MARRIAGE AND MURDER by Penny Reid – double review!

The Devil is in the details . . .

Cletus Byron Winston wishes to marry Jennifer Anne Donner-Sylvester (aka The Banana Cake Queen) posthaste! He’s spent the last year wanting nothing more than for the celebrations to be brief, libations flowing, and BYOB (bring your own blueberries). His future mother-in-law has other plans, plans his intended has been willing to indulge, much to Cletus’s chagrin. Therefore, so must he. To a point. But truth be told, he wouldn’t mind if the meddlesome matriarch disappeared, at least until the nuptials are over.

On the night of Cletus and Jenn’s long-awaited engagement party, just when the surly schemer is of a mind to take matters into his own hands, a shocking event upends everyone’s best laid plans and sends the small hamlet of Green Valley into complete disarray. The final months leading up to Cletus and Jenn’s matrimonial bliss are plagued with chaos and uncertainty. Will Cletus and Jenn finally make it to the altar? Or will murder and mayhem derail their happily-ever-after?
And most importantly, who done it?

‘Marriage and Murder’ is the second book in the cozy mystery series Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries. It is best read after Winston Brothers #3, ‘Beard Science’ (which can be read as a standalone) and Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries #1, ‘Engagement and Espionage.’


Title : Marriage and Murder
Author : Penny Reid
Series : Solving for Pie : Cletus and Jenn Mysteries (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 347
Genre : romance/contemporary mystery
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : March 2, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I snuck a peek at my review for book one of this series just to see if my feelings about this follow-up were on par and.. you know, mostly? Yes. Also it’s funny to see I had spent a sunday afternoon reading book one and here I spent a sunday morning reading this one. Sundays are for mysteries?

But to reiterate from my previous review, seriously, what is in the water in this town? I realize this is a “mystery” series spinoff from the main books but honestly. Town o’lunatics. Having said that, though, there were fewer characters who irritated me this time around (we love to see growth!) but the drama level is high. Even though I think this one was tamer.. in a few ways. Vague comments are vague.

Overall I find a lot of the conflicts in Reid’s books are a wee bit OTT but I think it feels manageable because her characters are also full of personality. So it all kind of feels on-par.. until you stop and think about it.

Cletus, one of the characters with the absolute most personality, however? He was really off his game in this one. There were reasons (excuses) given of course but it was interesting to see Reid put him through being.. well, fallible. Not quite the smartest in the room. I’m not sure I had many thoughts about Jenn, or about her realizations or the things she came to terms with, which may not be a good thing but neither was it bad. And, I mean, even though this is their series, overall it’s the ensemble that really sells this for me. As always.

Somewhat bonkers plot and conflict aside, even if my feelings overall are becoming bit muted about these books as time goes on, I still had a pretty good time being back in this world. And after all this time, and after all these books and spinoffs, it would take something pretty big to get me to stop reading at this point.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Shenanigans upon shenanigans
Family crises
Cue Barry White music

Marriage and Murder took me by surpise in a few ways. Things happened fast and I did not expect that to happen. Another thing I didn’t expect in this book was the pace change in terms of the intimacy between Jenn & Cletus. Book one was a desert and book two was a flood. All the mayhem was wrapped up in the usual tone of the Winstons, Cletus especially bringing that sanguine, dry wit.

I didn’t always love the story in this one but I will always love the Winstons per se and we got lots of side servings. I particularly loved the Ash side storyline in this one, it was pretty special and I have missed Ashley a little. I could have done with a bit more Drew, though. The Iron Wraiths are a necessary evil in this book but they always discomfort me and I think they’re supposed to.

I liked seeing Jenn’s self confidence rise but I also didn’t feel like I got enough of Jenn’s psyche in this book, especially considering how all the events would have had such an impact on her.

The pacing was fast to lull, then it picked up again. Sometimes I had to push a little reading but the culmination was a doozy (a good one). This series is definitely one for the fans and Penny Reid pulls off the suspense alongside keeping the wit and romance of the Winstons.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

BEST LAID PLANS by Roan Parrish

A man who’s been moving his whole life finally finds a reason to stay put.

Charlie Matheson has spent his life taking care of things. When his parents died two days before his eighteenth birthday, he took care of his younger brother, even though that meant putting his own dreams on hold. He took care of his father’s hardware store, building it into something known several towns over. He took care of the cat he found in the woods…so now he has a cat.

When a stranger with epic tattoos and a glare to match starts coming into Matheson’s Hardware, buying things seemingly at random and lugging them off in a car so beat-up Charlie feels bad for it, his instinct is to help. When the man comes in for the fifth time in a week, Charlie can’t resist intervening.

Rye Janssen has spent his life breaking things. Promises. His parents’ hearts. Leases. He isn’t used to people wanting to put things back together—not the crumbling house he just inherited, not his future and certainly not him. But the longer he stays in Garnet Run, the more he can see himself belonging there. And the more time he spends with Charlie, the more he can see himself falling asleep in Charlie’s arms…and waking up in them.

Is this what it feels like to have a home—and someone to share it with? 


Title : Best Laid Plans
Author : Roan Parrish
Series : Garnet Run (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance
Publisher : Carina Adores
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I definitely went into this read with slightly lower expectations than I did going into book one; and while this isn’t going to be a favourite it definitely worked better for me. Mostly because of Charlie.

Characters (people) like Charlie just break my heart. And I thought Parrish did such a good job of making him big, tough, and caring but also giving him complex feelings and layers and a good chunk of angst. He felt so beautifully dimensional and the few parts that got me close to choking up were all for him.

Charlie Matheson wasn’t a Boy Scout. He wasn’t Mr. Perfect. And he wasn’t a goody-goody. Charlie Matheson was an adult who’d never gotten to be a child, and Charlie Matheson was finally mad about it.

As for Rye, I liked him, too, prickly little man that he was but sadly he definitely didn’t stand out in comparison to Charlie. Not that many people would! While he is definitely his own person, I liked him best as Charlie’s champion. Those moments are definitely my kind of catnip.

This is definitely a more wholesome feel-good kind of series than Parrish’s rockstar reads, though there are tie-ins!, but still with a good portion of steam, and plenty of four-legged characters running around for even more sweetness. All that and a gorgeous cover, too? I enjoyed this read and think you will, too!

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

THE INITIAL INSULT by Mindy McGinnis

Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things. 

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.


Title : The Initial Insult
Author : Mindy McGinnis
Series : The Initial Insult (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA mystery/thriller
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I think we can all agree that what the actual fuck.

I have such a weird relationship with McGinnis’ books. I love that she writes the strangest but often most compelling, unflinching, kind of things. But I seem to either love them, hate them, or not know whether I love or hate them. This is in the last category. And it’s a stranger feeling, too, considering this isn’t a standalone and there’s to be a sequel. Maybe I’ll know which camp I fall into after reading book two? Because I will.

I couldn’t tear myself away from this, could only stare unblinking as things got weirder and continued to escalate, and then.. that ending. Which we know isn’t an ending, but. Wow.

I’ve read this two months early so I’m going to be incredibly interested to see where this goes, and how people feel, as more readers pick it up. There’s really not much more to say! Compelling, yes, but definitely a qu’est-ce-que-fuck kind of read.

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

LOVE AT FIRST by Kate Clayborn

From Kate Clayborn, the acclaimed author of Love Lettering, comes a sparkling, tender novel about bickering neighbors, surprise reunions, and the mysterious power of love . . .

Sixteen years ago, a teenaged Will Sterling saw–or rather, heard–the girl of his dreams. Standing beneath an apartment building balcony, he shared a perfect moment with a lovely, warm-voiced stranger. It’s a memory that’s never faded, though he’s put so much of his past behind him. Now an unexpected inheritance has brought Will back to that same address, where he plans to offload his new property and get back to his regular life as an overworked doctor. Instead, he encounters a woman, two balconies above, who’s uncannily familiar . . .

No matter how surprised Nora Clarke is by her reaction to handsome, curious Will, or the whispered pre-dawn conversations they share, she won’t let his plans ruin her quirky, close-knit building. Bound by her loyalty to her adored grandmother, she sets out to foil his efforts with a little light sabotage. But beneath the surface of their feud is an undeniable connection. A balcony, a star-crossed couple, a fateful meeting–maybe it’s the kind of story that can’t work out in the end. Or maybe, it’s the perfect second chance . . . 


Title : Love at First
Author : Kate Clayborn
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : romance
Publisher : Kensington Books
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I want to say that if you loved LOVE LETTERING you will also love this but it’s not something that I would even compare one to the other. Unless you consider all the emotions I felt for both. In which case yes. Just.. yes.

[..] he couldn’t really explain it, the relief he felt. Out of all his visitors today, she was the enemy he should be dreading the most; she was the most dangerous to him. Frankly, she was probably here to finish him off. But he didn’t think any of that, at first. He looked up and saw her there and all he could think was : finally. Finally she came.

What I love so much about Clayborn is how quiet her books are even as they yell in your face, in your heart, in your soul. I might even have to call it the Quincy effect. You might end up a mess from the experience but you love it anyway (I swear this’ll make sense to people who’ve read this book, haha, except in this case the mess is tears). But back to my point, few authors I’ve read have successfully and consistently translated tenderness into text. And I don’t mean tender moments.. but she’s fully capable of those, too, pure tenderness into a moment between characters, but also in a turn of phrase, an inner thought, the touch of a hand, the desire to suddenly use a term of endearment. There were so many moments in this book (in so many of this author’s books, in fact) where I just died quiet little deaths because of how much I was made to feel.

You don’t have to love people the way you learned to love at first.

What sets this apart from LOVE LETTERING, too, is that we get a dual POV this time. And I just.. it was perfect? But the characters are not; they have baggage, flaws, and there is some angst. But it’s not big blow ups, dark secrets, epic tragic pasts, huge breakups. It’s real slights, tiny devastations, waves of grief, it’s learning to let go when you’re holding on too tight while at the same time it’s also letting yourself hold on instead of drifting away and remaining impermanent.

On a maybe more cheerful note, there’s also a wonderfully wholesome element in the secondary cast of characters that bring so much joy and fun to the lives of our leads. I absolutely wanted to jump into these pages and take up residence in one of the units (sorry Nora!) and take part in the hijinks and gossip and community. In the less wholesome category, if you’re looking for a solid romance? Attraction, chemistry, push and pull, and steam? There’s also that. Because that first kiss? Hoo boy. Might’ve fogged up the glasses. This also have one of my all-time favourite tropes but I don’t even want to mention it and spoil it. That’s how good it is. And how much you will enjoy watching it unfold.

I absolutely want everyone to read this and as I write this review it’s October twenty-third, which means it’s four months to the day before this is even released into the world, which means I’m shouting at my fellow Clayborn lovers to request and read this now. Because I am so alone in my feels and want everyone to experience this. I want everyone to laugh where and when I laughed. Cry where and when I cried. Do the kindle-clutch-to-the-chest during every tender scene (I’m not the only one who does this, I know I’m not!). And just bask in these feelings I feel.

Also, there are kittens. Just incase you needed one more reason to convince you to read it. Kittens.

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

CONCRETE ROSE by Angie Thomas

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man. 


Title : Concrete Rose
Author : Angie Thomas
Series : The Hate You Give (prequel/companion)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : January 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I think what surprised me most about this was how.. quiet this book felt.

It isn’t without impactful moments, and is certainly peppered with painful observations about what it means to be a young Black man (both as an individual and within society), but still somehow it was quiet. Tender. There is an ache to this story, to the losses, and the struggle to open one’s self up to a dream for more. But it’s also so full of love.

This is such an important story not because it spoke of one important thing really loudly but because it spoke of a lot of things rather quietly.

This will definitely sit with me for a while — and is likely why I’m struggling a bit on what to say — but I highly recommend. Even if you haven’t read The Hate U Give, I think you should absolutely pick this up.

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins – double review!

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie­ Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?


Title : The Wife Upstairs
Author : Rachel Hawkins
Narrators : Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Fortgant
Format : Audiobook / eBook (overdrive)
Length : 8 hours 39 minutes / 277 pages
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : MacMillan Audio / St. Martin’s Press
Release Date : January 5, 2021

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Morally grey characters in every direction
Unreliable narrators
Twists in unexpected ways
A side order of Big Little Lies feeling

I heard the words Jane Eyre re-telling and I ran pretty fast to this audiobook. The Wife Upstairs mostly had the atmosphere I was seeking and I totally enjoyed seeing a contemporary envisoning of the familiar characters of Jane Eyre, especially Eddie, Jane, Blanche and B. Adele was a treat too.

As you would imagine, the focus started on Jane and I liked that Jane was not the angel she was in the original book, this made me feel more invested because I knew this was going to be different. Jane was a plotter, a climber and she had goals, so much so that I thought I knew where this would lead; I was wrong.

Blanche and B ‘Bertha’ were like the ugly sisters or mean girls all rolled into one. Blanche being a more fleshed out character was a very welcome element to the story. Eddie was never really likeable and that crushed my Rochester-loving heart a little but then this wasn’t a romance.

The storyline was pretty clever and this audiobook kept me guessing and invested. I did sometimes get confused with Bee (or B) and Blanche and the two female narrators didn’t sound that different to me, even with their different accents, so I had to really concentrate at times.

The culmination was good, if quick wrap up. The Wife Upstairs was an addictive and enjoyable listen. I would love to see some more classic re-envisioning as thrillers. Such a great idea.

Thank you to LibroFM and MacMillan Audio for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything Rachel Hawkins has released (notably mostly YA stuff but hey!) so this was on my radar even before I knew it was a Jane Eyre-inspired retelling; and not only that but a thriller/mystery to boot. Lots of boxes were being checked here.

I’ll admit this was kind of a slowburn for me that never really built the blazing inferno I might’ve expected.. or at least wanted. But at the same time it dragged me away from other distractions throughout the day and I chewed through it pretty quick. So maybe it was less of a build and more just a steady solitary flame?

Either way, if you’re a fan of the original classic or just know the bare bones this’ll definitely appeal to both kind of reader. There’s enough that sticks true to the story but so much, too, that differs; and I was particularly interested in which characters Hawkins decided to flesh out, and how.

If you’re looking for a Southern Gothic vibe kind of mystery, with twists and homages, you should give this one a try.

THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers

“The Unity Project saved my life.”

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying–and failing–to prove it.

“The Unity Project murdered my son.”

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone.

But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her–to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

Welcome to The Unity Project.

The next pulls-no-punches thriller from New York Timesbestselling and Edgar Award-winning author Courtney Summers, about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister from a cult. 



Title : The Project
Author : Courtney Summers
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA thriller/mystery
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

It’s probably my fault for expecting The Project to be another Sadie but.. I expected another Sadie.

That said, the way that Summers actually utilized this concept, and your preconceived notions about how exactly that looks like, might end up being different from the reality. Or so was the case for me. And that was definitely to its benefit, I think.

Having a sister is a promise no one ubt the two of you can make — and no one but the two of you can break.

This was definitely on the tamer end of a story featuring a cult, or an organization that looks like one (but is it?), so I would encourage those who are interested but afraid of the potential darkness to not despair. I think you could handle this. That doesn’t mean it’s pure easy going, of course, but it’s far less brutal than I thought it would be. Though not without an edge.

There’s no forgiveness in me, I don’t think. Just a brutal acceptance of all that has been lost and a resigned march forward in the face of no other options.

The plot is what kept me reading for this one. Not the characters. Unfortunately I just couldn’t quite connect to anyone. There was loss and heartbreak and abandonment that I could definitely sympathize with at times but I eventually did hit a wall where I couldn’t go further or parts I was just reading, not really living, if that makes sense. I’m kind of bummed because I definitely wanted an experience like Sadie (which wrecked me) and I didn’t get anywhere near that. But it’s okay.

While I wanted something from this that I didn’t get, though the plot hooked me and kept me going, it didn’t quite follow that expected path, which is definitely in its favour. It’ll be memorable for that.. but not much else.

A good read, and not one that felt very long, with a lot of meat for you to chew but unfortunately, at least for me, not one that left me feeling totally satisfied.

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

FELIX EVER AFTER by Kacen Callender

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve. 


Title : Felix Ever After
Author : Kacen Callender
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 318
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : May 5, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I went into this read with some trepidation on two fronts; one, because I had read a book by this author before and absolutely hated it and two, so much hype. Almost all my friends unanimously loved this. So, yeah, I worried.

But pretty much from page one I was completely captivated.

There are a host of difficult themes, attitudes, and dialogue within this story. This isn’t just a tough coming out or coming of age contemporary. It’s self-discovery, sure. It’s battling prejuice, yes. It’s navigating life in all its ups and downs and ugly and messy and beautiful realities.

I’ll admit there are two bits or elements that are what keeps this from being a full five star read for me. Firstly I don’t enjoy catfishing plots, so that’s definitely a personal preference, but also I did just feel there was a lot of drama. Nothing really to the point where it felt manufactured just for the sake of it but, still, a lot of conflict.

Nevertheless, if you haven’t yet been convinced to take the leap and pick this book up, please let me be the one to nudge you over the edge. It won’t be easy but I hope you’ll find it worth it. I certainly did.

THE EX TALK by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers. 



Title : The Ex Talk
Author : Rachel Lynn Solomon
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .25



Hollis’ 4.25 star review

I’ve had an ARC of this on my kindle for so long. Why did I put off reading this? Why.

I am eating Tater Tots with my former nemesis in a dive bar at eleven o’clock on a Monday night. My life has ceased to make sense.

If you’re looking for a hate/dislike style enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance set in the workplace to fill the hole created by stories like The Hating Game, while still very much being its own thing, you should absolutely pick this one up. Because this is such a unique concept, too, outside of that specfic flavour. You’ve heard of fake dating. But have you heard of fake exes?

I’m scrolling back to the beginning of his photos when tragedy strikes. My hand slips on my laptop and I accidentally hit the like button. On a really old photo of him and his ex-girlfriend. The only rational solution is to set myself and my laptop on fire.

It may have taken a chapter or two for me to sink my teeth into this but once I started flipping pages, I couldn’t stop. I devoured this. Parts of this had me outright howling with laughter and once the romance kicked in, hoo boy. Hi. Yes. More of that.

You have CDs?
Old car. That’s all it can handle.”
Besides, then she can act all hashtag retro.
I hate that CDs are retro.”

Solomon’s banter is so solid, the dynamic between these two lead characters so fun and a little flipped when you think of standard gender stereotypes, and all the little generational/age gap jokes were just hysterical (she’s just about thirty, he’s early twenties). Plus I’m not sure I have ever read a story set around public radio so that was really fun as a setting and we got little transcript bits, twitter feeds, and more to spice it all up and I always love that, too.

It’s ridiculous that there’s no cat lady equivalent for guys. Fucking misogyny.”
Cat man?
Sounds like a very gentle superhero.

Honestly the only thing I didn’t like was the public display/grand gesture/grovel (it’s not a spoiler, this is a romance, of course this happens) but I generally hate these big moments so I’m not really surprised I didn’t quite get on with it here, either. But that’s a very personal thing. Not really my jam.

I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a snappy, delicious, hilarious, sweet, sexy, and very fun time. And considering the year we’ve just had? We could all do with this. But this also touches on grief, on finding your way even if you think you have it all figured out, the trials of adulthood, and more. Pick this one up. I’ll definitely be trawling through Solomon’s backlist (though, just for information purposes, she’s been strictly YA up until this point) and I am so very excited for her next release. Whatever it might be.

** I received an ARC from the author in a giveaway (thank you!) and was under no obligation to review. **

ONE OF THE GOOD ONES by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?

When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.


Title : One of the Good Ones
Author : Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite
Format : ARC
Page Count : 318
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Inkyard Press
Release Date : January 5, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I had glimpsed a mention of a “twist” on the back of this book but had no idea what to expect for said twist. In fact I thought it was supposed to be something we learned fairly early on in the story, but just revealed on a bigger scale to other characters, but.. wow. I was so so wrong. I was so unprepared.

Right off the bat I’m going to recommend you check out any #ownvoices reviews for this one before reading mine because those opinions should definitely be ampified over my own. But also I think you should absolutely make an effort to pick up this book.

While most of the plot of One of the Good Ones is painfully familiar to anyone who watches the news these days (an especially to those who have been living through it for years), the discussion surrounding what it means to be “one of the good ones” is equally heartbreaking. And brutally real. How the value of one’s loss is based on how they behaved or carried themselves or what they had overcome, what they might have been or gone on to do. How one has to be deemed worthy instead of just having the very basic right to exist; how not everyone is deserving of that much. This touches on all of that and more. It will anger you, frustrated you, and hurt you. As it should.

While I did enjoy (well.. you know what I mean..) so much of this, I’ll admit I did think maybe we had a POV or two too many. Some we only saw once, maybe twice, and ultimately they either didn’t add much to the story or were just a “real time” moment of an event or history we had already been somewhat aware of via the main characters. It seems an odd criticism but it did make the pacing a little strange as we had such a slowburn build and the end felt like a race to the finish line. But what made those added bits just felt really out of place was because of how strong and captivating the main three POVs were. And, having finished, and seeing where all the pieces fit, I don’t think they did much to add to the whole picture.

This was not an easy read but it’s definitely an important one. Filled with history, tragedy, twists, and a shock or two. That said, the reason I’ve not said much about any specifics about the plot is because half the journey is watching how it unfolds. I can only, again, encourage you to put this on your tbr and, more importantly, read it.

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