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A dance with the fae will change everything

1919. In a highland village forgotten by the world, harvest season is over and the young who remain after war and flu have ravaged the village will soon head south to make something of themselves.

Moira Jean and her friends head to the forest for a last night of laughter before parting ways. Moira Jean is being left behind. She had plans to leave once – but her lover died in France and with him, her future. The friends light a fire, sing and dance. But with every twirl about the flames, strange new dancers thread between them, music streaming from the trees.

The fae are here.

Suddenly Moira Jean finds herself all alone, her friends spirited away. The iron medal of her lost love, pinned to her dress, protected her from magic.

For the Fae feel forgotten too. Lead by the darkly handsome Lord of the Fae, they are out to make themselves known once more. Moira Jean must enter into a bargain with the Lord to save her friends – and fast, for the longer one spends with the Fae, the less like themselves they are upon return. If Moira Jean cannot save her friends before Beltine, they will be lost forever…

Completely bewitching, threaded with Highland charm and sparkling with dark romance, this is a fairytale that will carry you away.

Title : The Thorns Remain
Author : JJA Harwood
Format : Physical
Page Count : 410
Genre : Historical Fantasy
Publisher : Magpie Books
Release Date : February 1, 2023

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★

Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

Atmospheric Scottish historical fantasy
Fae and disappearances
Romantic suggestions

So much made me engaged with The Thorns Remain, the historical Scottish setting alongside the very elusive fae lord ‘the dreamer’. Moira Jean, the MC was a spirited and savvy heroine, she could see beyond first glances and her distrustful nature was an asset. Moira Jean was a young woman grieving and just getting through.

The plot engaged even if it was a bit slow moving at first. The friends, the disappearances and the village folk who knew about the fae were a strange bunch. The Dreamer held me captive on the page though. Fans of fae stories would recognise much of the lore, but Harwood kept their own unique take on things.

As things came to their culmination I was a little disappointed how the story ended up and that’s what keeps this book from being a solid 4 stars. I felt and needed more concrete direction and more with certain characters (vagueness is necessary).

Overall, a talented tale and I will be going back to read Harwood’s first book.

Thank you to Harper Voyager for the e-ARC.

FOURTH WING by Rebecca Yarros

Welcome to the brutal and elite world of Basgiath War College, where everyone has an agenda, and every night could be your last…

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general – also known as her tough-as-talons mother – has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away… because dragons don’t bond to ‘fragile’ humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter – like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant. She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Alliances will be forged. Lives will be lost. Traitors will become allies… or even lovers. But sleep with one eye open because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.

Title : Fourth Wing
Author : Rebecca Yarros
Series : The Empyrean #1
Format : Physical
Page Count : 510
Genre : Fantasy Romance
Publisher : Little Brown UK
Release Date : May 2, 2023

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Micky’s 4 star review

Shadows and light
Fated to hate
Hidden truths

Just a wow to all the goodness in these pages. It felt like there wasn’t wasted word, page or conversation in this story, everything counted for something.

Fourth Wing excels on characterisation, starting with the MCs Violet and Xaden but the secondary characters are utterly fantastic, and at the front, for me sit Tairn, Andarna and Liam. The nasty characters were so well crafted too. It was a true enemies to lovers trope but so delicious in its execution.

The plot was full but it was easy to invest from the word go, with an action-packed start. There are so many great reveals and twist that just go the extra mile in terms of plot, taking your expectations and adding a few storeys of height to everything. There’s some beautiful representation of disability, being other-abled and accomodations for that; honestly, that part was wonderful throughout.

There’s a reason this book is something of a sensation, because it is sensational, full of depth, characters to love and cheer for and a bloomin’ doozie of a cliff ending. Happy reading, friends!

Thank you to Little Brown for the early review copy.

LORE OLYMPUS VOL. 2 by Rachel Smythe

Persephone was ready to start a new life when she left the mortal realm for Olympus. However, she quickly discovered the dark side of her glamorous new home – from the relatively minor gossip threatening her reputation to a realm-shattering violation of her safety by the conceited Apollo – and she’s struggling to find her footing in the fast-moving realm of the gods.

Hades is also off-balance, fighting against his burgeoning feelings for the young goddess of spring while maintaining his lonely rule of the Underworld. As the pair are drawn ever closer, they must untangle the twisted webs of their past and present to build toward a new future.

This full-color edition of Smythe’s original Eisner-nominated webcomic Lore Olympus features a brand-new, exclusive short story, and brings Greek mythology into the modern age in a sharply perceptive and romantic graphic novel.

This volume collects episodes 26-49 of the #1 WEBTOON comic 
Lore Olympus

Title : Lore Olympus Volume 2
Author : Rachel Smythe
Series : Lore Olympus
Format : Hardcover
Page Count : 368
Genre : Graphic Novel Fantasy
Publisher : DelRey UK
Release Date : July 5, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Micky’s 5 star review

Absolute bliss.

Inhaling this volume was like one big hour or so of self care. It was a lighter volume for sure having moved on somewhat from the tough theme in volume one but there’s foreshadowing that we’ve not left that nasty episode or character behind.

Lots of interference from other characters in this volume, like Hera and Minthe. I can’t stand Minthe on the one hand, but Smythe does show the reader a more endearing side and some self deprication, so I think there’s more under the surface there.

I adore Hecates, she’s such a whip-smart ball of fierce sarcasm. The dogs and hound continue to thrill me when they’re on the page.

…and finally, I just love H&P. Their uncertainty is a whole trope.

THE DARK MIRROR by Juliet Marillier

Bridei is a young nobleman fostered at the home of Broichan, one of the most powerful druids in the land. His earliest memories are not of hearth and kin but of this dark stranger who while not unkind is mysterious in his ways. The tasks that he sets Bridei appear to have one goal-to make him a vessel for some distant purpose. What that purpose is Bridei cannot fathom but he trusts the man and is content to learn all he can about the ways of the world.

But something happens that will change Bridei’s world forever…and possibly wreck all of Broichan’s plans. For Bridei finds a child on their doorstep on a bitter MidWinter Eve, a child seemingly abandoned by the fairie folk. It is uncommonly bad luck to have truck with the Fair Folk and all counsel the babe’s death. But Bridei sees an old and precious magic at work here and heedless of the danger fights to save the child. Broichan relents but is wary.

The two grow up together and as Bridei comes to manhood he sees the shy girl Tuala blossom into a beautiful woman. Broichan sees the same process and feels only danger…for Tuala could be a key part in Bridei’s future…or could spell his doom.

Title : The Dark Mirror
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : The Bridei Chronicles (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 561
Genre : historical fiction / fantasy
Publisher : Tor
Release Date : September 1, 2004

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5 

Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because it always bears repeating and it’s generally relevant : even though this couldn’t be more different from the Sevenwaters Saga, there is something intrinsically Marillier about this story. And this one even more than the last venture my buddy and I went on which took us to Transylvania.

This time, we are spending time with the Picts. There’s enough overlap in this world, both historically factual and of course a little imagined, to Sevenwaters in the sense that we have druids, a strong respect for the forest and nature, and the powers around them, but whereas the aforementioned series was strongly familial-focused and very magical, this one is more political and, though the Good Folk play a role, it’s more subtle. The main conflicts are very human in nature.

And in that same vein, but maybe in less of a positive way, the main characters are also less of the standouts we’ve seen before. Bridei unfortunately feels a little white bread and watered down. Tuala just doesn’t feel quite age-appropriate (but with how she was raised I guess it sorta makes sense) and, with a few exceptions, really seems to just be a plot device. And for all that they believe, and so do certain players around them, that they have this intense connection.. it, too, felt a bit weak sauced. More telling than showing.

But. I enjoyed how this book set things up for the series; we had some strong supporting characters that I’m looking forward to seeing more of; a good human villain or two; there was the characteristic strength of Marillier’s female narratives which are always different and interesting (and this one was no exception); and, well, it was run to read along with this one and not remember the bits to come; even if, upon reading them, I remembered them. Oh, did I not say? This was a reread as I was (in theory) along for the ride with Micky. I have to assume I did read the full trilogy, as GR says so, but I recall nada. So this is almost like reading them for the first time — bonus!

Not sure when I’ll be picking up book two but I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

A FIRE ENDLESS by Rebecca Ross – double review!

just a wee repost of this review to add Hollis’ thoughts to the series!

A Take from Two Cities

The stunning sequel toA River Enchantedfinds the human and faerie realms threatened by an immortal enemy whose defeat can only come through fire, song, and heartrending sacrifice.

East and west. Humans and spirits.

The tenuous balance of the Isle of Cadence is under threat fromBane, the spirit of the north wind.

In the west,Adairastruggles to find her place. And, though magic blooms there, the spirits suffer beneath Bane’s harsh power, felt in every gust of wind.

In the east,Jack Tamerlaineis adrift without Adaira, until he acquires a mission destined to lead him back to her. But among the Tamerlaines sickness is spreading and Torin desperately strikes a bargain with the spirits – a folly at any time.

With their very land at risk, all will need to join together to confront Bane. Yet none can challenge the north wind without paying a…

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Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t set foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind; plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instil fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls.

As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.

Title : A River Enchanted
Author : Rebecca Ross
Series : Elements of Cadence (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 496
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Harper Voyager
Release Date : February 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Hollis’ 4 star review

Unlike some previous picks for my Twelve Books in Twelve Months challenge, this wasn’t a book I had dodged or delayed reading for any particular reason. In fact, I knew almost nothing about this series or this author. But then I heard rumblings of it being Sevenwaters-esque and a) suddenly I knew why this specific buddy recommended it and b) why it was recommended to me. Because yes hi hello I am Sevenwaters trash.

Having said that, I don’t actually think the comparison is that accurate but by the same token it sorta exists in the same general feel. This is a fantasy that feels like a fairytale, with folklore and spirits at play, even a bit of magic, and set on an island that feels like Scotland, complete with warring clans. So, a little yes, and a little no. Additionally, making it feel less Marillier-like is the fact that we have multiple POVs which is definitely different. And yet was one of my favourite things about this story.

In fact, let’s just get down to it : there wasn’t much I disliked at all!

I am but a verse inspired by your chorus, and I will follow you until the end, when the isle takes my bones and my name is nothing more than a remembrance on a headstone, next to yours.”

It is a little slow but not in a bad way. More in the sense that events are unfolding, secrets creeping out of the dark, characters learning about themselves as well as those around them, and a mystery to solve. All of which takes times. I was certainly never bored; the opposite. There were a few moments that moved me to well up and almost shed tears. Because yes I am a sap. But also those moments were so beautifully earned. Nothing felt manufactured or rushed, each emotional beat was perfectly in tune with the rest, and considering there are multiple characters, undergoing many different realizations at different times, some not even related to the other, that takes some talent.

Also the motivation for the missing girls? So well done. It wasn’t what I thought it would be at all. It could very well be that I’m just hella dim though.

My one hope for the sequel is that maybe we learn a little bit more of the clans, their histories, and that the romance gets beefed up just a little more. I wanted a bit more tension from that considering it was billed as an enemies to lovers.. which it is, don’t get me wrong, but I could’ve done with a little more. It was still very good though.

Overall, super pleased to have been given this recommendation and I am diving right into the sequel, even though I should really be prioritizing other things. But I’m not. I want the sequel. So Imma read the sequel.

MEET ME AT THE LAKE by Carley Fortune

Fern Brookbanks has wasted far too much of her adult life thinking about Will Baxter. She spent just twenty-four hours in her early twenties with the aggravatingly attractive, idealistic artist, a chance encounter that spiraled into a daylong adventure in Toronto. The timing was wrong, but their connection was undeniable: they shared every secret, every dream, and made a pact to meet one year later. Fern showed up. Will didn’t.

At thirty-two, Fern’s life doesn’t look at all how she once imagined it would. Instead of living in the city, Fern’s back home, running her mother’s Muskoka lakeside resort–something she vowed never to do. The place is in disarray, her ex-boyfriend’s the manager, and Fern doesn’t know where to begin.

She needs a plan–a lifeline. To her surprise, it comes in the form of Will, who arrives nine years too late, with a suitcase in tow and an offer to help on his lips. Will may be the only person who understands what Fern’s going through. But how could she possibly trust this expensive-suit wearing mirage who seems nothing like the young man she met all those years ago. Will is hiding something, and Fern’s not sure she wants to know what it is.

But ten years ago, Will Baxter rescued Fern. Can she do the same for him?

Title : Meet Me at the Lake
Author : Carley Fortune
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : May 2, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

If not for the fact that the premise of this book was so flimsy, and the reason for the much-reviled third act breakup almost as tissue paper thin, this might’ve been rounded up. And therefore made it more likely I’ll pick up Fortune again. As it stands.. eh?

So listen. It’s been almost three weeks since I picked up a book, much less reviewed one, so be gentle with me. And funny enough it was that same need for gentleness that had me considering this read a little more kindly upon first finishing it. But then the dreaded brain went a’whirring and I just couldn’t.

Because seriously. You spend less than twenty-four hours with someone when you’re in your early twenties, get stood up a year later when you’re supposed to meet up again, and then honestly expect me to buy into this soul deep connection that has endured a decade later? I mean..

It doesn’t really help that I didn’t fully buy into the why of the ditching (and that little detail of what actually went down that day buuuuurned) — the first OR the second time. Maybe the second one but seriously you can’t fire off a fucking text or leave a note? Smoke signals even. And then to make Fern be the one to.. grr. I won’t say more but just know I grr’d.

I want to say I would’ve much preferred Maggie and Peter’s story but let’s be real I probably would’ve been mad about that, too.

Also, anyone else really not dig the whole Annabel plot and or her character? Very weird vibe.

Honestly, Canadianisms and Canadiana (specifically Toronto) aside, this was an easy simple read but it won’t be sticking with me. Unlike the author’s debut which I immediately burned out of my brain on purpose. But as a result of said easy simpleness, it did allow me to slip back into reading without too much trouble, and I’ll be able to say I read more than one book this month, so I guess there’s that. I’m really not sure if I’ll be picking up more by this author though. We may be ill-suited. Especially as these feel very same-y in certain ways and I’m just not sure I can take a third go of this. But I guess we’ll see.


A Big Gay Rom-Zom-Com with Heart

Jesse Spark has a broken heart and in a few short weeks he’ll require major surgery to repair it – which means he only has a month to accomplish two almost-impossible tasks.

1) Shoot his epic zombie movie on a shoestring budget if he has any hope of getting into film school.

2) Fall in love before this surgery lands him with a huge scar – because how will anyone ever fancy him after that?

Sex Education meets Love, Simon – with fake zombies – in this savagely funny gay YA romance about body image, self-acceptance and falling in love, all while shooting a low-budget zombie flick!

Fun, fresh and authentic, this is the feel-good hit of #hotboysummer, perfect for fans of Alice Oseman, Ciara Smyth and Adam Silvera.

Title : Broken Hearts & Zombie Parts
Author : William Hussey
Format : Physical
Page Count : 400
Genre : LGBTQIAP Rom-com
Publisher : Usbourne Publishing
Release Date : May 11, 2023

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5

Micky’s 3.5 star review

3.5 stars

Lots of heart
Chaotic but endearing banter
Body image

This rompy YA gay rom-com was a lot of fun, with a slice of chaos and heart. The main character had health problems, a huge surgery to face and lots of uncertainty floating around in the atmosphere. This was all set in the backdrop of a friendship group making a zombie movie and a budding romance.

Behind the facade of the quips and verbose dialogue from Jesse were hidden depths of fear and anxiety, mixed with some living in the now. I appreciated how the characters would move away from the tough stuff when it got to much for them and find release in the fun they could make. There were some elements of dialogue that ended up a bit much for me but overall I had a soft spot for most of the characters.

This read does make me interested in trying some of Hussey’s darker reads.

Thank you to Usbourne Publishing for the review copy.

PAINTED DEVILS by Margaret Owen

Let’s get one thing straight—Vanja Schmidt wasn’t trying to start a cult.

After taking down a corrupt margrave, breaking a deadly curse, and finding romance with the vexingly scrupulous Junior Prefect Emeric Conrad, Vanja had one great mystery left: her long-lost birth family… and if they would welcome a thief. But in her search for an honest trade, she hit trouble and invented a god, the Scarlet Maiden, to scam her way out. Now, that lie is growing out of control—especially when Emeric arrives to investigate, and the Scarlet Maiden manifests to claim him as a virgin sacrifice.

For his final test to become a prefect, Emeric must determine if Vanja is guilty of serious fraud, or if the Scarlet Maiden—and her claim to him—are genuine. Meanwhile, Vanja is chasing an alternative sacrifice that may be their way out. The hunt leads her not only into the lairs of monsters and the paths of gods, but the ties of her past. And with what should be the simplest way to save Emeric hanging over their heads, he and Vanja must face a more dangerous question: Is there a future for a thief and a prefect, and at what price?

Title : Painted Devils
Author : Margaret Owen
Series : Little Thieves (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 512
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : May 16, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5

Hollis’ 4.5 star review

When I tell you that Owen has some kind of magic touch? I am not kidding. I pulled out the big guns by starting this ARC when I feared I was slipping into a reading slump and ka-pow, slump say who? Not I! This was exactly what I needed. Everything I needed. Or, conversely, it proved I just wasn’t picking up good quality reads — or, maybe more fairly, I wasn’t picking up reads that were for me.

But Painted Devils? Pretty much a chefs. fucking. kiss.

Admittedly, it’s not getting rounded up to a five like the series opener did but I think that’s fair. Measuring up to that perfection would be hard, even for this much-beloved-by-me author, even with these utterly-adored-by-me characters.

You are an unparalleled devil from hell in your sleep.”
You stole all the blankets. And then you rolled up in them, like a– a crêpe, so they were stuck on your side. And then when I tried to take one off the top, you turned over, looked me straight in the eye, and said — and I quote — ‘I’ll kill you.‘”
I never.
You followed it up with ‘It’ll look like an accident.’

Honestly, it’s going to be a hard sell to convince you to pick this up if you haven’t already read book one so maybe go read that one and then come back to this. Not that I’ll be spoiling anything but honestly your investment will be low until you unlock the initial achievement. But everything Owen did with book one — the laughs, the fun, the emotes, the glee, the shock — she’s come back to sock you in the teeth with all over again. Because I laughed like a little girl (I was | | close to kicking my feet in the air). I cried like a little girl (maybe only once but I got teary/choked up a whole bunch of times). And I got mad like.. okay, I’ll stop saying little girl, but hoo boy. I got mad.

[..] it’s almost a bit unnerving how quickly everyone joined Team Blood Sacrifices Are Great, Actually.

I had totally forgot about much (most?) of the trauma that Vanja had endured throughout her life. And this book has her facing a lot of it. The conflict, in fact, is woven up with some of the origins of it all. But it was done so beautifully. It broke my heart, too, because much of this book is about learning to love yourself. And that’s a painful process. Especially when your formative years have done everything to destroy the potential and even now you’re faced with constant reminders that you are unworthy. That there’s no reason to be good, to be better, to be anything but what you’ve been ground down to believe you are — which, in Vanja’s case, is worthless. Which is why she struggles with Emeric because how can she trust the love of another when she’s always been unworthy of it? How can she trust that love when she’s never been made to see it in herself? There was so much tenderness in how Owen handled this. And that tenderness carried over in how they approached the intimacy of their romance.

The cold truth is, some part of me is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it’s for no good reason other than the truth beneath, colder still : [..] I cannot believe someone would want me, without agenda, as I am.

Also, Emeric being Vanja’s number one stan? We love to see it. It wasn’t always smooth sailing but I loved how they handled the rougher moments, the misunderstandings, and how in-tune to each other they were.

If more prefects were like you.. I think the empire would make fewer girls like me.”
Well, I think that would be a terrible loss. The.. fewer-people-like-you part. Not the reduction of gross societal injustice.”

I want to be able talk about the little (big) realizations they have about their society, their ability to influence it, and how the struggle to use the laws to help those who need it is.. well, a struggle. And whether it’s better to work outside the system then in it, with it, and all that, but honestly I don’t feel eloquent enough to tackle that. Just know that I saw it, I see it, and I love it. And I hope we get more of in in book three.

This book is also about family. The ones we find, the ones we make, and the ones we’re born to. And oh boy getting misty again. Ahem, but yes, the ties that bind play a big part and I absolutely loved how this played out. Even the parts that hurt.

And you know what else hurt? That ending. Aaaa it was bad enough knowing we had two years to wait after book one but at least that resolution felt, well. Resolved. It almost felt like a standalone. This one is anything but that and I am quietly dying inside. But GR says book three is out in January.. which feels improbable. But I am not going to look a gift horse (hahaha the horses) in the mouth.

It turns out there are few things that kill the mood faster than realizing you have a haunted doll for a voyeur.

Also, shoutout, because I don’t know if I remember there being as many references or memes in book one but we had a few in this one and a few had me howling. The Backstreet Boys bit? I legit cried. More of this please!

As you can probably guess, I highly recommend not only this series but also this author. She’s one of the few releasing YA that I’m guaranteed to pick up these days — but honestly, at this rate, I’ll pick up literally anything she releases and always be desperate for more. Like I am now.

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


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.

Painted Devils by Margaret Owen is the highly anticipated YA fantasy sequel to Little Thieves.

Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini was a prequel to his To Sleep In a Sea of Stars and it rocked an adrenaline soaked experience.

True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren is a romance featuring Fizzy, fan-favourite from The Soulmate Equation, a romance novelist and a filmmaker who join forces to “craft the perfect Hollywood love story and take both of their careers to the next level.”

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang “grapples with questions of diversity, racism, and cultural appropriation, as well as the terrifying alienation of social media.”

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