SHADOW OF NIGHT by Deborah Harkness

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey. 


Title : Shadow of Night
Author : Deborah Harkness
Series : All Souls (book two)
Format : physical
Page Count : 584
Genre : paranormal romance / historical
Publisher : Viking Adult
Release Date : June 10, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

Oof, okay, yes. I remembered this as the turning point for why I threw in the towel — and having just recently struggled through the show’s second season for a very true-to-book recounting of plot meant it was also very fresh — and I completely get why this turned the tide for me. What a slog. I felt like I was reading this for eighty-four years.

But, having said that, there were some parts that did their best (though failed) to make the whole bearable. I’m thinking mostly of the Philippe plotline. And.. oh damn, maybe that’s it. Gallowglass! He was a nice distraction from things. Queen Elizabeth, too, was feisty and rather fun. Matthew’s buddies, the School of Night? Mostly ugh. Particularly Kit (though honestly I doubt anyone likes Kit). I’ll never get over how Matthew let that whole dynamic thrive despite every instinct that should’ve been screaming at him to do otherwise. Considering his behaviour in, oh, I don’t know, every other circumstance when there was even less provocation? Yeah, brutal. 

To keep the romance element interesting, the author decided to augment all of Matthew’s bad behaviours under the guise of having to be more of who he was once before in order to “blend in” but also for the purpose of building up to one particular milestone in their relationship. It definitely felt a bit manufactured but the further away from it I am the more I understand it was a natural growing pain to the development of their connection. They do move quickly, after all, and throwing in the whole vampire possessiveness and Matthew’s own persona.. yeah, I get it. But I didn’t have to like it. Particularly as, on brand for this book, it gets dragged wayyy out. At least it’s over with now though. I think. I hope. Please.

Complaints aside, I do have to say how well the show has adapted these books. There are, of course, changes. Not only are these books just too long to be 100% faithful but where possible the show also combined some elements or cut out those that were similar enough to be represented by only one character instead of two. It also fleshed out scenes that we don’t see happen on page (maybe I said that in my review for book one? but it bears repeating as it’s relevant in this instalment, too). 

I’m definitely looking forward to a) finishing this series but b) finally seeing if this final book deserves all the hype. Knowing how things ends, too, takes some of the pressure off. At this point though I’ll be happy to just end on a higher note than this one. The bar is low!

WITH AND WITHOUT YOU by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

#Wibbroka is back with another swoony YA–this time tackling long-distance relationships, in a novel based on their own romantic history.

If high school seniors Siena and Patrick were a superlative, they’d be the Couple Most Likely to Marry. They’ve been dating for three solid years, and everyone agrees they’re perfect for each other. But with college on the horizon, Siena begins to wonder whether staying together is the best idea. Does she really want to be tied down during possibly the most transformative years of her life? So she makes a decision to break up with Patrick, convincing herself it’s for the best. Before she can say the words, though, he beats her to the punch: his family is moving out of state. Caught off guard by the news, Siena agrees to stay with Patrick, believing their relationship will naturally fizzle out with time and distance. But over a series of visits throughout the school year, Siena begins to see a different side of Patrick–one that has her falling in love with him all over again. 


Title : With and Without You
Author : mily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 19, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

It’s probably not great that my least favourite read by this duo happens to be the one that is based (loosely, I hope?) on their own romance. Whoops.

But what really hurt this story was the lack of a secondary POV. I truly can’t recall anymore if all their books are like this or if some are dual (I really need to start making GR shelves for this but alas I probably will never do it) but this one needed it. Siena’s narrative was not always fun and while the second voice wouldn’t have improved that it would’ve given us something of a break.

I don’t begrudge this story for existing, particularly for all the YAers who are feeling similar things — not just the conflict inspired by leaving for college and whether the relationship will endure, but the added conflict of that looming issue when already dealing with a long-running relationship that you feel you may have outgrown. There needs to be space for these conversations and these dynamics and these circumstances.

But. That doesn’t mean I had to like this one. Siena spent the majority of the book wondering if she still fit with Patrick and honestly, girl, I wonder the same. He may have been unwilling to be open to new things without realizing the importance of them but she was equally rigid and uncompromising. And while you’d think living in her head would make you more sympathetic to her perspective (hah) oh no, it was worse. The book wasn’t all bad but that first 30% was real rough and I just don’t think it ever recovered.

Having said all that, I am hopeful that I won’t continue to reside in the 2.5-3 range for any more of their books because when they are good, they are great. I would maybe just give this one a pass.

ADULT ASSEMBLY REQUIRED by Abbi Waxman

A young woman arrives in Los Angeles determined to start over, and discovers she doesn’t need to leave everything behind after all, from Abbi Waxman, USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

When Laura Costello arrives in downtown Los Angeles, her life has somewhat fallen apart.

Her apartment building has caught fire, her engagement to her high school sweetheart has been broken off, and she’s just been caught in a rare LA downpour and has no dry clothes.

But when she seeks shelter in Nina Hill’s local neighbourhood bookshop, she finds herself introduced to the people who will become her new family. And as Laura becomes friends with Nina, Polly and Impossibly Handsome Bob, things start to look up.

Proving that – even as adults – we all sometimes need a little help assembling and re-assembling our lives…


Title : Adult Assembly Required
Author : Abbi Waxman
Format : Physical
Page Count : 397
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Headline Books
Release Date : May 17, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Found family
Quirky, eclectic characters
Slow-burn

I enjoyed this story from Abbi Waxman that is interconnected to her previous Nina Hill book. That said, this can be read and enjoyed as a standalone. The story centred on a found family of boarders in a LA house owned by the generous Maggie. The house sharers were a strange but mostly lovely bunch, add in some pets, a garden and it made for a warm vibe.

Laura, the protagonist was recovered physically from a serious car accident but not recovered psychologically. This book gave a credible insight into panic disoreder related to PTSD while not detracting from the full characterisation of Laura outside of her mental health problems. Bob (insanely handsome Bob) was a gardener, landscaper who was so incredibly humble and unsure of himself. These two left everything unsaid, they were awkward and yet formed such a firm friendship.

This book took place over nearly a year and so any connections, friendships and more were tangible and not rushed. I really appreciated the bonds in this book, those between Laura and her friends and then Laura and Bob. This was something of a slow burn that almost took me to frustration but brought me back from the edge.

If you like quirky characters, pets and a lack of egos, this is a read I would recommend.

Thank you to Headline books for the review copy.

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together. 

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. 

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.


Title : A Discovery of Witches
Author : Deborah Harkness
Series : All Souls (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 579
Genre : paranormal romance / historical
Publisher : Viking Penguin
Release Date : February 8, 2011

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

We’re back and it’s time to tackle yet another unfinished series! Yes, once again, as is generally the case, books one and two in the All Souls trilogy (series, whatever) are familiar to me (from many moons ago) but book three (and in this case the companion/book four) are not. Having said that, because I had long ago decided I had given up on this series, I did start watching the show. And, even after deciding on this series completion journey, I continued to watch the show. So everything is jumbled now and there’s likely nothing at all that will be new or a spoiler; except book four. 

Having said all that, this book exists with a five star rating on GR from back when I logged it after creating my account. And it’s definitely not keeping that rating. As you can see. But what’s interesting is while I was constantly forever frustrated by Matthew in the adaptation, and I was sure the book would make me feel better about him.. he might actually be worse in the source material. Hard to believe. They did keep the characters pretty true to form but I’m struggling to remember if they had gentled some of Matthew’s extra aggressive/overprotective tendencies because while book-Diana pushes back a lot, I feel like show-Diana had to push back less. So I suppose there’s a positive to be seen in some upgrades.

Overall though the first season was so true to this instalment. The only changes were actually fleshing out backstories/parallel plots for a few characters we meet along the way; again, an upgrade, in my mind. 

I can definitely see why I did love this in the moment. It was an adult — and far more complex — paranormal offering in the era of Twilight and felt like a logical stepping stone in the vampire resurgence. In hindsight, all these years later, it’s.. fine. Maybe even good.

I do question my sanity in picking up a chonky series when in the midst of a slump but I must’ve been on to something because even though this took a few days to get through I did keep coming back to it. Even as a reread. Even with the show so fresh in my mind. I’ll take that as a win! I’m somewhat dreading book two because this is where it all went wrong for me, and why I chose to throw in the towel. Again, with having seen season two, I think I know why it went wrong but I guess we’ll see if season two was equally faithful to the book. And how it lands on this second go-round.

BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry – double review!

Nora is a cut-throat literary agent at the top of her game. Her whole life is books.

Charlie is an editor with a gift for creating bestsellers. And he’s Nora’s work nemesis.

Nora has been through enough break-ups to know she’s the woman men date before they find their happy-ever-after. That’s why Nora’s sister has persuaded her to swap her desk in the city for a month’s holiday in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. It’s a small town straight out of a romance novel, but instead of meeting sexy lumberjacks, handsome doctors or cute bartenders, Nora keeps bumping into…Charlie.

She’s no heroine. He’s no hero. So can they take a page out of an entirely different book?


Title : Book Lovers
Author : Emily Henry
Format : eARC / paperback
Page Count : 379
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Viking Books / Berkley
Release Date : May 3, 2022

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Diverted and captivated
Why yes, you can read almost a whole book with a smile on your face
Samesies, not opposites

We all need that special book that sings to your heart, that takes you on a journey, that has characters with depth, dialogue to get lost in and banter (because who doesn’t need banter). Book Lovers is that book, with a good dollop of chemistry to add into the mix. For me, this is Henry’s best work to date, it is refined, whip-smart and utterly belieavable. It’s going to be in my top crop of books for the year for sure.

Nora the protagonist, was a fierce, almost frosty at first sight kind of woman but the story lets you see underneath immediately to her soft heart and those who are beloved by her. Nevertheless, Nora found herself typecast as heartless because she was so damn good at her job and was a workaholic. Charlie was the yin to her yin, because they were something of a mirror of one another. Who says it has to be opposites attact? We need a new trope of samesies!

His eyes bore into me until there’s smoke lifting off my skin. I’m an ant beneath his sunlit magnifying glass, and then he looks away.

There was a strong sense of family in this book, the literal adventure Nora finds herself on with her sister Libby was mired in past sadness but also smattered with hope. These two and their sisterhood made for such a rich side story to the books and Charlie.

My highlight game was strong reading this book, so many lines, exchanges jumped off the page. I laughed, I even cried and absolutely loved how this book captured my imagination and took me to the places I wanted. It had feels, humour, great writing and dammit, I want to visit this backwater of a small town.

Thank you to Viking Books for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 5 star review

Surprising no one, I don’t often pick up five star reads (or maybe, rather, I don’t award them, because hey it’s all opinion, right?). Rarer still when I do find those elusive five stars do I know it early on. Because so often it can just be a case of a good-read drought that has you feeling pumped or rounding up. But for Book Lovers? I had that five star feeling well before the final page. And here we are.

Beach Read was one of my top ten faves of 2020 and so naturally I felt the stakes were extra high for Henry’s sophomore adult release. Which I did really like but don’t know if I loved (I need to reread to be sure, I might’ve been in a weird place for that one). So maybe my expectations were more conservative (though still high) for this one. But it’s also just that damn good. 

Book Lovers is witty and sharp and delicious and delightful and just fun (seriously, my highlights are out of control). Once again Henry is letting her characters live and play in a very book-focused sandbox by having them be book editor and book agent, respectively, and the sheer entertainment of all the trope-talk was just.. well, sheer entertainment. But beyond the fun of the topics there were also the characters and I loved them all so damn much. And the romance? Hoo boy. The chemistry was palpable and all the false starts were agonizing — in the best way.

Outside the romance (and even sort’ve within it) we have some good emotional beats, too. The sisterly dynamic was one I both loved and was a little frustrated by but only because it felt so authentic. There were complications and false notes between them, from their history, but how it all unfurled in the end was a surprise not only to our MC but also to me. And I really loved it. And yes, I cried; maybe two or three times. But the third was directly related to our book lovers.

I could hardly tear myself away from this read. I absolutely adored it. I don’t want to say it tops my love for Beach Read but.. maybe it does? Sorta? Possibly? It’s just that good. Cannot recommend enough.

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

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER by Casey McQuiston – double review!

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.


Title : I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Author : Casey McQuiston
Format : ARC / eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Press/MacMillan Kids
Release Date : May 3, 2022/May 12, 2022

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This book is really making me reconsider my rounded up “3.5 star feels” for One Last Stop. Because I Kissed Shara Wheeler gave me the queer ensemble of my dreams whilst also having an electric and fun and unexpected plot without any of the lulls found in the author’s sophomore release. Infact, this made me incredibly nostalgic for their debut because I’m left with that same sparkly feeling — minus the hangover from some of the more intense emotional moments.

God, why is he still here? What is he doing? There’s no way his job is that hard. All he des is cut the arts budget and misinterpret the Bible. How many hours can that possibly take?

Because, yes, I Kissed Shara Wheeler? Fantastic. I knew by the end of chapter one I was going to be a goner for this book and only something absolutely terrible could ruin it. And, spoiler, nothing did.

While she does like boys, she generally finds the traits of a compelling villain — arrogance, malice, an angry backstory — tedious in a man. Like, what do hot guys with long dark hair have to be that upset about? Get a clarifying shampoo and suck it up, Kylo Ren.

As usual my brain is stalling out a little on what to say but like. This has that competitive academic rivals tension. It has a kiss-fuelled scavenger hunt. It has unlikely allies who become true friends. It’s about self-discovery. It’s about quiet rebellions that lead to louder ones. It’s about old friends become new again. It’s about found family. And so much more.

Chloe, we’re gay. We can’t do math.
Okay, well, next time I’ll come and make a spreadsheet.
This is why we need you. Once in a generation, there is born a bisexual who can do math. You’re the chosen one.”

It’s not all easy or fun or just non-stop queer shenanigans, though. With the setting of this book, both in a little town in Alabama and at a Christian school to boot, you know there’s going to be some issues to tackle. But those issues never overwhelmed the story. But neither were they too minor to not play a part. It was the perfect balance.

Your mama and I decided long before you were both that we would let you be whoever you are, no matter who that is.
And if who you are is a snarling little Pomeranian with eyes like fire, than that’s who you are, darling.”

If YA is all McQuiston plans to ever write again (this is not confirmed, I’m just saying), I would honestly only be a tiny bit upset to lose adult content from them. Because it really was that good. I know I will be rereading this and, likely, loving it even more.

Highly recommend.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
YA contemporary comedy mystery
Dramatics
Bigatory

There’s lots to recommend this read, it’s beautifully queer, a fun romp but somehow, it just didn’t hit the notes for me. There’s an eclectic band of friends thrown together in this story and that was the element I became most fond of.

Shara was missing and I struggled with Shara as a character for much of the story, and maybe I was supposed to. She seemed manipulative and they way she had all these peers pitched against one another initially, really wound me up. There was space for redemption but overall I didn’t like her. Shara however, wasn’t really the main character even if the whole story was centred on her, Chloe was the MC and I did like her mostly. Chloe had some epic moms which I appreciated.

The themes were welcome in this book and they included exploring identity, sexuality and rebelling against bigatory. These important themes were well handled but it felt alongside a fair bit of dramarama. I think the drama and manipulative characteristics of Shara were what kept me from connecting with the characters sadly. I didn’t feel any chemistry in the romantic moments either.

I am disappointed I didn’t enjoy this more but I can see that so far from a ratings perspective, I am in the minority.

Thank you MacMillan Kids for the early review copy.

BOOK OF NIGHT by Holly Black – double review!

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and story stitching. Remember while you read, light isn’t playing tricks in Book of Night, the people are.


Title : Book of Night
Author : Holly Black
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : urban fantasy / paranormal
Publisher : Tor Books / DelReyUK
Release Date : May 3, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think even the mightiest of Black stans might lose it over that ending, hoo boy. I loved it but I also kinda hated it.

So here’s the thing. If this is a standalone, I’m a lot less happy than a three star. Okay, fine, maybe it’s just docked half a point. But if this is a series opener.. yeah, maybe I could bump it a half point. As it is, there’s a lot of good in this adult debut from this beloved author but there’s also an equal amount of stuff I could’ve lived without.

I do think most people will come out of this book loving our MC, Charlie. She is unflinchingly herself and herself is messy. She’s a twenty-eight year old ex-con artist and thief who is painfully aware of her baggage cart full of faults, failed relationships, and rather questionable childhood. She’s trying to turn a new leaf, one that is away from the sketchier aspects of her skillset and focus on being somewhat of a law abiding citizen as well as guide her sister towards school and a future (a bit I never quite understood considering her sister’s age and lack of interest and also, side note, did anyone else assume her sister was like sixteen? she did not act her age). Having a boyfriend who, for once, is not a scumbag, though maybe a little weird, helps, too.

In this world, which I’ll admit I still find somewhat hard to grasp, there are people who can work magic through shadows. That’s basically the simplest way to describe it. And while that’s a main event in this world, the story itself focuses more on both mystery and heist and the overlords who rule the underworld. Does that sound dramatic? It kind of is.

While Charlie’s world was dark and violent and gritty, the details didn’t always interest me. Much like how I was invested in about half the characters and the rest could go hang. There was a sweet spot that kept me invested but on the whole there were parts that left much to be desired. Which, again, if this is a series.. I could see myself being swayed if we got more depth or detail. If not, well. It’ll be halfway memorable.

I would absolutely read on and I so hope we continue to get more adult releases from our favourites in the YA genre, particularly when they go dark side. This didn’t quite ease the sting of the long wait for the next Alex Stern novel but I’m not mad at it for distracting me for a few hours, either. You’ll either pick this one up or you won’t and I doubt this review will sway you otherwise. Having said that, I can’t wait to see more reviews and how this works (or doesn’t) for other readers.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Morally dark-grey goodness
Darkness and shady shadows
Corruption

I loved so much about this fantasy offering from Holly Black. There was an absolutely fantastic female MC in Charlie Hall. She was shady, she didn’t give a s***, she took risks like it was a daily snack but she had a big heart for the few she loved. Her childhood was a complete mess of exploitation of her supposed magical abilities and she wasn’t protected as she should have been. Thus was the adult Charlie as a result.

The story brought a couple I really wanted to cheer for, or did it, maybe, I hope. Vince was difficult to fathom but I got a sense of true connection and love, even if it lacked verbal expression. The plot around Vince was deep and led into some places you wanted it not to but truly, it was incredibly clever and delicious to read.

The other characters of the piece outside the sister Posey, were honestly a nasty bunch. None more than Salt, he was heinous but I also loved to hate Adeline. You’ve got to pay attention to this plot, it definitely became exponentially more complex and the use of past/present was both helpful while being a little pacey at times. That ending 100% worked for me, knowing this is going to be a series; I love a messy ending on those terms.

Black has announced her entrance into adult fantasy with a slickness of characterisation and a wholly adult feel to the piece. I am a fan and ball of anticipation for the next book.

Thank you to Delrey UK for the gorgeous proof to review early.

ALWAYS YOU by Samantha Young

Arrochar Adair has loved her brother’s ex-bodyguard and best friend, Mac Galbraith, for years. Once upon a time, she was too young for him, but now that she’s a mature woman in her thirties, Arro can see no issue with their difference in age. Yet something deeper, a problem much more difficult to surmount, is keeping them apart.

Mac Galbraith remembers clearly the night Arro became everything to him, no longer just his best friend and boss’s younger sister. However, having made many mistakes over the years, there is one mistake Mac is determined not to make: to believe that he is worthy of Arrochar Adair. Allowing them to grow closer during his daughter, Robyn’s, return has proven his undoing. And when Arro forces the subject of their relationship, his response pushes her away. He just never meant for it to destroy them completely.

Devastated by Mac’s final rejection, Arro is determined to move on without him in her life, though he seems intent on staying put. And when the Adair family face a new threat, one that may have ties to Mac’s past, Arro can’t seem to be rid of the man. In fact, Mac will do anything to protect her.

But with so much hurt between them, will Arro let Mac close enough to guard her from their enemy… before it’s too late?


Title : Always You
Author : Samantha Young
Series : Adair Family #3
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : Romantic Suspense
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Push and pull
Murderous designs
Longings

I’ve been waiting for Mac’s story in particular from the Adair family and it was an epic push and pull of emotions with plenty of angst along the way. The Highland setting remains a great backdrop to this family and as ever with this series, we get the previous couples along the way which I enjoyed.

Arro and Mac’s long and convoluted, crush, attaction, denial, resistance and pull was something to unravel. The narrative had some past and present in the first half to truly understand the history of these two. There was much more to their story than I realised. I had moments of finding both Arro and Mac infuriating, their miscommunications, some of Arro’s actions, followed by Mac’s…but, it made for a deep story and deeper connection.

There was an interesting side story of Mac seeking therapy which I appreciated even if I didn’t really engage that much with the narrative of those sessions. The suspense element of this story harked back to previous vendettas and plots while bringing some newer complications. I do like that this series is romantic suspense.

I love the weaves of Ery’s story being set up and I can’t wait to know more about her. I’m hoping she’s next.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

THE LONG GAME by Rachel Reid

To the world they are rivals, but to each other they are everything.

Ten years.

That’s how long Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov have been seeing each other. How long they’ve been keeping their relationship a secret. From friends, from family…from the league. If Shane wants to stay at the top of his game, what he and Ilya share has to remain secret. He loves Ilya, but what if going public ruins everything?

Ilya is sick of secrets. Shane has gotten so good at hiding his feelings, sometimes Ilya questions if they even exist. The closeness, the intimacy, even the risk that would come with being open about their relationship…Ilya wants it all.

It’s time for them to decide what’s most important—hockey or love.

It’s time to make a call. 


Title : The Long Game
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changers (book six)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance / sports
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I can only imagine the pressure Reid faced when sitting down to tackle this “sequel”. Granted, I think I’ve said that about every post-Heated Rivalry release but this was the biggie because finally we weren’t just getting cameos sprinkled amongst other stories but we were getting more Shane and Ilya. Front and centre. Live in HD 4K — or whatever the cool kids say. It was finally time for them to get (maybe?) their true HEA. So, having said all that, I hope the readers find it not only worth the wait but just as satisfying as book two.

I hate this. My team was perfect. Now we have this asshole.”
Your team is terrible.”
Yes, but, you know. The vibes are good.

And speaking of a wait, this was a romance eleven (thirteen?) years in the making. I loved a lot about their relationship, particularly what we got to see unfold in this instalment, but my favourite parts were the nostalgic reminiscing on where and how it all began; and how differently things may have gone.

I will kiss you during a face-off.
Pretty sure that would be a face-off violation.

For me, the highlight, as always, was Ilya. I think maybe we’re all a bit trash for him but honestly he’s just burrowed under my skin in all the ways. With his humour, his language fails, his chirping, his vulnerability; with everything. Shane, however, is a little less complicated and sometimes does come across a little oblivious and a little self-absorbed but never intentionally or maliciously. It’s just how he is.. until he’s made aware of something and then he totally course corrects. But it absolutely suits him not only because of his upbringing but also the way he took to his career. The way these two bounce off each other, how they also fit, is just lovely.

Why is it a secret? You wouldn’t be the only gay hockey players. Or queer. Sorry, I shouldn’t assume.”
I am bisexual. Shane is super gay.”
I’m regular gay.”

There were moments about this that surprised me (certain topics and issues previously addressed that were repackaged so beautifully for this particular instalment; no I’m not spoiling), moments that moved me (yes, I teared up), and, of course, moments (Ilya!) that made me laugh. I couldn’t believe how quickly I chewed through this chonky book (almost five hundred pages!) and while at first I did think we were spinning our wheels a bit, it took me a moment to realize this story spanned the timeline of all books since Heated Rivalry. I knew that in theory but it took me a moment to realign myself with the events without external prompting via chapter headings. Obviously there are elements of this story that are a bit repetitive because the conflict that spans the book is the same and yet I also appreciated the way the beats of the story played out.

I fear not living up to the expectations of the Montreal Voyageurs organization and our fans.”
Would be easier to cheat death than to meet Montreal’s hockey expectations.

Not wholly related to the book, however, it needs to be said : I have always loved how Reid has portrayed her hockey world — I always find it interesting to see how authors reinvent the teams and what they keep or discard from the real world — and seeing her more or less break up with Montreal in fiction as (I believe) she’s broken up with them in real life was bittersweet but, hopefully, satisfying as a creative to work through that ending. I hope, if we get to see these two again, we’ll have more Ottawa jokes to look forward to. I highlighted so many of those.

You should sign with Ottawa. Your contract is probably cheap, yes?
You’re a hard guy to like, Rozanov.”
That is not what Shane thinks.

The Long Game has plenty of steam, plenty of sweet, plenty of feels, plenty of fun, and, of course, plenty of hockey. All in all, I think fans of this couple, and this series, will be very pleased by this long-anticipated and long-awaited reunion — though maybe less pleased about the cover.

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

PART OF YOUR WORLD by Abby Jimenez

The New York Times bestselling author of Life’s Too Short delivers a refreshingly modern fairy tale perfect for fans of Casey McQuiston and Emily Henry.

After a wild bet, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich, and cuddle with a baby goat, Alexis Montgomery has had her world turned upside down. The cause: Daniel Grant, a ridiculously hot carpenter who’s ten years younger than her and as casual as they come—the complete opposite of sophisticated city-girl Alexis. And yet their chemistry is undeniable.

While her ultra-wealthy parents want her to carry on the family legacy of world-renowned surgeons, Alexis doesn’t need glory or fame. She’s fine with being a “mere” ER doctor. And every minute she spends with Daniel and the tight-knit town where he lives, she’s discovering just what’s really important. Yet letting their relationship become anything more than a short-term fling would mean turning her back on her family and giving up the opportunity to help thousands of people.

Bringing Daniel into her world is impossible, and yet she can’t just give up the joy she’s found with him either. With so many differences between them, how can Alexis possibly choose between her world and his? 


Title : Part of Your World
Author : Abby Jimenez
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Forever
Release Date : April 19, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Good news, everyone! This Jimenez might be the first one that doesn’t make you cry your eyes out. I mean, it’s still possible, but the odds are actually in your favour this time. Because if I, a person who cries at a strong breeze, didn’t shed tears, you will also likely emerge unscathed.

In fact, in general, this felt like a very different offering from this author. It’s a little less overflowing with the emotions, yes, and it’s actually well pitched; in many ways this does feel like a modern fairytale. It is still infused with some heavy topics to navigate — this time abuse, both verbal/emotional and physical and the very many forms this both takes, and in various kinds of dynamics — but still.. it’s got a magical kind of feel to it all. Like fairytales do.

Strangely, while I definitely enjoyed this change in pace, it may be a little less memorable as a result.

This story really felt like two in one. One was a delightful romance, with charming personalities, the most perfect love interest, and a small town dynamic. The other contained an unwanted and toxic ex, some unrelentingly demanding parents, and personalities very far from charming. It was no wonder Alexis felt so drawn to the former; but because of her upbringing, her responsibilities, she was constantly pulled back to the latter. She was constantly pushing away the best things in her life. She was constantly bowing to expectation. Worst of all, she was convinced that something good, something necessary, couldn’t be in her life, accepted by her people, because of who he wasn’t, what he looked like, and because he was a few years younger. And while I understood this.. it was painful to constantly, constantly, cycle through it. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a good guy, but Daniel was made to be almost a little too perfect. Maybe it was to present two very stark things — good and bad — against one another for the full contrast but.. I don’t know. It feels a little nitpicky, I’ll admit, because Daniel really was the best. But was he too much the best?

Having said that, both characters had their flaws. Alexis had plenty. Daniel’s flaw was maybe that he didn’t have one. But. I enjoyed them together, I enjoyed their ridiculous happily ever after (truly a fairytale), and it definitely gave me that bit of magic that I always feel when watching Sweet Home Alabama. I think this is almost a genderbent Cinderella-ish Little Mermaid-ish mashup with that movie? Maybe? I’m trying to think of a better comparison and drawing a blank. But it gives those kind of vibes! At least for me.

I definitely wouldn’t dissuade anyone from picking this up. I really did enjoy my time with this group. And I’m happy to see that Bri, one of the true stars of this book, is getting her own next. I will likely never stop picking this author up and I’m so glad she continues to come up with stories that have yet to disappoint.

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

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