YOU AND ME ON VACATION by Emily Henry – double review!

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart–she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown–but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together–lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?


Title : You and Me On Vacation (UK) / People We Meet On Vacation
Author : Emily Henry
Narrator : Julia Whelan
Format : Paperback/Audio/eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : romance
Publisher : Penguin UK / Berkley
Release Date : May 11, 2021

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Roller coaster friendship/love
Holiday vibes
Chem-is-try

There was nothing that I didn’t enjoy about Emily Henry’s upcoming release. The fact that she delivers on summery read to remember (again) and that I was lucky to read and listen in tandem to this book. Both formats were as good as one another.

You and Me on Vacation was told over a number of summers, charting the most lovely friendship; in the main this was platonic…until it wasn’t. Then, oh boy, the chemistry set fire to the pages, slowly.

We’re magnets, trying to draw together even as we cradle the careful distance between us.

In all the ways, both Poppy and Alex were opposite in personality and goals. They worked so well as friends and their summer trips were fun expeditions and something they both lived for. I loved seeing these trips unfurl as the years were recounted. I loved the people they met, the places they went but nothing was more interesting than THIS SUMMER. I loved getting back to that narrative.

The pages of this book, the minutes of the audio just turned themselves and I was sad to get to the end. Emily Henry knows how to inject just a little drama and tension with a great contemporary story. I’m here for next summer’s installment!

Narration-wise, this was single POV and single narration and it was excellent. I got all the sense of characterisation and the emotional feels from the listen. It’s such a perfect format to absorb the story while on literal vacation!

Thank you to Penguin for the gorgeous book and audio early copies.


Hollis’ 4 star review

I absolutely loved Beach Read so to say People We Meet On Vacation was highly anticipated would be an understatement. Expectations were high (sorry self! sorry book!). Then I found out it was a best-friends-to-lovers romance and I braced myself; it’s not one of my favourite tropes (though I like it a lot more than second chance romances) and the track record for enjoyment has been pretty hit or miss. I don’t mind people who initially start as friends and transition but long-time friends to more? I don’t know, I’m generally not sold.

But this might be a new favourite?

He is tall, quiet, and eager to see the library. I’m short, loud, and hoping someone comes by and invites us to a real party. By the time we part ways, I’m fairly confident we’ll never speak again.

The way this story was told flirts with that “one day a year in the life” concept but in a much better way. Also, on the topic, the flashback element? Solid. Sometimes it just does not work well but it was so good. Particularly how it built. Also also this was one of the better-done third act breakups (it’s not a spoiler, we all know to expect it!) because I hate manufactured drama and this just felt perfectly timed for r e a s o n s.

When a hot babe approaches you at a bar, the number one thing you should not bring up is your codependent relationship with your asshole cat.”
First of all, Flannery O’Connor is not an asshole. She’s shy.”
She’s evil.
She just doesn’t like you. You have strong dog energy.”

This doesn’t quite get full marks from me but I think that’s my fault. Mostly. The ARC has some minor but annoying formatting issues, yes, but more than anything I think I just read this too fast. I did not savour this experience and I wonder if maybe I should’ve soaked up the feels and the nuance and the awkward and the everything else that this book did such a good job of doing. I will definitely be adding this to the re-read pile and I hope to eventually come back and bump this up a little higher. But it’s still such a great time. Because of the sorta-grumpy-sunshine mix. The millenial ennui. The way so much just didn’t go according to plan. The heart. The so much more I’m not even touching on.

I think you’ll like this! And if nothing else you can live vicariously through the vacation and jetsetting. That alone is worth picking this up. The laughs and swoons are just a bonus.

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

A VOW SO BOLD AND DEADLY by Brigid Kemmerer – double review!

Face your fears, fight the battle.

Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace. 

Fight the battle, save the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and a dangerous enemy returns, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.


Title : A Vow So Bold and Deadly
Author : Brigid Kemmerer
Series : Cursebreakers (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)/audio review
Page Count : 408
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA/Audio
Release Date : January 26, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think I’m only actually bothering to review this one because I have reviews for the first two on the blog and so my completionist gene poked me to.. well, complete the trilogy of reviews. But overall I really don’t have much to say?

I think ultimately what failed this series, though, was the villain. Where it worked was that often the stakes did feel high because the violence and death toll was real. The author did not shy away from some of the more brutal consequences. But at the same time.. like, it felt not high at all? I still struggle with the motivations of it all, really. It felt a bit like a misstep because the whole conflict felt off balance. And then ultimately.. I mean, really? All that for.. what.

But likewise I feel like the other characters, too, had their moments with this. Maybe that’s why this series never achieved great heights for me. I think I like the concepts and the unfolding of the story but kept getting knocked out of it because the characters themselves didn’t quite match the rest.

Having said that, though, the big confrontation conflict moment? Confusing. Chaos. Hard to follow. And then.. over. That is my biggest gripe with this particular installment. I had lost the love over the main pairing back at the end of book one, or early two, so I was only into the secondary pairing, and they definitely delivered. The first? Less so. But I think that also plays into me just not being into the main plot? And is why I liked book two more? Did I rate this book too high? Is this actually a 2.5? Hm.

Anyway. Overall, this series had some things to like about it but also had enough that either didn’t pan out or just didn’t work for me. But it also made for quick reads (this one being no exception) and I’m not mad about the time I spent in this world; but nor will they linger in my memory; which is totally fine. I need every ounce of salvagable free space in my brain I can get.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Family fighting
New roles for old friends
The threat of war

I’m feeling an overall sense of satisfaction with where the series has left readers and the latter part of the reading journey was incredibly fulfilling. Some of the middle journey didn’t always keep me fully engaged.

The two factions of this story were really pitched against one another at the end of the previous book with the queen of evil in the middle. I appreciated the stories on both sides of this but what has been hugely interesting to me has been my own feelings across the series as I’ve gravitated from one set of characters to another in terms of loyalty. I wanted to stay in Grey’s crew and had to remind myself to care about Rhen and Harper. I do feel like Harper’s character has faded a little across the series. Lia Mara still left me feeling a bit ambivalent.

Things I enjoyed about this installment included the strategy, the uncertainty that characters had of one another, healing of old hurts and reconciliations. It felt good to complete the series.

This was an audio listen and I enjoyed the narrators, the atmosphere and the general vibe of the book in this format. There was an early slip up with one narrator saying ‘Lia Maria’ instead of Lia Mara a few times, but it didn’t get repeated more than twice.

Readers new to the series will get to power through the three books and I think this will be a great binge.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for this audio review copy.

BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.


Title : Black Sun
Author : Rebecca Roanhorse
Series : Between Earth and Sky (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 464
Genre : fantasy / sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : October 13, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

So obviously this isn’t the five star review all my friends, and likely your friends, are writing. So skip right by.

For the second time in the last month (maybe.. what even is time) or so I have attempted to dive into a fantasy to pull me out of this endless slump and for the second time.. it has not worked. Has, in fact, failed miserably. This is probably, very likely, a me thing; hence the skipping.

What works? This isn’t yet another generic-Euro-centric fantasy. The writing is easy; I chewed through this very quickly despite the chonkyness. It was very queer.

That’s all I got. I know, I suck, I’m sorry.

Give this a try, you’ll probably like it.

PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir – double review!

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission – and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crew mates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realises that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian – while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.


Title : Project Hail Mary
Author : Andy Weir
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : Sci-Fi
Publisher : Del Rey UK
Release Date : May 4, 2021

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Rookie astronaut
Dystopia background
A rainbow of emotions

Just wow. I feel like Project Hail Mary has spoilt me for other books in 2021 and it’s only April. So much could be said about the plot but everything would potentially be spoilery, so this review will be more about the reading experience than context. All I can say about context is that Earth was in peril, the protagonist Ryland Grace was an unusual ‘saviour’ and that the story was complex but so wonderfully deep and follow-able. I highlighted a lot but again, no quotes shared here so as not to spoil.

I am science-geeky, I like my sci-fi reads to be well grounded in science and good research. This book had all that and more. For me, this book might just top The Martian or at least tie, in terms of that kind of goodness. What we got in this book was a deep sophistication of writing alongside the most amazing plot.

I didn’t expect the story direction but I delighted in it. I adored Rocky and that Rookie-Rocky connection so damn much. I loved the linguistics, the materials, the experiments, the in-space context as well as the earth context. The past and present narrative was excellently executed and not overused. It had a real purpose in this story and when answers from the past came, they really were worth the wait.

There were so many banter-y moments of dialogue/monologue, sarcasm, laugh out loud moments that made this signature Weir. However, there were bucket-loads of tension and surprisingly, I found myself in tears twice, once in sadness and another time in pure joy.

I cannot imagine this not being at the top ten of 2021 reads, it’s definitely a contender and totally unforgettable. Please, please can we have a film too? I imagine this is going to be epic on audio and so I’ll be planning in a re-read that way.

Thank you DelReyUK for the early review copy, you made my year!


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So I definitely did not like this as much as my buddy (hi buddy!) but I did like it.

Despite my insane love for The Martian (the movie), I’ve actually not read the book, or any Weir, so this was my first experience with the author. And wow he really doesn’t skimp on the science! Page after page had me feeling more and more stupid but it was also.. easy to follow? Like, nothing was dummed down but it was still explained in a way that I understand. So on behalf of dummies everywhere, thank you?

While there was some humour, however, I didn’t much like the dialogue. Whether this character in particular was supposed to be a little weird or a little silly or just offbeat, or that’s just how the author writes (I can’t say!), I don’t know. But I found it was a weird balance.

There is plenty of uncertainty, suspense, some feels, and yes, a few laughs. There are definitely moments that stand out for me (Rocky!) but overall I don’t think I’ll think much about this overall. But that said, this is very actiony and tense and exciting and, honestly, will make a fabulous movie. I would definitely watch it.

JUST LAST NIGHT by Mhairi McFarlane

International bestseller Mhairi McFarlane explores lifelong friendships, long-buried secrets, and unexpected love in a heartfelt, emotional new novel, perfect for fans of Evvie Drake Starts Over, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, or In Five Years.

Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction…

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?


Title : Just Last Night
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date : May 4, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

‘I’ll just pick this up to kill an hour or two before dinner’, she thought. ‘That’s all. Just dip my toe in and then read the rest later or tomorrow.. ‘

.. fast forward to four hours later when I have not even moved from the couch. I swear. No pee breaks, no food, nada. I love that feeling. Also I should’ve known better because not only is it me but it’s also a McFarlane book.

Is my face covered in tears? Yes. Was this exactly what I (even limited #NoBlurber that I am) thought it would be? Nope. Did I love it anyway? Obviously.

This feels like the most McFarlane book to McFarlane since I read Don’t You Forget About Me in 2019. I’ve experimented with some of the author’s backlist, read her most recent release, and now this one. But this is the closest I’ve got to that all-consuming feeling I first had a few years ago upon discovering this author. If you’ve read her before, you know exactly what I mean.

I’m honestly without any kind of words. I’m just feelings. I laughed, I cried, I did both some more, and mostly I just marveled at how good she is at creating complicated messes that don’t feel like someone who is contriving to write about complicated messes. It feels like eavesdropping on real lives, people you sort’ve know, and are therefore invested in. No perfect specimens, no uncomplicated situations. Just real.

I still have a few McFarlane’s to dip into but in looking back through my memories of what I have read I think where I waffle is sometimes I’m just not into the romance element. I’m here for the wit, the biting truthbombs, and the friendships, but sometimes I’m not sold on the romance. I do still think Don’t You Forget About Me tops the chart, even in that respect, but this was the closest I’ve had since. And just, overall, I loved every single thing about it, too.

If you’ve yet to try this author you absolutely must.

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

RULE OF WOVES by Leigh Bardugo

The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.

The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible. 

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.


Title : Rule of Wolves
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Series : King of Scars (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 598
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Imprint
Release Date : March 30, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So I think I’m in a pretty similar space and feeling about this book as I was with book one. It didn’t quite deliver the kicking of ass I expected but I was a lot less bored. And yet..

I don’t know, I feel like this book did a lot of good, or great things, but I think I enjoyed it because of the whole. This really is a ‘verse now, and we had even more reunions and cameos in this follow up installment than we did in book one, and I did enjoy myself. But this particular book and series? I don’t know.

But what this spinoff set up for us to come? Some of the loose ends, or unknowns, it tied up and revealed to us? I mean, I’m pretty satisfied.

While I was less bored, which was my main complaint about King of Scars, this did take me a huge chunk of the day to get through (and yes it a chonky book in general) because it just didn’t compell me, capture my attention, keep me from reaching for twitter. But despite that it did keep me reading all day which is in short supply lately (always).

So, make of all this what you will! I will continue to reach for books, or whatever kind of content (one week as of the writing of this before the show!) Bardugo offers us, but is this series a favourite? No. Maybe on reread? Who can say. But I had a good time anyway.

FUGITIVE TELEMETRY by Martha Wells

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


Title : Fugitive Telemetry
Author : Martha Wells
Series : The Murderbot Diaries (book six)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 176
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : April 27, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was [..] a construct made of cloned human tissue, augments, anxiety, depression, and unforcused rage, a killing machine for whichever humans rented me, until I made a mistake and got my brain destroyed.

So let’s get the mild bits that bummed me out.. out of the way. First of all, this is a novella length installment again, after book five was full length. Not too bad, really, as we’re mostly used to this. However the major thing that bummed me out? No ART.

Don’t look at me like that’s my fault. I’m just telling you shit I know.

But otherwise? This was another Murderbot adventure that made me laugh, snicker, and entertained me. After all the excitement of book five it maybe was a little lacking in tension and edginess but it was still really great. I likely have more quotes I want to insert than I actually have material for a review because I mean.. at this point we all kind of know what to expect. Murderbot rescues people despite a lack of trust. Murderbot wishes they are just watching Sanctuary Moon. Hijinks ensue.

I would have either disposed of the body so it was never found, or made it look like an accident.
How would you dispose of a body so it wouldn’t be found?
If I told you, then you might find all the bodies I’ve already disposed of.

If you aren’t already into this series you totally should be.

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

A STRANGER IN TOWN by Kelley Armstrong

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s next Rockton book, A Stranger in Town, the biggest mystery is the fate of the town itself.

Detective Casey Duncan has noticed fewer and fewer residents coming in to the hidden town of Rockton, and no extensions being granted. Her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, presumes it’s the natural flux of things, but Casey’s not so sure. Something bigger is happening in the small town they call home.

When an injured hiker stumbles from the woods, the sole survivor of a hostile attack, it’s all hands on deck. Even a member of the elusive Rockton council comes in to help. This council member also comes bearing news: Rockton is being shut down due to the hostile situation.

Casey and Eric must now race to save the town that has allowed residents to have a fresh start, away from the mistakes of their past, while also getting to the bottom of this latest attack. 


Title : A Stranger in Town
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : Rockton (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 9, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Realistically I should not have liked this so much, particularly considering the last two books in this series were somewhat of a disappointment (but only in the grand scheme of the series, I mean, and when compared to books one to three). But the plot got so.. I won’t say wildly but quite a bit out of control, much suspension of disbelief required, and yet I had a great time anyway.

To more or less copy over from my previous review’s summation, this series is about an off-the-grid town in the Yukon, called Rockton. Rockton being a town populated by people who have escaped horrors, are on the run from something in their pasts, and have found a place where they can disappear for a few years. Sometimes, too, they are the ones who caused the horrors and just paid enough to a particular group in order to be admitted in order to lay low. Our lead protagonist is Casey Duncan, who arrived to this town to help her friend escape her ex, and has become one of the three detectives who help to police the outlaw-esque locals and keep the peace. Each book has juggled conflicts from within the town but also dealt with those who run the program that allows this to exist, as well as outside elements; as in, literally the outsider weather elements but also.. more.

This was the first since installment since book three that actually felt true to the origins of the series. Yes, via Casey, two years in, we are now settled into the running of this town, but equally her involvement has shed much to light — in a multitude of directions. Specifically this mystery, this adventure, while it had so many moving parts, it managed to juddle them without ever feeling overwhelming, and watching them come together was ever so satisfying; even though for some of them I was tapping my foot waiting for the characters to clue in. It was a smug kind of foot tapping, though, not the impatient kind.

Additionally, this book has broader impacts to the series at large, making me wonder if maybe Armstrong really is trying to wrap things up soon. She must have an end in mind and I wonder if maybe we’re nearing that now. Because if the characters go down a particular path they are considering, especially now that a particular element is more or less out of the way, well.. that would be it, wouldn’t it?

Either way, I’ll be eagerly anticipating that upcoming journey, no matter how it looks.

WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD by Ciannon Smart

Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance. 

Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power. 

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes


Title : Witches Steeped in Gold
Author : Ciannon Smart
Series : Witches Steeped in Gold (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 560
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : April 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Look, I’m not saying I’m an idiot for picking up a dense complicated fantasy while trying to pull myself out of a slump but.. if the shoe fits, right?

While a good portion of my struggle with this book is, as above, my own damn fault, I also think the first half of this book is just too thick. There is so much to wade through as far as history and worldbuilding and terminology, which is kind of understandable with a series-starter, but it just didn’t sink in. And while the second half of the story was full of action and betrayals and reveals, oh my, I’m still left wondering if I understand anything about this world.

I’m also kind of confused as to where we ended up with one of the main characters. But that’s a whole other thing.

Easily my favourite thing about this was the writing; even when I was struggling with a character, or two, or the plot, I enjoyed how it was all written. But overall, beyond the representation, I’m not entirely sure this is memorable and I know I will absolutely to remember anything about this by the time the sequel is out. Which is a bummer.

I definitely suggest you still give this is a try if you’re interested, though; I’m writing this just two weeks shy of its release and the early buzz is poppin’. This is connecting with, and entertaining, so many readers. So don’t let this slumpy party pooper put you off.

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

WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

An academic enemies-to-lovers YA with all the nerdy drama, high school antics, and heartpounding romance of the Netflix original series Never Have I Ever

Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead. 

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.


Title : What’s Not To Love
Author : Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary romance
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

I am so relieved right now. I was really starting to think If I’m Being Honest was a fluke for this duo. While I had liked everything else they had written, nothing had edged over into love category and while I enjoyed the topics and themes, I was nonetheless a little disappointed.

What, Sanger? You don’t enjoy our conversations?
They’re not conversations, they’re hostage negotiations.

Until now.

For every reason I have to despise Ethan, I’m grateful for the chance to prove my worth. To prove not that I am the best, but that I can be the best.

That said, I was definitely feeling some minor trepidation with this one, too. I was loving the competitive dynamic between the two leads but, not unlike in another romance (though, that one was adult, not YA), I worried it was just a little too much to come back from. Too often toeing over that line where the bickering and banter becomes too harsh, the back and forth too toxic, the overall relationship too problematic. But not only did the characters have dialogue about those moments but how it all unfolded ended up working just right.

I’m surprised this many people want to celebrate his birth. I would rather commemorate it the way one would a natural disaster or other unfortunate occurence — somber social media posts, vows to stay strong on this dark day.

This particular match-up was also so much more than I expected it to be, in regards to motivations and self-awareness. I’ve definitely appreciated how these two authors have explored the strangeness of post-highschool life, and what that looks like, what it has to be, both on personal and romantic levels, and I liked how they worked through it via a new angle with these two characters; and even with those within their friendships and families.

Even when you think you’ve found your story, you might need to change it later if the one you’ve living doesn’t work.

Overall it was just.. fun. The tension, the combativeness, the mixed feelings when one would deviate from the expected, and how that looks going into their future. I would definitely recommend this one. Obviously.

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