THE SUMMER JOB by Lizzy Dent

Have you ever imagined running away from your life?

Well Birdy Finch didn’t just imagine it. She did it. Which might’ve been an error. And the life she’s run into? Her best friend, Heather’s.

The only problem is, she hasn’t told Heather. Actually there are a few other problems…

Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)?

And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she’s ever actually liked (but who thinks she’s someone else)?

A snort-out-loud romcom for fans of The Flatshare.


Title : The Summer Job
Author : Lizzy Dent
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Publisher : Viking Books
Release Date : April 15, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

The Summer Job delivered on some of the aspects I adore in books – a Scottish setting, great characters and couple chemistry, all with the added extra of wine. The main character, Birdy (Elizabeth) was something of a mess, but she was an endearing mess that you couldn’t help but like.

The story was wrapped around the concept of lies and those lies getting deeper and complex, until it’s too much. That complexity was wonderfully offset by Birdy’s bright and hopeful nature, James the chef and a cast of characters in the gorgeous Loch Doon hotel.

Having spent a lot of time in the highlands, I have to say Lizzy Dent conjured a setting that really worked, I could envisage the Loch, the wildness and the people so well. I want to go and stay there, taste the wine and maybe nibble the chef… I mean his food!

James is calm, considered and deliberate. And I like it.

I so enjoyed the context of the life of a sommelier, it’s not something I’ve seen in contemporary fiction and I was pretty consumed by the idea. This story built on lies took the inevitable down turn and it was pretty hard to observe the crash but I continued to love and believe in Birdy.

The Summer Job was a refreshing, funny and wonderful read that will transport you to the highlands and immerse you in great characters. I think it’s the perfect read for summer and I can’t wait for others to read this.

Thank you to Viking Books for the early review copy.

THE PRISON HEALER by Lynette Noni – double review!

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

From bestselling author Lynette Noni comes a dark, thrilling YA fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, and Sabaa Tahir.


Title : The Prison Healer
Author : Lynette Noni
Series : The Prison Healer (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : HMH Books for Young Readers/Hodder Books
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 2 star review

When you have to take a shower mid-read to wake up because the book is putting you to sleep : my experience with The Prison Healer.

Look, that snarky intro notwithstanding, there were things in this story that felt pretty compelling and or interesting but so much just.. didn’t make sense. At first I loved that our setting was limited to this prison, where our protagonist had been locked up for ten years, completely cut off from the world and politics around her, but then I got really.. anxious. The limited scope started to bother me. So did the weird extreme sweeps into d a r k n e s s and d e s p a i rand then, like, light hearted flirting with the new prisoner.

We also had this ACOTAR-esque challenge to undergo but the only people witnessing it were the prisoners? The royalty are banished from watching it and it seems to not actually matter to the world outside the prison? Like.. how is this a thing? Why is it even happening?

And the whole idea of this prison being unchallenged by royalty, not subject to rule by any authority by the Warden (I don’t know, I’m now questioning my understanding, so don’t quote me on that..), was initially interesting but also how the hell did that fly. Just kind of seemed like an excuse to let some awful shit happen.

And then there was this whole civil war thing.. man, like I said, some really cool elements that just felt a little untethered. Trying to sum up all the plot points is leaving me tired.

As for the characters, well. Suffice it to say we aren’t supposed to have many to root for, seeing as we are in a prison full to the brim of nasty characters, but Naari, one of the guards, was the only one I actually liked. I got a lot of whiplash from our lead, the love interest was nice but kind of predictable, there’s a younger pseudo-brother character who has an endearing stutter but I got pretty tired of reading about it, and there’s.. not much else. Bad guard one, bad guard two, evil guard one, evil guard two, unpleasant prisoners x y z, shifty Warden guy, lots of sick and or dead people.. you get the idea.

What saves this for me was the ending. Because.. okay, sure, yeah, that happened. I am both very excited by it and also now very frustrated by everything up until this point, but, sure, yes. I’m hooked and I will read book two (please say it’s only a duology..).

I realize most people would not continue on a series where the initial book only warranted a two but I am not most people.

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Captivity
Trials
Twists

This story was interesting from the start but it executed a sneak attack by building and building into something pretty fantastic. The Prison Healer was set completely inside a prison, one with few rules and a regime of brutality and fear. Kiva was the healer, a skill learnt and from her father but built on by necessity. She had few perks from her role even though she was vital to that society.

The characters inside the prison were rag-tag bunch of characters and I took the lead from Kiva who trusted virtually no-one but Tipp, her young helper in the prison infirmary. New arrivals sparked some interesting characters form the guard Naari to Jaren and Tilda. I’m laughing at my naive self now having finished the book…little did I know.

A part of the storyline were trials that one of the characters had to go through and that was a fascinating steer throughout the chapters, I really enjoyed those elements. Most of all I enjoyed the mystery of the characters and some of the twists. There was one almighty twist that had me putting on the brakes, going back half a page because I wasn’t sure I’d read that right.

I really enjoyed how platonic and ‘something more’ relationships developed through the story. Moreso, I liked to see Kiva learn to trust a bit more and open up ever so slightly. Again, I’m laughing at my face-value reading of some of the characters knowing what I know now.

The Prison Healer was a gripping fantasy read, full and detailed, interesting and fresh. I’ve not read Lynette Noni before but she’s secured my interest and I have no idea how I’m going to wait until The Gilded Cage comes out. I have all the need for it.

Thank you to Hodder books for the early review copy.

PAUSE by Kylie Scott

An unpauseable new romance from New York Times bestselling, Audie Award winning author Kylie Scott!

When Anna wakes up from a coma after a car crash, she discovers life has gone on without her. Her husband has been unfaithful—with her best friend—and she’s been long since replaced at work. While her old life is a distant memory, her new life feels like an empty shell. Then she meets the stranger who saved her life during the crash, and he changes everything.

Leif Larsen—tattooist, joker, and player—has his own scars thanks to the crash that put Anna in a coma. Helping her move on from her failed marriage, and create a new life, sounds like a perfect distraction. So when he needs a new roommate, he invites Anna to begin her new life with him.

Although their lives may have been put on pause, together they just might find a way to heal.


Title : Pause
Author : Kylie Scott
Narrator : Andi Arndt
Format : Audible Audio
Length : 6 hours, 17 minutes
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Audible
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Accidents
Betrayal
Quick fulfilment

I feel like I’m the champion of Repeat by Kylie Scott, I loved that audio and I’ve since re-listened and re-read. So Pause had big shoes to fill and alongside that Leif wasn’t the easiest character like in Repeat having fouled up in his relationship choices bringing consequences.

Pause started with an accident and hospitals which felt reminiscent of Repeat but I didn’t mind that to be honest, as Anna’s story was different enough to feel new. The circumstances she found herself in however, were pretty vile.

I liked hearing about how Anna’s life unraveled and came back together, I perhaps wanted a bit more narrative about her recovery. Anna and Leif had chemistry but it felt pretty fast moving. I enjoyed the story but I wasn’t wowed by it.

This was a quick listen, I would say this is a perfect for a day or a weekend, with great narration. Andi Arndt excels at male dialogue, so while this is a single POV story, when Leif speaks, it feels so credible on the audio.

Thank you to Audible for the early review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – APRIL 13, 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.


Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne is the much anticipated release by the author of The Hating Game. Do you even need to know more?

Malice by Heather Walter is a sapphic retelling that promises us villains in a new light. Here for it.

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni is a great start of a fantasy series, you won’t be able to put this one down.

The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent is one of those books that is perfect as your summer read. Think lies, wine and lobsters..oh and a Scottish chef.


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

SECOND FIRST IMPRESSIONS by Sally Thorne

From the USA Today  bestselling author of The Hating Gameand 99 Percent Mine comes the clever, funny, and unforgettable story of a muscular, tattooed man hired as an assistant to two old women—under the watchful eye of a beautiful retirement home manager.

Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.


Title : Second First Impressions
Author : Sally Thorne
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

There was a lot of the classic Thorne magic in this but, spoiler alert, I definitely think I’ve liked this the least of all three of her books.

A walk of shame when you’re over eighty is really, really slow.

I don’t know if it was me or just the book but this did start out a little strange, I felt a little offbalance by the characters, but it did eventually settle into place before too long. But there were times I struggled a bit with the love interest; I like that he was a little (a lot) different not only from previous Thorne men but also just in general. But he was equally a bit hard to pin down and to love (though he was painfully likeable; like a puppy). I wavered between being charmed by how our protagonist couldn’t help but be charmed by him and also wishing.. I don’t know. Wishing she could resist him, wishing.. something.

This menu has no prices. That’s not a good sign.”
Your friends have advised us that they will be ordering for you. Any dietary restrictions?
Just basic poverty.”

Maybe, not unlike the title, this is a book that needs a second go. Maybe I need to revisit my first impression.

This is a stripper’s costume. It’s all held together with Velcro.”
I’ve taken it to the dry cleaner so many times. What must they think of me?

That said, I think the people who had a really hard time with 99 Percent Mine will enjoy this a lot more. It’s nothing like the author’s debut but I think maybe this release is The Hating Game‘s nicer cousin as opposed to its prickly stepsister — which is how I categorize them all now, don’t ask.

As this is an ARC, I will say that I hope the second to last chapter gets a bit more polish before release. As it stands it rushes through a few emotional moments that I felt didn’t quite land as a result, which is frustrating as those moments are surrounded by one or two other really lovely emotional moments, and I think they would all benefit by being a bit more spread out.

In that vein, the book itself is also written a bit stilted at times, particularly in the beginning, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a way of connecting a bit more with Ruthie’s approach on.. well, life? It worked sometimes but other times just took me out of the story.

Anything I can do with complete competence, a young man can do with less technique but more fanfare.

I realize there might be more complaints or criticisms in this review than there should be.. so also take note that I read this on a work night (something I haven’t been able to do very often anymore) and it completely sucked me in. So. There. That says a lot without me having to say much at all.

[soon] you’re going to be sitting in your very own tattoo studio writing Live Laugh Love down a girl’s back in Comic Sans.”
That’s the most disgusting thing you could possibly say to me.”

Overall I didn’t quite fall in love with this, only bits of it (the Parlonis! Melanie! the turtles!), but I liked it. I loved being swept up by those epic Thorne turns of phrase. I’m also glad the cover finally (finally) makes a bit of sense. Will I reread? Yes, in the hopes of maybe liking it all a bit more. But would I reach for it, or think about it, the way I think of Thorne’s other books? Probably not. I do think though that if you do your best to lower your The Hating Game-level expectations (I know, it feels impossible), you will enjoy this a lot more than you think.

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

A HISTORY OF WHAT COMES NEXT by Sylvain Neuvel

Brought to you by Penguin.

Imagine everything you thought you knew about human progress was wrong. What would you do?

Mia is not sure what she is, but she isn’t human. Smarter, stronger than her peers, all she knows are the rules: there can never be three for too long; always run, never fight.

When she finds herself in Germany 1945, she must turn the Nazis’ most trusted scientist with an offer: abandon the crumbling Nazi party, escape Germany with your life, come to work for the Americans building rockets.

But someone is watching her work. An enemy who’s smarter, stronger, decidedly not human and prepared to do anything to retrieve something ancient that was long lost.

If only she had any idea what it was….


Title : A History Of What Comes Next
Author : Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator : Multi-cast narration
Format : Audiobook
Length : 9 hours, 23 minutes
Genre : Sci-Fi Thriller
Publisher : Penguin Audio
Release Date : March 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Unusual
Feminist scientists
Legacy

Take them to the stars, before evil comes and kills them all.

Honestly, it’s rather hard to describe this story but it was a rather brilliant series starter taking my love of sci-fi and combining it with a thriller. It was mostly set in the period of 1940’s with Mia and her mother but it had a retrospective view over the 99 previous generations of women and their daugthers with the sole purpose of getting the human civilisation to the stars. These women weren’t exactly human.

This was a sometimes gory, banter-ish story that gripped me to my headphones mostly over one weekend. At first, I had to go with the flow but I found my nerd-feet rather quickly and began to understand the facets of these women. They were excellent mathematicians and they were obsessed with rockets. Men were an important part of their lives but only to a point.

I loved how feminist this story felt but at the same time, I’m not saying that how the men were sometimes treated was okay but it was an interesting upside down perspective for that historical era. There were ecological undertones to the story too which didn’t quite get explained in this installment but I’m hoping for more embelishment on the next book.

This curious tale bought my allegiance to the series before half way through and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series. I can’t recommend the audio enough. It was a multi-cast narration with multiple POVs (but not too many). You even get some Slyvain Neuvel at the end with background research should your nerd-dom need that.

Thank you to Penguin Audio for the review copy #gifted/AD

AUTHORS NEED TO STOP MAKING CHEAP JOKES/OR POOR REP OF MEDICAL CONDITIONS

Hi Micky here – first off, can I ask you to just spend some time reading this post, it matters such a lot to me. Trigger warnings for hurtful jokey descriptions related to asthma, diabetes, spinal deformities, cleft lip and palate. Please take care of yourself and consider whether this will hurt you to read the post. If so, please close the post and know I am advocating on behalf of these issues.

This blog post has been about a year in the making, and I have been collecting screenshots/photos along the way. I want to emphasise that it has been more than a year I’ve been thinking about it, but one instance was the final straw and I started planning. Yesterday, a friend had an experience and I thought, I have to write this now.

The problem that I’m talking about is when authors want to make a quippy, jokey statement, have banter-ish dialogue or describe the condition badly for maximum effect and use people’s medical vulnerabilities to do this. I’ll tell you my personal experience and then I’ll share other people’s experiences. What I can tell you is that this hurts. This isn’t about being ‘butt hurt’, I actually think this is gross writing behaviour and perhaps a little lazy in the humour department. Again, I reiterate, this hurts. It hurts people with these medical conditions and what I learnt from my friends on bookstagram that I discussed this with, is that it hurts parents of children with some of these medical conditions. Suddenly, my experience fades and I feel horrified for parents reading these things about their children. Please, I ask, just think about that from a parental perspective for a minute.

I am not tagging authors in this blog post or anywhere that I share it to but neither am I hiding the books that contain instances of this. I’m not about cancelling any author but I won’t recommend particular books that I consider to have harmful representation. I can tell you that myself and few other individuals have contacted authors and publishers about some examples and had good responses. I’ll share that too. After all, this blog post is ultimately about sharing in the hope of reeducating and encouraging change. We need editors to be highly aware of these issues, so that these problems can be removed before publication too. Publishers also have a responsibility here in my opinion.


First up we have Code of Conduct by April White. I have severe asthma, and thanks to a combo of asthma and COVID at the end of last year, I nearly died. I read this before (or DNF shall we say) and showed it to my husband. His words to me were that actually it didn’t make him ‘horny’ when I sit upright in bed overnight trying to breathe, taking inhaler after inhaler; he actually feels scared. Funny that. I do think this author could have made a joke here without using asthma, it was just a lazy way to make the point of humour. What I do want to tell you is that I contacted April White and told her how I felt about this and you know what, her reply was almost ideal. She apologised first of all and she said she would totally take this on board in her writing in future. I would have liked this line revmoving from the ebook, especially considering it’s indie published, but you can’t have everything, I guess.


Next up, I shrink in horror the amount of times I’ve recommended this book and I have two booksta friends who were/would be horrified by this. I have loved this author’s work and so the churned up stomach feeling I have now, has been difficult. I feel guilt over recommending this book to a friend who it directly hurt. That’s on me for missing this when I read it years ago. I’m so sorry for that.

I can attest to the beautiful faces I think of so fondly, of children I have looked after with cleft lip and palate who grow up to be beautiful adults (children’s nurse and academic here). That’s not a throw away comment, they really do have gorgeous faces. In addition, the reference to a spinal deformity in that way is awful.


Sadly, staying on the theme of cleft lip or cleft lip & palate (it can happen together or separately). Another friend shared her experience of reading in horror at the misrepresentation of cleft lip in a child when her child had this too. I can only imagine how this must have felt.

I can tell you that my friend saw ‘monster face’ and that hurt her in respect of her child. I can also tell you from an accuracy perspective that babies and children with a range of cleft lip abnormalities can 100% smile….beautifully. Now you can argue that this was conveying a reaction in the story, I would argue back that this phrasing was unnecessary and highly insensitive.


Now we move onto how diabetes is sometimes flippantly represented in literature, this time in YA. Diabetes may be one of the more common long term conditions the public know about, but did you know that 500 people die prematurely from diabetes every week in the UK (Diabetes UK, 2018)? That really is no joke and yet here we have an awful example but with a really good outcome. Authors and publishers take note, this was the ideal response.

My friend’s child has diabetes and has had some very scary episodes with her child. When she read this flippant comment (that was totally unnecessary), it hurt her so much. She wrote to the publisher who responded by contacting the author, then removing it immediately from the ebook and stating it would be removed from any future print copies. What I can tell you is that there were other asthma jokes in this book too though, that I don’t think were removed.


If you’ve stayed with me this long, thank you. I had four further examples that I haven’t used just because I think this blog post would be too long but in the space of a year, this is what I’ve come across myself or though conversation with friends. That indicates to me that there’s probably a lot of examples, probably other medical conditions too in other books that we know nothing about.

What can we do about this? Both myself and my friend who have contacted authors or publishers have had good responses, so I think that says that readers will be listened to on this. We can only tackle these issues by using our voices as readers and challenging this.

Thank you to my amazing booksta friends who let me use their experiences in this post, I admire you so much.

ROYALLY ENDOWED by Emma Chase

Logan St. James is a smoldering, sexy beast. Sure, he can be a little broody at times—but Ellie Hammond’s willing to overlook that. Because, have you seen him?? 

Sexy. As. Hell. 

And Ellie’s perky enough for both of them.

For years, she’s had a crush on the intense, gorgeous royal security guard—but she doesn’t think he ever saw her, not really. 

To Logan, Ellie was just part of the job—a relative of the royal family he’d sworn to protect. Now, at 22 years old and fresh out of college, she’s determined to put aside her X-rated dreams of pat-downs and pillow talk, and find a real life happily ever after. 

The Queen of Wessco encourages Ellie to follow in her sister’s footsteps and settle down with a prince of her own. Or a duke, a marquis…a viscount would also do nicely. 

But in the pursuit of a fairy tale ending, Ellie learns that the sweetest crushes can be the hardest to let go.
***
Logan St. James grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, in a family on the wrong side of the law. But these days, he covers his tattoos and scars with a respectable suit. He’s handsome, loyal, brave, skilled with his hands and…other body parts. 

Any woman would be proud to call him hers. 

But there’s only one woman he wants. 

For years he’s watched over her, protected her, held her hair back when she was sick, taught her how to throw a punch, and spot a liar.

He dreams of her. Would lay down his life for her. 

But beautiful Ellie Hammond’s off-limits. 

Everybody knows the bodyguard rules: Never lose focus, never let them out of your sight, and never, ever fall in love


Title : Royally Endowed
Author : Emma Chase
Series : Royally (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 275
Genre : NA romance
Publisher : Emma Chase LLC
Release Date : August 14, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

In the moment, after finishing this, I thought it might be my favourite of the series (so far). But after being distracted before I could actually write out my thoughts, and with a little more time to think on it, I’m not going to round up on this one.

While I question some of the bits of this plot, I do have to say, as far as laying groundwork for a long slow-buid, this one definitely did do that, unlike book two. But where I enjoyed the background noise of the plot in book two, this one did follow somewhat typically cliché bodyguard tropes. Which, I mean, nothing wrong with that. But one particular element of said trope was kind of a there-and-gone bit of conflict and in the grand scheme of things had all the lasting power of something.. well, there-and-gone. It either should’ve been a bigger problem, with more fallout, or lifted from the page completely.

But anyway.

My other complaint would be that as much as I liked Ellie, and thought she was fun, Chase kind of did her a disservice by making her painfully horribly stupid at times. Granted, it was done when the character was still young-ish but still.. wow, it hurt. I don’t think I had any real complaints about Logan except, like another mentioned bit of the plot doing little to nothing, inserting his family into the story was also a non-event. I think the author tried to dot too many i’s and cross too many t’s in this one. This is where, in hindsight, it felt a bit messy.

But, again, as it is with most of these, it was a bit of quick sexy low-angst kind of fun and in true end of the series fashion (book four is a prequel, from what I could tell from just the name in the synopsis), it worked as a big come together kind of wrap up, catching us up all the events from as far back as book one background all the way to “present day”, so we got to see all the couples together. And I’m a sucker for an ensemble, so.

I’ll be dipping into the little novella, even though it’s marked 4.5, to get a bit of a HEA timejump from book two’s couple and then I’ll wrap this series with Royally Yours tomorrow and call time on yet another unfinished series. Once again, these won’t be a favourite, but I’m not mad to have spent time with them.

THE INFINITY COURTS by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.


Title : The Infinity Courts
Author : Akemi Dawn Bowman
Series : The Infinity Courts (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 480
Genre : YA sci-fi
Publisher : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★.5 


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

First of all, you’re going to want to scroll right by this review because it probably won’t be the best one to read if you want an objective take on the story. Why? Because this book put me into a week long slump (which doesn’t sound like a lot but it felt like three years). So this story is on my shitlist.

This was my first read by Bowman and despite my strugglebus experience with reading it, I would try her again. I think this was definitely a story-specific problem, not necessarily a writing problem, which is a bummer as while the cover definitely hooked me (so pretty!) it was the plot that made me take a second look.

I will contradict myself here by saying that one of the main issues was writing-specific because this is.. lengthy and repetitive and basically takes two issues and not only beats you over the head with them but also to death. Which is hilarious as this story follows a bunch of dead people (not a spoiler). But basically we ruminate (ad nauseaum) over the concept of what it means to be human, what it means to award second chances, and living (being dead?) with hope. Lots of talk of war, too. But while all that might sound interesting, it grew stale really quick because it seemed to be literal copy paste arguments over and over again, with nothing new to be said.

Unfortunately what seemed like a cool concept just felt flimsy and also confusing and I quickly lost any sense of what, well.. made sense. And with that ending.. I mean, I know it isn’t a standalone (kinda wish it was, though) but still. What.

Will I read on? Right now it’s a no for me, dawg, but honestly by the time the sequel releases I’ll probably be back on my completionist kick and want to just wrap it up. Particularly as, at least right now, it seems to only be a duology.

I can’t recommend this, at all, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Again, maybe the slump made this all worse than it could’ve been, or it was just the wrong time for me, so if it strikes your interest, give it a try! Sample it. Borrow it. I hope your experience is better than mine.

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

WHAT THE DEVIL KNOWS by C.S. Harris

Sebastian St. Cyr thought a notorious serial killer had been brought to justice until a shocking series of gruesome new murders stuns the city in this thrilling historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Speaks for the Damned.

It’s October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe’s diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before.

In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect–a young seaman named John Williams–was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more.

Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym’s colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Williams was not the real killer. Which begs the question–who was and why are they dead set on killing again?


Title : What The Devil Knows
Author : C.S. Harris
Series : Sebastian St. Cyr (book sixteen)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical fiction / crime mystery
Publisher : Berkley Books
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m rather tempted to round up on this one, at which point this intro will be deleted, but for now (or for good), I am a little hesitant. I don’t know if I’m thinking more fondly of this experience because it’s been a year since the last installment, around the same time I binged like.. fourteen of these back to back (which was just too much), or because it was just a little better than the last few.

We had a few moments of what I refer to as “copy paste” scenes which Harris seems to include in all her books but overall, much like the last book, there were quite a few less than usual. I was delighted.

The murder mystery itself was.. kind of all over the place. In the sense that there were so many pieces and moving parts and you really don’t see the big picture until the end. I both love and hate these kind of mysteries because I find the complexity very artful but it also means that if you aren’t being compelled by the new clues, you’re just sorta being dragged along. Which wasn’t quite the case here but it was close.

What saved said mystery from feeling too out of place from too many pieces of the puzzle were some familiar, and new, faces that tie into Sebastian’s personal life. I was curious why we were reunited with a few of them but oh you understand why come the end. I can’t say I totally saw that coming but neither was it a complete surprise. There was another event that finally came to pass that I think means we might finally be building up to something else (why am I even expanding on these vagueries..) that has been brewing for, I swear, like four or five books now. When is that confrontation going to happen! Will it ever! Why do I ask the same rhetorical questions in every review for this series! I’m not mad I’m just making a point about my own ridiculousness.

Much like some other series I’m keeping up with, I wonder how many more are still to come in the Sebastian St Cyr series. However unlike those other series, I’m not currently mad about this one.. well, continuing on. Despite some of the rehashing and a new murder mystery of the week duds, somehow, I’m still looking forward to more. Maybe because I just want to payoff of everything that we’ve come to expect will (one day) be revealed. Any hints on when that might be, Harris..? No? Cool. Cool cool cool cool cool. See you next year.

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