It’s easy to put someone in the friend zone. But what happens if you change your mind?
Bea isn’t happy. Desperate for a change, she looks to her friends for inspiration. Every single one of them is paired off, perhaps that’s what she needs too.
So, she starts dating again. But everywhere she goes – amid the hilarious and scarring dates – there’s Peter. Good old, oddball Peter, her closest friend from university. He’s always been firmly in the friend zone but something’s happened lately – he seems taller, more handsome and suddenly making him smile is Bea’s favourite thing.
But how can Bea possibly risk their friendship? And how do you even go about taking someone out of the friend zone? What if Bea and Peter were only ever meant to be just friends…
Title : Just Friends Author : Holly McCulloch Format : eARC Page Count : 304 Genre : Contemporary Romance Publisher : Transworld Digital Release Date : June 11, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 3 star review
I have a weakness for friends to more stories and that’s what pulled me in to request this book. This is an adults friends story and Bea and Peter were old university friends, surrounded by other old friends, in couples, marriages and other situations.
It took me some time to warm to Bea as a character, I just found her a little dry and difficult to like initially but she did improve on further reading. However, Peter was easy to like immediately, he was an awkward, quirky character but there was just something warm, loyal and genuine about him. From my perspective, Bea needed to earn his favour and work to deserve him, even if that’s not how it was written.
The story moved from dating other people to a realisation of attraction and possibility; there were funny moments and banter along the way. This was a quick and pleasant read that I read fairly easily in a couple of sittings but it didn’t set my heart on fire like I hoped. I didn’t always feel the chemistry like I wanted to but I did like the story development overall.
This is ideal for a weekend contemporary and light read, maybe the beach if anyone gets to go there!
Thank you to Transworld Digital for the early review copy.
A dragon shapeshifter and a healer with power over the earth fight a corrupt empire in this thrilling and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.
Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it’s far more than what it seems.
Dragas haven’t been seen for more than a century, and most believe them extinct. They’re wrong. Dragas still walk among the denizens of the Empire, disguised as humans. Malachus is a draga living on borrowed time. The magic that has protected him will soon turn on him–unless he finds a key part of his heritage. He has tracked it to a group of free traders, among them a grave-robbing earth witch who fascinates him as much as she frustrates him with her many secrets.
Unbeknownst to both, the Empire’s twisted empress searches for a draga of her own, to capture and kill as a trophy. As Malachus the hunter becomes the hunted, Halani must risk herself and all she loves to save him from the Empire’s machinations and his own lethal birthright.
Title : Dragon Unleashed Author : Grace Draven Series : Fallen Empire (book two) Format : eARC Page Count : 416 Genre : fantasy romance Publisher : Ace Release Date : June 9, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★
Hollis’ 2 star review
Much like my experience with PHOENIX UNBOUND, book one in the Fallen Empire series, I have very mixed feelings over this read. Mostly because I have adored so many of Draven’s stories and want to support this well-deserved achievement in being lifted up by one of the big publishing houses. But the reality is this just seems like such a lesser offering than all her previous tales.
I remember saying it in my review for book one, but this writing? It doesn’t feel at all like Draven. I feel so removed, so disconnected, by everything. The plot, the characters, the dialogue. It’s awkward or stilted or poorly transitioned. It feels like a debut author as opposed to a seasoned one who was often wowed me, stunned me, made me burst out laughing, with her words. I definitely felt some chemistry and excitement in book one’s pairing, fitting as one character wielded the power of fire, but this one? Way less chemistry, less connection, and there was only one moment between them where I felt.. something. Maybe because I appreciated that two people, with different backgrounds and perspectives, could do some self-reflection and appreciate they didn’t understand what it was like to be in each others’ shoes. But everything else..?
I wanted to be wowed by this, I wanted to feel that rounding up on book one had paid off with this follow up story, but instead I want to go back and knock off a star from PHOENIX UNBOUND. I’m sad.
I don’t know if there’s more to come from this series but I’m sure I’ll pick it up anyway. Particularly if it helps to ease the pain of waiting for the next Wraith Kings installment.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!
As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.
DRAGON UNLEASHED, the second in the Fallen Empire series by Grace Draven, is out today. Though not exactly a sequel, is installment in this fantasy romance series follows a different couple, though you will see cameos from book one as the events overlap.
JUST FRIENDS by Holly McCulloch is a rom-com about being in the friend zone and trying to date when your friend is always around. This one isn’t out until thursday, June 11, but keep it on your radar and look out for a review from us, too.
Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below!
Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.
Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.
It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.
Title : Kings of the Wyld Author : Nicholas Eames Series : The Band (book one) Format : eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 544 Genre : fantasy Publisher : Orbit Release Date : February 21, 2017
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
This book was so much damn fun.
If the idea of a bunch of past-their-prime warriors getting back together to help save the daughter of one of their buddies doesn’t appeal to you..? Well, I mean, fine. But you’re missing out.
“How do I look?“ “Old.” “Tired.” “Fuck you guys.”
This story is hilarious, both in concept and execution, as well as dialogue, but it’s also poignant, moving, nostalgic, and bittersweet. Their glory days are behind them, they’ve grown old, and fat, and worn down by life and circumstances, but they still band together (as a band, elle oh elle), they still have each other’s backs, even when the odds are great none of them will survive. Which is no different from the odds they faced back in the day but see aforementioned old, fat, worn down.
“How many hopeless battles have we fought?“ “A few..“ “And how many did we win?“ “All of them?“ “All of them. And yeah, sure, we’ve just been robbed by a gang of girls–“ “Twice.” “Twice, yes, well.. we’re a bit rusty.“
The cast of characters are delightful, the circumstances bizarre, and the world is even weirder. But it’s also vivid and fascinating and unbelievably tongue in cheek and/or witty and sometimes both. There’s a very modern appeal to this story — not unlike the reason we have movies like The Expendables, I guess, and delight in seeing old favourites reunite and flex their atrophied muscles for the greater good — and beyond the fantastical creatures, the heart of this story is friendship, family, love.
I honestly don’t know what else to say. I had such a great time, and was so invested not only in the events of the book but the way the story would pause, give a moment or observation space, and then slap you in the face with something hilarious. I have so many highlights and so few original words to prop them up against, so : to sum up? Read this book. Meanwhile I’ll just be over here counting down the seconds until I can dive into the sequel.
So Hollis and I feel kind of in control with NetGalley, with the odd ‘it controls me’ moments. Edelweiss+, however, is a totally different kettle of fish. Now, we know that this is a platform less used by readers and more used by book professionals but there are some blogger/reviewers only (like us) on there.
So what’s different about Edelweiss+, I hear you say? For starters, it’s a pretty clunky platform and definitely not as user friendly as NetGalley. It does work on the same principles though; you see a book, you request it, and ideally the publisher will grant access. Instead of ‘read it now’, it also has a ‘download’ option rather than request for some select titles.
What has been Micky’s experience, is that getting declined is the default (see the left of the photo above *laughs/cries*). For example, say for every ten that are requested, access might be given to one or two. Why continue? Well, there are publishers that use Edelweiss+ and not NetGalley, or favour Edelweiss+ more.
Unlike NetGalley, your profile is very basic and there is no running tally or reads, reviews or percentages. I miss that element, I like competing to get myself in a better position! Now over to Hollis who has had a better experience than me (somewhat), which is probably to do with regional issues.
Micky isn’t wrong, I have had some better experience. For a while it was all books, all day, download download download! Now? Less of that. I do think there is some logic behind the “provide a reason for your request” box but realistically I don’t imagine your enthusiasm sways anyone. I think it’s just hit or miss.
I have no screenshot to show you because I clear my dashboard, refusing to linger over the rejections, but I, too, would prefer there was some kind of feedback ratio to indicate that, strong profile or not, I’m reading and reviewing what I’m given. Maybe there’s something on the other side of the screen? Hard to tell. But I’ll keep clicking, keep enthusing over new titles, keep hoping those books that only show up on Edelweiss+, as opposed to NetGalley, might make their way onto my kindle.
What has been your experience? Do you use Edelweiss+ or have you thrown in the towel?
A diverse fantasy reimagining of Les Misérables and The Jungle Book.
In the dark days following a failed French Revolution, in the violent jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, young cat-burglar Eponine (Nina) Thenardier goes head to head with merciless royalty, and the lords of the city’s criminal underworld to save the life of her adopted sister Cosette (Ettie).
Her vow will take her from the city’s dark underbelly, through a dawning revolution, to the very heart of the glittering court of Louis XVII, where she must make an impossible choice between guild, blood, betrayal and war.
Title : The Court of Miracles Author : Kester Grant Series : The Court of Miracles #1 Format : eARC Page Count : 464 Genre : Historical Retelling Publisher : Harper Voyager Release Date : June 4, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 5 star review
Damn but it feels good to have read a book that was 5 star from beginning to end. THE COURT OF MIRACLES was a page-turner and a half and I am truly sad it is over. I’ve heard all the rumours of Les Miserables and Jungle Book in the same breath as this release and in my opinion, it sits well with these ideas in the background. The execution of this kind of retelling was superb in every way.
Eponine (Nina) but mostly referred to as ‘Black Cat’ was a young novice of the Parisian underworld. She was equipped with the kind of foolish courage you see in someone young but that nerve and intuition moulded her into a thief admired by seasoned Masters of the Court. This was a world that was easy to understand despite the complexities that were apparent, I never once felt lost in the world building. This court of different ‘tribes’ of the city’s underworld had so many great characters to cheer for. I adored the ghosts, the thieves, the assassins and the people of the pen.
I’m the Black Cat of the Thieves Guild and these are the things I have done.
Life was tough for Nina, but she staunchly fought for her two sisters, she was loyal and sneaky and unrelenting; I adored her. I also enjoyed the humble ignorance she had for those three young men that admired from a distance (this is not a romance, by the way). Her little sister was annoying and fun, her big sister was tragic. What I admired most about Nina was that she brought the different guilds together in a way they never had before; she sparked loyalty in the senior people because of her courage and ingenuity.
The best thing about this book was the not knowing where-the-heck the plot was headed, what would happen around any turn and the pacing alongside the excitement. It was a tale told over years and so also, there was no rushing. Kester Grant is a name to watch and an author to anticipate more from.
THE COURT OF MIRACLES was a stand out read for me this year (so far). I have that itching desire to pick it up again, maybe I’ll wait for my precious hardcover to arrive.
Thank you to Harper Voyager for the early review copy.
Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.
When the Luidaeg—October “Toby” Daye’s oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can’t refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren’t the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg’s price…or face the consequences.
Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden’s brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that’s when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.
Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?
Title : The Unkindest Tide Author : Seanan McGuire Series : October Daye (book thirteen) Format : eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 366 Genre : urban fantasy Publisher : DAW Release Date : September 3, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★
Hollis’ 2 star review
We’re here. We did it. Thirteen books, plus a bunch of novellas, and it’s over (for now).
I started this journey on April sixteenth. It’s currently May fifth. This is probably one of my worst binges as far as ability to read a series quickly or consistently but I’m sure, based on my feelings of said books, no one is particularly surprised. Plus it’s pandemic season so the reading it ebbs and flows.
Which is a great segue for this particular installment which is set amongst water and the merpeople of faerie. Except I’m not particularly inclined to talk about the plot (I rarely am) so it’s a poor segue but a segue nonetheless.
I don’t really have much to say about this one, to be honest. We had a lot of Sea Witch action, which is never a bad thing, and I loved that things were made to be a little happily ever after-ish in the sense that she could right a wrong without causing more harm (sadly, thanks to Toby, and not her own cleverness). Maybe for the first time since.. I forget, it’s been a long ride, but the first time since forever, we got a newly introduced character who I actually loved. I’m not counting the ones we won’t see ever again but Pete? Oh man. I loved her. Fabulous.
I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that Gillian has done a total wishy washy (haha the water jokes) aboutface in regards to her dealings, and feelings, about Toby but.. yeah, unsurprised. Probably going to drag that resolution out for a while, I imagine.
I have nothing more to say. Many will wonder why I read this far into a series I didn’t like, many more still might wonder why I intend to read on past this point. I have no good answers for you. I wanted to love this because my friends did. And I think buried under all the hope I thought I lost along the way (I would say that I fully lost said hope around book five ish) I still did want to find some joy. And I did! Book eleven was really good. It seems a meager win in the scope of the series, I guess. But what else did I have to do? Put it aside to read things I might actually like? Hahaha.
In the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.
What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.
Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price. One question remains:
Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain? No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same.
Title : Night and Silence Author : Seanan McGuire Series : October Daye (book twelve) Format : eBook Page Count : 364 Genre : urban fantasy Publisher : DAW Release Date : September 4, 2018
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★
Hollis’ 2 star review
I knew better than to get excited after how good the last book was.
Seeing this installment be dedicated to Pamela Dean should’ve been a clue I was getting another Tam Lin story. And it sorta was. But seeing as I thought we’d already had our homage, I thought we had been there, done that.
I was wrong.
What I found interesting about the introduction of the actual Tam Lin myth was McGuire made it more about Janet than the self-named male. And offered a view from a different perspective where maybe the humans weren’t the heroes after all. And how that particular moment had started, and ended, so much. That was delightful.
Less delightful? How we have yet another new character introduced who is inconsistent, confusing, and additionally whose actions have had huge ramifications for Toby and changed so much of the course of her life. Beyond being turned into a fish for fourteen years. Someone who should’ve cared about her, someone who had taken what was hers, was actively working against her, actively malicious, right up until this book. Sure, she tries to explain it away, maybe there’s a smidge of understanding in her reasons, but the rest? The behaviour in this book, before and after the reveals? None of it makes sense.
I don’t attribute much to McGuire in the way of complicated characters in this world, at least none of the main ones are particularly complicated (exception as always goes to the Sea Witch), but they have grown over the course of the series, and even though they frustrate me, I sorta get them, understand them. I will never understand the way McGuire introduces new people, often in the role of “save my child/friend/lover or else and ps I’ll work against you or criticize you or suspect you throughout the course of me asking you for this help” and expects us to feel any sympathy for them whatsoever. So of course no one is surprised that the character in this story.. was, well, exactly that. Someone I didn’t sympathize with, didn’t forgive, didn’t understand, and overall thought her to be kind of.. skeezy. I mean, really.
Yes yes it’s all vague, you’re welcome for all this complain-y nothingness.
I’ll shift back to some of the good, though. I also liked that we got some casual perspective to things from early on in this series. Things that explained behaviours, sequences of events.. it answered a lot of questions. However, do I like that it took eleven books to answer stuff from book one? Fuck no. But the way McGuire eased that information in was natural. So.. half points?
One of this book’s villains was supposedly vaniquished like three times already. Supposedly it’s going to stick now. Who knows. This book was mostly a frustrating chore, with just enough good to make me exceptionally frustrated by how wasted it was, but the big point of it all was to reintroduce someone who had been lost to Toby, out of reach, and bring them back into play. I’m interested in that dynamic. Less interested in yet another warped and backwards mindset we’ll likely have to suffer through. Hoping that gets sorted pronto stat so we can move on and move forward. Lets not take bets on the likeliness of that happening, though. Leave me my delusions. It’s how I’ve made it so far into this series, after all.
When two “big name fans” go head-to-head at a convention, love isn’t the only thing at stake.
Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.
Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.
When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.
Title : Conventionally Yours Author : Annabeth Albert Series : True Colours Format : eARC Page Count : 400 Genre : LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca Release Date : June 2, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 2.5 star review
I think CONVENTIONALLY YOURS failed to win me over because this feels like something I’ve read before, not just in general but by this author, and yet done not quite as well. In general this does follow some fairly typical tropes and meanders in a familiar direction, though maybe without the specific diverse leanings, and when mixed with a fairly lukewarm connection, and very little heat (which, considering Albert’s other series, definitely surprised me), I’m just left a little.. whelmed (not under, not over, just..).
I think if you’re new to queer romance, or maybe haven’t read some of Albert’s grittier or hotter romances, this might be a great entry level read into the genre. Or if you just prefer to mix things up every now and then with something a little softer, this would be a great choice for that. Personally, I would just rather have reread STATUS UPDATE, for the road trip content, and also STATUS UPDATE for the opposites attract, but maybe book one in Albert’s #gaymers series wouldn’t satisfy those readers looking for as much nerd/gamer content as this one had. Because there was a lot.
So this obviously won’t be a favourite from this author for me, but I think it’ll satisfy a lot of readers, fans or not.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Each month, we’ll be putting together a list of our top most anticipated releases; from romance, to sci-fi, to fantasy, and everything in between. These releases might be ones we’re counting down the days for or ones we’ve already read and want you to read (and love!), too.
What you do need to bear in mind is that living on different continents we have different release dates. So as a general rule there might be some repeats from one month to the next.. it’s not that we’re just being weird. Though we can’t dismiss that totally out of turn.
For June, our hotly anticipated titles, in chronological order, are :
MY CALAMITY JANE is book three in the Lady Janies series by a trio of authors and this retelling/parody/homage (if you’ve read the series, you understand) features the wild west and werewolves! Naturally. Get your garou-on on June 2, 2020.
THE COURT OF MIRACLES by Kester Grant is a Les Mis reimagining that is everything unique and special. It has a historical/fantasy feel with a YA context and everything about this release has me excited. Out on June 4, 2020, this is one of Micky’s top reads this year so go for it.
JUST FRIENDS by Holly McCulloch is a rom-com about being in the friend zone and trying to date when your friend is always around. It sounds hilarious, fun and it released on June 11, 2020.
AIX MARKS THE SPOT by SE Anderson releases on June 16, 2020 and it is a French adventure and coming of age story. Frankly, it’s the perfect YA summer read with the cutest vibes.
DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE by Joan He has a paperback release in the UK on June 16, 2020. This story is a Chinese-inspired fantasy with royalty and magic.
TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN is the second book in The Brown Sisters series by Talia Hibbert. This cheerfully bright cover will be landing on kindles, and out for delivery in paperback, on June 23, 2020, and we can’t wait for swoons, hilarity, and everything else it brings.
TWO ROGUES MAKE A RIGHT is the third book in Cat Sebastian’s m/m historical romance Seducing the Sedgwicks series. This story, which will likely be delightful and is highly anticipated by us, is out June 23, 2020.
What titles are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments below!