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: Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

All it takes is one hit on the football field, and suddenly Ash’s life doesn’t look quite the way he remembers it.

Impossible though it seems, he’s been hit into another dimension—and keeps on bouncing through worlds that are almost-but-not-really his own.

The changes start small, but they quickly spiral out of control as Ash slides into universes where he has everything he’s ever wanted, universes where society is stuck in the past…universes where he finds himself looking at life through entirely different eyes.

And if he isn’t careful, the world he’s learning to see more clearly could blink out of existence…



**Game Changer comes out February 9, 2021!**

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

That basic human need for identity is, and has always been, a double-edged sword. Because the closer to our feet we draw that line in the sand, the more we see everyone else as the enemy.

I don’t have any coherent words to say, but I will do my utmost best.

Game Changer is a different kind of story than Neal’s other books, but at the same time, I totally see how it is in his wheelhouse of ideas. While I have seen other early reviewers calling it preachy and taking on too much, I think this was the author’s way of dealing with the wreckage that was 2020. I mean, even COVID was mentioned briefly as a defining moment of history. Like, hey, remember the year everyone went into lockdown due to COVID? Yep. Not sure if I’m ready to see this mentioned in my fictional books, but I totally understand at the same time.

We follow Ash, full name Ashley, a football lineman. I know next to nothing about football – I’m sorry it’s not my country’s sport? – but this isn’t a football-focused story. It’s just the vehicle by which Ash finds himself hurtling through different dimensions of the same world if certain changes or decisions were unmade. I know, this sounds super vague but bear with me.

At first it may be a little confusing to get into. What? Different worlds? Trust me, you just got to hang in there. The changes initially start small. Just one small detail Ash notices that wasn’t the same as what he previously knew the world to be like. However, no one else in his circle of family, friends or townspeople can recall these changes. It’s like the world never made those decisions and Ash is the only one who remembers a different reality where it existed.

I always admire Neal for his ingenuity and creative thinking. I like this take on multi dimensions. And with each dimension Ash accidentally jumps into, the larger the changes and the more drastic consequences. The interactions and events that occur in each dimension’s timeline are still remembered in the new dimension, but with altered memories to fit the narrative of what that world looks like. Yes, it’s a bit complicated but it’s interesting once we’re there.

Now, where do the more negative reviews stem from? This book tackles A LOT of big issues. Racism and segregation, homophobia and hate crimes, sexism and emotional/physical abuse, it’s a lot to learn and take in for just one of these let alone ALL of these. I get that.

BUT I also see where the author is coming from. I don’t see it from the stance that he fully explored each topic in depth (of course he didn’t), but to showcase how imperfect our world is and what more we need to work on as a society together. Yes, sometimes you may feel called out on our own privileges and our ignorance. I think that’s the point. Neal Shusterman’s books always make us think beyond just the story itself to what our own reality and life is like. What makes us tick. What breaks us apart. What builds us up together. It’s the beauty of it!

I can promise you, the ending isn’t just a white-saviour complex whereby Ash, a white dude, saves everything and all is good in the world. No, the point is that there is still a lot to be done and it starts by each of us owning our own biases and figuring out what we CAN do besides just silently agreeing. The ending is hope.

I personally loved the way Neal introduced, not necessarily solved or fully addressed, each social issue we have through Ash’s eyes. I don’t feel called out by it but invigorated to learn more and do more in my life. I hope you pick up this book and feel the same. Let’s not just get defensive but let it bring us to discuss these things to learn and DO something about it.

I have been schooled in my own ignorance. That’s not a bad thing…Perhaps, in the end, that’s the perspective that matters. Only by being humbled can we ever hope to be great.

Ashley Bowman

Overall Recommendation:

Game Changer is one of those books that stay long with you after its final pages are turned. Juggling many things at once, it delicately balances the need to show us the imperfections of our society and world while emphasizing the optimism and hope that we can do better as a whole together. Shusterman excellently throws these perspectives together in a story of multi dimensions through one boy’s eyes. Following Ash’s journey as he unravels his own ignorance and views of the world is eye-opening and guaranteed to shine a light on our own perspectives as we journey with him. What a read indeed!

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!