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.

4.5 star, adult

Review: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The Lying Game: Ware, Ruth: 9781982143411: Books - Amazon.ca

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Yes, another Ruth Ware! She has become an author I always look out for, and so far none of her books have disappointed me. Her thrillers are always incredibly chilling and I am always finding myself flipping through the book quickly trying to finish it in one sitting!

The Lying Game follows a group of four girls, who are now grown women with jobs. The story follows our main character, Isa as she is one day called back to Salten by her old friend who she hadn’t seen in years. A dark past lies between the four girls who were once best friends at school in Salten before they left their separate ways after a tragic incident, never to return. However, one ominous text from the girl who stayed calls them all back to face the ghosts of their past.

The Lying Game is a game that was invented by these girls while they were at school, and it involves (as you may have guessed) lying to peers and authority alike, in order to score arbitrary points for best lies told. There are a main set of rules to the game, and the book outlines each step of the game as sections in the book (e.g. Part 1: Tell a Lie). I found that this was an exceptionally effective way to frame each section of the book, and really set the tone for the suspense. As we go through the rules of the game, it parallels the set up of the lies that come back to haunt all the girls. It truly was a magnificent build up of suspense that I thoroughly enjoyed. The cohesion that this set-up provided was also gripping.

So why not 5 Drink Me Potions? I think one thing that I can knock it for was the predictability of the plot. While it wasn’t particularly obvious or anything, the big reveal for me personally wasn’t particularly shocking – although that’s not necessarily present in every thriller novel anyway. However, for those of you who love to be held in suspense, carrot dangling in front of you for the big reveal, this might just fall short for you. For me, I didn’t mind, since the reveal is really just a part of the denouement, and I enjoyed how everything stepwise came to a climax and resolved itself.

I really enjoyed that this book was a thriller (of course), but also simultaneously a moral story for all fabricating lies can truly come back to bite you, harming yourself and others along the way. It is also a tale of friendship, where a simple text could bring together four friends across cities, dropping their lives for the sake of each other when needed. This is a kind of friendship that isn’t always easy to find, and it was nice to see it reflected here in this story. Last little tidbit from me is that I also really enjoyed the ending and how everything was solved and how the story ended for our imagination. I thought it was a great ending to The Lying Game. Read it for yourself and see what I mean!

Overall Recommendations

The Lying Game follows our protagonist, Isa, as she is pulled back to the scene of her past along with her 3 (ex-)best friends when they receive a text from their friend requesting they come to her aid. These four have a long history together back at school when they used to play the Lying Game, making up fanciful tales and spinning stories about the people around them. Quickly we find out how lies can truly come back to bite you, even spanning years after the lie has been told. What happened in the past to make these girls separate paths, and what was the real truth of that night? Find out in this exciting thriller by Ruth Ware!

5 star, adult

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel eBook: Reid, Taylor Jenkins:  Amazon.ca: Kindle Store

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

I am not normally easily convinced by reading biographical type stories – but this one had me hooked in very few pages. This novel follows an aspiring journalist, Monique, who lands a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview a now-aged Hollywood icon, Evelyn Hugo. Famous for a plethora of scandals and of course, her seven husbands, what is it that finally makes Evelyn open up about her past? And what secrets has she been hiding all these years?

Wow, 5 Drink Me Potions. I really didn’t think I would have many books in my life I was confident to rate at the top level. But honestly, I was so enraptured by this book I flipped through it in one day and absolutely could not put it down. The character Evelyn Hugo, is just so perfectly imperfect, exactly the type of character I absolutely adore. And this was a whole biographical retelling of her life story. Evelyn was an absolutely stunning character, so well written and intricate. I found myself heavily admiring her, and wondering if I would have the courage and smarts to do all that she did to protect herself and her loved ones.

When I say they go through her life story I really do mean her life story. After all, how else do you get through seven husbands? But from her childhood all the way to old age, the roller coaster of events that life takes her through is an absolutely wild and riveting ride, and all facets of her character are truly shown off. While she makes very morally ambiguous choices, and stretches the grey zone further than most people ever do, I found that despite her “bad” actions, I just couldn’t blame her for anything. I understood her motivations, and despite that not being a justification for her actions, it was completely understandable. I reckon that if I had the courage to reach for my goals the same way she did, I would have done the same things.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is well-researched and written, as we span the decades of 20th century Hollywood through the eyes of Evelyn. This is also beautifully tied back to the journalist Monique, and her own journey as she learns about Evelyn’s. I really haven’t been this moved by a book in a long while! The complications and difficulties of real life situations are illustrated so well, and demonstrates the necessity of morally grey actions and truly highlights the complexities of life. This is story of a girl’s humble beginning through her rise to fame and all the sacrifices she had to make to attain her goals and looking back, just what was it all worth in the end?

Obviously, it is just a personal opinion that this book (and mainly, this character) spoke to me so much, but if you love that 20th century Hollywood setting, and honestly one of the most clever and powerful heroines I have ever met (or read about), then give this book a shot!

Overall Recommendations:

Obviously, with such a rating, I absolutely recommend this account of Evelyn Hugo’s life. This novel truly explores the theme of dreams, love, and sacrifice, and how far one can push to reach for the stars (or stardom, in this case). You are really taken through a journey (7 husbands, can you imagine?) and as more and more of Evelyn’s character comes to light, this idea of being perfectly imperfect could not be more clear. If you wanna see a female protagonist truly tear up the Hollywood scene and seriously outsmart the patriarchal society, Evelyn Hugo’s your girl. I was absolutely entranced by her story, and hopefully you will be too!