Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

SIX TIMES WE ALMOST KISSED (AND ONE TIME WE DID) by Tess Sharpe

Six moments lead us to two girls, one kiss, and three little words that were maybe always true in this gorgeous novel perfect for fans of Nina LaCour and Jenny Han.
 
Penny and Tate have always clashed. Unfortunately, their mothers are lifelong best friends, so the girls’ bickering has carried them through playdates, tragedy, and more than one rom-com marathon with the Moms. When Penny’s mother decides to become a living donor to Tate’s mom, ending her wait for a liver transplant, things go from clashing to cataclysmic. Because in order to help their families recover physically, emotionally, and financially, the Moms combine their households the summer before senior year.
 
So Penny and Tate make a pact: They’ll play nice. Be the drama-free daughters their mothers need through this scary and hopeful time. There’s only one little hitch in their plan: Penny and Tate keep almost kissing.
 
It’s just this confusing thing that keeps happening. You know, from time to time. For basically their entire teenaged existence.
 
They’ve never talked about it. They’ve always ignored it in the aftermath. But now they’re living across the hall from each other. And some things—like their kisses—can’t be almosts forever.


Title : Six Times We Almost Kissed (And One Time We Did)
Author : Tess Sharpe
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ YA romance
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 24, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

You’d think we all would’ve learned by now but it bears repeating for relevancy — and also because I have not learned by now — but : a colourfully illustrated cover does not mean there is a lack of heavy. And this book has the heavy. Hoo boy.

Yes, spoiler alert, I cried. Twice.

This book is hard, yo. There is a lot of grief and loss to wade through, especially as it manifests so differently for so many people; and these characters are no exception. And, hey. Do you also love fraught mother-daughter dynamics? Because this has that, too. I do not love that dynamic, I find it incredibly horrible to experience, but instead of ruining the book (which has definitely happened to me before) I can respect it because Sharpe did such a great job with.. well, everything.

But before you run screaming in the opposite direction, this is also a queer romance and wow. Sharpe did this so well, too. The will-they-won’t-they-why-the-fuck-haven’t-they-already was perfect. All the flashbacks were brilliant. The core of these two girls was just.. gah. Their whole thing. Not friends, not enemies, but constantly in orbit. I loved them so much. You know that scene in The Pirates of the Caribbean? The “JUST KISS” scene? That was this entire book, pretty much. Minus the parts that were not.

Oh, and before, I forget, because it bears mentioning. I also loved their friends, both grade A cinnamon rolls, so much. I love me a friend group. This one wasn’t quite an ensemble but they left their mark nonetheless.

Yeah, I really loved this. And it’s left me with the same feeling I had after finishing The Girls I’ve Been. Which is : I need to read this author again. Deep dive her backlist. Put her on my radar for upcoming reads. All of the things.

If you can handle a heartbreaking and emotional but also really lovely story, with incredibly connections and complex dynamics, you need to pick this up.

** 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. **

MISTAKES WERE MADE by Meryl Wilsner

From the critically acclaimed author of Something To Talk About comes a sharp and sexy rom-com about a college senior who accidentally hooks up with her best friend’s mom.

When Cassie Klein goes to an off-campus bar to escape her school’s Family Weekend, she isn’t looking for a hookup—it just happens. Buying a drink for a stranger turns into what should be an uncomplicated, amazing one-night stand. But then the next morning rolls around and her friend drags her along to meet her mom—the hot, older woman Cassie slept with.

Erin Bennett came to Family Weekend to get closer to her daughter, not have a one-night stand with a college senior. In her defense, she hadn’t known Cassie was a student when they’d met. To make things worse, Erin’s daughter brings Cassie to breakfast the next morning. And despite Erin’s better judgement—how could sleeping with your daughter’s friend be anything but bad?—she and Cassie get along in the day just as well as they did last night.

What should have been a one-time fling quickly proves impossible to ignore, and soon Cassie and Erin are sneaking around. Worst of all, they start to realize they have something real. But is being honest about the love between them worth the cost?


Title : Mistakes Were Made
Author : Meryl Wilsner
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : Romance/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Kathering Tegan Books
Release Date : October 11, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Age-gap and incredibly messy love
Steamy

The characters and the plot of Mistakes Were Made centred on a significant age gap between two bisexual women, in additon, that connection in the form of having a thing with your best friends’s mom…right at the beginning, I thought oh hell. Suffice it to say, the title seems a little understated.

As the situation at the core of the story played out, I wanted to be on board with it but it felt somewhat icky to me from beginning to end. The one night, then affair with your best friend’s mom, got me so uncomfortable. I felt that Parker’s feelings were never really considered as they should have been by the MCs and that made me overall sad at the plot and a reluctant bystander to the ensuing drama. The resolution felt unrealistic to me.

Having read and enjoyed Wilsner’s debut, it was a bit of a suprise how steamy this read was. Her last book really wasn’t. I was mostly on board with that element but the scenes felt a little too frequent at times compared to plot development that might support the steam.

Overall, I could have got on board with the age gap much easily without the triangular connection. I’ll definitely seek out Wilsner’s next book and hope for a less messy context.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the eARC.

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. **

ASTRID PARKER DOESN’T FAIL by Ashley Herring Blake

An interior designer learns to rebuild her love life from the ground up with zero blueprints in this new romantic comedy by Ashley Herring Blake, author of Delilah Green Doesn’t Care.

For Astrid Parker, failure is unacceptable. Ever since she broke up with her fiancé a year ago, she’s been focused on her career—her friends might say she’s obsessed, but she’s just driven. When Pru Everwood asks her to be the designer for the Everwood Inn’s renovation that will be broadcasted on a popular home improvement show, Innside America, Astrid knows this is the answer to everything that is wrong with her life. It’ll be the perfect distraction from her failed love life, and her perpetually displeased mother might finally give her nod of approval.

However, Astrid never planned on Jordan Everwood, Pru’s granddaughter and lead carpenter for the inn’s renovation, who despises every modern design decision Astrid makes. Jordan is determined to preserve the history of her family’s inn, particularly as the rest of her life is in shambles. When that determination turns into a little light sabotage, ruffling Astrid’s perfect little feathers, the showrunners ask them to play up the tension. But somewhere along the way, their dislike for each other turns into something quite different, and Astrid must decide what success truly means. Is she going to pursue the life that she’s expected to lead, or the one she wants? 


Title : Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail
Author : Ashley Herring Blake
Series : Bright Falls (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : November 22, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

So basically what I learned from skimming reviews of this book is that this one worked where Delilah Green Doesn’t Care didn’t. But the opposite is also true. Those who loved the first in this series, didn’t have a great time with this one. But I’m happy to call this a win (book one was fine for me! lots of potential. just had some issues). And the main reason why? Astrid fucking Parker.

Once again, Blake comes in clutch with her stars. Astrid Parker stole my heart just like her stepsister did. And broke it, too. Much feels were had, some tears were shed. I could agonize over exactly how to describe how much Astrid got to me but honestly she was just great. Her whole self-discovery, her reflection, her relationship with her mother.. everything just worked. And speaking of things that worked, this time I was also on board with the love interest, too. Especially because when something is stirred up as potential conflict.. Jordan, while understandable harbouring some doubts, doesn’t stew and isolate and suspect. She goes to Astrid and they have a conversation sans any drama and conflict (and, actually, there’s a second scene that in any other book would’ve ended with a big blow up and didn’t.. huh). Like adults, gasp. And that’s yet another point in this book’s favour; the immature childish behaviour that plagued Delilah Green Doesn’t Care? None of it existed in this one. Huge plus.

Worth noting, too? The third act breakup actually works. And no, this isn’t me having a character growth moment; I am perfectly fine with the plot point if it makes sense without feeling manufactured or stupid or due to miscommunication. And Blake did it well with this story. So, hah.

Weirdly, for a story that centered around this whole renovation show event, those scenes and the associated characters really don’t stand out in hindsight. They were fine, sometimes fun, especially when there were instances of Astrid and Jordan squaring off for the views, and being encouraged by the showrunner, but it just shows how strong the main characters were to just totally outshine the majority of the plot scenery. Their dynamic, their chemistry, was just that strong. Ten out of ten.

Truly, I have little to no notes about this one. I am just soaking in this good feeling. Definitely recommend. And very glad there are more books to come in this series.

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. **

HOUSE OF HUNGER by Alexis Henderson

WANTED – Bloodmaid of exceptional tasteMust have a keen proclivity for life’s finer pleasures. Girls of weak will need not apply.

A young woman is drawn into the upper echelons of a society where blood is power, in this dark and enthralling gothic novel from the author of The Year of the Witching.

Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation is all she knows. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a peculiar listing in the newspaper, seeking a bloodmaid.

Though she knows little about the far north–where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service–Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself the newest bloodmaid at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery–and at the center of it all is her.

Countess Lisavet, who presides over this hedonistic court, is loved and feared in equal measure. She takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when her fellow bloodmaids begin to go missing in the night, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She’ll need to learn the rules of her new home–and fast–or its halls will soon become her grave. 


Title : House of Hunger
Author : Alexis Henderson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 304
Genre : historical fiction / horror / LGBTQIAP+ / fantasy
Publisher : Ace Books
Release Date : September 27, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

When the need for a spoopy vampire book to fit a spoopy-themed readathon prompt was required, this was (maybe oddly) the first to come to mind.

I had heard good things about the author’s witchy debut, which I have yet to read, and this cover really caught the eye. And while it did start off well, I will admit that the characterization of the lead character took too sharp a turn at a certain point and I felt the emotional impact and motivation just didn’t measure up. In fact, in general, I just didn’t find her convincing at all. Too forthright, too pushy, all from the get-go; and considering her position in life, before and after being a bloodmaid, it just didn’t really fit. I would’ve liked to see her come into that as a result of her change in circumstances instead of already possess it. Much like I would’ve liked to see more of what drove her to feel devotion, desire, and more, instead of it just seeming to happen. And likewise, her unique blood aside, she didn’t seem to inspire it in others, despite what we were told.

This wasn’t a long book and we had time for so much more. Not just Marion’s character development but more of the other Houses, the history, the politics. So much of this felt too much like set dressing; interesting at first glance but too static and without depth. Even Lisavet, for all her hunger, felt a little too two dimensional.

Having said all that, though this wasn’t a win, I may try to pick up The Year of the Witching during this autumnal spoopy time, after a few other changes in pace, to see if maybe that’ll be more my vibe.

NONA THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir

Her city is under siege.

The zombies are coming back.

And all Nona wants is a birthday party.

In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back.

The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.

And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…


Title : Nona the Ninth
Author : Tamsyn Muir
Series : The Locked Tomb (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 480
Genre : LGBTQIA+ fantasy/sci-fi
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : September 13, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So, listen. The transition from Gideon the Ninth to Harrow the Ninth was rough, right? We ended on such a heartwrenching note, after running around amok for hundreds of pages, only to be dropped into pure chaotic confusion with the sequel. Meaning I wasn’t really worried when Nona the Ninth also switched gears and we ended up in a whole new setting, facing familiar faces but new dynamics, and trying to understand things all over again. But knowing that Nona wasn’t supposed to exist but just got a little out of hand in the writing of the original third book, Alecto the Ninth, well.. it does sort of feel and read like that.

But maybe it’ll all fit together in hindsight, once the series is done, and on a reread. But as of now? There were some really delightful moments in the first half, and I was really into the interludes (so! much! explained! so! much! worldbuilding! wow), but on the whole? It really doesn’t feel like the series-part of the story starts until like.. 60%, if not more, into the book.

While book two had an adjustment in tone and voice, there still maintained some Locked Tomb-ness of the vibe and I don’t think we had that until right before the end in this third instalment. And yeah, it makes sense, but it also makes this book feel very much other from the rest.. and we already had an other book to content with. But at least that bore some similarity to the first. Equally, I didn’t find the writing as captivating, certainly not as funny, because everything was once again so different.

Yet, having said that, those delightful bits? The familial dynamic that we get to explore? Camilla fucking Hect? Chefs kiss. Really lovely. But, ultimately, this seems (at this stage) like a lot of filler and distraction and build-up; only to kick us in the pants for that big cliffhanger ending.

So, yes, I’m having f e e l i n g s about my most anticipated read of the last two years not being a standout but.. I have to trust the system, I have to trust Muir, and maybe next time I read this I’ll be slapping it with five stars because I will understand how much of this was needed for the end. But that day is not today, I’m afraid.

Please note, though, that none of this, none of it!, dims my excitement for the final instalment though. I need Alecto even more than I did before.

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. **

A TASTE OF GOLD AND IRON by Alexandra Rowland – double review

The Goblin Emperor meets “Magnificent Century” in Alexandra Rowland’s A Taste of Gold and Iron, where a queer central romance unfolds in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire.

Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen’s new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.

To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.


Title : A Taste of Gold and Iron
Author : Alexandra Rowland
Format : eARC / ARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : August 30, 2022

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


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This is a tough one to review. Because I had all sorts of feelings about it — one of which was, I read the first chapter and had such a visceral “nope” feeling about it that I put down the kindle and walked away for an hour — but mostly those feelings were ambivalent. And then occasionally frustrated because I was seeing things I could love but the love was just out of reach.

The good? The tropes. There’s an A03-style list of tags for what you can find in this book, I won’t list them out but they are easy to find if you go looking, and most of them are delicious. And honestly how they played out was also, mostly, delicious. And actually most of what I found to be good in this story was the romance because I did like these characters; one was easier to love than the other as he was more fleshed out, but the other had a good bit of unlayering from how he started out, too, so it didn’t feel too unbalanced. They are caught up in a complicated dynamic, and even though there was some angst due to pining and yearning and feeling unworthy being caught up in that, the dialogue that the author leaned on to express consent, reciprocity, the morality/ethics of it all, and understanding between them, was so good.

The less good? The world. For all the prose and descriptions, not to mention the wordcount, I did not have a good handle on the setting or the politics and found the conflict of the plot kind of flimsy. It didn’t help that we were thrown right into things near the beginning and, as mentioned, I really wasn’t feeling it — the first chapter really jarred me but that feeling stuck with me for like 30%. But we definitely had some sweet spots.. though the ending, too, as in the final page, was also jarring (is this a series? or is that just how it wraps?).

Split down the middle? The supporting cast. We had some really good eggs mixed in with our MCs and we also had some less good. Equally, we had some good eggs that just acted in frustrating ways and for reasons that are never truly explained but, of course, forgiven. Part of that supporting cast is a strong presence of queerness and identities interwoven in this world and zero homophobia. Huge win.

So, yes, if this romance-centric high fantasy did well by the romance, why such a low rating? I still felt the slowness of the background fantasy/action plot, and sometimes when there should’ve been urgency, there wasn’t, and I found that a bit jarring. I wish that the villain(s) of the piece had been a bit less obvious because it might’ve added more uncertainty and, again, given us some of the tension that was lacking. And, again, there was that ending — just as I was really feeling things were on the up I feel like I misstepped and was left stumbling a bit, which has me not wanting to round up.

Overall, while there are elements within the whole that could be worth a recommend, I would definitely hesitate to encourage anyone give it a try who wasn’t already going to.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Queer historical-feeling fantasy
Politics, parentage and partnerships
Feelings alert

I don’t know why I had so much trepidation over this book and why I read so much later than I intended because everything worked so well for me in this story. I love the UK cover but the US cover depicts how the main characters are described so well that I let my imagination take that course.

The world in this book was ruled by a female Sultan, women had the say on all things to do with parenting and males were called the ‘body father’ which was a very intriguing direction. Love was love in this world and Kadou was the princely brother of the Sultan. One of his guards, Evemer was the other main character.

The couple of the piece, Kadou and Evemer truly stole my heart, bit by bit. This was a serious slow burner but my investment grew until feelings were brimming over. There was a little bit of me at the end that felt something was missing. It seems we will get more books in this world, so I hope to see more of these two.

There’s superb anxiety, panic disorder and mental illness representation in this book. Those elements well woven in well and authentic to the character and those around him.

I part listened to this book and part read the physical copy and I have to say that the audio really helped me with the pronunciations of the unusual words for the guards, companions and so on. The narration was single POV and worked well.

Thank you to Tor Books for the review copy.