A TOUCH OF STONE AND SNOW by Milla Vane

Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.

When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile. 

Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess’s demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms…


Title : A Touch of Stone and Snow
Author : Milla Vane
Series : A Gathering of Dragons (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 398
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : July 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I definitely liked this more than book one but not more than the prequel (which you should read after book one, by the way). But there are definitely still parts I had to slog through. Thankfully this installment is significantly shorter than book one (almost six hundred pages vs just shy of four) but.. it still felt very long, particularly in the beginning.

I’m not sure I really liked either of the main characters, which is sad as I really liked book one’s heroine, but unlike the hero in book one, at least no one annoyed me in this one. I think I struggled, mostly in the beginning, because there was just so much time bouncing between past events and current that it was hard to hold onto who they were now. And also likely not helped by just feeling a little lost and without any certain footing in said beginning. The middle to almost climax was definitely the highlight for me, both fast paced and interesting, but the actual big conflict seemed.. well, dumb. And over before I even realized. It resolved so quickly it actually took me a few pages to realize it was over and they hadn’t just paused for an interlude.

That said, what helped me feel better about this one was, while I acknowledged and appreciated the worldbuilding Vane put in, from day on, this was the first time I felt proper understanding of some of the mythology. I don’t know if it was poorly explained or we just weren’t meant to know the whole picture up until now (or I’m dumb) but.. I’m diggin’ it. I’m on board. And I like what has been set up for book three, too. Of course, now that I’m caught up I have to wait like everyone else but.. oh well.

Not quite sure this is going to be a series I would go out of my way to recommend but I definitely wouldn’t talk you out of it if you’re already interested in diving in.

POISONED by Jennifer Donnelly

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.


Title : Poisoned
Author : Jennifer Donnelly
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 331
Genre : YA fantasy retelling
Publisher : Scholastic Press
Release Date : October 20, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I was keen for this retelling because of how much I had loved Stepsister, the author’s previous fantasy reimagining, and yet almost from the get-go I knew this wouldn’t have the same kind of magic as the Cinderella-inspired story did.

While there was a lot of creative elements at work within Donnelly’s version of Snow White, I was, sadly, bored and uninspired by much of it. I missed the hard feminist edge that we’ve had in the author’s aforementioned work. It wasn’t totally missed here, there were some interesting points about the stepmother and her role, and I loved how that was spun, but.. that was really the only highlight.

If you have yet to read this author, I would definitely start with this one if you want a dark fairytale reimagining, but I think starting with Stepsister will leave you as disappointed by this one as I was. That same spark just isn’t here.

If the author has more dark reworkings in her future I will still pick them up. But my expectations will be quite a bit lower.

THE DEATH OF VIVEK OJI by Akwaeke Emezi

What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom. 

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader


Title : The Death of Vivek Oji
Author : Akwaeke Emezi
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 248
Genre : contemporary/magical realism/LGBQTIAP+
Publisher : Riverhead Books
Release Date : August 4, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This review is difficult because on the one hand I want everyone to read this but on the other I don’t want to put this in the hands of anyone who would be made uncomfortable by it. I also don’t want to give spoilers. But nor do I tend to list content warnings because a lot of people find them spoilery (as do I). So I’ll just do what I always do : if the summary sounds like something you would want to read, but you are now concerned about the content within the space around said plot, please seek out the warnings. There are lots of reviews that list them, even if mine won’t.

If, on the other hand, you’re impervious to much or all as long as it’s in a fictional setting, and you’re SOP is going in knowing nothing.. at least you’ll go in braced for anything. So I guess you’re welcome? No refunds.

Some people can’t see softness wihout wanting to hurt it.

Jokes aside, the one spoiler I’m okay going into is, well.. the title. It’s right there. Watching the story play out both after, and before, and during, the death of Vivek Oji was.. so many things. Haunting and heartbreaking, lonely and lovely, painful and proud, unthinkable and unflinching. See? So many.

Temporarily occupying this world, this town in Nigeria, this family, the little communities within the community, these issues, I was just completely swept away. Emezi’s writing is so incredible. It honestly lulled me into a safe place even as I read about things I would otherwise (and still did, don’t get me wrong) feel disconcerted by. There was such warmth and gentleness at the core of this story even as it broke your heart. Shocking everyone (!), though, I didn’t actually cry while reading this but one part in particular got me very close.

The are quite a few POVs and storylines that split off from the main story and I was fine being taken away, even though I didn’t want to be, because I just wanted to keep reading. I didn’t care what strange path we were diverted onto. And then by the end.. you see the pieces as one whole. Not just one angle, many, not just one complicated and complex life, but many. We’re all part of a bigger picture and I felt that so strongly here.

Again, I won’t be recommending this, but oh am I glad I read it. That I’ve discovered this author. And that I have more books from them to read.

HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING by Denise Williams

One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.

When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.

Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.

Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.


Title : How to Fail at Flirting
Author : Denise Williams
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : December 1, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Good guy
Finding your voice
Academia
Work complications

This book has left me so up in my feels, warm, fuzzy and satisfied ones. I feel like this book was written for me because it was a great romance and the protagonist was in academia. You can tell the author navigates this life because as a female PhD myself in a male dominated world, on the endless hamster wheel of teaching and publications, there are endless goal posts.

Naya was a superb heroine, flawed and strong, striving and trying to disappear at the same time; I just loved her. This book had definite triggers for some (check out other reviews for trigger warnings or DM me) but that sensitive context really had me drawn in to Naya’s past, her present and future.

Let’s talk Jake, a nerd, cute and a great guy. It took time to reveal his character and I liked that I felt in Naya’s position, trying to work him out, was he really a good guy? The cheese was perfection, the chemistry was firey and delightful and the on-page romantics were just right. I really dug how this story played out, the banter, the sweetness, the demonstration of caring.

The plot lines were wholly realistic but the romance and the relationship never got lost, in fact, it was the navigation of the relationship alongside real life that made this book. Davis…I have no words, what a disgusting creature he was, he totally gave me the chills and not good ones.

I crushed How To Fail At Flirting in less than 24 hours which is pretty good for this woman with a family. Life is full of interruptions but this book had to be pulled from my hands to go out for a walk, that was my sacrifice for the day.

Do yourself a favour and pick this book up. I simply cannot wait for Denise Williams’ next book.

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

FIREKEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Angeline Boulley

Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange. 

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother. 

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation. 

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. 

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known. 


Title : Firekeeper’s Daughter
Author : Angeline Boulley
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA contemporary/mystery
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : March 16, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

While this has not become a new favourite like I thought it might, I highly encourage all readers to consider picking up this book. I know we all feel differently about what a three star rating means but please know that I did really enjoy reading this. But what’s more I just think this book deals with so many important things.

The best way I can pitch this story is something along the lines of an Indigenous Veronica Mars. But unlike Neptune, this world balances more than just the haves and the have-nots, but also the dynamics of the Ojibwe community and those outside; of which Daunis, our biracial protagonist, knows well. The complexities of the Native community are explored beautifully (at least from this reader’s perspective!) and while I never felt like I was being lectured to, I nonetheless wanted to know more. However, much like Neptune, there are some dark depths both in this setting and this community, so bear that in mind and seek out content warnings if you require them.

I don’t want to get too into the details of the plot itself as this unraveled in ways I wasn’t expecting but I will say that what brought this down, and kept it from a higher rating, was I felt some weakness in the romance and maybe some of the layers of the whole mystery felt a little.. overblown? Too much? There is a lot going on in this debut. I think had a few off-shoot plotlines not been included it would’ve felt a little stronger, a little more contained, but I still enjoyed what this was at its core. That said, if you can suspend a little extra disbelief, which most of us do anyway when it comes to fiction, you might be okay. Additionally, there were also plenty of lovely passages and turns of phrases that absolutely have me keen to read whatever comes next for this author.

If you’ve made it to the end of this review, and if you haven’t already done so, I would highly recommend you also search out some #ownvoices reviews.

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

DANGEROUS WOMEN by Hope Adams

Nearly two hundred condemned women on board a sailing ship bound for Australia. One of them is a murderer. From debut author Hope Adams comes a thrilling novel based on the 1841 voyage of the convict ship Rajah, about confinement, hope, and the terrible things we do to survive.

London, 1841. One hundred eighty Englishwomen file aboard the Rajah, embarking on a three-month voyage to the other side of the world.

They’re daughters, sisters, mothers–and convicts.

Transported for petty crimes.

Except one of them has a deadly secret, and will do anything to flee justice.

As the Rajah sails farther from land, the women forge a tenuous kinship. Until, in the middle of the cold and unforgiving sea, a young mother is mortally wounded, and the hunt is on for the assailant before he or she strikes again.

Each woman called in for question has something to fear: Will she be attacked next? Will she be believed? Because far from land, there is nowhere to flee, and how can you prove innocence when you’ve already been found guilty?


Title : Dangerous Women
Author : Hope Adams
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Michael Joseph Books
Release Date : March 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Suspense on the seas
Desperation
Emotive
Gritty themes

The cover of this book swept me away initally, followed by the synopsis. Reading the book totally lived up to my hopes and expectations. I would categorise this as a historical suspense. Its strengths partially lie in the fact that this story context is reality, the voyage of convicts being transported and occupying themselves by making a quilt. The other strength was the execution, the writing that transported me along with the passengers of the ship.

The story was told from the POV of the ship’s ‘matron’ Kezia, a 23 year old women of respectable background, there to oversee the female convicts on their way to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania). There were other POVs of some of the prominent convict characters. There was a stabbing some weeks into the journey (this is the the blurb, no spoiler here) and much of the story I spent speculating and getting it wrong.

This was very much a women’s book, about women, for women, understanding women of that era However, these women were ever at the mercy of men and it wasn’t set in a time where women were empowered so I wouldn’t necessarily call this a feminist read. However Kezia did have her moments of assertion among the leading men of the ship.

This was a compelling tale, with twists and turns. Ship life had all the smells, hardship and difficulty you might imagine but the description enhanced your sense of these womens’ existence. I would have loved an epilogue of what happened to these women after they got to their destination. I wanted to know if they really got their new chance.

We’re many small pieces, each of us different but now stitched together. A patchwork of souls.

If you love historical reads and/or if you love suspenseful reads, Dangerous Women will not disappoint. There are triggers in here for some and please check out other reviews or message me if you want details.

Thank you to Michael Joseph Books for the review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – MARCH 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.


Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley is best pitched as an Indigenous Veronica Mars. Mystery, romance, crime, and more!

Namesake by Adrienne Young is the hotly anticipated sequel to Fable.


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

NAMESAKE by Adrienne Young

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Filled with action, emotion, and lyrical writing, New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with Namesake, the final book in the captivating Fable duology.


Title : Namesake
Author : Adrienne Young
Series : Fable #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : March 16, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Cover win & inside goodness
Full & satisfying
Trousers over dresses

Helmsman. Dredger. Trader. Orphan. Father. Daughter.

This second piece in the duology did not let me down. I can’t tell you how relieved that makes me when I loved book one, there’s always that trepidation over the next one. This story, this crew, Fable and West really captured my book-loving heart and being able to follow the story to completion was everything.

Interestingly, Fable was a little less tough and a little more weepy in Namesake, showing a vulnerability I didn’t expect. Talking of expectations, family continued to be a key theme in this instalment and it was hard to trust anyone related to Fable.

One of the things that captivated me in Fable was the diving and dredging; I loved for those moments in this book too and there were plenty. I just found that element so interesting, vivid, dangerous and wild.

Even from above, I could feel them – the soft songs of the gemstones hidden in the reef below.

West really struck me with the faith he had in Fable. She pulled some tough decisions, some gut feelings that weren’t based in much and he made things happen as a consequence. West was morally grey but 100% committed. I loved how their power dynamic played out, push and pull but one more in control than the other.

I am all satisfaction at the story, pacing and characterisation of this duology. This will sit happily on my shelves as a favourite.

Thank you to Wednesday Books for the early review copy.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT by Clare Pooley

Six strangers with one universal thing in common: their lives aren’t always what they make them out to be.

What would happen if they told the truth instead?

Julian Jessop is tired of hiding the deep loneliness he feels. So he begins The Authenticity Project – a small green notebook containing the truth about his life.

Leaving the notebook on a table in his friendly neighbourhood café, Julian never expects Monica, the owner, to track him down after finding it. Or that she’ll be inspired to write down her own story.

Little do they realize that such small acts of honesty hold the power to impact all those who discover the notebook and change their lives completely.


Title : The Authenticity Project
Author : Clare Pooley
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Penguin Books
Release Date : February 18, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines
Uplifting
Friendships and bonds
Preconceptions smashed

I’ve heard about this book in the last year, all positive murmurings. The actual experience of reading it was pretty joyful to be honest. It was real, fun and it was about friendships across age groups. I adored that aspect as it’s something I personally identify with.

The idea of this notebook, encouraging the next person to pick it up, to be authentic, was powerful without being preachy. How this book brought together this eclectic group of people and how they bonded was the kind of reading you get immersed in. Julian was a favourite, despite his flaws. His flamboyance, his eccentricity and spirit touched my heart throughout.

The themes of everyday difficulties, jobs, relationships, addictions and loneliness brought a sense of realism and ordinary-ness to the book. It also made the story feel identifiable in many ways. Added to this were a number of unexpected turns alongside a few expected ones as well.

I think it would be hard for anyone to pick this up and not feel enchanted.

Thank you to Penguin Random House and Adventures with words for the review copy.

THE BLACK FLAMINGO by Dean Atta – double review!

reblogging as this is now a double review. if you haven’t read this book yet, you should!

A Take from Two Cities

I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.


Title : The Black Flamingo
Author : Dean Atta
Format : eBook / overdrive
Page Count : 368
Genre : Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Hodder Books / Balzer + Bray
Release Date : August 8, 2019 / May 26, 2020

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


Micky’s 4 star review

THE BLACK FLAMINGO was a beautiful, real story told with grit. A coming of age, coming out, all while being black story. What felt unique to…

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