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.
CLOSER by Kylie Scott — see Micky’s review here NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo — see Hollis’ review here MAGIC TRIUMPHS by Ilona Andrews — see Micky’s review here WAR OF HEARTS by Samantha Young — see Micky’s review here WORK FOR IT by Talia Hibbert — see Hollis’ review here CLASSIC KRAKAUER by Jon Krakauer — see Micky’s review here POSTSCRIPT by Cecelia Ahern — see Micky’s review here LITTLE WHITE LIES by Jennifer Lynn Barnes — see Hollis’ review here TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE by Becky Chambers — see Hollis’ review here BURN FOR ME by Ilona Andrews — see Micky’s review here THIRTY by Christina Bradley — see Micky’s review here JACKPOT by Nic Stone — see Micky’s review here LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer — see Micky’s review here THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes — see Micky’s review here
☆ ☆ ☆ star reads
MOONCAKES by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu (artist) — see Hollis’ review here FULL DISCLOSURE by Camryn Garrett — see Hollis and Micky’s reviews here THE BEAUTIFUL by Reneé Ahdieh — see Hollis and Micky’s reviews here THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS by Charlotte Nicole Davis — see Hollis and Micky’s reviews here THE DUKE’S STOLEN BRIDE by Sophie Jordan — see Micky’s review here THE END AND OTHER BEGINNINGS by Veronica Roth — see Micky’s review here THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA by Julia Drake — see Hollis’ review here THE ART OF THEFT by Sherry Thomas — see Hollis’ review here A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY by Brigid Kemmerer — see Hollis’ review
☆ ☆ star reads
THE PLAY by Elle Kennedy — see Hollis’ review here THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett — see Micky’s review here (!) INTO THE CROOKED PLACE by Alexandra Christo — see Hollis’ review here (!) TWICE IN A BLUE MOON by Christina Lauren — see Hollis’ review here
☆ star reads
THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett — see Hollis’ review here (!)
INTO THE CROOKED PLACE by Alexandra Christo — see Micky’s review here (!)
additional reads not reviewed for blog : five total reads by Micky : twenty three favourite read of the month : STILL by Kennedy Ryan least favourite read of the month : INTO THE CROOKED PLACE by Alexandra Christo most read genre : Fantasy/Contemporary mix
total reviews by Hollis : fifteen favourite read of the month : NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo & also TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE by Becky Chambers (I cheated) least favourite read of the month : THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett most read genre : fantasy
England, late 1930s, and Alice Wright — restless, stifled — makes an impulsive decision to marry wealthy American Bennett Van Cleve and leave her home and family behind.
But stuffy, disapproving Baileyville, Kentucky, where her husband favours work over his wife and is dominated by his overbearing father, is not the adventure — or the escape — that she hoped for.
That is, until she meets Margery O’Hare, a troublesome woman — and daughter of a notorious felon — the town wishes to forget.
Margery’s on a mission to spread the wonder of books and reading to the poor and lost — and she needs Alice’s help.
Trekking alone under big open skies, through wild mountain forests, Alice, Margery and their fellow sisters of the trail discover freedom, friendship — and a life to call their own.
But when the town turns against them, will their belief in one another — and the power of the written word — be enough to save them?
Inspired by a remarkable true story, The Giver of Stars features five incredible women who will prove to be every bit as beloved as Lou Clark, the unforgettable heroine of Me Before You.
Title : The Giver of Stars Author : Jojo Moyes Format : Hardback Page Count : 448 Genre : Women’s Fiction Publisher : Michael Joseph, Penguin Books Release Date : October 3, 2019
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5
Micky’s 4.5 star review
I should know…know that when I read a Jojo Moyes book that it’s going to pack an emotional punch but with this blurb, I just didn’t see it coming. THE GIVER OF STARS had me invested quickly and feeling like a family member to the librarian sisterhood, so that when things happened, I felt devastated and scared to read on. The themes of misogyny, racism and feminism made this both emotional and empowering.
The context of reading, teaching poor and downtrodden women, children and men to read through the distrubution of books was in the background but it also powerful to observe. These women on their riding rounds also comforted the sick, grieving and took on the role of friends, confidentes and substitute mother figures.
I didn’t expect this book to be unputdownable, but it was as Moyes made the mundane work of Alice, Margery, Izzy and Beth’s lives totally readable and absorbing. Alice was the main protagonist, an English newly-wed, a little prissy but a genuinely sweet woman. The life she found in Kentucky was not at all what she expected and I tore my hair out over her and Bennett’s relationship. There were some revolting men in this book but then there were also some fantastic characters in Fred and Sven, they were the light in my reading and this book.
There was a second supporting protagonist in Margery and she really captured my heart. I loved her rebelliousness, her unconventional ways and willingness to be different. Her later storyline had me distraught, sad and prone to weeping. I just did not know where this book was going to end, there were so many possibilities.
I have come away from this read inspired. Jojo Moyes took me on a journey with this story and I am all the richer for it. This is historical women’s fiction at it’s best and I will remember this book for years, I am sure.
In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.
Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.
Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.
Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…
Title : Full Disclosure Author : Camryn Garrett Format : ARC Page Count : 320 Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ contemporary Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers Release Date : October 29, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis / Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ /★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 3 star review
I fully admit that I requested this one because of the unique circumstances described in the synopsis. A YA contemporary dealing with HIV? Not a throwback story, or historical, set against the AIDS crisis but a real person, in today’s world? I had to read it. Adding to this already rare subject matter, was a diverse cast, dealing with topics of both race and sexuality.
But ultimately I think I loved the concept more than the execution.
This story reads a little like SIMON VS THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA. Our lead has a secret, she’s not out about her HIV at school (not after the disaster that happened at her last one), and she hasn’t even told her best friends; which means neither does her crush know. But someone does and someone threatens to out her if she doesn’t spill the beans by a specific deadline. The threats even get worse as her crush suddenly becomes her boyfriend. And Simone has to make a choice : avoid the chance at love and be browbeat by an unknown or come clean to those she cares about.
Throughout the story, there are little red herrings as to who this blackmailer is. And I’ll admit I did guess correctly. I won’t spoil anything about Simone’s choices (does she tell, is she outed, does she tell and end up outed anyway) but I will say that, not being represented by anything in this book — I’m not queer or black or HIV positive (though the author is the everything but the latter) — I thought everything felt true. What ultimately kind of failed for me was some of the side drama with Simone’s besties. I felt they sometimes transitioned into strange discussions or arguments that never felt relevant for the circumstances whereas her friends from the support group, a gathering for other HIV positive teens, were fabulous.
The romance was sweet, the obsession with musicals wasn’t really my thing but I appreciated the relevance of them doing a production of Rent, and I would 100% read a backstory/companion about Simone’s parents. She had a somewhat complex and blended family situation, being adopted and also with particular dynamics still present between her dads, but overall I just loved them both so much. It was particularly nice that, with everything else going on, parental angst was not present.
Additionally, Simone is very aware and very responsible about her diagnosis. She has maturity, respect, and agency in regards to how she has to manage it and yet also wants to be educated on protocol for being sexually active while protecting herself and her partner. This is a story about living with HIV and living a full, healthy, life. There’s no real tragedy here.
So, yes, I didn’t love this but I love what it represents, what it will offer to other readers, and overall the education it’ll give many people who just don’t know enough, or maybe rely on ignorant prejudice, about HIV. Highly recommend for that alone.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Micky’s 3 star review
I requested this book because it oozed the grabby vibes with a YA context of a HIV positive protagonist. This book had lots of important themes and it was generally educational to those who might not know much about the virus in the context of adolescence and sexual relationships. However, it terms of execution and connection to the characters, the narrative left me on the outside looking in, disconnected and wanting more.
The protagonist, Simone was a secure person on the cusp of womanhood but with so many new questions about a health condition she’d lived with since forever. Simone was exploring her sexual identity, potential attractions and relationships and for the first time she was questioning what that meant in the now for her and her circumstances.
What I liked were the multiple reps of sexual identity and living with HIV, there’s so much in terms of widening knowledge and horizons for young people reading this book. I loved the dads, they were ridiculously protective on the one hand and everything precious on the other. I liked Miles but I found him unrealistic in a number of situations.
I struggled somewhat with feeling connected to Simone herself and her friends, Lydia and Claudia. There was something missing in these characters, something in the narrative that just didn’t hang right and I still can’t put my finger on it. The drama lama later in the story was predictable but I did enjoy how the story came together in the end. Although I remain unsure about Miles’ parents and any resolution of that issue.
I wanted to love this book, I appreciate its existence but it was just an okay read for me. I think maybe those younger readers than me might gain more from the narrative than I did.
Thank you to Penguin Children’s for the early review copy.
Jack Lancaster, consultant to the FBI, has always been drawn to the coldest of cold cases, the kind that law enforcement either considers unsolvable or else has chalked up to accidents or suicides. As a survivor of a fire, he finds himself uniquely compelled by arson cases. His almost preternatural ability to get inside the killer’s head has garnered him a reputation in some circles — and complicated his personal life. The more cases Jack solves, the closer he slips into the darkness. His only solace is Winter Meadows, a meditation therapist. After particularly grisly cases, Winter can lead Jack back to peace.
But as long as Quinton Zane is alive, Jack will not be at peace for long. Having solidified his position as the power behind the throne of his biological family’s hedge fund, Zane sets out to get rid of Anson Salinas’s foster sons, starting with Jack.
Title : Untouchable Author : Jayne Ann Krentz Series : Cutler, Sutter & Salinas #3 Format : Paperback Page Count : 308 Genre : Romantic Suspense/Thriller Publisher : Piatkus, Little Brown UK Release Date : October 29, 2019
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 4 star review
I received this book in the post, I hadn’t requested it and I made the mistake of picking it up to see what the first few pages were like. It turned out that picking it up wasn’t a mistake because about 50 pages later I was fully immersed in the story.
UNTOUCHABLE is a romantic suspense, more thriller in my opinion with shades of the supernatural. In lots of ways this book was out of my comfort zone with themes of hypnotism and lucid dreaming but colour me surprised when I just went with the flow and enjoyed the story.
The main character, Winter is a lone wolf, moving around and new to the small town. Her neighbour and fellow cabin-renter, Jack was also Winter’s meditation client. Jack was something else with some weird skills that some might call flaws. The story started with a bang and the fast moving events were basically what dragged me into the story. In fact, the whole book was fast paced and I enjoyed the thrills and unknown bends in the road.
This book is actually the third in a series of connected characters (brothers) but it stood alone perfectly well. I read this without any disadvantage of not reading the others but I do find myself curious enough to go back and read them.
If I have any critique it is that I would have liked to get to know Jack and Winter a little better as individuals. As a couple, I would have also appreciated a bit more emotional connection but as with some suspense books, the story was told over a relatively short period of time as events unfolded. This was my first book by Jayne Ann Krentz and I would definitely seek her out again.
Thank you Little Brown UK & Piatkus for this finished review copy.
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.
FULL DISCLOSURE by Camryn Garrett is a unique spin on a YA contemporary as this one features a female protagonist who is HIV positive and in addition to all the diversity that makes this debut pretty special indeed.
An early weekend release has both of us very !! right now. THE KINGMAKER by Kennedy Ryan is the first in what looks to be an epic duet with the tagline, Power. Passion. Betrayal. Chilllllls. Also, we need this, now.
UNTOUCHABLE by Jayne Ann Krentz is a UK paperback release this week. It’s a romantic suspense/thiller with elements of the supernatural that fit this week rather perfectly. It promises to keep the reader on the edge of their seat whilst drawing you into the relationship of a couple.
Released at the weekend, NEVER GOT OVER YOU by Whitney G is a contemporary second-chance romance on the steamy side. From past to present and from boss to employee, this read should keep any romance lover hooked.
Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below!
The gripping articles in Classic Krakauer, originally published in periodicals such as The New Yorker, Outside, and Smithsonian, display the singular investigative reporting that made Jon Krakauer famous—and show why he is considered a standard-bearer of modern journalism.
Spanning an extraordinary range of subjects and locations, these articles take us from a horrifying avalanche on Mt. Everest to a volcano poised to obliterate a big chunk of greater Seattle at any moment; from a wilderness teen-therapy program run by apparent sadists to an otherworldly cave in New Mexico, studied by NASA to better understand Mars; from the notebook of one Fred Beckey, who catalogued the greatest unclimbed mountaineering routes on the planet, to the last days of legendary surfer Mark Foo.
Rigorously researched and vividly written, marked by an unerring instinct for storytelling and scoop, the pieces in Classic Krakauer are unified by the author’s ambivalent love affair with unruly landscapes and his relentless search for truth.
Title : Classic Krakauer: Essays on Wilderness and Risk Author : Jon Krakauer Format : eARC Page Count : 190 Genre : eARC Publisher : Knopf Doubleday Release Date : October 29, 2019
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5
Micky’s 4.5 star review
Please amuse me for a moment as I thrust a non-fiction read under your nose. I have been and still am to some extent, an avid reader of climbing, mountaineering and expedition non-fiction. With a love of the mountains myself and some amateur climbing in my back pocket, I do love to read about the big, adrenaline-edge climbs. Jon Kraukauer has journaled and recorded his way through some amazing experiences, and his INTO THIN AIR is one of my favourite books.
This collection of his articles and essays on wilderness and risk were a great read and my favourites were those that featured mountain peaks and extreme conditions. However, these essays feature extreme surfing, predicting eruptions and lahars with a doomsday feel, the ethics and liability of high alititude climbing, caving and much more. Those I favoured include: Living Under the Volcano, After the Fall, Loving them to Death
Krakauer narrates this stories with balance and seeming accuracy but there is also a thread of challenge and investigation through many of these stories which I really appreciated. He had a way of drawing you into these stories, bringing a human lens to extreme achievements, disasters and tragedy. His narrative was always engaging. Some stories made me feel a rightful anger such as Loving Them to Death, told with factual narrative of bullying and gaslighting a young person to their demise, elicting such emotion in this reader.
If you’ve never read Jon Krakauer, this is a good starting place to dip your toe into. There are such a range of topics to these essays that some and probably most will appeal to you, as they did to me. If you’re a fan already, you’ll love this.
Many thanks to Knopf Doubleday for this early review copy.
Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.
Title : A Curse So Dark and Lonely Author : Brigid Kemmerer Series : Cursebreakers (book one) Format : eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 489 Genre : YA fantasy Publisher : Bloomsbury YA Release Date : January 29, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis/Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 3 star review
The only thing I knew to expect from this BEAUTY AND THE BEAST retelling/homage, was that there was going to be a girl from ‘our’ universe transplanted into another. That alone seemed unique and interesting and, hey, I’m a sucker for this trope in general so I knew I was going to get to it eventually. Particularly as I’ve read the author before been quite impressed, and/or moved, by her writing.
And, big picture-wise, I did enjoy this. But. There are some glaring missteps regarding, like, the structure of the curse and the reason for the curse in the first place (dumb? yes). Also, like, not a misstep but there was some obvious writing on the wall regarding one or two little twists. I’ll also point out that a few characters, most notably the ones from ‘our’ world, were annoying af, and the whole sideplot there.. I wasn’t a fan.
You’re probably now asking yourself what I did like. Valid.
I liked the idea of the framework for this particular set-up. It was different, it was interesting, and I liked that for the most part all the cards are on the table. With one exception, there’s no mystery to unravel, no real secrets, and yet that doesn’t make things any easier on our heroine.. or the hero. There’s an added element that spices things up, too, that I was really liking until a certain twist made it kind of like.. every other YA fantasy with two guys and a girl (and a pizza place?). The story is given even more of a spin by making the “beauty” be the one with a physical quality that makes her seem less desirable while the prince himself is everything you could want in a fantasy.
Like I said, there is a lot to love. There’s representation, some of which I haven’t ever seen in fiction or fantasy, be it YA or not (cerebral palsy), it’s a little queer, it’s a bit dark, and it’s got a core cast of characters that I did enjoy, each with layers and angst and sweetness. So while it did flounder at times and lack depth in some areas, it nonetheless kept me glued to my iPad all night, and I am keen to read on.
Micky’s 3 star review
I have to admit, the self hype of this Beauty & the Beast retelling was intense, I wanted to love this book so much and it was only okay-ish for me. It was a read of parts, a strong start, fantastic disability rep and a strong final quarter. The bit in the middle however, was dull intermittently, slow-paced and lacked the kind of connection between characters that I sought.
Firstly I want to say how much I loved Harper having mild cerebral palsy and showing the range that this condition has. I appreciated how this was woven into the story, navigating her limitations but actually focusing how she could smash physical boundaries. Her tenacity, strength and fierce loyalty made her a likable heroine.
Rhen was vaguely likeable but he didn’t move beyond that really. I felt like I got to know Grey much better and came to enjoy his character. My suspicion is that this was just one long book setting up a cluster of a love triangle…anyone join me in this hunch? There was a lack of connection between Rhen and Harper (I get that this is some of the plot but still) and there was definitely more spark between Harper and Grey. I think I wanted to feel more connection in the platonics as well as the romantics of this tale too.
The story had ebb and flow with a lack of consistent pacing but it did really pick up towards the final third and I felt more involved and read more avidly. It was a strong ending, ensuring that I will return for more from this series, even with the triangular-shaped plot.
I have enjoyed Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary reads but this delve into fantasy wasn’t my favourite. Beauty & the Beast is a beloved fairy tale and I have enjoyed it being retold but something was missing here and I will have to stand out from the mass love a little on this one.