THE WINTER DUKE by Claire Eliza Bartlett

SHE SURVIVED THE CURSE. NOW SHE MUST SURVIVE THE THRONE.

All Ekata wants is to stay alive—and the chance to prove herself as a scholar. Once Ekata’s brother is finally named heir to the dukedom of Kylma Above, there will be nothing to keep her at home with her murderous family. Not her books or her experiments, not her family’s icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness, and no one can find a cure.

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s captivating warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love. . .or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s magic and power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield them both.


Title : The Winter Duke
Author : Claire Eliza Bartlett
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA Fantasy/LGBTQIA
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : October 13, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

I’m rounding this one up to 4 stars.

This was a YA fantasy with a historical feel. It had some foundations in Russian royal history and I enjoyed that element and this was some brutal family right here. The dukedom were out to kill one another for power, and the protagonist Ekata, felt justifiably out of the running as an insignificant daughter about to travel away to university. A curse hit and she found herself in a new position.

“Long live Her Grace.” Impossible, impossible. I was a middle child of thirteen.

This read had some great strong points, it was definitely a feminist tale. The title of Duke was genderless, power could be held equally between men and women but there’s a but. In reality, Ekata was surrounded by men who made her feel like a fool, wielded their power over her and used their gender to quash her thoughts, words and ideas.

All my life, these men had ignored me. It had never bothered me until now.

Those contrasts of what seemed to be equality and in acutality wasn’t, were frustrating for Ekata and the reader but this was the story, how Ekata navigated this. All this happened in the middle of a bride parade and Ekata chose her consort, a young woman. The romance and LGBTQ+ elements were a little weak but the protagonist was only 16 and so that did feel in the background somewhat. I would have liked this to have felt more developed, however.

I enjoyed the worlds of above and below and honestly, I read this over two days whenever I could; it had an unputdownable feel. There were elements to this story that felt unique, the magic was vague, unfathomable and mysterious, which I liked. Overall this was a good read and bonus, it was a standalone.

Thank you to Titan Books for the very pretty hardback review copy.

THE FATE OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…


Title : The Fate of the Tearling
Author : Erika Johansen
Series : The Queen of the Tearling (book three)
Format : physical
Page Count : 500
Genre : fantasy/dystopian
Publisher : Harper
Release Date : November 26, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m going to preface this by saying that I knew this ending was polarizing because I had so many people reach out with comments ala “can’t wait to find out how you feel about the ending!” that I knew to expect something.. maybe not bad but obviously divisive. Maybe that warning prepared me? Maybe it gave my brain time to expect the worst? The problem, of course, is that I could predict maybe only like 6% of this whole series. So naturally I had a vague kernel of an idea of what might happen but zero ability to predict what it would look like when the dust settled.

And nope, I’m not even going to hint at it! Read it for yourself and find out.

That said, I do think this book might be the weakest of the three. This series definitely took a turn in book two, in the telling of the story, and in the mechanics of this world, making it far more than just a typical fantasy. And in book three we take yet another turn — in hindsight I think my favourite was book two. It did much to fill in those last remaining gaps, gaps we desperately needed filled to understand what brought us to the point we were at, but I found the way that was done was a little less.. magical. It felt a bit more same-y but less sparkly, if that makes sense? But in a way that also fit because suddenly these people, these figures, that had been so revered? They, too, were a little less sparkly. What Johansen did, over and over again, was give her characters depth, and flaws, and, occasionally, but particularly in the case of Kelsea, have them examine their own internal workings and hypocrisies, what they were willing to sacrifice in order to do the right thing. So really I shouldn’t be surprised that she chipped away at those who were placed on the pedestals of this society, too.

In fact I do believe Johansen deserves a lot of credit for just.. not doing the expected. Like, ever. She took strange twisty dark path and then committed to choices that I think most authors wouldn’t have dared; particularly for their first series. I can see why this third book either perplexed of pissed people off. Me? I just loved the ride. It’s bittersweet, yes, and maybe it’s an easier pill for me to swallow knowing there are still two books to come? Probably not direct sequels to this ending but still.. more. Either way, the romantic in me (and I don’t necessarily mean this in a face value way..) might not have loved the ending, not really, but I respect it. I respect the choice and the commitment to seeing things through this way.

This was — and will likely continue to be — a strange series but nonetheless was fascinating, brutal, compelling, and, enthralling. I had a great time. Would I recommend this to anyone? Probably not. I refuse to be responsible for anyone’s experience with this world. Make of that what you will!

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – OCTOBER 20, 2020

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.


Plain Bad Heroines by Emily A. Danforth has been pitched as, “a story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period illustrations, Plain Bad Heroines is a devilishly haunting, modern masterwork of metafiction that manages to combine the ghostly sensibility of Sarah Waters with the dark imagination of Marisha Pessl and the sharp humor and incisive social commentary of Curtis Sittenfeld into one laugh-out-loud funny, spellbinding, and wonderfully luxuriant read.” Consider us intrigued!

Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston is a story we have no idea about. But it has a gorgeous cover and early reviews have thrown about UPROOTED and THE BONE HOUSES, two books we here at the blog loved.

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult takes the themes of Egyptology and death weaving them into a heavy tale of two possibilities for the protagonist, Dawn.

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo is a LGBTQ+ YA read set between the US and the Phillipines. This story has a number of tropes including a teacher-student connection. This is an own voices book and you should check some own voices reviews on this too.

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett is a another LGBTQ+ book but this time set in a YA fantasy world that felt rather fresh. Its full on magic and focuses on the premise that the family want to kill one another!


Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below!

MY HEART UNDERWATER by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo

After Corazon’s mother catches her kissing her older female teacher, Corazon is sent to the Philippines to live with a half brother she barely knows. There she learns more about loss and love than she could have ever imagined.

Corazon Tagubio is an outcast at her Catholic school. She’s attending on scholarship, she keeps to herself, and her crush on her teacher Ms. Holden doesn’t help anything. At home, Cory’s less-than-perfect grades disappoint her mom and dad, who are already working overtime to support her distant half brother in the Philippines.

When an accident leaves her dad comatose, Cory feels like Ms. Holden is the only person who really sees her. But when a crush turns into something more and the secret gets out, Cory is sent to her half brother. She’s not prepared to face a stranger in an unfamiliar place, but she begins to discover how the country that shaped her past might also change her future.

This #ownvoices story takes readers on a journey across the world as Cory comes to understand her family, her relationships, and, ultimately, herself.


Title : My Heart Underwater
Author : Laurel Flores Fantauzzo
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : YA contemporary/LGBTQIA
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : October 20, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This was a gritty LGBTQIA coming-of-age story that moved from the US to the Phillipines. If you like messy family drama, this one will fulfill that remit. It had an inappropriate teacher-student relationship which I struggled with somewhat but there was a satisfying developing in the main character’s understanding over that element which helped how I felt.

It was a story of two halves for me, a more gripping first half, full of drama but a slower-paced second half that was wonderfully rich with Filipino culture. The main character Cory was bounced around out of her control, forced to travel back to the Phillipines but it proved an positive experience in the end. I have no personal experience of the Phillipines however, but it was brought to life with description for me.

Family drama was the core context to this story and I can’t say I liked any of her family but Bea slowly did grow on me. I felt like almost no-one was fighting Cory’s corner or trying to understand her evolving sexuality or personality. The catholicism was strong in this story and not often viewed in a favourable light.

My Heart Underwater was an interesting read and a solid debut. I welcomed this story’s Manila context and enjoyed a fresh voice from this author.

Please also check out own voices reviewers on this title.

Thank you to Harper 360 YA for the early review copy.

NONE SHALL SLEEP by Ellie Marney

The Silence of the Lambs meets Sadie in this riveting psychological thriller about two teenagers teaming up with the FBI to track down juvenile serial killers.

In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can’t crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country’s most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. Despite Travis’s objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he’s an expert manipulator playing a very long game…and he has his sights set on Emma.


Title : None Shall Sleep
Author : Ellie Marney
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA historical fiction/thriller
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think I would’ve enjoyed this a lot more if the tone, or writing style, had been a little different. Because the way this thriller unfolded, the chase, the crimes and the why, the whole set-up of using teens to hunt those who hunt and kill teens, is all fascinating. The fact that the backstories of these these junior investigators (not highschool age, this is a bit more realistic than that) were so traumatic, in very different ways, and how they battled those demons to do this work.. it was great.

Equally great was sidestepping much of what the female protagonist had gone through. We get hints, terrible hints, but nothing is explicitly explained and instead Marney lets us use our imagination — the scariest thing she could’ve done. It also, in a way, feels protective. Conversely, though, the author also leans into that when it comes to another character and that tease, as opposed to hitting us with every terrible thing, carries so much more weight.. but for a different purpose.

However. I felt quite removed from.. a lot of this. Maybe that was purposeful because there are pretty gruesome, not to mention traumatic, moments but Marney didn’t linger over them, didn’t sensationalize them, as they were already impactful. And yet still.. there were maybe only two highly charged moments that I truly felt, was truly moved by, and that just wasn’t quite enough.

I’m also left very curious as to how things wrapped. Is this the beginning of a series, maybe? Could there be more? I would absolutely read on. Maybe being familiar with the style would make a follow up book more enjoyable. I don’t know. But these two characters have me so curious as to where they would go next. Plus I liked how effortless it was to be thrown into the eighties without a thousand blinking neon signs reminding us of that fact at every turn. It was nice to leave the current timeline and skate back to something different. Even if it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows.

If you’re looking for thrills and chills during this spooky season, I would totally give this a try!

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

SEASONAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS : AUTUMN 2020

Photo by Alisa Antonon Unsplash


Happy cozy and/or spooky season to one and all! However you choose to celebrate this time of year — whether it be with long reading sessions curled up on the couch under a throw, hot drink nearby, or decking out your spaces in glittery skulls, pumpkins, as you reach (or watch!) murder mysteries or thrillers, or even both at the same time — we wanted to put together a list of books that give us autumnal vibes, terrifies us, or just put us into the seasonal mood, in the hopes that we can spread some cozy comfort or spooky thrills.


UPROOTED by Naomi Novik is a fantasy story that is incredibly atmospheric and descriptive and also perhaps a wee bit terrifying because of what the author describes, and how. You might never walk through a forest at night again.

Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces series, both books one and two, focus on a specific season theme and book one is set in the fall, complete with scarecrows and haunted houses, but book two, set in the winter, has ghosts and chilling nightmares to haunt you with. This series is MG but will still get that pulse racing!

NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo is a dark academia story, though definitely adult in theme as opposed to the author’s previously YA releases, and it is.. well, dark. There are ghosts, magic, secret societies, and homicide investigations galore. This recommendation may require you to check out some trigger warnings if you are in need of them.

THE SECRET CASEBOOK OF SIMON FEXIMAL by KJ Charles is a queer historical paranormal that spans twenty years of ghost hunting, mysteries, occult, and more.

SAWKILL GIRLS by Claire Legrand is spooky and bloodthirsty and heartbreaking and sexy and feminist and full of asskickery and girl power and representation and magic and monsters. This would make an absolutely great Hallowe’en read.

UNSUB by Meg Gardiner might be the only true horror that gets added to this list but it earns that distinction for a reason. You want pulse pounding? You want twisty? You want mindfuckery? Look no further.

I don’t think SADIE by Courney Summers is actually set in the fall but somehow the book still makes me feel like it is. Maybe it’s the telling of it, the Serial podcast style of the mystery, I don’t know. Maybe just because it feels tragic and you want to bundle yourself up as you read it, keep the chill from your bones. Either way, it’s a story definitely worth reading.

THE BONE HOUSES by Emily Lloyd-Jones is a YA story featuring gravediggers, a remote village, and a curse that brings the dead back to life. This was basically written to be read in the fall! Which makes sense as it had a September 2019 release. Clever.

The Locked Tomb trilogy by Tamsyn Muir (even though we still have to wait for the final book!) is definitely seasonally appropriate with it’s goth skull aesthetic and space monsters galore. Book one, in particular, is basically a big haunted house Clue-style mystery.

Rather than list individual thrillers, which would extend this post well past the point that anyone would continue reading, we’re just going to shout out particular authors or series you should try if you haven’t already! Basically, anything by Karin Slaughter (start with Grant County before you read Will Trent), Lisa Gardner (all her series cross over but I think it’s best to start with DD Warren and split off from there), Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series covers a whole host of paranormal adventures and types, and, to wrap up, we’ll finish with A.R. Torre’s Deanna Madden series is a sexy and dark Dexter meets FIFTY SHADES OF GREY mash-up that will keep your pulse pounding.


This is obviously not an exhaustive (though it feels like it! I’m tired) list and so we wonder : what is one book (or series) you aren’t seeing listed on anyone’s recommendation round-up for this season? Is there any special read you’re planning to get to in the next few weeks? Let us know!

ON THE MOVE: POEMS ABOUT MIGRATION by Michael Rosen, Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Former Children’s Laureates Michael Rosen and Sir Quentin Blake join forces for a personal and uniquely affecting collection of poems about migration.

“What you leave behind
Won’t leave your mind.
But home is where you find it.
Home is where you find it.”

Michael Rosen and Sir Quentin Blake join forces for a landmark new collection, focusing on migration and displacement. Michael’s poems are divided into four: in the first series, he draws on his childhood as part of a first-generation Polish family living in London; in the second, on his perception of the War as a young boy; in the third, on his “missing” relatives and the Holocaust; and in the fourth, and final, on global experiences of migration. By turns charming, shocking and heart-breaking, this is an anthology with a story to tell and a powerful point to make: “You can only do something now.”


Title : On the Move: Poems about Migration
Author : Michael Rosen
Illustrator : Quentin Blake
Format : eARC
Page Count : 144
Genre : Children’s Poetry
Publisher : Walkers Books
Release Date : October 1, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5



Micky’s 4.5 star review

This is a stunning book of poetry with illustrations that hit at the heart. It also has a compelling story to be read as the whole, steeped in history, migration, war and prejudice. It is aimed at 9-12 year olds but like all the best Pixar and Disney animations, it has a level that speaks to the adult and I’m emotional just writing this review; it touched me deeply.

You can’t speak of it.
It is the unspeakable.
You can’t say it.
It is the unsayable.
You can’t say what you know.
It is the unknowable.

Rosen navigates his family’s story, from his own eyes and stories he’d heard. The themes are sometimes potentially distressing but they have much to say about the past and today.

This isn’t one of Rosen/Blake’s upbeat books but it is still wonderful like his Sad Book and it will open up these experiences to many readers, young and older.

Thank you to Walker Books for the early review copy.

DRAGON SLAYER by Lauren Gilley

n 1931, a golden-haired man in fine clothes appeared to a Siberian boy. An apparition in the snow. 

In 2018, he guided a pack of misfits to his prison. A man made of sharp smiles, and smoke, who they can hear, but can never touch. He calls himself a prince, but how much does anyone really know about Prince Valerian of Wallachia? Is he friend, or foe? Is he real at all? 

Val has spent the past 550 years as a prisoner, venturing where and when he can, dream-walking, using his powers of astral projection to escape the confines of his cell. His jailers call him “brother-killer,” and “traitor” – old rumors of the immortal realm carried forth by the sinister Ingraham Institute, a secret place hidden deep in the forest, bent on using the blood and powers of immortals to fight a gathering threat too terrible to reveal to the mortal world at large. 

Now, Val’s brother, the infamous Vlad Dracula, is awake, hellbent on stopping the boys’ wicked uncle, Romulus, once and for all. But first, the boys will have to come to terms with one another – and perhaps finally come to understand the tragedies that played out almost six centuries ago. 

In Book Three of the Sons of Rome Series, dream-walk to 15th century Romania, to a Wallachia besieged by the Ottoman Empire, and two immortal brothers fighting for their lives. Inspired by the true story of Vlad Dracula, and his family, Dragon Slayer travels from the palace at Tîrgovişte, to the Ottoman court, to the siege of Byzantium. A tale of brothers, and betrayal; of captivity, and revenge. 

The immortals of the world are gathering, and Vlad and Val, the original sons of Rome, stand poised to lead the charge against a timeless evil. If only they can keep from killing one another… 


Title : Dragon Slayer
Author : Lauren Gilley
Series : Sons of Rome (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 791
Genre : paranormal / historical fiction
Publisher : HP Press
Release Date : April 30, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I wish this was an easy, uncomplicated, round-up to four star book but I struggled a bit with this one.

I was so excited to have more historical storytelling in this world, because it’s been some of the bits I’ve loved the most, and Gilley gave me that.. and then more. And more. And more. Do you see that page count? This book is hella long. And I definitely feel like it did not need to be as long as it was. There is no doubt that history is one of this author’s passions, or she’s just incredibly committed to her plot, and her research alone and dedication to that time period? Definitely deserves recognition. I just wish it had all felt necessary to the plot, you know? Most, sure. All? For me, no.

I liked the beginning, I even like the reason for how and why we got thrown into the past, and for a while it was working for me. But there was a lot of information and time to slog through before we shifted gears back to the present, which I didn’t think I would have anticipated as much as I did, but that’s where this book really felt solid.

I think what surprised me was how.. soft some of these characters were. Val, in particular. I mean, if you’ve read the book, you know what I mean. I just want to hug him. Even Vlad the bloody Impaler had his moments. Though I’m not quite sure I bought some of the rationale regarding the latter’s behaviour.. even with all (and I mean all) that backstory. It felt a little flimsy. Likewise, I feel like Val had the ability to do certain things to connect with his family during a specific and critical time and didn’t and.. I also don’t quite know why. So I feel like part of this was a little tough to get behind. Which is what adds to my mixed feelings, particularly considering the word count and everything we had to get through to circle back to where we ended up in book two.

So I’m happy this ended on a strong note otherwise I would be sad. We had quite a few surprises in the last 20% or so; things didn’t go quite how I expected, and one of those surprises had me sitting straight up with what I’m sure was a dumfounded !!! look on my face. I caught the foreshadowing literally the paragraph before but I was still unprepared. And then we get that last chapter which leaves us hanging after another surprise kick to the face and boy oh boy if I didn’t have book four already on my kindle.. that said, if we don’t get some rewind time with the New York crew? Imma be mad.

So, yes, for all my whining about wanting more “in days gone by..”, Gilley definitely heaped far too many helpings onto my plate. I am definitely soft over all these characters (honestly, it’s kind of ridiculous how precious they all are..), and though it is obviously not a quick read, it’s still worth it. I’m hoping book four knocks it out of the park, though!

THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen

Kelsea Glynn is the Queen of the Tearling. Despite her youth, she has quickly asserted herself as a fair, just and powerful ruler.

However, power is a double-edged sword, and small actions can have grave consequences. In trying to do what is right – stopping a vile trade in humankind – Kelsea has crossed the Red Queen, a ruthless monarch whose rule is bound with dark magic and the spilling of blood. The Red Queen’s armies are poised to invade the Tearling, and it seems nothing can stop them.

Yet there was a time before the Crossing, and there Kelsea finds a strange and possibly dangerous ally, someone who might hold the key to the fate of the Tearling, and indeed to Kelsea’s own soul. But time is running out…


Title : The Invasion of the Tearling
Author : Erika Johansen
Series : The Queen of the Tearling (book two)
Format : physical
Page Count : 547
Genre : fantasy/dystopian
Publisher : Harper
Release Date : June 5, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I have a feeling I’m going to finish this series and come back and want to five star all the books that came before. Like, I haven’t actually even added a point five to these fours and yet.. somehow I have that feeling. Even though I have a few friends who are side-eyeing this journey of mine and waiting for me to actually get to said final (but not final, there seems to be a book four with a 2021 release date on GR?) book because of how polarizing it is. And I mean I can maybe see why that could be; because where we were in book one vs book two? Talk about different.

I honestly don’t want to say much of anything because I feel like if you’re like me and you’ve somehow managed to avoid this series all of these years, or you like to avoid blurbs in general, you won’t want any hint of this book spoiled. And I’m a big believer in no spoilers anyway but suffice it to say we get a lot more pre-Tearling history in this book and much of how this world started, and why, is explained. Beyond just the “they set out with the goal of a Utopia, leaving everything behind” — which has sorta gone wrong over the years — concept we already knew about.

[..] it’s not wise, particularly in wartime, to silence the voice of dissent.

But I will reiterate what I mentioned in book one’s review : this is definitely adult content that happens to feature a nineteen year old protagonist. Do not be fooled by the “it looks like YA” covers or summary. This one, in particular, took some of book one’s darker themes and went on an extended jaunt through some sketchy AF woods. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s grimdark and I do not want to scare you away from reading it but if you’re looking for the more standard “heroine defeats baddies and saves kingdom” that glosses over most of the violence or horror of that kind of undertaking, as we typically have in YA (this isn’t criticism!), this might not be your cup of tea. There is much more grey here, much more nuance, and a lot more time confronting the dark depths and depravities that exist in the world.

With that mostly vague disclaimer out of the way, I’m still totally enthralled with this world, with these characters, with the evolving magic element, the past that laid the foundation for this world existed in the first place, and I still have so many questions.. about so many things. For all the answers we might have been given, there are still so many yet to be revealed, and in general I just feel like this continues to go in directions I’m not quite able to predict. Or maybe my mind just isn’t capable of wandering forwards or trying to speculate as I’m too captivated by the moment. Either or.

Part of me wants to hold off picking up the final book as I’m not sure I’m quite ready to leave this series yet. But the binge bish part of me? Is anxious for me to stop rambling in this review and get to it. So, I guess that’s my cue.

SPOILER ALERT by Olivia Dade – double review!

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster. Through his stories, Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favourite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her ‘real life’ for years – but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realises life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realises that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?


Title : Spoiler Alert
Author : Olivia Dade
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus/Little Brown UK / Avon
Release Date : October 6, 2020

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Rounded up to 5 stars!

I lived for this book for 4 days of a work week, I couldn’t wait to get back to the characters. SPOILER ALERT was a contemporary romance with heart and some heat. It focused on fandom and fan-fic life and this couple’s story was something that most readers would cheer for.

April and Marcus met under unconventional circumstances, and for April it was an almost dream-like situation. I was completely on board and gripped from that moment. The chemistry between these two ended up being so believable because it took time to find its footing.

Both Marcus and April had trust issues and I really enjoyed the foundations of those back stories, they were real and identifiable. I did struggle somewhat with the secret between them. When this book turned serious and the peak of the inevitable crash happened…the emotion was raw and dialogue was fantastic. I highlighted and highlighted because it just hit me in the gut and made me feel.

At long last, he was letting her see him without any barriers, any artifice, any deception between them.

Basically, Marcus was my favourite character. He had such hidden depths and evolving character development, I couldn’t help but love him. April was his worthy opponent.

If you want a fun, flirty story that turns out to run deep with feelings, then SPOILER ALERT is for you. It’s one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read this year.

Thank you to Piatkus, Little Brown UK for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

I feel there like there was no real downside to this book. In any way. What a fun ride.

SPOILER ALERT tackled so many things — particularly emotional things, like body shaming, like learning disorders, like being accepted for who you are and how you look — and yet never lacked in fun. I think this is partially because of the fandom aspect and how our leading man’s starring role was a Game of Thrones-esque phenomenon, complete with all the final season nonsense that we as fans (and they as actors) experienced, and also because not only did we get fanfic snippets between chapters but, my favourite? We got mini scenes and dialogue from the protagonist’s previous acting gigs.. and they were almost unanimously.. terrible. Hilariously bad.

While I do question the ease in which this relationship developed, with little to no celebrity + non-celebrity drama (not a bad thing, really, maybe it’s just that I’m used to that particular drama?), I loved the catalyst for it (we love a twitter connection!). And while I really liked the characters, I’ll admit they didn’t quite jump off the page for me. They both felt pretty real, and each had both baggage and hangups that never felt contrived or unrealistic, and even better they were on the not-twenty-five end of the age spectrum, I didn’t quite lose myself in them. But I did lose myself in the story; I couldn’t tear myself away all night. I’ve only just looked up to realize I’m hours past a reasonable time to eat dinner, haha, whoops.

This hit so many of the right notes and I’m so relieved because just before starting this I worried I was teetering on a slump or just general book ennui. Not so! Do yourself a favour and pick this one up. It’s hot, it’s got some heavy, but it’s also got heart.