MONTHLY WRAP UP – JANUARY 2020

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

HEADLINERS by Lucy Parker — see Hollis’ review here (!)
PAPER AVALANCHE by Lisa Williamson – – see Micky’s review here
THE TOLL by Neal Shusterman — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

WHITEOUT by Adriana Anders — see Micky’s review here (!)
THE MAP FROM HERE TO THERE by Emery Lord — see Hollis’ review here
TWEET CUTE by Emma Lord — see Hollis’ review here
LOVE HER OR LOSE HER by Tessa Bailey — see Hollis and Micky’s review here
LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI by Abigail Hing Wen — see Micky’s review here
A THRONE OF SWANS by Katharine & Elizabeth Corr — see Micky’s review here
HEADLINERS by Lucy Parker — see Micky’s review here (!)
THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak — see Micky’s review here
THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by Lyssa Kay Adams — see Micky’s review here
SMAILHOLM by C.L. Williams — see Micky’s review here
THUNDERHEAD by Neal Shusterman — see Micky’s review here
WICKED BY DESIGN by Katy Moran — see Micky’s review here
IN RESTLESS DREAMS by Wren Handman — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

LUCKY CALLER by Emma Mills — see Hollis’ review here
A HEART SO FIERCE AND BROKEN by Brigid Kemmerer — see Hollis’ review here
THE NIGHT COUNTRY by Melissa Albert — see Hollis’ review here
WHEN YOU SEE ME by Lisa Gardner — see Hollis’ review here
TOUGH GUY by Rachel Reid — see Hollis’ review here
JANE ANONYMOUS by Laurie Faria Stolarz — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

SPELLHACKER by M.K. England — see Hollis’ review here
WHITEOUT by Adriana Anders — see Hollis’ review here (!)

star reads

CHOSEN by Kiersten White — see Hollis’ review here
INFINITY SON by Adam Silvera — see Hollis’ review here (!)
THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone — see Micky’s review here (!)

u n r a t e d

DARK AND DEEPEST RED by Anna-Marie McLemore — see Hollis’ review here

DNF

DIAMOND CITY by Francesca Flores (no review from Hollis)
INFINITY SON by Adam Silvera — see Micky’s thoughts here (!)


additional reads not reviewed for blog : three
total reads by Micky : fifteen
favourite read of the month : PAPER AVALANCHE by Lisa Williamson
least favourite read of the month : THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
most read genre : SFF

total reviews by Hollis : fifteen
favourite read of the month : HEADLINERS by Lucy Parker
least favourite read of the month : INFINITY SON by Adam Silvera
most read genre : contemporary

IN RESTLESS DREAMS by Wren Handman

Sylvia is a normal girl with huge, normal problems–her mother’s attempted suicide; trying to make friends in a rich prep school where she doesn’t belong; whether or not to trust the cute boy with the dangerous eyes. She thinks that’s more than she can handle, but she tests the limits of her endurance when she learns that she is the long-awaited Phantasmer, a human who can change the fabric of Fairy simply by believing in a new story. Sylvia’s life is thrown off course as two warring Courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, both attempt to co-opt her gift to attack the other Court. All while she’s trying not to get kicked out of school for fighting. And it doesn’t help matters that the fairies begging for her help are both attractive young men–with their own agendas.


Title : In Restless Dreams
Author : Wren Handman
Series : The Phantasmer Cycle (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 293
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : The Parliament House
Release Date : January 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

If you read A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES and wanted the same magical discovery of Fae, not to mention the exploration of a fantasy world that abuts our own, but wanted content that actually stayed YA? This might just be the book for you — or the book you should buy for your teens and/or young people.

This book opens up with very traditional YA elements, like starting at a new highschool, navigating rocky social waters, and all that drama that ensues with both, then some not-so-traditional (and a might heavier) elements, like how to process your mother’s mental health issues and connecting with an absent father. And then, halfway through, tosses you into a whole new ocean; a purple one!

Sylvia isn’t perfect; she struggles like all sixteen year olds do, like all humans do, and that’s compounded by discovering she has a magical heritage that is dangerous and seems impossible, and meeting a boy (or two!) from that magical world — a boy (or two!) she isn’t sure she can trust. Because that dashing knight might not be the hero, and maybe that stranger made of shadows and darkness is as kind as his eyes; maybe they are trapped in archetypes that should mean one thing, but are in fact something else. Or maybe not. But aside from the romance, there’s also wonder and magic and Handman’s unique and brilliant way of describing.. well, magic and wonder and emotion.

The high point of this story, for me, is just experiencing said magic, the unusual, the very interesting take on a Chosen One trope (in every generation a Phantasmer is born.. or, in this case, every few centuries..) and, more than that, what this Chosen One can do and how they are woven into the very fabric of something so much bigger than them. And what it means to choose for others and what it means to make decisions with the best of intentions. Where she starts out, lashing out at bullies, arguing with her younger brother, is not quite where she ends up, burdened not only with power and responsibility, and coming out the other side intact. Mostly.

IN RESTLESS DREAMS will give you a new perspective on imagination, creativity, emotion, fear and loneliness, the burden of memory, and of the longing to change who you are. This is a solid series opener and I think it’s only going to get better from here.

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

WHEN YOU SEE ME by Lisa Gardner

Bestselling author Lisa Gardner unites three of her most loved characters -Detective D.D. Warren, Flora Dane, and Kimberly Quincy – in a twisty new thriller, as they investigate a mysterious murder from the past that points to a dangerous and chilling present-day crime.

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Quincy and Sergeant Detective DD Warren have built a task force to follow the digital bread crumbs left behind by deceased serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. And when a disturbing piece of evidence comes to light, they decide to bring in Flora Dane who has personal experience of being imprisoned by Ness.

Their investigations take them to a small town deep in the hills of Georgia where something seems to be deeply wrong.

What at first seems like a Gothic eeriness soon hardens into something much more sinister as they discover that for all the evil Jacob committed while alive, his worst secret is still to be revealed.

Quincy and DD must summon their considerable skills and experience to crack the most disturbing case of their careers – and Flora must face her own past directly in the hope of saving others.


Title : When You See Me
Author : Lisa Gardner
Series : Detective D. D. Warren (book eleven)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : January 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m writing this review before my review for book ten of this series has even gone live on the blog. In that other post, I was effusive and bubbly after rediscovering my love for this series, as the installments before had been good, but not great. Well, we’ve returned to the good. But that’s not a bad thing.

Book eleven feels like almost a direct continuation of the story in book ten. We have DD, Kimberly, and Flora all partnered up, along with Keith, a civilian crime enthusiast, expert in his own way, and on their way to Georgia when it appears they may have found one of the first of Jacob Ness’ victims. However, things are not quite what they appeared.. and yet also more.

I’ll admit the victim-ish POV story wasn’t really doing much for me. I felt something but not enough to really keep me totally focused, and interested, in what appeared to be a subplot to the main event. Except.. things shifted around the 40% mark and that’s when a) things took off and b) things got interesting. But overall there were definitely chapters where I just wasn’t as dialed in as I was in the book before it.

This feels like a huge turning point for Flora, not quite closure but the most she’ll probably ever have, and the way Gardner pivoted that moment into something bigger, connecting to the discovery in book ten, was well done. Again, big picture wise, this was huge for the series and for this trio of women, Flora in particular. And while the conspiracy that’s discovered is kind of mind boggling, and crazy clever, overall I just wasn’t super into it.

With the way things have resolved, I’ll be curious to see how much page time we get from Flora and Kimberly in future books. Because we also have a new element introduced to DD’s life, one I’m both super soft about and also a wee bit perplexed, but hey. I’m still very curious as to what comes next.

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

WHITEOUT by Adriana Anders – double review!

Angel Smith is ready to leave Antarctica for a second chance at life. But on what was meant to be her final day, the research station is attacked. Hunted and scared, she and glaciologist Ford Cooper barely make it out with their lives…only to realize that in a place this remote, there’s nowhere left to run.

Isolated in the middle of a long, frozen winter with a madman at their heels, they must fight to survive in the most inhospitable—and beautiful—place on earth. But the outside world depends on what Ford and Angel know and, as their pursuers close in and their new partnership burns bright and hot, they will stop at nothing to make it out of the cold alive.


Title : Whiteout
Author : Adriana Anders
Series : Survival Instincts #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : January 28, 2020

Reviewer : Micky / Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5 / ★ ★


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I don’t know about you, but a survival story with romance has my hands grabbing. I saw this book blurb and cover and knew I had to have it. Not one thing about this book disappointed, in fact, it surpassed by expectations. Get your running shoes on because this book has a fast-pace from start to finish.

What’s so special about WHITEOUT is that it was set in the antarctic and I really don’t think I’ve read a book based here (I’ve read a few thrillers set in the arctic). The time was taken to paint Antarctica both at the beginning but also as the story progressed and the characters ventured out into the wilderness. I needed this and it painted a white but vivid picture.

Angel was the summer chef on the station, ready to travel back to the US for the winter, leaving a skelton staff of scientists. Ford ‘Coop’ was a glaciologist there for the duration and he’d spent the whole time of Angel’s season on the station avoiding her and his attraction to her. He basically made himself look like a total jackass. There was a quick unfurling of events and Angel and Ford found themselves running for survival and for a higher purpose.

The journey to survive was compelling reading alongside an equally riveting story of the reluctant connection between Ford and Angel. Angel was all soft edges, kindness but with an expected strength that she bowled me over. Ford was the epitomy of grumpy male but just a bit more than that. I still have questions about whether he was on the spectrum, had PTSD and I still don’t know the story of his voice, and I NEED that. I’m hoping to find out more about him further into the series.

“But here, across from a women who was the antithesis of everything he’d ever known, who’d fed him food that burst with flavor and worked as hard as any soldier he’d ever fought beside, he let himself wish-for just a second or two-that he could be the man who made her laugh.”

This story kept rolling from the opener to the end. I wanted to read and stayed up late to do so, just to devour the words and the story. I fell into this book and writing not knowing the kind of writer Adriana Anders was, but I do now and I like her style very much. Just brace yourself for where this ends, although there is definite tying up of ends. All I can say is thank goodness this is a series and we get more from these characters and world.

Thank you to Sourcebooks for the early review copy, I read this super early because I couldn’t resist. I hope that makes you want to pick it up.

Hollis’ 2 star review

Chalk and cheese strikes again!

Micky read this super early and it was her being all excitement over it that inspired me to request, hoping I might catch it before the release date, and be able to swoon alongside her for this new title, and new series opener, from a new-to-me author.

But I pretty much didn’t get on with anything about this story. The only thing that worked for me was the realistic weather experience, the harsh conditions, and the very practical conversations surrounding said realities (dealing with waste out on the ice, periods, blisters, everything!).

Otherwise, the plot? Both very slow moving and very action-move-style outlandish. The characters? Not interesting or, at least, not any I could connect to. The romance? Didn’t buy it. And as for the ending.. I just.. it’s a lot.

I also had an irrational irritation over the name ‘Angel Smith’, particularly as she was referred to by both names for 97% of the book. Not Angel. Angel Smith. Every time. And I just.. no, it wasn’t working for me, I’m sorry. I did say it was irrational..

This is clearly a me problem, not the book itself, as so many of my good friends — not just Micky! — have read and loved this. I just wish I could count myself among them.

While this is definitely being set up for a big ensemble, conspiracy-filled, action series, I won’t be reading on.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JANUARY 28, 2020

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.


WHEN YOU SEE ME, book eleven in the Detective D.D Warren series by Lisa Gardner, feels like a direct continuation to book ten. This isn’t one of those mystery/procedural series I think you can just jump into but Gardner always does enough catch-up on backstory that you could probably stumble along without too many questions. This wasn’t Hollis’ favourite of the series but she still enjoyed reuniting with all the familiar faces. Expect her full review tomorrow!

SMAILHOLM by C.L. Williams is a middle grade fantasy that really emulates the vibes of The Hobbit. It’s set in historical Scotland and it tells the story of Wynn, a girl entering her teens who is a lady-to-be from Smailholm tower. She has a secret, she visits a hidden village where the people are very small. The story has mystery and a range of beings to find out about. This was an enjoyable read and Micky’s review will be coming this week.

WHITEOUT by Adriana Anders brings a slice of chalk and cheese from us both as we double reviewed this. One of us loved it, the other not so much. It is set in the Antarctic with a grouchy professor/scientist and a peppy chef at the base station. It’s a fast-paced romantic suspense with lots of story behind it. Look out for our contrasting review.

IN RESTLESS DREAMS by Wren Handman is a YA fae-specific fantasy featuring a young girl, recently relocated to a new city, and a new school, who discovers she holds powers that can remake the very fabric of Fairy by just dreaming up something new.


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

SMAILHOLM by C.L. Williams

Shh! Can you keep a secret?

In wild medieval Britain thirteen-year-old Wynn Hoppringle has a big secret of the smallest kind. She has discovered a miniature village hidden close to her family home of Smailholm Tower. When tales of merciless Border raiders reach the small folk, they realise they are in danger and must seek a cure to their strange predicament. Can Wynn help her tiny friends or will the scheming King quog have other ideas? Heroes, it seems, come in all sizes.


Title : Smailholm
Author : C.L. Williams
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 248
Genre : Middle-grade Fantasy
Publisher : Matador
Release Date : January 28, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

Smailholm was an engaging middle-grade fantasy that was easy to read and fun to enjoy. It is a historical fantasy with olde-worlde language in small parts. I enjoyed the setting of Scotland, the differences between the haves and the have-nots and of course the Lilliput/Borrowers context of little people in a little land.

There were two protagonists in this story, a 13-year old girl called Wynn who was noblewomen-to-be living in Smailholm Tower and then short chapter interludes from Deablin. Who or what Deablin is, is revealed during the story but it was a clever connection, even though her short interjections were sometimes a little confusing. That said, the confusion was part of the story and it did build up to answers eventually.

Wynn had found the little village, hidden under the brambles, where she was a giant and they were very small. Wynn had been getting to know these folks for a few years and they had become trusted friends. At the fore of the village people were Jimmy and Jenny. Vargo, Wynn’s dog was also a key character and a sweet addition to the story.

What starts off as an interesting story becomes one of adventure, fantastical beings and unsavoury creatures. It all made for a rather fast-paced story. There were moments of reading confusion with some of the fantasy elements but the world building came and caught me up on most questions. I found the eventual Deablin answers a bit confusing and some of the beings or spirits connected to that difficult to get into. The rest of the story kept me engaged, however.

The story finished rather openly and with some elements I want to know more about and some characters I need to know about. This was a solid debut from CL Williams and I would definitely read her work again.

I need to mention what a glorious physical creation this book is. It is a small hardback clothbound book with gorgeous illustrations that really helped with the visualisation of beings in this world. The book itself is beautiful to read and own and it stands out amongst other books.

Thank you to the author for a review copy in return for an honest review.

THE TOLL by Neal Shusterman

It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.


Title : The Toll
Author : Neal Shusterman
Series : Arc of a Scythe
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 631
Genre : YA Dystopian
Publisher : Walker Books
Release Date : November 7, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

This trilogy has overshadowed my other reads in the last couple of months, I’ve thought about the books, talked about the books and I’m so glad to say that the final installment did not let me down. THE TOLL demanded to be read straight after THUNDERHEAD and the grip this series had on my reading pleasure, did not relent it’s twisty hold.

The ending of THUNDERHEAD left readers aghast and believe me, the start didn’t do much to appease all the five million thoughts and hypotheses I had running through my mind. For all those hypotheses I had, not one was correct and no way could I have predicted what the Thunderhead had in store for the post-mortal age.

Greyson TOLLiver was even more in the fore of this book, another reimagining of himself but he became a character I was strangely more comfortable with. There are other characters, so important, that I am choosing not to mention by name because that is a spoiler in itself but their stories and characters meant so much to me. I have become so attached to the ongoing and eventual outcomes of some of these folks.

As for Goddard, brace yourself people, you cannot imagine him worse, but guess what, he’s pure evil. Aside from the old characters, there were some new characters, two of which I loved. Jeri and his gender identities were everything lovely, solid and loyal. I admired their character and I enjoyed the growth of connections between them and others. Cirrus was a fabulous and interesting development. The Thunderhead also went through some transformation which I still feel unsettled about.

The ending was BOOM!

Go read this trilogy, you won’t regret it. If you were put off by the covers like I have been for a few years, don’t let that stop you. I am now a fan of the covers thanks to the reading and how the covers have sparked with the story and my imagination. This is one of the best dystopian stories I have ever read. Please Mr Shusterman, give us some more stories from this universe.

THUNDERHEAD by Neal Shusterman 🎧

The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the Scythedom. All it can do is observe—it does not like what it sees.

A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?


Title : Thunderhead
Author : Neal Shusterman
Narrator : Greg Tremblay
Series : Arc of a Scythe
Format : Audiobook
Page Count : 13 hours, 2 minutes
Genre : YA Dystopian
Publisher : Audible Studios
Release Date : January 9, 2018

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I am blown away (again by this series and how it ended). This was the kind of second book that we don’t see as readers very often, the kind of book that exceeds the first book in expectation and enjoyment. THUNDERHEAD took all of my preconceptions from book one and set a bomb in the middle of them, leaving me jaw-dropped to the floor.

THUNDERHEAD itself had much more characterisation in this book and I loved every reveal, every moment of narration from the Thunderhead. I learnt so much more about the workings, ethics and even affection that the Thunderhead had and used to operationalise the world in this age. The scythes, however were an unhinged s**t show. Oh how they unraveled in this story and how I loved reading it all. The usual suspects were there, Scythe Curie, Scythe Anastasia (Citra) and Scythe Lucifer (Rowan). But oh my word, there were some scythe surprises too. I was shook.

This installment introduced the concept of unsavouries which was an interesting depth to this age and Grayson’s character made for interesting reading. We also learnt a bit more about the tonists too.

So who stole the show in this book? Two characters, firstly the THUNDERHEAD themselves and then Scythe Anastasia. I am now left in total suspense for what will happen in the final installment of this excellent series.

If my body is the Earth, then I am nothing more than a spec of dust in the vastness of space. I wonder what it would be like, then, if my consciousness were to someday span the distance between the stars. – THE THUNDERHEAD

The narration was excellent. One narrator, multiple POVS conveyed very well with tonation and mood. If you’ve not started Arc of a Scythe, then what have you been doing with your life?

SPELLHACKER by M.K. England

From the author of The Disasters, this genre-bending YA fantasy heist story is perfect for fans of Marie Lu and Amie Kaufman.

In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure.


Title : Spellhacker
Author : M. K. England
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : January 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I’ve not really had the best luck with queer fantasy lately and that is such a shame. Here is another story that has a great concept that just didn’t quite win in execution. But unlike another recent read, at least I didn’t hate this one? And also, unlike that same book, at least this author prefaced the novel with definitions for the magic system?

And speaking of the magic system, it felt.. new. The fact that not everyone could use it, and there were different levels of ability, but there didn’t seem to be any classism or jealousy between those who could and couldn’t was an interesting mix. The world, too, had a unique feel. I just didn’t love the characters? The plot, and the Big Bad, seemed a little.. thin? I don’t know. Potential was there, and I enjoyed England’s debut, so I kept pushing on. But this just wasn’t a win.

This does seem to be a standalone, however — just like their debut — so it might be worth checking out if you like fantasy and queer representation and heists.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JANUARY 21, 2020

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.


Do we even need to say more than “Lucy Parker” for you to get excited? Probably not. Happy belated birthday to HEADLINERS, which came out yesterday, and marks the fifth book in the London Celebrities series than neither of us can get enough of. Check out our full squishy happy thoughts here.

TWEET CUTE by Emma Lord is a YA contemporary debut and oh man was it charming, full of feels, snark, and cheese. Literal cheese of the grilled variety. Hollis loved this one a ton and you catch her thoughts from last week’s blog tour here.


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