THE BOOK OF LIFE by Deborah Harkness

Bringing the magic and suspense of the All Souls Trilogy to a deeply satisfying conclusion, this highly anticipated finale went straight to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. In The Book of Life, Diana and Matthew time-travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present—facing new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. 


Title : The Book of Life
Author : Deborah Harkness
Series : All Souls (book three)
Format : physical
Page Count : 561
Genre : paranormal romance / historical
Publisher : Viking Adult
Release Date : June 15, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Well.. we didn’t end on a high (though to be honest I did not expect to) but this was better than book two. Which, admittedly, was a low bar so it wasn’t really that hard.

Strangely this book was the most unlike the adaptation’s version than any other season. And I don’t know why! The bulk of it didn’t differ but it had the most changes. Having said that, in hindsight I do like some the changes the show made but others.. others I preferred the way they had been done in the book. Vague vagueness ensues.

I don’t have a lot to say about this “finale” (I think Time’s Convert is considered book four but I wonder if it’s more of a companion? I’ll find out shortly!). Some parts felt rather anticlimactic. And, sure, maybe on a whole I’m just feeling a little out of step with the series as a whole but I feel it with this book in particular. After all that time plodding through (hah) time in book two, this instalment hopped and jumped and sped through so much, making the whole experience rather rushed and, ultimately, not as satisfying. 

That said, there was so much history, so much science, that it cannot be denied the series is well researched. It’s really just some particular characters and some of the execution where I don’t quite connect. So I’m very curious to see how I fare with another perspective (or two?) and with a different (I assume! now that the main conflict has wrapped) focus. 

WHAT TIME IS LOVE? by Holly Williams

1947. 1967. 1987.
When Violet and Albert first meet, they are always twenty.

Three decades.

Over the years, Violet and Albert’s lives collide again and again: beneath Oxford’s spires, on the rolling hills around Abergavenny, in stately homes and in feminist squats. And as each decade ends, a new love story begins…

Two people.
Together, they are electric and the world is glittering with possibility. But against the shifting times of each era, Violet and Albert must overcome differences in class, gender, privilege and ambition. Each time their lives entwine, it will change everything.

One moment is all it takes…

As their eyes first meet, for a split-second it’s as if the clocks have stopped. Nothing else matters. Yet whichever decade brings them together, Violet and Albert are soon forced to question: what if they met the right person at the wrong time?


Title : What Time Is Love?
Author : Holly Williams
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : Historical-Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Orion Books
Release Date : May 26, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Contemporary with magical realism
Time jumps
Complex couples

What Time is Love was a rather unusual read and concept that lulled you into the story you thought was the story, then pulled the rug out from under you. This is a book where I really think it helps if you read the synopsis before entering to prempt any confusion.

It was a story told in thirds, three couples or the same couple in different times, you decide. The first story was in one breath my favourite but it was incredibly tragic. The second, explored the makings and breakings of an open relationship. The third, brought Violet and Albert into the most contemporary times and gave them a different start, different challenges and a different end.

I think this was a clever concept and there was much I enjoyed about it. I did have times of frustration over unfinished ends, especially over story one which I was very partial to. I’m not sure what I thought about how these storys did or didn’t weave together, I need to think on it.

This was an absorbing read, it felt like nothing I’d quite read before and I definitely became invested in some of the couples.

Thank you to Orion Books for the review copy.

THE TRIAL OF LOTTA RAE by Siobhan MacGowan

On Halloween night, 1906, young working class Lotta Rae is attacked by a wealthy gentleman. She seeks justice at an Old Bailey trial alongside her barrister, William Linden, who she believes to be her ally.

The verdict is devastating and Lotta Rae soon realises the guardians of justice do not support her. But what none could foresee were the shocking consequences.

Twelve years later, as the suffragettes rise and the ghost of WW1 looms large over London, William is joined again by Lotta Rae. Now they will travel to a fateful destination, where truths must be faced and wrongs will be righted.

The day in court is done. But tonight he will hear her testimony.


Title : The Trial of Lotta Rae
Author : Siobhan MacGowan
Format : Physical
Page Count : 312
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Welbeck Publishing
Release Date : May 26, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Tragedy on tragedy
Compelling feminist era of history
Miscarriages of justice

I am all wrung out on finishing The Trial of Lotta Rae. This historical read was compelling from front to back, it made me feel so many things and most of my emotions at the events in this book centred on anger, frustration and sadness. The story is incredibly tragic but it is also important. Content warnings below.

I thought the trial from the title would be the centre of the book, but actually it was early in the story but a crucial catalyst for the events that came after. Essentially, this book was about men and women, men’s power over women in the era before and during suffrage and ultimately a personal tale of that experience. Lotta was such a complex character to unravel. She was abused, bereaved, a fighter, manipulative and a feminist. There were very few good men in her life but Pap and Raff were such amazing advocates for her and women in her situation, I lived for their words and support in this.

William. What can I say but that this man’s story unfurled slowly and insiduously. It took the whole book to find out the depth of what he had done and I found myself ultimately shocked. It was initally strange to me that William became worse than ‘The Man’. Talking of which, I wanted a bit more wrap up on what happened to that particular piece of disgusting human.

This story gave me all the feels, many of which were uncomfortable. From suffrage to the personal stories, I experienced it as a bystander and raged. This debut was excellent and I highly recommend this book to all feminists and historical fiction fans.

Thank you Welbeck Publishing for the review copy.

CW: rape, sexual violence, mental illness, murder

NEVER COMING HOME by Hannah Mary McKinnon

First comes love. Then comes murder.
Lucas Forester didn’t hate his wife. Michelle was brilliant, sophisticated and beautiful. Sure, she had extravagant spending habits and that petty attitude, a total disregard for anyone below her status. But she also had a lot to offer. Most notably, wealth that only the one percent could comprehend.

For years, Lucas had been honing a flawless plan to inherit Michelle’s fortune. Unfortunately, it involved taking a hit out on her.

Every track was covered, no trace left behind, and now Lucas plays the grieving husband so well he deserves an award. But when a shocking photo and cryptic note show up on his doorstep, Lucas goes from hunter to prey. 

Someone is onto him. And they’re closing in.

Told with dark wit and a sharply feminist sensibility, Never Coming Home is a terrifying tale of duplicity that will have you side-eyeing your spouse as you dash to the breathtaking end.


Title : Never Coming Home
Author : Hannah Mary McKinnon
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : mystery thriller
Publisher : MIRA
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I’m a little disappointed I didn’t love this more but I think this’ll satisfy readers a little less grumpy and picky than moi.

The most interesting thing about this story was the fact that we know who did the deed. And, in fact, we spend the entire time in the head of the one who has committed the crime. I quite liked that. But I found Lucas.. kind of insufferable? It wasn’t even the fact that he was a con-man mastermind responsible for his wife’s death, that he’d been orchestrating a particular end result for the entirety of their relationship. It was maybe moreso the narrative voice. And perhaps the pacing.

I never fully engaged in this story, I was completely uninterested in all of Lucas’ backstory, and while I enjoyed the ending, I’ll admit I did see part of it coming. It was still a good gotcha moment but it didn’t quite redeem the journey to where we finally get there. I’m not quite sure this had the dark wit that was promised in the pitch, either.

This was my first read by McKinnon, and while she’s got a good few books out and seems to be well loved, I’ll admit I had never even heard of her. I’ll likely peek through her backlist to find another that might work better, though, because I have’t quite given up yet.

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

A LADY’S GUIDE TO FORTUNE-HUNTING by Sophie Irwin

The season is about to begin – and there’s not a minute to lose…

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune.

Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.

With just twelve weeks until Kitty and her sisters are made homeless, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her. And Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.

The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost.

Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one – not even a lord – will stand in her way…


Title : A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting
Author : Sophie Irwin
Format : Physical
Page Count : 341
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Harper Fiction
Release Date : May 12, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Enemies spatting
Mercenary ethics
Snobs and realists

I had an absolute blast reading this book. It engaged me, made me laugh throughout the book and really made me love the main characters over time. The writing was all ease to get into and I read it in two sittings.

Kitty was a young woman on a mission, head of her family with four sister dependents to secure a future for. The mission was her own marriage to someone of fortune and she was utterly blinkered and focused. She had some shady approaches, she was two-faced to her suitors and a great liar. She was such a likeable heroine.

She met her forthright match in Radcliffe, they did not like one another and he was soon ‘onto her’ and worked out her schemes. These two verbally sparred, coerced favours out of one another but very slowly, something happened.

‘Dance with me,’ she demanded, walking straight up to him. He eyed her warily.
‘Thank you, but no,’ he said. ‘I should have mentioned that I also do not dance with persons who appear to want to murder me.’

I loved how this book shone light on the snobbery of the ton and the judgement passed on those of reduced circumstances and how the men perceived women and their role is society. I adored how Kitty smashed through those preconceptions but with subtlety. Kitty made Radcliffe and Radcliffe made Kitty.

This totally has a Bridgerton vibe but without the heat. For me, the heat wasn’t missing, the plot was rich and chemistry bubbled. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this book and I want more.

Thank you to Harper Collins and Insta Book Tours for the review copy.

YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY by Akwaeke Emezi

New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi (they/them) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.

Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again. 

It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career. 

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?

Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.


Title : You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty
Author : Akwaeke Emezi
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : romance
Publisher : Atria Books
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated star review

I’ve sat here, the minutes ticking by since I closed my kindle, waffling on how I feel about this book. Not just rating wise but overall feeling wise. This is going to be a polarizing book, I think.

After having fallen in love with The Death of Vivek Oji last year, I’ve been on a mission to slowly devour everything this author has written. The fact that they flit between genres, and themes, and styles, is so interesting and at the announcement of a romance novel — a romance novel with a Florence + The Machine lyric for a title — I mean, obviously I was sold. I wanted to see what they would do in this particular genre.

And for so much of it.. I was pretty into it. I enjoyed the voice (I make this distinction for a reason, I’ll expand more in a bit) and I enjoyed the friendship between Feyi and Joy. Their conversations were mostly limited to their romantic endeavours with the occasional hype moment from Joy on Feyi’s behalf but.. still, I felt the friendship, I felt the connection. But the romance? The various ones we follow? Welll..

I absolutely appreciate that Feyi, having survived what she did, and feeling like she’s maybe in a place to dip her toe in romance again, would be hesitant for more than something physical. And would shy away from something more. And I do feel like we saw some stepping stones out of her grief in the form of people but.. I don’t know. This is where I get mixed. Because I can see it what the author did (or, rather, I think I see what they were doing), and understand it, but I can also not love it? I guess? In some ways it’s brave and also real but..

Maybe it was the writing that hindered some of this. Because I’ll tell you right now I didn’t enjoy this writing the same way I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous writing. I can’t put my finger on what about it bothered me but something did.

Even without the romance drama, this book is messy. Grief is messy. Processing that, dealing with the concept of moving on, it’s all a mess. Emotional and fraught. And then when combined with romance? Messier. Add in some.. complicated results with how things shake out with said romance? Chaos. There’s a lot going on here. And there are times that Emezi has these beautiful notes, these little pauses of reflection, and they are just lovely. There are moments to be heard but also moments where the characters are listened to, and understood. But it’s still also dramatic and a lot. Which is fine! If that’s what you want.

I definitely see people loving this or.. maybe not hating it but being on the fence of it all. So while I’m taking the easy way out and not rating this.. it’s probably a 3. So just imagine that instead of the nothing and let me remain in a state where I don’t have to commit.

I will definitely continue to pick up titles by this author, as well as catch up on their backlist, but this wasn’t quite the breakthrough hit I thought it would be. At least not for me.

That cover is absolutely stunning though isn’t it? Gorgeous.

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

A LADY FOR A DUKE by Alexis Hall

A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material-perfect for fans of Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Lisa Kleypas!

When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.


Title : A Lady For A Duke
Author : Alexis Hall
Format : Physical
Page Count : 480
Genre : Historical Romance/LGBTQIAP
Publisher : Piatkus Books
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Best friends then and now
Identity beautifully written
Angsty ride

A Lady For A Duke is something of a special historical romance because it features a trans main character. I have read another book of a similar era with this representation but nevertheless, this is such a welcome offering. All that said, Viola’s identity was often background and the dynamic between the couple was in the foreground.

There was such a complex friendship in this story, none of which I’m going to describe because it was impactful and emotional reading that shouldn’t be spoilt. Gracewood was a shell of a man when Viola found herself back in his life and secrets were everything. Suffice it to say, Hall wrote this whole story with care but in particular, Viola and Gracewood navigating the changes to their dynamic was pretty beautiful.

I really appeciated how the power between these two MCs was pitched. Viola was a strong woman in many ways and Gracewood was diminished physically but he was protective and an advocate for everything that Viola was.

“Forgive my language, but…fuck the world. I will change it for you if I have to.”

I loved the first half of this book, I felt the emotions so strongly in that section, simultaneously feeling mush for these two whilst feeling heartbroken in part. The second half was more plot driven than character driven which made for a full story. Overall, this was a memorable and valued story.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the early review copy.

SHADOW OF NIGHT by Deborah Harkness

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey. 


Title : Shadow of Night
Author : Deborah Harkness
Series : All Souls (book two)
Format : physical
Page Count : 584
Genre : paranormal romance / historical
Publisher : Viking Adult
Release Date : June 10, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

Oof, okay, yes. I remembered this as the turning point for why I threw in the towel — and having just recently struggled through the show’s second season for a very true-to-book recounting of plot meant it was also very fresh — and I completely get why this turned the tide for me. What a slog. I felt like I was reading this for eighty-four years.

But, having said that, there were some parts that did their best (though failed) to make the whole bearable. I’m thinking mostly of the Philippe plotline. And.. oh damn, maybe that’s it. Gallowglass! He was a nice distraction from things. Queen Elizabeth, too, was feisty and rather fun. Matthew’s buddies, the School of Night? Mostly ugh. Particularly Kit (though honestly I doubt anyone likes Kit). I’ll never get over how Matthew let that whole dynamic thrive despite every instinct that should’ve been screaming at him to do otherwise. Considering his behaviour in, oh, I don’t know, every other circumstance when there was even less provocation? Yeah, brutal. 

To keep the romance element interesting, the author decided to augment all of Matthew’s bad behaviours under the guise of having to be more of who he was once before in order to “blend in” but also for the purpose of building up to one particular milestone in their relationship. It definitely felt a bit manufactured but the further away from it I am the more I understand it was a natural growing pain to the development of their connection. They do move quickly, after all, and throwing in the whole vampire possessiveness and Matthew’s own persona.. yeah, I get it. But I didn’t have to like it. Particularly as, on brand for this book, it gets dragged wayyy out. At least it’s over with now though. I think. I hope. Please.

Complaints aside, I do have to say how well the show has adapted these books. There are, of course, changes. Not only are these books just too long to be 100% faithful but where possible the show also combined some elements or cut out those that were similar enough to be represented by only one character instead of two. It also fleshed out scenes that we don’t see happen on page (maybe I said that in my review for book one? but it bears repeating as it’s relevant in this instalment, too). 

I’m definitely looking forward to a) finishing this series but b) finally seeing if this final book deserves all the hype. Knowing how things ends, too, takes some of the pressure off. At this point though I’ll be happy to just end on a higher note than this one. The bar is low!

WITH AND WITHOUT YOU by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

#Wibbroka is back with another swoony YA–this time tackling long-distance relationships, in a novel based on their own romantic history.

If high school seniors Siena and Patrick were a superlative, they’d be the Couple Most Likely to Marry. They’ve been dating for three solid years, and everyone agrees they’re perfect for each other. But with college on the horizon, Siena begins to wonder whether staying together is the best idea. Does she really want to be tied down during possibly the most transformative years of her life? So she makes a decision to break up with Patrick, convincing herself it’s for the best. Before she can say the words, though, he beats her to the punch: his family is moving out of state. Caught off guard by the news, Siena agrees to stay with Patrick, believing their relationship will naturally fizzle out with time and distance. But over a series of visits throughout the school year, Siena begins to see a different side of Patrick–one that has her falling in love with him all over again. 


Title : With and Without You
Author : mily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 19, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

It’s probably not great that my least favourite read by this duo happens to be the one that is based (loosely, I hope?) on their own romance. Whoops.

But what really hurt this story was the lack of a secondary POV. I truly can’t recall anymore if all their books are like this or if some are dual (I really need to start making GR shelves for this but alas I probably will never do it) but this one needed it. Siena’s narrative was not always fun and while the second voice wouldn’t have improved that it would’ve given us something of a break.

I don’t begrudge this story for existing, particularly for all the YAers who are feeling similar things — not just the conflict inspired by leaving for college and whether the relationship will endure, but the added conflict of that looming issue when already dealing with a long-running relationship that you feel you may have outgrown. There needs to be space for these conversations and these dynamics and these circumstances.

But. That doesn’t mean I had to like this one. Siena spent the majority of the book wondering if she still fit with Patrick and honestly, girl, I wonder the same. He may have been unwilling to be open to new things without realizing the importance of them but she was equally rigid and uncompromising. And while you’d think living in her head would make you more sympathetic to her perspective (hah) oh no, it was worse. The book wasn’t all bad but that first 30% was real rough and I just don’t think it ever recovered.

Having said all that, I am hopeful that I won’t continue to reside in the 2.5-3 range for any more of their books because when they are good, they are great. I would maybe just give this one a pass.

INHERITANCE : A VISUAL POEM by Elizabeth Acevedo

They tell me to “fix” my hair.

And by fix, they mean straighten, they mean whiten;

but how do you fix this shipwrecked

history of hair? 

In her most famous spoken-word poem, author of the Pura Belpré-winning novel-in-verse The Poet X Elizabeth Acevedo embraces all the complexities of Black hair and Afro-Latinidad–the history, pain, pride, and powerful love of that inheritance.

Paired with full-color illustrations by artist Andrea Pippins in a format that will appeal to fans of Mahogany L. Browne’s Black Girl Magic or Jason Reynolds’s For Everyone, this poem can now be read in a vibrant package, making it the ideal gift, treasure, or inspiration for readers of any age.


Title : Inheritance
Author : Elizabeth Acevedo
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 48
Genre : poetry / picture book
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : May 3, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated star review

I am not rating this due to the length (it’s short! and to mirror that this review will be, too) and also because it’s poetry and that’s almost on par with non-fiction for me. Having said that I wanted to boost this onto the blog because the illustrations are gorgeous and I think a lot of readers will appreciate this. Also, love the pun with the title.

Definitely check it out if you can!

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