CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare

Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length…everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world…and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all. 


Title : Clockwork Angel
Author : Cassandra Clare
Series : The Infernal Devices #1
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 528
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Walker YA
Release Date : November 7, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4.5 – 5 star review

I’ve got to tell you that I entered this read as a newbie with trepidation, I had tried City of Bones earlier in the year and found it a little too teeny for me. I wasn’t sure that I would gel with the world but oh my word, I was off the mark with that. I was gifted a copy of the special edition, joined a readalong and the whole experience was absolutely fantastic.

Firstly, I can say that no knowledge of the The Mortal Instruments series did not hold me back at all. I learnt about the world all from this book and enjoyed the revealing of the rules, creatures, magic and beings existing in Victorian London. All this was improved by that historical fantasy setting, knowing London well, I enjoyed a geographical insight into places and the visual that created.

Stepping through the Institute’s iron gate, Tessa felt a bit like Sleeping Beauty leaving her castle behind its wall of thorns.

What was special to me about this book was the amount of characters at the fore. Whilst Tessa, Will and Jem seemed the lead protagonists, there were so many other characters to get your teeth into properly, more than your average side characters. I liked and want(ed) more from Sophie, Charlotte, Henry and Thomas. I loved to hate Nate, the Magister, the Dark Sisters and those damn clockwork creatures (shudders).

The plot was complex and interesting. Everything about this book was enhanced by the visuals, visuals of the main characters which were absolutely superb. The pictures of the MCs were perfect for my imagination, they all fitted for me. The sketches at chapter beginnings were subtle and beautifully done, it created a whole atmosphere within the book that might not have been quite as strong without the visual. There were twists and turns, turns and twists galore but so that I could follow the plot well.

The book finished well and on something of a cliff, but I know a lot of answers now. I do have about 40 more questions as a result however. I strongly feel that Will is on self-sabotage mode, that this triangle-ish thing will end badly and that Jem is just an all round good guy. But then, who likes the good guy after all (me, actually). What a great experience this was, I am excited for more.

Thank you to Walker Books and Tandem Collective for the gifted special edition and for creating the readalong.

MONTHLY WRAP UP – NOVEMBER 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

GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert — see Hollis’ review here (!)

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

DEADLY LITTLE SCANDALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes — see Hollis’ review here
THE HOW & THE WHY by Cynthia Hand — see Hollis’ review here
GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Talia Hibbert — see Micky’s review here (!)
SCYTHE by Neal Schusterman — see Micky’s review here
LAST LIGHT by Claire Kent — see Micky’s review here
THE STARLESS SEA by Erin Morgenstern — see Hollis’ review here
FIVE YEARS GONE by Marie Force — see Micky’s review here
MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS by Carrie S Allen — see Hollis’ review here
THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone — see Hollis’ review here
NEVER TELL by Lisa Gardner — see Hollis’ review here
GODSGRAVE by Jay Kristoff — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

NOT THE GIRL YOU MARRY by Andie J Christopher — see Hollis’ review here
NEVER GOT OVER YOU by Whitney G — see Micky’s review here
BE YOUR ANYTHING by Jillian Liota — see Micky’s review here
OUTMATCHED by Kristen Callihan & Samantha Young — see Micky’s review here
CRIER’S WAR by Nina Varela — see Hollis’ review here
TEN BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston — see Hollis’ review here
THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert — see Hollis’ review here
Reindeer Falls series by Jana Aston — see Micky’s review here


☆ ☆ star reads

THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay Adams — see Hollis’ review here
GIRLS OF STORM AND SHADOW by Natasha Ngan — see Hollis’ and Micky’s review here
KISSING GALILEO by Penny Reid — see Micky’s review here
PERMANENT RECORD by Mary H. K. Choi — see Hollis’ review here
BLOOD HEIR by Amélie Wen Zhao — see Hollis’ review here


star reads

NOW ENTERING ADDAMSVILLE by Francesca Zappia — see Hollis’ review here

DNF

THE KINGMAKER by Kennedy Ryan — see Micky’s brief Goodreads thoughts here


additional reads not reviewed for blog : two
total reads by Micky : thirteen and one dnf
favourite read of the month : LAST LIGHT by Claire Kent
least favourite read of the month : THE KINGMAKER by Kennedy Ryan
most read genre : contemporary romance

total reviews by Hollis : sixteen
favourite read of the month : GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN by Hibbert
least favourite read of the month : NOW ENTERING ADDAMSVILLE by Zappia
most read genre : contemporary/fantasy split?

BLOOD HEIR by Amelié Wen Zhao

This hot debut is the first book in an epic new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder. 

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls. 

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.


Title : Blood Heir
Author : Amelié Wen Zhao
Series : Blood Heir (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count :  459
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : November 19, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

While this story opened up with a banger of a first chapter, unfortunately I think it was a concept that worked better as a pitch.

This fantasy feels fairly familiar to other revenge plot stories but with a twist : the heroine, the princess, the fugitive, is a monster. Or, rather, has a monstrous power. And the hero, well. He’s a conman with a seedy past. With a Russian-esque feel to the worldbuilding, think Grishaverse but not as direct a copy as another recent release, and interesting character archetypes, I really thought this would be a winner.

But sadly I was feeling some concerns around the 20% mark and it didn’t really get better. Sometimes it got worse.

There were a lot of familiar tropes and situations, the dialogue would occasionally fall into awkward cliche, and everything good and interesting just felt overshadowed by the rest. Also, I found myself rather confused by some of the timeline and events that lead up to where everything opened up. Maybe it was just me, maybe I missed it, but that confusion certainly didn’t help. There was definitely potential, and again in theory this should’ve been great, I just don’t think the writing did it any favours. Nor did a few repeats (and more repeats) of certain things I won’t spoil.

Considering all the controversy around this one, I’m extra sad I didn’t love this. I don’t know what changes, if any, were made, but as of the reading of this edition, I don’t believe any of the complaints were warranted. Topics of exploitation and the violation of human rights, it’s all worthy dialogue. Set against a fantasy backdrop makes the reality less devastating to experience but this was a main plot point and definitely key for our lead character and what drives her. She’s trying to do good, fix her world, and we need more of that in our world. The outcry just seems ridiculous and also so very shortsighted. But I digress.

I’m not sure if I’ll read on in this series. But who am I kidding; I probably will.

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

REINDEER FALLS SERIES by Jana Aston

The Boss Who Stole Christmas (Reindeer Falls #1)

Dear Santa,

Please bring me a new boss for Christmas. Mine is the worst. The worst, hidden in a six foot tall package of male perfection. It’d be easier if he looked like an old Scrooge, wouldn’t it?

Nick Saint-Croix doesn’t look like an old scrooge. He’s hot as-

Um, never mind. Just bring me a new boss. Please.

Sincerely,
Holly Winter


If You Give a Jerk a Gingerbread (Reindeer Falls #2)

Dear Santa,

I do not want Keller James for Christmas.

I will not fall for him, no matter how charming or irresistible or famous he is. I will not be swayed by his skills in the kitchen or by his British accent. I’m going to win the Great Gingerbread Bake Off and no one is going to stand in my way. Not even Keller.

All kisses are off. I mean all bets. All bets are off. And his clothes, those are off too.

Grr, never mind. I’ll figure this out myself.

XOXO,
Ginger Winter


The One Night Stand Before Christmas (Reindeer Falls #3)

Dear Santa,

Please stop by my house and pick up your suit. If you thought I was going to run it to the dry cleaners for you after you left it on my bedroom floor, you’ve got another think coming.

Best,
Noel Winter


Author : Jana Aston
Series : Reindeer Falls
Format : ebook
Page Count : 100/99/100
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Rutherford Press
Release Date : November, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
#1 Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5
#2 Rating : ★ ★ ★ 
#3 Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Well, I can only say that these were fun and quick to read, just what the doctor ordered for a few days sickness and a desire for Christmassy reads. The author describes these as ‘over-the-top’ and ‘merrily-ever-afters guarenteed’, so I knew what I was getting into. They took minimal concentration and commitment which was perfect for my needs. Each book follows a different sister in the small town on Reindeer Falls…

Book one, THE BOSS WHO STOLE Christmas (3.5 stars), initially lined me up for a real grump-jerk but honestly, that was just the skewed perspective of the heroine. She was actually the jerk and her attitutde annoyed me but I enjoyed the story, the steam and the redemption. The hero, Nick was something of a sweetie and despite the short nature of the story, I bought into the chemistry. It did take a while to get going, so lost a bit on rating there for me.

The second book, IF YOU GIVE A JERK A GINGERBREAD (3 stars), was a meet cute with instant connection to more. This is one where you’d really have to take the author at her word of over-the-top feelings. I actually liked a lot of this story more than book one but the chemistry fell flat for me. It was a quick read and entertaining but the instalove was too insta-xmas for me.

The final novella, THE ONE NIGHT STAND BEFORE CHRISTMAS (3.5 stars) was a mistaken identity fun read. This one was pure fun as this one night stand turned into a who the hell was that? The hero, Teddy sure was unrealistically committed and instantly into Noel but whatever, I bought into the fun. This final instalment also cleverly tied up the what is happening now with the three sisters so we got a great update on a year later.

I found this three novellas generally entertaining. I enjoyed them, they weren’t realistic or forever memorable but they did what they promised on the tin. They’re also in Kindle Unlimited if you have a subscription.

NEVER TELL by Lisa Gardner

A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun. 

D.D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman–Evie Carter–from a case many years back. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many. 

Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim–a hostage–and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad’s murder. 

But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?


Title : Never Tell
Author : Lisa Gardner
Series : Detective D.D. Warren (book ten)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 414
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : February 19, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’ll be the first to admit that while it was Gardner, and her three cross-over series, that kicked off my renewed fascination with the thriller/mystery/detective genre back in 2016, the last few installments of this main series (correction, sorry, it’s been one book and one novella) just haven’t wowed me. For various reasons. But NEVER TELL? Hi hello, we’re back again.

This story slots in under the main Detective D.D. Warren series but, like most of Gardner’s books, there’s crossover. Recently, since book eight, the survivor of that story has become a supporting character as she transitioned into a vigilante slash confidential informant, aka CI, for DD. And she’s not the only familiar face.

I really couldn’t recommend this book to people who hadn’t read at least the last three, starting from FIND HER, but honestly this whole series is worth investing in. Are they all great? No. But there’s been such an evolution, including the books in the companion/spin-offs, and those are even relevant for a certain guest-star in this book, both in character and how some of the stories weave together, that even the stories that don’t rate as high still feel worth the effort (also, for some perspective, I’ve only rated one book below three stars and while that was the first book.. let’s just say the opening books were a different vibe). Basically what I’m saying is block out some reading time over the holidays, put the whole backlist on hold at your local library, and get ready to rock and roll. And by rock and roll I mean experience some dark twisty additive af procedurals.

This review has become less about the book and more about the series as a whole but honestly there’s not much you can put in a review for a thriller that the summary doesn’t already.. summarize. There are twists, death, and surprises. Rinse and repeat. This mystery definitely had a tighter pacing than the last, unfurled in a great way, and also had me tearing up. So I guess we can throw ’emotions’ into that list, too.

I can’t wait for the next one.

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – double review!

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right? 


Title : This Is How You Lose The Time War
Author : Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 209
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : July 19, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This is a book that was recommended to me by every friend who read it. The hype was real, the library wait was long, and the book itself was short. My feelings, however, are hard to pin down.

Like Chamber’s TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE this is a short sci-fi novella, that I would describe as a thought provoking slowburn. This one is far more romantic than the aforementioned story, but the telling of it feels similar, even if the subject differs hugely.

This was at turns way over my head complex, hauntingly heartbreaking, and clever af. This a love story between time travelers who work for competing purposes, who flit in and out of points in the universe, in history and the future, and who communicate first through taunts and later through understanding, connection, desire.

I’ll admit I did see a few things coming, which felt like a feat considering how dumb this made me feel sometimes. But overall it was a fascinating and thrilling and strange and sweet experience. I just don’t know how one rates something like this. A four? Let’s say it’s a four. I think if you stripped away some of the strange, hard to imagine, unbelievably complicated elements, held up the bare bones of a story that is still strange and complicated, but without the white noise that may have distracted you.. yeah. This feels right. But the story itself needs those elements, it does; though I can see others, maybe, not liking it because of them. Which might be where I got stuck, too.

If you like sci-fi, if you don’t mind when a plot leans heavy on a romantic connection, I would recommend.


Micky’s 1 star review

This was metaphor hell. A love story (eventually) between robot-horse-wolf-seeds in shades of red and blue through letters. It is about time travel, a vaguely recognisable earth and espionage with lots of killing.

I hated it.

I imagine you reaching over my shoulder to correct my hand on a victim’s throatNice.

The world falls into place like rain. Blue licks her bloodied snout, her paws, her gouged shoulder.Not sure what creature Blue was at this point.

You ask if we eat.
It’s a hard question to answer. There is no mono-we; there are many usses. The usses change and interleave.
 Welcome to my perpetual confusion.

Towards the end we got some comprehensible connection and sense of love but I was too far gone down the wtf road.

I’m not dissing anyone else’s experience, I have a bunch of friends who loved it but my PhD didn’t help me through the confusion of this one.

MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS by Carrie S Allen

When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up – even if it means putting her future on the line.


Title : Michigan vs The Boys
Author : Carrie S Allen
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 308
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : KCP Loft
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I would like it noted for the record that this is my do-over review after accidentally losing the first (much superior) draft. I am sad. But here we go; take two.

Wow, so. I knew going into this read that it would deal with some tough situations concerning bullying and hazing, but still. This was hard.

MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS feels like the second cousin to BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman. Like that other story, this one also focuses on the mob mentality so often found in men, particularly in competitive sports. But that’s mostly where the similarities end.

Michigan loves hockey. So when her girls’ team is disbanded due to budget cuts, she makes the bold choice to try out for the boys’ team. Except no one wants her there. Not her coach and certainly not her teammates. But she wants to play, she is talented, and so she makes the cut.

Reading what the boys put her through, how she is ignored by the staff, and only trotted out when she out-plays, and out-scores, the boys, is so hard. Watching every hard-earned win, every success, be immediately torn down by those who are supposed to lift her up, cheer her on? Brutal. But watching her continue to push herself, to continue to succeed despite so much adversity, is remarkable. Though, ultimately, tragic because it’s so unnecessary and awful.

But for all that awful, there’s a balance of greatness, too. It’s also a story about friendship, first love, loyalty, and family. And, in some ways, so much of this is necessary. Because, as one character says, about a certain situation, which I will paraphrase, this story, the telling of it, is so important. For the girls who will see themselves in these moments; if not now, maybe in the future. For the boys who might realize that what they witness being done to others, what they don’t stop even if they don’t participate in, is wrong.

If you love hockey, if you love stories with great friendships or sibling relationships, hell, if you loved (or hated!) BEARTOWN, I would definitely recommend.

CRIER’S WAR by Nina Varela

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war. 


Title : Crier’s War
Author : Nina Varela
Series : Crier’s War (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 434
Genre : YA fantasy, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I think this is one of those books that can go either way for some readers. But, for me, I’m caught right in the middle.

First, let me say : if you considered picking this book up because you heard it was a hate to love, or enemies to lovers, or opposites attract, romance? I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. This, unlike another fantasy series featuring an f/f pairing, was done so so well. I believed in the evolution of this.. not relationship but this connection. It totally won me over and oh man I want more. The dynamic between them.. (chefs kiss).

As for the dynamic of the story itself? Well, I was definitely under the impression this story was actually the opposite of what it has (haha #TeamNoBlurbs). Instead of the Made-character being the outlier, this is a society where Made-beings, the Automae, are actually in charge. They are the winners of a war where they have subjugated humans. Mostly. There are some who don’t despise humans, who want to live with them equally, but overall this is not the norm. And, to be honest, I think that element made this story even better for me than had it been the other way around, or the way I expected.

However. I’ll admit that sometimes I did feel a little confused by the actions of some of these Automae and how human they did seem, sometimes. And yet others, not at all. Maybe that was done on purpose? Maybe there is supposed to be that fluctuating line to make us see how close but not at all like humans they are? I’m uncertain. Certain actions, particularly that of the villain and his manipulations, just make it to to seem.. well, convenient, that some act more human than others. I don’t know. I’m not explaining this right but I think that’s mostly because, again, confused.

The world is very interesting, though, and how certain things came about in the end..? Yeah, wow, I am reading on for sure. But that said, I’m glad that we had two strong leads to carry this story during those moments where I was just not in it, because those moments did happen. And I’m glad for these leads because I was forever sad I didn’t love the aforementioned other series because diversity and f/f and all that good stuff. But this one? This one does it. I’m here for it.

So, yes, not a super high rating, but I absolutely think book two will knock it out of the park. And I can’t wait.

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

THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.


Title : The Hazel Wood
Author : Melissa Albert
Series : The Hazel Wood (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 365
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : January 30, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I knew so little about what THE HAZEL WOOD was about when I started it.. and as a result I don’t want to give it a review that could risk spoiling it for anyone else.

This is a story ripe with the darker side of fairytales, the ones with no happy endings, no lessons, just.. stories. Magic. But it’s also set in our world, or a contemporary one, and.. well. To be honest that’s all I want to say. That’s all I will say.

I’ll admit I didn’t quite love the characters at first (and, to be honest, I don’t think we’re supposed to, but I know that doesn’t make unlikeable characters easier to tolerate), and had no idea where the plot was going, but oh man, by the end? Actually, maybe.. halfway? I was completely enamoured. I got it. I understood the why and the how and, well, everything just clicked for me. That isn’t to say you won’t like the first half, but it definitely isn’t what you might be expecting, and takes a while to set things up, but things do shift into.. well, maybe what you’re expecting? But also probably not. But in a better way.

My understanding is that Albert’s second book, THE NIGHT COUNTRY, is either a companion or a sequel, but definitely set in the same world/universe, and I’m so so happy I have an ARC. I want to dive in right now. Instead I shall flex some of my willpower and resist — but that doesn’t negate my excitement.

** I received this ARC via trade (thanks Flavia!) and was under no obligation for a review. **

TEN BLIND DATES by Ashley Elston

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?


Title : Ten Blind Dates
Author : Ashley Elston
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is the kind of read that is pretty much exactly what it looks like. It’s contemporary, it’s set around the holidays, there is a large boisterous family who conspires together to set up the newly heartbroken lead character on dates, of which there are ten of them. If this sounds like everything, or anything, you want from a romance, I don’t think you’ll have any complaints.

I definitely loved the concept of these dates, the strange charm of the whole situation. I loved the idea of this big family but I’ll admit.. in the beginning, it was too many names, too much at once, but it does get across that sense of chaos that comes from having many relatives — I assume. That isn’t my family at all — and, near the end, it does narrow down a bit to a few key players, which makes things easier.

What surprised me, and ended up being my favourite part, was the connection between Sophie and her older sister, Margot, who is on bed rest, and then hospitalized, due to preeclampsia. There were a few moments between them, conversations via text, heck, even a few conversations between Sophie and her mother about Margot, that really got me. It hit a little close to home for me but also it was just really well done and hella emotional and lovely.

There was also a reunion between a friend group, most of them cousins, that I thought was great. Both the ups and the downs. All of it just felt super realistic and, despite some of the “remember this, that, and when..” retellings of stories to tell us how close they used to be, instead of showing, I really enjoyed all their interactions.

The dates themselves, much like the family members who chose them, were mostly over the top and ridiculous but a few were also fun and sweet. I definitely had a favourite but for the sheer surprise hilarity of it I don’t want to ruin it. Ultimately, though, it’s obvious pretty much from the get-go who Sophie is going to end up with. And though I did like it, I did feel things got kind of serious kind of fast and, personally, I would’ve preferred things to have been a little.. slower, I guess? I don’t know. I wanted more engine revving than full throttle, I guess. Though I totally appreciate the maturity of how they are handling things big picture-wise as they prepare for university and the next stage of their lives.

Overall this was a fun read, with an emotional backbone, and a few laughs. Definitely one I would recommend for anyone looking for titles to add to their holiday tbr.

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