AN UNEXPECTED PERIL by Deanna Raybourn

A princess is missing, and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela’s chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica’s resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica’s own family—the royalty who has never claimed her


Title : An Unexpected Peril
Author : Deanna Raybourn
Series : Veronica Speedwell (book six)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical romance/mystery
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : March 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Easily the best part of this book was that it wasn’t the previous installment. As in, it was better. Not that it counts for much as I felt book five just so overwhelmingly.. well, not good. But anyway, yes, this was likely the closest to being what I loved from these books in the early installments. For which I’m grateful, even as I continue to believe I have just lost the love for this world. Or maybe the magic just isn’t there anymore. One or the other.

While I won’t say that this mystery was compelling or edge of your seat, I do think the diversion of the politics of this little country, and the involvement of the princess to the murder victim, was well done. I even appreciated that despite how things are now going for our investigative duo, there are still moments of friction and disagreements and yet it doesn’t become a big moment of drama. They work through their clashes, resolve them, and I appreciate that adult behaviour. I do think my love for Veronica will never quite return and it’s definitely Stoker that is keeping me in this game but she does have her moments.

Overall, even though we had some near death/disaster moments, the stakes never really feel high or even remotely tense. I think the series has just become somewhat.. fluffy? Lighthearted? I think I saw another reviewer say cozy and I don’t disagree with that actually. They are a little silly, while balancing real moments of history, and maybe I just have to stop taking them as seriously as I have during the last few installments. I don’t know. Time will tell. Because I still don’t think we know how many more books are to come. I wish we did.

Ultimately this wasn’t a bad addition to the series and I am happy to not have been disappointed yet again.

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

MARRIAGE AND MURDER by Penny Reid – double review!

The Devil is in the details . . .

Cletus Byron Winston wishes to marry Jennifer Anne Donner-Sylvester (aka The Banana Cake Queen) posthaste! He’s spent the last year wanting nothing more than for the celebrations to be brief, libations flowing, and BYOB (bring your own blueberries). His future mother-in-law has other plans, plans his intended has been willing to indulge, much to Cletus’s chagrin. Therefore, so must he. To a point. But truth be told, he wouldn’t mind if the meddlesome matriarch disappeared, at least until the nuptials are over.

On the night of Cletus and Jenn’s long-awaited engagement party, just when the surly schemer is of a mind to take matters into his own hands, a shocking event upends everyone’s best laid plans and sends the small hamlet of Green Valley into complete disarray. The final months leading up to Cletus and Jenn’s matrimonial bliss are plagued with chaos and uncertainty. Will Cletus and Jenn finally make it to the altar? Or will murder and mayhem derail their happily-ever-after?
And most importantly, who done it?

‘Marriage and Murder’ is the second book in the cozy mystery series Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries. It is best read after Winston Brothers #3, ‘Beard Science’ (which can be read as a standalone) and Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries #1, ‘Engagement and Espionage.’


Title : Marriage and Murder
Author : Penny Reid
Series : Solving for Pie : Cletus and Jenn Mysteries (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 347
Genre : romance/contemporary mystery
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : March 2, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I snuck a peek at my review for book one of this series just to see if my feelings about this follow-up were on par and.. you know, mostly? Yes. Also it’s funny to see I had spent a sunday afternoon reading book one and here I spent a sunday morning reading this one. Sundays are for mysteries?

But to reiterate from my previous review, seriously, what is in the water in this town? I realize this is a “mystery” series spinoff from the main books but honestly. Town o’lunatics. Having said that, though, there were fewer characters who irritated me this time around (we love to see growth!) but the drama level is high. Even though I think this one was tamer.. in a few ways. Vague comments are vague.

Overall I find a lot of the conflicts in Reid’s books are a wee bit OTT but I think it feels manageable because her characters are also full of personality. So it all kind of feels on-par.. until you stop and think about it.

Cletus, one of the characters with the absolute most personality, however? He was really off his game in this one. There were reasons (excuses) given of course but it was interesting to see Reid put him through being.. well, fallible. Not quite the smartest in the room. I’m not sure I had many thoughts about Jenn, or about her realizations or the things she came to terms with, which may not be a good thing but neither was it bad. And, I mean, even though this is their series, overall it’s the ensemble that really sells this for me. As always.

Somewhat bonkers plot and conflict aside, even if my feelings overall are becoming bit muted about these books as time goes on, I still had a pretty good time being back in this world. And after all this time, and after all these books and spinoffs, it would take something pretty big to get me to stop reading at this point.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Shenanigans upon shenanigans
Family crises
Cue Barry White music

Marriage and Murder took me by surpise in a few ways. Things happened fast and I did not expect that to happen. Another thing I didn’t expect in this book was the pace change in terms of the intimacy between Jenn & Cletus. Book one was a desert and book two was a flood. All the mayhem was wrapped up in the usual tone of the Winstons, Cletus especially bringing that sanguine, dry wit.

I didn’t always love the story in this one but I will always love the Winstons per se and we got lots of side servings. I particularly loved the Ash side storyline in this one, it was pretty special and I have missed Ashley a little. I could have done with a bit more Drew, though. The Iron Wraiths are a necessary evil in this book but they always discomfort me and I think they’re supposed to.

I liked seeing Jenn’s self confidence rise but I also didn’t feel like I got enough of Jenn’s psyche in this book, especially considering how all the events would have had such an impact on her.

The pacing was fast to lull, then it picked up again. Sometimes I had to push a little reading but the culmination was a doozy (a good one). This series is definitely one for the fans and Penny Reid pulls off the suspense alongside keeping the wit and romance of the Winstons.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

BEST LAID PLANS by Roan Parrish

A man who’s been moving his whole life finally finds a reason to stay put.

Charlie Matheson has spent his life taking care of things. When his parents died two days before his eighteenth birthday, he took care of his younger brother, even though that meant putting his own dreams on hold. He took care of his father’s hardware store, building it into something known several towns over. He took care of the cat he found in the woods…so now he has a cat.

When a stranger with epic tattoos and a glare to match starts coming into Matheson’s Hardware, buying things seemingly at random and lugging them off in a car so beat-up Charlie feels bad for it, his instinct is to help. When the man comes in for the fifth time in a week, Charlie can’t resist intervening.

Rye Janssen has spent his life breaking things. Promises. His parents’ hearts. Leases. He isn’t used to people wanting to put things back together—not the crumbling house he just inherited, not his future and certainly not him. But the longer he stays in Garnet Run, the more he can see himself belonging there. And the more time he spends with Charlie, the more he can see himself falling asleep in Charlie’s arms…and waking up in them.

Is this what it feels like to have a home—and someone to share it with? 


Title : Best Laid Plans
Author : Roan Parrish
Series : Garnet Run (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance
Publisher : Carina Adores
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I definitely went into this read with slightly lower expectations than I did going into book one; and while this isn’t going to be a favourite it definitely worked better for me. Mostly because of Charlie.

Characters (people) like Charlie just break my heart. And I thought Parrish did such a good job of making him big, tough, and caring but also giving him complex feelings and layers and a good chunk of angst. He felt so beautifully dimensional and the few parts that got me close to choking up were all for him.

Charlie Matheson wasn’t a Boy Scout. He wasn’t Mr. Perfect. And he wasn’t a goody-goody. Charlie Matheson was an adult who’d never gotten to be a child, and Charlie Matheson was finally mad about it.

As for Rye, I liked him, too, prickly little man that he was but sadly he definitely didn’t stand out in comparison to Charlie. Not that many people would! While he is definitely his own person, I liked him best as Charlie’s champion. Those moments are definitely my kind of catnip.

This is definitely a more wholesome feel-good kind of series than Parrish’s rockstar reads, though there are tie-ins!, but still with a good portion of steam, and plenty of four-legged characters running around for even more sweetness. All that and a gorgeous cover, too? I enjoyed this read and think you will, too!

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

THE INITIAL INSULT by Mindy McGinnis

Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things. 

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.


Title : The Initial Insult
Author : Mindy McGinnis
Series : The Initial Insult (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA mystery/thriller
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I think we can all agree that what the actual fuck.

I have such a weird relationship with McGinnis’ books. I love that she writes the strangest but often most compelling, unflinching, kind of things. But I seem to either love them, hate them, or not know whether I love or hate them. This is in the last category. And it’s a stranger feeling, too, considering this isn’t a standalone and there’s to be a sequel. Maybe I’ll know which camp I fall into after reading book two? Because I will.

I couldn’t tear myself away from this, could only stare unblinking as things got weirder and continued to escalate, and then.. that ending. Which we know isn’t an ending, but. Wow.

I’ve read this two months early so I’m going to be incredibly interested to see where this goes, and how people feel, as more readers pick it up. There’s really not much more to say! Compelling, yes, but definitely a qu’est-ce-que-fuck kind of read.

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

LOVE AT FIRST by Kate Clayborn

From Kate Clayborn, the acclaimed author of Love Lettering, comes a sparkling, tender novel about bickering neighbors, surprise reunions, and the mysterious power of love . . .

Sixteen years ago, a teenaged Will Sterling saw–or rather, heard–the girl of his dreams. Standing beneath an apartment building balcony, he shared a perfect moment with a lovely, warm-voiced stranger. It’s a memory that’s never faded, though he’s put so much of his past behind him. Now an unexpected inheritance has brought Will back to that same address, where he plans to offload his new property and get back to his regular life as an overworked doctor. Instead, he encounters a woman, two balconies above, who’s uncannily familiar . . .

No matter how surprised Nora Clarke is by her reaction to handsome, curious Will, or the whispered pre-dawn conversations they share, she won’t let his plans ruin her quirky, close-knit building. Bound by her loyalty to her adored grandmother, she sets out to foil his efforts with a little light sabotage. But beneath the surface of their feud is an undeniable connection. A balcony, a star-crossed couple, a fateful meeting–maybe it’s the kind of story that can’t work out in the end. Or maybe, it’s the perfect second chance . . . 


Title : Love at First
Author : Kate Clayborn
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : romance
Publisher : Kensington Books
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I want to say that if you loved LOVE LETTERING you will also love this but it’s not something that I would even compare one to the other. Unless you consider all the emotions I felt for both. In which case yes. Just.. yes.

[..] he couldn’t really explain it, the relief he felt. Out of all his visitors today, she was the enemy he should be dreading the most; she was the most dangerous to him. Frankly, she was probably here to finish him off. But he didn’t think any of that, at first. He looked up and saw her there and all he could think was : finally. Finally she came.

What I love so much about Clayborn is how quiet her books are even as they yell in your face, in your heart, in your soul. I might even have to call it the Quincy effect. You might end up a mess from the experience but you love it anyway (I swear this’ll make sense to people who’ve read this book, haha, except in this case the mess is tears). But back to my point, few authors I’ve read have successfully and consistently translated tenderness into text. And I don’t mean tender moments.. but she’s fully capable of those, too, pure tenderness into a moment between characters, but also in a turn of phrase, an inner thought, the touch of a hand, the desire to suddenly use a term of endearment. There were so many moments in this book (in so many of this author’s books, in fact) where I just died quiet little deaths because of how much I was made to feel.

You don’t have to love people the way you learned to love at first.

What sets this apart from LOVE LETTERING, too, is that we get a dual POV this time. And I just.. it was perfect? But the characters are not; they have baggage, flaws, and there is some angst. But it’s not big blow ups, dark secrets, epic tragic pasts, huge breakups. It’s real slights, tiny devastations, waves of grief, it’s learning to let go when you’re holding on too tight while at the same time it’s also letting yourself hold on instead of drifting away and remaining impermanent.

On a maybe more cheerful note, there’s also a wonderfully wholesome element in the secondary cast of characters that bring so much joy and fun to the lives of our leads. I absolutely wanted to jump into these pages and take up residence in one of the units (sorry Nora!) and take part in the hijinks and gossip and community. In the less wholesome category, if you’re looking for a solid romance? Attraction, chemistry, push and pull, and steam? There’s also that. Because that first kiss? Hoo boy. Might’ve fogged up the glasses. This also have one of my all-time favourite tropes but I don’t even want to mention it and spoil it. That’s how good it is. And how much you will enjoy watching it unfold.

I absolutely want everyone to read this and as I write this review it’s October twenty-third, which means it’s four months to the day before this is even released into the world, which means I’m shouting at my fellow Clayborn lovers to request and read this now. Because I am so alone in my feels and want everyone to experience this. I want everyone to laugh where and when I laughed. Cry where and when I cried. Do the kindle-clutch-to-the-chest during every tender scene (I’m not the only one who does this, I know I’m not!). And just bask in these feelings I feel.

Also, there are kittens. Just incase you needed one more reason to convince you to read it. Kittens.

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

PAROUSIA by Laura Lascarso

After months of imprisonment, Vincent is struggling to adapt to the outside world. His body and mind are strangers to him, and Henri, his one constant his entire life, doesn’t understand the man he’s become.

Henri wants Vincent to take time to heal, but the revolution is rapidly unfolding with the thirteen tribes amassing at their doorstep to plot the Imperium—and Azrael’s—demise. Vincent gets swept up in the conflict and in doing so, puts himself in harm’s way. Parousia be damned, Henri will not to allow Vincent to become a martyr for the cause.

With his demoness mother at the helm of their campaign, Vincent must battle Lena’s ambitions and the other tribes’ gambits to usurp power if their revolution is to be successful. But he’ll never succeed with Henri obstructing him at every turn.

Both men are in love and at war with each other, but only one of them can rule.

Parousia is the final installment of the Mortal and Divine trilogy. Revenge never tasted so sweet, or so bloody.


Title : Parousia
Author : Laura Lascarso
Series : Mortal and Divine (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 390
Genre : paranormal romance / LGBTQIA+ romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : February 7, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

Listen. I am hella privileged to be one of the beta-ish readers for these books so it’s impossible to say that I am totally unbiased about this world after being in it for so long.

This series, in general, is delightful because it feels different from so many other paranormal romances out there, queer or otherwise, and because it’s just dark enough to thrill you without leaning too hard on any particular buttons. This finale I think maybe dialed it up a notch or two from book two but book one definitely takes the cake for darkest. So hopefully that reassures anyone who starts into this world but wonders where it might go.

That said, seeing as this is a finale, am I going to spoil anything? Hahah nope. Will I tease? Yes. The steam will have you reaching for a fan, the soft moments will have you melting, the stakes will have you clutching for a hand hold, and the snark will definitely inspire a laugh or three.

Lascarso has created a complex mythology and many an intrigue and this final book in the Mortal and Divine world really fleshes out the bigger picture of the whole conflict that has been building since the start.

But at it’s core this really is just about two souls and the lengths they would go for each other — the sacrifices, yes, but also promises they break, thinking only to protect. These two are such a perfect fit but not seamless, very much their own part of the tapestry, and their battles on the grand scale never precludes them from battling each other, and sometimes that means crossing lines, making mistakes.. and it’s such a real evolution, a give and take, and I loved the dynamic, especially when it wasn’t perfect.

This has been such a great ride and while I’m sad it’s over I can’t wait to see where Lascarso will go next.

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

WHAT BIG TEETH by Rose Szabo

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN MEETS THE ADDAMS FAMILY IN THIS HAUNTING STORY OF ONE GIRL’S ATTEMPT TO RECONNECT WITH HER MONSTROUS FAMILY.

Eleanor has not seen or spoken with her family in years, not since they sent her away to Saint Brigid’s boarding school. She knows them only as vague memories: her grandfather’s tremendous fanged snout, the barrel full of water her mother always soaked in, and strange hunting trips in a dark wood with her sister and cousins. And she remembers the way they looked at her, like she was the freak. 

When Eleanor finally finds the courage to confront her family and return to their ancestral home on the rainy coast of Maine, she finds them already gathered in wait, seemingly ready to welcome her back with open arms. “I read this in the cards,” her grandmother tells her. However, Grandma Persephone doesn’t see all, for just as Eleanor is beginning to readjust to the life she always longed for, a strange and sudden death rocks the family, leaving Eleanor to manage this difficult new dynamic without help. 

In order to keep the family that abandoned her from falling apart, Eleanor calls upon her mysterious other grandmother, Grandmere, from across the sea. Grandmere brings order to the chaotic household, but that order soon turns to tyranny. If any of them are to survive, Eleanor must embrace her strange family and join forces with the ghost of Grandma Persephone to confront the monstrousness lurking deep within her Grandmere-and herself.


Title : What Big Teeth
Author : Rose Szabo
Format : eARC
Page Count : 226
Genre : YA fantasy/paranormal thriller
Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This wasn’t quite what I was expecting after being hooked by that absolutely incredible cover and then, very quickly after, by the pitch.

I honestly don’t quite know what this was. It’s such a hodge podge of so many things, and almost feels like twelve different stories in one — a bizarre mix of everything in the pantry plus the kitchen sink — and so sometimes I would love a taste, other times I would wonder who thought to mix such things together and why, and then even still I would just be hunting for the other shoe before it could drop.. even though I thought I was already wearing both shoes. Does any of this make sense? Likely not. Probably because of so many mixed metaphors. But it feels fitting.

I was tempted to leave this unrated because I truly don’t know how to feel about this but ultimately even considering the bits I liked, it all just feels like.. not cohesive? Weirdly stitched together? Better yet.. you know that feeling you get when your long sleeved shirt is bunched up high on your arm under your hoodie? The shirt is comfortable, the sweatshirt even moreso, but you are highly uncomfortable anyway. That’s maybe the best I can do. Separately everything about this, on its own, and maybe even in some combinations, are things I like. All together? Bizarre. Strange. Weird. Pick a synonym.

Having said that, there is definitely going to be an audience for this. I read this two months early and I already see a lot of advance praise for it. So take this review, as always, with a grain o’salt.

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

THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers

“The Unity Project saved my life.”

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying–and failing–to prove it.

“The Unity Project murdered my son.”

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone.

But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her–to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

Welcome to The Unity Project.

The next pulls-no-punches thriller from New York Timesbestselling and Edgar Award-winning author Courtney Summers, about an aspiring young journalist determined to save her sister from a cult. 



Title : The Project
Author : Courtney Summers
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA thriller/mystery
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

It’s probably my fault for expecting The Project to be another Sadie but.. I expected another Sadie.

That said, the way that Summers actually utilized this concept, and your preconceived notions about how exactly that looks like, might end up being different from the reality. Or so was the case for me. And that was definitely to its benefit, I think.

Having a sister is a promise no one ubt the two of you can make — and no one but the two of you can break.

This was definitely on the tamer end of a story featuring a cult, or an organization that looks like one (but is it?), so I would encourage those who are interested but afraid of the potential darkness to not despair. I think you could handle this. That doesn’t mean it’s pure easy going, of course, but it’s far less brutal than I thought it would be. Though not without an edge.

There’s no forgiveness in me, I don’t think. Just a brutal acceptance of all that has been lost and a resigned march forward in the face of no other options.

The plot is what kept me reading for this one. Not the characters. Unfortunately I just couldn’t quite connect to anyone. There was loss and heartbreak and abandonment that I could definitely sympathize with at times but I eventually did hit a wall where I couldn’t go further or parts I was just reading, not really living, if that makes sense. I’m kind of bummed because I definitely wanted an experience like Sadie (which wrecked me) and I didn’t get anywhere near that. But it’s okay.

While I wanted something from this that I didn’t get, though the plot hooked me and kept me going, it didn’t quite follow that expected path, which is definitely in its favour. It’ll be memorable for that.. but not much else.

A good read, and not one that felt very long, with a lot of meat for you to chew but unfortunately, at least for me, not one that left me feeling totally satisfied.

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

THE EX TALK by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers. 



Title : The Ex Talk
Author : Rachel Lynn Solomon
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .25



Hollis’ 4.25 star review

I’ve had an ARC of this on my kindle for so long. Why did I put off reading this? Why.

I am eating Tater Tots with my former nemesis in a dive bar at eleven o’clock on a Monday night. My life has ceased to make sense.

If you’re looking for a hate/dislike style enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance set in the workplace to fill the hole created by stories like The Hating Game, while still very much being its own thing, you should absolutely pick this one up. Because this is such a unique concept, too, outside of that specfic flavour. You’ve heard of fake dating. But have you heard of fake exes?

I’m scrolling back to the beginning of his photos when tragedy strikes. My hand slips on my laptop and I accidentally hit the like button. On a really old photo of him and his ex-girlfriend. The only rational solution is to set myself and my laptop on fire.

It may have taken a chapter or two for me to sink my teeth into this but once I started flipping pages, I couldn’t stop. I devoured this. Parts of this had me outright howling with laughter and once the romance kicked in, hoo boy. Hi. Yes. More of that.

You have CDs?
Old car. That’s all it can handle.”
Besides, then she can act all hashtag retro.
I hate that CDs are retro.”

Solomon’s banter is so solid, the dynamic between these two lead characters so fun and a little flipped when you think of standard gender stereotypes, and all the little generational/age gap jokes were just hysterical (she’s just about thirty, he’s early twenties). Plus I’m not sure I have ever read a story set around public radio so that was really fun as a setting and we got little transcript bits, twitter feeds, and more to spice it all up and I always love that, too.

It’s ridiculous that there’s no cat lady equivalent for guys. Fucking misogyny.”
Cat man?
Sounds like a very gentle superhero.

Honestly the only thing I didn’t like was the public display/grand gesture/grovel (it’s not a spoiler, this is a romance, of course this happens) but I generally hate these big moments so I’m not really surprised I didn’t quite get on with it here, either. But that’s a very personal thing. Not really my jam.

I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a snappy, delicious, hilarious, sweet, sexy, and very fun time. And considering the year we’ve just had? We could all do with this. But this also touches on grief, on finding your way even if you think you have it all figured out, the trials of adulthood, and more. Pick this one up. I’ll definitely be trawling through Solomon’s backlist (though, just for information purposes, she’s been strictly YA up until this point) and I am so very excited for her next release. Whatever it might be.

** I received an ARC from the author in a giveaway (thank you!) and was under no obligation to review. **

BEFORE SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa Gardner

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a propulsive thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten

Frankie Elkin is an average middle-aged woman, a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will–searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation. She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier. Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim’s wary family tells Frankie she’s on her own–and she soon learns she’s asking questions someone doesn’t want answered. But Frankie will stop at nothing to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.


Title : Before She Disappeared
Author : Lisa Gardner
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : crime/mystery
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Incase you’re wondering how this fits into Gardner’s DD Universe, or various connected series, surprise! It doesn’t. BEFORE SHE DIED is a standalone from this prolific author and stands apart (at least for now?) and in a sense our protagonist, Frankie Elkin, feels like a combination of all Gardner’s other leading ladies.

What Frankie does is investigate missing persons cases, specifically people of colour, whose disappearances have remained unsolved, long gone cold. This definitely gave me a bit of a Flora vibe, minus the vigilante thing, because Frankie has no investigative experience, isn’t pretending to be a cop or a private detective. She is a full on civilian, leaning into the perks of having no red tape to contend with, while somehow managing to ask the right questions, poke the right bears, and use her single-minded focus as an limitless resource to do what the police can’t : find answers. And though she is without training, and heeds no rules, she gave me serious DD vibes with her wit, and her addiction, as a recovering addict, made me think of Rainie. See? Little bit of everyone.

Did I like her though? I don’t know. Sometimes. She definitely has a bit of mystery of her own, some backstory that haunts her, and haunts us too with teasing little moments that make us wonder what happened, what would possess a middle aged woman to be transient, traveling from city to city, state to state, working odd jobs to make a living wage for the length of time she needs to search out the missing person, only to pick up and leave. I love the idea of this. I love how Gardner leaned into the loneliness of it, the fixation, a different form of addiction — one she doesn’t resist, one she feeds, even as she fights the call of a drink — and yet I never truly.. felt her, understood her. Maybe that’s realistic, though. Maybe we’re not supposed to. No one else seems to.

The mystery of this story? So unique. I’m not sure I’ve read one like it. It twists and turns, the pieces never seem to quite fit, much less seem to actually belong to the same puzzle, and yet it did all inevitably make sense.

What I liked almost as much as the concept? The setting and, as it went hand in hand, the supporting cast. This takes place in a very multicultural area in Boston and the mix of neighbours, the various people Frankie befriends, orbits around, they all felt rich, solid, like people I would want to know. It makes me sad that even if we get another story featuring Frankie, it won’t be with these other characters. Or, rather, unlikely to be. Because that defeats the concept of her existence, of her mission.

Overall this was really solid, though I definitely found the first half more compelling, and while it probably won’t make the cut if I ever did a Top Ten Gardner Books list? I still had a good time with it.

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