THE EXTRAORDINARIES by TJ Klune

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl meets Marissa Meyer’s Renegades in TJ Klune’s YA debut.


Title : The Extraordinaries
Author : TJ Klune
Series : The Extraordinaries (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen
Release Date : July 14, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I feel like my feelings on this book went up and down as the story went along. There were some pretty great highs (and I mean that not necessarily limited to light hearted delight but also momentsof pure emotion and sadness) and also some middling.. not lows but, like, middles. 

Are you both all right?
Aside from the emotional trauma that will probably rear its head when I’m thirty-seven and working at my cubicle in a dead-end job that I hate, just fine.
I’m fine. Any trauma I might have had is being washed away by the tragic comedy occurring right in front of me.

If you’re a fan of Klune’s humour, you’ll absolutely have a good time. Some passages had me in stitches. If you’re a fan of Klune’s angst, you probably won’t be super satisfied but you’ll be content. This is a YA with comedic leanings, so, it’s got sufficient heartache but isn’t quite on par with the torment the author inflicts in his adult stories. And we also have a story that looks fairly typical on the onset and maybe doesn’t go in every typical direction. There’s still some predictable paths taken but less than you might think. I don’t know if some of that predictability comes from the fairly standard superhero/comic tropes or it was done to showcase just how stunningly oblivious our main character was, but.. I mean, it could be both. 

He felt badly for all the generation that had come before him, unable to access queries immediately such as if it was okat for boys to give other boys flowers. Two minutes later, he was somehow reading a Wikipedia article on the Women’s Cricket World Cut, unsure of how he got there.

I’ll admit said main character, Nick, was maybe my least favourite character of the bunch, which had nothing to do with his ADHD, or how extra of a stan he was about his love for his heroes, though maybe was influenced by his self-centeredness, but was really more to do with how fabulous Klune’s supporting cast was. Gibby and Jazz were just exceptional. And Seth was the soft geeky cinnamon roll we all love to love. But where Nick was his best was in every father-son scene. His relationship with his father was complex and hard but their devotion, their love for each other was just wonderful. And I can’t wait to see more of that in future books and how, maybe, that might change. Or won’t. You know. Depending on.. things. Which, yes, again, maybe a little predictable. But it’s fine.

I’m not fragile.”
I know. I figured that out the first time I dropped you on your head and it made a little dent. You didn’t even cry.”
What do you mean, the first time? There was more than once?
Being a parent is hard. Kids are slippery.”

So, yes, this is a like not a love but I think many readers will love this one. And I will definitely read on in the series.

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

AURORA TERMINUS by S.E. Fanetti

The end of the world came quietly, in a breathtaking display of light and color, while everyone stopped and watched, entranced.

And then the lights went out, and death and chaos took over.

A woman went up, high above the fray, and tried to build a life alone from what was left of the world that had been.

A man stayed down, in the midst of the turmoil, and tried to find a home in the world that had become.

But neither life nor home is possible until there is family, until love and trust and hope return.

Until then, there is only survival.


Title : Aurora Terminus
Author : S.E. Fanetti
Format : eBook
Page Count : 527
Genre : post-apocayptic
Publisher : indie
Release Date : April 7, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

AURORA TERMINUS was a book recommended to me ages ago by a friend and one I just kept putting off. Reading friends’ favourites is scary, yo. We all know this. So naturally I felt the best time to pick up a post-apocalyptic event story was during.. now. 2020. Making great choices every day, I am.

The end had come, but quietly, even gracefully.

But I have zero regrets. Except for the regret regarding the fact that I waited this long to read this.

The Sunstorm had torn off the fragile veneer of decency and shown most people to be, at best, insular and suspicious, and at worst, bestial and cruel. Whatever bond of humanity still pulled anyone was only strong enough, and elastic enough, to reach the limits of a small group. At best.

This story is something of a mashup between STATION ELEVEN and 28 Days Later (yes, the zombie movie) and yet it’s also distinctly it’s own. The world ended, not from plague, not from war, or aliens, but from solar flares. Society crumbled with it. And so did humanity; at least for some. The story follows a woman surviving in a cabin off the general radar, on her own, self-sufficient, and a man who has been both a solo wanderer and now finds himself with a group. Their stories play out, then converge, but it’s all about the realities of surviving in a world that has turned against its people, and those people who are just trying to go about the rest of the lives, while also surviving those who prefer to do harm to them just for living or having what they don’t.

As implied, there is some darkness, some violence, in this story but the gory bits aren’t sensationalized and the more targeted harm is pretty much all done off page. 

The world would live on without people. That was the story of the Sunstorm. Not the end of the world. A cataclysm, but not the apocalypse. Simply the end of the human era.

But for all the stark and bleak realities within these pages, it also shines light on hope, on living instead of just surviving, on a possible future. There is healing, love, and dogs. Pretty sure most of my tears spilled over the animals, actually. But the characters of the two legged variety were pretty okay, too. Diana was an absolute force. She’s made me realize I don’t need (or want) a burly creature as my partner when the end of times (or zombies.. or zombies in the end of times) comes. Give me the person who has well researched what might happen in a fictional universe where everything goes to shit and how to navigate it. Proving that nerds are not only the new sexy.. but the secret to survival.

Jokes aside, this read was totally absorbing (I literally devoured it and stayed up past my bedtime because I refused to put it down), and would definitely recommend for fans of the genre — even if you might want to avoid this kind of book in the immediacy of our own circumstances — and I want to say huge thanks to Paula for the recommendation. Sorry it took me so long!

BOYFRIEND MATERIAL by Alexis Hall

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.


Title : Boyfriend Material
Author : Alexis Hall
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca 
Release Date : July 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and while I know this year has gone mostly to shit, and expectations should be rightly tossed into the incinerator at this point, I didn’t think I’d have to add BOYFRIEND MATERIAL to the heap of 2020 disappointments. Because this should be everything I could ever want : queer, fake dating, Hall. And it was those things. But I was scraping near the bottom of the barrel to round up past average feelings of like for the first half and by the end I just sat on my couch, looking around, feeling let down.

This is a very OTT kind of romance/comedy/story, and if you’re familiar with Hall you might have long ago learned to just roll with it. Or, maybe like me, you’ll just be tired of it. I hate to compare but nothing has ever measured up to GLITTERLAND or FOR REAL but I thought maybe this could be a contender for those classic favourites. Unfortunately.. no.

[..] really, what do you have to lose?
Pride? Dignity? Self-respect?
Luc, you and I both know you have none of those things.

There were moments of enjoyment — pretty much every scene with Luc’s mum was great — or feels but overwhelmingly I’m just back to the OTTness of it all. Both in the characters (oh all the random wtf is happening conversations.. they went from could-be-charming to when-will-it-end), some of the events, and also in the handling of things.

I found myself staring into the kindly, twinkly eyes of the late Sir Richard Attenborough.
Wtf is this? I [text] back.
A dick pic.
You are not funny.

I can appreciate some of our protagonist’s character growth, because he’s a hot mess at the beginning, and he’s not quite as bad near the end, and at first I loved the stiff upper lip-y rigidness of the love interest, with the added bonus of some baggage in the family dynamic part, but then it all went sideways on me with him, too, so I don’t know where we are in the end. With either of them.

Or, really, the story.

If you’re into quirky strange characters, love a heaping pile of British in your contemporaries, you might like this. If you don’t normally care for either but you loved Hall’s take on FSoG, you also might like this (spoiler : I didn’t, and in hindsight I think my dislike of both are rooted in some of the same issues..). Overall, the premise, the concept, it will definitely appeal to many (it appealed to me!) but this just didn’t pan out. And as a result of yet another recent failed-to-enjoy-a-new-release from what I thought was a favourite author, I may just resign myself to rereading my two favourite Halls in the future instead of stumbling through anything new. I’m sad about it but alas.. here we are.

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

DARING AND THE DUKE by Sarah MacLean

Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best…until the man she once loved returns. 

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back…and make her his duchess. 

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether—something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she’s built, the life she’s claimed…and the heart she swore he’d never steal again.


Title : Daring and the Duke
Author : Sarah MacLean
Series : Bareknuckle Bastards
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : June 30, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

My trepidation for starting this book was two-fold. One, because I was slumping hard, and two, I worried about how this story, featuring this particular male protagonist, could win me over after all the chaos and damage he had done over the course of this series.

So I’m pretty pleased that a, this book pulled me out of the world for a short time, and b, that the turnaround for this character felt.. valid. Very different from the last third-book-in-a-series-asshole-redemption installment I experienced from MacLean, so. Yay.

DARING AND THE DUKE was definitely not my favourite of the series, probably at least a bit becuse I went in uncertain, and, again, I’m probably influenced by everything happening around me just a tad, but. It was swoony, it was angsty, it had agency, and it had a happy ending. And there’s a lot to be said for a lot of that.

It’s hard to say much without spoiling any details or reveals from previous books but the main plot point of this series, of a terrible man willing to uphold his legacy in any way he can, and the children who are at the mercy of his machinations, was so unique. And the dynamics of all four, and how things play out, provides much angst, a bit of darkness, and a whole lot of opportunity for the author to balance that with (particularly for the first two books) feisty, fabulous, women, and, in the final book, a good grovel.

If any of that sounds like a good time, I would definitely recommend!

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

WIRE WINGS by Wren Handman

Graciela does as she’s told: she cowers beneath the towering intellect of her parents, goes to school, toes the line. But in the Waves, a virtual reality world, Graciela can be anyone, anywhere, anytime. Free.

In the real world, Graciela is drowning. Her best friend recently passed away, she’s suffering from crippling panic attacks, and her only connection to life is Khaiam, who keeps trying to draw her back to reality.

But how can he compete with the Waves? There, she can be whoever she dreams. And in that world, there’s Thomas, the stunning stranger with haunted eyes she’s only ever met online. Thomas seems to be able to defy the rules of the Waves, and he holds secrets of his own—about the origins of his creation, the nature of AI, and about Gracie’s own past. He will lead her on a dangerous road to truths she isn’t ready for, and the ultimate decision between acceptance and identity, duty and love, life and freedom.


Title : Wire Wings
Author : Wren Handman
Format : eARC
Page Count : 284
Genre : YA sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Parliament House Press
Release Date : June 23, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

WIRE WINGS is a compelling story about grief; about the gaping holes left by the lose of someone you loved. It’s about escapism; pushing aside your real-world worries, and leaving reality behind. It’s about identity; the masks we choose for ourselves, and the core of us beneath them all. It’s about love; the awkwardness of friendships that existed because of other people, the complicated dynamics of parent and child, and the purity of connection that reaches down past your skin and into the truth of you and being accepted for it.

[..] sometimes she wonders what makes a person real.

This story takes place in the not-so-distant future and Handman’s world mostly resembles our own but the world she’s created in the Waves, this VR-esque experience, is like nothing else. Calling them games doesn’t do them justice, but the experiences, everything, are vivid and fascinating and a stark change in pace from Graciela’s every day existence where she’s barely getting by, barely able to breathe, and feeling overlooked and lost.

WIRE WINGS is equal parts exciting and colourful as well as heartbreaking and tragic. There is such beauty in the prose, mirrored in all the worlds we flit in and out of, but that ache of loss and devastation is never truly gone and resonates both viscerally and also subtlely throughout. It’s reaching for the hand that isn’t there. Walking into rooms that were once filled with laughter. In the friendships held together by a body that no longer takes up any space. It’s in the bloom of a romance that can’t be shared with the one you most want to tell. The name you can barely speak for choking on the syllables. But most of all, it’s in the acknowledgement of their memory when you find moments of happiness and not flincing away from it or feeling guilty.

This story is brilliant, bittersweet, and beautiful, and I think you should read it.

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

TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN by Talia Hibbert – double review!

Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral…

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom. 

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse? 

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs. 

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?


Title : Take a Hint, Dani Brown
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : The Brown Sisters (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon/Little Brown UK
Release Date : June 23, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m going to preface this (likely short and terribly unsatisfying) review by saying I read the first 65% basically in one sitting and then got smacked with a slump for over a week; so while this is definitely a book I loved, enjoyed, swooned at, got weepy over, I can’t know for certain if it wouldn’t have been rated even higher if not for that break. I’m sad I didn’t do right by this book, or this author, and will have to make an effort to reread this (and book one!) before the third comes out. For quality control’s sake. And, like, also, because it was great.

Danika Brown was the queen of one-time things. Zaf wouldn’t know what to do with a one-time thing if it showed up with a fifty-page instruction manual and slapped him on the dick.

Hibbert always fills her stories with representation, of all kinds, and this one is no exception; her treading of sensitive topics ever so considerate; and her steam? (fire emoji fire emoji). We have the sweetest of family dynamics, the focus this time more on Zafir’s side — though we do get some Brown sister moments, of course, but Dani leans on her bestie Sorcha more in this one — and I just.. well, listen, I loved Dani, don’t get me wrong, but big burly RBF’d yet soft and tender Zafir? He stole both my heart and the show.

Liar.”
What?
That’s your lying voice. It’s all tight and scratchy.
Who are you? The bloody.. voice police?
I hope next time you’re in the shower, you think of seventy things you could’ve said just then that would’ve been way better than ‘voice police.’

I know I already mentioned it but it bears repeating : I loved, I laughed, I cried, I hurt, I swooned. It’s a Hibbert. These things kind of go without saying. But here I am saying it twice anyway.

Sweetie, are you crying?
No, I’m leaking masculine pain from my eyeballs.”

I’m certain you’ll love this book. And I can’t wait for book three.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

I hope you are ready to swoon over this book because the hero Zafir is something a bit special. I knew immediately he was going to sell this book, this story line. That’s not to say Dani Brown isn’t a great character, but she’s a contradiction of sharp corners and loyalty; she took some getting to know, to like.

Dani Brown was an academic chasing a PhD (that certainly resonated with me) and pretty career focused. She was only in the market for friends with benefits of any gender. Considering her and Zafir had been friends for some time, stepping it up was almost natural, if it wasn’t for Dani’s rules of engagement. Dani was a curvy, strong and intelligent woman but she knew she didn’t connect emotionally as well to people, so beyond her family she seemed to stop trying. I enjoyed seeing her character grow.

Zafir, Zafir, Zafir…a big, kind, ex-Rugby star, romance-reading, beta-male with anxiety. How could that combination not float my boat? He was considerate, thoughtful and a big bag of lust combined with affection over Dani. The dialogue and inner monologue were perfection and chuckle-inducing.

“Good morning,” he purred, his eyes landing on Dani’s chest like tit-seeking missiles.

Despite Zaf’s niceness towards Dani, he was gruff and grumpy looking. There was a whole back story to Zaf that was deep and engaging. His mental health issues were well written and he was that kind of character that just pulled you in.

“This is just my face. I have a murder face.”

“Honestly, Zafir, you’re so grumpy you could create your own storm clouds.”

The second book in this series had a story just as engaging as the first. These sisters are different, unique and so funny. There were cameo moments for Chloe and Red that made me a little gooey. And Eve…I just know her book is going to be hilarious.

Go get your moves on for TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN. Talia Hibbert just writes these women with a realness and wit that you cannot resist.

Thank you to Little Brown UK for the early review copy.

A MADNESS MOST DISCREET by Laura Lascarso

Michael D’Agostino is a bestselling mystery author suffering from writer’s block when he meets Arden Evans, a beguiling escort and catalog model attempting to write a memoir of his own.

Michael is captivated by the young man, whom he finds refreshingly honest and authentic. When Arden asks that they “keep it simple,” Michael readily obliges. Their arrangement becomes increasingly complicated, however, as Michael begins to want more from his enchanting lover.

And then there is the matter of Arden’s finances, something so fiercely personal that Arden refuses to discuss it. This same debt is what obligates Arden to his wealthy benefactor, much to Michael’s vexation.

Michael wants their love affair to last, but how do you hold onto a man whose gaze is forever fixed on the horizon?


Title : A Madness Most Discreet
Author : Laura Lascarso
Series : A Midsummer Story
Format : eARC
Page Count : 298
Genre : m/m romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : June 20, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

As is often the case with me, I tend to forget what books are about by the time I pick them up. There are obviously times where this isn’t the case but it happens more often than you might think. Case in point : I had convinced myself that Lascarso had written something light and fluffy because a) my brain is a sieve these days due to work and the world and b) that cover is gorgeous and lovely and gives me happy vibes.

This book was way more than the cover implies. But it’s also a Lascarso so I’m an idiot for thinking it wouldn’t be more.. though one day she’ll probably write fluff just to mess with me.

What started out as a story leaning into a PRIDE AND PREJUDICE vibe (as explained by the author herself) due to the economic disparity — as well as the vast distance between opportunity and circumstance — between the protagonist’s situations shifted instead into a something sorta resembling Sex and the City. But with an HBO edge.

You’re cultivating a mystique.
I have to. It’s my only currency.”

This is a story I’ll admit did not hook me right away (though to be fair reading is a struggle these days..). But after a turning point, and I couldn’t even really say what or when that was, I looked up and it was eleven PM on a worknight, so. That says it all.

A MADNESS MOST DISCREET isn’t all sparkling Cosmos and the male-equivalent of Manolo Blahniks (right, that was the shoe? I maybe watched one episode of SatC), there are some less than comfortable situations, abutting completely real and often testy but still lovely friendship dynamics, so much steam it’s unreal, and is, still, somehow, also really sweet.

My one complaint is to do with an element of one of those uncomfortable situations because I do wish it had been clearer if there had been an end-in-sight to a certain arrangement, how long it had lasted, and/or how much traction had been made in the ensuing years.. but perhaps I had missed some of this info, as I did read well past my bedtime and it could’ve been one of those situations where your eyes see the words but the brain doesn’t get the memo. So, as I fully see myself rereading this, I will table that under the “maybe I’m just dumb” and eventually follow up. If it’s not mentioned, I mean, it doesn’t have to be, we as readers definitely get the idea, as well as the breadth of the situation, but it’s something I found myself musing on after finishing the book.

That said, if you couldn’t tell, I definitely recommend, and I definitely want more from this series. Whether that’s a companion, a sequel, or even a book focusing on the other couples. I don’t care what it looks like. I just want it.

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

BLOG TOUR (UK) – BEACH READ by Emily Henry

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.


Title : Beach Read
Author : Emily Henry
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Viking Books/Penguin
Release Date : July 9, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I’m going to preface this whole review by saying this was not the totally light read that I was expecting, with more serious tones to the story than I thought. BUT it was an easy reading experience with two characters that engaged the pages immediately and who had the most interesting yet heavy baggage.

The idea of two authors writing in different genres was an enticing one and the context did not disappoint. The grudging friendship and buddy writing including exposure to one another’s processes enriched the story as they navigated their mutual emotional mess and writer’s block.

I’ll take you through my research process. I’ll help you lean into your latent nihilism, and you’ll teach me how to sing like no one’s listening, dance like no one’s watching and love like I’ve never been hurt before.

January’s family situation had me wanting some answers all the way through and Gus’ elusiveness about revealing himself also left me guessing. Some of reveals about Gus had me giddy with the feels.

Why does this book deserve the hype it’s getting? The dialogue was a dream, I highlighted almost nonsensically as I read, loving how Gus and January interacted with one another through their friendship and journey to more. My favourite moments had to be some of the window notes. January in particular was the queen of the killer quip and I adored her sharp-shooting humour.

BEACH READ seems to be the it-read of the summer season and I can’t argue with that. It wasn’t hard to pick up but it’s definitely hard to put down. I’m joining the crowd of people recommending you pick this one up.

DRAGON UNLEASHED by Grace Draven

A dragon shapeshifter and a healer with power over the earth fight a corrupt empire in this thrilling and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it’s far more than what it seems. 

Dragas haven’t been seen for more than a century, and most believe them extinct. They’re wrong. Dragas still walk among the denizens of the Empire, disguised as humans. Malachus is a draga living on borrowed time. The magic that has protected him will soon turn on him–unless he finds a key part of his heritage. He has tracked it to a group of free traders, among them a grave-robbing earth witch who fascinates him as much as she frustrates him with her many secrets.

Unbeknownst to both, the Empire’s twisted empress searches for a draga of her own, to capture and kill as a trophy. As Malachus the hunter becomes the hunted, Halani must risk herself and all she loves to save him from the Empire’s machinations and his own lethal birthright.


Title : Dragon Unleashed
Author : Grace Draven
Series : Fallen Empire (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Ace
Release Date : June 9, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Much like my experience with PHOENIX UNBOUND, book one in the Fallen Empire series, I have very mixed feelings over this read. Mostly because I have adored so many of Draven’s stories and want to support this well-deserved achievement in being lifted up by one of the big publishing houses. But the reality is this just seems like such a lesser offering than all her previous tales.

I remember saying it in my review for book one, but this writing? It doesn’t feel at all like Draven. I feel so removed, so disconnected, by everything. The plot, the characters, the dialogue. It’s awkward or stilted or poorly transitioned. It feels like a debut author as opposed to a seasoned one who was often wowed me, stunned me, made me burst out laughing, with her words. I definitely felt some chemistry and excitement in book one’s pairing, fitting as one character wielded the power of fire, but this one? Way less chemistry, less connection, and there was only one moment between them where I felt.. something. Maybe because I appreciated that two people, with different backgrounds and perspectives, could do some self-reflection and appreciate they didn’t understand what it was like to be in each others’ shoes. But everything else..?

I wanted to be wowed by this, I wanted to feel that rounding up on book one had paid off with this follow up story, but instead I want to go back and knock off a star from PHOENIX UNBOUND. I’m sad. 

I don’t know if there’s more to come from this series but I’m sure I’ll pick it up anyway. Particularly if it helps to ease the pain of waiting for the next Wraith Kings installment.

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

CONVENTIONALLY YOURS by Annabeth Albert

When two “big name fans” go head-to-head at a convention, love isn’t the only thing at stake.

Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.

Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.

When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical. 


Title : Conventionally Yours
Author : Annabeth Albert
Series : True Colours
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca 
Release Date : June 2, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I think CONVENTIONALLY YOURS failed to win me over because this feels like something I’ve read before, not just in general but by this author, and yet done not quite as well. In general this does follow some fairly typical tropes and meanders in a familiar direction, though maybe without the specific diverse leanings, and when mixed with a fairly lukewarm connection, and very little heat (which, considering Albert’s other series, definitely surprised me), I’m just left a little.. whelmed (not under, not over, just..).

I think if you’re new to queer romance, or maybe haven’t read some of Albert’s grittier or hotter romances, this might be a great entry level read into the genre. Or if you just prefer to mix things up every now and then with something a little softer, this would be a great choice for that. Personally, I would just rather have reread STATUS UPDATE, for the road trip content, and also STATUS UPDATE for the opposites attract, but maybe book one in Albert’s #gaymers series wouldn’t satisfy those readers looking for as much nerd/gamer content as this one had. Because there was a lot.

So this obviously won’t be a favourite from this author for me, but I think it’ll satisfy a lot of readers, fans or not.

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