BLOG TOUR – FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez – double review!


In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

Filled with authentic details and the textures of day-to-day life in Argentina, heart-soaring romance, and breathless action on the pitch, Furia is the story of a girl’s journey to make her life her own.


Title : Furia
Author : Yamile Saied Méndez
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date : September 15, 2020

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Wow!

This was a fantastic feminist YA, with coming of age themes all set in the context of futbol in Argentina. I love a sporting context book, especially those empowering women and if you want a YA that strongly empowers young women, then look no further. There is a romance in this story but it is pitched well and doesn’t overpower the story or the amazing heroine Camila ‘Furia’ Hassan.

Set in the barrios of a city in Argentina, the background for FURIA was rich, vibrant, dangerous and varied. The environment was one where women were oppressed but fighting for equality, rights, a life and dreams. There were background story lines that painted a picture of life for all females especially children and young women, that were chilling.

Our family was stuck in a cosmic hamster wheel of toxic love, making the same mistakes, saying the same words, being hurt in the same ways generation after generation…I was la Furia, after all. I’d be the one to break the wheel.

Camilla ignited my interest like a flame with her hopes of becoming a professional futbol player and going to the USA where there were more possibilites. In fact, Camilla had familial credentials in professional football but no-one was championing a young women like Camilla, no matter how talented she was.

Camila however, had drive for her dreams and played secretly in a team. I loved the scrimmage and match play narratives, the description was excellent and I truly felt like a spectator watching ‘Furia’ come alive. Camila’s dream and life was complicated by Diego, her childhood friend returning for a visit from Juventus. Sparks ignited between these two and it was something real and beautiful.

This story took a direction that made my feminist heart sing for Camila. The decisions and sacrifices she made; the fights physical, verbal and emotional were all worth it to have hope. This was a read of excitement, with beauty in the barrios and characters to feel truly wrapped up in, but most of all it conveyed an empowering message for young women.

“There are too many people whose opinions control how you perform. Let them go. Be yourself. You’re la Furia, but remember, the game is beautiful.”

I highly rec this book, it’s going to be a favourite of the year. FURIA, FURIA, FURIA…(in football chanting song).

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for the early review copy.



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was | | close to rounding up on this one because there are aspects of this story that are so strong, so wonderful, but I can’t quite boost it.

In my barrio, most of the people didn’t know my name or even that I existed. To them, I was only Pablo’s sister, or Andrés and the seamstress’ daughter — my mom, too, was nameless. But I was determined to leave my mark.

If what you’ve always wanted in life is a YA version of KULTI by Mariana Zapata but with a heavy dose of feminism and very relevant, and present, topics of life in Argentina, you absolutely have to pick this up. This story is both empowering and heartbreaking and sometimes those conflicting feelings are rooted in the same moment.

Fútbol could do that — make people forget about the price of the dollar, the upcoming elections, even their love lives. For a few hours, life was beautiful.

There were many triumphant moments both for our protagonist, Camila, and for her team. But not every triumph was due to winning. I loved how the author made a point to balance this group of women’s ambitions, including that of the coach, but constantly remind the team — and through them, us — to play for themselves, for joy, no matter the score. I feel like if you take away nothing else from this story, particularly the younger readers, that would be enough. But there are even more powerful messages within the pages, too.

I’d leave the house the first chance I got, but not by chasing after a boy, including my brother. I’d do it on my own terms, following my own dreams, not someone else’s.

I think what really took away some of the enjoyment for me were the family dynamics. I have no doubt it is more common than not but some of it just felt a little OTT or extra and while much of it shaped Camila, drove her, to be something else.. I don’t know, I just wanted those moments over with. So that’s definitely a personal thing. As for the romance, I initially thought it might have been the weaker element of the story but I was pleasantly surprised to have been wrong and, also, surprised by how that turned out. No spoiling!

Overall, I think this is definitely a book worth picking up, even moreso as it’s #ownvoices. And, I mean, did you read Micky’s review? Even I wanted to award this five stars after reading her thoughts — and even though I’m not, I would definitely read this author again.

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

Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is a fútbol-obsessed Argentine American who loves meteor showers, summer, astrology, and pizza. She lives in Utah with her Puerto Rican husband and their five kids, two adorable dogs, and one majestic cat. An inaugural Walter Dean Myers Grant recipient, she’s a graduate of Voices of Our Nations (VONA) and the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Méndez is also part of Las Musas, the first collective of women and nonbinary Latinx middle grade and young adult authors. Furia is her first novel for young adult readers.

Furia
By Yamile Saied Méndez
Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: September 15, 2020 | ISBN: 9781616209919
$17.95 | 368 pages
www.algonquinyoungreaders.com

BOYFRIEND MATERIAL by Alexis Hall

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.


Title : Boyfriend Material
Author : Alexis Hall
Narrator : Joe Jameson
Format : audiobook
Page Count : 13 hours 10 minutes
Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Dreamscape Media
Release Date : July 7, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

This audio gave me all the feels, most of the time and there just isn’t anything better than a read that does that. Two guys, a few complications, lots of chemistry and a fake romance. Everything about this book worked for me, the story depth, the characterisation and the Bridget-Jones-ness of the whole feel.

Luc(ien) and Oliver were complete opposites and both a bit relationship-stunted. They both needed a relationship of convenience and their friends conspired to connect them for this purpose. There wasn’t a lot of common ground or like initally with these two but there was banter for days. I adored Oliver’s intelligence with ten slices of awkward and Luc’s foot in mouth tendencies and emotional ineptitude.

Their move to friendship was pretty gorgeous to witness. As they moved into feeling more connection, I had all sorts of swoon gifs running through my head. Behold…

There were some serious storylines running through. Luc’s dad and that story resonated very much with a personal experience and it felt wholly realistic to me. The friendship circle made me giggle with exasperation and fun but they were also there when it came to need.

The narration was simply perfection. The accents, dialogue and tonation raised this to exceptional and for me, this is the format for this book. Joe Jameson held the stage and I listened to every word. Alexis Hall has outdone himself with this story and I am off to purchase myself a physical copy as it’s become rather precious to me.

Hollis already read the eARC of this and we have a very chalky cheese experience! Her review is here.

Thank you to LibroFM for the ALC.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781662016738-boyfriend-material

TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN by Talia Hibbert – double review!

Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral…

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom. 

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse? 

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs. 

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?


Title : Take a Hint, Dani Brown
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : The Brown Sisters (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon/Little Brown UK
Release Date : June 23, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m going to preface this (likely short and terribly unsatisfying) review by saying I read the first 65% basically in one sitting and then got smacked with a slump for over a week; so while this is definitely a book I loved, enjoyed, swooned at, got weepy over, I can’t know for certain if it wouldn’t have been rated even higher if not for that break. I’m sad I didn’t do right by this book, or this author, and will have to make an effort to reread this (and book one!) before the third comes out. For quality control’s sake. And, like, also, because it was great.

Danika Brown was the queen of one-time things. Zaf wouldn’t know what to do with a one-time thing if it showed up with a fifty-page instruction manual and slapped him on the dick.

Hibbert always fills her stories with representation, of all kinds, and this one is no exception; her treading of sensitive topics ever so considerate; and her steam? (fire emoji fire emoji). We have the sweetest of family dynamics, the focus this time more on Zafir’s side — though we do get some Brown sister moments, of course, but Dani leans on her bestie Sorcha more in this one — and I just.. well, listen, I loved Dani, don’t get me wrong, but big burly RBF’d yet soft and tender Zafir? He stole both my heart and the show.

Liar.”
What?
That’s your lying voice. It’s all tight and scratchy.
Who are you? The bloody.. voice police?
I hope next time you’re in the shower, you think of seventy things you could’ve said just then that would’ve been way better than ‘voice police.’

I know I already mentioned it but it bears repeating : I loved, I laughed, I cried, I hurt, I swooned. It’s a Hibbert. These things kind of go without saying. But here I am saying it twice anyway.

Sweetie, are you crying?
No, I’m leaking masculine pain from my eyeballs.”

I’m certain you’ll love this book. And I can’t wait for book three.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

I hope you are ready to swoon over this book because the hero Zafir is something a bit special. I knew immediately he was going to sell this book, this story line. That’s not to say Dani Brown isn’t a great character, but she’s a contradiction of sharp corners and loyalty; she took some getting to know, to like.

Dani Brown was an academic chasing a PhD (that certainly resonated with me) and pretty career focused. She was only in the market for friends with benefits of any gender. Considering her and Zafir had been friends for some time, stepping it up was almost natural, if it wasn’t for Dani’s rules of engagement. Dani was a curvy, strong and intelligent woman but she knew she didn’t connect emotionally as well to people, so beyond her family she seemed to stop trying. I enjoyed seeing her character grow.

Zafir, Zafir, Zafir…a big, kind, ex-Rugby star, romance-reading, beta-male with anxiety. How could that combination not float my boat? He was considerate, thoughtful and a big bag of lust combined with affection over Dani. The dialogue and inner monologue were perfection and chuckle-inducing.

“Good morning,” he purred, his eyes landing on Dani’s chest like tit-seeking missiles.

Despite Zaf’s niceness towards Dani, he was gruff and grumpy looking. There was a whole back story to Zaf that was deep and engaging. His mental health issues were well written and he was that kind of character that just pulled you in.

“This is just my face. I have a murder face.”

“Honestly, Zafir, you’re so grumpy you could create your own storm clouds.”

The second book in this series had a story just as engaging as the first. These sisters are different, unique and so funny. There were cameo moments for Chloe and Red that made me a little gooey. And Eve…I just know her book is going to be hilarious.

Go get your moves on for TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN. Talia Hibbert just writes these women with a realness and wit that you cannot resist.

Thank you to Little Brown UK for the early review copy.

CHOSEN ONES by Veronica Roth – double review!

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended. 


Title : Chosen Ones
Author : Veronica Roth
Series : Chosen Ones (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : sci-fi/dystopian
Publisher : John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date : April 7, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m going to start by saying I like the Chosen One trope. I do. And I also really like the post-Chosen-One-now-what-the-fuck-happens trope. I find the former is done a lot better than the latter (though we haven’t had that many) but this might’ve been the best post-Chosen story I’ve read so far. I think.

There is a lot of really interesting, and quality, content in Roth’s tale. The plot definitely keeps you guessing, too, as while the tone doesn’t really change, the context and angle does. And also, like, the setting? Things went to a strange place around the halfway mark (maybe earlier, can’t remember) and at first I really wasn’t a fan.. and then it clicked. What didn’t quite work for me was the motivation or, I guess, reason for a certain character and/or plot, but the concept of it, the bare bones structure, was pretty great.

I definitely think this is going to be book that either works or doesn’t work for readers. The characters aren’t easy to love (or like) and the plot shifts gears — sideways, upside down, backwards — but there are definitely shining moments in both the telling of the story as well as the processing of the grief and trauma and uncertainty of surviving something so beyond comprehension. It feels very true for a lot of us; we survive life to a certain point and then hit that wall of, “now what?”. The only difference is the average body doesn’t hit that wall after defeating a dark magical being. But there are glimpses of hope, of being known, of being understood, despite it all.

I will say that, for an adult story, I don’t feel the characters read their supposed age (thirty). Early twenties I would’ve believed, definitely. But, honestly, had you redacted the on-page stating of how old they were supposed to be and handed me this book? I would’ve guessed YA.

So, there you have it. Roth’s first adult novel is interesting, creative, and not hard to put down, but not easy, either. But despite it all, not as close to great as I hoped it might be. I have no idea what to expect from book two, particularly as I felt this wrapped really well, but I will pick it up for sure.

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


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

This was a tale of complexity, the creation of a world(s) that really captured my imagination but no way could I have predicted this wild story direction and culmintion. Veronica Roth once again has proven she has a great imagination and ability to commit this to the page.

I do like a chosen one trope but this really was a reimagining of that idea with a washed up, traumatised and arrogant crew. Sloane was the protagonist that was just treading water after her great input in saving the world ten years ago. I really liked how the world unfurled its laws and history through her flashbacks but also her reading of past documents. The magic of that earth was pretty creepy at times, with the fight to save the world having been somewhat gory and violent. I didn’t like many of the other crew apart from Albie and maybe Innes but she was in the background. I liked the second part much better.

When the world and story twisted life got much more exciting and I got more invested in the story. I loved the elements and mysteriousness of the needle, Sloane’s connection to deep dives and Mox. This story really was a case of not knowing who were the good guys and who were the bad guys; my ideas got flipped on their heads.

There is a concentration investment needed for this story, the world building comes in layers and pieces but nevertheless it is intricate and you need your brain switched on. The culmination did not let me down and I am a little unsure where another story will spring from for this series but I am here to read more. On a side note, I can see this making a pretty good film.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

DEAR ENEMY by Kristen Callihan – double review!

As kids, they hated each other. Macon Saint was beautiful, but despite his name, Delilah knew he was the devil. That he dated her slightly evil sister, Samantha, was no picnic either. When they broke up, it was a dream come true: Delilah never had to see him again.

Ten years later, her old enemy sends a text.

Delilah’s sister has stolen a valuable heirloom from Macon, now a rising Hollywood star, and he intends to collect his due. One problem: Sam has skipped town.

Sparks still sizzle between Macon and Delilah, only this heat feels alarmingly like unwanted attraction. But Delilah is desperate to keep her weak-hearted mother from learning of her sister’s theft. So she proposes a deal: she’ll pay off the debt by being Macon’s personal chef and assistant.

It’s a recipe for disaster, but Macon can’t stop himself from accepting. Even though Delilah clearly hates him, there’s something about her that feels like home. Besides, they’re no longer kids, and what once was a bitter rivalry has the potential to be something sweeter. Something like forever.


Title : Dear Enemy
Author : Kristen Callihan
Format : eARC
Page Count : 386
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Montlake
Release Date : March 31, 2020

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


Hollis’ DNF review

I’m not rating this one, because generally my DNF rule of thumb is, unless the read is heinous, I will only rate if I made it more than halfway into the book. And I tapped out of this one just shy of 40%. But it’s worth noting this is a favourite author and I wanted out after 20%, and had concerns after the first few flashback/past event chapters, so. Be aware of that.

My issue with DEAR ENEMY is more than just in the continuity or inconsistencies (which, fair, could be corrected between now, March third, and the release, March thirty-first). The origin of this pairing begins when they are young, pre-teen or so, and how they meet again ten years after highschool. It’s one of those hate-to-love romances where the premise is setting things up one way at the get-go and we seem to be finding things are maybe not as they may seem later on. Someone has secrets, I imagine we’ll find there were reasons why certain people behaved in certain ways and they will be forgiven for it, and oh hey, there was always this big connection between them, despite the fact that he dated her sister for other reasons, and blah blah.

I honestly didn’t have time for this.

Delilah enters into some BatB-esque servitude to work off her shady sister’s debt with Macon and the homage to the fairytale was pretty loose in some sense and also it felt like one entire scene was lifted from the movie. I’m not against retellings, in fact JT Geissinger’s BURN FOR YOU followed along those lines and worked really well for me, amongst other retellings, but between everything else..? I just can’t get on with the characters. Things seem to be moving along fairly predictably, too, with certain interactions between the main protags and I’m just bored.

I’m used to a lot of complexity from his author, or at least a lot of fun, and this feels very surface level and, if I’m being honest, a little tired. Maybe it would’ve improved along the way, I’ve seen some positive early reviews, but at this point I don’t have the energy to invest in hoping it would turn around.

Based on the first 40%? This would’ve been a 1.5 for me.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Okay, now wash your mouth out because we’re zinging from dnf to jolly enjoyment! DEAR ENEMY had some of my most favourite tropes all wrapped up in banter and jibes – second chances, hate-to-more and slow burn. It did however, have a trope I’m not keen on, stepping into a relationship with someone who’s been with a friend/family member. That said, I could cope with it because of the circumstances but I think that might alienate some readers. After a difficult to navigate prologue, this book took off well for me.

What was so delicious about this contemporary romance? It was the vulnerability of Macon stepping into feelings unknown but taking a deep breath and getting on with it. Meanwhile, his life was fun-laden barbs, and forced proximity with the heroine, Delilah. Add into that some chef-ing and food which always seems to make for a good story in my book.

She’s all twitchy now, eyeing me like a feral barn cat as if I might try to lash out and catch her.

The banter between these two was pretty entertaining and the chemistry was swoonish. I enjoyed the semi-hate especially as it seems to turn before it got irritating. Delilah was hard to win over and the annoying sister was…very annoying. The sister element was something I didn’t settle with but the circumstances were just about palatable.

The slow burn was spot on and there’s just something about Kristen Callihan’s romances when she’s in the zone that gives me all the feels; this one did just that. DEAR ENEMY was a great entertaining read that I just wanted to get back to when I wasn’t reading. Just the thing for a weekend read.

Thank you to Montlake for the early review copy.

IF I NEVER MET YOU by Mhairi McFarlane – double review!

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real? 

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend… 


Title : If I Never Met You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks/Harper Collins
Release Date : March 24, 2020/January 1, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

This is only my second McFarlane, whereas I’ve read a lot of contemporary writing by a lot of authors, but I think I can safely say that no one writes real life quite like her.

Laurie knew that most people were murdered by someone they knew; she’d stood up in court and argued or the killers’ bail applications while they wept not only about their fate, but about their loss. In this moment, she understood why.

IF I NEVER MET YOU is a women’s fiction title, much like the other one I read by her, DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME, but this one does have a higher romance-content than the latter. That isn’t to say you’re going to get any page time detailing swoony kisses or hot and heavies between the sheets, but instead you’re going to read a romance (fake romance, did I mention the fake dating trope?) that is heavily reliant upon friendship. And while I love me some romance, I love when the characters are friends, too.

Laurie noticed that someone “finishing” with someone else was such a savage language. They canceled you. You are over. Your use has been exhausted.

That said, I am finding it hard to nail down my feelings on this one. There is so much intelligence, strength, and emotion in McFarlane’s writing. This one deals with the emotional devastation and grief in the post-breakdown of an almost two decades long relationship, and where one goes after surviving that; particularly when one’s ex is a total cad. Throw in some maybe-not-so-healthy desire for revenge, the perfect playboy to get it with, and you have a fake dating meets office romance meets friends to real lovers story. But there’s even more than that, too.

“Oh, for fu– I’m sick of this perception of me as the greatest man slag of the northwest.”
Then be less man slag. Be the unslaggy man you want to see in the world.
Pfft. I’m selective.
Then select fewer of them.”

Complicated family dynamics, guilt and grief, enduring female friendships, and, of course, hilarity. And a cat named Colin Fur.

Are you girls ready to order? Need me to explain anything?
We’re not girls. So you can explain your mode of address.”
Hey, y’all look pretty young to me.
Oh, you dear sweet fool, she will now verbally decapitate you.”

I think part of why I find this one harder to rate than the other, which was such a no-brainer, is that for all the emotions, I didn’t quite get caught up in any of them. I very much liked both of these characters, each with their stories that made them so much more than what they were perceived to be, and also deserved so much more for themselves, and I quite liked their respective besties, but.. yeah, just not quite the same charm or outright love. But it’s still such a great story, and so well written, whilst balancing that very real ‘life is messy and sometimes imperfect’ dose of reality, and I’m still a thousand percent keen to dive into the author’s backlist that I’ve yet to explore.

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


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

It’s been a long while since I’ve read Mhairi McFarlane and I’m glad to be reacquainted. IF I NEVER MET YOU was a read of phases for me, one of difficult angst for the first part and then a slow relax into a great story for the rest. I think I was expecting lightness from the start and that early heavy context took me by surprise initially. On reflection, that start made this a deeper story which I really appreciate.

Laurie was an incredibly likeable heroine from the start and it was not at all difficult to get on her side when she was wronged. I hated that sitution, the perpetrator and the demise of things. I loved the strong, successful women that Laurie was and her ability to keep her professional head throughout; I honestly thought that was completely realistic of so many women.

The ensuing story of Laurie and Jamie was pretty damn fun, full of tension and banter. So many lines were highlighted and I loved being the fly on the wall, stalking their dates and plotting. Jamie was a deeper character than I expected but I still think I’d have liked to have known him a little better.

This book was a Mancunian’s gift, set in the city and even more fun for me, visiting places around my work setting. I loved every single Manchester bit.

This was delightful Saturday read, I powered through it in a day, reluctant to put it down. It had some shades of predictability but that made it no less fun. Highly recommended for the kind of romantic read that has you laughing out loud.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST by Christina Lauren – double review!

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…


Title : The Honey-Don’t List
Author : Christina Lauren
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Gallery Books
Release Date : March 24, 2020

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


Hollis’ 2 star review

I know, I know, you might be saying to yourself, but Hollis, didn’t you say in your last CLo read that you were no longer going to be requesting their advanced copies after so many disappointments? And yes, you would be correct. And this time I swear I mean it.

The concept of THE HONEY-DON’T LIST feels like a CLo take on the Netflix movie Set It Up and honestly that’s why I grabbed at this one, all excited, despite my best intentions. Because I loved that movie and wanted this duo’s twist to make it, possibly, even better. But sadly, for me, it wasn’t.

This book centers on the results of a once great working relationship — turned pseudo-family dynamic — between a young employee and her married bosses; a relationship that has become hella toxic and abusive and manipulative and with downright thievery. The marriage between her bosses is falling apart behind the scenes whilst they are trying to run a business, promote their brand of happiness and love and success, and also launch a new home decor show — and she and the male counterpart’s assistant are (for some reason) held responsible for making things seem like there’s nothing amiss as they go on a book tour for their (oh irony) successful marriage memoir.

Said other assistant is only two months into the job, apparently brought in to help rein in the husband (which in a continuity aspect, in relation to something that comes up, doesn’t make sense..) and as the MCs are thrown into direct proximity to each other, instead of a vague awareness of each other, and a general dislike, they get to know each other, grow to rely on each other, and boom, romance. Apparently.

I’ll admit, unlike the last one, at least they don’t fall in love in the span of a handful of days — I think the tour is a few weeks? — but still. I don’t know. I really liked Carey, I felt for her, but her situation literally hurt my stomach. It was awful. Her sudden desire to grow a backbone, stand up for herself, seems to come so late in the game, and definitely flickers in and out, until finally she owns it. Part of me wonders if it would’ve ever happened without James’ presence and that makes me sad. And it’s not like James was terrible but.. shrug.

The fact that so much isn’t resolved or owned up to by the end is frustrating. In hindsight I’m not sure why we needed the police interview interludes to break up the narrative (yes, this was a thing), I kept hoping a certain something had happened (which I won’t speculate on to keep you guessing) and in the end it was just.. flat. Which is sadly how I felt about the whole story.

So that’s it, it’s really over, no more CLo ARC reads for me.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

I am pretty much everything opposite to Hollis on this book. I was in a moody book slump and by a few pages in, this book had lifted me well and truly out of that with its genuinely unusual story.

I liked that this story centred on a famous couple, but they weren’t the protagonists. The protagonists were the two assistants to this high-maintenance, house-maintenance couple and that context of making shows, travelling on book tours set a really interesting backdrop. Added into the mix was the fact that this famous couple were like a bomb set to explode, this wasn’t happy coupledom but Carey and James had the job of damage-limitation.

The chemistry between Carey and James had a gradual and believable simmer that I enjoyed reading. The growth of their friendship and relationship was gentle and subtle; I don’t always want a big bang! One of my favourite elements to the characters was a disability and how this was written, written very well. This brought out a caring nature in James but not a overly sympathatic one; it was pitched just right.

This is the kind of book I could have read in a day if work hadn’t got in the way. As it was, I read it in two days and I will definitely reach for it for a quick, satisfying re-read. This is light but packed with depth at the same time. I highly recommend.

Thank you to Gallery and Edelweiss for the early review copy.

AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando – double review!

An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.

When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.
Al was special.
Al was talented.
Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?


Title : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly
Author : Danielle Jawando
Series : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly #1
Format : Paperback ARC / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Simon and Schuster UK
Release Date : March 5, 2020

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


Micky’s 5 star review

AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY is the kind of book you do need a snapshot of insight into before you enter, in this case I do recommend reading the blurb. This is a story about suicide, grief, bullying and social media. It is powerful and painful, chilling and stunning. I think it’s a really important book and it’s 100% worth the emotional investment.

The book started and ended with an author note, I had the privilidge of hearing the author read the beginning note and the first chapter at a publisher event. There wasn’t a whisper in the room and I fought tears listening to her. The reading experience is pretty much like that, the story and the characters plunged me into their worlds, wrapped me up in their fraught emotions and spat me out a bit of wreck.

Nathan was the brother, grieving his older sibling and questioning everything; he needed the why to these events, some reason and he was determined. Alongside Nathan were family, other siblings, his mother, his friend, Al’s friend Megan and some nasty characters. This was a intricately woven story, where as the reader you were alongside Nathan, searching for answers.

“My chest goes all tight, knowing that I’ll never see him for real again, that he’ll only ever be this person in a photo.”

Eli’s character was tangibly written, believable in his cruel manipulations and plain bullying. Tara and Lewi were more subtle in their connections to the situation and how events finally wove together was pretty shocking. Social media was the weapon wielded in this book and some of the elements took my breath away.

The picture of grief was palpable, I could feel the anger, despair and sadness rising out of the pages, I’m not an easy crier at books but I was an easy crier at this book. Nathan’s emotions had the power to affect me deeply as did Al’s short chapter starters.

For me, as a Mancunian, this book was gift in dialogue and narrative. It was written as Mancunians speak, quite literally and I found it easy to sink into. I don’t think this element will be difficult for any other readers, but you might wonder for the first few pages as you settle into this.

Danielle Jawando captured the issues in this book with honesty, she didn’t hold back on the difficult stuff, this was an absolute strength of this book. These issues shouldn’t be diluted to make it more palatable, your heart should break as you navigate this with the characters. I am beyond impressed with this fictional debut and I will be watching avidly for more from this author.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for this early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

Despite what this book made me feel, and the tears, I’m happy I read this book. Not just because it helped to haul me out of a slump but also because this story is so important to read, particularly for teens, and was done so beautifully.

I went into this read pretty unaware, as per usual, and knew only that Micky, blog buddy extraordinaire, has been raving about it for what feels like ages now. I’m so thankful she put this on my radar.

When you’re angry, it takes you away from the pain somehow. Stops it from tearing into you.

I truly don’t have much to say, and certainly nothing to add to my partner’s great review, but I couldn’t not make a point to add something, to repost this, boost it once more, because this story deserves more awareness and, most importantly, deserves your time. It’s heavy but never without hope, without light — just like stars; though they aren’t seen until it’s dark.. they shine so bright.

THE MIDNIGHT LIE by Marie Rutkoski – double review!

Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.

Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.

But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.

Set in the world of the New York Times–bestselling Winner’s Trilogy, beloved author Marie Rutkoski returns with an epic LGBTQ romantic fantasy about learning to free ourselves from the lies others tell us—and the lies we tell ourselves. 


Title : The Midnight Lie
Author : Marie Rutkoski
Series : The Midnight Lie (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ fantasy
Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date : March 3, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

D u d e.

That was my reaction at the close of this book. I had no words, really, beyond being stunned and shocked and so desperate for book two.

THE MIDNIGHT LIE was nothing I ever expected. Knowing this was connected to The Winner’s Trilogy doesn’t give you any insight into the story or themes or plot and honestly? I kind of liked that. This, as all my reviews tend to be, will be spoiler free in an effort to retain some of the mystery, that uncertainty, but even knowing how this book begins? You won’t see where it goes.

It was the kind of impossible wish you treat as though it is precious. You make a home for it in your heart. You give it the downiest of beds for its rest. You feed it the choicest pieces, even when the meat it eats is your very soul.

As far as the connection to the original trilogy, think of this spinoff as what SIX OF CROWS was to The Grisha Trilogy. Some similar worldbuilding, but different context. Some alluded to events, but nothing detailed. Maybe cameos. I won’t confirm or deny. But that’s what you’re getting here. Maybe that’ll change with future books? I don’t know.

What I will say, is this book was hard to read at times. Our protagonist, like many in her community, is not well treated. But reading what Nirrim, in particular, is forced to do, what she convinces herself she must do, and how she is gaslighted (gaslit?) at almost every turn, is horrible, horrendous, and hard. There were times I got so frustrated I had to set the book down. But it’s even more interesting to view in hindsight because of where she ends up.

[..] there is no possible way to understand fairness and guilt when your world has already determined a set of rules that don’t make sense.

Yes, I’m terrible, I’m not sorry.

As for the romance? Swoon.

I had every intention of rereading the original trilogy before this one but never did (lolz 4ever because I’m incapable of helping myself, I guess?) but honestly I think, considering where this book went, it was better that I didn’t. But I’ll totally be rereading before book two because I’ll want to reread this one, too.

It is a midnight lie, she said. A kind of lie told for someone else’s sake, a lie that sits between goodness and wrong, just as midnight is the moment between night and morning.

I can’t wait for more and I’m so happy that this author, with her beautiful prose, and her complex, complicated characters, is back. I’m just hoping there’s a foreign edition, yet to be announced, with a better cover.

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

Micky’s 4 star review

Sobs. How fast can Marie Rutoski write and get the next book published because ARGHHHHHHH. This was a book with a clever and intricate plot, things fell into place more fully only as the ending approached, then THAT. Okay, I’m going to calm the capitals now.

I am such a fan girl of The Winners Trilogy and this book set in that world was no disappointment. It was an island of class issues, prejudice, homophobia told through the eyes of seemingly gentle Nirrim. Nirrim had been living a life of oppression but she was beginning to spread her wings on her own, those wings were aided to flight by Sid. Sid was a character I loved, despite her elusiveness and secrets. I loved the build of more between these two, that part of the storyline was particulary fabulous.

Life in the wards had all the description of sights, sounds and smells that conjured a vivid impression despite the lack of actual colour. Discovering the differences between Half Kith, Middling and High Kith was such great plot development and observing Nirrim take steps in new places was intruiging.

I could not put this book down, I read it in a day, feeling fascination, excitement, frustration and desperation for answers. I loved the connection to the winners trilogy, some of which I guessed. This book killed me with the ending. I need more and I feel like I need it now but I am going to have to put my patient pants on and distract myself for a while.

Marie Rutoski has that talent of creating a fantastical world that feels so utterly different to any fantasy you have read before. I am here for her books, always.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

WHITEOUT by Adriana Anders – double review!

Angel Smith is ready to leave Antarctica for a second chance at life. But on what was meant to be her final day, the research station is attacked. Hunted and scared, she and glaciologist Ford Cooper barely make it out with their lives…only to realize that in a place this remote, there’s nowhere left to run.

Isolated in the middle of a long, frozen winter with a madman at their heels, they must fight to survive in the most inhospitable—and beautiful—place on earth. But the outside world depends on what Ford and Angel know and, as their pursuers close in and their new partnership burns bright and hot, they will stop at nothing to make it out of the cold alive.


Title : Whiteout
Author : Adriana Anders
Series : Survival Instincts #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : January 28, 2020

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I don’t know about you, but a survival story with romance has my hands grabbing. I saw this book blurb and cover and knew I had to have it. Not one thing about this book disappointed, in fact, it surpassed by expectations. Get your running shoes on because this book has a fast-pace from start to finish.

What’s so special about WHITEOUT is that it was set in the antarctic and I really don’t think I’ve read a book based here (I’ve read a few thrillers set in the arctic). The time was taken to paint Antarctica both at the beginning but also as the story progressed and the characters ventured out into the wilderness. I needed this and it painted a white but vivid picture.

Angel was the summer chef on the station, ready to travel back to the US for the winter, leaving a skelton staff of scientists. Ford ‘Coop’ was a glaciologist there for the duration and he’d spent the whole time of Angel’s season on the station avoiding her and his attraction to her. He basically made himself look like a total jackass. There was a quick unfurling of events and Angel and Ford found themselves running for survival and for a higher purpose.

The journey to survive was compelling reading alongside an equally riveting story of the reluctant connection between Ford and Angel. Angel was all soft edges, kindness but with an expected strength that she bowled me over. Ford was the epitomy of grumpy male but just a bit more than that. I still have questions about whether he was on the spectrum, had PTSD and I still don’t know the story of his voice, and I NEED that. I’m hoping to find out more about him further into the series.

“But here, across from a women who was the antithesis of everything he’d ever known, who’d fed him food that burst with flavor and worked as hard as any soldier he’d ever fought beside, he let himself wish-for just a second or two-that he could be the man who made her laugh.”

This story kept rolling from the opener to the end. I wanted to read and stayed up late to do so, just to devour the words and the story. I fell into this book and writing not knowing the kind of writer Adriana Anders was, but I do now and I like her style very much. Just brace yourself for where this ends, although there is definite tying up of ends. All I can say is thank goodness this is a series and we get more from these characters and world.

Thank you to Sourcebooks for the early review copy, I read this super early because I couldn’t resist. I hope that makes you want to pick it up.

Hollis’ 2 star review

Chalk and cheese strikes again!

Micky read this super early and it was her being all excitement over it that inspired me to request, hoping I might catch it before the release date, and be able to swoon alongside her for this new title, and new series opener, from a new-to-me author.

But I pretty much didn’t get on with anything about this story. The only thing that worked for me was the realistic weather experience, the harsh conditions, and the very practical conversations surrounding said realities (dealing with waste out on the ice, periods, blisters, everything!).

Otherwise, the plot? Both very slow moving and very action-move-style outlandish. The characters? Not interesting or, at least, not any I could connect to. The romance? Didn’t buy it. And as for the ending.. I just.. it’s a lot.

I also had an irrational irritation over the name ‘Angel Smith’, particularly as she was referred to by both names for 97% of the book. Not Angel. Angel Smith. Every time. And I just.. no, it wasn’t working for me, I’m sorry. I did say it was irrational..

This is clearly a me problem, not the book itself, as so many of my good friends — not just Micky! — have read and loved this. I just wish I could count myself among them.

While this is definitely being set up for a big ensemble, conspiracy-filled, action series, I won’t be reading on.

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