When someone burns down the home of the school janitor and he dies in the blaze, everyone in Addamsville, Indiana, points a finger at Zora. Never mind that Zora has been on the straight and narrow since her father was thrown in jail. With everyone looking for evidence against her, her only choice is to uncover the identity of the real killer. There’s one big problem—Zora has no leads. No one does. Addamsville has a history of tragedy, and thirty years ago a similar string of fires left several townspeople dead. The arsonist was never caught.
Now, Zora must team up with her cousin Artemis—an annoying self-proclaimed Addamsville historian—to clear her name. But with a popular ghost-hunting television show riling up the townspeople, almost no support from her family and friends, and rumors spinning out of control, things aren’t looking good. Zora will have to read between the lines of Addamsville’s ghost stories before she becomes one herself.
Title : Now Entering Addamsville Author : Francesca Zappia Format : ARC Page Count: 364 Genre: YA paranormal Publisher: Greenwillow Books Release Date: October 1, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ .5
Hollis’ 1.5 star review
Is there anything worse than reading a new book by an author who wrote one of your favourite books.. and not liking it? Worse, wanting to DNF it after like twenty pages?
Okay, there are many many worse things, but roll with it.
NOW ENTERING ADDAMSVILLE was such a dissa-aca-pointment (one day I’ll stop referencing these movies but today is not that day #pitchperfect4lyfe). It’s not that I had major hopes for this story in general, I just expected to love whatever this author came out with, expected to feel something (a lot of somethings, if her last book was any indication) and that didn’t happen.
This is the author’s first paranormal fiction and.. like.. it didn’t work? Or at least not for me? The worldbuilding was kind of all over the place, the mundane setting played such a huge part and yet I’m baffled as to what that was all about, and the characters? I liked maybe.. one. Maybe half of one. And this had a significant cast, there were a lot to choose from, many on offer to the reader, and nope. I’m just all around confused by how we went from ELIZA AND HER MONSTERS to this.
I know this is coming off harsh and as a result I’m going to quit this review now before it goes any further but honestly? I just have the sads.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days gets a millennial makeover in this romantic comedy by USA Today bestselling author Andie J. Christopher.
Jack Nolan is a gentleman, a journalist, and unlucky in love. His viral success has pigeon-holed him as the how-to guy for a buzzy, internet media company instead of covering hard-hitting politics. Fed up with his fluffy articles and the app-based dating scene as well, he strikes a deal with his boss to write a final piece de resistance: How to Lose a Girl. Easier said than done when the girl he meets is Hannah Mayfield, and he’s not sure he wants her to dump him.
Hannah is an extremely successful event planner who’s focused on climbing the career ladder. Her firm is one of the most prestigious in the city, and she’s determined to secure her next promotion. But Hannah has a bit of an image problem. She needs to show her boss that she has range, including planning dreaded, romantic weddings. Enter Jack. He’s the perfect man to date for a couple weeks to prove to her boss that she’s not scared of feelings.
Before Jack and Hannah know it, their fake relationship starts to feel all too real—and neither of them can stand to lose each other.
Title : Not The Girl You Marry Author : Andie J Christopher Format : eARC Page Count : 336 Genre : contemporary romance Publisher : Berkley Release Date : November 12, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 3.5 star review
Before starting this book, I did the thing you should never do : I looked at the GR rating. Which, as of writing this review, is sitting at 3.60. Which sounds bad but we need to remember this is out of five. It’s not terrible. But it was surprising considering, at the time, this was still a month out from publication.
And so I dove in, waiting, wondering, for it to go sideways. And yet it never really did?
Despite seeing the rating, I forgot to revisit the blurb (#TeamNoBlurbs) and was delighted at the How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days spin on a contemporary romance. It’s really not that far off from the film except the roles are reversed and the story is made more diverse. I thought the narrative around Hannah’s anti-dating baggage being tied up in her identity to be a really smart move. Forever questioning where she stands in a world that wants her to lean into her whiteness or shun it (she’s biracial with a white mother and black father) and the past relationship that didn’t think she was appropriate either way, coining the “not the girl you marry” phrase she then associated with herself.
On the other end of the equation, Jack is perfect. The perfect guy, the perfect boyfriend, so perfect he scared all his previous girlfriends away. He has to try hard to scare off Hannah, to go against what he wants and knows is right; and it doesn’t always work out. I thought his backstory was actually pretty perfectly balanced because it felt real, and a bit heartbreaking, but it didn’t overshadow Hannah’s.
I was really enjoying the story, the romance, the hijinks, though I’ll admit some bits felt a little dragged out — this two week period felt endless? — and I wanted less moral outrage on Hannah’s side and a little more on Jack’s. It did feel a little unbalanced though I agree the circumstances, the ramifications, from the lies would’ve been bigger had Jack seen things through. So.. I don’t know.
What did take some of the love out of this for me, too, was just how close it felt to the movie. Again, updated to include apps, diversified, backstory for the characters, so it isn’t cookie-cutter. But it’s close enough.
But I did have a good time. This was lighthearted but grounded enough to not cross into fluff territory (forever adding a disclaimer that I don’t use this word negatively) and honestly I just had a good time reading it.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.
Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.
Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.
Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.
Title : The Bromance Book Club Author : Lyssa Kay Adams Series : Bromance Book Club (book one) Format : eARC Page Count : 352 Genre : contemporary romance Publisher : Berkley/Headline Eternal Release Date : November 5, 2019/January 30, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis/Micky Rating : ★ ★ .5/ ★ ★★ ★
Hollis’ 2.5 star review
What, in concept, should be such an excellent take on a second-chance/save-the-marriage romance, with manly men learning to navigate the pitfalls and stumbling blocks of their relationships from romance novels, really only 100% succeeds in concept form.
The author throws us right into the thick of things. The story opens up with the hero on a bender because, after a month of silent treatment following a devastating reveal from his wife, he’s finally walked out. They are headed for divorce. But don’t despair! The wise yet comedic ensemble to the rescue!
“Men are idiots. We complain that women are so mysterious and shit, and we never know what they want. We fuck up our relationships because we convince ourselves that it’s too hard to figure them out. But the real problem is with us. We think we’re not supposed to feel things and cry and express ourselves. We expect women to do all the emotional labour in a relationship and then act confused when they give up on us.”
Honestly, they were the best part. But mostly Mack.
“You hear the voice, too?“ “It’s your subconscious. At some point in this process, every one of us have had to fight a British aristocrat in our brain that identifies things we would otherwise prefer to ignore.“
The problem I think, for me, is lack of context and foundation. Which I think in theory is what the author was going for. We didn’t know who these characters once were, and why we should be sad about their current state, because they’ve lost themselves (or, really, the heroine has). They have changed, faked their way through happiness, and more, until they — she — reaches her breaking point. But conversely this worked against the story — again, probably only for me — because I didn’t.. care as much? And also I found neither of them really had a leg to stand on. But, I mean, I’m not married, so what do I know?
Nothing on Earth is as strong as a woman who’s good and fed up.
The heroine’s biggest point of contention is that she feels betrayed by her husband for not seeing how much she has changed since they met. How many parts of herself she’s sanded down, or swallowed, for the sake of their family and his career. He doesn’t see all the ways she has faked living, and loving, the past few years of their relationship. But, I mean also, she throws it in his face and yet she’s also never said boo about any of it. Whereas the hero, okay yes didn’t react all that well, but every time he tried to reach her, to make up, she would push him away or shut down. I didn’t blame him for some of his frustrations. And this went back and forth for a while, with her seriously punishing him beyond where I think the limit should’ve been, and then I guess we’re meant to forgive her because it’s all been a symptom of her childhood and resulting insecurities and expectations..? Whatever. Again, this might have worked if I had.. cared.. more.
“What the hell is a Regency?“ “That means it’s set in eighteenth or early nineteenth century England.” “Oh, great. That sounds relevant.”
The romance novel/story within the story was sometimes fun but also a little much, too on the nose considering how meta this was already feeling with some of the discussions amongst the bros, but it also kinda proved that this author could write a historical romance and I would probably really enjoy it. Her writing seemed better suited to those passages than the contemporary ones.
“[it’s] at least a BB four.“ “Do I want to know what that means?“ “It’s our rating system for how much sex is in it.“ “But what does BB stand for?“ “Book Boner.”
So, overall, I didn’t quite love this. And definitely not to the extent I expected to.
This is on the shorter end of things reading wise, and it does move fairly smoothly, I felt like I made a lot of progress in a short time, but overwhelmingly the characters just kind of failed to live up to the potential. I adored the ensemble of dudes as a supporting cast because it was less of the relationship drama, though can fully admit they read more like caricatures for the comedic relief, and am tentatively looking forward to Mack in a starring role. But as a result of who I assume he’ll be paired with.. I have concerns.
“The point of all of all of this is to court her, Gavin. Not seduce her.” “What’s the difference?“ “It’s a fucking miracle you got married at all. The difference, is to make her want you, not prove how much you want her.“
I would definitely read on, and read more from this author, but I might suggest lowering expectations just a tiny bit. I definitely could’ve done with that before diving in.
** I received a ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Micky’s 3.5-4 star review
This was such a fun concept, from the blurb to the excellent book cover. I read THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB after reading a very heavy book and it was just the light kind of fun I needed. This is a perfect weekend or beach read but it also feels like a fresh concept.
I love to read a book about married couples and these two, Gavin and Thea had a marriage on the rocks and in deep trouble. It was the kind of marriage suffering from neglect and lacking in honesty. However, I could see from the start that there was much to salvage and I enjoyed their journey.
This is a romantic comedy at times with periods of seriousness. The guy friends in Gavin’s life enlisted the help of some regency books to teach Gavin how to woo and satisfy his wife. Everything about this aspect was hilarious and I adored how there was a second mini story within this book in the form of the regency novel he was reading.
He pulled ‘His Pissed-off Countess’ or whatever it was called from the drawer. Del took it from him and held it aloft like a preacher about to drop some gospel.
Gavin learning to change his behaviour was central to this story and he was kind of dumb but also humble and willing to change. I grew to like him and to root for their marriage. I was glad to see some wake-up in Thea too.
“It absolutely is true. A woman remembers every time a man winks at her, because we love winking. It’s like catnip. Wink at us, and we roll over and start purring. You haven’t winked at me in a long time.” “Then I’m an idiot.”Gavin slowly lowered his gaze to lips. “Because I wouldn’t mind hearing you purr.”
There was a strong sense of family in this book with twins in the middle of this marriage. There were some incredibly sweet moments between the four of them that just made me warm and cosy.
I’m really looking forward to reading more from this series and this author, she reeled me in with this fun story.
Thank you to Headline Eternal for the early review copy.
In this mesmerizing sequel to the New York Times bestselling Girls of Paper and Fire, Lei and Wren have escaped their oppressive lives in the Hidden Palace, but soon learn that freedom comes with a terrible cost.
Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan—it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei’s head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.
Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?
Title : Girls of Storm and Shadow Author : Natasha Ngan Series : Girls of Paper and Fire (book two) Format : ARC Page Count : 416 Genre : YA fantasy Publisher : jimmy patterson Release Date : November 5, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis/Micky Rating : ★ ★ / ★ ★
Hollis’ 2 star review
There was a quote I immediately thought of when I finished this book. It comes from Pitch Perfect 3 courtesy of Anna Kendrick who says :
“Oh, honey, that was.. we didn’t like that at all.“
I’m not as disappointed about this as I might have been had I actually liked book one to begin with. But I did hope the story, or plot, would transition into interesting avenues, or at least properly process trauma and/or grief. And it didn’t. I feel like little to nothing actually even happened in this instalment beyond journey chapters, training sequences, inappropriately timed jokes and banter (some of which felt so modern for such a distinctly historical-ish/fantasy story), and a few reveals that might have been surprising had I not clocked them through some poor attempt at being sneaky with foreshadowing.
I’ll admit I’m also disappointed this is not the duology I thought I would be and that I still have another book to read to finish this series (and I will read it) but that’s more a me problem than anything else. Though arguably it’s all a me problem.
I’m not enamoured by the writing, the plot, the bloated cast of characters and names that I lose track of, and while one of the few things in book one that won me over was the romance, in this one.. I don’t know. I feel the cracks that have begun to show are perfectly natural and expected considering both trauma, events, and losing the blush of one’s first love/exiting the honeymoon stage, but.. I don’t know. I don’t think these characters even like each other anymore? They just lust after each other and call it love. That sounds harsh but considering the genesis of their relationship, it might not too far off base. And also, hey, nothing wrong with lust? Just call it what it is?
Anyway, suffice it to say I’m still waiting to be won over by this series and at this stage I can only hope it ends well. It’s a pretty low bar for me at this point.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Micky’s 2 star review
I felt that GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE left the reader in a good spot. I started the second book, full of excitement about what was to come and full of hope for more in terms of the relationship between Lei and Wren, as this was something that wasn’t realised for me in book one.
I am sorry to say that GIRLS OF STORM AND SHADOW was a disappointment and a ball of reading frustration for me, probably exacerbated by the high hopes I had for this second in the series. The story started well with Wren and Lei in exile and hiding. It was a rather slow start but in retrospect I found this slow start preferable to the chaotic pace and storyline that ensued.
One of the things I wanted and expected from this book was to truly feel the relationship and emotional connection between Lei and Wren. I did not get this and their intimacy was faded and jaded for me. I feel awful writing this and it is with no malice, but with this lack of tangibility in their relationship, I slowly retreated from my connection with them as characters.
The story itself was disjointed and kind of repetitive, from lull to battle again and again. I was bored reading it and began to care less. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, a very contraversial trope appeared and it sealed the deal for me.
There were some things I liked, the castes, Merrin, Bo and Hiro. I liked the glimpses of Lei’s nemesis and would have liked more of this. I will be back to read the final instalment because at this point, I have invested but it will be a read with trepidation. That said, I really enjoyed book one, so I know there is possiblity of full circle.
Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.
“Think of the White Gloves like the Junior League-by way of Skull and Bones?”
Reluctant debutante Sawyer Taft joined Southern high society for one reason and one reason alone: to identify and locate her biological father. But the answers Sawyer found during her debutante year only left her with more questions and one potentially life-ruining secret. When her cousin Lily ropes her into pledging a mysterious, elite, and all-female secret society called the White Gloves, Sawyer soon discovers that someone in the group’s ranks may have the answers she’s looking for. Things are looking up… until Sawyer and the White Gloves make a disturbing discover near the family’s summer home–and uncover a twisted secret, decades in the making.
No one is quite who they seem to be.
Title : Deadly Little Scandals Author : Jennifer Lynn Barnes Series : Debutantes Format : eARC Page Count : 352 Genre : YA contemporary mystery Publisher : Freeform Release Date : November 5, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
If I thought the first book in this series was wild, I didn’t know anything. What a wild ride this truly was.
That said, things do veer towards the unreal and unbelievable but honestly it was still a really fun time. And also as long you read book one, and I don’t know why you’d skip it, you’ll be prepared for the kind of unreal and unbelievable things. But definitely not how far things will go or the surprises that are in store.
The hijinks are a little less light hearted and yet the way things resolved, and didn’t, felt.. right. Not too devastating and yet packing the right kind of punch for you to feel the rollercoaster without being too numb from all the wow moments.
Barnes keeps you guessing all the way through, and even leaves reveals almost to the very last chapter, and I think that adds to the fun. The predictable pacing of a typical kind of mystery doesn’t really apply here. Like I said, w i l d.
“At this point, I could literally become a porn star, and I still wouldn’t be the real scandal in this family.”
I would definitely recommend this for fans of Pretty Little Liars and, even if that’s not your thing at all, but you still like tightly packed twisty stories with strong characters, you’ll dig this, too. Hah, dig. Sorry. Read the book and you’ll understand.
I have no idea if this is the final book in the series or if there’s more to come — because things did kind of follow a natural conclusion and close the book on all the scandals — but if so.. I will totally read on.
** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
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. **
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.
What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.
Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.
Title : The Starless Sea Author : Erin Morgenstern Format : ARC Page Count : 487 Genre : fantasy Publisher : Doubleday Books Release Date : November 5, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 4.5 star review
Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime.
Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we? This won’t be a book for everyone. Just like THE NIGHT CIRCUS worked for you.. or it didn’t. But I can’t get enough of the way this author writes. Which makes it a travesty this is only book two from her. And yet.. if it takes this long to come up with something like this? I’ll happily wait. Again and again and again.
His religion is buried in the silence of freshly fallen snow, in a carefully crafted cocktail, in between the pages of a book somewhere after the beginning but before the ending.
If you enjoy evocative imagery, you’ll love this book. If you enjoy non-linear and/or disjointed narrative storytelling, you’ll love this book. If you enjoy stories within stories within stories (and on and on), you’ll love this book.
“Do you want to know the secret to surviving once you’ve gone down the rabbit hole? [..] Be a rabbit.“
I don’t know what to say about this one. Truly. It defies explanation and instead should just be experienced. It’s weird and wonderful and will wholly consume you. It’s complicated, it’s fantastic, it’s relevant, fantastical, and even a little bit meta. I have a feeling this is a read that’ll get better with every revisit and it’s already pretty fucking great after only one read.
“Sorry it’s so poetry out.” “So what?“ “Poetry. The weather. It’s like a poem. Where each word is more than one thing at once and everything’s a metaphor. The meaning condenses into rhythm and sound and the spaces between sentences. It’s all intense and sharp, like the cold and the wind.” “You could just say it’s cold out.“ “I could.“
This is a story I didn’t want to leave while I was in it, and is lingering with me even now, and I’m sure I’ll still be thinking about it tomorrow. And the next day. But the one thing I’ll mention? I’m adding to this review on my “tomorrow” after having read, and reviewed, this yesterday. And the one thing I woke up thinking about was.. as much as I wanted to love the romance, I don’t think it endures. I don’t want to spoil things or get into detail on this one bit where I didn’t detail anything else but as much as I was living for certain elements, in hindsight, they do kind of pale against the rest. So. I’m knocking this down just a little from my original five stars. Maybe I’ll feel different in a reread? I don’t know. That said, it’s the only bit of weakness in an otherwise very strong story.
A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun.
My recommendation? Skip over the summary (which I never did read, ever) and just dive in. Do it now.
** I won an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in a giveaway with no obligation to review. **
Talia Hibbert, one of contemporary romance’s brightest new stars, delivers a witty, hilarious romantic comedy about a woman who’s tired of being “boring” and recruits her mysterious, sexy neighbor to help her experience new things—perfect for fans of Sally Thorne, Jasmine Guillory, and Helen Hoang.
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamourous family’s mansion. The next items?
Enjoy a drunken night out. Ride a motorcycle. Go camping. Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex. Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage. And… do something bad. But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
Title : Get a Life, Chloe Brown Author : Talia Hibbert Series : The Brown Sisters (book one) Format : ARC Page Count : 384 Genre : contemporary romance Publisher : Avon / Piatkus Release Date : November 5, 2019
The fact that this book exists makes me a little less angry that the world is a dumpster fire. Which isn’t to say that the world should continue stinking and burning, just that.. maybe this is proof we might one day be okay. Because this book? This b o o k.
She hadn’t always been like this, a tongue with a tip bitten off, her feelings squashed into box. But help and concern, even from the people she loved — even when she needed it — had a way of grating. Of building up, or rather, grinding down. Truthfully, guiltily, sometimes simple gratitude tasted like barely sweetened resentment in her mouth.
Hibbert really went there. She did it. She gave us a book that tackles chronic pain in a way that I, as a reader, don’t think I’ve seen before. Chloe Brown is a force. She hurts, every day, but more than that she’s been hurt by being left. She has walls but wants to.. not remove them but maybe install a door into said perimeter. She wants to open up, live her life; even, maybe, get one. And she wants to stop letting her physical pain get in her way; or at least stop it from being an excuse for not trying. Not recklessly, not at her own expense, but she wants to find her limits and go there. There is so much grace in giving us a character like Chloe. And I loved her so much.
“We don’t have moose, Chlo. Or bears.“ “I’m quite certain that we do.” “We don’t.” “We definitely have bears.” “We don’t. If we had bears it’d be in the news all the time. You know, Fine upstanding British man attacked by a bear, EU to blame, Brexit now.“ “I’m quite certain I saw that headline on a copy of the Daily Mail the other week.“
The author has also offered us a man who has been hurt, and is hurting, and yet doesn’t take that as a license to be an asshole to the world or to our leading lady. It doesn’t mean he’s a pure soft boy of total goodness, because like anyone who hurts they get low, they get scared, they maybe lash out, but he’s so self-aware. He apologizes. He makes amends. He strives to be better, to do better, and is more than just words. And that does, actually, make him as close to total goodness as one can get, I think.
“The thing is, Red.. some of us have so many marginalizations, we might drown if we let all the little hurts flood in. So there are those, like me, who filter. I think you’ve noticed I filter a lot.“
This book took me so long to read and I think it was because, subconsciously (unconsciously?), I wanted to delay the satisfaction a bit. Savour it. Because lowkey this book was equal parts a hilarious, swoony, delight, and also quietly devastating. Which isn’t to say those quiet moments weren’t also loud but.. the way they were handled was quiet. Carefully. Again, I’ll use the word gracefully. It made those moments pack an unexpected punch without amping up manufactured drama. It made it feel natural and real and all the more potent. And as a result I probably just needed a few more breaks than normal with this particular read but oh man was it worth it.
“Throw a tantrum, if you must.“ “Throw a–? I’m not doing this with you.” “Doing what?“ “Arguing. I don’t argue with people.” “That sounds dull.”
And speaking of potent. Those swoons? Oh my god. This book was steamy af on multiple occasions but still maintained a slow sexy burn that was so delicious I have no words. None. Just (fire emoji fire emoji fire emoji).
“Wait until you see the air mattress.“ “Thewhat?“ “Well, you didn’t think I was going to fuck you on the ground, did you? I’m not a complete animal.”
If you’re looking for deletes all previous listings of what this book contains. No. Wait. If you like books, read this one. Full stop.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Micky’s 4.5 star review
GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN was a read full of quirky goodness and the first contemporary romance I’ve ever encountered that has done justice to a protagonist with a chronic illness and pain issues. For this alone, it deserves all the kudos. BUT, that aside, it’s just a damn good story that swallows you up and doesn’t let go.
Chloe was a realistic heroine, the kind of woman you could identify with, mood swings and all. I’m not going to go into detail of what was wrong with Chloe, you can read that for yourself. However, she was ready to evolve as a person managing an illness, she felt it had ruled all her decisions for too long. Her journey to becoming more herself was such good reading. Chloe was full of snark, quips and a quiet, soft centre; I loved her. Her inner monologues, especially about Red, had me hooting with hilarity.
She was a caterpillar tucked into a universe-endorsed chrysalis. Someday soon, she would emerge as a beautiful butterfly who did cool and fabulous things all the time, regardless of whether or not said things had been previously scheduled.
Red was a man of integrity and goodness, there was nothing to not like. Suffice it to say, I loved him too, his patience, generosity and retorts were all the fun. These two together were fractious chemistry, burning slowly and getting on each other’s nerves.
Like maybe she was just an awkward, sarcastic grump and he should stop losing his temper around her.
The connection between Red and Chloe invited me in early on, from the tree incident (still snorting) to the camping. I enjoyed the time it took, the unravelling of feelings and intimacy and the realism of the effect of emotional baggage on future relationships.
I appreciated the storylines in this book more than I can say. Each element of these felt totally genuine from chronic illness to abuse. They were handled with research and sensitivity and this shows me what talent Talia Hibbert has, not only to include these, but to seamlessly and congruently weave this into a love story. I am an instant fan.
Thank you to Piatkus & Little Brown for the review copy.
In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.
Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.
Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.
Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…
Title : Full Disclosure Author : Camryn Garrett Format : ARC Page Count : 320 Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ contemporary Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers Release Date : October 29, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis / Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ /★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 3 star review
I fully admit that I requested this one because of the unique circumstances described in the synopsis. A YA contemporary dealing with HIV? Not a throwback story, or historical, set against the AIDS crisis but a real person, in today’s world? I had to read it. Adding to this already rare subject matter, was a diverse cast, dealing with topics of both race and sexuality.
But ultimately I think I loved the concept more than the execution.
This story reads a little like SIMON VS THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA. Our lead has a secret, she’s not out about her HIV at school (not after the disaster that happened at her last one), and she hasn’t even told her best friends; which means neither does her crush know. But someone does and someone threatens to out her if she doesn’t spill the beans by a specific deadline. The threats even get worse as her crush suddenly becomes her boyfriend. And Simone has to make a choice : avoid the chance at love and be browbeat by an unknown or come clean to those she cares about.
Throughout the story, there are little red herrings as to who this blackmailer is. And I’ll admit I did guess correctly. I won’t spoil anything about Simone’s choices (does she tell, is she outed, does she tell and end up outed anyway) but I will say that, not being represented by anything in this book — I’m not queer or black or HIV positive (though the author is the everything but the latter) — I thought everything felt true. What ultimately kind of failed for me was some of the side drama with Simone’s besties. I felt they sometimes transitioned into strange discussions or arguments that never felt relevant for the circumstances whereas her friends from the support group, a gathering for other HIV positive teens, were fabulous.
The romance was sweet, the obsession with musicals wasn’t really my thing but I appreciated the relevance of them doing a production of Rent, and I would 100% read a backstory/companion about Simone’s parents. She had a somewhat complex and blended family situation, being adopted and also with particular dynamics still present between her dads, but overall I just loved them both so much. It was particularly nice that, with everything else going on, parental angst was not present.
Additionally, Simone is very aware and very responsible about her diagnosis. She has maturity, respect, and agency in regards to how she has to manage it and yet also wants to be educated on protocol for being sexually active while protecting herself and her partner. This is a story about living with HIV and living a full, healthy, life. There’s no real tragedy here.
So, yes, I didn’t love this but I love what it represents, what it will offer to other readers, and overall the education it’ll give many people who just don’t know enough, or maybe rely on ignorant prejudice, about HIV. Highly recommend for that alone.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Micky’s 3 star review
I requested this book because it oozed the grabby vibes with a YA context of a HIV positive protagonist. This book had lots of important themes and it was generally educational to those who might not know much about the virus in the context of adolescence and sexual relationships. However, it terms of execution and connection to the characters, the narrative left me on the outside looking in, disconnected and wanting more.
The protagonist, Simone was a secure person on the cusp of womanhood but with so many new questions about a health condition she’d lived with since forever. Simone was exploring her sexual identity, potential attractions and relationships and for the first time she was questioning what that meant in the now for her and her circumstances.
What I liked were the multiple reps of sexual identity and living with HIV, there’s so much in terms of widening knowledge and horizons for young people reading this book. I loved the dads, they were ridiculously protective on the one hand and everything precious on the other. I liked Miles but I found him unrealistic in a number of situations.
I struggled somewhat with feeling connected to Simone herself and her friends, Lydia and Claudia. There was something missing in these characters, something in the narrative that just didn’t hang right and I still can’t put my finger on it. The drama lama later in the story was predictable but I did enjoy how the story came together in the end. Although I remain unsure about Miles’ parents and any resolution of that issue.
I wanted to love this book, I appreciate its existence but it was just an okay read for me. I think maybe those younger readers than me might gain more from the narrative than I did.
Thank you to Penguin Children’s for the early review copy.
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.