IF WE WERE VILLAINS by M.L. Rio

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless. 


Title : If We Were Villains
Author : M.L. Rio
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary mystery
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : April 11, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Considering I only recently read The Secret History, after years of build up and anticipation, and had it bomb, I opened my hold of If We Were Villains with some two-fold trepidation; one, because they are so often compared so if I hated (it was one star) the first one, wouldn’t I hate this one? And two, did it make sense to read these so close together, regardless of how I enjoyed them?

And yet here we are with four stars. Which is additionally surprising because for the first third I don’t know that I was really in this story, just along for the ride. But somewhere along the lines it grabbed me and would not let go.

Also, yes, I cried at the end. Let’s just get that out of the way.

But wow, yes, so my biggest takeaway/recommendation would be don’t classify this in the same category as The Secret History. They are definitely aesthetic cousins and there are similarities with the studious fanatic ensemble element but honestly that’s where, for me, it ends. Because in addition to those differences the writing was also vastly superior. I enjoyed these characters, I enjoyed how the narrative was set up, the mystery of it all, and well.. pretty much everything. Except the stuff that broke my heart, that was rude. But in a good way.

Probably the strangest thing, however, was that the majority of this book takes place in 1997 and yet it never felt like it. Neither timeline felt like any particular time and so it feels strange to even mention a distinct year. It will likely help it to endure, to not be bogged down by referenced, but I wonder why the distinction was ever made. I’ll have to check out reviews and see if my little brain missed something.

Having said that, my brief skimming of reviews did reveal that the biggest hurdle of this book for other readers was a lack of familiarity with the subject matter; and while I get that, I cannot claim to be an expert or even an intermediary on the subject of Shakespeare, and yet it still worked for me. I think this is going to be a very hit or miss thing for each reader with or without knowledge of the Bard. But that’s just my two cents.

I will be very keen to read whatever this author comes out with next and, being that this released back in 2017, I’m sure there’s a very long queue to join in anticipation over whatever that might be.

SEVEN DAYS IN JUNE by Tia Williams – double review!

we’re reblogging this because Hollis finally read this and is all but echoing Micky’s love for this book.

A Take from Two Cities

Seven days to fall in love, fifteen years to forget and seven days to get it all back again… From the author ofThe Perfect Find, this is a witty, romantic, and sexy-as-hell new novel of two writers and their second chance at love.

Brooklynite Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer, who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning literary author who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York.

When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their past buried traumas, but the eyebrows of New York’s Black literati. What no one knows is that twenty years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. They may be pretending that everything is fine now, but they can’t deny their chemistry-or the fact that they’ve been…

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JINGLE ALL THE WAY by Debbie Macomber

A young workaholic avoiding home for the holidays discovers that you can’t run away from who you are–a heartfelt Christmas novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

Everly Lancaster always dreamed of leaving her hometown in rural Illinois. Now she helps run a burgeoning startup in Chicago, where her professional goals leave little time for friends…or a vacation.

When a massive snowstorm hits, Everly’s mother urges her to come home for Christmas, but she hesitates to return to the life she’s worked so hard to escape. Searching for other holiday plans, Everly tasks her assistant with booking her a cruise–the perfect getaway. Embarking on a weeklong tour of the Amazon guided by charming naturalist Asher Adams, Everly slowly but surely begins to realize that relationships are more important than work–and just might decide to journey home just in time for Christmas Day.

Debbie Macomber’s signature wintry warmth shines in this holiday delight.


Title : Jingle All The Way
Author : Debbie Macomber
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 235
Genre : Christmas Romance
Publisher : Sphere Books
Release Date : October 13, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

Headlines:
Don’t be fooled by that snowy scene
Emotionally naive characters
Odd plot

So, colour me surprised when the story quickly left snowy Chicago for the Amazon and a non-luxury and outward bound cruise for all things rainforest and creature. It immediately lost its christmassy feels and although it did come full circle in the end, this was rather disconcerting.

The characters Everly and Asher were well matched in that they both seemed emotionally 13 rather than their late 20’s with hardly a decent relationship in their past between them. Insta-declarations were all over the place. If that’s your cuppa, this story might work better for you.

Readers need to stow their realism as Everly got into an excessive amount of scrapes and Asher was there to rescue, always. I didn’t buy into this couple and I didn’t feel this chemistry. This was easy reading, even if it was eye-roll inducing.

I won’t be recommending this Christmas read that is low on Christmas feels and was underdeveloped in terms of plot and characterisation.

Thank you to Sphere Books for the review copy.

ANY SIGN OF LIFE by Rae Carson

When a teenage girl thinks she may be the only person left alive in her town—maybe in the whole world—she must rely on hope, trust, and her own resilience.

Paige Miller is determined to take her basketball team to the state championship, maybe even beyond. But as March Madness heats up, Paige falls deathly ill. Days later, she wakes up attached to an IV and learns that the whole world has perished. Everyone she loves, and all of her dreams for the future—they’re gone.

But Paige is a warrior, so she pushes through her fear and her grief. And as she gets through each day—scrounging for food, for shelter, for safety—Paige encounters a few more young survivors. Together, they might stand a chance. But as they struggle to endure their new reality, they learn that the apocalypse did not happen by accident. And that there are worse things than being alone.


Title : Any Sign of Life
Author : Rae Carson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : post-apocalyptic / sci-fi / YA
Publisher : Greenwillow Books
Release Date : October 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

So, I’ll admit this was only on my radar because I’m a fan of the author and I went into this knowing not even the bare bones of the summary. Which, for anyone who wants to avoid plague/pandemic/world ending events..? I would not recommend doing. Take this as your warning.

While this is not COVID (though it is mentioned that the main character did live through it during her childhood) there is another reason why she wakes up after an almost week-long coma to discover everyone around her has died. It definitely unfolds in a pandemic-life way but quickly becomes something else. Mostly.

This clearly wasn’t a favourite but I was loving the beginning. It’s gruesome, eerie, and strange, and I was really digging it. Later, as things are explained, it was still somewhat interesting but this definitely isn’t a unique premise, even if the details aren’t an exact copy from anything that I can think of.

Be warned, though, that I’m really not overusing the word gruesome.

Sadly this didn’t seem to have any of the author’s particular brand of excellence but it’s also not something I’ve seen from her before, either, as she generally sticks to fantasy, not contemporary. There were definitely some really good bits, though, and it definitely didn’t stand out as a flop by any means. But it won’t be one I can recommend, either, purely because I’m not sure everyone is ready to dive into this kind of content yet — or ever again.

THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE by Richard Osman

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?


Title : The Man Who Died Twice
Author : Richard Osman
Series : Thursday Murder Club
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : crime / mystery
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : September 16, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

While I said this series maybe wasn’t for those looking for thrills, this second instalment in the Thursday Murder Club maybe made me a bit of a liar. It definitely won’t compare to some of the usual thrillers but things did get a touch hairier and definitely more intense. Also a tiiiiny bit outlandish but I mean.. you see the concept of this series, right? It’s kind of expected.

I want to organize a meeting with the mafia. [..]
Of course you do. Any reason? Or was bridge canceled and you had a slot in your diary?

What I didn’t expect, though honestly how could I not, was that I would be even more in love with the characters of this series than I already was. I overused the word delightful in my first review but honestly it does them justice. One even broke my heart quite a lot. Honestly, I dare you to be unmoved by this group. Dare you.

The mystery, too, was great. We had a converging of schemes and plots and it all fell together beautifully. Unrealistically maybe? But I thought it was great. And I absolutely loved the end.

It feels strange to not have more to say but all I’ll leave you with is that I do, still, maybe even more than before, recommend this series. And I can’t wait for more to come.

THE RIGHTEOUS by Renee Ahdieh

The third book in the instant New York Times bestselling series that began with The Beautiful.

Pippa Montrose is tired of losing everything she loves. When her best friend Celine disappears under mysterious circumstances, Pippa resolves to find her, even if the journey takes her into the dangerous world of the fae, where she might find more than she bargained for in the charismatic Arjun Desai.

Renée is back with her rich, atmospheric fantasy world that will continue to enthrall readers, new romance and mystery, and lush, pacey writing.


Title : The Righteous
Author : Renee Ahdieh
Series : The Beautiful #3
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : Historical Fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : December 7, 2021

Reviewer :  Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Different couple
Trust no one
The vale and the wyld

I thought I didn’t want to leave Bastian and Celine behind at the end of The Damned but Renee Ahdieh wrote Anjan and Pippa so well that I changed my focus incredibly quickly and got involved in their story. These two had a subtle but palpable connection that grew.

This story took readers away from familiar territories and into the vale and the wyld. The fey were a nasty bunch and not one of them felt trustworthy. I’ve come out of this book wondering about some of the characters, who is genuine (or not) and how things will resolve. Errr, yes there is a book four coming.

Good news for all fans of this series is that we got a fair chunk of Bastian and Celine and a little of Michael too. I enjoyed the tentative stepping needed in the vale and wyld, I loved the different fey creatures, especially the mischievious small fey. So right now, I need all my questions answering and the next book, pretty please!

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

NEAR THE BONE by Christina Henry

A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.

Mattie can’t remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they’re not alone after all.

There’s something in the woods that wasn’t there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.

When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.


Title : Near the Bone
Author : Christina Henry
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : horror / paranormal?
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I picked this up thinking it would satisfy the part of me that wanted something wintry with the part of me that was still wanting spookier or thriller-y type reads. And it gave me both of those things for sure. But did I like it? Eh.

In addition to a horror, with possibly some kind of paranormal aspect, Near the Bone is about.. other things. That may actually be very spoilery, now that I’ve read the synopsis. Ahem. Anyway, it’s a very isolated and claustrophobic kind of story, for all that it’s set in the woods, and there is a horrific reason why Mattie is there in the first place. Which, again, I won’t spoil. I just wish.. well, I kept waiting for a “why” for the whole thing and I’m left unsatisfied because there wasn’t a good why. But maybe that’s realistic. Maybe that’s the whole point. And yet, still, unsatisfied.

This is unsettling and disturbing for a whole host of reasons and in hindsight both of the main conflicts and reasons for disturbance are kind of just things that happen, or have happened, and we go along with them without ever getting true explanations. Again, maybe that’s the whole point, maybe that’s supposed to make it all scarier. I definitely needed more, though.

This isn’t my first read by this author and I think to some degree I’m always left feeling a bit like this after reading her books (though the ones I’ve read before were some of her dark retellings) so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

Definitely wouldn’t recommend but due to the thrilling nature, and how everything comes to light for Mattie, it does make it a fast read, so. There’s that.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – DECEMBER 14, 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.


Three Kings by Penny Reid kicks off a new, non-Green Valley series, about a guy who is always the groomsmen, never the groom, who meets the woman who avoids any and all romance. This sounds like a switch on the usual gender stereotypes and, bonus, it’s holiday themed.



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

THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…
The Thursday Murder Club

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. 

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? 


Title : Thursday Murder Club
Author : Richard Osman
Series : Thursday Murder Club
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 382
Genre : crime / mystery
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : September 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Well this was as delightful as it sounds, really!

This is definitely (maybe? I think..) on the cozier side of murder mystery novels but doesn’t feel too silly, either. While it might be easy to just enjoy the antics of the seventy year olds poking their noses about and unearthing secrets and hatching plots to solve the case (well, cases), there’s also some very real observations and contemplations concerning their mortality and minds and how much time they, and those around them, have left. In a somewhat related way, too, there were tears shed. For a few different reasons. But they still have a good time, too. It was just.. I mean, I said it before, but : delightful.

I’d welcome a burglar. It would be nice to have a visitor.”

I was absolutely enamoured by all of the characters; the Murder Club, the officers drawn into their orbit, even some characters who might have been suspects. It was all very gently compelling. Which makes the fact that I have the sequel, or the second in the series, all ready to go because I am not ready to leave these old crafts dears and their fellows.

This might not satisfy readers who are more into thrills, chills, and chases, but if you like a good mystery to unravel, and like to read about some unconventional leads, this is a must for you to read.

BOOK TO SCREEN ADAPTATIONS WE WANT : CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE EDITION

We’ve spoken a lot about books we would love to see adapted to film or series but this time let’s get more specific. With the long-awaited release of The Hating Game movie finally out (in CAN/US but not yet for the poor UK folks), it’s got us here at A Take from Two Cities wondering : what other contemporary romance** novels would you love to see adapted to the big or small screen?
** don’t worry, we have more romance-centric lists in mind!

Also, we know it goes without saying but, if you haven’t read any of these? We highly recommend.

Now, finally, to the good stuff.


In no particular order, Micky would love to see..

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams would fit the film market so perfectly.
The Grip series by Kennedy Ryan would be perfect for TV, this timeline needs episodes, please.
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood is definite film territory we think.
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren would also be perfect for a film — just don’t forget to pack the tissues.
Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis. This adaptation could go either way. The timeline in this book would totally work for a series but it could be encapsulated in a film, too.


Also in no particular order, Hollis would love to see..

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang is sexy, diverse, and being that it’s a gender swapped Pretty Woman how could this not succeed on screen? Big or small, I’ll take it either way.
Melt for You by J.T. Geissinger would be the perfect kind of brain and eye candy film; a modern day wallflower with the (Scottish!) bad boy next door helping her to love herself and win the man she thinks she wants? Please and thank you.
Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne has a cheeky and fun narrative voice that would be perfect for film. And don’t even get me started on the meet cutes between the socialite and the stern divorce attorney. This is top tier opposites attract rom-com greatness.
The London Celebrities series by Lucy Parker would make for a great mini series with all the interconnected couples. Set against the west end of London, featuring a variety of tropes, very reality-based despite the fame and circumstances, this would be brilliant. If only the BBC would take my calls.
And, lastly (for now!), there’s the Forbidden Hearts series by Alisha Rai. This is another that that would be brilliant in mini series form. The series kicks off with feuding families, hate to love, later we have a bit of an angsty taboo connection, grief, plenty of representation throughout, and more.


What’s the first contemporary romance book that comes to mind when it comes to adaptations you’ve love to see made? And what sub-genre of romance would you like to see us dream about next?

Also, bonus question, have you seen The Hating Game yet? What did you think?

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