

Not everyone gets to play in the best league in the world. Emmitt Armstrong knows that, and he’s not about to waste the opportunity after grinding his way from the bottom to the top. If the Venom is looking for a meek, mild-mannered pushover, they’ve got the wrong guy.

Ryu doesn’t want to admit the other goalie’s smart mouth turns him on. Beating Armstrong at practice feels good, sure, but there are other, more fun ways to shut his rival up.

In this league, it’s winner takes all. But there’s more to life than winning, and if Emmitt and Ryu can get past their egos and competitive natures, they might just discover they work better as partners than they ever imagined possible.


Title : Goalie Interference
Author : Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn
Series : Hat Trick (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : m/m sports romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : September 30, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

The premise around book two in the Hat Trick trilogy is competing goalies. Not from opposing teams but the same team. One, the more established regular for the Venom, who we met in book one, and two, a recent trade from the minor league. These two are total opposites in personality but share some surprising similarities, not just limited to being minorities in a predominantly white-populated sport. 

People write erotic stories about you two, bro.”
What? Where? Why?
Enemies to lovers, man. It’s a Thing.”

I’m a total sucker for hate, or enemies, to love (particularly in m/m) and the banter and push and pull and aggression between these two in the early stages of the getting-to-know-you phase was great. Stone cold Ryu facing off with hot-shot cocky Emmitt was a joy. Particularly when offset by all the personas on the team around them. I really am a sucker for the team ensemble dynamic. 

This is the last thing I wanted.”
Your romantic declarations need some serious work.

Their relationship becomes one, after agreeing to no-strings, but is put to the test as they approach playoff season when it might come down to a real competition between them, as opposed to the tandem-playing they had settled into in the regular season. This conflict was one the least contrived I’ve experienced and felt very real, and genuine, and I loved how they still tried to keep things civil, despite heartbreak, near the climax. Oh, and the final moments? Delightful.

Fucking score some goddamn goals or you’re walking back to Atlanta.”
Wow. I haven’t had a coach threaten to make me walk since Timbits hockey.”

This was a lot of good fun, and I’m so happy it didn’t flounder along the way despite the less than solid start, and while I didn’t love it as much as book one, I’m still so very keen for the final book in this series. Also, I forever love books set in this sport by authors who clearly know and love the game. It always comes through and I always appreciate it. This definitely cured me of my slump and I’m ever so grateful.

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

SLAY by Brittney Morris

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?


Title : SLAY
Author : Brittney Morris
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Simon Pulse
Release Date : September 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This book is getting a lot of hype and, honestly, it deserves every single bit of it. I don’t remember exactly what it was, or who, inspired me to request this one but I’m so glad I did. So here I am paying it forward : watch out for this one.

The summary perfectly sums up (hah) what this is about, there’s no need for me to rehash anything in my review, and honestly the less I say about this, the better, I think. Not only because it isn’t my place to talk about representation (which I never would for an #ownvoices story) or what this book is or isn’t doing right (also not my place) — though I think it got everything right, to be honest — ultimately, all that matters, is this book both entertained and educated me and I loved the experience of reading it.

The wide-lens of this particular conflict is, I think, so important. It’s a multifaceted narrative. Race, identity, culture, gaming, ambition, history. It’s all tied up beautifully. I might even have teared up ar the end. Got me a bit in my feels there, Morris.

And speaking of beautiful. Beyond the relevant, and relatable issues, that readers will experience, the creativity? Incredible. The secondary setting of Morris’ story is this immersive VR online world and the way she infused not only Black culture but also Black history into this game was just unreal. Except, I want that to be real. I would wish for that kind of safe space, sans trolls, to exist for gamers who are otherwise treated terribly in the anonymous space that is the internet, who constantly have to listen to hateful vitriol spewed at them across the ether by strangers. A place that celebrates, and even educates, as well as focuses on mutual love and respect, even as opponents duel each other.

I enjoyed this book so much and absolutely hope the buzz continues post-release and this finds its way into many hands, no matter their colour. There’s something for everyone here, even if this book isn’t about you. Maybe, even, particularly if this book isn’t about you.

I know I’ll be picking up whatever this author comes out with next, too.

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