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Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t set foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind; plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instil fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls.

As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.

Title : A River Enchanted
Author : Rebecca Ross
Series : Elements of Cadence (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 496
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Harper Voyager
Release Date : February 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Hollis’ 4 star review

Unlike some previous picks for my Twelve Books in Twelve Months challenge, this wasn’t a book I had dodged or delayed reading for any particular reason. In fact, I knew almost nothing about this series or this author. But then I heard rumblings of it being Sevenwaters-esque and a) suddenly I knew why this specific buddy recommended it and b) why it was recommended to me. Because yes hi hello I am Sevenwaters trash.

Having said that, I don’t actually think the comparison is that accurate but by the same token it sorta exists in the same general feel. This is a fantasy that feels like a fairytale, with folklore and spirits at play, even a bit of magic, and set on an island that feels like Scotland, complete with warring clans. So, a little yes, and a little no. Additionally, making it feel less Marillier-like is the fact that we have multiple POVs which is definitely different. And yet was one of my favourite things about this story.

In fact, let’s just get down to it : there wasn’t much I disliked at all!

I am but a verse inspired by your chorus, and I will follow you until the end, when the isle takes my bones and my name is nothing more than a remembrance on a headstone, next to yours.”

It is a little slow but not in a bad way. More in the sense that events are unfolding, secrets creeping out of the dark, characters learning about themselves as well as those around them, and a mystery to solve. All of which takes times. I was certainly never bored; the opposite. There were a few moments that moved me to well up and almost shed tears. Because yes I am a sap. But also those moments were so beautifully earned. Nothing felt manufactured or rushed, each emotional beat was perfectly in tune with the rest, and considering there are multiple characters, undergoing many different realizations at different times, some not even related to the other, that takes some talent.

Also the motivation for the missing girls? So well done. It wasn’t what I thought it would be at all. It could very well be that I’m just hella dim though.

My one hope for the sequel is that maybe we learn a little bit more of the clans, their histories, and that the romance gets beefed up just a little more. I wanted a bit more tension from that considering it was billed as an enemies to lovers.. which it is, don’t get me wrong, but I could’ve done with a little more. It was still very good though.

Overall, super pleased to have been given this recommendation and I am diving right into the sequel, even though I should really be prioritizing other things. But I’m not. I want the sequel. So Imma read the sequel.

MEET ME AT THE LAKE by Carley Fortune

Fern Brookbanks has wasted far too much of her adult life thinking about Will Baxter. She spent just twenty-four hours in her early twenties with the aggravatingly attractive, idealistic artist, a chance encounter that spiraled into a daylong adventure in Toronto. The timing was wrong, but their connection was undeniable: they shared every secret, every dream, and made a pact to meet one year later. Fern showed up. Will didn’t.

At thirty-two, Fern’s life doesn’t look at all how she once imagined it would. Instead of living in the city, Fern’s back home, running her mother’s Muskoka lakeside resort–something she vowed never to do. The place is in disarray, her ex-boyfriend’s the manager, and Fern doesn’t know where to begin.

She needs a plan–a lifeline. To her surprise, it comes in the form of Will, who arrives nine years too late, with a suitcase in tow and an offer to help on his lips. Will may be the only person who understands what Fern’s going through. But how could she possibly trust this expensive-suit wearing mirage who seems nothing like the young man she met all those years ago. Will is hiding something, and Fern’s not sure she wants to know what it is.

But ten years ago, Will Baxter rescued Fern. Can she do the same for him?

Title : Meet Me at the Lake
Author : Carley Fortune
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : May 2, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

If not for the fact that the premise of this book was so flimsy, and the reason for the much-reviled third act breakup almost as tissue paper thin, this might’ve been rounded up. And therefore made it more likely I’ll pick up Fortune again. As it stands.. eh?

So listen. It’s been almost three weeks since I picked up a book, much less reviewed one, so be gentle with me. And funny enough it was that same need for gentleness that had me considering this read a little more kindly upon first finishing it. But then the dreaded brain went a’whirring and I just couldn’t.

Because seriously. You spend less than twenty-four hours with someone when you’re in your early twenties, get stood up a year later when you’re supposed to meet up again, and then honestly expect me to buy into this soul deep connection that has endured a decade later? I mean..

It doesn’t really help that I didn’t fully buy into the why of the ditching (and that little detail of what actually went down that day buuuuurned) — the first OR the second time. Maybe the second one but seriously you can’t fire off a fucking text or leave a note? Smoke signals even. And then to make Fern be the one to.. grr. I won’t say more but just know I grr’d.

I want to say I would’ve much preferred Maggie and Peter’s story but let’s be real I probably would’ve been mad about that, too.

Also, anyone else really not dig the whole Annabel plot and or her character? Very weird vibe.

Honestly, Canadianisms and Canadiana (specifically Toronto) aside, this was an easy simple read but it won’t be sticking with me. Unlike the author’s debut which I immediately burned out of my brain on purpose. But as a result of said easy simpleness, it did allow me to slip back into reading without too much trouble, and I’ll be able to say I read more than one book this month, so I guess there’s that. I’m really not sure if I’ll be picking up more by this author though. We may be ill-suited. Especially as these feel very same-y in certain ways and I’m just not sure I can take a third go of this. But I guess we’ll see.

PAINTED DEVILS by Margaret Owen

Let’s get one thing straight—Vanja Schmidt wasn’t trying to start a cult.

After taking down a corrupt margrave, breaking a deadly curse, and finding romance with the vexingly scrupulous Junior Prefect Emeric Conrad, Vanja had one great mystery left: her long-lost birth family… and if they would welcome a thief. But in her search for an honest trade, she hit trouble and invented a god, the Scarlet Maiden, to scam her way out. Now, that lie is growing out of control—especially when Emeric arrives to investigate, and the Scarlet Maiden manifests to claim him as a virgin sacrifice.

For his final test to become a prefect, Emeric must determine if Vanja is guilty of serious fraud, or if the Scarlet Maiden—and her claim to him—are genuine. Meanwhile, Vanja is chasing an alternative sacrifice that may be their way out. The hunt leads her not only into the lairs of monsters and the paths of gods, but the ties of her past. And with what should be the simplest way to save Emeric hanging over their heads, he and Vanja must face a more dangerous question: Is there a future for a thief and a prefect, and at what price?

Title : Painted Devils
Author : Margaret Owen
Series : Little Thieves (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 512
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : May 16, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5

Hollis’ 4.5 star review

When I tell you that Owen has some kind of magic touch? I am not kidding. I pulled out the big guns by starting this ARC when I feared I was slipping into a reading slump and ka-pow, slump say who? Not I! This was exactly what I needed. Everything I needed. Or, conversely, it proved I just wasn’t picking up good quality reads — or, maybe more fairly, I wasn’t picking up reads that were for me.

But Painted Devils? Pretty much a chefs. fucking. kiss.

Admittedly, it’s not getting rounded up to a five like the series opener did but I think that’s fair. Measuring up to that perfection would be hard, even for this much-beloved-by-me author, even with these utterly-adored-by-me characters.

You are an unparalleled devil from hell in your sleep.”
You stole all the blankets. And then you rolled up in them, like a– a crêpe, so they were stuck on your side. And then when I tried to take one off the top, you turned over, looked me straight in the eye, and said — and I quote — ‘I’ll kill you.‘”
I never.
You followed it up with ‘It’ll look like an accident.’

Honestly, it’s going to be a hard sell to convince you to pick this up if you haven’t already read book one so maybe go read that one and then come back to this. Not that I’ll be spoiling anything but honestly your investment will be low until you unlock the initial achievement. But everything Owen did with book one — the laughs, the fun, the emotes, the glee, the shock — she’s come back to sock you in the teeth with all over again. Because I laughed like a little girl (I was | | close to kicking my feet in the air). I cried like a little girl (maybe only once but I got teary/choked up a whole bunch of times). And I got mad like.. okay, I’ll stop saying little girl, but hoo boy. I got mad.

[..] it’s almost a bit unnerving how quickly everyone joined Team Blood Sacrifices Are Great, Actually.

I had totally forgot about much (most?) of the trauma that Vanja had endured throughout her life. And this book has her facing a lot of it. The conflict, in fact, is woven up with some of the origins of it all. But it was done so beautifully. It broke my heart, too, because much of this book is about learning to love yourself. And that’s a painful process. Especially when your formative years have done everything to destroy the potential and even now you’re faced with constant reminders that you are unworthy. That there’s no reason to be good, to be better, to be anything but what you’ve been ground down to believe you are — which, in Vanja’s case, is worthless. Which is why she struggles with Emeric because how can she trust the love of another when she’s always been unworthy of it? How can she trust that love when she’s never been made to see it in herself? There was so much tenderness in how Owen handled this. And that tenderness carried over in how they approached the intimacy of their romance.

The cold truth is, some part of me is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it’s for no good reason other than the truth beneath, colder still : [..] I cannot believe someone would want me, without agenda, as I am.

Also, Emeric being Vanja’s number one stan? We love to see it. It wasn’t always smooth sailing but I loved how they handled the rougher moments, the misunderstandings, and how in-tune to each other they were.

If more prefects were like you.. I think the empire would make fewer girls like me.”
Well, I think that would be a terrible loss. The.. fewer-people-like-you part. Not the reduction of gross societal injustice.”

I want to be able talk about the little (big) realizations they have about their society, their ability to influence it, and how the struggle to use the laws to help those who need it is.. well, a struggle. And whether it’s better to work outside the system then in it, with it, and all that, but honestly I don’t feel eloquent enough to tackle that. Just know that I saw it, I see it, and I love it. And I hope we get more of in in book three.

This book is also about family. The ones we find, the ones we make, and the ones we’re born to. And oh boy getting misty again. Ahem, but yes, the ties that bind play a big part and I absolutely loved how this played out. Even the parts that hurt.

And you know what else hurt? That ending. Aaaa it was bad enough knowing we had two years to wait after book one but at least that resolution felt, well. Resolved. It almost felt like a standalone. This one is anything but that and I am quietly dying inside. But GR says book three is out in January.. which feels improbable. But I am not going to look a gift horse (hahaha the horses) in the mouth.

It turns out there are few things that kill the mood faster than realizing you have a haunted doll for a voyeur.

Also, shoutout, because I don’t know if I remember there being as many references or memes in book one but we had a few in this one and a few had me howling. The Backstreet Boys bit? I legit cried. More of this please!

As you can probably guess, I highly recommend not only this series but also this author. She’s one of the few releasing YA that I’m guaranteed to pick up these days — but honestly, at this rate, I’ll pick up literally anything she releases and always be desperate for more. Like I am now.

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

IMOGEN, OBVIOUSLY by Becky Albertalli

With humor and insight, #1 New York Times bestseller Becky Albertalli explores the nuances of sexuality, identity, and friendship. 

Imogen Scott may be hopelessly heterosexual, but she’s got the World’s Greatest Ally title locked down.

She’s never missed a Pride Alliance meeting. She knows more about queer media discourse than her very queer little sister. She even has two queer best friends. There’s Gretchen, a fellow high school senior, who helps keep Imogen’s biases in check. And then there’s Lili—newly out and newly thriving with a cool new squad of queer college friends.

Imogen’s thrilled for Lili. Any ally would be. And now that she’s finally visiting Lili on campus, she’s bringing her ally A game. Any support Lili needs, Imogen’s all in.

Even if that means bending the truth, just a little.

Like when Lili drops a tiny queer bombshell: she’s told all her college friends that Imogen and Lili used to date. And none of them know that Imogen is a raging hetero—not even Lili’s best friend, Tessa.

Of course, the more time Imogen spends with chaotic, freckle-faced Tessa, the more she starts to wonder if her truth was ever all that straight to begin with. . .

Title : Imogen, Obviously
Author : Becky Albertalli
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Release Date : May 2, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 

Hollis’ 3 star review

This is somewhat of a painful book. Painful because of what Imogen goes through with the self-doubt (exacerbated by a friend who does not behave in understanding ways for the majority of their interactions) but also painful because it’s so heavily inspired by what the author herself went through. And so many others, in fact, who were forced to come out to be seen as an acceptable voice or presence in queer spaces.

This book is basically what it’s like to exist online these days. All the discourse, the critiques, the questioning (in mostly negative ways), it’s all in here. But thankfully there’s also the other side, too. The found family, the acceptance, the reassurance, and the joy. I hope readers, of all ages, find some comfort in those bits. Because they were lovely.

Gretchen, though, wow. She was exhausting. I literally had to put the book down as the diner scene was ramping up because I knew it would be awful. I knew it would be bad. My blood pressure was spiked. But it’s a true portrayal. Gretchens exist. And they aren’t always coming from a bad place; her backstory was a perfect example of that. And while I highlighted a few bits I think this is the one that stands out the most and is what I hope most people come away realizing :

Maybe shared experiences shouldn’t be the foundation at all. Maybe it should be a promise to hold space for variation.

I wish this book had a been a little less pointed. But I think it comes from a place where it was hard not to be. But it was equally hard at times to get through this; maybe because of the authenticity. There were a lot of feelings. Not all of them good. Which is fine, it’s real. It just made me glad there were silly heart-eyes moments of sweetness with the texts. But being in Imogen’s head, being suffocated by certain forces around her, yeah, it’s a lot. She’s so busy being the perfect ally, the straight friend, that she’s never given the opportunity, or the space, to explore anything more. Until college changes everything. But even then, it’s not smooth sailing.

Which, hey, this is another recent YA read that is actually in the imminently-leaving-for-college and early-days-college stage and can I say? I like this trend of moving outside of the highschool box.

It’s so important for this story to exist, much in the way of Red, White & Royal Blue with Alex’s journey with his sexuality, and so many others I am completely blanking on at the moment, because knowing that it’s safe to come out, to be fluid, to evolve, at any time, at any age, is.. well, important. There is no one singular experience. And I hope this is helpful for anyone who might need to hear that right now.

I would definitely recommend this but would caution you that it is, as I’ve said, hard to read sometimes (maybe about fifty/fifty in the good and not so good bits). Though not likely any worse than scrolling through twitter these days. Just bear that in mind before you get distracted and swoony over that bi-you-tiful cover.

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

HAPPY PLACE by Emily Henry – double review!

Two exes. One pact.
Could this holiday change everything?

Harriet and Wyn are the perfect couple – they go together like bread and butter, gin and tonic, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.

Every year for the past decade, they have run away from their lives to drink far too much wine and soak up the sea air with their favourite people in the world.

Except this year, they are lying through their teeth. Harriet and Wyn broke up six months ago. And they still haven’t told anyone.

But this is the last time they’ll all be together here. The cottage is for sale, and since they can’t bear to break their best friends’ hearts, they’ll fake it for one more week.

But how can you pretend to be in love – and get away with it – in front of the people who know you best?

Brimming with characters you can’t help but fall for and off-the-charts chemistry, HAPPY PLACE is Emily Henry doing what she does best!

Title : Happy Place
Author : Emily Henry
Format : Physical ARC / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Viking Books / Berkley
Release Date : April 27, 2023 / April 25, 2023

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

Micky’s 4.5 star review

Angsty tension
Everything isn’t fine
People pleasing

I really like what Emily Henry did with this novel, we started with the difficult and pretty much stayed there for a lot of the book. This was one hell of an angsty read, the type where you close the book to breathe a bit and then get the courage to open it again.

The story immersed the reader in found family but that family was hitting the dysfunctional buttons pretty hard for all sorts of reasons. I feel like this bunch of friends had grown and changed but they felt the need to pretend they were still as they were a decade ago. Sabrina was a tough one to like but the others were easier to bond with.

The MCs Harriet and Wyn were truly likeable but fathoming what the heck was going on with these two was difficult. I could figuratively feel the unease in Harriet about a bunch of things, Wyn included. There was a bucket load of baggage from family, childhood and pressurised expectations. Harriet was all about the people pleasing but she lacked insight into herself.

I devoured this book over two days and there was so much substance to pick over. I love that Emily Henry doesn’t write to a personal formula. This offering felt quite different to her other romances but equally as great. Don’t expect ease and laughter, brace for tension and angst. Highly recommended.

“Love means constantly saying you’re sorry, and then doing better.”

Thank you to Viking Books for the review copy.

Hollis’ 4 star review

Second-chance romance is rarely my cup of tea. Mostly because the author does too good a job convincing me the couple was right to break up the first time. Or I’m not sold the connection is enough to weather future conflicts and go through everything all over again. But here we are. Henry has convinced me otherwise.

And she did it twice. Because she had me falling in love with these two as they fell in love the first time. And aching as I hoped they would find their way back to each other, desperate to know what really had gone wrong, and if it was fixable. Because sometimes it’s not. Sometimes all the love in the world doesn’t equal a happy ending.

I used to think of love [..] as something so delicate it couldn’t be caught without being snuffed out. Now I know better. I know the flame may gutter and flare with the wind, but it will always be there.

But it wasn’t only the romance that inspired tears. The friend group, reading about this collection of people who had found each other, grown up together, and maybe were clinging too hard in the face of growing apart, it was all so so real. Picking up old traditions, trying to carry on even when so much was changing, the friction that results in some of that, oh. It resonated. And I’m sure other thirty-sometimes will feel that, too.

[..] even when something breaks, the making of it still matters.

As were the conversations are jobs, careers, lifegoals. Sometimes ones ambitions change, sometimes there are none to be had, and success isn’t in having an important job but being happy with yourself at the end of the day. And while it won’t come as any surprise based on the title, this book dealt a lot with happiness. What it represents, what it means, and how to find it.

I think this is the most heartfelt and romantic of all Henry’s books (so far!) but don’t worry there are plenty of laughs alongside some great banter. Also, longing. I think I used the word “aching” in this review already but it’s worth mentioning again because I ached. They ached. We all ached. I spent the last whoevenknowshowmany percent dripping tears and I cannot wait to relive this one. I want to take the time and start from the beginning, work my way through all her romances, and I always say these things and never do it but oh do I want to. I hope I make the time.

Obviously, highly recommend this one. And also, thank you for making my dreams come true and making it pink. Please make the next one green. Also also, can I just say, I’m so glad whatever mojo in the universe which has lead to two of my other most anticipateds falling flat did not impact this one. We have a win. Thank goodness.

THE ARCANA CHRONICLES series by Kresley Cole

Oh hi friends! Today we’re bringing you some mini (or, at least, I thought they’d be mini..) reviews for The Arcana Chronicles series as Hollis decided to reread the first few in advance of the big finale.

She could save the world–or destroy it.
Sixteen year old Evangeline”Evie” Greene leads a charmed life–until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, killing everyone she loves, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future–and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.
With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally trust Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?
As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…

Title Poison Princess
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 369
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 1, 2012

Hollis’ 2 star review

Welp, for some reason I thought my first go at this book was a lot more successful than it was so I was kind of sad knowing the drop in rating that was to come. But apparently I wasn’t all that sold on book one after all and it’s only dipping one star. It was the next two books that I think really had solidified this series for me (I guess? this was before I was reviewing but both got four stars!) — hopefully that still holds true.

But anyway, wow. This was.. rough. In some ways. Definitely Cole hooks you with the concept; a big apocalyptic event has occurred and things go the usual way, especially with women becoming something of a rare breed due to the events of the end of the world. But it’s compounded by the fact that a group of kids have been.. reincarnated isn’t the world but imbued with powers aligned with the Major Arcana of the Tarot and as a result the games have begun. There can be only one winner and Death reigns as champion.

Evie, our POV, is the Empress but because she’s our POV she naturally knows the least about, well, everything. Her allies, as of the close of book one, are almost mostly unhelpful as they are either keeping things to themselves on purpose or just meant to be vague per plot.

But that isn’t the worst of it. I could grit my teeth and bear Matthew’s vagueries. But Jack, Jackson, Cajun-boy.. oh my god. I don’t remember if I enjoyed him the first time around but I literally want to murder him. He made getting through this book such a slog; he is the worst kind of love interest. Mash up all your least favourite characteristics and cram him into an eighteen year old body and voila, The Worst™. But what really makes it The Worst™ is we, and Evie, get toyed with his soft side, his protective nature, just enough to tempt us into believing oh maybe he’s a viable option, maybe he’s okay, and then he trips and falls into assholery and it all starts up again. I think maybe that’s why I rated the next book higher, I think we get less Jack time. And honestly, I can’t wait.

I’m also looking forward to getting further into the plot because book one is mostly trekking out into the unknown and dealing with the breakdown of civilization with a few nasty supernatural bits to content with as far as zombie creatures, and instead I want more of the various players and the history and, obviously, the big showdown. As Shania Twain says, let’s go, girls!

In this second book thrilling book of The Arcana Chronicles from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole, Evie struggles to accept her place in the prophecy that will either save the world—or destroy it.

Evie has fully come into her powers as the tarot Empress, and Jack was there to see it all. As one of twenty-two teens given powers following the apocalypse, she now knows a war is brewing, and it’s kill or be killed.

When Evie meets Death, the gorgeous and dangerous Endless Knight, things get even more complicated. Though falling for Jack, she’s drawn to Death as well. Somehow the Empress and Death share a romantic history, one that Evie can’t remember—but Death can’t forget…

Title Endless Knight
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 1, 2013

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

You won’t be surprised to know I spent a good chunk of the first half of this annoyed. Why? Because Jack didn’t disappear from the pages soon enough for me. He lingered like a bad smell.

As if the events of book one weren’t scary and unsettling enough, Cole ups the ante by finally having us face the cannibal crew. And they are as nasty as you would imagine. There’s also a showdown or two and we get to see that alliances or no, some people are gonna die. And they did. I’ll be real happy when Jack’s added to that pile.

But finally, finally, we get to the moment where Evie is confronted, and captured, by Death and after some excruciatingly mundane and Ground Hog-esque day scenes (which the character feels, too), we get some backstory. We understand why everything is so personal to Death, that this isn’t just another Major Arcana showdown but something more (not to mention some of the differences in the games that came before). And I liked it. Having said that, Death doesn’t get off scot free for his own problematic attitude. He’s as bad as Jack but in different ways. And it’s a little more insidious because he’s a far more palatable character, with airs of gentility and restraint. But by the same token, Evie is not really doing herself a lot of favours, either. She was all over the map emotionally and, I hate to say it, even if she claimed she wasn’t trying to mess with Death.. she was. And she did. She had finally seemed to turn a corner but then whoops, we need a big conflict of a cliffhanger at the end, so now she’s back on her old bullshit. Which I mean, is it Evie or is it author-for-plot-reasons? Kind of the same thing.

I wish these characters had been aged up a bit because all this talk of pairing up and such when characters are spanning fourteen to sixteen just.. doesn’t feel right. It would make the whole thing a bit more believable in a New Adult lens, especially for some of the darker content. But Jack behaving the way he did at his age? Everyone else just kind of going along with it, Evie even thinking it’s romantic? Not to mention the Death angle? It just kind of beggars belief.

So this wasn’t quite the homerun I remembered it being but maybe we’ll knock it out of the park in book three.

Heartbreaking decisions
Evie was almost seduced by the life of comfort that Death offered her—until Jack was threatened by two of the most horrific Arcana, the Lovers. She will do anything to save him, even escape Death’s uncanny prison, full of beautiful objects, material comforts…and stolen glances from a former love.

Uncertain victory
Despite leaving a part of her heart behind with Death, Evie sets out into a perilous post-apocalyptic wasteland to meet up with her allies and launch an attack on the Lovers. Such formidable enemies require a battle plan, and the only way to kill them may mean Evie, Jack, and Death allying. Evie doesn’t know what will prove more impossible: surviving slavers, plague, Bagmen and other Arcana—or convincing Jack and Death to work together.

Two heroes returned
There’s a thin line between love and hate, and Evie just doesn’t know where she stands with either Jack or Death. Will this unlikely trio be able to defeat The Lovers without killing one another first…?

Title Dead of Winter
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 6, 2015

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Holy drama queens, Batman. And by that I mean, almost everyone.

This book was really just a travel adventure where Evie is trapped with both love interests as they duke it out to earn her love. Because she can’t make a decision. And rightly so! It’s the end of the world as she knows it, she’s sixteen, with little to no romantic experience, and her options are an eighteen year old drunken hypocritical alphamale and an immortal bulldozer who up until recently wanted her dead. So you know, options are limited..

Except, this time, Cole has made them both so absurdly palatable, smoothing away all their rough edges, that it does actually make it hard to choose. And this time it’s Evie who is the problem child because she spends three hundred plus pages hemming and hawing over her feelings and it sort’ve makes you wonder : why in the hell are these guys so hard up? I mean, Death I can kinda figure, but Jack? Nah. Because unfortunately, murdery urges aside, Evie is lacking in personality. She’s a classic main character in that sense. Other than being conventionally attractive, she’s just a bit of string caught in a breeze, being pulled in one direction or another. Having said that, again, those murdery urges? That’s when she get fun.

But speaking of murder, I’m a little bummed the big showdown with this instalment’s conflict wasn’t more.. intense? Drawn out? I suppose, considering all the travel time, and the time spent on Evie being sorta wooed, there just wasn’t space left for it. Though I’m glad some of the word count was devoted to finally closing the door on the player that made the love triangle into a square. Maybe.

Even though the romance was way too central, and often annoying because hello we have bigger things to worry about, this was the easiest read yet. We had some pretty interesting interactions, there was some clever alliance work when folks needed rescuing, and though I absolutely do not endorse certain choices made before the horrible cliffhanger, I completely understand why they were made — even though, like, seriously, forgiveness was given way too soon. This was also the least Matthew-heavy book and I was glad to have a reprieve from the cryptic jabber and having Evie condescend to him constantly. But yeah, once again, that cliffhanger? Brutal (even if I’m giving it a lot of side-eye and doubt). No wonder I didn’t want to continue this series until it was complete. But with that said.. onwards!

Ashes to ashes . . .
Evie Greene’s story of the Flash is just one of many. All over the world, those connected in some way to the lethal Arcana game—like Death, Jack, and Fortune—must first survive a horrifying night of blood and screams.

We all fall down.
Some will have to grapple with new powers; all will be damned to a hellish new existence of plague, brutality, desolation, and cannibalism. Find out who they lost, why they endure, and what they sacrificed in order to live past Day Zero. . . .

Title Day Zero
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book 3.5)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 174
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Valkyrie Press
Release Date : August 1, 2016

Hollis’ 1.5 star review

From the outside, this looked a lot like potential filler. But I was given some hope in the promise of finding out what the day one (or, rather, day zero) of the apocalypse would be like for the characters we knew, but also the characters we hadn’t yet met — with an added bonus of, well, basically flipping through pseudo-character cards to finds out info about said characters.

Except, well.. it was filler; for me, at lest. And it wasn’t interesting; not to me, at least. I’m frustrated that a few days’ break from this world, and trying something a little different within that world, didn’t spark any excitement. So I may drag my heels for a few more days before jumping back in. Even though for you.. well. You won’t even notice!

When the battle is done . . .
The Emperor unleashes hell and annihilates an army, jeopardizing the future of mankind–but Circe strikes back. The epic clash between them devastates the Arcana world and nearly kills Evie, separating her from her allies.

And all hope is lost . . .
With Aric missing and no sign that Jack and Selena escaped Richter’s reach, Evie turns more and more to the darkness lurking inside her. Two Arcana emerge as game changers: one who could be her salvation, the other her worst nightmare.

Vengeance becomes everything.
To take on Richter, Evie must reunite with Death and mend their broken bond. But as she learns more about her role in the future–and her chilling past–will she become a monster like the Emperor? Or can Evie and her allies rise up from Richter’s ashes, stronger than ever before?

Title Arcana Rising
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 280
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Valkyrie Press
Release Date : August 15, 2016

Hollis’ 3 star review

I didn’t expect to be coming in with the highest rating of this series (so far) right after the lowest rated of this series (so far) so that’s a fun twist!

Surprising no one, however, the big cliffhanger at the end of book three is revealed to be, well, not as devastating as imagined, making that twist less fun but, again, no less expected. The bonus to that is that bit of plot was very lowkey and by partnering them up with another character’s return, another who had historically annoyed me, I was happy to have the reduced page time for them both. Except the little bit we saw of the second character was so far removed from who they had been before and with everything we learned about them.. I am intrigued.

Basically, this book pissed me off the least because everyone who annoyed me was basically an afterthought. Except Evie. There was no escaping her, as she’s the main character, and boy was she a pain in this one. Riiight up until the end when she got a little interesting; but it’s more just that I’m interested in the ramifications of what might have been happening to her. Everything else, the exhausting weird repetition of her buried guilt, the weird contradictoriness of her feelings towards a love interest, it was all just tedious.

The more I write this review the more I question the three stars but honestly it did give me that kind of feeling! Plot-wise, I was interested. We saw some new faces and I liked them. We have some intrigue. We had some real consequences to all the big end-of-the-world stakes. And we finally closed a loop on a few bits that had been dragged through the previous books. Plus, the end is in sight.

In a world teetering on the edge . . .
When Evie receives life-changing—and possibly game-changing—news, she has trouble believing it. Why doesn’t she feel any different? Is it possible someone she trusts might be lying?

With enemies at every turn . . .
Tensions seethe inside the castle of lost time as Evie starts to doubt her own sanity. Answers can be found outside their stronghold, but will Death help her find them—or prevent her from learning the truth about her future and Jack’s possible survival?

Darkness beckons.
A mysterious, sinister power begins to affect the Arcana in its path. Forced out into the wasteland alone, Evie must depend on unexpected allies. But as a battle with Richter looms, can her new alliance defeat the Dark Calling before hell reigns on earth?

Title The Dark Calling
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book five)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 318
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Valkyrie Press
Release Date : February 13, 2018

Hollis’ 2 star review

So much for those good vibes from book four!

Unfortunately what I thought was being set-up with Evie was, in fact, not the thing being set-up with Evie. And instead there’s a reveal that basically has us right back to square one-ish both with the interpersonal dynamics but also some romance dynamics. Which was all incredibly annoying. Especially considering how this book wrapped and like.. honestly, what was the point. The tiniest bit of non-closure closure but wow it was not worth it.

Having said that, the twist with the Chariot? That blew my mind a little. That was another thing I had no ability to predict but truthfully it was masterful. Well played.

And we finally got to see some Minor Arcana in the mix! That was kind of fun. I had a hard time picturing the whole ships thing but if it’s even half of what I conjured up in my mind? Pretty cool. Plus, it was nice to get that little bit of extra worldbuilding into play.. yes, even in the second to last book there’s still more being added and tossed around. Wild.

Sadly, Evie just continues to disappoint as a character. Not only did she spend most of the book — and will likely spend most of the next — complaining about something that was out of another person’s control, something she herself has experienced, and blaming them for it, she’s also a walking question mark; both in regards to her feelings, what she wants, and just in general. She’s like a three year old, lobbing questions at everyone in her general vicinity as if they are her own personal google, and it bothers me every book, but I guess this is the first time it’s tipped me over the edge to complain. In summation, she sucks.

So here we are, right before the end, and I have no idea what’s going to happen. My investment is hella low. But I am hoping, even if I can’t love it (and honestly, who is even expecting that at this stage), that Cole surprises the hell out of me in at least one way. Guess we’ll see!

When even the gods hold their breath . . .

To defeat the Emperor and Fortune, Evie, the great Empress of Arcana, must repair her bond with Death, despite the earth-shattering developments between them.

And danger lurks in every shadow . . .

Their allies—a sea witch, a band of roving warriors, and more than a couple of rogues—overcome terrifying obstacles to help them. But when Jack makes a shocking discovery, the fallout threatens to tear their alliance apart.

One girl could deliver salvation—or doom.

If the Empress and her friends can remain united, will their powers be enough to defeat a catastrophic curse on the world, or will hellfire reign forever? The end looms for us all until the best hand wins. . . .

Title From The Grave
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book six)
Format : eBook
Page Count :
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Valkyrie Press
Release Date : April 18, 2023

Hollis’ 1.5 star review

Welp, it’s over. That’s the important thing.

Listen, I don’t know what I was expecting (I think, in fact, I had no expectations as I had no predictions) but it wasn’t this. Mainly because this was incredibly underwhelming.

So much of this just felt like waiting. Time passing, rehashing conversations and worries, blah blah. Obviously events do occur, though nothing surprising; we get a few deaths, only one of which hurt a tiny bit. And then.. well, the end.

Except the end takes a very long time. And as happy as I’m sure it makes a lot of actually invested readers, it was a yawn for me. And I’m sorry but you can’t actually expect me to believe those were age-appropriate behaviours after all that. Not believable. But then again I felt that to be true from book one in the opposite sense, too. So clearly it’s just a Cole thing.

As for whether or not the game ends, and what it means for them all, all that, I won’t hint at anything. Except to say someone redeemed themselves for me, and I thought it was well played, but for the end-end? I don’t know why because in theory I’m on board but it just feels like a cop-out. Again, underwhelming. But we made it. It’s over. And I never have to think about this series, or these characters, ever again.

Is this a series you’ve come across before or is this the first you’re hearing of it? Have I convinced you that you need to run far far away or are you interested despite the car crash that was this experience? Would love to know!

And as always thank you for clicking in and reading; especially for this one which wasn’t just a lengthy but also contained semi-lengthy reviews.

YOURS TRULY by Abby Jimenez

A novel of terrible first impressions, hilarious second chances, and the joy in finding your perfect match from “a true talent” (Emily Henry, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life is seriously flatlining. Her divorce is just about finalized, her brother’s running out of time to find a kidney donor, and that promotion she wants? Oh, that’s probably going to the new man-doctor who’s already registering eighty-friggin’-seven on Briana’s “pain in my ass” scale. But just when all systems are set to hate, Dr. Jacob Maddox completely flips the game . . . by sending Briana a letter.

And it’s a really good letter. Like the kind that proves that Jacob isn’t actually Satan. Worse, he might be this fantastically funny and subversively likeable guy who’s terrible at first impressions. Because suddenly he and Bri are exchanging letters, sharing lunch dates in her “sob closet,” and discussing the merits of freakishly tiny horses. But when Jacob decides to give Briana the best gift imaginable—a kidney for her brother—she wonders just how she can resist this quietly sexy new doctor . . . especially when he calls in a favor she can’t refuse. 

Title : Yours Truly
Author : Abby Jimenez
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Forever
Release Date : April 11, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .75

Hollis’ 3.75 star review

Yes, that’s right, I’m being picky with this rating. But lemme explain.

First of all, though we do start off a bit awkwardly — it felt like I was missing a chapter or had jumped in mid-chapter when this book kicked off — I was pretty invested by, oh, chapter three. Rocky start or no, Jimenez hooks you and once she’s got her claws in you, she doesn’t let go. And Yours Truly was no exception.

I’ll admit, I do feel like she made Bri go too hard on the dislike button for Jacob with the initial anti-meet-cute but thankfully we don’t spend too long in that phase. We get into the good stuff pretty soon. And the good stuff? Letter writing. Be still my heart!

But not because they were ooey gooey emosh word vomits, oh no. They were sweet, observational, anecdotal, and funny. Which should come as no surprise because this author knows how to turn a phrase. There were multiple times, even in the non-epistolary portion of the story, where I found myself laughing. Which wasn’t even the best part.

The best part? The yearning. The pining. The slowburn. But oh was it slooOoOoOw. Which leads me into the bit I disliked. It was too long. The misunderstandings which veered into miscommunications (due to lack of communications) definitely started to harsh my buzz. I was worried we were going to have an MZ situation on our hands and we’d get the resolution and kiss at 98%. It wasn’t quite that dire but we got close! And honestly it dragged too long. Especially considering what came after. Buzz. Kill.

Truthfully, the last 15%, emotional as it was, took some of the wind out of my sails and I couldn’t quite recover. There was some important emotional dialogue, specifically I’m thinking of one scene between Jacob and his mother, but it all crashed together too soon and too quickly amongst other things happening and it made the third act conflict even harder to push through. But of course we get our HEA and everything is great so I’m really complaining for no reason, I guess. Everything up until this point though? Pretty rock solid.

Because these characters? Felt so real. Jacob really came off the page for me with his anxieties and his quiet moments but in contrast Briana really grounded things; not just Jacob, such as in her ability to calm him, in advocating for him, but she also felt like a grounding presence for the story. Jacob was much in his head but Bri had mostly external conflicts. Her struggles with her brother, her divorce, they felt very real-world and tangible. And so the way these two complemented each other was just beautifully done and I know that’s mostly the point of this pairing, and the romance, but it’s easy to try and convince a reader the sky is blue but for the reader to actually believe it? That’s a whole other talent.

So, yes, I’ll be rounding up in all the non-blog places that count, and I think I had a better time with these characters than I did with the ones in the book before, but it’s definitely got a few bumps that did throw me out of the story a bit. However, it’s still a Jimenez, which means it’s funny, sweet, emotional, tackling a variety of issues, and giving you a romance you want to root for. Even if the characters are occasionally their own worst enemies and act like a bunch of dumb dumbs. It’s all that. Which is why I definitely think you should pick this one up.

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

FRACTURED FABLES series by Alix E. Harrow

Hi readers, here’s a mini review round-up for you! Today we’re bringing you short and sweet reviews for this duology of fractured feminist fables relating to Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. And if these aren’t already on your radar, they should be! Or, at least, Hollis thinks so.

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

Title A Spindle Splintered
Author : Alix E. Harrow
Series : Fractured Fables (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 128
Genre : fantasy / LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : October 5, 2021

Hollis’ 4 star review

Is Harrow lowkey turning into one of my favourite authors? Did this just sneak up on me without any warning and or intent? Because hi.. I really loved this. 

What I never thought I needed in my life was an Into the Spider-Verse take on Sleeping Beauty. So it’s Into the Sleeping Beauty-Verse, basically. But also modernized. And feminist. And queer. And the iteration of Sleeping Beauty we’re following isn’t cursed but dying.

I’ve always resented people for trying to save me, but maybe this is how it works, maybe we save one another.

Truthfully there isn’t much I disliked about this. Even though part of me wanted more, I think it was the perfect length, with the perfect ending, and I don’t think I’d change a thing. Every deviation, every change, was a delight (even if it was sad or horrible). And oh, yeah, when I mentioned it’s queer? It is, but maybe not in the way you’ll expect it to be.

Initially when I wrote this review I mentioned how excited I was that there was more from this world, not realizing it was actually a connected series instead of companions, and how I would be diving right into the next one. But these are now batched so, like, obviously you know book two’s review is.. here. Right below. So, enjoy!

Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty, is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues.

Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can’t handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White’s Evil Queen has found out how her story ends, and she’s desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone. Will Zinnia accept the Queen’s poisonous request and save them both from the hot-iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path?

Title A Mirror Mended
Author : Alix E. Harrow
Series : Fractured Fables (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 130
Genre : fantasy / LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : June 14, 2022

Hollis’ 4 star review

Okay, so, yes, can confirm. Harrow might be on my favourites list now because book one was not a fluke. And she already has the honour of holding the spot of my one and only five-star read in 2023 (so far) for her other novella so, like.. yeah. Thank goodness there’s another book in her backlist to get me through until her 2023 release in the fall.

But okay, so, things get a little off-course in book two. We couldn’t have another book filled with even more rehashings of Sleeping Beauty, and funny enough even Zinnia was getting sick of them, too, after rescuing dozens of them. So lucky for her (I guess?) she winds up in a different fairytale; and this time there’s no heroine to lend a helping hand, it’s the Evil Queen asking for help. Naturally, resistance ensues. And shortly thereafter we find ourselves in one of the weirdest, and darkest, retellings of the fairytale. And a surprise cameo.

Oh, Little Brier-Rose, you feel sorry for her. Poor Snow White, so pretty, so pure. You think this is her story. You know nothing.

There are so many great layers to this story, about endings, about choice, but also the biggest take-away I think is that there really is no magical cure for everything. Happily ever afters? Well, they don’t really exist, either. There’s definitely a bittersweetness to the end of this one which I think works perfectly, both for Zinnia and The Evil Queen.

Even though in book one I was perfectly happy with the end of it, and moving on to something else, I’m only partially satisfied this time. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great ending, and I don’t really want more, because this did feel like an ending, but I already miss these characters. So, yeah, bittersweet is right.

If this at all seems like a series you might be into, I would highly recommend it. They aren’t long, and there’s only two (so far? forever? who knows!), and it made for a great way to pass a dull and dreary afternoon. And stay tuned for (hopefully!) more fangirling from me for future, and past, Harrow titles.

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson

At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them.

Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways… but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant, award-winning novel from the acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

Title : I’ll Give You The Sun
Author : Jandy Nelson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 371
Genre : YA contemporary / LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : September 16, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★.5

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Even after all this time, if you had asked me what this book was about, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. I had no idea. Just that I hadn’t read it yet and every year I would have to dodge the hounding (and disappointment!) of my friends when I didn’t bump it up the TBR. I doubt it’s much of a surprise this didn’t become one of my favourites, like it is for so many others, but honestly my feelings are all over the place for this one. I wanted so badly to like it but not sure I ever did. But I didn’t hate it.

This definitely stands out in a sense for it’s uniqueness. Also, for that eye-catching cover. Which definitely didn’t warn me, #NoBlurber that I am, of the grief that would await me within the pages. Or the estrangement. Or.. let’s be real, the weirdness. Because again I had no idea what this was about. And it took a while to find out, too.

Initially I felt overwhelmed with metaphors and, of course, just when I was getting used to that, I felt underwhelmed and annoyed by the personality switch. I found myself preoccupied by wondering how much of this was magical realism and how much was just wishful thinking. But I think, overwhelmingly, what was stranger were the coincidences of the connections — they were just a little too convenient. But also hey life is strange, it could happen. Maybe. Okay, no, unlikely. And finally, though equally as overwhelming at times, these characters inflicted so much damage to each other.. and I just don’t know how you could come back from that.

Having said all that, I did enjoy the last bit more than the first, even though nothing was particularly surprising as far as the reveals. So we did end on a high note. And I didn’t hate the big fix that solved almost everyone’s problems (except the one that’s just on a time delay), though I probably should’ve.

Maybe I could’ve loved this a decade ago but sadly we’ll never know. Some parts of this were lovely (mostly I’m thinking of their mum’s immediate acceptance for a certain someone) and interesting (not sure I’ve encountered stone work like this before! and it was so beautifully described), others less so of both (I won’t list them all out, I think you get the idea). But I’m glad I finally had a reason to read this — this was the fourth pick from my Twelve Books in Twelve Months challenge — as it was long long overdue.

Spoiler alert, I downgraded this rating as of the posting of this review so if you saw it rounded up.. no you didn’t.

NEVER VACATION WITH YOUR EX by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

Forgetting Sarah Marshall meets Crazy Stupid Love in a YA second chance romance from fan-favorite author couple #Wibbroka!

Seventeen-year-old volleyball star Kaylee Jordan lives a life of player rankings, constant training, and a carefully curated social media full of followers watching to see if she’ll go pro out of high school like her famous mom. Her one refuge, and the thing she looks forward to every summer? The vacation her family spends in Malibu with the Freeman-Yus. This year, there’s only one problem: Kaylee and their son, Dean, dated for the past three months, and Kaylee just unceremoniously dumped him. Hoping to spare them the worst summer ever, Kaylee comes to Dean with her unconventional solution: she’s going to walk him through her rules for getting over an ex. When Dean grudgingly cooperates, Kaylee’s got her work cut out for her. But helping Dean follow her own rules starts becoming difficult when the pressures of Kaylee’s family legacy and perfect life start to feel less like a plan and more like a prison…and amid warm California nights and stolen laughs, Kaylee feels herself falling for Dean for the same reasons and some new ones. With their trip coming to an end, Kaylee has to make the complicated choice between doing what’s expected and taking a (second) chance on love.

Title : Never Vacation With Your Ex
Author : Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA romance
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 4, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 

Hollis’ 2 star review

I have a bad feeling I’m in a slow-moving breakup with this author duo. The magic is fizzling out, if not outright gone, and clearly I need to follow the path of this protagonist’s story and drop it like it’s hot.

Because, yeah, I could not muster up any sympathy for Kaylee. There was no ambivalence, even, or moments where I felt for her, she just made me frustrated. And the whole guide to getting over a break-up/ex routine she played off on Dean, her ex, just rubbed me the wrong way the whole time. But I can’t even say that I felt more for Dean or sympathized with him, either, because he frustrated me, too. And so did the parents. Honestly, the only characters that escaped my irritation were the younger sisters. I wish you hundreds of family game night wins to ensure endless Mamma Mia! rewatches, girls. You deserve it.

So, yeah, I won’t be recommending this. And I wish I had gone with my gut when I initially hesitated over requesting this, knowing the last few reads by this author (not just YA, but I’m lumping their adult debut in this corner, too) did not go well. But it was almost habit to get excited over a new Wibbroka and therefore the thought of not wanting it in my hands seemed foreign. But.. we (I) shall be moving on from this. We (I) will do better apart. We are, maybe, no longer meant to be. Insert a Taylor Swift lyrics here.

Or, at least, I won’t be on the pre-release hype squad. I’ll probably still pick them up on the down-low. What can I say, I have endless chances in me for those I once loved. For now, at least.

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