THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett – double review!

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between. 


Title : The Grace Year
Author : Kim Liggett
Format : eARC / ARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : Dystopian/Fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : October 8, 2019

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


Micky’s 2 star review

Two little black sheep, all in a row, baa baa, this didn’t work us.

I got on board with THE GRACE YEAR for the first 15-20%, I was intrigued with village life, the dystopia and the female oppression themes. I also wanted to know what the heck this grace year was, oh so mysteriously referred to as it was.

I stick by my early status on Goodreads from that point where I said ‘hello, Lady of the Flies’. THE GRACE YEAR was just that, a descent into craziness, madness and destruction. I found it incredibly discomforting to read, which is not to say that discomfort is unwelcome, I enjoy that in a well written book. However, this was an unpleasant experience with a storyline that was unwieldy and didn’t hang together.

Things that I could not buy into included Tierney, the protagonist as she reached the heights of grand integrity whilst all around her crumbled. Ryker and Tierney…just no. What even was that, Stockholm syndrome? Michael after the grace year felt totally out of character and too convenient. I did like Kiersten’s character for the general evil and nastiness. You can see that I wasn’t enamoured by a lot.

The plot line felt to be general chaos, disconnection and what the hell moments, but not in a good way. There were a bunch of disconnected parts, with a narrative that did not coherently mesh together. I did not highlight a thing in this book as the writing did not jump out at me. I felt like I just had to power through to the end and I did.

I realise that many have enjoyed this book already and I would say maybe it is just me but I do think the writing, characters and story development are weak. I will stand by that.

Thank you to St Martin’s Press and Wednesday Books for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

So this wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. This is more LORD OF THE FLIES than THE HANDMAID’S TALE, though there’s definitely shades of the latter, and the main problem is I didn’t like LORD OF THE FLIES. And neither did I like the all-female version of it, either.

There’s also a weird sorta-THE HUNGER GAMES element that I couldn’t unsee, once I kind of picked up on it, but maybe that’s because I just wanted to see some good in this. Something that didn’t feel like a strange altered-state fever dream of random and nothing and awful.

So much of this world, this societal structure, feels.. not fleshed out or vague for the sake of suspense and uncertainty. At least up until a certain point. And afterwards, it’s just, like.. that’s it? That’s all we get?

The backbone of the story, the theme or message that we earn by making it through the hazy plot, which you don’t see until almost the very end, is worth celebrating. There are elements that feel important, because they are, but they are mired in.. everything else. Honestly, I’m just baffled. I’m disappointed. And I’m not sorry to say there was some skimming because this wasn’t exactly how I wanted my Friday night of reading to go : both bored and confused. But at this point, I’m definitely an outlier, because so many people are buzzing about this (heck, we were buzzing about this in our anticipated list!), so, this might be worth picking up if only to give it a try.

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

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS by Charlotte Nicole Davis – double review!

Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.


Title : The Good Luck Girls
Author : Charlotte Nicole Davis
Series : The Good Luck Girls (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen/Hot Key Books
Release Date : October 1, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is a YA fantasy unlike almost anything I’ve read. This also feels both dystopian and historical and yet is set in a fantasy world, so is truly neither of those things.

It’s about strong women and daring stakes. It’s about learning to trust when no one has ever given you reason to. It’s about sacrificing your own chance at a happily every after for the benefit of others. It’s a whole lot of things. It’s also diverse, a little queer, and is all sorts of magical; though not in ways I expected.

Despite my obvious enjoyment, there is still something holding me back a bit on this one. And I don’t even know really know why. This was unique and brutal with characters both tough as nails and hella vulnerable with plenty of issues mirrored in this unusual world that are also present in our own. It’s a scary possible reality that makes you, as a reader, and a human, and, in my case a woman, want to fight back.

And yet again, I don’t know why I just didn’t love it. I wasn’t bored by anything, necessarily, though I did find sometimes that I would skim a passage or two. I didn’t always love Aster, our main POV, and yet could also totally understand why she wasn’t always likeable. And.. yeah, I don’t know. This one is just a bit of a mystery for me, I think.

But I would definitely recommend it if anyone was already interested in picking it up!

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


Micky’s 3 star review

I am very close to Hollis in my experience of reading this book. It’s a curious context that has a fresh feel, slicing dystopia with an old time world, almost like a western. The start of the book was super strong for me with a compelling narrative that brought all my compassion to the surface. That strong start waned at times but this was a series starter that I will definitely finish.

What worked for me were the sisters (Aster and Clementine) and the group of young women, sometimes very polarised against one another, but with a common goal of escapism and freedom. There were analogies to contemporary themes such as traficking and oppression that were appealing. What I found less appealing were the fantastical developments such as raveners and vengeants. I didn’t bond with that aspect of the world.

I moved between reading avidly to feeling a slowing of the pace of the story that left me wanting to feel more involved. Despite the fleeing, chases and general tension, I wanted a bit more attachment to the book than I felt and I can’t quite explain why I didn’t feel this. Maybe I wasn’t connected to Aster and Clementine enough, but I do still want to know where this goes after book one.

Thank you to Readers First and Hot Key Books for this finished review copy.

BEARD WITH ME by Penny Reid — double review!

No one is better at surviving than Scarlet St. Claire and making the best out of circumstances beyond her control is Scarlet’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, she’d be the last person on earth, hermitting like a pro, singing along to her CD Walkman, and dancing like no one is watching. 

Scarlet is clever, Scarlet is careful, and Scarlet is smart . . . except when it comes to Billy Winston.

No one is better at fighting than Billy Winston and raging against his circumstances—because nothing is beyond his control—is Billy’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, he’d be the first person on earth to lead others to safety, overcome catastrophe, or die trying. 

Billy is fearless, Billy is disciplined, and Billy is honorable . . . except when it comes to Scarlet St. Claire.


Title : Beard With Me
Author : Penny Reid
Series : The Winston Brothers (book 5.5/6)
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : September 16, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Here it is, the highly anticipated origin story about Billy and Claire (Scarlet), easily the angstiest ship in the Winston Brothers series. And wow, there’s a lot to unpack here.

I wished she’d stop making everything so hard. I wished she’d just let me take care of her. Tricking her into doing the right thing, the smart thing, made me feel like an asshole.

A lot of this story worked for me and also a lot of it didn’t. I was mostly just going through the motions (sad motions because there is some unfortunate content to work through but still, not hooked) until about 70%. At which point things take a turn and I was so so so so here for it. The last 30% isn’t all greatness, of course, and it certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As warned, as we all knew to expect, this isn’t a romance, there is no HEA. Not yet. But it was still probably my favourite part of the whole story.

Have you ever wanted something you know you can’t have?
All the time.”

I also have a sorta mild discomfort with some of said romance. At least at this stage. Well, not just the romance; this book — and series — is rife with uncomfortable things, dark things, violent things. For all the quirky, home cooked, sweetness and charm, of the south, which Reid definitely infuses these books with, there is a darkness to this series, too. But my issue with the romance is that, well. These kids are young. There’s nothing graphic, it stays pretty solidly PG-13, but there is a weirdness to reading about people being attracted to a fourteen year old. Even if the other protagonist is only sixteen. Reid addresses this, not only through Billy but another character, but still.

I would’ve called him a sonofabitch, but his mother was a nice lady.

It was strange, but also delightful, to see Cletus in his younger form.. and yet still very much the same Cletus. Most of my highlights were from him, naturally. Literal highlights I mean, on my kindle. Though I suppose the high points also included him. I’ll admit, though, that it was hard to remember that these characters were much younger than we’re used to them being. Both because of circumstance and attitude, I think. Either they weren’t written young enough or I’m just too used to their future selves. Not sure which. Maybe both. And maybe that’s where, as much as we all wanted this prequel, maybe it would’ve just been better in a smaller doses. Like flashbacks within a book. But either way, I’ll be glad to reunite with Adult Winstons and Adult Claire. Though I did love seeing Bethany, the Winston matriarch, again.

Cletus Byron Winston! Are you crazy? You asked your twelve-year-old brothers to get you a keg?
If by ‘crazy’ you mean genius, then yes I am.”

The end of this book is achingly tragic and sad as we expect, not just because of the Billy and Claire situation, but because of the Billy and everything situation. My heart breaks for him. There are so many characters to dislike, either because of their bad intentions or because of their good intentions that still make them unlikeable, but at the core I love the Winstons, always. The upside of reading this, too, is that I’m extra pumped for my full series reread now. All the little easter eggs, all the foreshadowing, I’ll be able to relive with new eyes, now that we have this story.

The last thing I ever want to be for you is a regret.”

I’m so looking forward to Billy’s happy ending and definitely Claire’s. These two deserve it. But I know it’s going to be hella rough along the way. And, complicating matters, knowing it’s going to be the end? I fully expect much tears to come in this final book.

** I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. ** 


Micky’s 4 star review

…and exhale. I feel like I’ve held my breath for the last 30 minutes reading this book. It’s been a journey, beautiful and tough in equal measure and I am left needing more from Billy and Scarlet, so much more. When will their next book be (rhetorical question).

The warning at the beginning of the book is right, there are triggers for days but call me up to the challenge and in I went. Clever Penny lulled me in with ease for a while until my adrenaline started pumping, my eyes filled and my heart hurt. This is an emotive story to the power of 10 and everything about Scarlet in particular, is tragedy with hope; it was that hope that kept me going in this book.

Amongst the tough and tragic is an engaging story of first love. What evolves between Billy and Scarlet is so tangible and everything lovely, that as a reader, I was on their side. Just as you get carried up in the lovely, it doesn’t matter because the story builds your trepidation, ready for the fall. Bonus time is that Cletus as a teen was pretty fun and this is a balm that will see you through the journey that this story takes you on.

BEARD WITH ME was discomfort sliced with beauty and it has left me discomforted now after reading. That said, I am glad I did and I feel that through all these Winston Brother stories I have read, I really was in the dark about the depth of what had gone on between these two. This is a story worth your time and unsettling.

Penny Reid wrote what is essentially a YA story but it felt more like contemporary romance because that is where I’m used to seeing this family. I am a mixed ball of feelings and I know I’m going to be thinking about this for a while when really I just want to move on. It’s hard not getting the ending you want, but I am ready to wait for it even so.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thanks to the author.

THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK by Adrienne Young – double review!

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.


Title : The Girl The Sea Gave Back
Author : Adrienne Young
Series : Sky In The Deep (book two)
Format : ARC/Finished Copy
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books / Titan Books
Release Date : September 3, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I feel like everything that kept me from loving SKY IN THE DEEP, was missing in THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK. This makes me very very happy.

I was sure this was going to be an easy three star read; lots to like but not quite getting me all the way there which, I mean, would’ve been a better result than book one. So colour me surprised by this rating.

This story takes place ten years after the events of SKY IN THE DEEP and, once again, we have warring clans. The characters we knew from book one have known peace and a time of rebuilding, rebirth, as a united people but now another group, the Svell, are stirring up trouble. Made worse by the fact that the Svell people are, themselves, divided. Additionally, they feel they are cursed by the existence of an outsider who lives among them, who washed up on their shores, and yet they also rely on her for her gifts at reading the runes, and predicting the future, as she is a Truthtongue. 

It’s Tova’s prediction that sparks tragedy for Halvard’s people and we watch as they are on opposites sides of a war neither of them want. Halvard loses people he loves and Tova is blamed for things beyond her control as the fragile trust she has with the man who has raised her.. frays. Betrayal abounds with the Svell people and she’s tossed amongst them, lost, confused, and resigned.

Tova doesn’t know who she is, Halvard is bound so strongly with his family, both blood and found, and I actually really enjoyed bouncing back between their perspectives and the glimpses we got from their past. Their connection isn’t much, either, but yet feels.. present. There’s almost no romance here and yet we see possibility, potential, and that’s honestly where this book became more than I thought it would be.

I found the pacing to be pretty much perfect and I loved where the book, and our characters, ended up. This is a stronger book and the events, the loss and brutality, felt more real. The stakes somehow higher. The surprises (of which maybe there was only one but it was a good one) more surprising. I definitely have a question or two about how some things played out but those niggles are buried pretty far underneath my general contentment over the story.

If SKY IN THE DEEP wasn’t a book you were able to get on with, I would definitely recommend you pick up this sophomore offering. And if you loved SKY IN THE DEEP, I think you’ll be just as satisfied, if not more, by this follow-up in the author’s viking world.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

This was my first read by Adrienne Young and I was informed by a few that it stands alone as a book and reading book one wasn’t vital. I made the mistake of jumping straight into THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK and I think that I missed out on some world building that would have helped me so much with this read. There wasn’t much space given to any world-building in this book and felt like I was playing catch up with the different tribes, their names, their belief systems and allegiences.

After about 20% of the book I felt that I had some context to understand the story that was playing out with two characters having alternate POVs – Tova and Halvard. These were two characters that were mystically connected but geographically separated. Halvard was a reluctant heir to leading his people and Tova was a virtual prisoner of her adopted people. This story is told over just a number of days with battle, strategy and mysticism at the core.

I enjoyed the mystical part of this story, the fate ruled by runes, spinners and the All Seer. I liked the concept of Tova and her race. There were however, a lot of characters to dislike in this book. So many prejudiced people with cruelty being part of life. The back and forth of past and present was written a little confusingly to me.

Ultimately, I felt unsatisfied with the story overall and this was just an okay read for me. I felt that the connection between Tova and Halvard was pointless in the end but I appreciated the how the different races were at war or peace at different times.

Thank you to Titan Books for the early finished copy for review.

GODSGRAVE by Jay Kristoff – double review!

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.


Title : Godsgrave
Author : Jay Kristoff
Series : The Nevernight Chronicle
Format : eBook/audio
Page Count : 448
Genre : NA fantasy
Publisher : St Martin’s Press
Release Date : September 5, 2017

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Hahahahaha.. hahahha.. hahaha.. haha.. hah.. a..

The problem with being a librarian is there’s some lessons you just can’t learn from a book. And the problem with being an assassin is there’s some mysteries you just can’t solve by stabbing fuck out of them.”

If you, too, have read GODSGRAVE, I have no doubt this is one of probably only two reactions you had to that ending. Because hahahahah.. etc.

You’re not helping.”
“.. I am offering moral support..
You’re being an annoying little shit.”
“.. that too..”

But the sound of my mania aside, this was heads and bloody tails above book one. I had seen potential in NEVERNIGHT but there was just something missing, some depth, or some.. thing. I don’t even know. But GODSGRAVE? It had all the blood, violence, and sex of book one but somehow didn’t feel like a YA book trying not to be a YA book. This one seemed to find its own niche, revel in its unique existence, and just thrive in its adultness; instead of trying to find the balance between the YA and the dark.

He was a hero.”
We all think that of our parents. They give us life, after all. It’s easy to mistake them for gods.

The whole setting for book two is so different, and I loved it, even if the drive is still the same. The goal, the end game, nothing has changed. Mia is out for revenge and she has to get very creative in how she goes about that. And oh are the twists glorious. O glory!

How do you endure the unendurable?
We have a saying in Vaan : in every breath, hope abides. Just keeping breathing, little Crow.

And then there’s that ending. Big reveals, big surprises, big climax. If I didn’t have an ARC of book three at my fingertips I would be s h r i e k i n g right now. Or just laugh myself silly. As above. 

You don’t find any irony in earning your place in a cult of assassins by saving half a dozen lives?
I killed almost a hundred men in the process.”

If you gave NEVERNIGHT a chance and just didn’t love it, for whatever reason, I would highly recommend pushing on. This was a rewarding, riveting, raucous experience, even if it took me forever to read, and I don’t regret a single moment spent with this thicc monster.


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

3.5 – 4 stars

GODSGRAVE didn’t blow me away in the same way that NEVERNIGHT did. I missed T, I don’t like Ashlin so that was a struggle throughout and most of all I missed the Red Church. In NEVERNIGHT, the book really took off for me when Mia got to the Red Church, so that was a hole in my story heart.

The first third of the book had me confused, there seemed to be three different timelines and situations at play and I just couldn’t put them together, even though each was engaging on its own. I think some of this was to do with the disconnect audio sometimes brings where you can’t go back over a passage easily, or flick through previous pages. When those storylines finally wove together, I felt more involved in the story.

Mia remains one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever read, getting into her head (it’s damn sketchy in there) is like running the gauntlet but still I continue. Mia and Ash, I mean some of that was a little hot blushy, but I overall don’t buy into their relationship. And again, I miss T.

Jay Kristoff knows how to leave you with boom, boom and boom at the end. The reveals just came like a run of bullets and I sat there with my jaw open. He has guarenteed my continuing investment in this series and I look forward to DARKDAWN even while I shield my heart a little.

Holter Graham’s narration remained spectacular.

THE RIGHT SWIPE by Alisha Rai

Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup.

The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules:
– Nude pics are by invitation only
– If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice
– Protect your heart

Only there aren’t any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night… and disappears.

Rhi thought she’d buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won’t fumble their second chance, but she’s wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…


Title : The Right Swipe
Author : Alisha Rai
Series : Modern Love (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : HarperCollins/Avon
Release Date : August 6, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ .5 /


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

So I didn’t love this, which is obvious, and there’s a bunch of reasons for that but it’s mostly because I didn’t like the characters. Specifically, Rhiannon.

The plot opens up with our heroine fixated on the fact that she wants to buy up this eHarmony-esque dating site, one of the OG sites of its type, to expand her own app-based dating service. We see her drive, we see her reminisce about the one that got away, and who happens to be the new face of her competition’s marketing campaign? The one who got away. The one she almost threw her rules out the window for. And boy does she have a lot of rules.

The girl is.. rigid. Uncompromising. Unforgiving. Hard to forking love and, as a reader, hard to endure. I don’t want to be dismissive of the heroine’s very real trauma and trust issues but holy forking shit did she also make this a brutal read. She’s something of a shark when it comes to business, she’s successful, all that, all of which are positive things that loads of women get flak for, so it’s unfortunate I found this kind of character so frustrating, but she’s also problematic. She skirts very very close (and sometimes crosses the line) into outright manipulation of the hero — as well as relying on an emotional debt she feels she’s owed (and maybe sorta is but not in this particular context) — and it felt gross. She constantly doubted him, (falsely) accused him of this that or the other thing, was totally hypocritical.. and it was just hard. I am exhausted from it.

She’s not the only drawback THE RIGHT SWIPE, though. The hero, for all his goodness, didn’t do much for me. There’s a whole secondary plot line surrounding brain injuries and concussions (which makes for the second or third time I’m reading of this particular issue in sports-ish romances — not a complaint, just an observation) and a whole lot of baggage that Samson is carrying around but, back to my point, it didn’t do much for me. Which is rather how I feel about the story itself.

What didn’t frustrate or exhaust me just.. did nothing.

There were a few side characters that lightened some of the load of the plodding, and that helped a bit, but not enough. Infact, a certain eccentric aunt did the opposite of what I think she was supposed to do — which was charm the reader. Even she annoyed me. Or, maybe more to the point, I didn’t care and so, again, I was unmoved.

The writing made for an easy read but the plot, the people, the point? Nope. I have yet to determine if I’ll read on in this series. I think it hugely depends on which side character will get the spotlight and I’ll definitely have to pay closer attention to the plot. It’ll have to really draw me in for me to push on in this spinoff. I’ve loved Rai’s books in the past, in particular her Forbidden Hearts series had so much greatness, but this one just totally missed the mark for me.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

THE RIGHT SWIPE has a synopsis that bites, a cover that entices and an inside that lacked something in execution for me. A dating app mogul is how I would describe Rhi (Rhiannon). She’s all hard lines, walls up to the sky and even a little harsh with those that she loves, her family and friend. Her life’s ambition was work, work over family, work over her friend and work over down time. I found her so very hard to like and that was my biggest struggle with this book.

Samson Lima, ex-NFL player and minor shareholder in his Aunt’s rival app to Rhi’s Crush app was everything opposite. He was kind, patient and a large gentle soul. I really liked Samson’s character and in particular, his background family story which was rich and detailed. I get that these two were opposites but I remained forever uncertain that Rhi deserved Samson’s affection and more.

This isn’t about not tolerating a women in the mogul position, a reversal on that trope found in so many romance books, it is about how Rhi was written right to the end, she was so harsh. For me, it was also about Rhi and Samson’s lack of ‘more’ until the final pages. I felt all we got was friends with benefits and I was ready to move beyond that from halfway through the book.

What I did enjoy was the general storyline focus of the battle for the matchmaker app and also the background story of concussion in football players. There was some weak resolution for both, however. The harrassment in the workplace storyline was the strongest and it gave me all the feels. All that said, it was a relatable and contemporary storyline for the age group of the main characters.

THE RIGHT SWIPE was an okay read but it didn’t grab me in the way that previous Alisha Rai books have. I am interested to see character beyond Rhiannon in this series, particularly her friend Kirsten.

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the review copy.

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by Abbi Waxman – double review!

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.


Title : The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Author : Abbi Waxman
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : women’s fiction, contemporary
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : July 9, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

As Neil Gaiman once memorably said, “books were safer than other people, anyway.”

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL has an adorable cover, a ridiculously appealing plot, and overall seemed to cater directly to my interests and needs. I mean, it’s about a bookish woman who likes being alone, has a cat, and works in a bookstore (to which I say #goals), so, I mean, this was ringing all my bells and checking all my boxes.

In public Nina was a quiet, reserved person; in private she was an all-singing, all-dancing cavalcade of light and motion. Unless she was a quivering ball of anxiety, because that was also a frequently selected option.

And for the first 50%, I was convinced this would be a strong, even high, four star read. Nina is quirky and organized, anxious and intelligent, sassy and shy, also a total snob (which I can’t say I loved but it felt authentic), and just.. relatable. I could see myself in her, the good and the bad, and yet it wasn’t the painful kind of self-reflection, or too campy and therefore cheesy or caricature-like. The narration was witty and fun and was constantly throwing random trivia and stream-of-consciousness tangents at you and I was having a great time.

It’s hard to be human sometimes, with the pressure to be civilized lying only very thinly over a brain of a nervous little mammal.

Nina had a maybe hate-crush on a member of an opposing trivia team, she voiced her cat, Phil’s, thoughts, and suddenly, after being a single-parent child her whole life, a lawyer pops out of nowhere and drops a dead dad on her. In the sense that she’s inherited a family and possibly something else, too, but she’ll need to go to the will reading to find out.

“Do you young people actually date anymore, or do you run algorithms to see if it’s going to work?”

And so begins this really strange and charming discovery of this huge extended family, people so like her and also different, and reconciling this found-yet-related mass of people into her world view after thirty-plus years of living and being on her own. Throw in a love interest and it’s all sorts of emotions.

Life can throw you major curveballs, but it’s rare you can do much more than duck.

Most of which were good and fun to work through. Even the confusing ones felt natural. I just think that eventually we did cross a line into a sorta campy OTT strange drama where warring businesses threw ice cream at each other in the streets and some of Nina’s charm kind of wore off and overall, with maybe one or two exceptions, I just wasn’t as fond of the second half as the rest of the book. Some of it felt cliche, after having otherwise felt very fresh and different, and the ending in particular just didn’t land for me. 

Do lesbians do this?”
Send dick pics? Only if we’re breaking up with someone and want to make sure they block our number forever.

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL has a lot of great moments — tons of one liners and hilarious observations and I highlighted many many a passage. This book will definitely hook you from the start. I just wish I had loved it the same amount by the end.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This book was full of appeal for any booklover and Nina was a relatable protagonist in terms of her love for books. Nina was quirky, nerdy, anxiety-ridden, something of a loner but she was actually much better with people than she perceived.

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL had depth and complexity but this was offset by humour, quips and banter. Nina’s inner monologue was insightful into her psyche but also pretty funny at times.

Nina tried to pull herself together. She’d been irritable all week. Either her period was coming or she had a brain tumor, and at that moment the tumor felt more appealing, which probably meant it was her period.

The story was overwhelmingly about finding family and for Nina this was a first. Her evolving relationships with Archie and Peter were my favourities but I also appreciated Millie and Lydia. The family were almost farciscal in their make up and they were rather fun to watch interact.

There is a lowish-level romance in this book with Tom from a rival quiz team, it made for cute reading but I really did want more from this aspect of the story. I felt somewhat disconnected from their own connection.

There were some pacing issues in this read for me, slow parts leading to more faster-moving scenes. I would have preferred a more active pace throughout the book.

Overall, this was a good read and I think this could be categorised as women’s fiction or romance but again, it was less on the romantic front for that genre.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thank you netgalley and the publisher.


FIX HER UP by Tessa Bailey – double review!

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)
Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)
Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)
Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her..


Title : Fix Her Up
Author : Tessa Bailey
Series : Hot and Hammered (book one)
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 397
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : June 11, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’ve not had the greatest luck with past Bailey reads but this cover was super cute and I was seeing mostly positive buzz so, when my blogging buddy expressed interest in reading it, I thought, why the hell not. I’ll give it a go, too.

Where this story succeeded? Georgie. She’s one hell of a great heroine. Passed over by her family, overlooked in both her social and love life, and a clown. Literally, professionally, a clown. She’s got your trademark quirky girl thing down but it works. It really really does because she’s sweet, she’s genuine, and she eventually starts to stand up for herself. But she doesn’t change a single iota of who she is.

You turned my perfectly innocent backyard into construction worker porn. All we need is some light jazz.”
Yikes. What kind of porn are you watching?
The respectable-lady kind.”

Also a success? The lady friends. Or, as they call themselves, The Just Us League. Cue all the lols. Sure it’s an obvious ploy to write more books, featuring these other two friends, but whatever, it worked, I’m here for it. Based on the characters, I think one will be super angsty and the other could be super hate to love? Just a guess.

Where this book failed? The hero. And, actually, almost all the male characters? Georgie’s brother eventually redeems himself in a way but I was mostly just confused by some of the instances he popped up and when I wasn’t confused I was incredibly annoyed by him. But he served a purpose. Most spectacularly, though, I just.. I don’t get Travis. Sure he’s bruised, he’s battered, he’s got baggage. But other than a few pings of sympathy, I just didn’t care about him. Which made the romance not always my favourite and compounded with how much I did not get on with the sexytimes? Made for a weird mood. But I’ll give him credit (Bailey credit?) because the moments he stood up and supported Georgie? Particularly the early moments when he saw things amiss and wanted to put a stop to it, even if he sometimes resisted the urge For Reasons, those moments were lovely. Because he saw her.

So, yeah, this is a weird one for me. It’s incredibly funny at times, very heartwarming and empowered with female solidarity, but the underlying purpose of the romance just didn’t work for me. Would I read on in the series? Absolutely. So I guess that’s a win.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

FIX HER UP is a fun and sometimes delightful romance, not exactly rom-com but definitely served with a slice of quips and clever banter. The couple in this story are reunited in adulthood where before they were arrogant brother’s friend and annoying little sister. In the now, Travis was a washed-up baseball star with a less than stellar reputation and Georgie was a clown (yes, really).

Georgie was actually rather endearing from the start and I appreciated her individual journey in this book from innocence to empowerment. However, I also really appreciated the feminist undertones and message of the threesome friendship of women who Georgie was part of.

Travis I have to say, was pretty unlikeable initially. I wanted him to be less uncertain, have more balls generally and eventually he came through. BUT and there’s a bit but…I wanted to choke him on his constant use of the phrase ‘baby girl’. That phrase just goes through me and I don’t think I am alone in this. I seriously had to reduce half a star for this aspect because it was so overused and it plucked me out of the story everytime.

These two together had quite a lovely story, kind of fakey dating but not. I loved their chemistry together even if I didn’t always appreciate how the intimacy played out.

I am really excited about the next couple. They’re married and it’s not working and I am all grabby hands.

THE FRIEND ZONE by Abby Jimenez – double review!

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen–especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.


Title : The Friend Zone
Author Abby Jimenez
Format : eARC
Page Count : 385
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : Forever
Release Date : June 11, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Phew.

I had been prepared (warned?) by mutuals that this story was a funny bit of fun but that it would be as equally heartbreaking as it was joyful. And I’m here to confirm that for you.

I am not drunk. I’m just talking in cursive.”

THE FRIEND ZONE starts off fairly lighthearted. A snarky first-meeting between our protagonists sets the tone for their association; Kristen is in a long-distance relationship with a deployed boyfriend and Josh is recently single, and recently relocated, and, despite his attraction, not all that bothered by her unavailable status as a result.

Nothing offended me except cauliflower and stupidity.

At least not at first.

There’s something you should know about me, Josh. I say what I think. I don’t have a coy bone in my body. Yes, you’re sexy. Enjoy the compliment because you won’t always like what I say to you, and I won’t care one way or the other if you do or don’t.

Their friendship, as it can only be friendship, was a delight. Kristen is unapologetically herself. She’s not to be messed with when it comes to food, she’s witty, she’s honest, she’s out to impress no one. And Josh was just game for everything. He was sweet, understanding, gave as good as he got, and they were just so fun together. And, having not read the blurb, I didn’t really know where things would go beyond what it seemed at first glance.

I already know how I’m going to die.”
How?”
Spider bite. Or being sarcastic at the wrong time.”

But this story is a lot more than snarky, sassy, when-will-they-can-they-ever times. This is hard hitting, emotional, devastating. It deals with loss, tragedy, and Jimenez’s story even skirts a certain line I am not usually on board for but, thankfully, never crosses it. Additionally, the emphasis on Kristen’s issues with fertility — which is of course emphasized as it’s a major point of conflict — was something I thought unique to the romance (women’s fiction?) world. Talk of periods, discomfort, tampons, fibrosis, IUDs.. nothing was off limits. This is not only a great bit of fun and sweetness, alongside some heartbreak, but also a book I think a lot of women will see themselves in. Feel represented by. I think that’s so fabulous.

You know, you seem too fearless to be afraid of spiders.”
A black widow killed my schnauzer when I was a kid. Embracing a lifelong debilitating fear of spiders is cheaper than therapy.”

What stops this from getting full marks is that.. I felt some things got dragged out. Same conversations, same hot and cold, same back and forth. It was a bit exhausting, too repetitive, and honestly I was pulled out of the story a bit because I just felt so bad for these fictional people. Both of them, really. It was kind of miserable for them for a while. And then of course a whole other kind of misery started but that was easier to lose myself in. No spoilers.

I hope you’re not planning on sending me flowers.”
What would you like me to send you then?”
Something practical that I’ll get use out of, like a dick pic.”

The ending was a bit of a surprise for me and I so loved it. I really did. Additionally the author’s note was an extra bit of wonderfulness and I definitely hope readers take a moment to experience that, too.

Overall, though, I’m blown away that this was a debut. It’s funny as all get out, it broke my heart, and I definitely want Jimenez to do it again. Lots of times. Will absolutely read whatever this author serves up next.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

This was a generally enjoyable read that took me from a friends-to-more romance into something of an emotional rollercoaster. I did have some insight into the context before reading but I had no idea where the story was going to go until I got into it.

THE FRIEND ZONE is the kind of read that drags you into its web very easily with characters that are something memorable. Kristen was just a woman I could get behind and identify with some of her characteristics. I loved her honesty (at times), her individuality and loyalty. I was then somewhat bemused to find myself reading a love triangle element, I did not see that coming with this character.

Josh, the main squeeze of this story was also a loyal hunk of fireman who simply fell for Kristen hook, line and sinker; there was no going back but there were so many immovable mountains in the way. This man had to show endurance.

The friendships in this book are crucial and something of a side-blinding storyline. I felt shocked when the twists came and then shocked again. It didn’t make me overtly emotional but it did affect me. Ive seen this book pitched as a romantic comedy but even in the earlier parts of the book, I didn’t find it comedic. It is no less of a book for this however.

Simply put, this is an impressive debut from Abby Jimenez and I will be looking out for whatever she writes next. I slipped into her words and believed the world she created.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the review copy.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by André Aciman – double review!

Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.

The psychological maneuvers that accompany attraction have seldom been more shrewdly captured than in André Aciman’s frank, unsentimental, heartrending elegy to human passion. Call Me by Your Name is clear-eyed, bare-knuckled, and ultimately unforgettable.


Title : Call Me By Your Name
Author André Aciman
Series : Call Me By Your Name (book one)
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 268
Genre : historical fiction, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date : January 22, 2008

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : /


Hollis’ 1 star review

His words made no sense. But I knew exactly what they meant.
–> this is, I feel, a good expression of this entire book but flipped on its head. I understand what I read but I DON’T GET IT

I really don’t. Like, this isn’t me shitting on the overwhelming love people have for this book, or being contrary for shits and giggles.. I, personally, just don’t get it. 

Maybe I hyped this book up in my head for too long, maybe it was because I had these grand expectations, not to mention having put off watching the movie (which I will still) in order to read this first, but.. wow. Maybe, too, it’s my fault for not looking closely at the summary which does go on to detail some of the nittier gritty of what kind of relationship this book features but as I’m #TeamNoBlurbs.. it was obviously a surprise.

The first 60% of this was stream of consciousness confusion, was cringey secondhand embarrassment, was obsessive uncomfortableness.. it was so many things and none of them good. There was no characterization to these characters beyond Elio being consumed, forever fantasizing, and sifting through passages of is-it-really-happening-nope-just-dreaming chaos that made up the majority of his days; it’s intense but.. not in a good way. It’s discomfiting. I either skimmed because I couldn’t anchor myself to Elio’s internal rambling monologuing or because I just couldn’t bear to look too hard at his fixation. And Oliver was, well, a hot and cold dick of a human for the most part. And then suddenly he wasn’t, but it was all.. I don’t know, things being said, and not said, but they seem to understand it regardless? It just felt lazy and set up for the sake of drawing things out and drama. 

Not to mention they were both, at times, grossly childish or selfish.

s p o i l e r s   b e l o w

Case in point : Elio goes from screwing around with Oliver only to go to a girl’s house for more screwing around. Later, the boys have a nice afternoon delight together, then Elio heads out to meet with girl again, after having no discussion with Oliver about the logistics of this, and then when Oliver is missing upon Elio’s return, the latter is all bent out of shape and tied in knots and ‘how dare he make me wait’? Moments later Oliver’s ‘the best person he ever knew’. What the shit kind of whiplash nonsense is this? I actually refuse to tag this as a romance because, I feel, there was none. It was attraction, it was lust, it was physical intimacy (as well as certain intimacies that I believe were included in order to convince us of the existence love, make us believe there was a romance), but to me this wasn’t romantic. It was infatuation.

In the last 40%, however, there was a part or two that felt stronger (but it’s all relative, really) and yet it also transitioned into these scenes with other random characters I couldn’t care less about who rambled on about Bangkok, and various anecdotes as delivered by a poet we never see again, for eight to fifteen pages at a time. I honestly don’t know what was going on and I’m going to be fully honest : I skimmed most of it because I didn’t understand the point of it all.

There was a moving conversation between Elio and his dad near-ish to the end but then we have a time jump and weird transitions and odd conversations between adult Elio and older Oliver, reminiscing and yet not, where we’re supposed to believe this infatuation, this obsession, has endured for over twenty years, and I was just so done, long before this point, truthfully, but at least I saw it through to the end. Where the sequel goes I have no idea. And I definitely need some time to forget most of this experience before diving into the movie. 

That said, I think perhaps the movie will succeed where the book is too much for me. It wouldn’t be the first (and won’t be the last) time an adaptation succeeds in softening the edges of its source material. So I’m hopeful that a lot of what I hated about this book won’t apply to the adaptation but, for right now, I just need space from it all. I’m in no hurry.


Micky’s 1 star review …it’s pretty short

I know a lot of people loved this book but nothing about it appealed to me. In fact, I hated a lot of it. I listened to the first 35% on audio (and hated it), then a week later, I read/skimmed/read my paperback to the end (and still hated it). 

Why did I hate it? I didn’t like either character but I found Oliver to be a pretty awful person, with nothing to ingratiate himself to the reader. More than this though, 85% of the book is Elio’s inner monologue, his egotistical and obsessive mental ramblings poured onto the page for… ever. I disliked this style of writing, I found it incessantly dull and nothing about it worked for me.

Count me out for book two.