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. **

THE ATLAS SIX by Olivie Blake – double review!

The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation. 

Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person’s inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications. 

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society’s archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will. 

Most of them.


Title : The Atlas Six
Author : Olivie Blake
Series : The Atlas #1
Format : Physical ARC / eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : Adult Fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : March 3, 2022 (UK) / March 1, 2022

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Full concentration needed ahead
Clever and complex plot
Multiple MCs in a good way
A marathon but worth it

The Atlas Six felt like a read of epic proportions. This was a story with a grandious and complex plot, weaving and winding but by the end, you’re impressed by its stature. It constantly left me with the feeling that I wasn’t quite grasping things as I went along, but honestly, I think that’s part of the appeal as you reach the culmination of book one.

The book centred around six main characters and three or four substantial side characters. The main characters were truly fascinating, one was completely awful and one I grew to understand but didn’t like. They were all very different and that was what made them part of the chosen Atlas Six; their differences and their talents.

The world building was again…complex and as long as you concentrate, you’ll keep up as a reader. Learning the characters, the talents, the magical world, the organisations and the plot as it twisted and turned was challenging sometimes but ultimately rewarding. I enjoyed some of the unexpected rise to prominence from side characters and the things that weren’t what they seemed.

I would say this read was pacey. It felt long, sometimes trudging but always engaging. I appreciated this as a buddy read and being able to chat the plot and characters through. I’m definitely pumped to read more from this crew, I want to see my favs come through.

Thank you to Black Crow PR and Tor for the advanced copy.


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

No, it isn’t deja vu you’re feeling, I did already read and review this one. However, I also thought I had read that the re-release via trad publisher was going to have some edits or minor changes and.. I don’t think it did. So it could be that I misremembered a thing or two, the changes were subtle, or I was wrong in thinking that changes were to come. Pick your poison.

Either way, alas, my thoughts have not really changed from the first go round. I do think I enjoyed my time with the book a little more (which is why I bumped it a bit, even though it’s just semantics) but fundamentally my thoughts are the same.

This book somehow manages to be big and small in scope and the ensemble is a merry go round of shifting dynamics, in a mostly good way, but I think this’ll be a series that shines more in hindsight than it does in the infancy of it all. But, I mean, it could also all go to pot along the way depending on what awaits us. But. I choose to hope.

If you love an ensemble, if you are into academia-settings, fantasy and magic, and a whole lot of wtaf and mystery, you should definitely give this one a go.

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

GALLANT by V.E. Schwab – double review!

Everything casts a shadow. Even the world we live in. And as with every shadow, there is a place where it must touch. A seam, where the shadow meets its source.

#1 New York Times–bestselling author Victoria Schwab weaves a dark and original tale about the place where the world meets its shadow, and the young woman beckoned by both sides. The Secret Garden meets Crimson Peak in this stand-alone novel perfect for readers of Holly Black and Neil Gaiman.

Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?

New York Times bestselling author Victoria Schwab crafts a vivid and lush novel that grapples with the demons that are often locked behind closed doors. An eerie, standalone saga about life, death, and the young woman beckoned by both. Readers of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Melissa Albert, and Garth Nix will quickly lose themselves in this novel with crossover appeal for all ages.


Title : Gallant
Author : V.E. Schwab
Format : eARC / Physical ARC
Page Count : 352 / 310
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Greenwillow Books / Titan Books
Release Date : March 1, 2022 / March 8, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m a wee bit bummed about this one only because at the onset it just felt like it had so much potential. And while I didn’t hate where it went, it just didn’t seem to live up to itself. Not to mention I’m not entirely sure this one really had a point?

The biggest draw to this one, beyond the author (though I’ll note I’m not a super fan but have enjoyed more than I’ve disliked), was the kind of person Olivia herself represented. Don’t expect much dialogue in this novel because, surprise, Olivia is mute. I wasn’t quite sure how this would work and yet somehow I didn’t miss the lack of dialogue at all. There were some conveniences, of course, as this is fantasy and there are certain characters who manage to find their way around this but otherwise.. a few characters did sign with her or she would make do communicating in other ways.

The other element I really enjoyed were the kinds of creatures that Olivia is somewhat haunted by. I loved how Schwab described these, how we learned how Olivia grew to be aware of them, and those interactions. And the greater role they later play.

Outside of this though, the plot itself? I don’t know. I think it hyped itself up somehow and I was rather left wanting. The story itself is rather sad, or melancholy, and yet it’s also pitched against this big drama and end-of-the-world stakes and somehow they don’t quite marry all that well. Plus the ending itself is.. well, sad. And almost open ended? Maybe not totally but certainly, somehow, unsatisfying even though I normally like that kind of end. But it just didn’t work here.

I’ll be curious to see more reviews as we get closer to release (I’m writing this on January twenty-third) and determine if I’m on par with most readers or the outlier. But, having said all that, I definitely wouldn’t talk you out of picking it up. It’s an easy quick read, for all that it took me a week to start and finish (work and life distractions, not boredom), and I may have even been moved emotionally at a certain part. So. Yes, if this sounds like your cup of tea, do not think this review is trying to convince you otherwise.

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Intense creep level at times
Ghouls, grief and grand houses
Sad and lilting

There was so much to unravel in Gallant and in fact on finishing, I’ve not unravelled it all. This was such a clever book, incredibly easy to read and get into, with themes that could be less easy for some and a consistent level of creep and eerieness. I loved the eerieness, the dark atmosphere and how that ratcheted up to a level of heightened tension towards the end. Tenterhooks, people.

The protagonist, Olivia was unable or unwilling to talk, the former, I think and her world was grey with splashes of occasional colour. The opening up of her life to Gallant seemed like opportunity but it was a figurative can of worms, pandora’s box, a mess. The people inhabiting Gallant, Edgar and Hannah were warm and positive new influences on Olivia’s dull and austere life. Matthew was a different matter, but you just felt the more to his story.

The way the story eeked out, was haunting, unexpected and it had me on the edge of my seat; it was hard to put this book down. The book was brimming with sadness, it felt like a lilting melody and ultimately, that’s the feeling I’ve come away with. I am 95% satisfied with a slice of I wish.

This story was crafted with skill, ingenuity and former (and possibly future) reader’s tears. The illustrations and formatting of this book are incredibly special and bring much to the feels you get from reading.

Run, says her blood.
Stay, says her bones.”

Thank you to Titan Books for the stunning review copy.

A BRUSH WITH LOVE by Mazey Eddings – double review!

Harper is anxiously awaiting placement into a top oral surgery residency program when she crashes (literally) into Dan. Harper would rather endure a Novocaine-free root canal than face any distractions, even one this adorable. 

A first-year dental student with a family legacy to contend with, Dan doesn’t have the same passion for pulling teeth that Harper does. Though he finds himself falling for her, he is willing to play by Harper’s rules.

So with the greatest of intentions and the poorest of follow-throughs, the two set out to be “just friends.” But as they get to know each other better, Harper fears that trading fillings for feelings may make her lose control and can’t risk her carefully ordered life coming undone, no matter how drool-worthy Dan is.

Blood, gore, and extra-long roots? No problem. The idea of falling in love? Torture. 


Title : A Brush With Love
Author : Mazey Eddings
Format : eARC/audio
Page Count : 336/10 hours, 30 minutes
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan Audio
Release Date : March 1, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Oof, I don’t know if this was a situation of expectations just being too high — and for a debut, no less — but maybe my expectations were just too high. Even after all this time, I haven’t learned.

I don’t want to downplay all the good within these pages, the conversations around how grief changes you, the shocking way anxiety can control your life and how debilitating it is, even with coping and control methods, the importance and positivity around therapy.. and like, I did find the main characters cute.

But this book just didn’t take over my mind or my thoughts. I obviously reached for it way early, because I was keen, but I wasn’t bowled over by this. It’s good, sometimes very good, sometimes very sweet, but overall? I don’t think I’ll remember it in a week.

I did like that this centered around dentists, I don’t think I’ve ever read (or, now that I think about it, watched..) a story with this as the career or back drop and it was interesting to have that change in scenery.

I feel like a heel; I’m bummed to have read this so early (hi from June 2021! does 2022 suck less? please say yes..) and now won’t be screaming and shouting and pushing this on everyone and anyone I know. I still think if you were interested, you should absolutely give it a shot. I think it’s very possible I’m just the human embodiment of a wet blanket these days so this could totally just be a me thing. That said, I would read this author again, for sure.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Easy listening romance
Work-place connections
Teeth, anxiety disorder and drilling

This was an easy romance debut to get into and somehow, the author made the world of dentistry school, cavities and maxillo-facial surgery an entertaining environment. Daniel and Harper were opposities and their first meeting had me engaged with their story.

What Eddings weaves into this story is a building understanding of Harper’s anxiety disorder, it seemed mild at first, but she’d made an art out of hiding her distress. How this rolled out through the story and into the budgeoning relationship was well written and a core strength of this story.

Daniel was such a nice guy, a character I could really like. I enjoyed his flaws, how he navigated family burdens and trauma. While Harper was a really complex character with a lot going on, I could help but be endeared by her.

The dual POV story and dual narration played into the audio of the book so well. Overall, a satisfying and fun listen. I’d definitely look out for this author’s next book.

3.75 stars rounded up

Thank you Macmillan Audio and LibroFM for the review copy.

DELILAH GREEN DOESN’T CARE by Ashley Herring Blake

A clever and steamy queer romantic comedy about taking chances and accepting love—with all its complications—by debut author Ashley Herring Blake.

Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood where she was little more than a burden to her cold and distant stepfamily. Her life is in New York, with her photography career finally gaining steam and her bed never empty. Sure, it’s a different woman every night, but that’s just fine with her.

When Delilah’s estranged stepsister, Astrid, pressures her into photographing her wedding with a guilt trip and a five-figure check, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town that she used to call home. She plans to breeze in and out, but then she sees Claire Sutherland, one of Astrid’s stuck-up besties, and decides that maybe there’s some fun (and a little retribution) to be had in Bright Falls, after all.

Having raised her eleven-year-old daughter mostly on her own while dealing with her unreliable ex and running a bookstore, Claire Sutherland depends upon a life without surprises. And Delilah Green is an unwelcome surprise…at first. Though they’ve known each other for years, they don’t really know each other—so Claire is unsettled when Delilah figures out exactly what buttons to push. When they’re forced together during a gauntlet of wedding preparations—including a plot to save Astrid from her horrible fiancé—Claire isn’t sure she has the strength to resist Delilah’s charms. Even worse, she’s starting to think she doesn’t want to…


Title : Delilah Green Doesn’t Care
Author : Ashley Herring Blake
Series : Bright Falls (book one)
Format : eARC/Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Berkley/Little Brown UK
Release Date : February 22, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

While this wasn’t quite the “wow, new-favourite!” read I had maybe hoped it would be, I would definitely read this author again, so I think that’s still a win.

I think ultimately why this doesn’t rate higher for me is a bit because it’s at times somewhat childish and immature (such as in the case of the plans/hijinks the girls come up with to sabotage their friend’s/sister’s relationship, all towards proving said friend/sister isn’t meant to be with him) but also.. yeah, I don’t know. For a bunch of thirty year olds, somehow, it just read a little young. Maybe it was all the leftover childhood angst that infused it? I don’t know.

I really wanted to root for the romance — heyo, ladies who are super into wanting each other, more of this please — but while I liked both characters in theory, only one really came off the page for me. And that was Delilah. I felt for what Claire was going through, appreciated who she represented (not only a young mother but also having had a child with a man while still being very bi and how that dynamic had zero angst [well, not that kind of angst, at least]), but.. I didn’t really like her beyond the theory? Delilah though.. she broke my heart. She was vibrant and dynamic and I was a little in love with her myself.

Sure, it has a bit of that Cinderella-ish feel to it, and I wish maybe some of the “villains” of the piece had been less campy (maybe this is where I felt the immaturity from, too?) but overall there’s enough emotion to keep this grounded and from veering off in the direction of Too Much. Though some plot points maybe needed A Little More, too.

So, yes, on a whole? Not quite a slam dunk. But I will definitely read on in this series — well, I say series, I imagine it’ll be companion novels for the other friend and then the sister. But either way! I will read.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Great chemistry
Quirky cuteness

This book had all my excitement engaged, I fancied everything about this blurb, the potential of the couple, the small town and returning home vibe and the family complications. In execution, I enjoyed all these elements, just not as much as I’d hoped.

The strengths of this couple for me was that together they brought a quirky cuteness, Delilah brought the strong but untouchable feel to the piece and Claire brought a overwhelmed hot-mess-ness when really she wanted to project capability and organisation. I liked them together, their potential, their chemistry. There were some interesting side characters in Claire’s friendship threesome, especially Astrid, Delilah’s step mother and then the whole marriage scenario. The plot was interesting for sure.

So, all that is really positive but there was just something that made this read drag a bit for me. Honestly, I can’t quite put my finger on it but it took me weeks of picking up and putting down this book to finish and I’m sad about that. I wanted to be totally spun into the story that I couldn’t put it down.

Overall, I came out feeling this was an okay read with some good parts and slow parts.

Thank you to Little Brown for the early review copy.

THE DEEPEST OF SECRETS by Kelley Armstrong

It’s not always easy to live in the hidden town of Rockton, something Detective Casey Duncan knows firsthand. Tucked away in the Yukon wilderness, the community survives―and thrives―because the residents’ many secrets stay just that―secret.

But what happens when these secrets start to come out? Overnight, no one is safe. It’s not a question of if your secret will come out―but when

Casey and her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, need to find the culprit while protecting those who have been thrust into the spotlight. For a place built on privacy and new beginnings, Rockton isn’t handling these revelations very well. People are turning on one another, and when one of the loudest complainers turns up barely alive, it’s clear that their trickster is actually a murderer. 


Title : The Deepest of Secrets
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : Rockton (book seven)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This wasn’t at all how I thought this series would wrap. I mean, in some ways, yes, because we’ve known the end of Rockton was literally nigh for these characters but.. between the somewhat meandering mystery and cases to solve and how it does, actually, end? Rather disappointing.

What makes it extra sad is that book six had felt like a resurgence in a series that hadn’t been satisfying me like the early instalments had. So my hope had been restored we would go out with a bang. Instead it was a bit of a whimper, both with the villain(s) of the week and any kind of romance element. There just wasn’t much here.

This is still such an interesting series overall, with a great and exciting and challenging concept, and if you’re looking for something different amongst all the various procedural mysteries, this is definitely one to try. I just had much higher hopes for how we would say goodbye to these characters and what their futures would look like.

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

JADE LEGACY by Fonda Lee

Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.

The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.

The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.


Title : Jade Legacy
Author : Fonda Lee
Series : Green Bone Saga (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 713
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : November 30, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I think, in some ways, this might have been my favourite of the series. Mostly because it made me cry (twice!) but also because even though it’s the longest, and a bit drawn out at times, and it was sometimes hard to gauge the fact that the story spanned two decades, I did really appreciate certain characters the most in this instalment.

This book, Jade Legacy, might have been the most aptly titled and I think was a perfect name for the finale. This series was about many things but the legacy of this family, of the clans, of Kekon, was what it was all about.

Hilo, the man who eventually became the Kaul patriarch and leader of the No Peak clan, was a character I liked right from book one. But his journey over the course of the series was so interesting because in many ways he did not change. But there were subtle differences, as he aged, as he had a family to think of, as he saddled the weight of years of losses, that showed his progression as a person despite all the other factors at play. Shae, Hilo’s sister and right hand man, was a character I was always a bit perplexed about. She was so strong and independent, and rarely swayed by her brother and often outright challenging him when she shouldn’t, and I don’t think I ever liked her. But I absolutely appreciated her role and how she made space for Wen, Hilo’s wife, who could not be a Green Bone. The two shouldn’t be compared but I loved how their strengths came out to play in different ways and despite those differences they were both forces to be reckoned with. Anden, the aforementioned characters’ nephew, was another favourite — mostly. I loved that Lee put him on the journey she did because it was not remotely what was expected of him and where he ended up was so different from where he began. But it was very needed. I think his particular path, and POV, was maybe one of the most lackluster in a lot of ways but he was still integral.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

With a series that spanned over twenty years, with the amount of POVs we got, there’s no way to touch on everything. At the same time I do think, as characters grew older, and more were introduced, it was harder for those new faces to make as much of an impact. There was definitely some overshadowing. But I think maybe that was also intentional? And it’s also how it sometimes feels, growing up in the shadow of legends, being part of a new and more modern, or sometimes just different, generation. Nothing stays the same forever and that was beautifully touched on, too. Having said that, the plotting was plodding sometimes and the action occasionally felt really spaced out because of how much time the story spanned, but when it was good? It was good. When it hurt, it hurt. Lee pulled no punches even if the wind up could take hundreds of pages.

Strangely, considering I do think I enjoyed this most, this was also the one I had to push myself to get through as I did find myself frequently pulled out or distracted and I put it down a lot. But it also made me cry so maybe that’s a fair trade off. I’m sure there are things that, if I were more invested, or if I were to reread (which I don’t think I ever will), I might feel didn’t get explained as well, or weren’t resolved to enough satisfaction, but as it is? I am satisfied.

This was an immensely ambitious project with so many moving parts, so much history, and Lee gets massive amounts of credit for that. I had read her before and enjoyed her and after having read this series, even though it’s far from a favourite, I will definitely pick her up again.

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

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