THE YEAR I LEFT by Christine Brae

Carin Frost doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. A confident businesswoman, wife, and mother, she begins to resent everything about her life. Nothing makes sense. Nothing makes her feel. Maybe it’s the recent loss of her mother in a tragic accident. Or maybe she’s just losing her mind. 

Enter Matias Torres. As their new business partnership thrives, so does their friendship—and his interest in her. Carin is determined to keep her distance, until a work assignment sends them to Southeast Asia where a storm is brewing on the island. In the midst of the chaos, Matias asks her to do something unimaginable, exhilarating, BOLD. Carin knows the consequences could be dire, but it may be the only way to save herself. 

An honest look at love and marriage and the frailties of the human heart, this is a story of a woman’s loss of self and purpose and the journey she takes to find her way back. 


Title : The Year I Left
Author : Christine Brae
Format : eARC
Page Count : 284
Genre : Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Vesuvian Books
Release Date : August 20, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★.5


Micky’s 1.5 star review

I found the synopsis for THE YEAR I LEFT appealing. I like books with married couples, mid life troubles and the worries and stresses that evolve in a relationship; it’s real. That said, this book was way out of what I thought when I read that blurb and I’m going to try to pinpoint why it didn’t work for me. There might be some mild spoilers.

The protagonist, Carin is a workaholic, driven and hugely successful business person with a husband and son. They’re financially loaded as a family and pretty materialistic. Carin was unlikeable from the off despite her circumstances and her grief. I could see her mental health problem immediately but that didn’t mitigate who she was and how she behaved. I’m sorry to say that I disliked her from start to finish and therefore, I didn’t really connect with her.

I did however, understand her feelings about Jack, her husband but I could not reconcile her parenting or connection with her son, Charlie. As for Matias, again I made no connection with him as a character or them as an evolving work colleague, friendship and more. To me, this was a story about unrelatable selfish people. The storyline took a ridiculous turn that sealed my difficulty with this book.

Added to these difficulties, the narrative was largely in the first person which I don’t normally mind. However, in this book it was written as a letter to Matias and I found it awkward to read and it continually took me out of the story. You find out later why this is, but it doesn’t help with processing the story for the rest of the book.

Whilst this book wasn’t for me, I do think some people will find the format and story appealing as it has emotional and angsty content. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the early review copy.

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THE AVANT GUARDS, Vol 1 by Carly Usdin

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

From Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl) and artist Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer, Goldie Vance) comes an ensemble comedy series that understands that it’s the person you are off the court that matters most.


Title : The Avant-Guards, Vol 1
Author: Carly Usdin
Illustrator : Noah Hayes
Series : The Avant-Guards
Format : e-ARC (graphic novel)
Page Count : 116
Genre : YA
Publisher : BOOM! Studios
Release Date : 3 September 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

A good start with potential for this new LGBTQ graphic novel focused on a newly contrived basketball team. Charlie has transferred into the school and she is ‘set upon’ by the enthusiastic recruiting of Liv, who is described in the blurb as ‘charming’ but I just thought she was too full on. The temperature of this graphic novel is a little bit funny and a little bit serious.

I really liked some of the characters that I’ve met so far, Charlie, Nicole and Jay. As a team working together, I am hoping to see more of what that brings. I must say, that I felt a general disconnection with the story line that seemed to go in strange directions at times with elements that didn’t make sense but might, I guess, when the next volume comes out. Seeing as Liv will be a main character, I am going to need some winning over to like her and connect with her. The burgeoning romance seemed to come out of nowhere and again, I will need some more convincing. I have to say the visuals were very appealing and that cover really does draw me in.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thank you BOOM! Studios.

MONTHLY WRAP UP – AUGUST 2019

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

HEARTSTOPPER VOL 1&2 by Alice Oseman — see Micky’s review here
THE WALLFLOWER WAGER by Tessa Dare — see Micky’s review here
TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE by Becky Chambers — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

ALL THE BAD APPLES by Moïra Fowley-Doyle — see Hollis’ review here
HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS by Kerrigan Byrne — see Hollis’ and Micky’s review here
ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane — see Micky’s review here
SAPPHIRE FLAMES by Ilona Andrews — see Hollis’ review here
SEA WITCH and SEA WITCH RISING by Sarah Henning — see Micky’s reviews here
WE HUNT THE FLAME by Hafsah Faisal — see Micky’s review here
GODSGRAVE by Jay Kristoff — see Hollis’ review here
DEAD VOICES by Katherine Arden — see Hollis’ review here
GRIP by Kennedy Ryan — see Micky’s review here
BIRTHDAY by Meredith Russo — see Micky’s review (with Hollis’) here
MOTI ON THE WATER by Leylah Attar — see Micky’s review here
DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

DISCRETION by Karina Halle — see Micky’s review here
NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff — see Hollis’ review here
THE RIGHT SWIPE by Alisha Rai — see Micky’s review here (!)
FIRST COMES LOVE by Emily Giffen — see Micky’s review here
TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT by Marie Brennan — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

LOVE, UNSCRIPTED by Owen Nicholls — see Micky’s review here
SARONG PARTY GIRLS by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan — see Micky’s review here
SAY YOU STILL LOVE ME by K.A. Tucker — see Hollis’ review here
GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE by Natasha Ngan — see Hollis’ review here

star reads

THE RIGHT SWIPE by Alisha Rai — see Hollis’ review here (!)

unrated reads

LET’S CALL IT A DOOMSDAY by Katie Henry — see Hollis’ review here


additional reads not reviewed for blog : 8
total reads by Micky : 26!!! COUGH, COUGH
favourite read of the month : HEARTSTOPPERS 1&2
least favourite read of the month : SARONG PARTY GIRLS
most read genre : Fantasy/contemporary

total reviews by Hollis : eleven
favourite read of the month : ALL THE BAD APPLES by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
least favourite read of the month : THE RIGHT SWIPE by Alisha Rai
most read genre : fantasy/contemporary split

DAISY JONES AND THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.


Title : Daisy Jones & The Six
Author : Taylor Jenkins Reid
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical fiction
Publisher : Doubleday Canada
Release Date : March 5, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m going to come right out and say it : I think my love for this book might be a wee bit biased. Because if you try and convince me this is anything other than Fleetwood Mac fanfiction, I will laaaaaaugh in your face.

Little (hah) known fact about me? I love Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks is my patronus. So, ask me if I loved DAISY JONES AND THE SIX? The answer is duh.

I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse.
I am not a muse.
I am the somebody.
End of fucking story.


I loved the complexity, the contradictory, and the chaos that is this kind of storytelling. The interview process, the different perspectives, the shift of memory, maybe even the falsehoods, it was fascinating. It felt real and authentic. I could so easily picture this as a Behind The Music segment on MTV — or whatever channel it would be these days. Hell, I’ve probably watched all of the ones to do with the Mac, so, yeah. The picture is vivid. As for hearing, I definitely want to reread this on audio at some point. I want to feel these voices in my soul. It’ll either be an even better experience or, expecting Stevie and getting something else, I’ll be disappointed. Fifty/fifty, really.

That’s how it was back then. I was just supposed to be the inspiration for some man’s great idea. Well, fuck that. That’s why I started writing my own stuff.

But anyway. If you know anything about the Mac, you’ll understand what this is about. If you don’t, it’s the start of a band, of a singer, and their collision and meteoric rise to fame in the seventies. It’s about drugs, sex, longing, hate, jealousy, music, family.. it’s everything. 

I came to hate that I’d put my heart and my pain into my music because it meant that I couldn’t ever leave it behind. [..] It made for a great show. But it was my life.

Honestly, the only thing I didn’t like? The ending. You’d think I would, wouldn’t you? But no. 

Would definitely recommend this for Mac fans and non-Mac fans alike (sidenote, if you can watch the 1997 The Dance version of Silver Springs and not lose your cool.. I mean, wow, kudos, but how). Again, I’m probably biased. But at least I’m honest about it.

Now, excuse me while I load up a youtube playlist full of all my favourite live versions, kthanxbai.

DEAD VOICES by Katherine Arden

Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces.

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

With Mr. Voland’s help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.

Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.


Title : Dead Voices
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Small Spaces (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 256
Genre : MG fantasy/paranormal mystery/horror
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : August 27, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Well hello, I’m delightfully creeped out right now.

DEAD VOICES reunites us with the trio from SMALL SPACES, Arden’s first in this middle grade fantasy and paranormal horror mystery series. They survived the creepy scarecrows and fall-themed maze, they survived the Smiling Man, and now they are off to vacation at a ski resort during the holidays. But the vacation ends up being less hot chocolates and fun in the snow and more snowstorms and failing heat, hauntings and danger.

Since October, none of them had liked being alone in the dark. It wasn’t that they were afraid, exactly. But they had learned that bad things could happen to you. At night. Alone. In the dark.

Arden is no stranger to weaving magic with her words and creating a biting, brutal, and unforgiving atmosphere. The Winternight Trilogy still makes me cold to think of it (amongst other things!) and she brings that same talent to this instalment. What I think is actually the coolest (hah) part of this series is each book is set during a season; fall for SMALL SPACES and now winter for DEAD VOICES. It’s wonderfully creative. But onto this story itself.

The Ouija board was like the worst text messenger ever, Coco thought in annoyance.

If your imagination is overactive during the night, seeing shapes move in shadow and darkness, if you hear voices in the whisper of the wind, feel someone move behind you as your skin breaks into goosebumps, but there’s no one there.. you’ll probably hate this story. In the best way! Because this book really was eerie, really was creepy, and the ghoulish fear of spirits and the unforgiving violence of the cold is right in your face. Sometimes literally.

Beyond the characters and the seasons, there is connection between book one and two and I was not totally expecting it. But we also see some non-fantastical growth, too, and it was lovely to be back with this trio — and Ollie’s dad, too. Shoutout to awesome parents in fiction!

I am definitely hoping that Brian will be getting some time front and centre with the upcoming instalment and, based on how this one went, giving Coco some of the focus in addition to Ollie, I would be surprised if that wasn’t the plan anyway.

Can’t wait for more from this world and this author.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – AUGUST 27, 2019

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.


SAPPHIRE FLAMES by Ilona Andrews is the first full-length installment from Catalina’s POV as the new headliner of the Hidden Legacy series. I love this her take, I love her powers, I love that more books are still to come. Look for Hollis’ review later today!

ALL THE BAD APPLES by Moïra Fowley-Doyle is the latest standalone from this author whose style is whimsical and magical and twisty and feminist. This particular story focuses on women, family, and is set around the very real and timely subject of reproductive rights.

HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS by Kerrigan Byrne is the first in a brand new series called Devil You Know. While we’re all familiar, and fond, of Byrne’s antiheroes, she does mix it up a little with this one. It’ll still feel familiar, and it’s definitely fun, and hella swoony.


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

HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS by Kerrigan Byrne – double review!

These men are dark, bold, and brave. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

Famed and brilliant, Lady Alexandra Lane has always known how to look out for to herself. But nobody would ever expect that she has darkness in her past—one that she pays a blackmailer to keep buried. Now, with her family nearing bankruptcy, Alexandra strikes upon a solution: Get married to one of the empire’s most wealthy eligible bachelors. Even if he does have the reputation of a devil.

LOVE TAKES NO PRISONERS

Piers Gedrick Atherton, the Duke of Redmayne, is seeking revenge and the first step is securing a bride. Winning a lady’s hand is not so easy, however, for a man known as the Terror of Torcliff. Then, Alexandra enters his life like a bolt of lightning. When she proposes marriage, Piers knows that, like him, trouble haunts her footsteps. But her gentleness, sharp wit, independent nature, and incredible beauty awakens every fierce desire within him. He will do whatever it takes to keep her safe in his arms.


Title : How to Love a Duke in Ten Days
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : The Devil You Know (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 447
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : August 27, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I was so worried about HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS. The opening chapters, in some ways, read a lot like THE HIGHWAYMAN, the first book by this author I loved (and unrelated to this series..). I was side-eyeing the story, some familiar elements, until.. those similarities dissipated and this story, different and with its own strengths, emerged.

Loneliness was safer than love.

This book is dedicated to survivors, to the #metoo movement, and that probably says a lot about some of the content in this book. Infact the very first chapter opens up with a sexual assault on our heroine and she spends the rest of the story dealing with the aftermath. She learns to disguise her form and navigate life to avoid touch, avoid danger, and basically any men who could be a threat. She becomes a traveler, an academic, preferring the company of dead men and their bones to real flesh and blood ones. Even though it’s a dead man who haunts her.. as well as a very real person who is blackmailing her over it.

Just who were these ladies? Where were the tears and histrionics? Couldn’t they have at least afforded him a modicum of feminine display for his — he wasn’t too modest to say — rather heroic behaviour?

She and her two best friends from school reunite when one of them announce their engagement to a duke. And it’s when Alexandra inadvertently runs into said duke, prior to an introduction, that her carefully curated life goes off script.

I know we’re both in a great deal of trouble at the moment, but that is no reason to marry a man. When has the addition of anyone of the opposite sex ever improved one of our situations?

It’s no secret that Byrne’s specialty is dark, damaged, anti-heroes. But this time, with Piers, she gives her typical (atypical?) hero a bit of a twist; he’s dark, he’s damaged, but he’s also charming. Funny. Tender. Kind. He’s not an anti-hero, more just resigned to his fate, for all that he’s blessed with riches and a dukedom. He’d rather tend the horses, travel, and be far from the ton and their two-faced-ness, as well as any and all wearying social niceties.

You’re like no duke I’ve ever met.”
And you’re unlike any lady of my acquaintance.”
I–I didn’t at all mean that as a slight.”
And I was paying you the highest compliment.”

Both have secrets. Both have their own scars. And both somehow discover this incredible connection over the course of (you guessed it) ten days. While I would almost never buy this in a contemporary, and I’m sure I’ve doubted it in a HR, too, somehow.. Byrne makes me believe it. The intensity of the events, with (multiple!) near death close-calls, the emotional rollercoasters they have to navigate as they get to know each other, plus the heightened connection by way of their attraction and everything they have to navigate in order to be together.. it just works. In the same way that the secret, hovering over their heads, worked. It wasn’t something that could just be blurted out and I didn’t begrudge it for its existence. Every reason for keeping it a secret was valid. Somehow everything about this story just.. fit. Everything that was introduced was handled beautifully, respectfully, and overall this was just so well done. Even the outlandish or harder to believe bits.

All I’m asking is for you to have mercy on me, [..]. If there is a battle to fight, a villain to face, I beg you to allow me the honour. Because the cruelest thing you could do, is sentence me to a world without you in it.

This was all the swoon, all of the fun, all of the mystery (though I did actually guess right!), that I’ve come to love from Byrne and I’m so relieved considering the last additions to the Victorian Rebels series had me worried. They seemed to be missing some of the early spark I had come to love and rely on from this author; but the same cannot be said here. It might feel a little familiar for those who know, and love, the aforementioned series.. but it’s in the best kind of way. And it definitely stands apart. I’m very keen to read on in this series, which, additionally, had the next couple cunningly teased (not that we couldn’t guess..) in the epilogue. Just to hook you. So, consider me hooked!

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


Micky’s 4 star review

I was so ready for a new series from Kerrigan Byrne and HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS, took me on a delightful, fun journey. It had intrigue, suspense, a marriage of convenience and a real connection. I was worried about the title in terms of insta-love and while it was fast moving in that way, it didn’t feel instantaneous.

This story opens with a rather difficult scene, there may be triggers for some in this book. It was a opener that drew you in by the heart strings and it made me immediately invested in the protagonist, Alexandra. She took her vulnerability and forged herself into a strong woman, an academic, no less.

I love a beastly rogue of a character and Piers (the Duke) was rough corners and couldn’t care less about convention or appearances. His meeting with Alexandra on the platform was all growls and harsh man but he had a more refined side to him. That said, the man on the platform felt to be truth of him.

How did she prefer him? The hunter, predatory and insolent? Or the duke, charismatic, sleek and cunning?

Secrets are the name of the game between Piers and Alexandra, sometimes secrets between characters infuriate me but with this story, it worked. There was a mutual respect between them, equality was a given and I loved watching their friendship evolve around the other elements of their relationship. I loved that Alexandra constantly surprised Piers.

Could she be real? Did he hold in his arms the rarest of creatures? A woman of substance. Of integrity?…One who thrived on intellect and honor and genuine interaction rather than the empty endorsements of her peers?

After launching with enthusiasm into this book, I did find it took a while to really get into it, but by 30% in, I was truly invested. I’m looking forward to more from this series and possibly from Alexandra’s two friends.

Thank you to St Martins Press for the early copy of this book.