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. **

YOU HAVE A MATCH by Emma Lord

From the beloved author of Tweet Cute comes Emma Lord’s You Have a Match, a YA novel of family, friendship, romance and sisterhood…

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones. 


Title : You Have a Match
Author : Emma Lord
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : January 5, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Hoo boy the emotions this book made me have. So many. Yes, this has a cute cover, yes it’s YA and from the author who gave us the hilarious TWEET CUTE last year but.. this still hits and some of those hits land hard.

Yes, yes, I cry easily, it’s a very poorly kept secret that isn’t a secret at all but even during some of the not-as-emotional moments, Lord somehow just handled certain moments with such.. I don’t want to say care but, understanding? I felt so much of everything through the author’s writing. Whether it was about struggling with awkward and unrequited feelings for your best friend, feeling second best, or a failure, whether it was wanting to bury things deep within just to avoid dealing with them, with confrontation, I could go on and on. We only get one POV and yet I felt all this from our lead and felt just as much for the secondary cast.

If you’ve read the plot, you know there’s likely to be some drama and angst an some messy family discussions on the horizon and oh boy are there ever. Things got messy but there was less of that for the sake of drama and more the feeling of actual pain, loss, heartbreak. While one character jokes their life has taken on the hue of a CW tv show, they aren’t wrong, exactly. But it still feels very real.

And as for the friend dynamics? Chefs kiss. So many varieties, so many layers, all the complications that ensue as a result. But they were wonderful even when things were going awry. Like, truly, what made me cry more? The family stuff, the friend stuff? Who can say!

Anyway, this is definitely a funny (not quite chockfull of outright lolz, so maybe I mean charming?), heartwrenching, delightful, and totally compelling read. I devoured it in a few short hours because I could not tear myself away.

I do just want to leave a brief note that, as of the time of me reading this (and keep in mind it’s an ARC..), there were quite a few references to a certain Wizarding World universe as far as Houses and traits. While I don’t know if they will make it into the final copy I thought it worth a mention. So if that is triggering for you, please just be mindful.

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

BROTHERSONG by TJ Klune

In the ruins of Caswell, Maine, Carter Bennett learned the truth of what had been right in front of him the entire time. And then it—he—was gone. 

Desperate for answers, Carter takes to the road, leaving family and the safety of his pack behind, all in the name of a man he only knows as a feral wolf. But therein lies the danger: wolves are pack animals, and the longer Carter is on his own, the more his mind slips toward the endless void of Omega insanity. 

But he pushes on, following the trail left by Gavin. 

Gavin, the son of Robert Livingstone. The half-brother of Gordo Livingstone. 

What Carter finds will change the course of the wolves forever. Because Gavin’s history with the Bennett pack goes back further than anyone knows, a secret kept hidden by Carter’s father, Thomas Bennett. 

And with this knowledge comes a price: the sins of the fathers now rest upon the shoulders of their sons. 


Title : Brothersong
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Green Creek (book four)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 522
Genre : LGBTQIA+ fantasy/paranormal
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : October 13, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

When I tell you this book made me cry a lot.. I don’t think that is going to come across in a way that you’ll understand until you read this book. I shed tears, I wept, I held back sobs. Over and over again. I don’t know what it is about this author and his ability to wreck me (us) with his words but oh god. Prepare youself for devastation, for beauty, for heartbreak, for healing, for sadness, for quiet moments.. everything.

We weren’t Ox and Joe. Or Kelly and Robbie. Or even Gordo and Mark, though the fuck you vibe was apparently a family trait.

I can’t really say anything about this beyond that. Not only is BROTHERSONG a sequel but it’s an end. For us. Whether something new might begin? Who is to say. So many songs have been sung along the way; from wolves, to ravens, to hearts, and brothers. This series is about bonds, formed out of blood or built out of friendship, connection, and the fact that I’m tearing up as I write this, when I should long have run out of tears, says it all.

Three years. One month. Twenty-six days. I lived through that. I lived through the thirteen months it took for us to get [spoiler for book three] back. I saw firsthand what happened with Mark and Gordo. And then you decided to.. what? Be wholly original and leave, too?
Whoa. That was a bitchy thing to say. Go Ox.”

I reread the books leading up to this, thinking I needed it all fresh in my mind, needed to once again be close to these characters before I could say goodbye, and while I’m sure many Klunatics are doing so? It’s not needed. So much of this book hashes out previous events, prior wrongs, in an attempt to come together, to finally do more than just apply bandages on still lingering wounds, so they can let go and face this big conflict that might be the end of them. This family, this pack (packpack), has so much baggage and Klune makes them work through it. It can be agonizing at times, to go through it over and over again, to see the same choices lead to the same mistakes, but it’s utterly human; for all that these characters are mostly not.

Will, sit your ass down and leave my customers alone.”
I’m his constituent. I have a right to know what’s going on in my local government, especially when it involves shape-shifters. Huh. Of all the sentences that have ever come out of my mouth, that one was the strangest.”

Is it perfect? If I were to reread it, would I award it full marks, or would I downgrade like I did on my WOLFSONG revisit? Hard to say. But right now? It gets everything. Not just because I cried an ocean but because I couldn’t tear myself away. In a time when even when I’m loving a book I’m still occasionally distracted, reaching for my phone, I didn’t do that once. The only moments I stepped away were to blow my nose (seriously, the crying, it was ridiculous) so, I mean, there were a lot of those moments. But it was impossible to look away for anything else.

Don’t take the chance that he’ll always be there. We must remember to say what’s in our hearts aloud because we can never know if it’ll be the last time we’ll ever get the chance.

I can’t wait for this book to be out in the world, I can’t wait for all the longtime fans to get their paws on it, I feel so lucky to have read this early, particularly as I’m rather new to this world, but I promise you it’s worth the wait. You know the drill by now; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll do both at the same time, you’ll break apart only to be stitched back together. Again and again. Because that’s how it goes.

Packpackpack 4ever.

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

WORST OF THE WEEPIES (REALLY THE BEST)

Most of us love a good book that evokes all the emotions; maybe not all of the time, but at least occasionally. A private cry, a good book sob, can leave you a bit wrung out, yet having felt the book deeply is pretty satisfying. BUT it can leave you looking like that pug in picture, are we right? Micky doesn’t cry easily at books but some do just hit that spot, whereas Hollis has her eyes set on leak. We’ve listed some of our favourites by genre.

Some of the books we’ve listed are weepies in part because of the difficult issues tackled within the pages. We have starred the books that we think have triggers for some people and advise you to read the blurb so you know what you are getting into.

CONTEMPORARY YA

FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway
THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas
BIRTHDAY by Meredith Russo *
AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando *
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green
IF I STAY by Gayle Forman
FORBIDDEN by Tabitha Suzuma *
SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli
LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer
DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone
THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END by Adam Silvera
A TRAGIC KIND OF WONDERFUL by Eric Lindstrom
ELIZA AND HER MONSTERS by Francesca Zappia
SHERWOOD by Meagan Spooner
FOOLISH HEARTS by Emma Mills

HISTORICAL YA

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

53 LETTERS FOR MY LOVER by Leylah Attar
MAKING FACES by Amy Harmon*
MISTS OF THE SERENGETI by Leylah Attar *
UNSEEN MESSAGES by Pepper Winters *
AN EXALTATION OF LARKS by Suanne Laqueur *
A CHARM OF FINCHES by Suanne Laqueur *
THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee
LONG SHOT by Kennedy Ryan *
STILL by Kennedy Ryan *
THE SIMPLE WILD by KA Tucker *
HEARTBREAK WARFARE by Heather M Orgeron & Kate Stewart
THE FRIEND ZONE by Abby Jimenez *
FIVE YEARS GONE & ONE YEAR HOME by Marie Force
CRASH by Harper Dallas
WAIT FOR IT by Mariana Zapata
ON BROKEN WINGS by Chanel Cleeton*
STEADFAST by Sarina Bowen
THROWN OFF THE ICE by Taylor Fitzpatrick
LUCK OF THE DRAW by Kate Clayborn

WOMEN’S FICTION

THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks
PS, I LOVE YOU by Cecelia Ahern *
THE ORPHAN’S TALE by Pam Jenoff
THE BREAK by Marian Keyes
THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah *
AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens *
THE GIRL HE USED TO KNOW by Tracey Garvis Graves
DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME by Mhairi McFarlane

HISTORICAL (FICTION OR FANTASY)

SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller
THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes


Do you like knowing a book might make you cry before you pick it up? Do you like being taken unawares? And, lastly, give us the book that makes you cry the m o s t.


THE HOW AND THE WHY by Cynthia Hand

A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.

Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…

Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.

But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.

Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.


Title : The How & The Why
Author : Cynthia Hand
Format : ARC
Page Count: 464
Genre: YA contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: November 5, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This is the second book I’ve finished today and both have made me cry. A lot. Is there a correlation between my tears and loving a book? Maybe. But not necessarily. I’ve definitely still cried for books I’ve hated, so. There’s that.

However. I didn’t hate this book at all. I figured this would be emotional as it was about adoption, family, and also likened to FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway — another story that I’m pretty sure I remember made me cry a lot.

This one is told in two timelines of a sort; via present day Cassandra and the letters being written by her birth mother, eighteen years before, while she was pregnant and waiting to give up her baby for adoption.

There was such a richness to this story, both in the various situations where people were adopted, and also the reasons that lead to them, but also just family in general — both those of your blood and those you choose.

I honestly have so little to say about this book despite loving it so much. I think mostly because I’m still a little stunned by the ending. I was loving this book, solid four, but the final chapter? I mean.. sure, maybe it’s a little bit incredulous, a little bit unlikely, maybe even fantastical, but that.. oh my god, I’m just.. yeah, hello, this gets a bump for that. But honestly, ending aside, this book is so great.

THE HOW & THE WHY packs a lot of punch but I think it also does it in a smart way. There’s romance but it’s not the focus. There’s strong enduring friendships that aren’t without realistic jealousies and natural speedbumps. And I love the focus on the bright, miraculous, even luminous moments in life, even amongst all the sadness or tragedy that we still experience. Sometimes things do work out. Sometimes we overcome our pasts. Sometimes we say the wrong things but are forgiven. Something we make a fool of ourselves but get something good out of it in the end.

Sometimes that’s just the how and the why of life.

Sorry for the cheese.

Read this book.

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

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.