53 LETTERS FOR MY LOVER by Leylah Attar

This is not your typical love story. 
It’s not so black and white. Lines are crossed. 
Walls are smashed. Good becomes bad. 
Bad becomes very, very good.

Shayda Hijazi—the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter. For thirty-three years, she has played by the rules, swallowing secrets, burying dreams and doing whatever it takes to anchor her family. Shayda Hijazi is about to come face to face with the one thing that can rip it all apart, the one thing her heart has always been denied: Love.

Troy Heathgate—untamed, exhilarating, dangerous—a man who does exactly as he pleases. Life bends to his will. Until he comes across the one thing he would give it all up for, but can never have.

Born on the same day in opposite corners of the world, their lives collide. And nothing is ever the same again. 

Spanning three decades, 53 Letters for My Lover is a fiercely sensual, emotional ride to the heart of an epic, forbidden love that defies it all—an intimate exploration of love, loyalty, passion, betrayal, and the human journey for hope, happiness and redemption.


Title : 53 Letters For My Lover
Author : Leylah Attar
Series : 53 Letters For My Lover (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 398
Genre : romance
Publisher : Pitch73 Publishing
Release Date : June 17, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Micky has been waiting for me to read this since 2015.. this probably isn’t how she expected to be repaid by me finally reading it.

As usual I did not have any real clue what this was about before going into it so suffice it to say I was immediately off balance by this story because it seemed to be setting up a cheating plotline. Additionally when we first meet the love interest, he isn’t put in a very flattering light. And I wonder if this was done on purpose. I’m sure the author knew she would have to make this convincing for her readers and we had to be right alongside the MC with fighting off our desire for this connection, this affair. I can appreciate that in hindsight. But it made my early enjoyment pretty low.

Strangely, I was won over. Not always. I found some elements of this story to be a little all over the place, including some of the character behaviours, almost as if scenes from something else had been spliced in to an existing manuscript. But then.. I was totally pulled under by the sheer loveliness of some of this; the irresistible connection. The love. Also? It was smoking hot. I feel like we don’t get sex scenes like this anymore? 2014, you were something else. Come back, I miss you.

So, yes, a little bit of a mixed bag. I’m so glad I finally read this; mostly because I’m cashing in a very overdue promise but also because the good? Was very good. Obviously this won’t be for everyone but honestly if not for the recommendation, and had I actually known the plot, I probably wouldn’t have ever picked it up.

Also, as a bonus for my fellow Canucks, this is set in Toronto. And while it doesn’t go overboard with sight seeing or references, it was still fun to see little name drops and occasionally be able to picture where a scene was unfolding.

Also also? Make sure you read the novella that follows this. I won’t be reviewing it for the blog but it’s required reading for sure.

THE SOULMATE EQUATION by Christina Laurenm- double review!

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess–who is barely making ends meet–is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist–and the science behind a soulmate–than she thought.


Title : The Soulmate Equation
Author : Christina Lauren
Format : eBook (overdrive)/Paperback
Page Count : 365
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Gallery Books/Piatkus Books
Release Date : May 18, 2021/August 5, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I have been so disappointed by the last handful of CLo novels so I guess it was about time my luck changed.

I saw a lot of early buzz and excitement for this release but I expected nothing less. What intrigued me was seeing the same excitement from other often-disappointed CLo fans. That made me sit up and take notice.

It’s so hard for me to be inspired to pick up a book during the working week and yet I sat down the same night my library hold came in and I d e v o u r e d the whole thing. It made me laugh. It made me soft. It maybe even made me tear up once.

Is the premise of this book a little outlandish? Yes (if it’s based in real science pls insert my apologies here but I suspect not). Did some elements of the romance veer a little too quickly into the all-systems-go lane once the hook had taken over, particularly after the way their previous interactions had gone? Yes. Did I hate the financial conflicts with the MC’s mother? A thousand times yes (this kind of plot is a huge issue for me in general though so I didn’t expect anything different). So, is it perfect? No. But I had such a great time.

There’s a core group of supporting characters that are funny and charming and lovely, the reluctant connection between humans who don’t seem to click, or are so different, as a base for the romance is always (often) a hit, and I was definitely feeling the chemistry even in this lower range of heat we’ve come to expect from the new CLo books. Though I do think maybe there was more going on this time than there has been. Coincidence? I think not.

Suffice it to say I had a really good time and while I will not hold out hope that this trend will remain true with what’s to come from this duo, there’s a reason I keep picking these authors up. When they are good, they are good.


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Lets have more geeky scientist/mathematician combos
Fakey breaky goodness
Sold down the river for River

The Soulmate Equation seemed to find that sweet spot of the right push and pull alongside sweetness and angst; everything was in good measure to formulate the ideal equation for a story. Sorry, I’ll stop using title puns now. But seriously, the characters and plot brought a cross of Darcy with The One and equaled a lose-yourself read.

River Pena was all of Darcy’s best angles: arrogance, dismissal but alluringly handsome. I felt on a string from his first ‘Americano’ sighting. Jess, a single mom with her own brand of geek was a great protagonist with the best family to read about.

…the only thing she could focus on was the way he spoke like he was reading aloud from a textbook. God, Siri carried on a more familiar conversation.

This couple’s journey carried elements of awkwardness but staying for the journey to reach the delicious chemistry was worth the wait. This story really grew for me, especially from a third into the book. The way River stepped up in certain situations was complete swoon territory. There wasn’t a lot of on-page steam but you felt every inch of chemistry between these two.

I thoroughly enjoyed this standalone from Christina Lauren and I can’t see a day when I will not be reading their offerings.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the review copy.

THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee

EVERYONE IN THE WORLD KNOWS HIS NAME.
BUT IT’S YOU HE WANTS.

At thirty-nine, Solène Marchand is a devoted mother, a dedicated colleague and a considerate ex-wife.

But it’s a long time since she’s felt like herself.

So when someone comes along who seems to see her – to want her – for who she really is, the attraction is instant. And so begins a jet-setting, earth-shattering secret love affair.

But what if that someone is world-famous sex symbol Hayes Campbell? Captivating frontman of boy band of the moment August Moon – whose face is everywhere. Including Solène’s teenage daughter’s bedroom wall.

Can Solène allow herself to fall for the boy the whole world wants?

OR WILL SHE HAVE TO MAKE A DEVASTATING CHOICE..?


Title : The Idea of You
Author : Robinne Lee
Format : eARC
Page Count :374
Genre : Romance
Publisher : Michael Joseph Books
Release Date : July 22, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Beware of sparks
Discomforting swooning
Tragedy felt on the horizon
Please Sir, can I have more?

I think that less is going to be more with this review. The Idea Of You blew me away, discomforted me, challenged me and devastated me. And yet, I loved every minute of the ride; I couldn’t look away as I devoured it page by page, waiting for the impending car crash.

I don’t want to give a thing away beyond the blurb. The characters, Hayes and Solène transfixed me with their story and their pairing. They glued me to the page, the strangeness of their match felt less strange with each page until you were convinced they should be together.

“So this is what twenty looked like. That sweet spot between adolescence and the moment things began to unravel.”

There were other characters in this story but it’s very hard not to feel anything but absorbed by Hayes and Solène. The complications and angst were intense so that I don’t think I will recover for a while. Plan to shelve your life when you pick this up.

The writing in this book is sublime, seamless and this is a writing debut. Robinne Lee is an author to look out for. As many readers of this book will say, I want need more, just so that I can keep on breathing.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the review copy.

TOTALLY FOLKED by Penny Reid – double review!

One unforgettable night leads to an unlikely shared connection, and unlikely connections never go unnoticed by the good folks in Green Valley, Tennessee…

Jackson James follows the rules. He has to. He’s a sheriff’s deputy in a super small town with a super big personality. However, strict adherence to the law during the day has been enjoyably balanced by rakish rules at night. Jackson, typically happy to protect and serve (and serve, and serve), starts questioning the value of wayward evenings when getting laid starts to feel more like being waylaid. Could it be that Green Valley’s most eligible—and notorious—bachelor longs for something (and someone) real?

Mega movie star Raquel Ezra follows only one rule: always leave them wanting more. Studio execs, reporters, audiences, fans, lovers—no one can get enough of the smart, savvy, and sexy bombshell. But when “generous offers” begin to feel more like excessive demands, years of always leaving has the elusive starlet longing for something (and perhaps someone) lasting.

When Raquel abruptly returns to the quirky Tennessee hamlet, her path crosses with the delectable deputy with whom she spent one unforgettable night. Unfortunately, scandal and intrigue soon follow. Raquel and Jackson must decide which is more important: following their rules? Or, at long last, finding something real.


Title : Totally Folked
Author : Penny Reid
Series : Good Folk – Modern Folktales (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : July 20, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

First of all, I just want to say, how nice it was to have no real big drama in this one. No motorcycle gang stuff or kidnapping or shoot outs or blackmail or betrayals.. just small down romance. I think Reid is shaking off the themes of her Winston Brothers series, even though this is the same world and same characters, and going for something a little more every day, more wholesome. I mean, this is only book one, but that’s the vibe I’m getting. I appreciated it and appreciated the break in the over the top action, too.

Surprisingly — and I say that because inevitably after a long wait for a certain character’s book, it doesn’t always live up to what you wished or wanted — I really liked Jackson in this one. It’s been so long since the first time he showed up on the page, where we only knew so much about him, that I didn’t quite expect this to be where he ended up. I mean, sure, and over time his character was fleshed out a bit, we saw he wasn’t quite the douche canoe he first appeared to be, but I liked finally getting his side of things.

Having said that, his romantic interest, was.. fine? Okay? Honestly I’m not left with much. Rae had personality and hangups, sure, she was a fully drawn and even coloured in character but honestly all I’ll probably remember about her, after time, is that she was an actress, like Sienna. The particulars won’t hold space in my memory. She didn’t stand out.

Which also kind of applies to every other character, too, except maybe newcomer (at least I don’t recall her in the other series..) Charlotte. I liked Charlotte. Beyond, ultimately, being bestie to both Jackson and Rae she doesn’t do a whole lot but she does her role well.

I realize I’m probably not singing a lot of praises for this one but alongside the lack of drama the overall feelings are perhaps a bit muted as a result. But not in a bad way. I enjoyed my time back in Green Valley. I do think I’ve said this before and that I’ve maybe outgrown this world, if not the author, and I’m more interested to see new things from her, but I’ll probably keep reading these until said new things show up.

If you’re a fan of this author, and this world, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by this one at all.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Endearing characters
Gentle and steady hero
Found Green Valley family

You get the prequel novella as part of this series starter for the Modern Folktales and you need that splash of electric chemisty before you launch into Totally Folked. You can find my review for the prequel novella Just Folking Around here.

The reconnection of Jackson and Raquel (Rae) was a gradual process with moments of I can’t help myself. The chemistry between these two was ever present, but the foundation for more for any kind of relationship needed time and work.

Rae’s life was a hot mess of intrusion. Her time in Green Valley was a sweet interlude, whereas Jackson lived the steady, good guy life. I really enjoyed Jackson’s character, his imposed slow burn with occasional thoughts of pushing him along. Rae and Jackson were totally suited.

The found family alongside natual family was an eclectic mix but it worked. I enjoyed seeing Rae drawn into a community of genuine people. Jackson’s dad gave some beautiful advice.

“Admitting a vulnerability to someone you love and who loves you in return usually brings you closer, it doesn’t push you apart.”

This was a good series starter and I will be reading on. Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

JUST FOLKING AROUND by Penny Reid – double review!

One night? No strings? A sexy game of chess? No problem.

If you’ve never read a Penny Reid book before, this is the place to start! An all new series starter snack from the author of the WINSTON BROTHERS and KNITTING IN THE CITY series. . .

Raquel Ezra loves to fish. With so many fish in the sea, she’s never had a problem baiting the hook or reeling them in. Raquel is a good actress, she can be anyone’s fantasy for a single night as long as they agree to be hers. Which is why she doesn’t think twice about spending an evening in nowhere Tennessee with a smokin’ hot, well-mannered, and intriguing sheriff’s deputy by the name of Jackson James.

Except, when the time comes, Raquel discovers that reality might just be better than any fantasy, and maybe she’s not ready to release this catch.

JUST FOLKING AROUND is a 16k words, contemporary romance, a complete standalone, and is the prequel to TOTALLY FOLKED, book #1 in the Good Folk: Modern Folktales series.


Title : Just Folking Around
Author : Penny Reid
Series : Good Folk : Modern Folktales (book .5)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 68
Genre : romance
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : June 20, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I was completely surprised when this ARC landed on my kindle — and for good reason! This little novella introduces the couple for book one; the male love interest of course we know well, Mister Deputy Jackson James, but who was he to be paired up with?

Well now we know.

This novella opens up on the day of Sierra’s wedding and we meet Raquel, one of Sierra’s Hollywood friends, in town for the event, who ends up crossing paths, and more (but also maybe less!), with Jackson.

It took me a moment to warm up to her, I’ll be honest, but her Vegas Chess idea? Genius.

This is a sweet little taste test of what’s to come but knowing Reid we have no idea what’s actually coming.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Well, that was both delicious and cruel. I am left needing more even if it took me a hot minute to work out what was going on, who was what and why. Once I’d done that working out, I was on board.

This was a hawt little novella, naughty but nice. I loved the chess game and the unravelling that it caused in both these characters. I feel like I know Raquel a little now but I need a lot more knowledge on Jackson, stat.

This short piece of goodness will be the starter that fans didn’t know they needed to get going with this new series. I am all anticipation.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

EAT YOUR HEART OUT by Kelly deVos

Shaun of the Dead meets Dumplin’ in this bitingly funny YA thriller about a kickass group of teens battling a ravenous group of zombies.

In the next few hours, one of three things will happen.

1–We’ll be rescued (unlikely)

2–We’ll freeze to death (maybe)

3–We’ll be eaten by thin and athletic zombies (odds: excellent) 

Vivian Ellenshaw is fat, but she knows she doesn’t need to lose weight, so she’s none too happy to find herself forced into a weight-loss camp’s van with her ex-best friend, Allie, a meathead jock who can barely drive, and the camp owner’s snobby son. And when they arrive at Camp Featherlite at the start of the worst blizzard in the history of Flagstaff, Arizona, it’s clear that something isn’t right.

Vee barely has a chance to meet the other members of her pod, all who seem as unhappy to be at Featherlite as she does, when a camper goes missing down by the lake. Then she spots something horrifying outside in the snow. Something…that isn’t human. Plus, the camp’s supposed “miracle cure” for obesity just seems fishy, and Vee and her fellow campers know they don’t need to be cured. Of anything.

Even worse, it’s not long before Camp Featherlite’s luxurious bungalows are totally overrun with zombies. What starts out as a mission to unravel the camp’s secrets turns into a desperate fight for survival–and not all of the Featherlite campers will make it out alive. 

A satirical blend of horror, body positivity, and humor, Kelly deVos’s witty, biting novel proves that everyone deserves to feel validated, and taking down the evil enterprise determined to dehumanize you is a good place to start.


Title : Eat Your Heart Out
Author : Kelly deVos
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA horror/sci-fi
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : June 29, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This YA horror is pitched so perfectly. It really is like Shaun of the Dead meets Dumplin‘. This mashup has both the conversations surrounding fatphobia and diet culture alongside the unlikely group of individuals, each fitting a specific movie archetype, having to battle zombies.

How are fat camps still even a thing? Don’t they belong in a museum with inflatable dart boards, Flowbeers, and Thigh Masters?

I loved how the conversation around weight was done, I loved how much acceptance was in this story, and how despite being set at a fat-camp, and how this particular zombie apocalypse unfolds, it doesn’t feel like a story about being fat. Even though it is. Hard to explain!

Between the gorgeously colourful cover with a fat girl, unapologetically front and centre, and the satirical content that sadly doesn’t feel far off from how fatness is dealt with in our own world, this is a read that we all need. Sure, we’re sorta in out own apocalypse but this particular set-up is lightyears away from our own. I promise it won’t stress you out!

I’m not sure I would reread this, which is usually why I award four stars to books, but I just appreciate this so much. Was it perfect? No. While we get to know the characters enough to be invested, it is still a bit surface level, as we’re thrown pretty much right into disaster mode. Think of the way Cloverfield unfolds. We sorta get to know our protagonists as they navigate their new reality but it’s more about surviving than anything else. But this book did exactly what it set out to do and it still managed to have a few surprises along the way, too. Would recommend!

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

DON’T BREATHE A WORD by Jordyn Taylor

Present Day:
Eva has never felt like she belonged… not in her own family or with her friends in New York City, and certainly not at a fancy boarding school like Hardwick Preparatory Academy. So when she is invited to join the Fives, an elite secret society, she jumps at the opportunity to finally be a part of something.

But what if the Fives are about more than just having the best parties and receiving special privileges from the school? What if they are also responsible for keeping some of Hardwick’s biggest secrets buried?

1962:
There is only one reason why Connie would volunteer to be one of the six students to participate in testing Hardwick’s nuclear fallout shelter: Craig Allenby. While the thought of nuclear war sends her into a panic, she can’t pass up the opportunity to spend four days locked in with the school’s golden boy. However, Connie and the other students quickly discover that there is more to this “test” than they previously thought. As they are forced to follow an escalating series of commands, Connie realizes that one wrong move could have dangerous consequences.

Separated by sixty years , Eva’s and Connie’s stories become inextricably intertwined as Eva unravels the mystery of how six students went into the fallout shelter all those years ago . . . but only five came out. 


Title : Don’t Breathe a Word
Author : Jordyn Taylor
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA mystery contemporary/historical
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : May 18, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

This was an interesting dual-timeline story, that later connects, of an event in the past that is the catalyst for the creation of a secret society at a boarding school. It mashes up Cold War paranoia with present day priviledge and the new girl at said school who is brought into the society and uncovers the crime at the heart of the organization.

I found this an easy read and enjoyed it when I didn’t think too hard about the unlikeliness of the whole thing enduring through the decades. Also the fact that no one had uncovered anything in the decades since? Like with most stories, suspend some disbelief and you’ll have a good time.

At it’s heart, however, is a good message for teens — and those of us non-teens who sometimes forget — that people worth your time, be them friends or family or peers, won’t demand sacrifice or secrets or for you to bury your discomfort just to be in their presence. Friendship, love, respect.. these are not conditional.

While this wasn’t perhaps all that surprising or original, except for the circumstances taking place during the historical timeline, if you like secret societies, boarding school settings, and mysteries for YA protagonists to unravel, you should give this one a go.

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

JAY’S GAY AGENDA by Jason June

There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all this friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.

Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs, where he can flirt with Very Sexy Boys and search for love. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones…because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.

From debut novelist Jason June comes a moving and hilarious sex-positive story about the complexities of first loves, first hookups, and first heartbreaks—and how to stay true to yourself while embracing what you never saw coming.


Title : Jay’s Gay Agenda
Author : Jason June
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So this wasn’t quite the lovely, hilarious, quirky, queer, YA love story I expected it to be. It was, however, very sex positive (though in only one specific way.. more on that later) and I think that should definitely be celebrated. Mostly because it’s the only positive thing I can attribute to this read. Sorry, no, that’s a lie. I liked Jay’s parents. Who were also very sex positive. There we go.

The problem really starts, and ends, with the main character. Not only was he a bit OTT in some ways he was just completely.. well, dick-crazed? To put it nicely, I guess (it would’ve been nice if the focus on virginity hadn’t been so prevalent but also why did no single person address the fact that sex comes in lots of forms, not just penetrative? for a queer novel, this was a very heteronormative view). And he was totally oblivious to literally so much, including his own hypocrisies. I’m not saying he was the only one to be guilty of such, and hey, this is a bunch of eighteen year olds we’re talking about here, but.. still.

I wish I could’ve loved this but I barely liked it. I hope people can enjoy this, because I absolutely think queer readers need messy romcoms they can see themselves in, and there’s definitely a plethora of messy romcoms for those of us who are straight, I just.. I hated the lying, yes, and I hated the cheating, but more than that (and this is big because I really hate cheating) was how easily he was forgiven. By literally everyone. Yes, yes, it’s a YA, we need to wrap up everything nicely, but.. nope. Teens deserve to see consequences play out. We all do. It’s part of life.

Also, COVID/quarantine was mentioned offhand like twice and a) that was really jarring and b) no, stop, I don’t want this in my fiction.

I have no idea if there’s more to come because GR indicates this is the first in a series but I don’t think I’ll be reading on. Especially not if book two is from Jay’s POV.

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

HOT COPY by Ruby Barrett

Corinne Blunt knows what people think of her—she’s an icy, unapproachable executive. It’s the price she’s had to pay to get to the top. But there’s knowing you have a reputation in the office, and there’s hearing your new intern laugh when someone calls you “Blunt the C*nt” in the elevator on his first day.

She’d hoped to finally find an ally in Wesley Chambers, but she’s not about to let him off the hook for joining the office boys’ club. Taking refuge in the professional boundaries between them, she relegates Wes to assistant work—which would do the trick, if he weren’t so eager to prove he’s a decent human being.

Wes is sincerely apologetic, insisting it was a misunderstanding, and to her surprise, Corinne believes him. Being forced to work together was one thing, but long hours at the office with what turns out to be a kind, thoughtful man soon has their business relationship turning personal, and things get complicated—fast. Could this be something more serious than either of them dared to hope for? Or is their relationship just playing into the harmful power dynamics Corinne’s had to endure her entire career?


Title : Hot Copy
Author : Ruby Barrett
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 297
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

If you craved the dynamic from The Proposal but wanted it to get the full sexy treatment? You might like this. At least, that’s what I thought to expect about this when going into it (because I don’t read blurbs). Except in Hot Copy not only is there an age gap (I was still on board) but he’s an intern.. not the assistant (I’ve edged a foot off the board at this point).

The latter would’ve been pushing it a bit to begin with but this went a step further. Everyone is not only consenting but also adult however it made for a frustrating parallel to the very real, and pervasive, inappropriate conduct happening all around the couple. As if to say, “this is okay because want it and aren’t sleazy about it”? I don’t know. I could probably have put my brain on hold about the whole thing if not for all the ick going on around them because it kept reminding me that this wasn’t great. But, when I could check my brain out for a second, I appreciated the switch up of the dynamics we’re used to seeing play out.

Except Corinne kept wrongfooting the whole relationship (or not-relationship) which is ironic as they get off on the wrong foot because she wrongly attributes something to him. So, I mean, maybe it’s not ironic. Maybe that initial interaction was foreshadowing for the whole story. He would be everything sweet, caring, kind, understanding, dedicated, and she would abuse it, not appreciate it, take it for granted.

Which isn’t to say Wes is perfect as he becomes so wholly invested in her that his real life suffers for it. And then the one time he doesn’t put Corrine first.. well, lets just say I fucking hated that particular argument.

What frustrates me about the whole experience though is that this could’ve been really good. There’s an emotional thread woven through the story that really got me choked up at times and while I thought the repetition of that same element was maybe too much.. I still cried at a certain scene near the end. I wasn’t immune. But yeah, the nitpicky part of me wishes it had been similar but not the same.

I’m mixed about my feelings so I’m totally copping out and not rating this (at least for now). I would definitely read from this author again as I thought the writing was surprisingly solid for a debut but this particular dynamic/romance will definitely be polarizing.

If you’re down for a bit of a messy romance, and are craving something to fog up the glasses, check out some reviews and see if this’ll be your cup of tea.

ONE LAST STOP by Casey McQuiston – double review!

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.


Title : One Last Stop
Author : Casey McQuiston
Format : eARC/Audio
Narrator : Natalie Naudus
Page Count : 432/12 hours 10 minutes
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance / speculative (sci-fi?) fiction
Publisher : St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date : June 1, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

It’s the biggest question of them all, isn’t it : is One Last Stop better than Red, White & Royal Blue? Personally, for me, no. But that isn’t a bad thing; and nor can one be compared to the other, anyway. One was magic for me and one has magic.

You are projecting so many feelings right now, I can’t believe your skin’s still on.
I’m repressing it!
I can see how you would think that is what you’re doing.

Right out the gate I have to say : I absolutely loved the ensemble of friends/found family in this book. McQuiston does this so well and this one in particular was so colourful and lovely. If that’s what you want in your books, or that’s what you need, you will love it here. Truly. And, in general, this book was so vibrant. The people, the places, the parties, everything was bright. I could picture it all. It’s a great feeling to have something you’re reading, particularly something so inclusive and welcoming and warm, spinning out so vividly in your brain.

Maybe you’re meant to be. Love at first sight. It happened to me.
I don’t accept that as a hypothesis.”
That’s because you’re a Virgo.”
I thought you said virginity was a construct.
A Virgo, you fucking Virgo nightmare. All this, and you still don’t believe in things. Typical Virgo bullshit.”

While I definitely felt the connection between our main lovebirds, I don’t know if I ever fell in love with them. Maybe Jane more than August but still. I was invested in (most of) their adventures, their struggle, delighted by their mix of soft tentative chaotic flirtations to their outright horny happiness, but.. this book isn’t short and sometimes, often in scenes just between the two of them, it felt long. I would get distracted by the ensemble but then it would kind hit home that it felt like I was reading about this forever.

When you spend your whole life alone, it’s incredibly appealing to move somewhere big enough to get lost in, where being alone looks like a choice.

There is an inherent magic to this whole story (I’ll direct you to the Kate & Leopold pitch for an idea of how that looks) and an additional element is there is layer upon layer of coincidences. Some are sweet, some are strange, others are outrageous. There is much disbelief to suspend (obviously, being as someone is out of time and all..) but just bear that in mind. It often worked but.. not always.

Living with a psychic is a pain in the ass.

Beyond the magic, beyond the romance, the heart of One Last Stop felt like a tribute to queer communities, past and present. It felt like McQuiston used Jane as a way to shine light on where things were in the seventies to how they are now. The Q train might have been what anchored this story together but an equally important anchor were queer lives — their liberties, their sacrifices, their pain, their losses, and their triumps. Their right to be.

Remember the rules. Number one —
Us versus everyone.”
And number two —
If they’re gonna kill you, get their DNA under your fingernails.

Overall this was pretty great. I think so many of you are going to love it. Will I hold it in my heart the way I do RWRB? No — and, in fact, months later as I repost this for release day, I realize I don’t think I’ve even thought of it since; the good parts are good, the long parts? Long! This is maybe more of a 3.5 but I’m not going to downgrade. Just bear that in mind. For me, it’s shiny and lovely in the moment but the longterm impact? Little to none, especially vs the author’s debut. But I still recommend you pick it up.

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


Micky’s 3 star review (rounded up)

Headlines:
From odd to quirky
MCs to invest in
Never getting a subway ride again

One Last Stop was very different to my expectations, so much so, this non-blurber went back to look at the blurb and that helped to be honest. This story is LGBTQ+/speculative fiction with a slice of time slip. All this is in the blurb, so no spoilers here.

Things I liked about this book were the two main characters, August and Jane. They stole the show and they were meant to, I’m sure. Both these characters were not immediately lovable but I did grow to like them more and more as the story evolved. Jane in particular was a character slowly revealed.

The story was…odd, it took me ages to get on board with the whole premise for what was going on and even then, it was a bit wacky for my taste. The side characters were just okay for me when I think readers are supposed to love this crew of flatmates and co-workers; I just didn’t. I did enjoy the finale of the story but it felt like a long story to get there. However, I was cheering for this couple.

The narration was a good, solid capture of August’s POV.

Thank you to the publisher and LibroFM for the early review copies.