NEVER COMING HOME by Hannah Mary McKinnon

First comes love. Then comes murder.
Lucas Forester didn’t hate his wife. Michelle was brilliant, sophisticated and beautiful. Sure, she had extravagant spending habits and that petty attitude, a total disregard for anyone below her status. But she also had a lot to offer. Most notably, wealth that only the one percent could comprehend.

For years, Lucas had been honing a flawless plan to inherit Michelle’s fortune. Unfortunately, it involved taking a hit out on her.

Every track was covered, no trace left behind, and now Lucas plays the grieving husband so well he deserves an award. But when a shocking photo and cryptic note show up on his doorstep, Lucas goes from hunter to prey. 

Someone is onto him. And they’re closing in.

Told with dark wit and a sharply feminist sensibility, Never Coming Home is a terrifying tale of duplicity that will have you side-eyeing your spouse as you dash to the breathtaking end.


Title : Never Coming Home
Author : Hannah Mary McKinnon
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : mystery thriller
Publisher : MIRA
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I’m a little disappointed I didn’t love this more but I think this’ll satisfy readers a little less grumpy and picky than moi.

The most interesting thing about this story was the fact that we know who did the deed. And, in fact, we spend the entire time in the head of the one who has committed the crime. I quite liked that. But I found Lucas.. kind of insufferable? It wasn’t even the fact that he was a con-man mastermind responsible for his wife’s death, that he’d been orchestrating a particular end result for the entirety of their relationship. It was maybe moreso the narrative voice. And perhaps the pacing.

I never fully engaged in this story, I was completely uninterested in all of Lucas’ backstory, and while I enjoyed the ending, I’ll admit I did see part of it coming. It was still a good gotcha moment but it didn’t quite redeem the journey to where we finally get there. I’m not quite sure this had the dark wit that was promised in the pitch, either.

This was my first read by McKinnon, and while she’s got a good few books out and seems to be well loved, I’ll admit I had never even heard of her. I’ll likely peek through her backlist to find another that might work better, though, because I have’t quite given up yet.

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

YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY by Akwaeke Emezi

New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi (they/them) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.

Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again. 

It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career. 

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?

Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.


Title : You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty
Author : Akwaeke Emezi
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : romance
Publisher : Atria Books
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated star review

I’ve sat here, the minutes ticking by since I closed my kindle, waffling on how I feel about this book. Not just rating wise but overall feeling wise. This is going to be a polarizing book, I think.

After having fallen in love with The Death of Vivek Oji last year, I’ve been on a mission to slowly devour everything this author has written. The fact that they flit between genres, and themes, and styles, is so interesting and at the announcement of a romance novel — a romance novel with a Florence + The Machine lyric for a title — I mean, obviously I was sold. I wanted to see what they would do in this particular genre.

And for so much of it.. I was pretty into it. I enjoyed the voice (I make this distinction for a reason, I’ll expand more in a bit) and I enjoyed the friendship between Feyi and Joy. Their conversations were mostly limited to their romantic endeavours with the occasional hype moment from Joy on Feyi’s behalf but.. still, I felt the friendship, I felt the connection. But the romance? The various ones we follow? Welll..

I absolutely appreciate that Feyi, having survived what she did, and feeling like she’s maybe in a place to dip her toe in romance again, would be hesitant for more than something physical. And would shy away from something more. And I do feel like we saw some stepping stones out of her grief in the form of people but.. I don’t know. This is where I get mixed. Because I can see it what the author did (or, rather, I think I see what they were doing), and understand it, but I can also not love it? I guess? In some ways it’s brave and also real but..

Maybe it was the writing that hindered some of this. Because I’ll tell you right now I didn’t enjoy this writing the same way I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous writing. I can’t put my finger on what about it bothered me but something did.

Even without the romance drama, this book is messy. Grief is messy. Processing that, dealing with the concept of moving on, it’s all a mess. Emotional and fraught. And then when combined with romance? Messier. Add in some.. complicated results with how things shake out with said romance? Chaos. There’s a lot going on here. And there are times that Emezi has these beautiful notes, these little pauses of reflection, and they are just lovely. There are moments to be heard but also moments where the characters are listened to, and understood. But it’s still also dramatic and a lot. Which is fine! If that’s what you want.

I definitely see people loving this or.. maybe not hating it but being on the fence of it all. So while I’m taking the easy way out and not rating this.. it’s probably a 3. So just imagine that instead of the nothing and let me remain in a state where I don’t have to commit.

I will definitely continue to pick up titles by this author, as well as catch up on their backlist, but this wasn’t quite the breakthrough hit I thought it would be. At least not for me.

That cover is absolutely stunning though isn’t it? Gorgeous.

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

THE MURDER OF MR. WICKHAM by Claudia Gray

From New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray—a summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Mr. Wickham, one of literature’s most notorious villains, meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Jane Austen’s leading literary characters.

The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a house party, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In a tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.


Title : The Drowned Woods
Author : Claudia Gray
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : historical fiction / mystery
Publisher : Vintage Books
Release Date : May 3, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing a slow painful death for Mr. Wickham, he of Pride and Prejudice and Austen infamy. And while this didn’t quite deliver in that exacting way, he’s still dead! Three cheers for that.

What also drew me to this title, vicious longing for murder aside, was the idea of all of Austen’s famous couples gathered under one roof and subject to, essentially, a locked room mystery. Would they get along? Who would be the first suspect? Who would actually do it.. and why? I mean, we don’t need a why but would there be a why we wouldn’t see coming?

And, overall, this was good fun. I liked that Gray gave each couple very real conflicts, outside of the mystery, that did not seem fabricated and instead were likely issues that had plagued these characters or, due to circumstances, had caused certain issues to come to light. Each couple were in various stages of their HEA; some were long married, with grown children, some had only been married a few years, and others, only months. Each was a different perspective on their “what comes after” and each with their own concerns and issues. I really enjoyed it. Some, of course, more than others because we all have favourites.

Equally, we also see some secondary characters visit. Some we probably weren’t fans of to begin with but, at least, none so loathsome as Wickham.

I never guessed the culprit or the motive, by the way. I was just along for the ride. But it was completely realistic and not remotely out of left field — in case you are worried.

Gray is not a new or untried author to me, I’ve read much of her YA backlist, but this particular venture was a surprise. I have no idea if she’s shifting to adult permanently, or even historical fiction in general, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for what comes next.

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

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER by Casey McQuiston – double review!

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

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

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

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


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

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommend.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
YA contemporary comedy mystery
Dramatics
Bigatory

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

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

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

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

Thank you MacMillan Kids for the early review copy.

BOOK OF NIGHT by Holly Black – double review!

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and story stitching. Remember while you read, light isn’t playing tricks in Book of Night, the people are.


Title : Book of Night
Author : Holly Black
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : urban fantasy / paranormal
Publisher : Tor Books / DelReyUK
Release Date : May 3, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think even the mightiest of Black stans might lose it over that ending, hoo boy. I loved it but I also kinda hated it.

So here’s the thing. If this is a standalone, I’m a lot less happy than a three star. Okay, fine, maybe it’s just docked half a point. But if this is a series opener.. yeah, maybe I could bump it a half point. As it is, there’s a lot of good in this adult debut from this beloved author but there’s also an equal amount of stuff I could’ve lived without.

I do think most people will come out of this book loving our MC, Charlie. She is unflinchingly herself and herself is messy. She’s a twenty-eight year old ex-con artist and thief who is painfully aware of her baggage cart full of faults, failed relationships, and rather questionable childhood. She’s trying to turn a new leaf, one that is away from the sketchier aspects of her skillset and focus on being somewhat of a law abiding citizen as well as guide her sister towards school and a future (a bit I never quite understood considering her sister’s age and lack of interest and also, side note, did anyone else assume her sister was like sixteen? she did not act her age). Having a boyfriend who, for once, is not a scumbag, though maybe a little weird, helps, too.

In this world, which I’ll admit I still find somewhat hard to grasp, there are people who can work magic through shadows. That’s basically the simplest way to describe it. And while that’s a main event in this world, the story itself focuses more on both mystery and heist and the overlords who rule the underworld. Does that sound dramatic? It kind of is.

While Charlie’s world was dark and violent and gritty, the details didn’t always interest me. Much like how I was invested in about half the characters and the rest could go hang. There was a sweet spot that kept me invested but on the whole there were parts that left much to be desired. Which, again, if this is a series.. I could see myself being swayed if we got more depth or detail. If not, well. It’ll be halfway memorable.

I would absolutely read on and I so hope we continue to get more adult releases from our favourites in the YA genre, particularly when they go dark side. This didn’t quite ease the sting of the long wait for the next Alex Stern novel but I’m not mad at it for distracting me for a few hours, either. You’ll either pick this one up or you won’t and I doubt this review will sway you otherwise. Having said that, I can’t wait to see more reviews and how this works (or doesn’t) for other readers.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Morally dark-grey goodness
Darkness and shady shadows
Corruption

I loved so much about this fantasy offering from Holly Black. There was an absolutely fantastic female MC in Charlie Hall. She was shady, she didn’t give a s***, she took risks like it was a daily snack but she had a big heart for the few she loved. Her childhood was a complete mess of exploitation of her supposed magical abilities and she wasn’t protected as she should have been. Thus was the adult Charlie as a result.

The story brought a couple I really wanted to cheer for, or did it, maybe, I hope. Vince was difficult to fathom but I got a sense of true connection and love, even if it lacked verbal expression. The plot around Vince was deep and led into some places you wanted it not to but truly, it was incredibly clever and delicious to read.

The other characters of the piece outside the sister Posey, were honestly a nasty bunch. None more than Salt, he was heinous but I also loved to hate Adeline. You’ve got to pay attention to this plot, it definitely became exponentially more complex and the use of past/present was both helpful while being a little pacey at times. That ending 100% worked for me, knowing this is going to be a series; I love a messy ending on those terms.

Black has announced her entrance into adult fantasy with a slickness of characterisation and a wholly adult feel to the piece. I am a fan and ball of anticipation for the next book.

Thank you to Delrey UK for the gorgeous proof to review early.

KAIKEYI by Vaishnavi Patel

In the vein of Madeline Miller’s Circe comes a bold and sweeping debut that reimagines the life of Kaikeyi, the vilified queen of the Indian epic the Ramayana.

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story, that of a young woman determined to create her own destiny in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come. But as she transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most-favored queen, Kaikeyi’s will clashes with the path that has been chosen for her family. And she must decide if her resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak.


Title : Kaikeyi
Author : Vaishnavi Patel
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : historical retelling
Publisher : Redhook
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, I am prefacing this review by saying I know nothing of the epic that inspired this book. I didn’t even know the name Kaikeyi. Had I heard it, I wouldn’t even know to guess what it would be about. But seeing it compared to Circe, or at least likened to this style of female-focused retelling, I had to snatch it up.

Curiously, I read the wikipedia summary after finishing this book and wow. I mean, I don’t know if it’s accurate (again, prefacing, I am Jon Snow and know nothing), but what a different spin on things. And actually it made me appreciate this story even more.

It occurred to me [..] that maybe the gods had marked me for my mother’s sins. Sons could not be held responsible for maternal sins, but daughter’s? [..] Nothing protected me.

I truly don’t even know where to begin, really. This isn’t a short book and nor is it one that you can blast through; this took me hours to read. Maybe I savoured it, maybe I just didn’t rush, but either way, it took time.

The story spans decades, from Kaikeyi’s birth until well into middle age (ish), when her son is almost full grown. We see her grow up amongst many brothers, lose her mother, and try to find a place where she belongs. Then, once married off, she is even more at loose ends having lost the connections and stability she had at home. She struggles for a time to be a wife — one of three — but is lucky enough to be married to a good man who finds more value in her than just someone to give him sons; though she eventually does. And it’s after the birth of her child, and others, that things begin to change again.

Kaikeyi, remember that you did the right thing. You are not wicked.
Then why do I feel wicked?
Because those who are good question themselves. Because those who are good alway wonder if there was a better way, a way that could have helped more and hurt less. That feeling is why you are good.”

Please note, I made a very oversimplified summary of things and omitted a lot because spoilers. There is so much more to this than the above. There are gods, and demons, magical connections, unexpected friendships, the fight to empower other women in a society that only values them to a certain extent, and more.

I was sad this ended, I could have definitely read more, and I do wish some plot points had been made clearer. But maybe that’s just because I’m unfamiliar with the source material. I don’t know. Overall, I thought this was very strong, very interesting, and would absolutely recommend. I will be very interested in Patel’s next release (can you believe this is a debut!?), whether related or not, and will definitely be picking it up.

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

THE LONG GAME by Rachel Reid

To the world they are rivals, but to each other they are everything.

Ten years.

That’s how long Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov have been seeing each other. How long they’ve been keeping their relationship a secret. From friends, from family…from the league. If Shane wants to stay at the top of his game, what he and Ilya share has to remain secret. He loves Ilya, but what if going public ruins everything?

Ilya is sick of secrets. Shane has gotten so good at hiding his feelings, sometimes Ilya questions if they even exist. The closeness, the intimacy, even the risk that would come with being open about their relationship…Ilya wants it all.

It’s time for them to decide what’s most important—hockey or love.

It’s time to make a call. 


Title : The Long Game
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changers (book six)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance / sports
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I can only imagine the pressure Reid faced when sitting down to tackle this “sequel”. Granted, I think I’ve said that about every post-Heated Rivalry release but this was the biggie because finally we weren’t just getting cameos sprinkled amongst other stories but we were getting more Shane and Ilya. Front and centre. Live in HD 4K — or whatever the cool kids say. It was finally time for them to get (maybe?) their true HEA. So, having said all that, I hope the readers find it not only worth the wait but just as satisfying as book two.

I hate this. My team was perfect. Now we have this asshole.”
Your team is terrible.”
Yes, but, you know. The vibes are good.

And speaking of a wait, this was a romance eleven (thirteen?) years in the making. I loved a lot about their relationship, particularly what we got to see unfold in this instalment, but my favourite parts were the nostalgic reminiscing on where and how it all began; and how differently things may have gone.

I will kiss you during a face-off.
Pretty sure that would be a face-off violation.

For me, the highlight, as always, was Ilya. I think maybe we’re all a bit trash for him but honestly he’s just burrowed under my skin in all the ways. With his humour, his language fails, his chirping, his vulnerability; with everything. Shane, however, is a little less complicated and sometimes does come across a little oblivious and a little self-absorbed but never intentionally or maliciously. It’s just how he is.. until he’s made aware of something and then he totally course corrects. But it absolutely suits him not only because of his upbringing but also the way he took to his career. The way these two bounce off each other, how they also fit, is just lovely.

Why is it a secret? You wouldn’t be the only gay hockey players. Or queer. Sorry, I shouldn’t assume.”
I am bisexual. Shane is super gay.”
I’m regular gay.”

There were moments about this that surprised me (certain topics and issues previously addressed that were repackaged so beautifully for this particular instalment; no I’m not spoiling), moments that moved me (yes, I teared up), and, of course, moments (Ilya!) that made me laugh. I couldn’t believe how quickly I chewed through this chonky book (almost five hundred pages!) and while at first I did think we were spinning our wheels a bit, it took me a moment to realize this story spanned the timeline of all books since Heated Rivalry. I knew that in theory but it took me a moment to realign myself with the events without external prompting via chapter headings. Obviously there are elements of this story that are a bit repetitive because the conflict that spans the book is the same and yet I also appreciated the way the beats of the story played out.

I fear not living up to the expectations of the Montreal Voyageurs organization and our fans.”
Would be easier to cheat death than to meet Montreal’s hockey expectations.

Not wholly related to the book, however, it needs to be said : I have always loved how Reid has portrayed her hockey world — I always find it interesting to see how authors reinvent the teams and what they keep or discard from the real world — and seeing her more or less break up with Montreal in fiction as (I believe) she’s broken up with them in real life was bittersweet but, hopefully, satisfying as a creative to work through that ending. I hope, if we get to see these two again, we’ll have more Ottawa jokes to look forward to. I highlighted so many of those.

You should sign with Ottawa. Your contract is probably cheap, yes?
You’re a hard guy to like, Rozanov.”
That is not what Shane thinks.

The Long Game has plenty of steam, plenty of sweet, plenty of feels, plenty of fun, and, of course, plenty of hockey. All in all, I think fans of this couple, and this series, will be very pleased by this long-anticipated and long-awaited reunion — though maybe less pleased about the cover.

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

PART OF YOUR WORLD by Abby Jimenez

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

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

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN A NEW YORK MINUTE by Kate Spencer

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

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

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLOOD SCION by Deborah Falaye

This is what they deserve. They wanted me to be a monster. 
I will be the worst monster they ever created.

Fifteen-year-old Sloane can incinerate an enemy at will—she is a Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods.

Under the Lucis’ brutal rule, her identity means her death if her powers are discovered. But when she is forcibly conscripted into the Lucis army on her fifteenth birthday, Sloane sees a new opportunity: to overcome the bloody challenges of Lucis training, and destroy them from within.

Sloane rises through the ranks and gains strength but, in doing so, risks something greater: losing herself entirely, and becoming the very monster that she ahbors.


Title : Blood Scion
Author : Deborah Falaye
Series : Blood Scion (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : March 8, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m going to ask you to slide on right by this review because I definitely think I’m going to be an outlier on this one.

Truthfully, the only reason I picked this up was because I attended an event and saw the author pitch it. The pitch immediately hooked me and it was one of the books I was most interested in once the event had wrapped, which was pretty impressive considering I hadn’t even heard of it until that moment. So, naturally, I was excited to receive a copy. I did enter with a bit of trepidation as I think I’ve got one foot out the door when it comes to YA but every now and then they still surprise me and blow me away. I hoped this would be one of those.

Therefore, with those prefaces out of the way, let’s dive in.

The bare bones of this story, and many of the details that echo the real world, including the rich history based on the author’s own Yoruba culture, was both lovely and rich and completely unfiltered in an unflinching way. This book handles, and describes, dark themes and darker events; from the eradication of the people of this world and the accompanying revisionist history in the victor’s favour, to abuse and assault, to the drafting of child soldiers to fight and kill their own, and so much more. I thought it was all so well done (brutal, but well done). I also liked the magic system based around the Orisha gods even though we only got a little taste of this (hoping for more in book two!).

Where, for me, this failed was in the details, the pacing, and unfortunately the romance.

I was constantly losing track of the time that was passing (or, rather, not passing, as this takes place over the course of a month and yet felt like it should’ve maybe been six). I felt sometimes the details just weren’t enough on some parts, too much on others, and while I am not advocating for more horrors, I do feel like certain things just got glossed over and we didn’t sit with them to truly feel the impact. Which I think also applies to the romance. In some ways it came out of nowhere (though in others it was hard not to spot coming down the pipeline) but while there was some build, I don’t think there was enough. The foundation for it was made of clay. And, again, the timing of it all. I was also frustrated by Sloane’s behaviour towards this particular character (basically from the word go) when she should’ve been acting very differently. This just didn’t align. And maybe it’s just one of those things we’re supposed to accept but.. yeah, I never did.

My one other little gripe was that while I have no issue with Sloane, and her friends, being fifteen, I do have issue with how she felt (ie, read) so much older. I absolutely respect her circumstances, and life in this world in general, would age people differently but it just felt a little discordant.

And as for the big climatic events near the end.. I’m just perplexed. I just don’t feel it worked very well after everything that came before it. Having said all that, I almost forgot to mention that I did really like one of the reveals near the end — but did not appreciate the other one. If you know you know.

Overall, I found the first half of the book to be much stronger than the latter half, but in general I found the writing to be good; especially for a debut. I will absolutely be reading the sequel (yay for duologies!). Also, as always, and while it should go without saying by now, please check out reviews from other readers and take this particular one with a grain of salt.

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

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