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NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER by Sophie Gonzales

A girl enters a reality dating competition to get revenge on her cheating, royal-adjacent ex-boyfriend, and ends up falling for another girl on the show—in fact, the girl he cheated on her with.

It’s been two years since Maya dumped her cheating ex-boyfriend Jordy, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country, and in the lead up to the wedding he captured hearts globally as the eligible younger brother. So, when Maya receives an invitation to be a contestant on Second Chance Romance, a new reality show in which the now-famous Jordy will re-date his ex-girlfriends in an effort to find “the one that got away,” she isn’t interested…that is, until she realizes she can use this opportunity to exact her revenge. If she can make it to the finale, she can reject Jordy and publicly break his heart. As far as Maya’s concerned, it’s payback with interest: just what a guy like Jordy deserves.

But when she gets to the set, she’s confronted with the one person she hasn’t accounted for: Skye, the beautiful, charismatic girl Jordy cheated on Maya with. How is she supposed to live with this girl for six weeks? Sharing bunkbeds, for crying out loud?

Except, of course, there’s more to Skye than she lets most people see. Skye has her own reasons for being careful with her heart, and might be more willing to take Maya’s side than it initially seems. If they can sustain their reluctant alliance—and keep their unexpected chemistry from interfering—they might just have a chance to take Jordy down.


Title : Never Ever Getting Back Together
Author : Sophie Gonzales
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : November 29, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So it is, perhaps, my fault for the way this one went down. Because I think I misconstrued the plot a bit when I clicked request and that makes it a me problem instead of the book problem. But, I suppose, that still doesn’t change how the book was not it.

However, having now reread (or maybe properly read it for the first time..) the synopsis, I think maybe I just stopped at the tagline.

I initially had this big long rant about timelines and how I found them hard to keep straight when it came to the ex-boyfriend’s relationships, because there were just so many for such young people (this would’ve been more believable had everyone been aged up and this not been YA) but it got deleted — notably, for December-me, I wrote this in July on the day half the country lost our internet, so, haha, fun nostalgia times! Hope things are better in the future! And ultimately, being that this is such a me thing, for all I know it’s just something I couldn’t follow as opposed to being an issue with the plotting (though this usually isn’t the case). I would’ve appreciated a flowchart though. And I really wished it had been clearer when he had become famous as a result of his sister marrying royalty. That would’ve helped. Except, again, the summary seems to make this clearer than the book ever did. Which is frustrating.

My frustration about timing aside, that was merely a drop in the bucket when it came to how frustrating it was to live through all of the ex-boyfriend’s dialogue and actions. Part of what I misunderstood about this book was I didn’t actually think the ex was supposed to be as much as a dirtbag as he was (could be the colourful illustrated cover gave me the wrong idea about the vibes, too). He does expose himself a few times before he gets his real comeuppance but unfortunately he does a great job of selling himself to be perfection. That said, the highlight for me, not just when it came to getting revenge but also just a highlight of the book in general, is when Maya comes up with a drinking game with the other contestants to showcase his behaviour. Genius.

Also, if I never see the word “chicks” again, it’ll be too soon.

Complaints about the evil ex aside, though.. I wanted to root for the romance. I wanted to cheer for these girls. But they felt incredibly inconsistent; or, rather, Skye did. She just wasn’t fleshed out. Maya, however, was the more solid of the two and there were times I actually enjoyed her (though maybe not when she was drunk, that was just silly.. in a dumb way). The one thing that perplexed me was this whole issue about college that seemed very shoehorned into constant discussions that were framed around her intelligence. Which wasn’t a her problem but a people-around-her problem. But I’m mad on her behalf. And also because it was a weird thing to lean into. But they didn’t stand out, not any of them, because their identities were just too much about the ex.

I took a risk on this book because I’ve enjoyed the author before (notably only Perfect on Paper though) but I knew the competition element could be my downfall. And it sorta was. There wasn’t as much girl-on-girl scheming and hate as there could’ve been but there was enough. I don’t love this set-up and this has solidified that I likely will avoid the concept in the future. But I thought, with my misinformation at hand, this author behind the wheel, and a queer love story coming out of having each dated the same boy, there could be some magic here. But there wasn’t. Again, this is mostly a me problem, though, so you may very well enjoy this. And I hope you do.

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

FIVE SURVIVE by Holly Jackson

Eight hours. Six friends. Five survive. A road trip turns deadly in this addictive YA thriller from the bestselling author of the worldwide phenomenon A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER.

Red Kenny is on a road trip for spring break with five friends: Her best friend – the older brother – his perfect girlfriend – a secret crush – a classmate – and a killer. 

When their RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, they soon realize this is no accident. They have been trapped by someone out there in the dark, someone who clearly wants one of them dead.

With eight hours until dawn, the six friends must escape, or figure out which of them is the target. But is there a liar among them? Buried secrets will be forced to light and tensions inside the RV will reach deadly levels. Not all of them will survive the night. . . . 


Title : Five Survive
Author : Holly Jackson
Format : physical
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA mystery / thriller
Publisher : Delacorte
Release Date : November 29, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Alright, let’s get the good out of the way first.

The setting. 97% of this story takes place within the confines of a broken down RV that has six people crammed inside. That would be hellish without the whole murder mystery intensity element but at night? Stuck in a dark wooded area, with the thread of harm coming at them from both inside and out? Hoo boy. I’m sweating just thinking about it. Jackson gets mega points for this unique and creative version of a locked room mystery. Also, related, I’m not sure what would’ve enticed me to get into an RV in the first place but this has definitely ensured I never will.

The actual reveals. Obviously I can’t get into this but while the plot of the mystery is actually.. well, pretty far fetched, really, I enjoyed the unveiling of it all. I’m still a little side-eye about the reality of it but, hey, I’m suspending the disbelief.

But everything else? I don’t know.

I realize Oliver was a character no one was supposed to like but he exhausted me. Half the reason I blitzed through this so fast was because I wanted to stop reading about him. I’m sure there could’ve been a way to recreate his influence without it being done this way but what do I know. Maybe we needed his hateful self to push things forward. But I still hated it. Him. And I need a nap now.

The other characters I mostly did enjoy, though. I liked that we had secrets from all, some red herrings, some adjacent to the main mystery, and how each seemed valid and likely. Again, it was the main plot itself that I felt less likely but we already went over that. I’ll allow it. Being in Red’s head, though, was very.. meandering. Disjointed. And maybe that makes sense once we understand what she’s been going through, and doing, over the last little while but you’d almost think all that would make her hyper focused and detail oriented, not completely spaced out and lost. But she definitely rose to the occasion near the end so she didn’t disappoint completely.

And as for the ending, well. I’m glad we were left in suspense for so long after the big climax but I didn’t love how the final bits of the story were told. Except for the check boxes (if you know you know). That was cute.

Overall, though, this will be great for those of you who love locked room mysteries with high stakes. But I definitely preferred the author’s debut series, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. That being said, it’s a sure thing that I will pick up this author again.

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

THE WITCHES OF MOONSHYNE MANOR by Bianca Marais

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.

Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby–one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years–will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.


Title : The Witches of Moonshyne Manor
Author : Bianca Marais
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : paranormal / fantasy
Publisher : Mira Books
Release Date : August 23, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’ll admit, I picked this up purely for the title. I had no idea what to expect — except that I hoped for some spoopy vibes! — and was surprised that this witchy tale was to be comprised of a coven of eighty year olds. Not only battling age and aches but also trying to keep from being run out of their homes by the local townspeople after they’ve a) fallen behind on mortgage payments and b) are widely known to be witches.

Sounds like a hoot, right? And it mostly is.

I didn’t always love the writing/narrative tone and actually found that it felt a little too removed for me to really sink my teeth into things as a reader. I enjoyed how the plot and the events that happened in the past informed the present but it was hard to connect to any real emotional resonance with the characters. I found them interesting, occasionally funny, and in one case my heart wanted to break over and over, but again, I just felt a bit too distanced from it all. But there were multiple times I paused to reflect on a passage or observation, I absolutely loved that these old biddies had a colourful past and had successfully done a heist in their fifties, and I also enjoyed how everything resolves at the end — even if it’s almost a little too perfectly wrapped up.

She thinks of how sometimes the most sacred conversations we’ll ever have are the ones that require no words, and how there are very few people in our lives who we’ll ever speak that silent language with.

At it’s core, this is a story about family and sisterhood and the ties that bind, come hell or high water or an angry mob. If you’re looking for a wholesome kind of spoopy tale, with some incredibly insightful lines, and some pretty unique characters, this is definitely one to pick up.

THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD by Tiffany D. Jackson

Author Tiffany D. Jackson ramps up the horror and tackles America’s history and legacy of racism in this YA novel following a biracial teenager as her Georgia high school hosts its first integrated prom. 

When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation… Maddy did it.

An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.

After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life.

But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret… one that will cost them all their lives.


Title : The Weight of Blood
Author : Tiffany D. Jackson
Format : ARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA horror / retellings
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : September 6, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This might be one of the first instance where the inclusion of the podcast-about-the-event shtick hasn’t been a win for me. I enjoyed the interviews, the snippets, but the podcast itself? Not really. I would’ve liked more story instead, actually, as I felt the interruptions broke too much of the tension instead of adding to it.

But so much of this was good. Fun to read about? Of course not. But there were so many varied discussions about racism, colourism, segregation, and what it means to be “Black enough”, and each time it actually had meaningful relevance to the story and characters, without feeling awkwardly shoehorned in — like many stories often do. This was also one of the few YA stories, at least that I’ve read recently, where the villains weren’t caricatures. They had nuance, they acted appropriately in ways that befit their beliefs and feelings, and — in one particular case — were committed to that right to the bitter end. IYKYK.

Speaking of characters though I’ll admit that I don’t think I liked Maddy, our main character, or the love interest all that much. I could feel for them, absolutely, and want the best for them, but oddly I think my favourite character might’ve been Wendy. And no, I won’t be taking questions at this time. But on the whole? I couldn’t put this down.

A lot of this story is going to be familiar as this is an homage to Carrie but I still think there will be a few things to surprise you along the way. And, again, I really enjoyed how Jackson added to the narrative and fleshed it out in a new way while still keeping true to the essence of it all.

If this is on your radar, definitely give it a go.

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

EMPTY SMILES by Katherine Arden

New York Times bestselling author Katherine thrills once again in the finale to the critically acclaimed, spook-tacular quartet that began with Small Spaces.

It’s been three months since Ollie made a daring deal with the smiling man to save those she loved, and then vanished without a trace. The smiling man promised Coco, Brian and Phil, that they’d have a chance to save her, but as time goes by, they begin to worry that the smiling man has lied to them and Ollie is gone forever. But finally, a clue surfaces. A boy who went missing at a nearby traveling carnival appears at the town swimming hole, terrified and rambling. He tells anyone who’ll listen about the mysterious man who took him. How the man agreed to let him go on one condition: that he deliver a message. Play if you dare. 

Game on! The smiling man has finally made his move. Now it’s Coco, Brian, and Phil’s turn to make theirs. And they know just where to start. The traveling carnival is coming to Evansburg.

Meanwhile, Ollie is trapped in the world behind the mist, learning the horrifying secrets of the smiling man’s carnival, trying everything to help her friends find her. Brian, Coco and Phil will risk everything to rescue Ollie—but they all soon realize this game is much more dangerous than the ones before. This time the smiling man is playing for keeps.

The summer nights are short, and Ollie, Coco, Brian, and Phil have only until sunrise to beat him once and for all—or it’s game over for everyone.


Title : Empty Smiles
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Small Spaces (book four)
Format : physical
Page Count : 205
Genre : MG paranormal fantasy
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young 
Release Date : August 9, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I honestly thought this would edge out Dead Voices as my favourite of the series. Until the story wrapped in the span of ten pages and the book abruptly ended out of nowhere. And when I say out of nowhere I mean it because there were sixty plus pages of previous-instalment excerpts at the back of the book. Which I definitely thought would be plot or reveal or explanation related.. but no. Just filler.

I am.. disappointed. I feel like we’re left with more questions than we started with because we had so much unexpected smiling man character reveal over the course of the book four and yet it turned out to just be a tease. And all that beautiful tension, the creepiness, the clowns!, it all just fizzles out and poof, the end.

But.. for 80% of this? Solid. Eerie. Fun. So I won’t round down but just.. brace yourself.

Also, I know I hinted at it (and I mean, the cover is r i g h t t h e r e), but seriously, if you fear or have an issue with clowns? Middle grade or not, this might legitimately terrify you because some of those scenes? Oh yeah, they were creepy.

I definitely see myself rereading these, maybe next year for a spoopy readathon or something. They weren’t brilliant but they were a good time (and had some good spooky moments!) and, as I’ve said a million times, nostalgic for those of us who lived through the Goosebumps era of storytelling.

JUST LIKE MAGIC by Sarah Hogle

From the author of Twice Shy comes a sprightly Christmas novel, a rollicking romp through the absurdity of family holidays and the hope of new love.

Bettie Hughes once knew the comfort of luxury, flaunting a ridiculous collection of designer shoes and a stealthy addiction to CBD oils. That is, until her parents snipped her purse strings. Long obsessed with her public image, Bettie boasts an extravagant lifestyle on social media. But the reality is: Bettie is broke and squatting in Colorado, and her family has no idea.

Christmas, with its pressure to meet familial expectations, is looming when a drunk Bettie plays a vinyl record of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” backwards and accidentally conjures Hall, an unexpectedly charming Holiday Spirit in the form of a man. Once the shock wears off, Bettie knows she’s stumbled upon the greatest gift: a chance to make all her holiday wishes come true, plus a ready-made fiancé.

But as the wiles of magic lose their charm, Bettie finds herself set off-kilter by Hall’s sweet gestures. Suddenly, Bettie is finding her heart merry and light. But the happier she gets, the shorter Hall’s time on earth grows. Can Bettie channel the Christmas spirit and learn to live with goodwill toward all men? Or will her selfish ways come back as soon as the holidays are over? 


Title : Just Like Magic
Author : Sarah Hogle
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : romance / magical realism
Publisher : Putnam
Release Date : October 4, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4.5 (rounded up) star review

Not only am I reading an October ARC in March but this is also a Christmas-themed story. But hey, figured I’m closer to the holidays at this stage in the game than I would be if I read this before release. So, pfft.

When I tell you that I was laughing, gigging, cackling, and then crying, weeping, sniffling all within the span of a few pages.. well, I mean, no one would be surprised. But also please note the hilarity portion of the book does outweigh the sad by about 80/20. I spent a lot of time laughing. And oh man did I need this book exactly right now. Thank you, timing. For once you are in my favour.

Hogle’s sophomore release took a break from offering us a harder kid of heroine to like, or maybe just a messier one, but she’s back and with her is Bettie. Bettie has gone from having it all, and (mostly) being it all, to rock bottom. She’s penniless, her reputation more or less in tatters from various situations, and squatting in a house that is now her own but still trying to maintain her social media image and convince her parents nothing is wrong. When a freak accident conjures the Holiday Spirit, manifesting him in a delightful human form capable of granting wishes for the purpose of improving her outlook on the holidays, well.. she takes advantage and cashes in; both in material goods and revenge. But the harder Hall (as in Holiday) tries to woo her towards good cheer, the harder it is to resist her better nature. And Christmas.

Listen, this book.. is totally outrageous. It’s ridiculous. In all the best ways. This has a full cast of colourful characters in the form of Bettie’s family and the hijinks that ensue are just amazing. But there are so many sly little emotional moments that Hogle includes that keeps this from getting too out there. And then there are the moments where she doesn’t pull punches and actually breaks your heart. See aforementioned weeping.

I loved every second of this and, much like the two Hogles that came before it, I immediately wanted to start it up all over again. I had such a good time and though I’m not one for Hallmark movies or Christmas stories or anything of this nature, if they were all like this? I’d eat them up. This is everything holiday but also, somehow, does not feel like you’re being smothered in tinsel. For all that Bettie is literally hanging out with the physical manifestation of the Holiday Spirit, and there’s magic being flung here there and everywhere in every possible conceivable way, it’s also.. bizarrely normal? Like, this doesn’t feel like a fantasy but it is, of course, fantastical AF. I don’t know how she managed the balance and maybe others could argue otherwise but I just loved it. It’s silly and fun and romantic and sweet and touching and.. why haven’t I given this five stars? I probably should. Okay, we’re rounding that 4.5 up.

It’s an act of courage to march to the beat of your own drum, to behave with compassion and generosity, and wonder.

So far this author has given us books with top notes of : biting and sharp, tender and sweet, and now absolutely bonkers — with a dash of peppermint. I truly don’t know where Hogle will go, and do, next, but I am in it and I want it.

ps, if anyone comes for Hall (and it’s sorta weird saying this because I read this whole book hearing my own name in my head), I will come for you. He must be protected at all costs.
pps, I deleted all but one quote from the review because honestly they deserve to be experienced for the first time in context. But just know you have much hilarity and much sweetness and much silliness (as discussed in the review, I’m just hammering it home) to look forward to.
pps, you’re welcome.

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

A MERRY LITTLE MEET CUTE by Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone

Cowritten by #1 New York Times bestselling author Julie Murphy and USA Today bestselling author Sierra Simone—a steamy plus-size holiday rom-com about an adult film star who is semi-accidentally cast as a lead in a family-friendly Christmas movie, and the former bad-boy pop star she falls in love with.

Bee Hobbes (aka Bianca Von Honey) has a successful career as a plus-size adult film star. With a huge following and two supportive moms, Bee couldn’t ask for more. But when Bee’s favorite producer casts her to star in a Christmas movie he’s making for the squeaky-clean Hope Channel, Bee’s career is about to take a more family-friendly direction.

Forced to keep her work as Bianca under wraps, Bee quickly learns this is a task a lot easier said than done. Though it all becomes worthwhile when she discovers her co-star is none other than childhood crush Nolan Shaw, an ex-boy band member in desperate need of career rehab. Nolan’s promised his bulldog manager to keep it zipped up on set, and he will if it means he’ll be able to provide a more stable living situation for his sister and mom.

But things heat up quickly in Christmas Notch, Vermont, when Nolan recognizes his new co-star from her ClosedDoors account (oh yeah, he’s a member). Now Bee and Nolan are sneaking off for quickies on set, keeping their new relationship a secret from the Hope Channel’s execs. Things only get trickier when the reporter who torpedoed Nolan’s singing career comes snooping around—and takes an instant interest in mysterious newcomer Bee.

And if Bee and Nolan can’t keep their off-camera romance behind the scenes, then this merry little meet cute might end up on the cutting room floor. 


Title : A Merry Little Meet Cute
Author : Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance / holiday
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : September 20, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I wanted to be able to give this one a higher rating solely because of the inclusion of a fat FMC who also happens to do sex work (like, hell yes, more of this rep) but ultimately the good bits, which were more in concept than any kind of execution, just didn’t make up for the rest. And in that sense I mean mostly that this was boring, frustrating, and unbelievable.

While I wish I could’ve enjoyed the surface level festiveness of a Christmassy/holiday-themed movie being filmed over the holidays, the promised fun and hilarity and tension of both the bad boy ex-boyband member trying to rehab his image paired up with an actual sex worker trying to branch into a different kind of film — and also stay wholesome so as not to let anyone in on the secret of her career — just never panned out. This wasn’t really fun, there was only some token forced humour (which wasn’t funny), and the tension was flimsy at best considering how painfully oblivious the non-sex industry folks were to who was both starring and working on this movie. Also, I feel like every conflict could’ve either been avoided or was brought on by the dumb actions of the main characters (the picture in the strip club? you’ve got to be kidding me).

Added to all that, the chemistry between the leads was given a leg (or four) up because they had both crushed on each other prior to meeting; Bee idolized Nolan during his boy band days, and Nolan happened to be a fan of Bee’s sexy online persona. So they didn’t need to fall for each other, or even have personalities, because the “connection” was established off-page. Instead it was just very lust-driven with sexy times or thoughts of sexy times and full disclosure I started skimming those real fast.

What made this stranger is that this felt.. YA-y. I realize it’s an typical claim to make considering one of the co-authors is coming from YA, and most female authors are lumped into this category, but still. These characters didn’t feel like they had adult problems and the problems that did feel adult had non-adult reactions to them (I think they are supposed to be mid to late twenties? don’t quote me). I don’t know how else to describe it. But Nolan and his phone.. drove me up the wall. I don’t even care that they attempted to work it into the story, blah blah, no. I was over it — though I do have to say, there was one scene where his younger sister chastises him for trying to micromanage a crisis from afar after she calls him in the middle of a scene to freak out on him and get his help to manage a crisis. So, like, yeah, he did get the short end of the stick sometimes and that certainly didn’t help anything. But while he had sympathetic backstory/motivations, I didn’t enjoy how he was made to handle them or, really, him as a character. Even Bee, the stronger of the two, just wasn’t able to shoulder the burden of this story and I don’t feel enough time was really spent with her enjoying the filming and acting process. Instead it was just about keeping this poorly-hidden secret and being into Nolan. She was just as surface level as he was, really. And as for the rest of the cast.. honestly, no one stood out. And while a few should be called out for their pointlessness, I don’t even have the energy to bother.

Overall, this was a bummer. I do think a lot of readers will enjoy it for what it is — spicy holiday zestiness — I just expect a lot more from my romance than this. Having said that, I would warn any mostly-YA readers from jumping into this one. For all that it read YA-ish, there is a lot of adult and sex content, so maybe work yourself upto this one if you’re new to the steams. Or don’t, YOLO!

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

I’M THE GIRL by Courtney Summers

When sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis discovers the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, she teams up with Ashley’s older sister, Nora, to find and bring the killer to justice before he strikes again. But their investigation throws Georgia into a world of unimaginable privilege and wealth, without conscience or consequence, and as Ashley’s killer closes in, Georgia will discover when money, power and beauty rule, it might not be a matter of who is guilty—but who is guiltiest.

A spiritual successor to the 2018 breakout hit, SadieI’m the Girl is a masterfully written, bold, and unflinching account of how one young woman feels in her body as she struggles to navigate a deadly and predatory power structure while asking readers one question: if this is the way the world is, do you accept it?


Title : I’m The Girl
Author : Courtney Summers
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ mystery
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 13, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

After a pretty lackluster reading weekend, I pulled out the big guns and delved into I’m The Girl hoping that Summers, with (as it’s coined) her spiritual-successor to Sadie, which I loved, would break me out of the funk. But instead it just gave me a different one.

This was so hard to read, which is understandable and probably the point, but where I can respect some of what the author was doing and saying and forcing the reader to consider, I don’t know if it succeeded where it was meant to. Or at least it didn’t for me.

I’m The Girl delves into the concept of grooming, of manipulation, of powerful people enforcing their rules and their wants on others, but everything around it just felt disjointed and shaky. Being in Georgia’s head was an awful place to be, with her self-worth and dreams tied up in belonging to this place where she misguidedly believes she can become something, which was tied into believing her worth was skin deep, and it just spiralled in and out of this vicious cycle. She was incredibly naive, incredibly needy, out of touch, and lost. She was constantly in situations she shouldn’t have been in, never quite seeming to learn from them, and you could blame some of that on the knowledge she didn’t have, secrets held out of reach by those around her, as well as the manipulation of others. It was painful.

And while all this is going on, there’s also a dead girl, the sister of a not-friend, more an acquaintance, and Georgia gets sorta tangled up in both because she discovers the body and because she finds herself roped into to helping determine what happened — I wouldn’t quite say she’s investigating things, the way the synopsis would have you believe, but there are a few side quests — and I liked that, unlike Sadie, Georgia is only tangentially connected to the death. She’s watching the devastation happen from the outside looking in, much the way she feels held back from the glamourous and prestigious world she wants to belong. But in that same drama, I almost feel there were too many added elements (maybe just one) that muddied the waters.

Maybe, on the whole, when combined with the romance, it was just too many things. And yet, despite this, what it also wasn’t, was a thriller. It also wasn’t anything like Sadie so if, like me, you were looking to recapture that feeling? Maybe just go for a reread.

I think this review is a little messy but so was the book. Or, at least, it just wasn’t for me. And that’s fine. I think fans of the author will likely appreciate this, the same way they appreciate her other works, because she’s consistent in shining a light on these dark areas. And that’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But it won’t always make for an enjoyable read, which makes sense, but equally it might not always made for a good read. Whereas my struggles with The Project had to do with the characters, not the plot, when it comes to I’m The Girl I would say this one is definitely the characters but also the plot. Again, in concept, I am so down with this particular narrative. I just wish it had played out differently. But. I will continue to pick up this author.. at least for now.

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

THE BOOK HATER’S BOOK CLUB by Gretchen Anthony

All it takes is the right book to turn a Book Hater into a Book Lover…

That was Elliott’s belief and the reason why he started The Book Haters’ Book Club—a newsletter of reading recommendations for the self-proclaimed “nonreader.” As the beloved co-owner of Over the Rainbow Bookstore, Elliott’s passion and gift was recommending books to customers. Now, after his sudden death, his grief-ridden business partner, Irma, has agreed to sell Over the Rainbow to a developer who will turn the cozy bookstore into high-rise condos.

But others won’t give up the bookstore without a fight. When Irma breaks the news to her daughters, Bree and Laney, and Elliott’s romantic partner, Thom, they are aghast. Over the Rainbow has been Bree and Laney’s sanctuary since childhood, and Thom would do anything to preserve Elliott’s legacy. Together, Thom, Bree and Laney conspire to save the bookstore, even if it takes some snooping, gossip and minor sabotage.

Filled with humor, family hijinks and actual reading recommendations, The Book Haters’ Book Club is the ideal feel-good read. It’s a celebration of found family and a love letter to the everyday heroes who run bookstores.


Title : The Book Hater’s Book Club
Author : Gretchen Anthony
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : contemporary
Publisher : Park Row
Release Date : September 13, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I think if, like me, you are drawn to this book because of it’s title.. you might be in for a bit of a shock. Because this isn’t actually a quirky story about book haters banding together at all. And while the argument could be made it is perhaps still quirky, instead it’s just full of messy characters and waiting for the payoff of long-drawn out secrets that refuse to be told.

While there’s nothing particularly unfortunate in the telling, I’ll admit I didn’t love the writing, nor the characters, and thus this mid-three hundred page book felt twice as long. Though it was nice to see the small-community-joins-together-to-support-the-indies-against-big-corp, that was really as good as it got for me. The various romances, one new and budding, another ending, and yet another already over, were all varieties of typical or uninspiring and for one of them — the one that had ended — I actually found a particular narrative inclusion to instead muddle and confuse the whole thing. Which I know is vague and confusing but thus that is also how I was left feeling, too.

But if you’re into some messy dynamics, which apparently is translated into found family by way of the pitch, you might like this one. Though this did pass the time — too much time, as mentioned — I won’t likely remember it in a month because nothing really stands out. And I didn’t enjoy the writing voice enough to consider picking up the author again. So, sadly, this isn’t quite a recommendation but nonetheless you still might like it if you’re into contemporary fiction and enjoy books based around books.

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

LIZZIE BLAKE’S BEST MISTAKE by Mazey Eddings

Lizzie has made endless mistakes. Kitchen fires, pyramid schemes, bangs (of the hair and human variety), you name it, she’s done it… and made a mess of it too. One mistake she’s never made is letting anyone get closer to her than a single hook-up. But after losing yet another bakery job due to her uncontrolled ADHD, she breaks her cardinal rule and has a two-night-stand that changes everything.

Once burned, twice shy, Rake has given up on relationships. And feelings. And any form of intimacy for that matter. Yet something about charming, chaotic Lizzie has him lowering his guard. For two nights, that is. Then it’s back home to Australia and far away from the pesky feelings Lizzie pulls from him. But when Lizzie tells him she’s got an unexpected bun in the oven, he’ll do whatever it takes to be a part of his child’s life… except be emotionally vulnerable, obviously. He’s never going to make that mistake again.

Through a series of mishaps, totally “platonic” single bed sharing, and an underground erotic baking scheme, Lizzie and Rake learn that even the biggest mistakes can have the most beautiful consequences.


Title : Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake
Author : Mazey Eddings
Format : eARC
Page Count : 335
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date : September 6, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

So clearly I only ever read the first paragraph (if even that) of the synopsis because after finishing this book, and realizing what makes up the majority of the content, I was sure the synopsis was cheekily dodging this particular trope. But no. It’s right there, in paragraph two : unexpected baby. Yikes. So, yeah, this one’s on me, folks. But here’s your warning incase you missed that, too.

Obviously (well, maybe not) this isn’t only about these two strangers who have to deal with the unplanned (despite their best intentions) consequences of their hook-up gone unexpected. We also have a lot of dialogue, discussion, and dealing/living-with adult ADHD and the various processing struggles and tricks required to function. Not only function but thrive. And, at the same time, finding the people around you — platonic or otherwise — who cherish you regardless and don’t treat you as a burden. Which is what one of our MCs was brought up to believe. The other has his own baggage, too, but it’s a little more in line with standard romance stuff; except for one thing that is sorta used as motivation (maybe not the right word, I’m struggling with how to phrase this without being too obvious, even though I want to shout about it from the rooftops; though I won’t) for why he is so quick so early on to jump in on making their partnership work. I won’t say more but there are layers that, even though it’s explained and there doesn’t seem to be an intent to villainize the situation, it just may not work for some readers because I think it’s a fine line on how it may come across — especially right now. And honestly while I understand to some degree why the author included it, it could’ve easily just not been there.

Overall, nothing about this made me mad — not even the thing I went on about above, I just kind of did a mental dodge around it; not even the baby stuff (which, by the way, I’m not anti-baby, I just don’t prefer them to be the focus and it was mostly the only plot-related conflict). But it’s just obviously not my jam. There were some emotional beats, some of the ADHD representation was interesting to read about as I’m not aware of anyone in my life with that diagnosis and certainly not read it described in the way the author did here, and some of the ‘trying to remain platonic while lusting after each other’ hijinks were entertaining. But I just didn’t connect. I didn’t laugh. And I was only minorly impacted by some of the aforementioned emotional turmoil.

This is Eddings’ second release and neither have quite landed for me, though both in different ways. I can definitely see why people on my flist are already enjoying this, and why others will still enjoy it. To each their own! I might give her one last shot (three strikes, you’re out!) before throwing in the towel though.

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