I KISSED SHARA WHEELER by Casey McQuiston – double review!

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.


Title : I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Author : Casey McQuiston
Format : ARC / eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Press/MacMillan Kids
Release Date : May 3, 2022/May 12, 2022

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This book is really making me reconsider my rounded up “3.5 star feels” for One Last Stop. Because I Kissed Shara Wheeler gave me the queer ensemble of my dreams whilst also having an electric and fun and unexpected plot without any of the lulls found in the author’s sophomore release. Infact, this made me incredibly nostalgic for their debut because I’m left with that same sparkly feeling — minus the hangover from some of the more intense emotional moments.

God, why is he still here? What is he doing? There’s no way his job is that hard. All he des is cut the arts budget and misinterpret the Bible. How many hours can that possibly take?

Because, yes, I Kissed Shara Wheeler? Fantastic. I knew by the end of chapter one I was going to be a goner for this book and only something absolutely terrible could ruin it. And, spoiler, nothing did.

While she does like boys, she generally finds the traits of a compelling villain — arrogance, malice, an angry backstory — tedious in a man. Like, what do hot guys with long dark hair have to be that upset about? Get a clarifying shampoo and suck it up, Kylo Ren.

As usual my brain is stalling out a little on what to say but like. This has that competitive academic rivals tension. It has a kiss-fuelled scavenger hunt. It has unlikely allies who become true friends. It’s about self-discovery. It’s about quiet rebellions that lead to louder ones. It’s about old friends become new again. It’s about found family. And so much more.

Chloe, we’re gay. We can’t do math.
Okay, well, next time I’ll come and make a spreadsheet.
This is why we need you. Once in a generation, there is born a bisexual who can do math. You’re the chosen one.”

It’s not all easy or fun or just non-stop queer shenanigans, though. With the setting of this book, both in a little town in Alabama and at a Christian school to boot, you know there’s going to be some issues to tackle. But those issues never overwhelmed the story. But neither were they too minor to not play a part. It was the perfect balance.

Your mama and I decided long before you were both that we would let you be whoever you are, no matter who that is.
And if who you are is a snarling little Pomeranian with eyes like fire, than that’s who you are, darling.”

If YA is all McQuiston plans to ever write again (this is not confirmed, I’m just saying), I would honestly only be a tiny bit upset to lose adult content from them. Because it really was that good. I know I will be rereading this and, likely, loving it even more.

Highly recommend.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
YA contemporary comedy mystery
Dramatics
Bigatory

There’s lots to recommend this read, it’s beautifully queer, a fun romp but somehow, it just didn’t hit the notes for me. There’s an eclectic band of friends thrown together in this story and that was the element I became most fond of.

Shara was missing and I struggled with Shara as a character for much of the story, and maybe I was supposed to. She seemed manipulative and they way she had all these peers pitched against one another initially, really wound me up. There was space for redemption but overall I didn’t like her. Shara however, wasn’t really the main character even if the whole story was centred on her, Chloe was the MC and I did like her mostly. Chloe had some epic moms which I appreciated.

The themes were welcome in this book and they included exploring identity, sexuality and rebelling against bigatory. These important themes were well handled but it felt alongside a fair bit of dramarama. I think the drama and manipulative characteristics of Shara were what kept me from connecting with the characters sadly. I didn’t feel any chemistry in the romantic moments either.

I am disappointed I didn’t enjoy this more but I can see that so far from a ratings perspective, I am in the minority.

Thank you MacMillan Kids for the early review copy.

PART OF YOUR WORLD by Abby Jimenez

The New York Times bestselling author of Life’s Too Short delivers a refreshingly modern fairy tale perfect for fans of Casey McQuiston and Emily Henry.

After a wild bet, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich, and cuddle with a baby goat, Alexis Montgomery has had her world turned upside down. The cause: Daniel Grant, a ridiculously hot carpenter who’s ten years younger than her and as casual as they come—the complete opposite of sophisticated city-girl Alexis. And yet their chemistry is undeniable.

While her ultra-wealthy parents want her to carry on the family legacy of world-renowned surgeons, Alexis doesn’t need glory or fame. She’s fine with being a “mere” ER doctor. And every minute she spends with Daniel and the tight-knit town where he lives, she’s discovering just what’s really important. Yet letting their relationship become anything more than a short-term fling would mean turning her back on her family and giving up the opportunity to help thousands of people.

Bringing Daniel into her world is impossible, and yet she can’t just give up the joy she’s found with him either. With so many differences between them, how can Alexis possibly choose between her world and his? 


Title : Part of Your World
Author : Abby Jimenez
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Forever
Release Date : April 19, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Good news, everyone! This Jimenez might be the first one that doesn’t make you cry your eyes out. I mean, it’s still possible, but the odds are actually in your favour this time. Because if I, a person who cries at a strong breeze, didn’t shed tears, you will also likely emerge unscathed.

In fact, in general, this felt like a very different offering from this author. It’s a little less overflowing with the emotions, yes, and it’s actually well pitched; in many ways this does feel like a modern fairytale. It is still infused with some heavy topics to navigate — this time abuse, both verbal/emotional and physical and the very many forms this both takes, and in various kinds of dynamics — but still.. it’s got a magical kind of feel to it all. Like fairytales do.

Strangely, while I definitely enjoyed this change in pace, it may be a little less memorable as a result.

This story really felt like two in one. One was a delightful romance, with charming personalities, the most perfect love interest, and a small town dynamic. The other contained an unwanted and toxic ex, some unrelentingly demanding parents, and personalities very far from charming. It was no wonder Alexis felt so drawn to the former; but because of her upbringing, her responsibilities, she was constantly pulled back to the latter. She was constantly pushing away the best things in her life. She was constantly bowing to expectation. Worst of all, she was convinced that something good, something necessary, couldn’t be in her life, accepted by her people, because of who he wasn’t, what he looked like, and because he was a few years younger. And while I understood this.. it was painful to constantly, constantly, cycle through it. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a good guy, but Daniel was made to be almost a little too perfect. Maybe it was to present two very stark things — good and bad — against one another for the full contrast but.. I don’t know. It feels a little nitpicky, I’ll admit, because Daniel really was the best. But was he too much the best?

Having said that, both characters had their flaws. Alexis had plenty. Daniel’s flaw was maybe that he didn’t have one. But. I enjoyed them together, I enjoyed their ridiculous happily ever after (truly a fairytale), and it definitely gave me that bit of magic that I always feel when watching Sweet Home Alabama. I think this is almost a genderbent Cinderella-ish Little Mermaid-ish mashup with that movie? Maybe? I’m trying to think of a better comparison and drawing a blank. But it gives those kind of vibes! At least for me.

I definitely wouldn’t dissuade anyone from picking this up. I really did enjoy my time with this group. And I’m happy to see that Bri, one of the true stars of this book, is getting her own next. I will likely never stop picking this author up and I’m so glad she continues to come up with stories that have yet to disappoint.

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

THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Emily St. John Mandel

The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core. 

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him. 

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.


Title : Sea of Tranquility
Author : Emily St. John Mandel
Format : ARC
Page Count : 255
Genre : historical fiction / sci-fi
Publisher : Knopf
Release Date : April 5, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

So, spoiler alert, this has a lot more pandemic-content than I think I expected. For some reason I thought the discussion was more centered in the older of the timelines but instead it seemed to span most of them; and we see COVID make a cameo, too. Having said that, readers now expecting a lot of page time dedicated to this might think there’s less than I claim; I suppose it depends on one’s perspective. But regardless, if you aren’t ready for that kind of content, maybe avoid this one.

As for the story itself, I have some mixed feelings about it all. I feel like this is one of those reads that you might not appreciate until the very end — because that was definitely the case with me. I wasn’t bored or disliking anything up until that point but neither was I particularly engaged with or by the characters we were spending time with. But the ending, the why of it all.. I liked that. Doubly so because I didn’t see it coming.

This also felt a little.. I don’t want to see autobiographical but it almost felt there were parts of the author’s own experience, in a few different ways, that she may have included via the book’s author’s perspective or experience. It took me out of the story a little but for the other bits I actually enjoyed wondering if Mandel had been asked these same questions, had the same experience of doing press for a pandemic novel during a pandemic, etc.

Overall this was definitely mixed for me but it won’t stop me from picking up her titles again. And, on the topic, upon skimming through the top bit of the GR page, it turns out this connects a bit to her previous release, The Glass Hotel. I never got around to reading it so I’m keen to step back and see where the bits overlap. I always love those little easter eggs. Here’s hoping that one, at least, is a win.

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

THE LAST LAUGH by Mindy McGinnis

In the dark and stunning sequel to The Initial Insult, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis concludes this suspenseful YA duology as long-held family secrets finally come to light . . . changing Amontillado forevermore.

Tress Montor murdered Felicity Turnado—but she might not have to live with the guilt for long. With an infected arm held together by duct tape, the panther who clawed her open on the loose, and the whole town on the hunt for the lost homecoming queen, the odds are stacked against Tress. As her mind slides deeper into delirium, Tress is haunted by the growing sound of Felicity’s heartbeat pulsing from the “best friend” charm around her fevered neck.

Ribbit Usher has been a punchline his whole life—from his nickname to his latest turn as the unwitting star of a humiliating viral video. In the past he’s willingly played the fool, but now it’s time to fulfill his destiny. That means saving the girl, so that Felicity can take her place at his side and Ribbit can exact revenge on all who have done him wrong—which includes his cousin, Tress. Ribbit is held by a pact he made with his mother long ago, a pact that must be delivered upon in four days.

With time ticking down and an enemy she considers a friend lurking in the shadows, Tress’s grip on reality is failing. Can she keep both mind and body together long enough to finally find out what happened to her parents?


Title : The Last Laugh
Author : Mindy McGinnis
Series : The Initial Insult (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA mystery thriller
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : March 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Much like book one in this series, I don’t quite know where I fall with this one. Strangely, in a time where memory is fleeting because time has no meaning, I remembered so much of that weird ass first instalment that picking this up without a refresher was easy. And I blitzed through it. Maybe I was just excited to be reading something after a week-long dry spell but I also definitely think that’s purely the McGinnis factor.

This is a series I definitely won’t be recommending to anyone but I think anyone who does pick it up will likely be fascinated, just like I was. This story is dark and brutal and strange and a few times you will want to yell at your iPad much like we yell at athletes on the screens of our tvs. Because how dare that character be so stupid to do (or not do..) a thing. But overall? I was hooked. But did I like anything that happened? Maybe one or two things. The problem, I think, beyond the darkness and the weirdness, is we learn so much so late in the game — which is the same for the MC — that you flounder, pulled along in the current of wtf and why, for just too long.

Having said that, I’ll never stop picking this author up because whether it’s a win or a lose or a whoevenknows, I am fascinated not only by the way she tells stories but of what kinds of stories she chooses to tell.

DATING DR. DILL by Nisha Sharma

Dating Dr. Dil features a love-phobic TV doctor who must convince a love-obsessed homebody they are destined to be together. 

Kareena Mann dreams of having a love story like her parents, but she prefers restoring her classic car to swiping right on dating apps. When her father announces he’s selling her mother’s home, Kareena makes a deal with him: he’ll gift her the house if she can get engaged in four months. Her search for her soulmate becomes impossible when her argument with Dr. Prem Verma, host of The Dr. Dil Show, goes viral. Now the only man in her life is the one she doesn’t want.

Dr. Prem Verma is dedicated to building a local community health center, but he needs to get donors with deep pockets. The Dr. Dil Show was doing just that, until his argument with Kareena went viral, and he’s left short changed. That’s when Kareena’s meddling aunties presented him with a solution: convince Kareena he’s her soulmate and they’ll fund his clinic.  

Even though they have conflicting views on love-matches and arranged-matches, the more time Prem spends with Kareena, the more he begins to believe she’s the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. But for Prem and Kareena to find their happily ever after, they must admit that hate has turned into fate.


Title : Dating Dr. Dill
Author : Nisha Sharma
Series : If Shakespeare Was An Auntie (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 352
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : March 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★.5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I am not a DNF’er and yet I wanted to chuck this book across the room after setting it on fire after only 10%. However, I thought maybe it was just me or my mood. So I logged into GR to see reviews (which I never do before finishing the book myself) and honestly I’m going to link a few of them down below because not only are they excellent, and hilarious, but they’ll do a way better job at expressing my feelings than I ever could. But here goes nothing.

Even with a lacklustre read by this author already under my belt, I was drawn in by the Taming of the Shrew/10 Things I Hate About You retelling because it’s catnip and, yes, the great cover (yeah yeah, I know, we’re always suckers). So if that’s what is bringing you here, too, all I can say is skip this and go watch Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles makeout instead.

I obviously can’t speak for the culture or desi rep but as far as the characters went, the plot, the conflicts, and the story overall? Big nope. 96% of the characters were either full-time terrible or just occasionally awful or ridiculous — but in big devastating ways. The conflict from the male love interest’s side was just totally side-eye worthy and Kareena, our female protagonist, the only one who seemed to have the occasional modicum of sense, was woefully underdeveloped and just shit on constantly.

Also, the “Rina, honey” thing? I hated it so much. Right up there with “baby girl”.

But not as much as I hated the Charlie thing. Vomit.

This is my second read by Sharma and the second set of two stars or under (I considered rounding up but.. not here, maybe on GR I will) that I’m handing out. I think it’s safe to call it : no more for me.

ps, here are some amazing reviews you should definitely read. Please give these fantastic reviewers a follow.



RUNNING WILD by K.A. Tucker

Veterinarian Marie Lehr knows unrequited love all too well after pining for her best friend, only to watch him marry another woman. It’s a mistake she will never make again, especially not when she can practically hear the clock ticking on her childbearing years.

The trouble is, she can’t seem to find anyone who appeals to her even a fraction as much as that burly bush pilot did. Competitive musher Tyler Brady certainly doesn’t, especially not after the heated altercation with the handsome but arrogant, spiteful man.

Or so she thinks.

While volunteering at the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, Marie discovers that first impressions may have been false, and her attraction to Tyler is very real. But his heart belongs to someone else, leaving him with nothing to offer but friendship. Marie’s been down this road before and knows how that ends. Yet, no matter how hard she works to keep from falling for Tyler, it seems she’s doomed to follow her own trail once again.


Title : Running Wild
Author : K.A. Tucker
Series : Simple Wild (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 370
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : January 25, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

While I absolutely think Tucker’s set-up and conflict for this romance was great — Marie with her imagined love affair, haunted by something that never came to fruition, pitted against a man who can’t let his past go and is, in fact, haunted by a different kind of life unlived — I do think maybe things just got dragged out.. too much. Even though, strangely, I might’ve even appreciated if this had been done in two parts. That third act conflict just comes too late and is resolved too soon. But I was really into this one right up until that point, which is where it all soured for me.

That said, I enjoyed returning to this setting, to this world, and seeing most of these characters again. We had a bevy of frustrating personas to contend with, which was less enjoyable, but it felt very real, too. As for some of those new faces.. Reed and Mabel in a time jump, please? I would definitely read on in this world and this town and would absolutely love returning to a focus on the mushing. I really enjoyed learning about the sport and the community and, as a bonus, there were so many excellent dog and animals characters, helped by Marie being a vet, so that was just constant fun.

I don’t quite know how to end this review so, uh, the end.

BLOODFEVER by Karen Marie Moning

I used to be your average, everyday girl but all that changed one night in Dublin when I saw my first Fae, and got dragged into a world of deadly immortals and ancient secrets…

In her fight to stay alive, MacKayla must find the Sinsar Dubh—a million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, which holds the key to power over the worlds of both the Fae and Man. Pursued by assassins, surrounded by mysterious figures she knows she can’t trust, Mac finds herself torn between two deadly and powerful men: V’lane, the immortal Fae Prince, and Jericho Barrons, a man as irresistible as he is dangerous.

For centuries the shadowy realm of the Fae has coexisted with that of humans. Now the walls between the two are coming down, and Mac is the only thing that stands between them.


Title : Bloodfever
Author : Karen Marie Moning
Series : Fever (book two)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 349
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : October 16, 2007

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I can’t tell if this actually deserves to be rounded up or if, after a bit of a reading dry spell, I’m just excited to have finished something — and in one sitting no less.

Listen, I think we all know the deal with this series. It is definitely a product of it’s time. But we are already seeings signs of where Moning pushed her characters, and the series, away from their awkward beginnings.

While Mac is definitely a little too keen and bloodthirsty, not to mention fearlessly scrappy, for this stage of things, I’m willing to give her a bit of a pass. She’s already growing up a bit, dropping the eyerolling fake-swears, starting to find herself in amongst who she used to be and who Barrons was forcing her to act like in the beginning, and I respect that. I also really like how the momentum continued from where we left off with book one. Also, the cast is starting to grow (I forgot we met Dani this early, holy shit! not to mention MacKeltar.. even if I have only the vaguest recollection of the role he plays later on..) and we’re starting to get more on the ever mysterious Barrons and who (what?) he really is.

There was almost nonstop action but the pauses we did have were really.. good pauses. I especially loved the little illusionary experience Mac had in Faery because that was cathartic and also really lovely. In fact, amongst some of the ridiculous (like, seriously, some of the “I’m so pretty” behaviour and constant barrage of attractive people or Mac being recognized as attractive is a bit.. much, but we still haven’t fully left the Shallow Era of things, I guess) there were quite a few stunning lines. Whether it was Barrons dropping some wise truthbomb in the middle of a lecture or a temporary fugue of grief or reflection.. they kind of sneak up on you but they are very appreciated.

I’m sorta sad I can’t binge this (my buddy and I are doing one a month) but at the same time maybe I’ll enjoy the ride a little more by having to wait between each bit. Definitely keen to read on.

HOOK, LINE, and SINKER by Tessa Bailey

King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he’s a guaranteed good time–in bed and out–and that’s exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She’s immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his… personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah’s in town for work, crashing in Fox’s spare bedroom. She knows he’s a notorious ladies’ man, but they’re definitely just friends. In fact, she’s nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport’s resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker’s eye… yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can’t deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she’s walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and… and… man overboard! He’s fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he’s all in, she’ll choose him instead?


Title : Hook, Line, and Sinker
Author : Tessa Bailey
Series : Bellinger Sisters (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : March 1, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Even though I rated book one in this series a 3.5, I feel dramatically more positive about this one. Even though it’s only gone up half a point. Ratings, amirite? What even.

This story, following in the footsteps of It Happened One Summer, features the sister of book one’s female lead and the best friend of book one’s love interest. Naturally, of course, book one dude has warned Fox off of Hannah because he is a self-proclaimed, and infamous, manwhore and book one’s couple doesn’t want to deal with the fallout and hurt feelings. I feel like that was a poor way of explaining everything but you get it.

This particular match-up was just (chefs kiss). I loved the solid and fabulous friendship-based foundation to this dynamic. I always forget how much I enjoy friends-to-more because sometimes it isn’t done well. In this case? It is. There’s also the added bonus of a slowburn because friendship. And risks. Not just to those around them but also because there’s a risk to both of them; mostly in the case of Fox. He has to unpack so much of who he was built up to be and who he has become to fit that mold because Hannah challenges him on all of it. Hannah worked with him, saw to the truth of him, and was never run off. The give and take was just lovely. I thought Bailey did such a good job with this.

I’ll admit I was a little frustrated by how many of The Talks (you know, the one that turns the tide, cueing epiphanies and revelations) Fox needed to finally find his way through it all but.. I’ll allow it. Because that’s what we do in this genre.

Less allowed were the sex scenes. I don’t remember as many problems with Bailey’s last series (except for book one and that’s all we’ll say about that) but both books in this particular series just aren’t quite doing it for me. The dirty talk, the scenes themselves, just nope. Thank goodness it was balanced out by the good in every other way.

I also want to give kudos for this being very mental-health and therapy positive, not to mention all the talk about toxic masculinity and over-sexualization, without.. feeling like Bailey was going out of her way to do so. More and more these days it feels like certain hot topics get shoehorned into books for the sake of being PC or relevant and it either completely takes me out of the story or inspires an eyeroll because it feels like just ticking a box. Bailey instead wove it all into the dialogue, and story, so well and it was so natural and, yes, so important.

I don’t know if there’s more stories to be told in this world but I would be down to read on. If not, I’m glad we ended on a high.

HEARTSTOPPER VOLUME 4 by Alice Oseman

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. The bestselling LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the fourth volume of HEARTSTOPPER, for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon.

Charlie didn’t think Nick could ever like him back, but now they’re officially boyfriends. Charlie’s beginning to feel ready to say those three little words: I love you.

Nick’s been feeling the same, but he’s got a lot on his mind – not least coming out to his dad, and the fact that Charlie might have an eating disorder.

As summer turns to autumn and a new school year begins, Charlie and Nick are about to learn a lot about what love means.

Heartstopper is about love, friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us.


Title : Heartstopper Volume 4
Author : Alice Oseman
Series : Heartstopper
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Graphix
Release Date : January 4, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

This was pure wholesome sweetness. Even though it wasn’t only pure wholesome sweetness and I may have welled up a few times along the way.

Oseman’s balance between that loveliness and the heavier topics (mental illness, eating disorder, self-harm, even homophobia) is pretty much perfect. This one definitely goes a little harder in those heavier issues as things come to a head and we finally get both acknowledgement and action into what Charlie has been battling. It was hard to read about so please take care before picking this one up.

I am so in love with the art style but also really love the choices in how the dialogue and panels are put together. It makes the whole experience so lovely.

If you’ve yet to start this series, please bump it up your TBR! Volume five (coming out sometime this year) will be the final so there’s no better time to start than now. Highly recommend.

IN A NEW YORK MINUTE by Kate Spencer

A clever, tender, and romantic novel for readers of Christina Lauren, Jasmine Guillory, and Sophie Cousens, this laugh-out-loud debut is a perceptive reminder that fate can have a sense of humor, and that love can happen…In a New York Minute.

Franny Doyle is having the worst day. She’s been laid off from her (admittedly mediocre) job, the subway doors ripped her favorite silk dress to ruins, and now she’s flashed her unmentionables to half of lower Manhattan. On the plus side, a dashing stranger came to her rescue with his (Gucci!) suit jacket. On the not-so-plus side, he can’t get away from her fast enough.

Worse yet? Someone posted their (entirely not) meet-cute online. Suddenly Franny and her knight-in-couture, Hayes Montgomery III, are the newest social media sensation, and all of New York is shipping #SubwayQTs.

Only Franny and Hayes couldn’t be a more disastrous match. She’s fanciful, talkative, and creative. He’s serious, shy, and all about numbers. Luckily, in a city of eight million people, they never have to meet again. Yet somehow, Hayes and Franny keep running into each other—and much to their surprise, they enjoy each other’s company. A lot. But when Franny’s whole world is turned upside down (again!), can she find the courage to trust in herself and finally have the life—and love—she’s always wanted?


Title : In a New York Minute
Author : Kate Spencer
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Forever
Release Date : March 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

Welp, I’m sorry to say this wasn’t at all the fun swoony romp that I thought it had potential to be. I only really requested this because I had seen mutuals review it early and really enjoy it so I am very likely to be an outlier on this one.

What I appreciated most about this story was the dialogue around the trend of posting photos or videos of people without their consent and creating a narrative out of it. A narrative that, sure, maybe is often right but so often can be wrong. And that’s what happens in In a New York Minute. What looks to be a meet-cute of epic flirty proportions is nothing more than a terrible sequence of events happening to one individual and another individual stepping in to do the bare minimum and help. But with their viral moment, these two strangers end up reconnecting and, through the magic of New York and also fiction (fate?), end up running into each other again and again.

This is your typical opposites-attract romance but I hesitate to call it grumpy/sunshine; mostly because we’re told Hayes is grumpy and stern and remote all the time and yet we never actually see it. But that’s kind of the limit of his personality beyond being successful and fit. Except we’re told by his bestie that he’s kind and generous and all these other things, too, so that we know he’s a good guy. But shouldn’t we only see that when he interacts with his love interest? So we’re surprised instead of.. well.. unsurprised by his “uncharacteristic” behaviour? But hey, what do I know. He does date a lot of blondes though. Franny, however, is your usual klutzy but charming artistic soul with baggage. She has slightly more personality but that could just be because she’s poor and constantly struggling and so is having to constantly ping pong off one conflict to the next. But she’s brunette! And thus the opposites they do attract.

Beyond the whole social media angle, the only other thing I liked about this was how the connections between these two played out and thus how their slow-burn relationship built. I didn’t feel the connection (nor did I like the writing so that was a double fail) but I appreciate what the author tried to do.

About said writing, though. We are told over and over about.. literally everything. Franny’s origins. Hayes’ dysfunction with social niceties and how he’s grumpy (though other than the former we hardly ever see it and he’s constantly more social or able to laugh and get along with everyone than he is not). How eco-conscious everyone is about everything (it was less inspiring and more annoying because it felt shoehorned in for no reason) even while all these big brand name or luxury item references were constantly sprinkled throughout; I’m sure you can do, and have, both but it just felt weird. The fact that we had like two solid chapters in the beginning dedicated to characters not being able to comprehend that a man gave a woman his jacket. I felt like I was having a stroke because I didn’t understand the hang ups. And don’t even get me started on the third act conflict. Also, there were also a few minor inconsistencies but it’s an ARC so I’ll allow it, assuming it’s cleaned up before release.

But just, overall, this was really underwhelming. This has all the elements I think most people will enjoy but it’ll really depend on how the execution works for each reader. For me? It didn’t.

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

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