FULL DISCLOSURE by Camryn Garrett

In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon. 

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too. 

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…


Title : Full Disclosure
Author : Camryn Garrett
Format : ARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ contemporary
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 29, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I fully admit that I requested this one because of the unique circumstances described in the synopsis. A YA contemporary dealing with HIV? Not a throwback story, or historical, set against the AIDS crisis but a real person, in today’s world? I had to read it. Adding to this already rare subject matter, was a diverse cast, dealing with topics of both race and sexuality.

But ultimately I think I loved the concept more than the execution.

This story reads a little like SIMON VS THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA. Our lead has a secret, she’s not out about her HIV at school (not after the disaster that happened at her last one), and she hasn’t even told her best friends; which means neither does her crush know. But someone does and someone threatens to out her if she doesn’t spill the beans by a specific deadline. The threats even get worse as her crush suddenly becomes her boyfriend. And Simone has to make a choice : avoid the chance at love and be browbeat by an unknown or come clean to those she cares about.

Throughout the story, there are little red herrings as to who this blackmailer is. And I’ll admit I did guess correctly. I won’t spoil anything about Simone’s choices (does she tell, is she outed, does she tell and end up outed anyway) but I will say that, not being represented by anything in this book — I’m not queer or black or HIV positive (though the author is the everything but the latter) — I thought everything felt true. What ultimately kind of failed for me was some of the side drama with Simone’s besties. I felt they sometimes transitioned into strange discussions or arguments that never felt relevant for the circumstances whereas her friends from the support group, a gathering for other HIV positive teens, were fabulous.

The romance was sweet, the obsession with musicals wasn’t really my thing but I appreciated the relevance of them doing a production of Rent, and I would 100% read a backstory/companion about Simone’s parents. She had a somewhat complex and blended family situation, being adopted and also with particular dynamics still present between her dads, but overall I just loved them both so much. It was particularly nice that, with everything else going on, parental angst was not present.

Additionally, Simone is very aware and very responsible about her diagnosis. She has maturity, respect, and agency in regards to how she has to manage it and yet also wants to be educated on protocol for being sexually active while protecting herself and her partner. This is a story about living with HIV and living a full, healthy, life. There’s no real tragedy here.

So, yes, I didn’t love this but I love what it represents, what it will offer to other readers, and overall the education it’ll give many people who just don’t know enough, or maybe rely on ignorant prejudice, about HIV. Highly recommend for that alone.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

I requested this book because it oozed the grabby vibes with a YA context of a HIV positive protagonist. This book had lots of important themes and it was generally educational to those who might not know much about the virus in the context of adolescence and sexual relationships. However, it terms of execution and connection to the characters, the narrative left me on the outside looking in, disconnected and wanting more.

The protagonist, Simone was a secure person on the cusp of womanhood but with so many new questions about a health condition she’d lived with since forever. Simone was exploring her sexual identity, potential attractions and relationships and for the first time she was questioning what that meant in the now for her and her circumstances.

What I liked were the multiple reps of sexual identity and living with HIV, there’s so much in terms of widening knowledge and horizons for young people reading this book. I loved the dads, they were ridiculously protective on the one hand and everything precious on the other. I liked Miles but I found him unrealistic in a number of situations.

I struggled somewhat with feeling connected to Simone herself and her friends, Lydia and Claudia. There was something missing in these characters, something in the narrative that just didn’t hang right and I still can’t put my finger on it. The drama lama later in the story was predictable but I did enjoy how the story came together in the end. Although I remain unsure about Miles’ parents and any resolution of that issue.

I wanted to love this book, I appreciate its existence but it was just an okay read for me. I think maybe those younger readers than me might gain more from the narrative than I did.

Thank you to Penguin Children’s for the early review copy.


WORK FOR IT by Talia Hibbert

In this village, I’m an outcast: Griffin Everett, the scowling giant who prefers plants to people. Then I meet Keynes, a stranger from the city who’s everything I’m not: sharp-tongued, sophisticated, beautiful. Free. For a few precious moments in a dark alleyway, he’s also mine, hot and sweet under the stars… until he crushes me like dirt beneath his designer boot. 

When the prettiest man I’ve ever hated shows up at my job the next day, I’m not sure if I want to strangle him or drag him into bed. Actually—I think I want both. But Keynes isn’t here for the likes of me: he makes that painfully clear. With everyone else at work, he’s all gorgeous, glittering charm—but when I get too close, he turns vicious. 

And yet, I can’t stay away. Because there’s something about this ice king that sets me on fire, a secret vulnerability that makes my chest ache. I’ll do whatever it takes to sneak past his walls and see the real man again. 

The last thing I expect is for that man to ruin me. 


Title : Work for It
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : Just For Him (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 283
Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Nixon House
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Goodness. I.. goodness.

So I treated myself to this book after a disappointing read, which felt good because I love supporting delightful authors, and then I ended up sorta impulsively buddy reading it with friends who also deserved a treat (also hahaha sorry guys, as always, I am the worst buddy reader), so generally everything about this read was heading towards a good time. And then I started getting sucked into this book and things got even better.

I may not be built like a lorry, like some people–
I prefer ‘brick shit-house’.”
–but I’ve been told I have a terrifying aura.”
Would be more terrifying you didn’t talk about auras.”

If you like Roan Parrish’s Riven series, you’ll love WORK FOR IT. Hibbert infuses this slowburn m/m romance with the same kind of mental health focus that Parrish does and she, too, does it so well. It adds layers to a story that didn’t need them, because it would’ve been good even without, but with them it’s delicious and emotional. Even better it’s a hate-to-love — in a broad sense, that is, but more specifically it’s a attracted-but-prefer-to-bicker-instead-of-bone which eases into friendship and then more. It’s not only beautiful but it’s a delight. 

How, exactly, does one say, “I assumed you would stop loving me if you found out how depressed and anxious I am,” without making it sounds as if you think the other person’s a bit of a prick?

This book steamed up my glasses, made me cry, made me laugh, made me swoon. There are passages that are angsty af as well as heartbreaking but the emotional evolution, the character growth and the challenges they face, it’s all such a perfect balance. For all the quick build of the connection, it’s equally glacial. The pacing between them is the perfect kind of slow, of cautious, of clear consent, and it’s completely and categorically hot. Also the feeeeeels.

What the fuck am I supposed to do with him if he doesn’t want tea? He’s just exhausted my social knowhow with five words.

I now realize I’ve said nothing at all about the book itself so let’s break it down :

depressed former playboy. reclusive grumpy farmer. opposites attract. age gap. size gap. wait, that last one sounds awful, I just mean one of them is Very Big and the other is Not As Big. kitchen hijinks. Soft Men (not boys, they are older, it’s great). trying a little tenderness. supportive friends. also some sheep.

This is how he wins, how he makes me all dizzy and soft: he smiles, for real, and for me.

I’m not sure that break down accomplished anything at all so instead you should just read this book.

For Christ’s sake, did he have to insult me with Scrabble words? Couldn’t he have just called me a tosser?

I will mention that in writing this review I discovered this is the fourth book of a series which does make sense considering some side characters who were woven in and out with backstory that was both briefly explained and implied, so. Maybe that’ll keep you from picking this up right away but. It definitely stands on its own. Though I may find myself working my way through the right order sooner rather than later..

MOONCAKES by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu (artist)

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.


Title : Mooncakes
Author : Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu (artist)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 256
Genre : YA LGBTQ+ fantasy graphic novel
Publisher : Lion Forge
Release Date : October 15, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

This graphic novel about witches, werewolves, and magic, is adorable, queer, and inclusive. There is a ton of every day representation mixed in amongst the magical, the bittersweet, and the fantastical. But I think where this would’ve been a bigger success for me is if more time had been spent in the set-up.

The reunion between these two main characters is very unexpected and things between them seem sped up while the reader is left trying to catch up to the why and how the all the backstory. We do get some of that after the fact, in the wrap up of the story, but I would’ve preferred some of it upfront instead of how it was done.

I also found myself a little lost in some of the nuance of the magic, the culture, and how it all worked. But maybe I’m just spoiled by longer fantasy epics like SAGA where the world building has time to, well, build.

This is definitely cute and diverse but I’m not sure it’ll be wholly memorable in a month’s time.

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

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS by Charlotte Nicole Davis – double review!

Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.


Title : The Good Luck Girls
Author : Charlotte Nicole Davis
Series : The Good Luck Girls (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen/Hot Key Books
Release Date : October 1, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is a YA fantasy unlike almost anything I’ve read. This also feels both dystopian and historical and yet is set in a fantasy world, so is truly neither of those things.

It’s about strong women and daring stakes. It’s about learning to trust when no one has ever given you reason to. It’s about sacrificing your own chance at a happily every after for the benefit of others. It’s a whole lot of things. It’s also diverse, a little queer, and is all sorts of magical; though not in ways I expected.

Despite my obvious enjoyment, there is still something holding me back a bit on this one. And I don’t even know really know why. This was unique and brutal with characters both tough as nails and hella vulnerable with plenty of issues mirrored in this unusual world that are also present in our own. It’s a scary possible reality that makes you, as a reader, and a human, and, in my case a woman, want to fight back.

And yet again, I don’t know why I just didn’t love it. I wasn’t bored by anything, necessarily, though I did find sometimes that I would skim a passage or two. I didn’t always love Aster, our main POV, and yet could also totally understand why she wasn’t always likeable. And.. yeah, I don’t know. This one is just a bit of a mystery for me, I think.

But I would definitely recommend it if anyone was already interested in picking it up!

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


Micky’s 3 star review

I am very close to Hollis in my experience of reading this book. It’s a curious context that has a fresh feel, slicing dystopia with an old time world, almost like a western. The start of the book was super strong for me with a compelling narrative that brought all my compassion to the surface. That strong start waned at times but this was a series starter that I will definitely finish.

What worked for me were the sisters (Aster and Clementine) and the group of young women, sometimes very polarised against one another, but with a common goal of escapism and freedom. There were analogies to contemporary themes such as traficking and oppression that were appealing. What I found less appealing were the fantastical developments such as raveners and vengeants. I didn’t bond with that aspect of the world.

I moved between reading avidly to feeling a slowing of the pace of the story that left me wanting to feel more involved. Despite the fleeing, chases and general tension, I wanted a bit more attachment to the book than I felt and I can’t quite explain why I didn’t feel this. Maybe I wasn’t connected to Aster and Clementine enough, but I do still want to know where this goes after book one.

Thank you to Readers First and Hot Key Books for this finished review copy.

THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA by Julia Drake

The Larkin family isn’t just lucky—they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.

But wrecks seem to run in the family: Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.

Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece-the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.

She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.

Epic, funny, and sweepingly romantic, The Last True Poets of the Sea is an astonishing debut about the strength it takes to swim up from a wreck.


Title : The Last True Poets of the Sea 
Author : Julia Drake
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating: ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This is such a lovely, and rather hard-hitting, story (and from a debut no less!) that it feels a little strange to not rave about it and slap it with a high rating. But while there was so much good, so much of it moving, some of it also left me a little unmoved, too.

I became a bad sister and a bad daughter in an hour; an exile in just under two. By comparison, the Titanic sunk in two hours, forty minutes. Pretty impressive, to have sunk to the bottom even faster than the twentieth century’s greatest shipwreck.

Tackling issues of depression, anxiety, self-harm, grief, and self-destructive behaviour, the story takes place against the backdrop of a small seaside town in Maine, featuring the mystery of a shipwreck, a romance that bloomed after, and focusing on the ancestors of the sole survivor of that long-ago tragedy.

I didn’t think it was possible to be blindsided by a truth you’ve always suspected, but there you have it. As it turns out, it’s devastating.

The story is queer, and lyrical, and funny, with quirky weirdness and awkwardness and charm. All from the perspective of a tall girl — woo! It’s got a lot of things going for it and I really did love the writing, too. So while this one maybe, for whatever reason, didn’t quite hit the mark, I will totally be keeping an eye on this new author and definitely picking up her next book.

There wasn’t going to be magic healing; there’d be only a string of ands on which we’d thread our survival.

This is definitely going to be a hit for a lot of people, I think. I just wish I could count myself among them.

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

GOALIE INTERFERENCE by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn

It’s goalie vs. goalie in this brand-new enemies-to-lovers hockey romance from Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn… 

Ryu Mori has had a stellar season as goalie for the Atlanta Venom. So when he’s called into management’s office, he’s expecting to hear he’s the new starting goalie for the team, not that some new guy—an incredibly hot, annoyingly bratty rookie—is here to compete for his spot.

Not everyone gets to play in the best league in the world. Emmitt Armstrong knows that, and he’s not about to waste the opportunity after grinding his way from the bottom to the top. If the Venom is looking for a meek, mild-mannered pushover, they’ve got the wrong guy.

Ryu doesn’t want to admit the other goalie’s smart mouth turns him on. Beating Armstrong at practice feels good, sure, but there are other, more fun ways to shut his rival up.

In this league, it’s winner takes all. But there’s more to life than winning, and if Emmitt and Ryu can get past their egos and competitive natures, they might just discover they work better as partners than they ever imagined possible.


Title : Goalie Interference
Author : Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn
Series : Hat Trick (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : m/m sports romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : September 30, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

The premise around book two in the Hat Trick trilogy is competing goalies. Not from opposing teams but the same team. One, the more established regular for the Venom, who we met in book one, and two, a recent trade from the minor league. These two are total opposites in personality but share some surprising similarities, not just limited to being minorities in a predominantly white-populated sport. 

People write erotic stories about you two, bro.”
What? Where? Why?
Enemies to lovers, man. It’s a Thing.”

I’m a total sucker for hate, or enemies, to love (particularly in m/m) and the banter and push and pull and aggression between these two in the early stages of the getting-to-know-you phase was great. Stone cold Ryu facing off with hot-shot cocky Emmitt was a joy. Particularly when offset by all the personas on the team around them. I really am a sucker for the team ensemble dynamic. 

This is the last thing I wanted.”
Your romantic declarations need some serious work.

Their relationship becomes one, after agreeing to no-strings, but is put to the test as they approach playoff season when it might come down to a real competition between them, as opposed to the tandem-playing they had settled into in the regular season. This conflict was one the least contrived I’ve experienced and felt very real, and genuine, and I loved how they still tried to keep things civil, despite heartbreak, near the climax. Oh, and the final moments? Delightful.

Fucking score some goddamn goals or you’re walking back to Atlanta.”
Wow. I haven’t had a coach threaten to make me walk since Timbits hockey.”

This was a lot of good fun, and I’m so happy it didn’t flounder along the way despite the less than solid start, and while I didn’t love it as much as book one, I’m still so very keen for the final book in this series. Also, I forever love books set in this sport by authors who clearly know and love the game. It always comes through and I always appreciate it. This definitely cured me of my slump and I’m ever so grateful.

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

THE INFINITE NOISE by Lauren Shippen

Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise is a stunning, original debut novel based on her wildly popular and award-winning podcast The Bright Sessions.

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.

“What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?” (Vox on The Bright Sessions)


Title : The Infinite Noise
Author : Lauren Shippen
Series : The Bright Sessions (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen
Release Date : September 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

There’s a lot to love in THE INFINITE NOISE. Representation-wise, we have a protagonist who is Jewish and gay and plagued by depressive episodes, another who is.. well, we’re never given his orientation on page, and also an empath who struggles with the overflow of emotions and lashes out in rage. There’s also a ton of therapy. Positive therapy.

This world is based on a podcast where, as the book’s blurb says, “What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?” In this world, though, the people with powers, or extraordinary abilities, are Atypicals. And we learn of their existence through Caleb discovering his own abilities, that he’s an empath, with the help of Dr Bright.

The majority of this book is spent with Caleb trying to sort through and also keep from being overwhelmed by the emotions of his classmates and family. His mood swings, culminating in a fight, are a result from processing things he didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, and the aftermath is learning to deal. There’s a lot of talking through of emotions, as represented by colours, and trying to block out the infinite noise of it all. Which only seems to work when he’s alone or with Adam.

I get a moment of enjoying the silence before something inside of me tries to make itself known. Oh. Right. I have my own feelings. I sort of forgot about those.

Adam, who is lonely, alone, and depressed. Who has a hopeless crush on the big jock in his class. Who knows, as a tentative friendship begins, that Caleb is hiding something. But then again.. so is he.

Thinking about Adam makes me feel a little less like a sponge that doesn’t get a say in what it soaks up.

While I did like both characters, I’m not sure I liked either one all the time. They both make questionable decisions, both hide things for too long (and as of the end of this book, one is still hiding things), and.. I don’t know. I loved so much of them, but. Maybe I loved the idea of them a bit more than the reality of them sometimes.

Knowing someone’s feelings doesn’t give me a guidebook on how to respond to them. That I have to make up as I go along.

The back and forth between these two was tough. On the one hand, there’s a lot of baggage, uncertainty, and angst involved. On the other, I’m not even sure how Caleb identifies but while it took quite some time before he blinked and realized he wanted to kiss Adam, date Adam, there wasn’t much issue coming to terms with that. Nor for his family, either. With exception to a few slurs, there wasn’t really any conflict surrounding their characters’ sexualities. The real angst, beyond being sixteen and struggling with depression, with school, with the future, was surrounding an organization who targets Atypicals and who might be working for them; and how keeping Caleb’s secret was paramount.

I think, for all the good, what keeps this book from being great is the pacing. The latter half of the book changes a lot in both tone and scope and after all the big build-up of who is hiding what, I’m not really sure where we are in the end of it all. I know more books are to come (three, it looks like) but the summaries indicate they are to focus on other characters, so. If that’s true, I’m even less satisfied by this ending. At least for how it wraps for this pair.

I love the concept, therapy for superheroes, and it’s a very creative way to ease into the transition of adapting to new powers, but I guess I wanted a tighter focus on these two soft boys.. but also less time spent getting them together, if future books weren’t going to focus on them, and also an ending that was.. more. I don’t know that I’m explaining this well, but. That said, I would read on. I like this world. I love the unique perspective. I just hope book two, and subsequent books, are stronger.

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

YOU COULD MAKE A LIFE by Taylor Fitzpatrick

The first thing Dan says to him is, “we’re in the NHL!”, because that’s how he’s been greeting anyone wearing a jersey, and Marc Lapointe, ‘the future of the franchise’, is wearing Dan’s colours.

“I think you’re my new best friend,” Dan says, his excitement beating out common sense, social filters, the need to play it cool.

“It is nice to meet you, new best friend,” Marc says, his mouth twitching.

In hindsight, Dan probably falls in love with him in that moment, Marc laughing at him and with him all at once, but it takes a little while to figure that out.


Title : You Could Make a Life
Author : Taylor Fitzpatrick
Format : eBook (scribd)
Page Count : 202
Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary sports romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : December 20, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

It’s so hard not to compare this to the author’s more recent work (why, oh why, did I read this so soon after? who stole my chill?) which was similar but so different. And yet this was still so good. Just not one the same level, in so many ways, that THROWN OFF THE ICE was.

First of all, the angst is way lower in decibel. There is no age gap. And this one didn’t make me cry. But it was still sexy, funny, ridiculous, and had even more hockey than my first experience with Fitzpatrick’s writing did. I’ve said it for other authors and I’ll say it again : nothing makes me love a hockey romance more than when it is obvious the author is a true blue fan. This author definitely is.

Oh my god. There is totally a Quebec Secret Society, you lied to me!
We are not a cult. We are a province.”

Overall, if I had to recommend a reading order, even though I’m not sure they exist in the same universe (unless they do? I know she has other shorts and stories, seemingly all hockey based), I would recommend people start here. It’s lighter on all topics, really, with less blunt force on both the emotional impact as well as lighter on the sexy times, too. It sort’ve follows a more traditional path, one many LGBTQIA+ sports romance readers will be familiar with, but with more depth, if that makes sense.

He said you gave him a blowjob in Juniors and that it was terrible. [..]. Do not worry, I told him you are much improved at it now.”
Marc, don’t talk about my blowjob skills on the ice.”
Why is it always me that hears this shit?

The one (only?) major downfall to YOU COULD MAKE A LIFE is the beginning isn’t as solid as the latter half. It felt a little more surface level, and I’m not sure I liked some of the early angst conflict, and how quickly it resolved, that whole transition read weird to me, and even in hindsight I’m not sure about it all, but the last 60% was great, strong, fun, and just emotional enough that you are invested when things aren’t going right.

You are the Brangelina of hockey.”
I don’t want to be the Brangelina of hockey.”
You are years too late for that, bud. You guys have a following. If you ever broke up you would make girls cry.”
I don’t want to break up. Or make girls cry.”

So much of Dan was different than Mike, so much of Marc different from Liam, but you can see feel the author’s touch, her style, even after just one book. I love that. I’m glad this was different but still distinctive, with familiar tropes that are still made fun.

Dan’s always been a Leafs fan — his Toronto citizenship would have probably been revoked if he wasn’t one. <– hahah as a non-Leaf fan Torontonian, this killed me.

Even though I definitely dove into this too soon, and already kind of regret it, I’m so excited to have an author like this on my radar. If you’re into queer romance, or hockey romances, and love when they intersect, you absolutely need to be watching, and reading, this author.

THROWN OFF THE ICE by Taylor Fitzpatrick

Mike knew he was making a mistake when he let the rookie climb into bed with him. He just didn’t know it’d be a mistake that would follow him for the rest of his life.


Title : Thrown Off The Ice
Author : Taylor Fitzpatrick
Format : eBook (scribd)
Page Count : 224
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sports contemporary romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : December 13, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

No one grows up dreaming of being an enforcer.

What’s this, another m/m hockey romance that gets five stars from me? Am I becoming predictable? Well, no. Because nothing about this book was expected.

Why can’t I just stay with you?
Because I’m not a fucking lunatic. And I would become one if I had to deal with you all the fucking time.”
I’m here all the time anyway.”
And I’m already one day away from killing you.”

Starting with that summary : short and to the point, right? Sure, but no. But it does set up a certain expectation. The same one I had when I decided to fit in a “novella”-ish length story for the end of my night, not wanting to pick up something full length, something I thought would be happy times, or sexy uncomplicated hockey times, and, hahahahaha. I probably should’ve known better considering the two GR buddies who had both recently read it, and also rated it five stars, love the stuff that hurts.

Mike can’t help but want to shake some of that innocence out of him, knows he’s awful because all he wants to do is get Fitzgerald on a bed and make him fucking cry.

And wow did this hurt.

You remind me of that guy from Twilight.
You read Twilight, Tom?
Don’t need to, know all I have to. Old sulky dude obsessed with a teenager and being angsty about it. Sound about right?

As I write this review I have tears drying on my face and a twisted stomach left over from crying as long as I did. Probably some snot smeared around, too, let’s be real. Because for all that the age gap shenanigans between the effervescent rookie and the grumpy, reluctant, veteran enforcer, that made me laugh; for all the non-relationship and romantic angst, and push and pull that hurts, that you ache over; you won’t be prepared for where this story goes. And even if you see it coming, I challenge you to not be made a mess by it.

I’m not tiny. I’m concentrated.”
That’s what they’re calling it now?

This is a book I will absolutely read again, to hell with the heartache, and that is why it gets full stars from me. It’s sexy as hell, it’s funny, and I loved these frustrating and ridiculous characters. The only thing almost as devastating as parts of this book is knowing this author only has one other book in her backlist. Am I going to be reading it sooner rather than later anyway? Yes.

GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.


Title : Gideon the Ninth
Author : Tamsyn Muir
Series : The Ninth House
Format : eARC
Page Count : 437
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So listen. The only reason I’m not giving this five stars is because sometimes, while reading, I would feel a little lost. Confused, even. It’s been awhile since I read an adult science-fiction novel, particularly one as complex as this, with such a large cast, and during the over (!) two (!!) weeks (!!!) it took me to read this, between slumps and life chaos and other ARC deadlines, it was just.. a lot.

I would have thought you would be happy that I needed you. That I showed you my girlish and vulnerable heart.
Your heart is a party for five thousand nails.”

But I never stopped having fun.

Gideon would’ve sworn there were tears in her eyes, except that no such liquid existed. Harrow was a desiccated mummy of hate.

The characters in this series are.. just, everything. Gideon is a riot. I spent most of my time, confused and non-confused, reading this book and giggling. Snorting. Cackling. Highlighting. This isn’t a comedy but is comedic af. The author, through Gideon, is snarky and sarcastic and just.. relentlessly relatable. For all that she’s the cavalier, swords-person/bodyguard, of a necromancer, in space, who is battling to riddle out puzzles of which the end goal is to make them immortal and all-powerful. You know, totally relatable.

I cannot and will not read your thoughts, control your body, or look at your most intimate memories. I don’t have the ability and I certain’t don’t have the desire.
It’s for your own protection, not mine. I imagined Crux’s butt once when I was twelve.”

I’ve seen this pitched, and even pitched it myself, as ‘lesbian necromancers in space’ and that does such an injustice to the scope and breadth and complexity of everything, plot and characters, of this book. But it’s one hell of a great hook and if it’s what pulled you in, fantastic. Just buckle the hell up and know there is so much more to this.

I’ll still do it.”
Why?
Probably because you asked.”
That’s all it takes, [..]? That’s all you demand? This is the complex mystery that lies in the pit of your psyche?
That’s all I ever demanded, you asswipe.”

This book is spooky, funny, heartbreaking, hilarious, rich in ‘I’m too dumb for this’ science, and even weirder magic. The cast is vibrant and diverse and while sometimes I wish I had taken notes on who is what and why and what are the Houses.. even confused, I was happy. Truly. This is a book that needed more time than I had to give it and that’s on me. Even though, yeah, okay, it’s on me but I’m also knocking down a star.

Why was I born so attractive?
Because everyone would have throttled you within the first five minutes otherwise.”

But.

Nav, show them what the Ninth House does.
We do bones, motherfucker.

I will say, brace yourselves. This isn’t the standalone I thought it would be. And I was u n p r e p a r e d for the end of this book in many many ways. I may have cried. Well, okay, welled up. But regardless I need book two yesterday. The good news is I’ll definitely reread this before the sequel (is it a duology? a trilogy?) so I hope to a) maybe have a better handle on things earlier on in the unfolding of the story and b) maybe, hopefully, round up.

Gideon was experiencing one powerful emotion : being sick of everyone’s shit.

Regardless, if you’re comfortable with adult sci-fi, prepared to hunker down with a long book, and want hilarity alongside diversity? You need this. The fact that this incredible title is a debut just blows my mind. Just the way the book itself did. Infact, just putting this review together, and pulling the quotes, actually makes me want to just.. start reading it all over again. And that almost never happens to me. So I hope that says it all! Even though I said.. a lot. Already.

You are my only friend. I am undone without you.”

Oh, did I mention there’s a hate to love f/f romance? Hm? Did I?

You definitely need this one in your life.

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

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