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MONTHLY WRAP UP – SEPTEMBER 2021

To close out each month, we’ll be posting a break down of everything we reviewed, beginning with the reads we loved.. and ending with the reads we didn’t. Not only does this compile all our reviews in one handy summary for you to peruse, or catch up on, it also gives us an interesting birds eye view of the month and our reads. And maybe, even, our moods.


☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao — see Hollis’ review here
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton — see Hollis’ review here
Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton — see Hollis’ review here
Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton — see Hollis’ review here
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune — see Hollis’ review here
The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski — see Micky and Hollis’ reviews here
The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik — see Hollis and Micky’s reviews here
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe — see Hollis’ review here
Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell — see Hollis’ review here
Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier — see Hollis’ review here (!)
The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang — see Micky’s review here (!)
Fresh by Margot Wood — see Micky’s review here
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun — see Hollis’ review here
Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith — see Micky’s review here
Gawain by J.P. Harker — see Micky’s review here
Once Upon A Broken Heart — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

The Last Library by Freya Sampson — see Micky’s review here
When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting — see Micky’s review here
Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier — see Micky’s review here (!)
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson — see Hollis’ review here
We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale — see Hollis’ review here
Sailor Proof by Annabeth Albert — see Hollis’ review here
Freckles by Cecelia Ahern — see Micky’s review here
Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat — see Hollis’ review here

star reads

u n r a t e d

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon — see Hollis’ review here
The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang — see Hollis’ review here (!)

DNF

The Small Hotel by Suanne Laqueur — (Micky) no review
The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird — (Micky) no review
Master of One by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett — see Micky’s GR review here
A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger — see Hollis’ GR review here


additional reads not reviewed for blog : Radha & Jai’s Recipe for Romance, Venom, Killer Queen, Vulture, You Asked For Perfect, Only You
total reads by Micky : eighteen plus three DNFs (gasp)
favourite read of the month : The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski
least favourite read of the month : The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
most read genre : fantasy/contemporary mix

total reviews by Hollis : eighteen + DNF review
favourite read of the month : Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane
least favourite read of the month : The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale
most read genre : contemporary

ANTICIPATED OCTOBER 2021 RELEASES

Each month, we’ll be putting together a list of our top most anticipated releases; from romance, to sci-fi, to fantasy, and everything in between. These releases might be ones we’re counting down the days for or ones we’ve already read and want you to read (and love!), too.

What you do need to bear in mind is that living on different continents we have different release dates. So as a general rule there might be some repeats from one month to the next.. it’s not that we’re just being weird. Though we can’t dismiss that totally out of turn.


For October, our hotly anticipated titles, in chronological order, are :


Relative Justice by Gregory Ashe | October 5, 2021

This is a new spinoff series of a spinoff, read the synopsis at your own peril.

An impossible son. An impossible murder. 
The honeymoon is definitely over.

When Emery Hazard and his husband, John-Henry Somerset, arrive home from their honeymoon, they’re shocked (understatement of the year) to find a boy waiting for them on their doorstep. Colt, fifteen and eager to pick a fight, claims to be Hazard’s son. It’s almost a relief, then, for Hazard and Somers to be called out to assist the Dore County Sheriff’s Department with what seems to be an impossible murder: a man has been found stabbed to death in a stretch of woods, and the only set of footprints in the soft ground belong to the victim. 

The more Hazard and Somers learn about the dead man, the more confusing the case becomes. While searching his home, they discover a secure room from which several high-end computers have been stolen. A woman makes a daring theft as the house is being secured and escapes with valuable documents. The dead man’s neighbor, who found the body, is obviously lying about how she discovered him. And something very strange is going on with the victim’s sons, who are isolated at school and seem to have found their few friends through the youth group at a local church–and in a close relationship with the hip, young, attractive pastor. 

An attempt on Colt’s life leaves Hazard’s (possible) son in the hospital. When Hazard and Somers learn that the attack came after Colt tried to investigate the murder on his own, they realize he is now in the killer’s crosshairs, and Hazard and Somers must race to uncover the truth. The results from the paternity test aren’t back yet, but father or not, Emery Hazard isn’t going to let anyone harm a child.

Gilded Cage by Lynette Noni | October 7 (UK) & 12 (US/CAN), 2021

This is a sequel, read the synopsis at your own peril.

Kiva trades one cage for another when she leaves behind a deadly prison for a deceptive palace in this dark and dangerous sequel to The Prison Healer, which Sarah J. Maas called “a must-read.”

Kiva Meridan is a survivor.

She survived not only Zalindov prison, but also the deadly Trial by Ordeal. Now Kiva’s purpose goes beyond survival to vengeance. For the past ten years, her only goal was to reunite with her family and destroy the people responsible for ruining their lives. But now that she has escaped Zalindov, her mission has become more complicated than ever.

As Kiva settles into her new life in the capital, she discovers she wasn’t the only one who suffered while she was in Zalindov—her siblings and their beliefs have changed too. Soon it’s not just her enemies she’s keeping secrets from, but her own family as well.

Outside the city walls, tensions are brewing from the rebels, along with whispers of a growing threat from the northern kingdoms. Kiva’s allegiances are more important than ever, but she’s beginning to question where they truly lie. To survive this time, she’ll have to navigate a complicated web of lies before both sides of the battle turn against her and she loses everything.

Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson | October 12, 2021

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. 

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen | October 19, 2021

Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl… 

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca | October 19, 2021

An accidentally in-love rom-com filled with Renaissance Faire flower crowns, kilts, corsets, and sword fights.

Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she’s decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.

Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire–a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more “serious” career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.

As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch’s family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch’s girlfriend again…something that doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they’ve just been putting on an act. But when there’s the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans–and open her heart–for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

All The Feels by Olivia Dade | October 26, 2021

Following Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade returns with another utterly charming romantic comedy about a devil-may-care actor—who actually cares more than anyone knows—and the no-nonsense woman hired to keep him in line.

Alexander Woodroe has it all. Charm. Sex appeal. Wealth. Fame. A starring role as Cupid on TV’s biggest show, God of the Gates. But the showrunners have wrecked his character, he’s dogged by old demons, and his post-show future remains uncertain. When all that reckless emotion explodes into a bar fight, the tabloids and public agree: his star is falling.

Enter Lauren Clegg, the former ER therapist hired to keep him in line. Compared to her previous work, watching over handsome but impulsive Alex shouldn’t be especially difficult. But the more time they spend together, the harder it gets to keep her professional remove and her heart intact, especially when she discovers the reasons behind his recklessness…not to mention his Cupid fanfiction habit.

When another scandal lands Alex in major hot water and costs Lauren her job, she’ll have to choose between protecting him and offering him what he really wants—her. But he’s determined to keep his improbably short, impossibly stubborn, and extremely endearing minder in his life any way he can. And on a road trip up the California coast together, he intends to show her exactly what a falling star will do to catch the woman he loves: anything at all.

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune | October 28, 2021 (UK)

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.


What titles are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments below!

THE LAST GRADUATE by Naomi Novik – double review!

A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . . 


Title : The Last Graduate
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : The Scholomance (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : September 28, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

That ending.. I just.. the only two options are stupefied silence or hysterical laughter and right now I’m alternating between the two.

Weirdly enough, with nine minutes left on the kindle countdown, I put the book down. I could almost sense something. But that bit of warning was not enough to prepare me for t h a t.

“[..] you’re the only person I’ve ever met who’d come up with the idea of being wildly rude and hostile to the guy who saved your life twenty times.
Thirteen times! And I’ve saved his life at least twice.”
Catch up already, girl.

Goodness, wow, so. Yeah, lots of my feelings about this book have been eclipsed by all the nonsense above but I will say this. I was delighted to return to this world for one main reason : I had forgotten how delightfully prickly El was. Being back in her space, watching her interact with people, it was often hilarious because she is constantly battling the general feeling of “not putting up with this shit” which, I mean, same. But she’s also in a much better place than she was in the beginning of book one so she’s also struggling to remember she has friends and how that’s changed her life, yes, but also changed her odds of surviving the Scholomance. And those opposing forces are just as funny as she is.

I was unenthusiastic about the prospect of being found attractive because I seem like a terrifying creation of dark sorcery instead of despite it.

Also there was maybe a very short, tiny, little scene that ambushed some tears out of me. Unexpected.

My one.. not complaint, really, but observation, is that there is a lot going on in this world, in the day to day, and Novik strings together some long-ass sentences sometimes — and as a result I completely lose the original thought or point and have to reread or, occasionally, just give up and keep going. It doesn’t always feel like dense fantasy when there’s action or bickering or brainstorming but there are huge swaths of this that is actually quite wordy or complicated. Sometimes I gobbled it up, other times, well, like I said, I just cruised on by. That said, maybe I sabotaged myself a bit because I didn’t adjust my pace to actually take time to process it all, so, maybe it’s my own fault. But unlike most magical schools or learning sequences, this author doesn’t gloss over anything. We are with them as they learn, as they do homework, as they team up and help each other, because not doing the work is sometimes just as dangerous as the monsters crawling through the vents.

I had such a good time with this one. The banter, the action, the romance, the snark, the cut-throat ruthlessness, and, yeah, even that e n d i n g.. I can’t wait for book three (and this isn’t even out yet, arg!).

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Whaaaattttt? Who else had that reaction on finishing?

Well, I thought I knew a bit about the Scholomance from A Deadly Education but The Last Graduate took my expectations and threw them out into the void. This installment took many an unexpected turn but continued to deliver on a great story, snarkastic wit and characters to cheer for.

El showed a new level of maturity in this book, a little more measured and I think that had a lot to do with the fact that she had friends, that she wasn’t alone. These platonic friendships, the potential alliances were rich in trust issues and fun to read. El and Orion were an interesting grumpy and grumpy/sometimes sunshine.

Plotting and planning was a big part of this year’s graduating class and I did not see that final plan coming. The magic complexity went up a notch and I was able to follow but also I was agog at the skills need to set things in motion.

Naomi Novik made these characters elevate from sophomore to senior and I’m still rather enamoured by this world. Bring me book three on a plate, please!

Thank you to Del Rey UK for the gorgeous review copy.

WE WERE NEVER HERE by Andrea Bartz

On holiday in Chile with her best friend Kristen, Emily is having the time of her life.

Until one night, she finds their hotel suite covered in blood.

Kristen claims a backpacker attacked her. She shouted, but no-one heard. She struggled, but he was too strong.

She had no option but to kill him.

With no evidence of the assault, Emily must help her hide the body. . .

Back home, Emily tries to forget what happened, but a surprise visit from Kristen forces her to confront the events of that night.

As the walls close in, Emily asks herself: can her closest friend be trusted?


Title : We Were Never Here
Author : Andrea Bartz
Format : eARC
Page Count : 306
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : August 3, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Sucked in
Spat out
Head spinning

That’s pretty much me on the whole reading experience of this book and on finishing. What did I read? What were those characters?

This story of two besties having holidays off the beaten track togther across the years focused in particular on one holiday to Cambodia and one to Chile. Not far into the book, I just knew there was something fishy about one of these besties but I had no idea how this was going to escalate.

This read felt like a combination of Single White Female (look it up if you’re unfamiliar) and Shallow Grave. On the one hand I was rooting for the more innocent of the pair and on the other hand, I was conflicted at her implicitness in the events that played out.

It all got a lot more sinister as it culminated.

Did I enjoy it? I guess in some ways yes, but it was angsty, uncomfortable reading. That said, I could not look away or put the book down. It was a wild trip and an all consuming read.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the early review copy.

SAILOR PROOF by Annabeth Albert

The sexy Navy chief and his best friend’s adorkable little brother… 

It’s petty, but Naval Chief Derrick Fox wishes he could exact a little revenge on his ex by showing off a rebound fling. His submarine is due to return to its Bremerton, Washington, home base soon and Derrick knows all too well there won’t be anyone waiting with a big, showy welcome.

Enter one ill-advised plan…

Arthur Euler is the guy you go to in a pinch—he’s excellent at out-of-the-box solutions. It’s what the genius music-slash-computer nerd is known for. So when he finds out Derrick needs a favor, he’s happy to help. He can muster the sort of welcome a Naval Chief deserves, no problem at all.

Except it is a problem. A very big problem.

When Arthur’s homecoming welcome is a little too convincing, when a video of their gangplank smooch goes enormously viral, they’re caught between a dock and a hard place. Neither of them ever expected a temporary fake relationship to look—or feel—so real. And Arthur certainly never considered he’d be fighting for a very much not-fake forever with a military man. 


Title : Sailor Proof
Author : Annabeth Albert
Series : Shore Leave (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve read or requested anything by Albert but in truth it hasn’t been that long — she’s just put out so many books I’ve lost any and all sense of time. But the ones I have picked up have been few and far between and the results have been more fine or just okay than anything that really got me excited. I had sorta suspected I had outgrown the author. Or at least the books she was putting out after a certain point. But with this new series, and a return to her military-theme, I thought to give it a go.

But I was right.

There is nothing wrong or bad about this story. Nothing annoyed me, nothing was unforgivable, but I just wasn’t interested or moved. I was ambivalent or bored. This didn’t really do anything new, which is fine, but neither was I entertained by the content.

So I’m calling it. I think Albert and I are done. We had a great ride, though, I not only enjoyed but flat out loved so many of the author’s books and series. I’ve just clearly moved on.

But if you’re interested to give this a go, here are some fun tropes to expect: best friend’s younger brother. Fake dating. And “oh no there’s only one bed”. This’ll definitely hit the right notes for many readers. So take this review with the usual grain o’salt.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 28, 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.


The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik is the sequel to the author’s A Deadly Education. This YA fantasy serves up everything from book one and then some.

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo is a “sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost.

Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat is.. you already stopped reading, didn’t you? The first non-graphic novel offering from the author of The Captive Prince series brings us an enemies-to-lovers queer YA fantasy and yup, we need it. Want a little more? “[..] heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war are reborn and begin to draw new battle lines.

Once Upon A Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber is a off shoot series from the caraval world that can attract fans and new readers alike. This is a battle of wills between the fates and humans including kisses, apples, foxes and bows.



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

DARK RISE by C.S. Pacat

The ancient world of magic is no more. Its heroes are dead, its halls are ruins, and its great battles between Light and Dark are forgotten. Only the Stewards remember, and they keep their centuries-long vigil, sworn to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns.

Sixteen-year-old dock boy Will is on the run, pursued by the men who killed his mother. When an old servant tells him of his destiny to fight beside the Stewards, Will is ushered into a world of magic, where he must train to play a vital role in the oncoming battle against the Dark.

As London is threatened by the Dark King’s return, the reborn heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war begin to draw battle lines. But as the young descendants of Light and Dark step into their destined roles, old allegiances, old enmities and old flames are awakened. Will must stand with the last heroes of the Light to prevent the fate that destroyed their world from returning to destroy his own.


Title : Dark Rise
Author : C.S. Pacat
Series : Dark Rise (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 464
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 review

Hmm. Hmm. Hmmmm.

Honestly, I don’t know about this one. Let’s get this out of the way first : I did not hate my time with this one. But did it grip me, surprise me, pull me in? I have to say.. no.

In some ways this book is pretty predictable. And by some I mean.. almost all of it? Add to that fact that the pitch of this set up an expectation of a big dark queer enemies romance and we get none of it in Dark Rise. The story ends in a way that implies it could still happen in book two but I obviously had prepared myself for something that I did not see pan out. So that’s kind of a bummer. So between the predictability, the lack of romantic tension, and then..

Well, I’ve kind of lost track of some of the POVs but most of them are new to this fantasy world. Only two really matter in the point I’ve trying to make though which is : the outsiders seem to have become bigger players than those who had been in this world, living this fantasy life, the whole time. And eventually there is a reason for this (a spoilery one) but at the same time I felt like there was just little to no shock value? No reluctance to believe? I feel there often should be a balance between struggling to come to terms and also settling in all nonchalant like and yet not being too much one or the other. I’m not sure I can properly explain this without you experiencing it but hopefully you know what I mean.

I’m also not sure I ever really felt any stakes after the first few chapters. Those had some good tension, a lot of uncertainty, but the deeper we went into the story, into understanding some of the world, which is when you would think the stakes get higher — and I definitely should’ve felt this because they are basically end of the world as we know it stakes — but.. I honestly felt nothing. Maybe because I wasn’t invested in the world? Or the characters? I was never quite pulled away from this story or distracted by other things but I definitely was very conscious of reading things, not living things. If that makes sense.

Ultimately, now that certain events have played out, I think this is very much a first book in a trilogy/series (whatever it’s going to be) issue. It’s very possible, now that we have our footing and our reveals, and we stand on the precipice of the romance I wanted, that book two will give me something to sink my teeth into. I sure hope, at least.

But in the meantime.. lower your expectations a smidge. And it’s possible you might enjoy this more than I did.

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

ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART by Stephanie Garber

From Stephanie Garber, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of CaravalOnce Upon a Broken Heart is the first book in a new series about love, curses, and the lengths that people will go to for happily ever after.

Evangeline Fox was raised in her beloved father’s curiosity shop, where she grew up on legends about immortals, like the tragic Prince of Hearts. She knows his powers are mythic, his kiss is worth dying for, and that bargains with him rarely end well.

But when Evangeline learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, she becomes desperate enough to offer the Prince of Hearts whatever he wants in exchange for his help to stop the wedding. The prince only asks for three kisses. But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’s pledged. And he has plans for Evangeline that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy…


Title : Once Upon A Broken Heart
Author : Stephanie Garber
Series : Once Upon A Broken Heart #1
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 402
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : September 30, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Different broken hearts for different reasons
Trust…who?
Apples, foxes, arches and kisses

This was such a fun and gripping world to get caught up in. Once Upon A Broken Heart was magical, sarcastic, funny and twisty. The whole book was an experience (plot and characters aside) with great formatting for newspaper articles and notes.

This felt different to the Caraval world and I was glad of that. The south and then the north felt totally different from those previous books and I would affirm that reading the series first is unnecessary, you’ll only miss a deeper meaning on a few nuggets of information.

Evangeline was a worthy protagonist, she felt mature in some ways but she had a tendency to react to events and then act without thinking things through. That said, I really enjoyed everywhere the plot went, it truly was unpredictable. Predictably however, I really liked Jacks and despite his nefariousness, I really wanted to see him romantically entwined. That fate is utterly untrustworthy and but I’m 100% Team Jack.

I can’t wait to see where this story goes in the next book. Stephanie Garber created a different yet intertwined world with her previous series. This series is right up my street and I’m already a fan.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

STAY GOLD by Tobly McSmith

Pony just wants to fly under the radar during senior year. Tired from all the attention he got at his old school after coming out as transgender, he’s looking for a fresh start at Hillcrest High. But it’s hard to live your best life when the threat of exposure lurks down every hallway and in every bathroom.

Georgia is beginning to think there’s more to life than cheerleading. She plans on keeping a low profile until graduation…which is why she promised herself that dating was officially a no-go this year.

Then, on the very first day of school, the new guy and the cheerleader lock eyes. How is Pony supposed to stay stealth when he wants to get close to a girl like Georgia? How is Georgia supposed to keep her promise when sparks start flying with a boy like Pony?

Funny and poignant, clear-eyed and hopeful, Stay Gold is a story about finding love—and finding yourself.


Title : Stay Gold
Author : Tobly McSmith
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : Contemporary YA/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : September 2, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Being a man
Being respected
Being brave
Tissues needed

This book grew and grew to steal my heart completely. This was a gently building story but it hit such a cresendo of feelings, I was almost overwhelmed. You need to know going into this that there are triggers a-plenty (feel free to DM me or check other reviews).

Pony was a stunning character, starting afresh as a male and he wanted to pass, without any drama. That whole approach came with a bucket load of problems which on the one hand Pony took in his stride but my heart hurt for him. His connection with Georgia, the cheerleader was sweet and real. What I particularly liked about this story of these two, was the reality, the rejections, the learning, the raw-ness.

The was a really difficult background story with Pony’s family but he had the sister of sisters in Rocky. She was an epic character. Max, his trans friend really upset me with his actions and that whole plot had me angry and crying.

That was only the start of my crying jag because this story hit a realistic fever pitch that shredded my emotions. I felt every single pain in my heart.

Stay Gold was a beautiful story despite it’s heartbreak. I will remember this story, these characters and I have learnt a little more of the experiences of trans people through Pony. This was beautifully written and had a light-hearted feel to it through Pony’s character which really balanced the tough stuff. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Pride Book Tours and the publisher for the review copy.

GAWAIN by J.P. Harker

Gawain is the first book of the new series by JP Harker, author of Caledon Saga. Gawain follows the early lives of Arthur’s knights and the eventual formation of Camelot. Fast-paced, historically grounded re-imagining of Arthurian myth, it is focusing on a flawed hero and a sympathetic antagonist. It takes place in a semi-fantasized Dark Age Britain. Here, Romanized nations clash with each other, with the remnants of the Celtic peoples, and with the slowly encroaching Saxons.

In this book a young Gawain is embarking on his first test as a future warrior of Camelot. After accepting his challenge at the Beltane feast, Gawain defies his father to travel north and face this new enemy, unaware that the Picts are massing for an attack on his father’s kingdom. Leading them is Mhari, a tribal chief with her own goals and dreams for the north. The courage and morality of both characters is challenged, culminating in a final conflict where Gawain inadvertently proves his worth to a disguised Merlin. Themes include religion (the mixed Christian and Pagan world), temptation versus nobility, and sexual morality.


Title : Gawain
Author : J.P. Harker
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 344
Genre : Historical Fantasy
Publisher : Adelaide Books
Release Date : May 28, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

Headlines:
Arthurian historical fantasy
Such easy writing to slip into
Feminist stance

Gawain pulled me into the story so quickly because it was interesting immediately and the writing was so easy to engage with. Gawain himself was a 17 year old brash, son of a Lord in the Lothians. He was desperate to battle and prove the skills he’d been training for. Fast forward to Beltaine, a visit from the Green Man and he found himself on an epic journey.

The cast of characrers in this book were funny and they seemed authentic. Gawain’s comrades were equally lacking in sense when it came to decisions. I enjoyed seeing the home context of King Lot’s kingdom but it really seemed to take a sharper focus when Gawain went on his quest. There was a smattering of romance in this book, which was pitched well. There were some great late twists too.

One of the things I really appreciated about this book was the alternate POV of Mhari, the pictish warlord. I loved reading her character, how she was viewed as a female warrior and how she commanded her small army of men and women. There was a definite feminist tone that felt authentic. The Lothian females weren’t afforded battle training but those characters were conveyed with some power balance in their interactions.

I don’t know what I expected from this book but I didn’t expect to get as swept up as I was and now I find myself completely invested in where this series is going, especially after those final lines of the book.

Thank you to JP Harker for the review copy, this hasn’t affected this unbiased review.