MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS by Carrie S Allen

When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up – even if it means putting her future on the line.


Title : Michigan vs The Boys
Author : Carrie S Allen
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 308
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : KCP Loft
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I would like it noted for the record that this is my do-over review after accidentally losing the first (much superior) draft. I am sad. But here we go; take two.

Wow, so. I knew going into this read that it would deal with some tough situations concerning bullying and hazing, but still. This was hard.

MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS feels like the second cousin to BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman. Like that other story, this one also focuses on the mob mentality so often found in men, particularly in competitive sports. But that’s mostly where the similarities end.

Michigan loves hockey. So when her girls’ team is disbanded due to budget cuts, she makes the bold choice to try out for the boys’ team. Except no one wants her there. Not her coach and certainly not her teammates. But she wants to play, she is talented, and so she makes the cut.

Reading what the boys put her through, how she is ignored by the staff, and only trotted out when she out-plays, and out-scores, the boys, is so hard. Watching every hard-earned win, every success, be immediately torn down by those who are supposed to lift her up, cheer her on? Brutal. But watching her continue to push herself, to continue to succeed despite so much adversity, is remarkable. Though, ultimately, tragic because it’s so unnecessary and awful.

But for all that awful, there’s a balance of greatness, too. It’s also a story about friendship, first love, loyalty, and family. And, in some ways, so much of this is necessary. Because, as one character says, about a certain situation, which I will paraphrase, this story, the telling of it, is so important. For the girls who will see themselves in these moments; if not now, maybe in the future. For the boys who might realize that what they witness being done to others, what they don’t stop even if they don’t participate in, is wrong.

If you love hockey, if you love stories with great friendships or sibling relationships, hell, if you loved (or hated!) BEARTOWN, I would definitely recommend.

CRIER’S WAR by Nina Varela

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war. 


Title : Crier’s War
Author : Nina Varela
Series : Crier’s War (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 434
Genre : YA fantasy, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I think this is one of those books that can go either way for some readers. But, for me, I’m caught right in the middle.

First, let me say : if you considered picking this book up because you heard it was a hate to love, or enemies to lovers, or opposites attract, romance? I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. This, unlike another fantasy series featuring an f/f pairing, was done so so well. I believed in the evolution of this.. not relationship but this connection. It totally won me over and oh man I want more. The dynamic between them.. (chefs kiss).

As for the dynamic of the story itself? Well, I was definitely under the impression this story was actually the opposite of what it has (haha #TeamNoBlurbs). Instead of the Made-character being the outlier, this is a society where Made-beings, the Automae, are actually in charge. They are the winners of a war where they have subjugated humans. Mostly. There are some who don’t despise humans, who want to live with them equally, but overall this is not the norm. And, to be honest, I think that element made this story even better for me than had it been the other way around, or the way I expected.

However. I’ll admit that sometimes I did feel a little confused by the actions of some of these Automae and how human they did seem, sometimes. And yet others, not at all. Maybe that was done on purpose? Maybe there is supposed to be that fluctuating line to make us see how close but not at all like humans they are? I’m uncertain. Certain actions, particularly that of the villain and his manipulations, just make it to to seem.. well, convenient, that some act more human than others. I don’t know. I’m not explaining this right but I think that’s mostly because, again, confused.

The world is very interesting, though, and how certain things came about in the end..? Yeah, wow, I am reading on for sure. But that said, I’m glad that we had two strong leads to carry this story during those moments where I was just not in it, because those moments did happen. And I’m glad for these leads because I was forever sad I didn’t love the aforementioned other series because diversity and f/f and all that good stuff. But this one? This one does it. I’m here for it.

So, yes, not a super high rating, but I absolutely think book two will knock it out of the park. And I can’t wait.

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

TEN BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?


Title : Ten Blind Dates
Author : Ashley Elston
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is the kind of read that is pretty much exactly what it looks like. It’s contemporary, it’s set around the holidays, there is a large boisterous family who conspires together to set up the newly heartbroken lead character on dates, of which there are ten of them. If this sounds like everything, or anything, you want from a romance, I don’t think you’ll have any complaints.

I definitely loved the concept of these dates, the strange charm of the whole situation. I loved the idea of this big family but I’ll admit.. in the beginning, it was too many names, too much at once, but it does get across that sense of chaos that comes from having many relatives — I assume. That isn’t my family at all — and, near the end, it does narrow down a bit to a few key players, which makes things easier.

What surprised me, and ended up being my favourite part, was the connection between Sophie and her older sister, Margot, who is on bed rest, and then hospitalized, due to preeclampsia. There were a few moments between them, conversations via text, heck, even a few conversations between Sophie and her mother about Margot, that really got me. It hit a little close to home for me but also it was just really well done and hella emotional and lovely.

There was also a reunion between a friend group, most of them cousins, that I thought was great. Both the ups and the downs. All of it just felt super realistic and, despite some of the “remember this, that, and when..” retellings of stories to tell us how close they used to be, instead of showing, I really enjoyed all their interactions.

The dates themselves, much like the family members who chose them, were mostly over the top and ridiculous but a few were also fun and sweet. I definitely had a favourite but for the sheer surprise hilarity of it I don’t want to ruin it. Ultimately, though, it’s obvious pretty much from the get-go who Sophie is going to end up with. And though I did like it, I did feel things got kind of serious kind of fast and, personally, I would’ve preferred things to have been a little.. slower, I guess? I don’t know. I wanted more engine revving than full throttle, I guess. Though I totally appreciate the maturity of how they are handling things big picture-wise as they prepare for university and the next stage of their lives.

Overall this was a fun read, with an emotional backbone, and a few laughs. Definitely one I would recommend for anyone looking for titles to add to their holiday tbr.

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

PERMANENT RECORD by Mary H. K. Choi

Mary HK Choi new book cover reveal Credit: ohgigue

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out…


Title : Permanent Record
Author : Mary H. K. Choi
Format : ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I read EMERGENCY CONTACT, Mary H. K. Choi’s debut novel, before the era of the blog so believe me when I say I liked elements of it but didn’t love it. I found the story to be a little dull, though the characters were occasionally vibrant even if I didn’t like them, with plenty of Real Issues(tm) to tackle, but overall the story felt a little.. sad. A lot sad. Nonetheless I wanted to give her follow up novel a chance because I wondered if there might be more of things I liked to balance out what I didn’t.

And, sad to say, the answer is a nope.

I definitely appreciate this take on the ‘normie-meets-a-celebrity’ trope, but. So much but. Again, this comes from not quite liking the characters even if sometimes they did dazzle a bit. Adding to this weird sense of dismay was a really rough read, with more Real Issues(tm), sprinkled (heavily. maybe doused) ontop of the whole experience. The greatness factor was having a young person deal with the horrifying and very real danger of credit cards, debt, and the uncertainty of post-graduate school. But w o w was it, like, a serious downer. Sure, we end on a high (medium) note, not resolved with everything tied up in a neat bow, but leaning into the reality, instead of avoiding it, but wow.

The book is hella diverse and occasionally did make me laugh out loud (twice? maybe three times) but honestly I’m just really sad because I know this isn’t the author for me. I can appreciate the work she’s doing, what she’s putting out there, and the people who will relate or learn from it. But I won’t do this to myself again and she deserves better than my low reviews when I now know, with certainty, we just aren’t meant to be.

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

NOT THE GIRL YOU MARRY by Andie J Christopher

How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days gets a millennial makeover in this romantic comedy by USA Today bestselling author Andie J. Christopher.

Jack Nolan is a gentleman, a journalist, and unlucky in love. His viral success has pigeon-holed him as the how-to guy for a buzzy, internet media company instead of covering hard-hitting politics. Fed up with his fluffy articles and the app-based dating scene as well, he strikes a deal with his boss to write a final piece de resistance: How to Lose a Girl. Easier said than done when the girl he meets is Hannah Mayfield, and he’s not sure he wants her to dump him.

Hannah is an extremely successful event planner who’s focused on climbing the career ladder. Her firm is one of the most prestigious in the city, and she’s determined to secure her next promotion. But Hannah has a bit of an image problem. She needs to show her boss that she has range, including planning dreaded, romantic weddings. Enter Jack. He’s the perfect man to date for a couple weeks to prove to her boss that she’s not scared of feelings.

Before Jack and Hannah know it, their fake relationship starts to feel all too real—and neither of them can stand to lose each other. 


Title : Not The Girl You Marry
Author : Andie J Christopher
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Before starting this book, I did the thing you should never do : I looked at the GR rating. Which, as of writing this review, is sitting at 3.60. Which sounds bad but we need to remember this is out of five. It’s not terrible. But it was surprising considering, at the time, this was still a month out from publication. 

And so I dove in, waiting, wondering, for it to go sideways. And yet it never really did?

Despite seeing the rating, I forgot to revisit the blurb (#TeamNoBlurbs) and was delighted at the How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days spin on a contemporary romance. It’s really not that far off from the film except the roles are reversed and the story is made more diverse. I thought the narrative around Hannah’s anti-dating baggage being tied up in her identity to be a really smart move. Forever questioning where she stands in a world that wants her to lean into her whiteness or shun it (she’s biracial with a white mother and black father) and the past relationship that didn’t think she was appropriate either way, coining the “not the girl you marry” phrase she then associated with herself.

On the other end of the equation, Jack is perfect. The perfect guy, the perfect boyfriend, so perfect he scared all his previous girlfriends away. He has to try hard to scare off Hannah, to go against what he wants and knows is right; and it doesn’t always work out. I thought his backstory was actually pretty perfectly balanced because it felt real, and a bit heartbreaking, but it didn’t overshadow Hannah’s.

I was really enjoying the story, the romance, the hijinks, though I’ll admit some bits felt a little dragged out — this two week period felt endless? — and I wanted less moral outrage on Hannah’s side and a little more on Jack’s. It did feel a little unbalanced though I agree the circumstances, the ramifications, from the lies would’ve been bigger had Jack seen things through. So.. I don’t know.

What did take some of the love out of this for me, too, was just how close it felt to the movie. Again, updated to include apps, diversified, backstory for the characters, so it isn’t cookie-cutter. But it’s close enough.

But I did have a good time. This was lighthearted but grounded enough to not cross into fluff territory (forever adding a disclaimer that I don’t use this word negatively) and honestly I just had a good time reading it. 

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

THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay Adams – double review!

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him. 

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife. 


Title : The Bromance Book Club
Author : Lyssa Kay Adams
Series : Bromance Book Club (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley/Headline Eternal
Release Date : November 5, 2019/January 30, 2020

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


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

What, in concept, should be such an excellent take on a second-chance/save-the-marriage romance, with manly men learning to navigate the pitfalls and stumbling blocks of their relationships from romance novels, really only 100% succeeds in concept form. 

The author throws us right into the thick of things. The story opens up with the hero on a bender because, after a month of silent treatment following a devastating reveal from his wife, he’s finally walked out. They are headed for divorce. But don’t despair! The wise yet comedic ensemble to the rescue!

Men are idiots. We complain that women are so mysterious and shit, and we never know what they want. We fuck up our relationships because we convince ourselves that it’s too hard to figure them out. But the real problem is with us. We think we’re not supposed to feel things and cry and express ourselves. We expect women to do all the emotional labour in a relationship and then act confused when they give up on us.”

Honestly, they were the best part. But mostly Mack. 

You hear the voice, too?
It’s your subconscious. At some point in this process, every one of us have had to fight a British aristocrat in our brain that identifies things we would otherwise prefer to ignore.

The problem I think, for me, is lack of context and foundation. Which I think in theory is what the author was going for. We didn’t know who these characters once were, and why we should be sad about their current state, because they’ve lost themselves (or, really, the heroine has). They have changed, faked their way through happiness, and more, until they — she — reaches her breaking point. But conversely this worked against the story — again, probably only for me — because I didn’t.. care as much? And also I found neither of them really had a leg to stand on. But, I mean, I’m not married, so what do I know?

Nothing on Earth is as strong as a woman who’s good and fed up.

The heroine’s biggest point of contention is that she feels betrayed by her husband for not seeing how much she has changed since they met. How many parts of herself she’s sanded down, or swallowed, for the sake of their family and his career. He doesn’t see all the ways she has faked living, and loving, the past few years of their relationship. But, I mean also, she throws it in his face and yet she’s also never said boo about any of it. Whereas the hero, okay yes didn’t react all that well, but every time he tried to reach her, to make up, she would push him away or shut down. I didn’t blame him for some of his frustrations. And this went back and forth for a while, with her seriously punishing him beyond where I think the limit should’ve been, and then I guess we’re meant to forgive her because it’s all been a symptom of her childhood and resulting insecurities and expectations..? Whatever.
Again, this might have worked if I had.. cared.. more. 

What the hell is a Regency?
That means it’s set in eighteenth or early nineteenth century England.”
“Oh, great. That sounds relevant.”

The romance novel/story within the story was sometimes fun but also a little much, too on the nose considering how meta this was already feeling with some of the discussions amongst the bros, but it also kinda proved that this author could write a historical romance and I would probably really enjoy it. Her writing seemed better suited to those passages than the contemporary ones. 

[it’s] at least a BB four.
Do I want to know what that means?
It’s our rating system for how much sex is in it.
But what does BB stand for?
Book Boner.”

So, overall, I didn’t quite love this. And definitely not to the extent I expected to.

This is on the shorter end of things reading wise, and it does move fairly smoothly, I felt like I made a lot of progress in a short time, but overwhelmingly the characters just kind of failed to live up to the potential. I adored the ensemble of dudes as a supporting cast because it was less of the relationship drama, though can fully admit they read more like caricatures for the comedic relief, and am tentatively looking forward to Mack in a starring role. But as a result of who I assume he’ll be paired with.. I have concerns.

The point of all of all of this is to court her, Gavin. Not seduce her.”
What’s the difference?
It’s a fucking miracle you got married at all. The difference, is to make her want you, not prove how much you want her.

I would definitely read on, and read more from this author, but I might suggest lowering expectations just a tiny bit. I definitely could’ve done with that before diving in.

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


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

This was such a fun concept, from the blurb to the excellent book cover. I read THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB after reading a very heavy book and it was just the light kind of fun I needed. This is a perfect weekend or beach read but it also feels like a fresh concept.

I love to read a book about married couples and these two, Gavin and Thea had a marriage on the rocks and in deep trouble. It was the kind of marriage suffering from neglect and lacking in honesty. However, I could see from the start that there was much to salvage and I enjoyed their journey.

This is a romantic comedy at times with periods of seriousness. The guy friends in Gavin’s life enlisted the help of some regency books to teach Gavin how to woo and satisfy his wife. Everything about this aspect was hilarious and I adored how there was a second mini story within this book in the form of the regency novel he was reading.

He pulled ‘His Pissed-off Countess’ or whatever it was called from the drawer. Del took it from him and held it aloft like a preacher about to drop some gospel.

Gavin learning to change his behaviour was central to this story and he was kind of dumb but also humble and willing to change. I grew to like him and to root for their marriage. I was glad to see some wake-up in Thea too.

“It absolutely is true. A woman remembers every time a man winks at her, because we love winking. It’s like catnip. Wink at us, and we roll over and start purring. You haven’t winked at me in a long time.”
“Then I’m an idiot.” Gavin slowly lowered his gaze to lips. “Because I wouldn’t mind hearing you purr.”

There was a strong sense of family in this book with twins in the middle of this marriage. There were some incredibly sweet moments between the four of them that just made me warm and cosy.

I’m really looking forward to reading more from this series and this author, she reeled me in with this fun story.

Thank you to Headline Eternal for the early review copy.

GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert – double review!

Talia Hibbert, one of contemporary romance’s brightest new stars, delivers a witty, hilarious romantic comedy about a woman who’s tired of being “boring” and recruits her mysterious, sexy neighbor to help her experience new things—perfect for fans of Sally Thorne, Jasmine Guillory, and Helen Hoang.

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamourous family’s mansion. The next items?

Enjoy a drunken night out.
Ride a motorcycle.
Go camping.
Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…


Title : Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : The Brown Sisters (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon / Piatkus
Release Date : November 5, 2019

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


Hollis’ 5 star review

The fact that this book exists makes me a little less angry that the world is a dumpster fire. Which isn’t to say that the world should continue stinking and burning, just that.. maybe this is proof we might one day be okay. Because this book? This b o o k.

She hadn’t always been like this, a tongue with a tip bitten off, her feelings squashed into box. But help and concern, even from the people she loved — even when she needed it — had a way of grating. Of building up, or rather, grinding down. Truthfully, guiltily, sometimes simple gratitude tasted like barely sweetened resentment in her mouth.

Hibbert really went there. She did it. She gave us a book that tackles chronic pain in a way that I, as a reader, don’t think I’ve seen before. Chloe Brown is a force. She hurts, every day, but more than that she’s been hurt by being left. She has walls but wants to.. not remove them but maybe install a door into said perimeter. She wants to open up, live her life; even, maybe, get one. And she wants to stop letting her physical pain get in her way; or at least stop it from being an excuse for not trying. Not recklessly, not at her own expense, but she wants to find her limits and go there. There is so much grace in giving us a character like Chloe. And I loved her so much.

We don’t have moose, Chlo. Or bears.
I’m quite certain that we do.”
We don’t.”
We definitely have bears.”
We don’t. If we had bears it’d be in the news all the time. You know, Fine upstanding British man attacked by a bear, EU to blame, Brexit now.
I’m quite certain I saw that headline on a copy of the Daily Mail the other week.

The author has also offered us a man who has been hurt, and is hurting, and yet doesn’t take that as a license to be an asshole to the world or to our leading lady. It doesn’t mean he’s a pure soft boy of total goodness, because like anyone who hurts they get low, they get scared, they maybe lash out, but he’s so self-aware. He apologizes. He makes amends. He strives to be better, to do better, and is more than just words. And that does, actually, make him as close to total goodness as one can get, I think.

The thing is, Red.. some of us have so many marginalizations, we might drown if we let all the little hurts flood in. So there are those, like me, who filter. I think you’ve noticed I filter a lot.

This book took me so long to read and I think it was because, subconsciously (unconsciously?), I wanted to delay the satisfaction a bit. Savour it. Because lowkey this book was equal parts a hilarious, swoony, delight, and also quietly devastating. Which isn’t to say those quiet moments weren’t also loud but.. the way they were handled was quiet. Carefully. Again, I’ll use the word gracefully. It made those moments pack an unexpected punch without amping up manufactured drama. It made it feel natural and real and all the more potent. And as a result I probably just needed a few more breaks than normal with this particular read but oh man was it worth it.

Throw a tantrum, if you must.
Throw a–? I’m not doing this with you.”
Doing what?
Arguing. I don’t argue with people.”
That sounds dull.”

And speaking of potent. Those swoons? Oh my god. This book was steamy af on multiple occasions but still maintained a slow sexy burn that was so delicious I have no words. None. Just (fire emoji fire emoji fire emoji).

Wait until you see the air mattress.
The what?
Well, you didn’t think I was going to fuck you on the ground, did you? I’m not a complete animal.”

If you’re looking for deletes all previous listings of what this book contains. No. Wait. If you like books, read this one. Full stop.

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN was a read full of quirky goodness and the first contemporary romance I’ve ever encountered that has done justice to a protagonist with a chronic illness and pain issues. For this alone, it deserves all the kudos. BUT, that aside, it’s just a damn good story that swallows you up and doesn’t let go.

Chloe was a realistic heroine, the kind of woman you could identify with, mood swings and all. I’m not going to go into detail of what was wrong with Chloe, you can read that for yourself. However, she was ready to evolve as a person managing an illness, she felt it had ruled all her decisions for too long. Her journey to becoming more herself was such good reading. Chloe was full of snark, quips and a quiet, soft centre; I loved her. Her inner monologues, especially about Red, had me hooting with hilarity.

She was a caterpillar tucked into a universe-endorsed chrysalis. Someday soon, she would emerge as a beautiful butterfly who did cool and fabulous things all the time, regardless of whether or not said things had been previously scheduled.

Red was a man of integrity and goodness, there was nothing to not like. Suffice it to say, I loved him too, his patience, generosity and retorts were all the fun. These two together were fractious chemistry, burning slowly and getting on each other’s nerves.

Like maybe she was just an awkward, sarcastic grump and he should stop losing his temper around her.

The connection between Red and Chloe invited me in early on, from the tree incident (still snorting) to the camping. I enjoyed the time it took, the unravelling of feelings and intimacy and the realism of the effect of emotional baggage on future relationships.

I appreciated the storylines in this book more than I can say. Each element of these felt totally genuine from chronic illness to abuse. They were handled with research and sensitivity and this shows me what talent Talia Hibbert has, not only to include these, but to seamlessly and congruently weave this into a love story. I am an instant fan.

Thank you to Piatkus & Little Brown for the review copy.

FULL DISCLOSURE by Camryn Garrett

In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon. 

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too. 

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…


Title : Full Disclosure
Author : Camryn Garrett
Format : ARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ contemporary
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 29, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I fully admit that I requested this one because of the unique circumstances described in the synopsis. A YA contemporary dealing with HIV? Not a throwback story, or historical, set against the AIDS crisis but a real person, in today’s world? I had to read it. Adding to this already rare subject matter, was a diverse cast, dealing with topics of both race and sexuality.

But ultimately I think I loved the concept more than the execution.

This story reads a little like SIMON VS THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA. Our lead has a secret, she’s not out about her HIV at school (not after the disaster that happened at her last one), and she hasn’t even told her best friends; which means neither does her crush know. But someone does and someone threatens to out her if she doesn’t spill the beans by a specific deadline. The threats even get worse as her crush suddenly becomes her boyfriend. And Simone has to make a choice : avoid the chance at love and be browbeat by an unknown or come clean to those she cares about.

Throughout the story, there are little red herrings as to who this blackmailer is. And I’ll admit I did guess correctly. I won’t spoil anything about Simone’s choices (does she tell, is she outed, does she tell and end up outed anyway) but I will say that, not being represented by anything in this book — I’m not queer or black or HIV positive (though the author is the everything but the latter) — I thought everything felt true. What ultimately kind of failed for me was some of the side drama with Simone’s besties. I felt they sometimes transitioned into strange discussions or arguments that never felt relevant for the circumstances whereas her friends from the support group, a gathering for other HIV positive teens, were fabulous.

The romance was sweet, the obsession with musicals wasn’t really my thing but I appreciated the relevance of them doing a production of Rent, and I would 100% read a backstory/companion about Simone’s parents. She had a somewhat complex and blended family situation, being adopted and also with particular dynamics still present between her dads, but overall I just loved them both so much. It was particularly nice that, with everything else going on, parental angst was not present.

Additionally, Simone is very aware and very responsible about her diagnosis. She has maturity, respect, and agency in regards to how she has to manage it and yet also wants to be educated on protocol for being sexually active while protecting herself and her partner. This is a story about living with HIV and living a full, healthy, life. There’s no real tragedy here.

So, yes, I didn’t love this but I love what it represents, what it will offer to other readers, and overall the education it’ll give many people who just don’t know enough, or maybe rely on ignorant prejudice, about HIV. Highly recommend for that alone.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

I requested this book because it oozed the grabby vibes with a YA context of a HIV positive protagonist. This book had lots of important themes and it was generally educational to those who might not know much about the virus in the context of adolescence and sexual relationships. However, it terms of execution and connection to the characters, the narrative left me on the outside looking in, disconnected and wanting more.

The protagonist, Simone was a secure person on the cusp of womanhood but with so many new questions about a health condition she’d lived with since forever. Simone was exploring her sexual identity, potential attractions and relationships and for the first time she was questioning what that meant in the now for her and her circumstances.

What I liked were the multiple reps of sexual identity and living with HIV, there’s so much in terms of widening knowledge and horizons for young people reading this book. I loved the dads, they were ridiculously protective on the one hand and everything precious on the other. I liked Miles but I found him unrealistic in a number of situations.

I struggled somewhat with feeling connected to Simone herself and her friends, Lydia and Claudia. There was something missing in these characters, something in the narrative that just didn’t hang right and I still can’t put my finger on it. The drama lama later in the story was predictable but I did enjoy how the story came together in the end. Although I remain unsure about Miles’ parents and any resolution of that issue.

I wanted to love this book, I appreciate its existence but it was just an okay read for me. I think maybe those younger readers than me might gain more from the narrative than I did.

Thank you to Penguin Children’s for the early review copy.


A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY by Brigid Kemmerer – double review!

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.


Title : A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Author : Brigid Kemmerer
Series : Cursebreakers (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 489
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA
Release Date : January 29, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

The only thing I knew to expect from this BEAUTY AND THE BEAST retelling/homage, was that there was going to be a girl from ‘our’ universe transplanted into another. That alone seemed unique and interesting and, hey, I’m a sucker for this trope in general so I knew I was going to get to it eventually. Particularly as I’ve read the author before been quite impressed, and/or moved, by her writing.

And, big picture-wise, I did enjoy this. But. There are some glaring missteps regarding, like, the structure of the curse and the reason for the curse in the first place (dumb? yes). Also, like, not a misstep but there was some obvious writing on the wall regarding one or two little twists. I’ll also point out that a few characters, most notably the ones from ‘our’ world, were annoying af, and the whole sideplot there.. I wasn’t a fan.

You’re probably now asking yourself what I did like. Valid.

I liked the idea of the framework for this particular set-up. It was different, it was interesting, and I liked that for the most part all the cards are on the table. With one exception, there’s no mystery to unravel, no real secrets, and yet that doesn’t make things any easier on our heroine.. or the hero. There’s an added element that spices things up, too, that I was really liking until a certain twist made it kind of like.. every other YA fantasy with two guys and a girl (and a pizza place?). The story is given even more of a spin by making the “beauty” be the one with a physical quality that makes her seem less desirable while the prince himself is everything you could want in a fantasy.

Like I said, there is a lot to love. There’s representation, some of which I haven’t ever seen in fiction or fantasy, be it YA or not (cerebral palsy), it’s a little queer, it’s a bit dark, and it’s got a core cast of characters that I did enjoy, each with layers and angst and sweetness. So while it did flounder at times and lack depth in some areas, it nonetheless kept me glued to my iPad all night, and I am keen to read on.


Micky’s 3 star review

I have to admit, the self hype of this Beauty & the Beast retelling was intense, I wanted to love this book so much and it was only okay-ish for me. It was a read of parts, a strong start, fantastic disability rep and a strong final quarter. The bit in the middle however, was dull intermittently, slow-paced and lacked the kind of connection between characters that I sought.

Firstly I want to say how much I loved Harper having mild cerebral palsy and showing the range that this condition has. I appreciated how this was woven into the story, navigating her limitations but actually focusing how she could smash physical boundaries. Her tenacity, strength and fierce loyalty made her a likable heroine.

Rhen was vaguely likeable but he didn’t move beyond that really. I felt like I got to know Grey much better and came to enjoy his character. My suspicion is that this was just one long book setting up a cluster of a love triangle…anyone join me in this hunch? There was a lack of connection between Rhen and Harper (I get that this is some of the plot but still) and there was definitely more spark between Harper and Grey. I think I wanted to feel more connection in the platonics as well as the romantics of this tale too.

The story had ebb and flow with a lack of consistent pacing but it did really pick up towards the final third and I felt more involved and read more avidly. It was a strong ending, ensuring that I will return for more from this series, even with the triangular-shaped plot.

I have enjoyed Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary reads but this delve into fantasy wasn’t my favourite. Beauty & the Beast is a beloved fairy tale and I have enjoyed it being retold but something was missing here and I will have to stand out from the mass love a little on this one.

TWICE IN A BLUE MOON by Christina Lauren

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.


Title : Twice in a Blue Moon
Author : Christina Lauren
Format : eARC
Page Count : 366
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Gallery Books
Release Date : October 22, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

It’s happened. I’ve finally rated a CLo book two stars (we won’t count BEAUTIFUL BASTARD in this tally because reasons).

I don’t really know where this trend of having a chunk, or even half, of a contemporary set in the past (aka making it YA) started but.. I don’t want it, or like it. Is this because these books now quality as women’s fiction? Unsure. That said, if you want to write a YA romance, go for it. Flashbacks, fine. But not full, long, chapters of it. It’s just not for me. Likewise, and in a related vein, second-chance romances aren’t my favourite. But I thought CLo could make it work for me. And sometimes it felt like it could’ve, like it was almost there but, overwhelmingly, it didn’t.

This story is about finding that one-true-love twice in a lifetime. And it’s also about twice the betrayals.

I didn’t like the hero because, let’s be honest, he only served a purpose to the plot and as result had no real personality besides muscles. I only liked the heroine when she was confronted with said hero after said betrayal, and after fourteen years of time passing, and let him have it. She stood up for herself, she addressed the elephant in the room, and I rooted for her (we were all rooting for you!). Every other time she was just.. fine, I guess. But her family was made up of mostly frustrating concepts, and while she did have one good friend, she didn’t get half as much page time as she deserved — and that’s probably because so much page time was given over to the script of the movie that took up the focus of the story. And the catalyst for getting these two leads back together.

There just wasn’t a lot to love here. Like many of CLo’s recent books, the heat factor is tame, they seem to only insert humour for every other release (so, this wasn’t one that was funny), and nothing about it left any kind of impression. The whole thing felt kinda basic, pretty muted, and just.. standard.

Like another recent release by another favourite author, I think I’m getting off this train. Or at least the ARC list. I’d much rather wait for reviews, and borrow from my library, then be posting early about my disappointment or not knowing if it’s even one I’ll want to read in the end.

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

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