THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – double review!

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right? 


Title : This Is How You Lose The Time War
Author : Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 209
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : July 19, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This is a book that was recommended to me by every friend who read it. The hype was real, the library wait was long, and the book itself was short. My feelings, however, are hard to pin down.

Like Chamber’s TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE this is a short sci-fi novella, that I would describe as a thought provoking slowburn. This one is far more romantic than the aforementioned story, but the telling of it feels similar, even if the subject differs hugely.

This was at turns way over my head complex, hauntingly heartbreaking, and clever af. This a love story between time travelers who work for competing purposes, who flit in and out of points in the universe, in history and the future, and who communicate first through taunts and later through understanding, connection, desire.

I’ll admit I did see a few things coming, which felt like a feat considering how dumb this made me feel sometimes. But overall it was a fascinating and thrilling and strange and sweet experience. I just don’t know how one rates something like this. A four? Let’s say it’s a four. I think if you stripped away some of the strange, hard to imagine, unbelievably complicated elements, held up the bare bones of a story that is still strange and complicated, but without the white noise that may have distracted you.. yeah. This feels right. But the story itself needs those elements, it does; though I can see others, maybe, not liking it because of them. Which might be where I got stuck, too.

If you like sci-fi, if you don’t mind when a plot leans heavy on a romantic connection, I would recommend.


Micky’s 1 star review

This was metaphor hell. A love story (eventually) between robot-horse-wolf-seeds in shades of red and blue through letters. It is about time travel, a vaguely recognisable earth and espionage with lots of killing.

I hated it.

I imagine you reaching over my shoulder to correct my hand on a victim’s throatNice.

The world falls into place like rain. Blue licks her bloodied snout, her paws, her gouged shoulder.Not sure what creature Blue was at this point.

You ask if we eat.
It’s a hard question to answer. There is no mono-we; there are many usses. The usses change and interleave.
 Welcome to my perpetual confusion.

Towards the end we got some comprehensible connection and sense of love but I was too far gone down the wtf road.

I’m not dissing anyone else’s experience, I have a bunch of friends who loved it but my PhD didn’t help me through the confusion of this one.

MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS by Carrie S Allen

When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up – even if it means putting her future on the line.


Title : Michigan vs The Boys
Author : Carrie S Allen
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 308
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : KCP Loft
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I would like it noted for the record that this is my do-over review after accidentally losing the first (much superior) draft. I am sad. But here we go; take two.

Wow, so. I knew going into this read that it would deal with some tough situations concerning bullying and hazing, but still. This was hard.

MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS feels like the second cousin to BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman. Like that other story, this one also focuses on the mob mentality so often found in men, particularly in competitive sports. But that’s mostly where the similarities end.

Michigan loves hockey. So when her girls’ team is disbanded due to budget cuts, she makes the bold choice to try out for the boys’ team. Except no one wants her there. Not her coach and certainly not her teammates. But she wants to play, she is talented, and so she makes the cut.

Reading what the boys put her through, how she is ignored by the staff, and only trotted out when she out-plays, and out-scores, the boys, is so hard. Watching every hard-earned win, every success, be immediately torn down by those who are supposed to lift her up, cheer her on? Brutal. But watching her continue to push herself, to continue to succeed despite so much adversity, is remarkable. Though, ultimately, tragic because it’s so unnecessary and awful.

But for all that awful, there’s a balance of greatness, too. It’s also a story about friendship, first love, loyalty, and family. And, in some ways, so much of this is necessary. Because, as one character says, about a certain situation, which I will paraphrase, this story, the telling of it, is so important. For the girls who will see themselves in these moments; if not now, maybe in the future. For the boys who might realize that what they witness being done to others, what they don’t stop even if they don’t participate in, is wrong.

If you love hockey, if you love stories with great friendships or sibling relationships, hell, if you loved (or hated!) BEARTOWN, I would definitely recommend.

A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY by Brigid Kemmerer – double review!

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.


Title : A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Author : Brigid Kemmerer
Series : Cursebreakers (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 489
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA
Release Date : January 29, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

The only thing I knew to expect from this BEAUTY AND THE BEAST retelling/homage, was that there was going to be a girl from ‘our’ universe transplanted into another. That alone seemed unique and interesting and, hey, I’m a sucker for this trope in general so I knew I was going to get to it eventually. Particularly as I’ve read the author before been quite impressed, and/or moved, by her writing.

And, big picture-wise, I did enjoy this. But. There are some glaring missteps regarding, like, the structure of the curse and the reason for the curse in the first place (dumb? yes). Also, like, not a misstep but there was some obvious writing on the wall regarding one or two little twists. I’ll also point out that a few characters, most notably the ones from ‘our’ world, were annoying af, and the whole sideplot there.. I wasn’t a fan.

You’re probably now asking yourself what I did like. Valid.

I liked the idea of the framework for this particular set-up. It was different, it was interesting, and I liked that for the most part all the cards are on the table. With one exception, there’s no mystery to unravel, no real secrets, and yet that doesn’t make things any easier on our heroine.. or the hero. There’s an added element that spices things up, too, that I was really liking until a certain twist made it kind of like.. every other YA fantasy with two guys and a girl (and a pizza place?). The story is given even more of a spin by making the “beauty” be the one with a physical quality that makes her seem less desirable while the prince himself is everything you could want in a fantasy.

Like I said, there is a lot to love. There’s representation, some of which I haven’t ever seen in fiction or fantasy, be it YA or not (cerebral palsy), it’s a little queer, it’s a bit dark, and it’s got a core cast of characters that I did enjoy, each with layers and angst and sweetness. So while it did flounder at times and lack depth in some areas, it nonetheless kept me glued to my iPad all night, and I am keen to read on.


Micky’s 3 star review

I have to admit, the self hype of this Beauty & the Beast retelling was intense, I wanted to love this book so much and it was only okay-ish for me. It was a read of parts, a strong start, fantastic disability rep and a strong final quarter. The bit in the middle however, was dull intermittently, slow-paced and lacked the kind of connection between characters that I sought.

Firstly I want to say how much I loved Harper having mild cerebral palsy and showing the range that this condition has. I appreciated how this was woven into the story, navigating her limitations but actually focusing how she could smash physical boundaries. Her tenacity, strength and fierce loyalty made her a likable heroine.

Rhen was vaguely likeable but he didn’t move beyond that really. I felt like I got to know Grey much better and came to enjoy his character. My suspicion is that this was just one long book setting up a cluster of a love triangle…anyone join me in this hunch? There was a lack of connection between Rhen and Harper (I get that this is some of the plot but still) and there was definitely more spark between Harper and Grey. I think I wanted to feel more connection in the platonics as well as the romantics of this tale too.

The story had ebb and flow with a lack of consistent pacing but it did really pick up towards the final third and I felt more involved and read more avidly. It was a strong ending, ensuring that I will return for more from this series, even with the triangular-shaped plot.

I have enjoyed Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary reads but this delve into fantasy wasn’t my favourite. Beauty & the Beast is a beloved fairy tale and I have enjoyed it being retold but something was missing here and I will have to stand out from the mass love a little on this one.

LITTLE WHITE LIES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

“I’m not saying this is Sawyer’s fault,” the prim and proper one said delicately. “But.”

Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother’s “society” might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father’s identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn’t expect to find is friendship, but as she’s drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn’t the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother’s glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer’s search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning.

Set in the world of debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines a charming setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off. 


Title : Little White Lies
Author : Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series : Debutantes (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Freeform
Release Date : November 6, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

My love for this book has definitely been helped by a string of disappointing and/or boring reads but that’s not why I loved it. It just gave it a bit of a boost, is all.

I’m a big fan of Barnes’ writing, catch me in the corner forever mourning the fact that we only got two books in her Fixer series, but. But. If not for that fact, maybe this book, and series, wouldn’t exist. And that would be a crying shame.

This story follows Sawyer, raised by her single flighty mother, who has never known her father or family, until the moment her very polished, very Southern, grandmother shows up with a proposition : spend nine months in the place her mother grew up, before getting kicked out when she was a pregnant teen, in exchange for an all-expenses paid college tuition. Sawyer is suspicious but takes it. Because maybe, just maybe, she can figure out who her father is.

From the tone in her voice, you would have thought we were in a life raft in the middle of piranha-filled waters. Then again, I was about to make my debut in high society. Maybe we were.

Naturally drama ensues but maybe not the kind you’d expect. There’s blackmail, and kidnapping, and violence, and betrayal, and it’s a riot. Sawyer, the girl from the other side of the tracks, thrown in amongst the rich, the elite, the debutantes, makes friends, finds family, but both are somewhat fluid, and yet the journey is fabulous. It doesn’t exactly follow the same path as you might expect from a story with that bare bones concept and, as an added bonus, Barnes keeps you guessing, keeps things twisty, right up until the very end. Almost every character is flawed, or layered, and fascinating. The wit and charm that I love from this author is also present in her characters, in the dynamics, and I enjoyed the hell out of it all. Like in the last book I read (in fact, maybe all since her Naturals series), there’s no real romance plot for her protagonist. And I can’t tell you how much I love that. These stories stand on their own, with deep friendships, and family connections, that negate the need for added drama or angst or entanglements. I won’t be sad if a certain something happens between Sawyer and a certain guy but if it doesn’t.. I still won’t be sad.

Clearly, I’d been mistaken for the help. Unfortunately for Campbell, there were two kinds of people in this world : those who weren’t condescending and needlessly cruel and those I was pretty content to leave duct-taped to a chair.

I’m ever so happy to have an ARC of book two in my hands because I’m running high off the joy of this story and I can’t wait to see the trouble these girls get into next. And what mysteries, and what heartbreak, lies in wait for them.

DAISY JONES AND THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.


Title : Daisy Jones & The Six
Author : Taylor Jenkins Reid
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical fiction
Publisher : Doubleday Canada
Release Date : March 5, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m going to come right out and say it : I think my love for this book might be a wee bit biased. Because if you try and convince me this is anything other than Fleetwood Mac fanfiction, I will laaaaaaugh in your face.

Little (hah) known fact about me? I love Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks is my patronus. So, ask me if I loved DAISY JONES AND THE SIX? The answer is duh.

I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse.
I am not a muse.
I am the somebody.
End of fucking story.


I loved the complexity, the contradictory, and the chaos that is this kind of storytelling. The interview process, the different perspectives, the shift of memory, maybe even the falsehoods, it was fascinating. It felt real and authentic. I could so easily picture this as a Behind The Music segment on MTV — or whatever channel it would be these days. Hell, I’ve probably watched all of the ones to do with the Mac, so, yeah. The picture is vivid. As for hearing, I definitely want to reread this on audio at some point. I want to feel these voices in my soul. It’ll either be an even better experience or, expecting Stevie and getting something else, I’ll be disappointed. Fifty/fifty, really.

That’s how it was back then. I was just supposed to be the inspiration for some man’s great idea. Well, fuck that. That’s why I started writing my own stuff.

But anyway. If you know anything about the Mac, you’ll understand what this is about. If you don’t, it’s the start of a band, of a singer, and their collision and meteoric rise to fame in the seventies. It’s about drugs, sex, longing, hate, jealousy, music, family.. it’s everything. 

I came to hate that I’d put my heart and my pain into my music because it meant that I couldn’t ever leave it behind. [..] It made for a great show. But it was my life.

Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like? The ending. You’d think I would, wouldn’t you? But no. 

Would definitely recommend this for Mac fans and non-Mac fans alike (sidenote, if you can watch the 1997 The Dance version of Silver Springs and not lose your cool.. I mean, wow, kudos, but how). Again, I’m probably biased. But at least I’m honest about it.

Now, excuse me while I load up a youtube playlist full of all my favourite live versions, kthanxbai.

GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE by Natasha Ngan

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.


Title : Girls of Paper and Fire
Author : Natasha Ngan
Series : Girls of Paper and Fire (book one)
Format : eBook (OverDrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ fantasy
Publisher : jimmy patterson
Release Date : November 6, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Though the current GR rating indicates I’m not the only one to not love this, I do think there are many who do, so please take this review (as one always should) with a sprinkle of salt.

Not that I’m salty about not loving this. To be honest, I don’t feel much of anything; not disappointment or frustration. Just pretty much nothing. 

I’ll admit that my understanding of this book was totally off base. I didn’t realize it was a fantasy, or at least not the particulars of the fantasy — with human, Paper Castes, and Demons, and the imbalance of power between them (lolz, I thought Demon King was an affectation, not, like, literal) — and all I really knew to expect was diversity and some darker subject matter. Both of which exist. But so does a lot of.. I don’t know, filler?

I’ll stop beating around the bush. I was bored. I didn’t particularly like any single character. I was traumatized by an early death within the first chapter or two and don’t think I ever recovered (how could you!). I did think the evolution of the romance was well done and like the whole long-awaited revenge plot/conspiracy but I just wish I could’ve cared about the characters themselves as opposed to just the general concept of their existence.

I’m.. not excited to read on but I do have an ARC of book two, which I will still be reading, and I hope that the change of pace, and setting, is more my speed than this one was. 

HOOKED ON YOU by Kate Meader


The steamy Chicago Rebels series returns with this racy and sassy tale of embittered hearts, second chances, and going for the goal—on and off the ice.

Violet Vasquez never met her biological father, so learning he left his beloved hockey franchise—the Chicago Rebels—to her is, well, unexpected. Flat broke and close to homeless, Violet is determined to make the most of this sudden opportunity. Except dear old dad set conditions that require she takes part in actually running the team with the half-sisters she barely knows. Working with these two strangers and overseeing a band of hockey-playing lugs is not on her agenda…until she lays eyes on the Rebels captain and knows she has to have him.

Bren St. James has been labeled a lot of things: the Puck Prince, Lord of the Ice, Hell’s Highlander…but it’s the latest tag that’s making headlines: washed-up alcoholic has-been. This season, getting his life back on track and winning the Cup are his only goals. With no time for relationships—except the fractured ones he needs to rebuild with his beautiful daughters—he’s finding it increasingly hard to ignore sexy, all-up-in-his-beard Violet Vasquez. And when he finds himself in need of a nanny just as the playoffs are starting, he’s faced with a temptation he could so easily get hooked on.

For two lost souls, there’s more on the line than just making the best of a bad situation… there might also be a shot at the biggest prize of all: love.


Title : Hooked on You
Author : Kate Meader
Series : Chicago Rebels (book four)
Format : OverDrive eBook
Page Count : 384
Genre : sports romance
Publisher : Pocket Star
Release Date : May 7, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Apparently I was so so keen to read this book in October of 2017 (even though it wouldn’t be out until May 2018).. that it took until July 2019 to actually read it. Go me!

I, more than anyone, understand how they will happily remove your heart, hold it bloodied and pulped to the sky, and offer in sacrifice to whichever gods they pray to.
Does Isobel seriously put up with this shit?
She has accused me of drama on occasion. I have no idea why.

So it’s been over a year since I was rubbing elbows with these characters but it was so easy slipping back into the Chicago Rebels universe. Which says something about the level of memorable-ness of both these characters and Meader’s world. A world which is pretty hilarious, full of hockey, hotties, and generally has at least one or two heavy topics to wield, or work through, before we see that HEA. As you do.

The beauty of AA was that no matter what city you were in or the time of day, there was usually a meeting happening nearby. Dallas was no different. [..] The team might be his brothers, but these strangers were his tribe.

This matchup between the grumpy Scot and the sassy Latina has been building for a while (see aforementioned 2017 excitement..) and I won’t say it disappointed. I definitely enjoyed this more than book two, the only other one I couldn’t round up on, because I think the balance between the humour, the joy, and the serious, was just.. right. Violet with her health scare, Bren with his alcoholism, both resisting the other for their own reasons. Throw in some single dad-ness, with two kids who were neither too overwhelmingly present or too precocious, and it was a great mix of Doing The Right Thing for the Right Reasons while still agonizing and angst-hate-flirting.

Do you have some sort of Fleetwood Mac kink?
Kink? No. I’m a fan, like any right-thinking human.

But there were also weird transitions or hiccups in their dynamic that would sometimes take me out of the moment, and I’m not quite sure why or how it happened. It was almost like being one step out of sync, things just wouldn’t line up, and it would take a moment for the record to stop skipping. But when that wasn’t interrupting my fun, there was also a lot of that ‘final book lets wrap up all couples and get hitched and/or pregnant’ cheese that, I mean, sure we know to expect it. But, again, cheese. Additionally there was a lot of evil ex behaviour syndrome. Which, fair, this is from last year (and likely written well before that) and I think we’ve since seen a down-turn, and taken strides to stop, with this trope but.. still. It existed. A lot. And suddenly.. it didn’t?

Take me to bed, Scot.
Need direction.
Been that long?
Hilarious.

This is definitely a high three, because there was a lot of strength — like Violet not giving in when you think she might, which, for example, was definitely a highlight and also bucked a convenient romance trend — and fun, but those moments holding it back, well. It held it back. I might have felt differently last year but.. shrug emoji.

I have an ARC of Meader’s spinoff for this world, though, and I’m so excited to dive in. One of the many reasons I finally caught up on this series/book, hah. Because, yeah, complaints aside, this series has been a mostly four-star experience for me and I love this female-run, while also managed and supported by the first (in this world) out gay man in hockey (or was Cade out first? I can’t remember! either way! LGBTQIA+ friendly!), hockey team.. because who doesn’t love a Cinderella, underdog, against-all-odds-like-sexism-and-homophobia success story. But at the same time I’ll be kinda glad to leave behind the daddy issues and branch out and get a new angle on things. Like, say, an angle that features a journalist and an ex-Special Forces turned rookie? Hi hello.

FIX HER UP by Tessa Bailey – double review!

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)
Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)
Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)
Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her..


Title : Fix Her Up
Author : Tessa Bailey
Series : Hot and Hammered (book one)
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 397
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : June 11, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’ve not had the greatest luck with past Bailey reads but this cover was super cute and I was seeing mostly positive buzz so, when my blogging buddy expressed interest in reading it, I thought, why the hell not. I’ll give it a go, too.

Where this story succeeded? Georgie. She’s one hell of a great heroine. Passed over by her family, overlooked in both her social and love life, and a clown. Literally, professionally, a clown. She’s got your trademark quirky girl thing down but it works. It really really does because she’s sweet, she’s genuine, and she eventually starts to stand up for herself. But she doesn’t change a single iota of who she is.

You turned my perfectly innocent backyard into construction worker porn. All we need is some light jazz.”
Yikes. What kind of porn are you watching?
The respectable-lady kind.”

Also a success? The lady friends. Or, as they call themselves, The Just Us League. Cue all the lols. Sure it’s an obvious ploy to write more books, featuring these other two friends, but whatever, it worked, I’m here for it. Based on the characters, I think one will be super angsty and the other could be super hate to love? Just a guess.

Where this book failed? The hero. And, actually, almost all the male characters? Georgie’s brother eventually redeems himself in a way but I was mostly just confused by some of the instances he popped up and when I wasn’t confused I was incredibly annoyed by him. But he served a purpose. Most spectacularly, though, I just.. I don’t get Travis. Sure he’s bruised, he’s battered, he’s got baggage. But other than a few pings of sympathy, I just didn’t care about him. Which made the romance not always my favourite and compounded with how much I did not get on with the sexytimes? Made for a weird mood. But I’ll give him credit (Bailey credit?) because the moments he stood up and supported Georgie? Particularly the early moments when he saw things amiss and wanted to put a stop to it, even if he sometimes resisted the urge For Reasons, those moments were lovely. Because he saw her.

So, yeah, this is a weird one for me. It’s incredibly funny at times, very heartwarming and empowered with female solidarity, but the underlying purpose of the romance just didn’t work for me. Would I read on in the series? Absolutely. So I guess that’s a win.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

FIX HER UP is a fun and sometimes delightful romance, not exactly rom-com but definitely served with a slice of quips and clever banter. The couple in this story are reunited in adulthood where before they were arrogant brother’s friend and annoying little sister. In the now, Travis was a washed-up baseball star with a less than stellar reputation and Georgie was a clown (yes, really).

Georgie was actually rather endearing from the start and I appreciated her individual journey in this book from innocence to empowerment. However, I also really appreciated the feminist undertones and message of the threesome friendship of women who Georgie was part of.

Travis I have to say, was pretty unlikeable initially. I wanted him to be less uncertain, have more balls generally and eventually he came through. BUT and there’s a bit but…I wanted to choke him on his constant use of the phrase ‘baby girl’. That phrase just goes through me and I don’t think I am alone in this. I seriously had to reduce half a star for this aspect because it was so overused and it plucked me out of the story everytime.

These two together had quite a lovely story, kind of fakey dating but not. I loved their chemistry together even if I didn’t always appreciate how the intimacy played out.

I am really excited about the next couple. They’re married and it’s not working and I am all grabby hands.

IF I’M BEING HONEST by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.

In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…

But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.


Title : If I’m Being Honest
Author : Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 370
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 23, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

IF I’M BEING HONEST is something of a love letter to the archetype of the mean girl. The girl who is pretty, blonde, popular and always there with a harsh barb. What these authors do with that character, however, is somewhat different from what we’ve come to expect.

If every glare I earned, or didn’t earn but received nonetheless, bothered me, I’d drown in the judgment.

Cameron is beautiful, blonde, popular.. but she’s not rich. She doesn’t have a string of broken hearts in her past — infact, she’s been very purposefully single for two years. She has plans for her life and she executes them accordingly, each task an item on her list to be crossed off. She’s methodical because it’s something she can control. Because her home life is complicated, fraught with emotional minefields, and her honesty — her drive — is a direct result of the neglect and belittling from her father, and the disdain she has for her mother’s string of failed jobs, failed motivation, failed ability to parent. Cameron feels driven to prove to her successful, and absent, father that she can be worthy of his attention, worthy of his love, that she is unlike her mother who earns only his scorn. She puts in the work because she can see, with her own two eyes, that work gets results.

Which is why she spends a year planning out her perfect relationship. She meets the guy, likes the guy, and waits. She wants to see that he has drive, has ambition. And when she finally makes her move.. it, unfortunately, backfires. And the boy in question no longer wants her, much less likes her, as a result.

I didn’t understand it at first. Wouldn’t a person be a better friend if they told the truth? [..] I’ve always thought of honesty as helpful even if it’s hurtful.

It’s in studying THE TAMING OF THE SHREW that Cameron sees so much of herself in the main character and decides to reinvent herself, to prove herself worthy of being liked, to soften her edges; to self-tame. And so begins her road of apologies, of amends, to reinvent herself.

I would have to be pretty desperate to put my fate in the hands of Cameron Bright, the girl who wrecked my life in the first place.”
Grant, you passed desperate when you were modelling lingerie for the innocent bystanders in a bookstore.”

IF I’M BEING HONEST is a retelling/reimagining of the aforementioned Shakespeare play, as well as Ten Things I Hate About You, and honestly? By about ten percent I wanted to shout my love of this book from the rooftops. It was funny, it was unflinching, it was heartfelt, it was raw. The evolution, not only of Cameron but the relationships — platonic and romantic — was so.. organic? Genuine? Real? Sure, it occasionally journeyed a somewhat expected path as far as plot progression, and emotional speed bumps, but it was the strong writing, and the solid characters, that carried it. That, infact, made it soar.

The ending doesn’t wrap everything in a bow; not every broken or bruised relationship is mended, not everyone is perfect and pleasant. The characters don’t change, they evolve. They don’t just apologize, they forgive.

Nobody’s ever bothered to figure out what would be the exact right thing to say to me. What I need to hear.

This book made me laugh (a lot), tear up (a few times), and even had a few less-than-subtle ‘these characters are from our first book’ cameos shoehorned in at near the end. I didn’t even really mind, even if it felt a little clunky, and I have no problem taking the hint and have, in fact, already put a hold on that first book. But other than that little tease, this is a true standalone, so don’t worry about missing anything.

It’s like there’s this horrible thing eating me from the inside, and the only way to let it out is to fall apart — or to lash out. To leave someone else with hurt and doubt and insecurity just to know they know how it feels.

If you appreciate characters being unfiltered and far from perfect, as well as a story that has plenty of grand gestures, fandom, and real issues that never cross the line into overwrought drama, you should definitely pick this one up. Sure it doesn’t get full marks from me but it’s really close. All the greatness is great and even the stuff I didn’t super love.. it’s still so good. This is a perfect summer-y kind of read, because it’ll make you feel good, but don’t expect too much fluff (not used in a derogatory way). This definitely has substance, and weight, and will be well worth your time.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by André Aciman – double review!

Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.

The psychological maneuvers that accompany attraction have seldom been more shrewdly captured than in André Aciman’s frank, unsentimental, heartrending elegy to human passion. Call Me by Your Name is clear-eyed, bare-knuckled, and ultimately unforgettable.


Title : Call Me By Your Name
Author André Aciman
Series : Call Me By Your Name (book one)
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 268
Genre : historical fiction, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date : January 22, 2008

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : /


Hollis’ 1 star review

His words made no sense. But I knew exactly what they meant.
–> this is, I feel, a good expression of this entire book but flipped on its head. I understand what I read but I DON’T GET IT

I really don’t. Like, this isn’t me shitting on the overwhelming love people have for this book, or being contrary for shits and giggles.. I, personally, just don’t get it. 

Maybe I hyped this book up in my head for too long, maybe it was because I had these grand expectations, not to mention having put off watching the movie (which I will still) in order to read this first, but.. wow. Maybe, too, it’s my fault for not looking closely at the summary which does go on to detail some of the nittier gritty of what kind of relationship this book features but as I’m #TeamNoBlurbs.. it was obviously a surprise.

The first 60% of this was stream of consciousness confusion, was cringey secondhand embarrassment, was obsessive uncomfortableness.. it was so many things and none of them good. There was no characterization to these characters beyond Elio being consumed, forever fantasizing, and sifting through passages of is-it-really-happening-nope-just-dreaming chaos that made up the majority of his days; it’s intense but.. not in a good way. It’s discomfiting. I either skimmed because I couldn’t anchor myself to Elio’s internal rambling monologuing or because I just couldn’t bear to look too hard at his fixation. And Oliver was, well, a hot and cold dick of a human for the most part. And then suddenly he wasn’t, but it was all.. I don’t know, things being said, and not said, but they seem to understand it regardless? It just felt lazy and set up for the sake of drawing things out and drama. 

Not to mention they were both, at times, grossly childish or selfish.

s p o i l e r s   b e l o w

Case in point : Elio goes from screwing around with Oliver only to go to a girl’s house for more screwing around. Later, the boys have a nice afternoon delight together, then Elio heads out to meet with girl again, after having no discussion with Oliver about the logistics of this, and then when Oliver is missing upon Elio’s return, the latter is all bent out of shape and tied in knots and ‘how dare he make me wait’? Moments later Oliver’s ‘the best person he ever knew’. What the shit kind of whiplash nonsense is this? I actually refuse to tag this as a romance because, I feel, there was none. It was attraction, it was lust, it was physical intimacy (as well as certain intimacies that I believe were included in order to convince us of the existence love, make us believe there was a romance), but to me this wasn’t romantic. It was infatuation.

In the last 40%, however, there was a part or two that felt stronger (but it’s all relative, really) and yet it also transitioned into these scenes with other random characters I couldn’t care less about who rambled on about Bangkok, and various anecdotes as delivered by a poet we never see again, for eight to fifteen pages at a time. I honestly don’t know what was going on and I’m going to be fully honest : I skimmed most of it because I didn’t understand the point of it all.

There was a moving conversation between Elio and his dad near-ish to the end but then we have a time jump and weird transitions and odd conversations between adult Elio and older Oliver, reminiscing and yet not, where we’re supposed to believe this infatuation, this obsession, has endured for over twenty years, and I was just so done, long before this point, truthfully, but at least I saw it through to the end. Where the sequel goes I have no idea. And I definitely need some time to forget most of this experience before diving into the movie. 

That said, I think perhaps the movie will succeed where the book is too much for me. It wouldn’t be the first (and won’t be the last) time an adaptation succeeds in softening the edges of its source material. So I’m hopeful that a lot of what I hated about this book won’t apply to the adaptation but, for right now, I just need space from it all. I’m in no hurry.


Micky’s 1 star review …it’s pretty short

I know a lot of people loved this book but nothing about it appealed to me. In fact, I hated a lot of it. I listened to the first 35% on audio (and hated it), then a week later, I read/skimmed/read my paperback to the end (and still hated it). 

Why did I hate it? I didn’t like either character but I found Oliver to be a pretty awful person, with nothing to ingratiate himself to the reader. More than this though, 85% of the book is Elio’s inner monologue, his egotistical and obsessive mental ramblings poured onto the page for… ever. I disliked this style of writing, I found it incessantly dull and nothing about it worked for me.

Count me out for book two.