FUGITIVE TELEMETRY by Martha Wells

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


Title : Fugitive Telemetry
Author : Martha Wells
Series : The Murderbot Diaries (book six)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 176
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : April 27, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was [..] a construct made of cloned human tissue, augments, anxiety, depression, and unforcused rage, a killing machine for whichever humans rented me, until I made a mistake and got my brain destroyed.

So let’s get the mild bits that bummed me out.. out of the way. First of all, this is a novella length installment again, after book five was full length. Not too bad, really, as we’re mostly used to this. However the major thing that bummed me out? No ART.

Don’t look at me like that’s my fault. I’m just telling you shit I know.

But otherwise? This was another Murderbot adventure that made me laugh, snicker, and entertained me. After all the excitement of book five it maybe was a little lacking in tension and edginess but it was still really great. I likely have more quotes I want to insert than I actually have material for a review because I mean.. at this point we all kind of know what to expect. Murderbot rescues people despite a lack of trust. Murderbot wishes they are just watching Sanctuary Moon. Hijinks ensue.

I would have either disposed of the body so it was never found, or made it look like an accident.
How would you dispose of a body so it wouldn’t be found?
If I told you, then you might find all the bodies I’ve already disposed of.

If you aren’t already into this series you totally should be.

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

THE INTIMACY EXPERIMENT by Rosie Danan

Naomi and Ethan will test the boundaries of love in this provocative romance from the author of the ground-breaking debut, The Roommate.

Naomi Grant has built her life around going against the grain. After the sex-positive start-up she cofounded becomes an international sensation, she wants to extend her educational platform to live lecturing. Unfortunately, despite her long list of qualifications, higher ed won’t hire her.

Ethan Cohen has recently received two honors: LA Mag named him one of the city’s hottest bachelors and he became rabbi of his own synagogue. Taking a gamble in an effort to attract more millennials to the faith, the executive board hired Ethan because of his nontraditional background. Unfortunately, his shul is low on both funds and congregants. The board gives him three months to turn things around or else they’ll close the doors of his synagogue for good.

Naomi and Ethan join forces to host a buzzy seminar series on Modern Intimacy, the perfect solution to their problems–until they discover a new one–their growing attraction to each other. They’ve built the syllabus for love’s latest experiment, but neither of them expected they’d be the ones putting it to the test.


Title : The Intimacy Experiment
Author : Rosie Danan
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 336
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus, Little Brown UK
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Faith & Intimacy
Rabbi & Naomi
Refreshingly sweet & deep

I liked Naomi in The Roommate but it was a mild interest. In The Intimacy Experiment, Naomi’s character was slowly evolving and revealed. She kept that hard, successful shell but there was more to her.

It cannot be escaped that what made this book so great was the idea of a Rabbi and an ex-sex worker. But it’s so much more than that, there were deeper themes of faith and intimacy that I found really poignant. I do have a faith, but I’m not Jewish. I have scoured reviews to find some own voices take on how the reform Jewish perspective was conveyed but I can’t find any. I really enjoyed that aspect but I will continue to look out for own voices reviews.

“It’s simpler than that. I want to give people a reason to believe. In themselves, each other, and something more.”

There was a softness to this book that gave me something more to feed my reading soul. The vulnerabilities and honesty of both main characters really hit the spot for me. Ethan especially had such a kind and genuine soul, his lack of judgement but also his humanity really drew me into the story. I highlighted so many lines, bits of dialogue, inner monologue that just hit the gut with me. I will forever think of “the cuddling incident”.

The Intimacy Experiment brought a fresh take to this year’s contemporary romance and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I can’t wait to read more from Rosie Danan.

Thank you to Piatkus for the review copy.

A STRANGER IN TOWN by Kelley Armstrong

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s next Rockton book, A Stranger in Town, the biggest mystery is the fate of the town itself.

Detective Casey Duncan has noticed fewer and fewer residents coming in to the hidden town of Rockton, and no extensions being granted. Her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, presumes it’s the natural flux of things, but Casey’s not so sure. Something bigger is happening in the small town they call home.

When an injured hiker stumbles from the woods, the sole survivor of a hostile attack, it’s all hands on deck. Even a member of the elusive Rockton council comes in to help. This council member also comes bearing news: Rockton is being shut down due to the hostile situation.

Casey and Eric must now race to save the town that has allowed residents to have a fresh start, away from the mistakes of their past, while also getting to the bottom of this latest attack. 


Title : A Stranger in Town
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : Rockton (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 9, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Realistically I should not have liked this so much, particularly considering the last two books in this series were somewhat of a disappointment (but only in the grand scheme of the series, I mean, and when compared to books one to three). But the plot got so.. I won’t say wildly but quite a bit out of control, much suspension of disbelief required, and yet I had a great time anyway.

To more or less copy over from my previous review’s summation, this series is about an off-the-grid town in the Yukon, called Rockton. Rockton being a town populated by people who have escaped horrors, are on the run from something in their pasts, and have found a place where they can disappear for a few years. Sometimes, too, they are the ones who caused the horrors and just paid enough to a particular group in order to be admitted in order to lay low. Our lead protagonist is Casey Duncan, who arrived to this town to help her friend escape her ex, and has become one of the three detectives who help to police the outlaw-esque locals and keep the peace. Each book has juggled conflicts from within the town but also dealt with those who run the program that allows this to exist, as well as outside elements; as in, literally the outsider weather elements but also.. more.

This was the first since installment since book three that actually felt true to the origins of the series. Yes, via Casey, two years in, we are now settled into the running of this town, but equally her involvement has shed much to light — in a multitude of directions. Specifically this mystery, this adventure, while it had so many moving parts, it managed to juddle them without ever feeling overwhelming, and watching them come together was ever so satisfying; even though for some of them I was tapping my foot waiting for the characters to clue in. It was a smug kind of foot tapping, though, not the impatient kind.

Additionally, this book has broader impacts to the series at large, making me wonder if maybe Armstrong really is trying to wrap things up soon. She must have an end in mind and I wonder if maybe we’re nearing that now. Because if the characters go down a particular path they are considering, especially now that a particular element is more or less out of the way, well.. that would be it, wouldn’t it?

Either way, I’ll be eagerly anticipating that upcoming journey, no matter how it looks.

MALICE by Heather Walter

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who cursed a line of princesses to die, and could only be broken by true love’s kiss. You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one actually cares about what happens to our princesses. I thought I didn’t care, either. Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to the throne. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating – and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I-

I am the villain.


Title : Malice
Author : Heather Walter
Format : Paperback ARC
Length : 468
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey UK
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headline:
Twisty plot
Retelling heaven, so fresh
Exponential explosion

Welp, what am I supposed to do with myself now? Malice consumed my down time in a work week, going to bed reading it, waking up thinking about it, finishing and now staring into the distance…

So cleverly written, Malice delivered a plot of intricacy that was carefully built and easily followed. Inspired by Sleeping Beauty but really, so far removed, Alyce was a wonderful, morally grey protagonist. She was oppressed but slowly rising above that difficult life, inspired by the cursed crowned princess Aurora. The contrast of the graces’ powers and the dark grace’s power was such an interesting aspect to the story. Rose was a complex, love to hate character.

Aylce and Aurora’s friendship to more was so well written and credible but also, it was peppered with problems, roadblocks and ultimately a lot of difficulties. While I got to know Aurora less than I hoped (I’m such a greedy reader), there was enough connection there. As an Alyce fan, I needed some better times for her, people to trust (like who?), and friendship.

I am beyond glad there’s another book because I’m in freefall. I need some resolution, some more Alyce, some revenge, some regret. I think you can see that I have all the feelings.

This was a stunning read, a page-turner and the kind of book that makes you wish away the months till you can get hold of the next. I highly advise taking a dive into this book.

Thank you to DelRey UK for the early review copy.

DARK LULLABY by Polly Ho-Yen

For fans of Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale, in Dark Lullaby a mother desperately tries to keep her family together in a society where parenting standards are strictly monitored.

When Kit decides to have a child, she thinks she’s prepared. She knows how demanding Induction is. She’s seen children Extracted. But in a society where parenting is strictly monitored under the watchful gaze of OSIP (The Office of Standards in Parenting), she is forced to ask herself how far she will go to keep her family together. 


Title : Dark Lullaby
Author : Polly Ho-Yen
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : Dystopian
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : March 23, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 2.5 – 3 star review

Dark Lullaby was a tale centred around infertility dystopia and needless to say, this was a story that was mostly impactful on women. The book plunged the reader immediately into a sad and oppressive world where there seemed to be limited hope and expectations for people. This world was very similar to the world we exist in now. As a reader, you did feel the various stages of desperation that the women in this book experienced. I would have liked more from the male characters in the book.

It was a discomforting read as you would imagine, but it was also an unsatisfying read for me. The story was told in ‘then’ and ‘now’ and this element was executed well but I was left wondering about issues all the way through, some of which were never answered. There were conveniences in the plot that I struggled with; the ending felt rushed.

Overall, I was left somewhat unsatisfied throughout the read and in the culmination. The theme of the story had all the potential, the characters were not necessarily likeable but they were robustly developed. I don’t why this just didn’t hit the spot for me considering my enjoyment of dytopia. I’m a huge fan of The Handmaid’s Tale that also tackles this theme of infertility changing the world but that book was so much more, in my opinion.

Thank you to Titan Books for the early review copy. Dark Lullaby is out now.

WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD by Ciannon Smart

Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance. 

Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power. 

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes


Title : Witches Steeped in Gold
Author : Ciannon Smart
Series : Witches Steeped in Gold (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 560
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : April 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Look, I’m not saying I’m an idiot for picking up a dense complicated fantasy while trying to pull myself out of a slump but.. if the shoe fits, right?

While a good portion of my struggle with this book is, as above, my own damn fault, I also think the first half of this book is just too thick. There is so much to wade through as far as history and worldbuilding and terminology, which is kind of understandable with a series-starter, but it just didn’t sink in. And while the second half of the story was full of action and betrayals and reveals, oh my, I’m still left wondering if I understand anything about this world.

I’m also kind of confused as to where we ended up with one of the main characters. But that’s a whole other thing.

Easily my favourite thing about this was the writing; even when I was struggling with a character, or two, or the plot, I enjoyed how it was all written. But overall, beyond the representation, I’m not entirely sure this is memorable and I know I will absolutely to remember anything about this by the time the sequel is out. Which is a bummer.

I definitely suggest you still give this is a try if you’re interested, though; I’m writing this just two weeks shy of its release and the early buzz is poppin’. This is connecting with, and entertaining, so many readers. So don’t let this slumpy party pooper put you off.

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

WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

An academic enemies-to-lovers YA with all the nerdy drama, high school antics, and heartpounding romance of the Netflix original series Never Have I Ever

Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead. 

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.


Title : What’s Not To Love
Author : Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary romance
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

I am so relieved right now. I was really starting to think If I’m Being Honest was a fluke for this duo. While I had liked everything else they had written, nothing had edged over into love category and while I enjoyed the topics and themes, I was nonetheless a little disappointed.

What, Sanger? You don’t enjoy our conversations?
They’re not conversations, they’re hostage negotiations.

Until now.

For every reason I have to despise Ethan, I’m grateful for the chance to prove my worth. To prove not that I am the best, but that I can be the best.

That said, I was definitely feeling some minor trepidation with this one, too. I was loving the competitive dynamic between the two leads but, not unlike in another romance (though, that one was adult, not YA), I worried it was just a little too much to come back from. Too often toeing over that line where the bickering and banter becomes too harsh, the back and forth too toxic, the overall relationship too problematic. But not only did the characters have dialogue about those moments but how it all unfolded ended up working just right.

I’m surprised this many people want to celebrate his birth. I would rather commemorate it the way one would a natural disaster or other unfortunate occurence — somber social media posts, vows to stay strong on this dark day.

This particular match-up was also so much more than I expected it to be, in regards to motivations and self-awareness. I’ve definitely appreciated how these two authors have explored the strangeness of post-highschool life, and what that looks like, what it has to be, both on personal and romantic levels, and I liked how they worked through it via a new angle with these two characters; and even with those within their friendships and families.

Even when you think you’ve found your story, you might need to change it later if the one you’ve living doesn’t work.

Overall it was just.. fun. The tension, the combativeness, the mixed feelings when one would deviate from the expected, and how that looks going into their future. I would definitely recommend this one. Obviously.

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

THE THERAPIST by B.A. Paris



The multimillion-copy New York Times best-selling author B.A. Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in The Therapist – a powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.

When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive….

As Alice is getting to know her neighbors, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbors are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem….


Title : The Therapist
Author : BA Paris
Narrator : Olivia Dowd & Thomas Judd
Format : Audiobook
Length : 9 hours, 23 minutes
Genre : Domestic Thriller
Publisher : Macmillan Audio
Release Date : April 15, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Creepy storyline
Trust
Lies

I definitely enjoyed this listen of BA Paris’ latest domestic thriller and I couldn’t guess whodunnit, no matter how I tried to speculate, so there are ticks in those boxes. The conclusion was slightly disappointing and I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I leave the book behind glad that I’d read it.

Alice and Leo move in together, doing so in an exclusive development called ‘The Circle’. Immediately, I thought, those people are weird (chuckles). There’s a definite underlying premise to where the main character Alice finds herself and that is…don’t move in with someone too quickly (this is not a spoiler) but a general life lesson.

The story of The Therapist was intricate with little details that came back to prod you later. It was all about who to trust and the lies that people tell but ultimately, this was a whodunnit. Alice seemed to be a really niave character, damaged by her own traumas but easily led by others. Leo lacked some character development, I felt as I didn’t know him much by the end. The plot was a little far fetched at times but it remained pretty gripping.

As with any thriller on audio, the temperature and mood of the listen is particularly important and the narration was able to conjure some sinister feelings and sense of foreboding. This was a multiple POV with dual narrators that worked well.

Overall, a good story with a bit of fading towards the end. The format was definitely a winner.

Thank you to MacMillan Audio for the early review copy.

ROYALLY YOURS by Emma Chase

Princess Lenora Celeste Beatrice Arabella Pembrook had an unusual childhood. She was raised to be a Queen—the first Queen of Wessco.

It’s a big deal.

When she’s crowned at just nineteen, the beautiful young monarch is prepared to rule. She’s charming, clever, confident and cunning.

What she isn’t… is married.

It’s her advising council’s first priority. It’s what Parliament is demanding, and what her people want.

Lenora has no desire to tie herself to a man—particularly one who only wants her for her crown. But compromises must be made and royals must do their duty.

Even Queens. Especially them.

**

Years ago, Edward Langdon Richard Dorian Rourke, walked away from his title and country. Now he’s an adventurer—climbing mountains, exploring jungles, going wherever he wants, when he wants—until family devotion brings him home.

And a sacred promise keeps him there.

To Edward, the haughty, guarded little Queen is intriguing, infuriating…and utterly captivating. Wanting her just might drive him mad—or become his greatest adventure.

**

Within the cold, stone walls of the royal palace—mistrust threatens, wills clash, and an undeniable, passionate love will change the future of the monarchy forever.

Every dynasty has a beginning. Every legend starts with a story.

This is theirs.


Title : Royally Yours
Author : Emma Chase
Series : Royally (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 304
Genre : NA romance
Publisher : Emma Chase LLC
Release Date : Octobe 29, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Of all the books in this series, this is not the one I thought I would love. I kinda thought this would be a throwaway addition of the Royally world and wow was that a bad assumption. Hello you, I am ass.

This story is the prequel of the series, chronicling Queen Lenora, the first Queen of Wessco, and the heartbreak and victories that became the foundations of her life. Oh yeah and this book made me cry at least twice. Possibly thrice.

The emotional beats of this installment are so good, without being overblown, and I think this was actually the most solid romance of the series, too. Almost everything felt pitch perfect, though, yes, maybe a bump or two along the way but hey, no road is totally smooth. I’m willing to acknowledge but don’t quite hold those bumps against the overall story.

If anyone who loved, or even just enjoyed, this world hasn’t read this final (?) installment, I would highly recommend it. It even kind of works great just as a standalone. Though you might find yourself hooked and want to backtrack through the rest.

I’m so delighted to have put this on my Series to Finish in 2021 list because I’m not only glad to put this series to bed, finally, after all this time, but I’m so so happy it also ended on a good note. 

SISTERSONG by Lucy Holland

535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador’s children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans.

Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal.
Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, when born a daughter.
And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance.

All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, love and ultimately, murder. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.


Title : Sistersong
Author : Lucy Holland
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 416
Genre : Historical
Publisher : Macmillan
Release Date : April 1, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Three siblings, three povs
Detailed
Twisty

This fantasy-esque historical story was very different to my expectations and not in a bad way. The story starts with three sisters and ends with three siblings, that detail was core to this story. As such, I favoured Keyne’s evolving story to that of Riva and Sinne. I did sometimes wish for more time in each POV before they switched.

This was a deep and detailed story that slowly gathered pace and plot. Set in a time post-Roman rule and at a time of expectation of Saxon invasion, the sense of impeding war was ever present. The story pitched a convincing battle alongside this of old magical ways versus newer Christian beliefs.

Most of the characters in this story were rather complex, none more than Keyne, Mori and Tristan. There were plenty of characters to be suspicicious of and some to really dislike. The context of this English land during this time conjured a dark and barren place in my mind. Freedoms even for the King’s children were minimal and there was a sense of oppression from numerous directions.

The plot was clever, twists a-plenty with deep, historical research apparent. Overall, this was an immersive read.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan/Black Crow PR for the early review copy.