A DESTINY OF DRAGONS by TJ Klune

Once upon a time, the wizard’s apprentice, Sam of Wilds, got his happily ever after in the arms of his cornerstone, Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart. A year has passed, and while Sam’s been captured five or six more times since then, things are pretty great. His parents are happy, Gary and Tiggy still eat sass for breakfast, Randall is somehow alive despite being older than the gods, the King rules with a gentle hand, Kevin the dragon is as gross as ever, Morgan sighs a lot, Ryan continues to be dashing and immaculate, and Sam is close to convincing Prince Justin they will be best friends forever. Life is good. 

Until it’s not. 

Because Vadoma, the leader of the gypsy clan and Sam’s grandmother, has come to the City of Lockes with a dire prophecy written in the stars: a man of shadows is rising and will consume the world unless Sam faces his destiny and gathers the five dragons of Verania at his side. 

And she brings along her second-in-command, a man named Ruv. Ruv, who Vadoma says is Sam’s true cornerstone


Title : A Destiny of Dragons
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 377
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

If I thought this series would get any less like a bizarro trippy experience? I was dumb. Because why would it do that if we’d made it this far. If anything this series just gets weirder, and more absurd, in this second installment but it’s still compulsively readable. Likely I would not be prioritizing this series if not for my buddy reading buddies (hi!).. otherwise, well. I don’t think I would drop it but, yeah, suffice it to say it would not be topping my read pile right now. But whatever.

You really don’t understand boundaries, do you?
Only that they were meant to be broken.

Everything from book one is back again, from the oversharing and crude ridiculousness, to the almost parody-like fantasy plot, and if things were thought to be dramatic before? It gets better/worse/more (pick your preference).

You don’t see the way he stares at me sometimes.
I’ll bite. How does he stare at you?
Like I’m an idiot.
Sam. You are an idiot.”
Oh. Things suddenly make much more sense right now.”

As far as the romance, things are also better/worse/more (pick your preference) as book one’s conflict is replaced with something new but also different. It definitely got one of my buddies to switch shipping teams (literally the highlight of the whole read). But I also like how it resolved; though I’m not sure we’ve seen the last of it.

Sam, we’re born from magic. We don’t have parents. We are created when the world needs us most. There’s magic everywhere, in the smallest of things. Once there’s enough concentration of it, and once the world wills it so, a dragon is born.
But.. but, that’s so stupid. What the fuck is that esoteric bullshit?”

For all that this is still whacky and weird and I’m obviously continuing on with the series (hi again buddies), I still don’t really think I actually like this. There are moments, sure, that I might laugh or be entertained by something. And it’s certainly high on the hot scale compared to my other experiences with Klune. But for all that, and I realize it’s not much so this will come as no surprise, I am definitely not recommending it. It just exists; and I’m spending time with it. Nothing more.

SOME OTHER NOW by Sarah Everett

This Is Us for teens, this luminous and heartbreaking contemporary novel follows a girl caught between two brothers as the three of them navigate family, loss, and love over the course of two summers. For fans of Far From the TreeEmergency Contact, and Nina LaCour.

Before she kissed one of the Cohen boys, seventeen-year-old Jessi Rumfield knew what it was like to have a family—even if, technically, that family didn’t belong to her. She’d spent her childhood in the house next door, challenging Rowan Cohen to tennis matches while his older brother, Luke, studied in the background and Mel watched over the three like the mother Jessi always wished she had.

But then everything changed. It’s been almost a year since Jessi last visited the Cohen house. Rowan is gone. Mel is in remission and Luke hates Jessi for the role she played in breaking his family apart. Now Jessi spends her days at a dead-end summer job avoiding her real mother, who suddenly wants to play a role in Jessi’s life after being absent for so long. But when Luke comes home from college, it’s hard to ignore the past. And when he asks Jessi to pretend to be his girlfriend for the final months of Mel’s life, Jessi finds herself drawn back into the world of the Cohens. Everything’s changed, but Jessi can’t help wanting to be a Cohen, even if it means playing pretend for one final summer.


Title : Some Other Now
Author : Sarah Everett
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : HMH Books
Release Date : February 23, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

Headlines:
Family, found-family, brothers
Feelings brimming over the page
Beautiful

Some Other Now pulled you, emotion-long into the book and I just knew it was going to be tough; tough and stunning. This was a read that reminded of some of my favourite family-friend orientated books like Far From The Tree.

Jessi the protagonist had long existed in her surrogate family with Ro, Luke and their mother Mel. Their home was her home but this book tracked a couple of years where life changed beyond recognition and there were difficult themes from the off. Jessi had an unusually difficult real-family home life and the changes there over time were interesting.

These brothers were both endearing characters. Ro and Luke were so different and great guys. The friendships in this book were gorgeous and complicated, they were heart-warming and heart-breaking. I couldn’t put the book down, I existed in it, witnessing, revelling and sometimes chewing my lip with tension.

I did want a little more from the pages as it wrapped up but even so, it satisfied me. The story was fabulous and the characters suited the tale. Some Other Now was not a depressing read, it was an arresting read, gritty and real with beauty.

Hearts will break and heal over this book.

Thank you to Melia Publishing for the early review copy.

FIRST COMES LIKE by Alisha Rai

The author of The Right Swipe and Girl Gone Viral returns with a story about finding love in all the wrong inboxes…

Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.

There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.

The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…

When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life? 


Title : First Comes Like
Author : Alisha Rai
Series : Modern Love #3
Narrator : Priya Ayyar & Neil Shah
Format : Audiobook
Length : 6 hours, 30 minutes
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Harper Audio
Release Date : February 16, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

First Comes Like was the clashing of two people, two cultures, two faiths, all in a romantic context. It was ambitious plan that worked. Added to this was a faux-mance storyline, catfishing, fame and fortune. I thought it was a clever plot.

I don’t think I’ve read a Hindu/Muslim romance before (probably shame on me for not searching this out) but it was nice to see and interesting to read this level of heat in that context. Alisha Rai executed this with careful handling and sensitivity to the protagonist Jia’s beliefs (I think, but I can’t currently see any own voice reviews and I’m interested in their take on this). I’ve been waiting for Jia’s story for rather a long time, since she was introduced in a previous series by the author.

There was a lot less of the three friends living together in this instalment which I missed. I essentially liked both the characters but I didn’t always feel their chemistry. The plot line was predictable but still good.

The narration was enjoyable in the main, I liked both narrators but didn’t enjoy when Dev’s character did Jia’s dialogue, his female intonation really didn’t work for me. I also wanted to feel a bit more from Dev’s character but in some ways, he was a little emotionally rusty and that facet was part of his development in the story.

This series has been generally enjoyable for me and while this one didn’t blow me away, I still appreciated the journey and especially the cross of cultures and faiths.

Please check out some own voice review on this book.

Thank you to LibroFM and Harper Audio for the early audio copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – FEBRUARY 16, 2021

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.


A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas needs no introduction, does it?

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai is the third installment in the author’s Modern Love series.


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

CONCRETE ROSE by Angie Thomas

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man. 


Title : Concrete Rose
Author : Angie Thomas
Series : The Hate You Give (prequel/companion)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : January 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I think what surprised me most about this was how.. quiet this book felt.

It isn’t without impactful moments, and is certainly peppered with painful observations about what it means to be a young Black man (both as an individual and within society), but still somehow it was quiet. Tender. There is an ache to this story, to the losses, and the struggle to open one’s self up to a dream for more. But it’s also so full of love.

This is such an important story not because it spoke of one important thing really loudly but because it spoke of a lot of things rather quietly.

This will definitely sit with me for a while — and is likely why I’m struggling a bit on what to say — but I highly recommend. Even if you haven’t read The Hate U Give, I think you should absolutely pick this up.

PROVOKED by Joanna Chambers

Tormented by his forbidden desires for other men and the painful memories of the childhood friend he once loved, lawyer David Lauriston tries to maintain a celibate existence while he forges his reputation in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. 
 
But then, into his repressed and orderly life, bursts Lord Murdo Balfour.
 
Cynical, hedonistic and utterly unapologetic, Murdo could not be less like David. And as appalled as David is by Murdo’s unrepentant self-interest, he cannot resist the man’s sway. Murdo tempts and provokes David in equal measure, forcing him to acknowledge his physical desires.
 
But Murdo is not the only man distracting David from his work. Euan MacLennan, the brother of a convicted radical David once represented, approaches David to beg him for help. Euan is searching for the government agent who sent his brother to Australia on a convict ship, and other radicals to the gallows. Despite knowing it may damage his career, David cannot turn Euan away. 
 
As their search progresses, it begins to look as though the trail may lead to none other than Lord Murdo Balfour, and David has to wonder whether it’s possible Murdo could be more than he seems. Is he really just a bored aristocrat, amusing himself at David’s expense, or could he be the agent provocateur responsible for the fate of Peter MacLennan and the other radicals?


Title : Provoked
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 202
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : April 25, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Part of me is actually tempted to bump this up to four but something is holding me back for now. Probably because I compare most m/m historical romance to KJ Charles but.. this was still very good.

As a heads up, you should know this story also differs from KJC in the sense that this series doesn’t seem to be made up of companions following different couples and in fact I think the first two or three may follow the same couple. Make of that what you will.

Despite not being able to round up, though, I think this series might get stronger as it goes. I found the characters to be incredibly fascinating, particularly our protagonist, David, who suffers under the illusion that his fancying of men is unnatural and wrong and yet for all that he harshly judges himself, he never judges others. There were moments when he imagined another possible future for himself that just.. yeah, he is lovely.

The romantic interest, on the other hand, is fully himself and fully unashamed of himself and they spark off each other very well. Their relationship, outside of the steamies, is full of tension because while they are chemically compatible, they don’t seem to be emotionally or morally compatible. They view life so differently, and what they might expect of their lives considering their ways, and it’s so interesting to watch them hash it out.

I think mainly what dragged this down a bit for me is, despite the third party involved who played a fairly main role (and who I liked quite a bit), the whole reason for the events that throw these characters together just wasn’t that interesting, I guess? The characters definitely carried this installment, which is great, but I do hope the plot of book two is a wee bit more interesting.

I’m so keen to read on and I do smell a binge a’coming.. doesn’t hurt that this series seems to clock in with somewhat on the lower end of a page count. Additionally, I’m happy to have knocked this off my tbr (shelved on GR back in 2017!) and cleared yet another eBook off my unread pile! Lots of winning here.

THE HEART OF BETRAYAL by Mary E. Pearson

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia’s life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar’s interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There’s Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country… and her own destiny.


Title : The Heart of Betrayal
Author : Mary E. Pearson
Series : The Remnant Chronicles (book two)
Format : physical
Page Count : 473
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt
Release Date : July 7, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Welp, that didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I think this feels like a bigger disappointment for two reasons. One, according to GR, when I read this the first time, it was a five star experience. And two, I can see why past-Hollis thought so highly of it. So I get it.. but it’s definitely not that anymore.

In my review for my book one I had mentioned how one of the main three POVs were pretty weak and I wanted better. Well this time I wanted better for every POV that wasn’t Lia. Because what’s consistent about this series so far is that she is the only thing propping it all up. That said, we did start get to more information from those previously mentioned hints and teases about the worldbuilding but not quite as much as I wanted. The machinations and politics definitely got a little twistier and I’m enjoying that but it does feel like Pearson is dolling out too few crumbs to really satisfy. And instead of making me hunger for more it’s making me feel less inclined to sit at the table, you know? But not in the sense that I’m giving up. It’s not quite that bad. Plus, I mean, Lia.. girl is still a badass.

Overwhelmingly this series is just really weakened by the romance and things got even more busy in that sense in this second installment. Again, I can see how this once worked for me, maybe I was excited by the drama or something, and I know similar things still do work for me today, but this one? It was something of a slog.

Having not read book three (and the reason for this whole reread!), I’m very interested to see where we go from here, particularly in light of how this one ended and a few of those tiny little reveals we did get. But it’s definitely going to have to blow me away in order to not only redeem this particular book, and the series as a whole, but also to keep its place of pride on the shelves. No pressure.

THE LIGHTNING-STRUCK HEART by TJ Klune

Once upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City of Lockes, a young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.

Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam’s pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the King’s Wizard, Morgan of Shadows.

When Sam is fourteen, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-giant named Tiggy, earning the moniker Sam of Wilds.

At fifteen, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at the castle. Sir Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed.

Naturally, it all goes to hell through the years when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can’t control his magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the King sends them on an epic quest to save Ryan’s boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.

Or so he thinks.


Title : The Lightning-Struck Heart
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 480
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated



Hollis’ unrated review

If ever a book made you feel a little like you were on drugs, it would probably be this one. What a trip.

This was such a weird experience. I knew going into this to expect some extreme or absurb fantasy, with Klune himself leaning into the absurb slapsticky kind of humour, and yet somehow I was still not prepared. This is weird and wild and I would probably not recommend this to most readers. Particularly if you haven’t at least had a taste of what Klune can do.

I’m trying to be subtle here.”
You’re a talking unicorn. Sometimes when you poop, it comes out as rainbows and smells like cookies. There is nothing subtle about you.”

This story features a hornless gay unicorn, a half giant, an aggressively horny dragon, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The good thing is that most of those specific characters, along with our protagonist, Sam the apprentice wizard with the great power and great responsibility, were some of my favourites. They were ridiculous and their antics were outright lunacy but the friendship bonds were just so wholesome (even when they weren’t) and sweet and discounting the fact that Sam sometimes had two page run-on monologues (despite the fact that a running joke is how the Dark Wizards are monologue fiends and they hate it) I really did love them.

I would ask you to dance, but I don’t know how to dance, so maybe we can just stand near each other and talk awkwardly.”

I do just wish there was more, like, distinction between some of the other characters. The main cast came through pretty clear (with the love interest maybe being the one exception because he was all other the place For Reasons) but some of the secondary/tertiary characters felt a little lumped in together/silly and same-y, and considering some of their roles I don’t think it made sense. But that’s a fairly picky thing to pick at considering, like, this whole book was just.. strange compulsively funny readable strange nonsense.

Everything is a life lesson. Like these invitations from potential suitors.”
Your segue was clunky and I am embarassed for you.”

Which is why I’m not rating it because where would I even begin.

I’ve just had the most wonderful idea.”
Uh oh. Hold on to it. I have a feeling those are a rarity.

It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s pervy AF, it’s bizarre, crude, hella queer, occasionally annoying or frustrating, but also fun. This somehow manages to be a light fantasy, and also sort’ve a parody, while still being fantastical and questy and destiny.. -y. If that sounds like your cup of acid trip, definitely pick this up. For all that there’s a significant page count, I don’t think this’ll bore you, just bewilder you, but you’ll probably still find yourself laughing along. And if you come out of this story not loving Gary? We need to talk.

YOU DESERVE EACH OTHER by Sarah Hogle

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.


Title : You Deserve Each Other
Author : Sarah Hogle
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 368
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus, Little Brown UK
Release Date : February 11, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Snicker, giggle, howl on the regular
War of the Roses
Hate to love has never been so sweet

I burnt the midnight oil to finish this one because I just could not leave it with a few chapters left. You Deserve Each Other was unputdownable and so very satisfying. It brought beautiful escapism to my life, with light and deep in equal parts.

I adored the two main characters, Nicholas and Naomi and I even loved reading about the evil mother-in-law to be. Nicholas was such an awful mother’s boy, it was both hard and incredibly funny to read those aspects. Naomi eventually made use of this part of his life and character to wage a war of the Roses.

I have an abundance of odious fiance. How am I going to get rid of him? I cannot marry this mama’s boy.

The house move brought unexpected fun to the story. I didn’t see where that was going until after but I really loved visualising their house, the land and the pond. The pond <insert many laughing emojis here, winky face>.

The read came with lows and highs and the highs were often accompanied by my snigger-snort. The escapades these two went to, to get the other to dislike them while in reality chemistry was building. This was sloooow-burn territory folks, so buckle in for some delayed sparks.

Expect high jinks, hate and love in percentages and a crescendo of feelings. Also, plan this read in for a full day of uninterruption or you will end up like me, staying up on a school night and sporting matchstick eyes the next morning. Either way, you won’t regret it.

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

FIRST DAY OF MY LIFE by Lisa Williamson

There are three sides to every story… It’s GCSE results day. Frankie’s best friend, Jojo, is missing. A baby has been stolen. And more than one person has been lying. Frankie’s determined to find out the truth and her ex-boyfriend Ram is the only person who can help her. But they’re both in for a shock… EVERYTHING is about to change.


Title : First Day of My Life
Author : Lisa Williamson
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 355
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : David Fickling Books
Release Date : January 7, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Coming of age
Figurative shaking of fist
Testing friendships

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Lisa Williamson’s books. Why, you ask? Because she carves a quintessential British feel to the coming-of-age tales she crafts. Not only that, every book I’ve read of hers has been so unusual but credible and First Day of My Life was no exception.

The story was told from the perspective of three friends, Frankie, Jo-jo and Ram, whose lives were linked and woven with complexity. I did not expect much of what initally happened in the first third of the book but it was so heart-breakingly real, so that I felt right there in the situation. I was so damn worried for one of the friends, I got ridiculously invested.

This whole investment of mine led me to me rage-reading some sections as the adults in one of the situations (I’m being so careful of spoilers here) were so selfish and willfully blind. I wanted to rush in and advocate for one of the threesome.

If this were a TV drama, I’d be yelling at the screen right now, begging the heroine to wake up and smell the coffee, to stop being so bloody naive.

Yeah, that quote captured my feelings!

This read brought moments of angst, stress, brimming eyes, sweetness but it managed to wrap me up in a warm hug at the end. I am so happy to add this to my YA collection. Read this if you like coming-of-age, a story you’ve not read before and if you like to read about great characters with a good slice of reality.

Thank you to David Fickling Books for the early review copy.