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GEORGIE, ALL ALONG by Kate Clayborn

In this heartfelt tale of one woman’s quest to reinvent herself, the acclaimed author of Love Lettering and Love at First delivers a poignant, witty reflection on how the hopes, dreams, and stories from our past shape our future . . .

Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page. 

But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path. 

Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back. 

Honest and deeply emotional, Georgie, All Along is a smart, tender must-read for everyone who’s ever wondered about the life that got away . . .


Title : Georgie, All Along
Author : Kate Clayborn
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Kensington
Release Date : January 24, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

There are a few authors I should know better than to pick up late at night, thinking I’ll only read a few chapters before going to bed. Clayborn is one of them. I finished this after midnight on a work night but the next day sleepies were w o r t h i t.

Additionally, on a related note, there are only a few authors who make me want to flip over, upon finishing the book, and start again. Surprise surprise, Clayborn is also one of those. I have yet to do that but the urge is there. Also, immediately reread all my favourites (of which there are many). But I digress but what does any of this have to do with Georgie, All Along? Nothing really. Except that hopefully it conveys the all around good feeling it gave me.

I will be very curious to see if people find this vibed a little different from past Clayborn’s. Maybe it’s just me and my headspace. But that’s not a bad thing. It just feels very far away from Love Lettering and more in line with her debut series. Again, not a bad thing. It’s good to mess up your expectations a little.

What never ceases to amaze me are how much I fall in love with this author’s characters. And this crop is no different. From Georgie, to her love interest Levi, to her bestie Annabel, to Hank the dog, arg. Everyone stole my heart. But when it came to Georgie, can I just say, that few people do messy eccentric-adjacent characters like Clayborn? In many other hands, Georgie would’ve been OTT and cringey but somehow she was made to be loud and chaotic and it feel genuine instead of put on. I loved, too, the theme of the story, of trying to go back, and how that was woven through for so many of these characters and yet they each had different emotional beats to tackle and resolve, things to face, and how those all shook out.

Also, can I just say, Levi’s style of texting? Outstanding. Ten out of ten.

Start to finish there was just so much great here and I honestly don’t know what else to say about it except : read it.

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

GLITTERLAND by Alexis Hall

In the past, the universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand. 

In the past, I am brilliant and I am happy and my every tomorrow is madness. 

In the past, I am soaring, and falling, and breaking, and lost. 

And now, there is only this.
 

Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on hope, happiness, and―most of all―himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations. 

Then a chance encounter throws him into the path of Essex-born Darian Taylor. Flashy and loud, radiant and full of life, Darian couldn’t be more different…and yet he makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of his anxiety. But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can no longer see a way out. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can someone who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own? 


Title : Glitterland
Author : Alexis Hall
Series : Spires (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 287
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : January 17, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This ended up being my final read of 2022 and I was so glad to go out with a bang. Between the holiday stresses and busyness, a well timed ruin-all-my-down-time cold, and general slumpy behaviour before all that went down, it had been a time. Which is why I needed a (almost sure to be) guaranteed good time. And while this is a reread, I was also curious to see if Hall would make any changes for the transition of Glitterland from indie to trad.

While I can’t say I noticed anything that stood out — one or two bits felt a little updated but to be honest I haven’t read this in four years so it’s possible nothing actually was changed and I was just trying too hard to notice differences — nonetheless? It was a great time.

Glitterland was a recommendation early-ish on in my queer reading journey and not only has it stood out amongst the hundreds I’ve read since, it’s also stood the test of time.

It’s a classic match-up of a grumpy sunshine romance, using the London and Essex as cultural differences to add to the whole opposites attract, with some added hurdles to contend with in the way of depression, anxiety, and more. Hall manages a perfect balance between the serious and the not-so-serious and it makes those heavier moments feel more real because of how they are handled.

Personally, Darian is the standout for me. I’ve always had a soft spot for Ash’s glitter pirate but I know he won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (he is, after all, a shade of orange). But the true magic is made in the match-up and I know I’ve already mentioned the balance but.. it’s there. Also? It’s steamy. Other than For Real (another book I desperately want to see made trad!), this might have the most on-page sex in any of Hall’s books and (notably, in that book as well, my other top favourite) it reminded me of how well Hall uses those scenes to allow his characters to communicate. It’s not just a flurry of appendages and grunts but their personas are very much present in those moments. And, honestly, that’s rare.

Truthfully, I could go on about the fun group ensembles each character has respectively; the nuances and agonies touched on in discussion of the various stages of Ash’s mental health experience and journey and how that impacted, and imploded, relationships and what’s left in the aftermath; I could speak to how fun (as a non-UKer) it is to read along with Darian’s accent on page and in my head (honestly, if you can stand the accent, highly recommend the audio!); I could even drown this review in all the quotes and standout lines (even if you deserve to experience them first hand, in context, and so I refrained) to try and find the right one to hook you. But honestly? Just read this book.

Also, as much as I loved the original cover? This cover also has my heart.

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

HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS AND UNFAIRLY CUTE by Talia Hibbert

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Brown Sisters trilogy, comes a laugh-out-loud story about a quirky content creator and a clean-cut athlete testing their abilities to survive the great outdoors–and each other.

Bradley Graeme is pretty much perfect. He’s a star football player, manages his OCD well (enough), and comes out on top in all his classes . . . except the ones he shares with his ex-best friend, Celine.

Celine Bangura is conspiracy-theory-obsessed. Social media followers eat up her takes on everything from UFOs to holiday overconsumption–yet, she’s still not cool enough for the popular kids’ table. Which is why Brad abandoned her for the in-crowd years ago. (At least, that’s how Celine sees it.)

These days, there’s nothing between them other than petty insults and academic rivalry. So when Celine signs up for a survival course in the woods, she’s surprised to find Brad right beside her.

Forced to work as a team for the chance to win a grand prize, these two teens must trudge through not just mud and dirt but their messy past. And as this adventure brings them closer together, they begin to remember the good bits of their history. But has too much time passed . . . or just enough to spark a whole new kind of relationship?


Title : Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute
Author : Talia Hibbert
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary romance
Publisher : Joy Revolution
Release Date : January 3, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

If there’s one (or two.. or three) thing(s) you can count on when picking up a Hibbert? It’s banter. Also, chemistry. Also also a variety of diverse representation. And while she’s shifted gears to a younger target audience in this, her debut YA, all of those things are still very much present here.

I don’t think this is going to be a very long or articular review because I’m swimming in that glowy squishy “I have no notes” feeling. Though honestly? My one complaint might be the ending. In the sense that.. it ended. Rude. But also it is one of those quicky endings that does maybe feel, just a bit, abrupt.

Everything else? So great. The aborted friendship, which became a nemesis slash enemies situation, only to revert back to friendship, and then more? Each stage was so well done, feeling gradual, natural, and genuine. These characters felt so real, so alive, but that’s typical Hibbert, too. I will say, though, that I think Bradley was my favourite of the two leads. He is just such a sweet cinnamon roll of a human and I appreciate everything about him.

Also, while there was some element of a complicated family dynamic present, it was a different spin of things I’ve seen done in YA before and I loved it. I loved all the dynamics, actually, familial and sibling. Big win there.

How many other things can I say I enjoyed or loved? Probably lots more. But instead, I’ll just say this : read this book!

Side note, I’m not saying I am a conspiracy theorist like Celine but both my blog buddy and my name were present in this book. And so was the book title our blog took homage from. This is (hah) highly suspicious. Stay tuned for a breakdown of our theory on TikTok (just kidding! we love you, Talia! stalk us all you want).

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

NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER by Sophie Gonzales

A girl enters a reality dating competition to get revenge on her cheating, royal-adjacent ex-boyfriend, and ends up falling for another girl on the show—in fact, the girl he cheated on her with.

It’s been two years since Maya dumped her cheating ex-boyfriend Jordy, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country, and in the lead up to the wedding he captured hearts globally as the eligible younger brother. So, when Maya receives an invitation to be a contestant on Second Chance Romance, a new reality show in which the now-famous Jordy will re-date his ex-girlfriends in an effort to find “the one that got away,” she isn’t interested…that is, until she realizes she can use this opportunity to exact her revenge. If she can make it to the finale, she can reject Jordy and publicly break his heart. As far as Maya’s concerned, it’s payback with interest: just what a guy like Jordy deserves.

But when she gets to the set, she’s confronted with the one person she hasn’t accounted for: Skye, the beautiful, charismatic girl Jordy cheated on Maya with. How is she supposed to live with this girl for six weeks? Sharing bunkbeds, for crying out loud?

Except, of course, there’s more to Skye than she lets most people see. Skye has her own reasons for being careful with her heart, and might be more willing to take Maya’s side than it initially seems. If they can sustain their reluctant alliance—and keep their unexpected chemistry from interfering—they might just have a chance to take Jordy down.


Title : Never Ever Getting Back Together
Author : Sophie Gonzales
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : November 29, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So it is, perhaps, my fault for the way this one went down. Because I think I misconstrued the plot a bit when I clicked request and that makes it a me problem instead of the book problem. But, I suppose, that still doesn’t change how the book was not it.

However, having now reread (or maybe properly read it for the first time..) the synopsis, I think maybe I just stopped at the tagline.

I initially had this big long rant about timelines and how I found them hard to keep straight when it came to the ex-boyfriend’s relationships, because there were just so many for such young people (this would’ve been more believable had everyone been aged up and this not been YA) but it got deleted — notably, for December-me, I wrote this in July on the day half the country lost our internet, so, haha, fun nostalgia times! Hope things are better in the future! And ultimately, being that this is such a me thing, for all I know it’s just something I couldn’t follow as opposed to being an issue with the plotting (though this usually isn’t the case). I would’ve appreciated a flowchart though. And I really wished it had been clearer when he had become famous as a result of his sister marrying royalty. That would’ve helped. Except, again, the summary seems to make this clearer than the book ever did. Which is frustrating.

My frustration about timing aside, that was merely a drop in the bucket when it came to how frustrating it was to live through all of the ex-boyfriend’s dialogue and actions. Part of what I misunderstood about this book was I didn’t actually think the ex was supposed to be as much as a dirtbag as he was (could be the colourful illustrated cover gave me the wrong idea about the vibes, too). He does expose himself a few times before he gets his real comeuppance but unfortunately he does a great job of selling himself to be perfection. That said, the highlight for me, not just when it came to getting revenge but also just a highlight of the book in general, is when Maya comes up with a drinking game with the other contestants to showcase his behaviour. Genius.

Also, if I never see the word “chicks” again, it’ll be too soon.

Complaints about the evil ex aside, though.. I wanted to root for the romance. I wanted to cheer for these girls. But they felt incredibly inconsistent; or, rather, Skye did. She just wasn’t fleshed out. Maya, however, was the more solid of the two and there were times I actually enjoyed her (though maybe not when she was drunk, that was just silly.. in a dumb way). The one thing that perplexed me was this whole issue about college that seemed very shoehorned into constant discussions that were framed around her intelligence. Which wasn’t a her problem but a people-around-her problem. But I’m mad on her behalf. And also because it was a weird thing to lean into. But they didn’t stand out, not any of them, because their identities were just too much about the ex.

I took a risk on this book because I’ve enjoyed the author before (notably only Perfect on Paper though) but I knew the competition element could be my downfall. And it sorta was. There wasn’t as much girl-on-girl scheming and hate as there could’ve been but there was enough. I don’t love this set-up and this has solidified that I likely will avoid the concept in the future. But I thought, with my misinformation at hand, this author behind the wheel, and a queer love story coming out of having each dated the same boy, there could be some magic here. But there wasn’t. Again, this is mostly a me problem, though, so you may very well enjoy this. And I hope you do.

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

POSTER GIRL by Veronica Roth

For fans of Anthony Marra and Lauren Beukes, #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth tells the story of a woman’s desperate search for a missing girl after the collapse of the oppressive dystopian regime–and the dark secrets about her family and community she uncovers along the way

WHAT’S RIGHT IS RIGHT.

Sonya Kantor knows this slogan–she lived by it for most of her life. For decades, everyone in the Seattle-Portland megalopolis lived under it, as well as constant surveillance in the form of the Insight, an ocular implant that tracked every word and every action, rewarding or punishing by a rigid moral code set forth by the Delegation.

Then there was a revolution. The Delegation fell. Its most valuable members were locked in the Aperture, a prison on the outskirts of the city. And everyone else, now free from the Insight’s monitoring, went on with their lives.

Sonya, former poster girl for the Delegation, has been imprisoned for ten years when an old enemy comes to her with a deal: find a missing girl who was stolen from her parents by the old regime, and earn her freedom. The path Sonya takes to find the child will lead her through an unfamiliar, crooked post-Delegation world where she finds herself digging deeper into the past–and her family’s dark secrets–than she ever wanted to.

With razor sharp prose, Poster Girl is a haunting dystopian mystery that explores the expanding role of surveillance on society–an inescapable reality that we welcome all too easily.


Title : Poster Girl
Author : Veronica Roth
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : sci-fi / dystopia
Publisher : William Morrow & Company
Release Date : October 18, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Ever wondered what The Hunger Games might’ve been like if Katniss was from District two instead of twelve? Something maybe a little like this; minus the actual Hunger Games event.

Instead, it’s more like Best Manners Royale because under the Delegation’s regime — which utilized eyeball implanted computers ala GoogleGlass (because people got too lazy to carry phones) that also tallied up infractions/awarded you points for good and bad behaviour — they wanted you molded into a compliant citizen. But after the Delegation fell, those who had enforced the rules, even the children of those families, they were all locked away.

Sonya Kantor is one of those children. Worse, she was actually the literal poster girl for the institution that had ruined so many lives. Now an adult, years after having lost her family, and most of the people she loved, she’s offered a chance to leave the prison she and other Delegation members/sympathizers, etc, have been locked away in; even though she’s deemed just too old to qualify for the new law that has passed. But she’s given a chance anyway — help track down a young girl, a second child (illegal for most people to have) who had been “re-homed” to another family, and she will earn her freedom. Along the way, though, she has to confront a figure from her past and realities she hadn’t known.

The concept of this story, which I’m actually loathe to call dystopian because some days it feels like we’re on the cusp of something this scary (whereas ten years ago it wouldn’t have felt that way!), was interesting.

There is some thought provoking discussion and allegory to be found in these pages but, let’s break it down into elements, as a mystery I would’ve liked more tension. As a dystopian some extra worldbuilding would’ve been nice. And for the little bit of romance we get I would’ve liked more chemistry — though to be honest the whole thing could’ve been ditched altogether.

While there is no overall satisfaction from the story, or at least I didn’t feel that way, Poster Girl is a quick read and might just be worth your time anyway.

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

JUST LIKE MAGIC by Sarah Hogle

From the author of Twice Shy comes a sprightly Christmas novel, a rollicking romp through the absurdity of family holidays and the hope of new love.

Bettie Hughes once knew the comfort of luxury, flaunting a ridiculous collection of designer shoes and a stealthy addiction to CBD oils. That is, until her parents snipped her purse strings. Long obsessed with her public image, Bettie boasts an extravagant lifestyle on social media. But the reality is: Bettie is broke and squatting in Colorado, and her family has no idea.

Christmas, with its pressure to meet familial expectations, is looming when a drunk Bettie plays a vinyl record of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” backwards and accidentally conjures Hall, an unexpectedly charming Holiday Spirit in the form of a man. Once the shock wears off, Bettie knows she’s stumbled upon the greatest gift: a chance to make all her holiday wishes come true, plus a ready-made fiancé.

But as the wiles of magic lose their charm, Bettie finds herself set off-kilter by Hall’s sweet gestures. Suddenly, Bettie is finding her heart merry and light. But the happier she gets, the shorter Hall’s time on earth grows. Can Bettie channel the Christmas spirit and learn to live with goodwill toward all men? Or will her selfish ways come back as soon as the holidays are over? 


Title : Just Like Magic
Author : Sarah Hogle
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : romance / magical realism
Publisher : Putnam
Release Date : October 4, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4.5 (rounded up) star review

Not only am I reading an October ARC in March but this is also a Christmas-themed story. But hey, figured I’m closer to the holidays at this stage in the game than I would be if I read this before release. So, pfft.

When I tell you that I was laughing, gigging, cackling, and then crying, weeping, sniffling all within the span of a few pages.. well, I mean, no one would be surprised. But also please note the hilarity portion of the book does outweigh the sad by about 80/20. I spent a lot of time laughing. And oh man did I need this book exactly right now. Thank you, timing. For once you are in my favour.

Hogle’s sophomore release took a break from offering us a harder kid of heroine to like, or maybe just a messier one, but she’s back and with her is Bettie. Bettie has gone from having it all, and (mostly) being it all, to rock bottom. She’s penniless, her reputation more or less in tatters from various situations, and squatting in a house that is now her own but still trying to maintain her social media image and convince her parents nothing is wrong. When a freak accident conjures the Holiday Spirit, manifesting him in a delightful human form capable of granting wishes for the purpose of improving her outlook on the holidays, well.. she takes advantage and cashes in; both in material goods and revenge. But the harder Hall (as in Holiday) tries to woo her towards good cheer, the harder it is to resist her better nature. And Christmas.

Listen, this book.. is totally outrageous. It’s ridiculous. In all the best ways. This has a full cast of colourful characters in the form of Bettie’s family and the hijinks that ensue are just amazing. But there are so many sly little emotional moments that Hogle includes that keeps this from getting too out there. And then there are the moments where she doesn’t pull punches and actually breaks your heart. See aforementioned weeping.

I loved every second of this and, much like the two Hogles that came before it, I immediately wanted to start it up all over again. I had such a good time and though I’m not one for Hallmark movies or Christmas stories or anything of this nature, if they were all like this? I’d eat them up. This is everything holiday but also, somehow, does not feel like you’re being smothered in tinsel. For all that Bettie is literally hanging out with the physical manifestation of the Holiday Spirit, and there’s magic being flung here there and everywhere in every possible conceivable way, it’s also.. bizarrely normal? Like, this doesn’t feel like a fantasy but it is, of course, fantastical AF. I don’t know how she managed the balance and maybe others could argue otherwise but I just loved it. It’s silly and fun and romantic and sweet and touching and.. why haven’t I given this five stars? I probably should. Okay, we’re rounding that 4.5 up.

It’s an act of courage to march to the beat of your own drum, to behave with compassion and generosity, and wonder.

So far this author has given us books with top notes of : biting and sharp, tender and sweet, and now absolutely bonkers — with a dash of peppermint. I truly don’t know where Hogle will go, and do, next, but I am in it and I want it.

ps, if anyone comes for Hall (and it’s sorta weird saying this because I read this whole book hearing my own name in my head), I will come for you. He must be protected at all costs.
pps, I deleted all but one quote from the review because honestly they deserve to be experienced for the first time in context. But just know you have much hilarity and much sweetness and much silliness (as discussed in the review, I’m just hammering it home) to look forward to.
pps, you’re welcome.

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

A MERRY LITTLE MEET CUTE by Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone

Cowritten by #1 New York Times bestselling author Julie Murphy and USA Today bestselling author Sierra Simone—a steamy plus-size holiday rom-com about an adult film star who is semi-accidentally cast as a lead in a family-friendly Christmas movie, and the former bad-boy pop star she falls in love with.

Bee Hobbes (aka Bianca Von Honey) has a successful career as a plus-size adult film star. With a huge following and two supportive moms, Bee couldn’t ask for more. But when Bee’s favorite producer casts her to star in a Christmas movie he’s making for the squeaky-clean Hope Channel, Bee’s career is about to take a more family-friendly direction.

Forced to keep her work as Bianca under wraps, Bee quickly learns this is a task a lot easier said than done. Though it all becomes worthwhile when she discovers her co-star is none other than childhood crush Nolan Shaw, an ex-boy band member in desperate need of career rehab. Nolan’s promised his bulldog manager to keep it zipped up on set, and he will if it means he’ll be able to provide a more stable living situation for his sister and mom.

But things heat up quickly in Christmas Notch, Vermont, when Nolan recognizes his new co-star from her ClosedDoors account (oh yeah, he’s a member). Now Bee and Nolan are sneaking off for quickies on set, keeping their new relationship a secret from the Hope Channel’s execs. Things only get trickier when the reporter who torpedoed Nolan’s singing career comes snooping around—and takes an instant interest in mysterious newcomer Bee.

And if Bee and Nolan can’t keep their off-camera romance behind the scenes, then this merry little meet cute might end up on the cutting room floor. 


Title : A Merry Little Meet Cute
Author : Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance / holiday
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : September 20, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I wanted to be able to give this one a higher rating solely because of the inclusion of a fat FMC who also happens to do sex work (like, hell yes, more of this rep) but ultimately the good bits, which were more in concept than any kind of execution, just didn’t make up for the rest. And in that sense I mean mostly that this was boring, frustrating, and unbelievable.

While I wish I could’ve enjoyed the surface level festiveness of a Christmassy/holiday-themed movie being filmed over the holidays, the promised fun and hilarity and tension of both the bad boy ex-boyband member trying to rehab his image paired up with an actual sex worker trying to branch into a different kind of film — and also stay wholesome so as not to let anyone in on the secret of her career — just never panned out. This wasn’t really fun, there was only some token forced humour (which wasn’t funny), and the tension was flimsy at best considering how painfully oblivious the non-sex industry folks were to who was both starring and working on this movie. Also, I feel like every conflict could’ve either been avoided or was brought on by the dumb actions of the main characters (the picture in the strip club? you’ve got to be kidding me).

Added to all that, the chemistry between the leads was given a leg (or four) up because they had both crushed on each other prior to meeting; Bee idolized Nolan during his boy band days, and Nolan happened to be a fan of Bee’s sexy online persona. So they didn’t need to fall for each other, or even have personalities, because the “connection” was established off-page. Instead it was just very lust-driven with sexy times or thoughts of sexy times and full disclosure I started skimming those real fast.

What made this stranger is that this felt.. YA-y. I realize it’s an typical claim to make considering one of the co-authors is coming from YA, and most female authors are lumped into this category, but still. These characters didn’t feel like they had adult problems and the problems that did feel adult had non-adult reactions to them (I think they are supposed to be mid to late twenties? don’t quote me). I don’t know how else to describe it. But Nolan and his phone.. drove me up the wall. I don’t even care that they attempted to work it into the story, blah blah, no. I was over it — though I do have to say, there was one scene where his younger sister chastises him for trying to micromanage a crisis from afar after she calls him in the middle of a scene to freak out on him and get his help to manage a crisis. So, like, yeah, he did get the short end of the stick sometimes and that certainly didn’t help anything. But while he had sympathetic backstory/motivations, I didn’t enjoy how he was made to handle them or, really, him as a character. Even Bee, the stronger of the two, just wasn’t able to shoulder the burden of this story and I don’t feel enough time was really spent with her enjoying the filming and acting process. Instead it was just about keeping this poorly-hidden secret and being into Nolan. She was just as surface level as he was, really. And as for the rest of the cast.. honestly, no one stood out. And while a few should be called out for their pointlessness, I don’t even have the energy to bother.

Overall, this was a bummer. I do think a lot of readers will enjoy it for what it is — spicy holiday zestiness — I just expect a lot more from my romance than this. Having said that, I would warn any mostly-YA readers from jumping into this one. For all that it read YA-ish, there is a lot of adult and sex content, so maybe work yourself upto this one if you’re new to the steams. Or don’t, YOLO!

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

I’M THE GIRL by Courtney Summers

When sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis discovers the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, she teams up with Ashley’s older sister, Nora, to find and bring the killer to justice before he strikes again. But their investigation throws Georgia into a world of unimaginable privilege and wealth, without conscience or consequence, and as Ashley’s killer closes in, Georgia will discover when money, power and beauty rule, it might not be a matter of who is guilty—but who is guiltiest.

A spiritual successor to the 2018 breakout hit, SadieI’m the Girl is a masterfully written, bold, and unflinching account of how one young woman feels in her body as she struggles to navigate a deadly and predatory power structure while asking readers one question: if this is the way the world is, do you accept it?


Title : I’m The Girl
Author : Courtney Summers
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ mystery
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 13, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

After a pretty lackluster reading weekend, I pulled out the big guns and delved into I’m The Girl hoping that Summers, with (as it’s coined) her spiritual-successor to Sadie, which I loved, would break me out of the funk. But instead it just gave me a different one.

This was so hard to read, which is understandable and probably the point, but where I can respect some of what the author was doing and saying and forcing the reader to consider, I don’t know if it succeeded where it was meant to. Or at least it didn’t for me.

I’m The Girl delves into the concept of grooming, of manipulation, of powerful people enforcing their rules and their wants on others, but everything around it just felt disjointed and shaky. Being in Georgia’s head was an awful place to be, with her self-worth and dreams tied up in belonging to this place where she misguidedly believes she can become something, which was tied into believing her worth was skin deep, and it just spiralled in and out of this vicious cycle. She was incredibly naive, incredibly needy, out of touch, and lost. She was constantly in situations she shouldn’t have been in, never quite seeming to learn from them, and you could blame some of that on the knowledge she didn’t have, secrets held out of reach by those around her, as well as the manipulation of others. It was painful.

And while all this is going on, there’s also a dead girl, the sister of a not-friend, more an acquaintance, and Georgia gets sorta tangled up in both because she discovers the body and because she finds herself roped into to helping determine what happened — I wouldn’t quite say she’s investigating things, the way the synopsis would have you believe, but there are a few side quests — and I liked that, unlike Sadie, Georgia is only tangentially connected to the death. She’s watching the devastation happen from the outside looking in, much the way she feels held back from the glamourous and prestigious world she wants to belong. But in that same drama, I almost feel there were too many added elements (maybe just one) that muddied the waters.

Maybe, on the whole, when combined with the romance, it was just too many things. And yet, despite this, what it also wasn’t, was a thriller. It also wasn’t anything like Sadie so if, like me, you were looking to recapture that feeling? Maybe just go for a reread.

I think this review is a little messy but so was the book. Or, at least, it just wasn’t for me. And that’s fine. I think fans of the author will likely appreciate this, the same way they appreciate her other works, because she’s consistent in shining a light on these dark areas. And that’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But it won’t always make for an enjoyable read, which makes sense, but equally it might not always made for a good read. Whereas my struggles with The Project had to do with the characters, not the plot, when it comes to I’m The Girl I would say this one is definitely the characters but also the plot. Again, in concept, I am so down with this particular narrative. I just wish it had played out differently. But. I will continue to pick up this author.. at least for now.

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

RUBY FEVER by Ilona Andrews – double review!

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews is back with the newest book in the exciting Hidden Legacy series—the thrilling conclusion to her trilogy featuring fierce and beautiful Prime magic user Catalina Baylor.

An escaped spider, the unexpected arrival of an Imperial Russian Prince, the senseless assassination of a powerful figure, a shocking attack on the supposedly invincible Warden of Texas, Catalina’s boss… And it’s only Monday. 

Within hours, the fate of Houston—not to mention the House of Baylor—now rests on Catalina, who will have to harness her powers as never before. But even with her fellow Prime and fiancé Alessandro Sagredo by her side, she may not be able to expose who’s responsible before all hell really breaks loose.


Title : Ruby Fever
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Hidden Legacy (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive) / eBook Edelweiss
Page Count : 320
Genre : paranormal romance / urban fantasy
Publisher : Avon/Harper 360
Release Date : August 23, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

As always, I never envy the task that is required by authors to wrap up a series. Especially one like this that is the continuation of the five books that came before.. and also sets up the (likely, eventually, p l e a s e n o w) books to come. That’s a lot of loose ends and a lot of new, tantalizing, threads to keep track of. And I think overall, IA did a good job. But.. it’s also a lot of stuff.

This book felt overwhelming in a lot of ways but mostly in terms of action sequences and throwbacks to the main trilogy (which, had I been smart, I would’ve reread all books not just Catalina’s, my bad) and sometimes it was just overload. I didn’t find that this had any emotional or feelsy moments, much less any swoons, and I’m really surprised by that.

In a lot of ways this is a very Catalina-centric story; she has the man she loves, they are committed, so there was less focus on them as a couple — barring a few specific interactions — instead it’s Catalina learning more about her powers (so cool!) and also some familial connections and surprises. Which, hey, I will never complain about Baylor Fam page time but I definitely expected to get socked in the feels along the way and there was only one tiny close call and even that didn’t cause a lump in the throat.

All that to say, as a romance? This was a little lacking. Alessandro ends up as a bit player, especially in light of a newcomer character who takes much of the spotlight because he is shiny and new and rather devious. This is much more plot and Big Bad confrontation plus wrap up than anything else. But with a secured love interest, I can see why; and at least they didn’t have any manufactured drama to deal with. Just something to keep in mind.

Despite some of the dynamic shifts from some of the well-earned reveals, which I really enjoyed, I don’t think this’ll go down as my favourite of the series. I think it’s book two, one, and three for me. But this is still solid, written by some of the GOATs, and featuring one of my absolutely favourite fictional families. I’m also so excited by the tease for Arabella’s book(s) and in reading this transcript (huge spoilers, mind you, you’ve been warned) I’m excited about the possibility of it being an self-published release so as to break out of the more restrictive trad-published formula.

But let’s be real I would be excited either way (also, not me losing my mind to see them reference book two of Iron and Magic because yesss, fiiiiiinally, 2018 was so many moons ago..) because even in a review sprinkled through with nitpicks, I have very little ability to remain unbiased in my love for these authors and their worlds. Having that said that, while I did initially round up on this, further thought (as in, I haven’t thought about this since finishing) has me deciding that.. well, this really was the weakest of the lot. Thus the rating should reflect that.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Grandparent hell
Spider warnings
Slow start

This was an pleasant but perhaps weakish installment in this UF series. I think my investment in this fandom, the sisters and the current couple kept me in the enjoyment sector but this book definitely had a slow start. The second half was a stronger read for me with more action and plot.

I always think with this family that the current couple I’m reading is my favourite, I loved Nevada and Connor, then Catalina and Alessandro came along…but now I find myself looking rather intently at Arabella and the indications we got in this book. Talking of couples, I felt a bit left wanting with Catalina and Alessandro, especially towards the end. Although these two are firmly in coupledom, I think we needed a bit more.

This was a strong plot, the best element being the grandparent storyline. I enjoyed how this part of the story came together. I did want more from the spider however…okay, maybe not.

I don’t know if this is the last Catalina story and Arabella is next but if so, I’m ready.

Thank you to Harper 360 for the eARC.

LIZZIE BLAKE’S BEST MISTAKE by Mazey Eddings

Lizzie has made endless mistakes. Kitchen fires, pyramid schemes, bangs (of the hair and human variety), you name it, she’s done it… and made a mess of it too. One mistake she’s never made is letting anyone get closer to her than a single hook-up. But after losing yet another bakery job due to her uncontrolled ADHD, she breaks her cardinal rule and has a two-night-stand that changes everything.

Once burned, twice shy, Rake has given up on relationships. And feelings. And any form of intimacy for that matter. Yet something about charming, chaotic Lizzie has him lowering his guard. For two nights, that is. Then it’s back home to Australia and far away from the pesky feelings Lizzie pulls from him. But when Lizzie tells him she’s got an unexpected bun in the oven, he’ll do whatever it takes to be a part of his child’s life… except be emotionally vulnerable, obviously. He’s never going to make that mistake again.

Through a series of mishaps, totally “platonic” single bed sharing, and an underground erotic baking scheme, Lizzie and Rake learn that even the biggest mistakes can have the most beautiful consequences.


Title : Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake
Author : Mazey Eddings
Format : eARC
Page Count : 335
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date : September 6, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

So clearly I only ever read the first paragraph (if even that) of the synopsis because after finishing this book, and realizing what makes up the majority of the content, I was sure the synopsis was cheekily dodging this particular trope. But no. It’s right there, in paragraph two : unexpected baby. Yikes. So, yeah, this one’s on me, folks. But here’s your warning incase you missed that, too.

Obviously (well, maybe not) this isn’t only about these two strangers who have to deal with the unplanned (despite their best intentions) consequences of their hook-up gone unexpected. We also have a lot of dialogue, discussion, and dealing/living-with adult ADHD and the various processing struggles and tricks required to function. Not only function but thrive. And, at the same time, finding the people around you — platonic or otherwise — who cherish you regardless and don’t treat you as a burden. Which is what one of our MCs was brought up to believe. The other has his own baggage, too, but it’s a little more in line with standard romance stuff; except for one thing that is sorta used as motivation (maybe not the right word, I’m struggling with how to phrase this without being too obvious, even though I want to shout about it from the rooftops; though I won’t) for why he is so quick so early on to jump in on making their partnership work. I won’t say more but there are layers that, even though it’s explained and there doesn’t seem to be an intent to villainize the situation, it just may not work for some readers because I think it’s a fine line on how it may come across — especially right now. And honestly while I understand to some degree why the author included it, it could’ve easily just not been there.

Overall, nothing about this made me mad — not even the thing I went on about above, I just kind of did a mental dodge around it; not even the baby stuff (which, by the way, I’m not anti-baby, I just don’t prefer them to be the focus and it was mostly the only plot-related conflict). But it’s just obviously not my jam. There were some emotional beats, some of the ADHD representation was interesting to read about as I’m not aware of anyone in my life with that diagnosis and certainly not read it described in the way the author did here, and some of the ‘trying to remain platonic while lusting after each other’ hijinks were entertaining. But I just didn’t connect. I didn’t laugh. And I was only minorly impacted by some of the aforementioned emotional turmoil.

This is Eddings’ second release and neither have quite landed for me, though both in different ways. I can definitely see why people on my flist are already enjoying this, and why others will still enjoy it. To each their own! I might give her one last shot (three strikes, you’re out!) before throwing in the towel though.

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