4 star, adult

Review: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.



The Ex Talk is a fun and heartwarming story about storytelling and connecting with one another. The premise follows two rival coworkers at a radio station, Shay and Dominic, who are told to host a new radio show about exes giving out relationship advice. First of all, do we trust the advice coming from people who have broken up? But then again, if this was a real podcast, I’d probably be one of the first to check it out, let’s be honest.

This enemies-to-lovers trope was super well done. It’s one of the tropes I enjoy reading about, but I find some books have too much bitterness in the initial relationship that I don’t feel the blooming love, or they were practically like friends from the start. It isn’t the case here. Shay and Dominic are very different people. She’s content with her place in life while he’s ambitiously shooting up the ladder as fast as he can, potentially stepping on a couple of toes in the process. I liked that their differences were honestly explored so that their attraction and eventual deeper feelings made sense. Otherwise, it would just be lust, wouldn’t it?

The pacing was a little slow going at first, but I learned a lot about being on the other side of public radio from these parts. We also have other focuses in this story, including Shay’s feelings about her mom remarrying after the loss of her dad a decade ago. I liked that we got so much insight into why radio was so important to her, and the ongoing struggle holding onto the one thing she shared with her dad.

Some interesting things that stuck to me from other books in the romance genre was:

A) Dominic was Korean and I loved that it’s such a nonchalant thing thrown in there. I don’t see nearly enough Asian male romantic leads who are not written by Asian authors. Plus, a bit of the Korean American culture is present when Dominic introduces his favourite Korean restaurant foods to Shay.

B) Shay is about 6 years older than Dominic, a fact that is constantly highlighted. While some people may think this is no big deal and the emphasis Shay made in her own mind about being with someone younger may seem annoying, I kind of get it, especially for people in their 20s with different milestone markers that you hit in the decade. I’m in my 20s and I empathize with what Shay is feeling. Dominic had just graduated from his masters while she had been working for several years now. Maybe he seemed a little young in that sense because he was just starting out.

It’s not quite the norm as much as older men dating women a lot younger than them or in different life stages. But that makes me like this change more because it’s not always seen, and it helps normalize this for hopefully future generations.

C) The show snippets between chapters were some of my favourites. I don’t read enough romances to know if this is absolutely unique, but I really enjoyed the transcripts for some of their episodes and fan reviews of the show. It created a little bubble of fun and airiness as a breath of fresh air even when the emotion of the story intensified.

I also liked the way Solomon went about concluding this story. It wasn’t super neat with a bow on top. There were messy feelings, real life decisions and an understanding that we may not always have it together or know where life is leading, but that’s okay. The romance felt real even with the issues that came up (um, lying to everyone on your show?). This book is definitely cute AND heartwarming, a nice dive into relationships and what makes or breaks them.

Overall Recommendations:

The Ex Talk has a fun premise about fake exes pretending to be exes to host a relationship show. As that description depicts, it’s a mix of laughter and intensity, especially when real feelings chase these rival coworkers where feelings should not exist. The pacing was steady and the emotions just ramp up as you cheer for Shay and Dominic for their show’s success but more importantly for their happiness that may only be found in each other. I liked this more than I initially thought, and it definitely left warm feelings in my heart long after the book was closed.

5 star, YA

ARC Review: Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce

After a horrifying public rejection by her crush, Ellie Nichols does what any girl would do: she flees the country. To be more precise, she joins her high school’s study abroad trip to England. While most of her classmates are there to take honors courses and pad their college applications, Ellie is on a quest to rebuild her reputation and self-confidence. And nothing is more of a confidence booster than getting a hot British boyfriend.

When Ellie meets Will, a gorgeous and charming Brit, she vows to avoid making the same mistakes as she did with the last guy she liked. Which is why she strikes up a bargain with Dev, an overachieving classmate who she’s never clicked with, but who does seem to know a lot about the things Will is interested in—if he helps her win over her crush, then she’ll help him win over his.

But even as Ellie embarks on a whirlwind romance, one that takes her on adventures to some of England’s most beautiful places, she still needs to figure out if this is actually the answer to all her problems…and whether the perfect boyfriend is actually the perfect boy for her.



***Hot British Boyfriend comes out February 9, 2021***

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Hot British Boyfriend is everything you could want in the title. Rom-com with cute boys? Check. Abroad in England? Check. A fun guilty pleasure kind of read perfect for holing at home in the winter under a pandemic? CHECK.

While the writing may read a little immature at first (our protagonist ends up in quite a viral pickle when she wrongly assumes – in a VERY public manner – that a certain guy was asking her to be his girlfriend), it quickly redeems itself as our spunky Ellie runs away to England to get away from giant embarrassment back at home.

Note to self: running away to the other side of the world does not mean you can run away from a viral video. But okay there.

Once in her new study abroad home filled with the top kind of high school scholars who truly earned their place to be there, it gets down to business. Not only does our girl have to prove herself – she’s not the smartest cookie in the jar – but she needs to prove that she is indeed over the Embarrassing Incident We Shall Not Name.

In comes our lovely, drool-worthy, prince of a love interest! Will is everything you would be dying for in a British guy. Rich but not obnoxiously so. Adventurous and romantic. But most of all, he seems completely crazy for Elle (because Ellie was soooo last month).

What a fun romp this story was! I loved the pacing and the atmospheric environment the book takes us through as we explore iconic UK landmarks. And surprise, there may even be some sightseeing beyond Great Britain! This traveling aspect was perfect for taking me away to exotic places I can only go in my dreams at the moment.

Yet at the very heart of the story, under all the layers of cute stuff and city exploration, is Ellie’s journey to finding herself. Can she be everything that she is, all whimsically quirky and inelegant, and still be seen and loved by someone special?

I won’t give that answer away but I will squeal that the romance was such a slow burn and hit the perfect climax. It’s also predictable as ever (if you have ever read a story of the perfect guy versus maybe-the-not-so-perfect-guy-who-really-IS-perfect for you), but this book doesn’t pretend that it’s anything super original. What it does get right is how it executed this tale as old as time.

Hot British Boyfriend is the romantic comedy we need at such a time to remind us of who we are if we have lost our way. And maybe along the way, it doesn’t hurt that we can live vicariously through Ellie in her adventures through Europe.

Overall Recommendation:

Hot British Boyfriend is a load of romantic fun across the big pond in the UK. Packed with plenty of heart, we follow Ellie, a girl out of her league among brainiacs at a competitive boarding school, as she tries to get over a heartache by throwing herself at a cute British boy she meets. Along the way, she learns what it means to be resilient and what she’s really made of that is worthy of love, especially self-love. And the right guy would be able to see that in her too.

4 star, YA

Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Series: Dumplin’ #1

dumplin -julie murphySelf-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.


4 Drink Me Potions


[The song] is catchy and everyone knows the words, but to me, it’s this reminder that no matter who you are, there will always be someone prettier or smarter or thinner. Perfection is nothing more than a phantom shadow we’re all chasing.


Dumplin’ is that book about an atypical heroine you may think of based on the synopsis, but with way more heart and less cheese-y fluffiness than I had pegged it to be.

This book – and my thoughts on it – can be summarized in a few points.

1) Will’s voice as the protagonist was the perfect balance that didn’t overly make me want to sympathize with her yet also showed her vulnerabilities.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes reading stories about girls who are fat does neither of those things. They either lose weight and “get better” and we get to feel “happy” for them or they embrace themselves in such a way that I’m not sure is fully realistic either. This wasn’t the case here and that was surprising. I cheered her on when she was happy with her body and who she was, and was sad with her when she let her doubts get in the way of everything she could aspire to be.

2) The romance wasn’t the highlight.

Wait, what? That can’t be right. I’m saying I didn’t want the romance to be heavily laid on?
You betcha. I frankly didn’t really love Bo. He’s your average good looking guy who was a jerk (to someone else in the past) but now is all romantic and sweet ’cause he’s fallen hard – somehow, and no, we’re not given a reason why – for Will. He seemed too 2-dimensional for such a 3-dimensional girl. SO yeah, I’m quite happy that it wasn’t the focus, especially for the latter half of the book. (I’m sorry, romance fans!)

But don’t get me wrong. It was still sweet. For all of you who really look forward to this.

There’s some kind of peace that comes with knowing that for every person who is waiting to be found, there’s someone out there searching.


3) The ending was abrupt – but in a good way.

I know, how is that a good thing? Well, to me it left things a bit more ambiguous. Like how life is generally. It isn’t always tied up in a nice bow where all the family drama is solved immediately with a deep heart-to-heart talk or couples throwing themselves at each other in happiness after resolving the romantic tensions between them. (Yes, you can see that I’m feeling rather jaded at the moment towards love). I liked that it ended on a good note but without tying up all the loose threads completely.

4) Heartfelt messages for the win! Or life lessons, if that’s what you wanna call them

“Maybe Lucy wasn’t supposed to be your compass forever. Maybe she was there for you just long enough so you could learn how to be your own compass and find your own way.”


Losing her aunt Lucy was a major theme in this book as Will always felt closer to her due to their similar body size. But this isn’t one of those books where the death of a loved one is driving our protagonist crazy with grief or other kinds of pain. Yes, it’s present and it flares up on some days but it’s not just a plot device. It felt real with the lessons Will was able to draw from all the things she remembered and learned anew about her even after death.

5) Girl power!

This story is all about friendships. Will’s ups and downs with her bestie Ellen took a big chunk of this book. If you know what it feels to have someone you’ve just known and gone through so much crap with, this is how it should be portrayed. But aside from lifelong friends, the new ones Will gains in her journey to the pageant was great. I kinda wish there was less of Bo in these pages and more of these girls. They were atypical secondary characters. Not necessarily your characteristic beauties or smarties or sporties. Just…people who want to fit in but others have deemed them OTHER. I loved them, and I love Julie Murphy for creating a story where girls can support each other, even if it’s a bit unwilling at first.

Aside from these things, my only complaint was the slow pacing of the story in the beginning. You know she’s gonna enter a pageant and show everyone that just ’cause she’s fat doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to do this. I adore Will for this. But yeah, it was slow going at first, for at least the first half. I wouldn’t say I breezed through this book at all. Other than that, Dumplin’ holds a lot of good messages that warms my heart at the end of the day.

Overall Recommendation:
Dumplin’ features a cast of atypical girls at the heart of the story, and it’s like no other book I’ve read with fat girls in a starring role. While tugging at our heartstrings in sympathy, it doesn’t just stop there. This is a story of embracing who you are – no matter what size, shape or form – and the courage to be your true self and truly be comfortable with it. The girl friendships gained along the way were empowering. The romance was doable although I could’ve gone without it. Overall, a more remarkable book than I had initially boxed it in. And boy, am I glad for that.