Q by Christina Dalcher

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s new elite schools. Her daughters are exactly like her: beautiful, ambitious, and perfect. A good thing, since the recent mandate that’s swept the country is all about perfection.
 
Now everyone must undergo routine tests for their quotient, Q, and any children who don’t measure up are placed into new government schools. Instead, teachers can focus on the gifted.
 
Elena tells herself it’s not about eugenics, not really, but when one of her daughters scores lower than expected and is taken away, she intentionally fails her own test to go with her.
 
But what Elena discovers is far more terrifying than she ever imagined…


Title : Q
Author : Christina Dalcher
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : Dystopian
Publisher : HQ
Release Date : April 30, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2 star review

It is truly crushing when a book you have anticipated ends up being a disappointment. I really enjoyed Vox, the previous release from this author and I liked her brand of contemporary dystopia; close to current society.

Q started off well, with a family situation, two successful parents and two high-achieving children. However, the mask fell off and a hideous under layer was revealed. This was a story about IQ above every other facet of a person and it drilled down to emotive and polarising topics of elitism, abortion and someone’s personal worth.

The protagonist, Elena, mother of two and wife was an interesting character and I liked her. She taught in an elite school, her children were intelligent and passing their monthly tests until one didn’t. The husband was 100% a b*****d. The first half of the book was strong and I liked where it was going but then it went downhill for me, I’m afraid. I felt like I was pushing through with the narrative. The plot was intangible at times, even considering that it was dystopian. I hated the final direction and found the culmination so unsatisfying.

I’m hugely disappointed but I am grateful to have had an early review copy. Considering how much I liked Vox, I will definitely read Christina Dalcher again.

Thank you to Headline for the review copy.

RULES FOR BEING A GIRL by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotungo

From Katie Cotugno and author of Sex and the City Candace Bushnell comes this fierce and feisty exploration of feminism: standing up, speaking out and rewriting the rules.

Don’t be easy. Don’t give it up. Don’t be a prude. Don’t be cold. Don’t put him in the friendzone. Don’t act desperate. Don’t let things go too far. Don’t give him the wrong idea. Don’t blame him for trying. Don’t walk alone at night. But calm down! Don’t worry so much. Smile!

Marin is a smart, driven, popular girl – she’s headed for Brown when she graduates and has a brilliant career as a journalist ahead of her. Especially in the eyes of English teacher Mr Beckett. He spends a lot of time around Marin, and she thinks it’s harmless . . . until he kisses her.

No one believes Marin when she tells them what happened, so she does the only thing she can: she writes an article called ‘Rules for Being a Girl’ for the school paper to point out the misogyny and sexism that girls face every day. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and rewrite her own rules.


Title : Rules for Being a Girl
Author : Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotungo
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date : April 16, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

RULES FOR BEING A GIRL is a YA contemporary with themes of feminism woven throughout. It is the kind of book that I recommend reading the synopsis before you launch in because there are triggers and difficulties for some in the context. Even though nothing in this story triggered me, I still found the story direction hugely discomforting, probably because I’m a teacher and this got me so mad at the teacher in this book.

Marin, the protagonist was very likeable to me. She was just a genuine young woman, passionate, hard-working and fully taken advantage of. What I liked about Marin was how she went on to handle the events, she wasn’t a sudden explosion of anger, she was slower bubble of fury and injustice. Marin’s experiences opened her eyes to whole host of inequalities.

Now to the other characters in this book. Bex was vile, in fact, vile doesn’t quite suffice to describe him. On top of that, I was furious with Marin’s friend, even in the face of the unfurling of the storyline; I really struggled with this aspect of the story. Gray and Marin’s parents however, were highlights from a character perspective.

I definitely think there are life lessons for the YA age group in this story but I didn’t always love how the story played out. I did love the overall message and feminist themes.

Thank you to Macmillan Childrens/My Kind of Book for this early review copy.

MONTHLY WRAP UP – MARCH 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

BREAK YOUR GLASS SLIPPERS by Amanda Lovelace — see Micky’s review here
THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA by TJ Klune — see Hollis’ review here
AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando — see Micky’s review here
DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING by Charlie Adhara — see Hollis’ review here
THE MIDNIGHT LIE by Marie Rutkoski — see Hollis and Micky’s review here
IF I NEVER MET YOU by Mhairi McFarlane — see Hollis and Micky’s reviews here
ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED by Sophie Gonzales — see Micky’s review here (!)
GLOVES OFF by Louisa Reid — see Micky’s review here
DISPEL ILLUSION by Mark Lawrence — see Hollis’ review here
THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon — see Micky’s review here
NVK by Temple Drake — see Micky’s review here
THORN by Intisar Khanani — see Micky’s review here
THE HONEY DON’T LIST by Christina Lauren — see Micky’s review here (!)

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED by Sophie Gonzales — see Hollis’ review here (!)
GRIEF ANGELS by David Owen — see Micky’s review here
KISS OF VENGEANCE by S. Young — see Micky’s review here
UNDERCOVER BROMANCE by Lyssa Kay Adams — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

THE HONEY-DON’T LIST by Christina Lauren — see Hollis’ review here (!)
A MURDEROUS RELATION by Deanna Raybourn — see Hollis’ review here
WICKED AS YOU WISH by Rin Chupeco — see Hollis’ review here
PROVIDENCE by Max Barry — see Hollis’ review here
THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee — see Hollis’ review here
THE RICH BOY by Kylie Scott — see Micky’s review here
THE ELECTRIC HEIR by Victoria Lee — see Hollis’ review here

star reads

u n r a t e d

DOCILE by K.M. Szpara — see Hollis’ review here

DNFs


additional reads not reviewed for blog : six
total reads by Micky : twenty
favourite read of the month : AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando
least favourite read of the month : THE RICH BOY by Kylie Scott
most read genre : fantasy/contemporary

total reviews by Hollis : fourteen
favourite read of the month : THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA by TJ Klune
least favourite read of the month : didn’t hate anything, just lots of meh
most read genre : fantasy/sci-fi

DEAR ENEMY by Kristen Callihan – double review!

As kids, they hated each other. Macon Saint was beautiful, but despite his name, Delilah knew he was the devil. That he dated her slightly evil sister, Samantha, was no picnic either. When they broke up, it was a dream come true: Delilah never had to see him again.

Ten years later, her old enemy sends a text.

Delilah’s sister has stolen a valuable heirloom from Macon, now a rising Hollywood star, and he intends to collect his due. One problem: Sam has skipped town.

Sparks still sizzle between Macon and Delilah, only this heat feels alarmingly like unwanted attraction. But Delilah is desperate to keep her weak-hearted mother from learning of her sister’s theft. So she proposes a deal: she’ll pay off the debt by being Macon’s personal chef and assistant.

It’s a recipe for disaster, but Macon can’t stop himself from accepting. Even though Delilah clearly hates him, there’s something about her that feels like home. Besides, they’re no longer kids, and what once was a bitter rivalry has the potential to be something sweeter. Something like forever.


Title : Dear Enemy
Author : Kristen Callihan
Format : eARC
Page Count : 386
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Montlake
Release Date : March 31, 2020

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


Hollis’ DNF review

I’m not rating this one, because generally my DNF rule of thumb is, unless the read is heinous, I will only rate if I made it more than halfway into the book. And I tapped out of this one just shy of 40%. But it’s worth noting this is a favourite author and I wanted out after 20%, and had concerns after the first few flashback/past event chapters, so. Be aware of that.

My issue with DEAR ENEMY is more than just in the continuity or inconsistencies (which, fair, could be corrected between now, March third, and the release, March thirty-first). The origin of this pairing begins when they are young, pre-teen or so, and how they meet again ten years after highschool. It’s one of those hate-to-love romances where the premise is setting things up one way at the get-go and we seem to be finding things are maybe not as they may seem later on. Someone has secrets, I imagine we’ll find there were reasons why certain people behaved in certain ways and they will be forgiven for it, and oh hey, there was always this big connection between them, despite the fact that he dated her sister for other reasons, and blah blah.

I honestly didn’t have time for this.

Delilah enters into some BatB-esque servitude to work off her shady sister’s debt with Macon and the homage to the fairytale was pretty loose in some sense and also it felt like one entire scene was lifted from the movie. I’m not against retellings, in fact JT Geissinger’s BURN FOR YOU followed along those lines and worked really well for me, amongst other retellings, but between everything else..? I just can’t get on with the characters. Things seem to be moving along fairly predictably, too, with certain interactions between the main protags and I’m just bored.

I’m used to a lot of complexity from his author, or at least a lot of fun, and this feels very surface level and, if I’m being honest, a little tired. Maybe it would’ve improved along the way, I’ve seen some positive early reviews, but at this point I don’t have the energy to invest in hoping it would turn around.

Based on the first 40%? This would’ve been a 1.5 for me.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Okay, now wash your mouth out because we’re zinging from dnf to jolly enjoyment! DEAR ENEMY had some of my most favourite tropes all wrapped up in banter and jibes – second chances, hate-to-more and slow burn. It did however, have a trope I’m not keen on, stepping into a relationship with someone who’s been with a friend/family member. That said, I could cope with it because of the circumstances but I think that might alienate some readers. After a difficult to navigate prologue, this book took off well for me.

What was so delicious about this contemporary romance? It was the vulnerability of Macon stepping into feelings unknown but taking a deep breath and getting on with it. Meanwhile, his life was fun-laden barbs, and forced proximity with the heroine, Delilah. Add into that some chef-ing and food which always seems to make for a good story in my book.

She’s all twitchy now, eyeing me like a feral barn cat as if I might try to lash out and catch her.

The banter between these two was pretty entertaining and the chemistry was swoonish. I enjoyed the semi-hate especially as it seems to turn before it got irritating. Delilah was hard to win over and the annoying sister was…very annoying. The sister element was something I didn’t settle with but the circumstances were just about palatable.

The slow burn was spot on and there’s just something about Kristen Callihan’s romances when she’s in the zone that gives me all the feels; this one did just that. DEAR ENEMY was a great entertaining read that I just wanted to get back to when I wasn’t reading. Just the thing for a weekend read.

Thank you to Montlake for the early review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – MARCH 31, 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.


The part of the summary for PROVIDENCE by Max Barry that could not be ignored was the following, “In this near future, our world is at war with another, and humanity is haunted by its one catastrophic loss—a nightmarish engagement that left a handful of survivors drifting home through space, wracked with PTSD. Public support for the war plummeted, and the military-industrial complex set its sights on a new goal: zero-casualty warfare, made possible by gleaming new ships called Providences, powered by AI.” How could you pass that up?

DEAR ENEMY by Kristen Callihan brings a dose of hateful love or is that loveful hate? Whatever you call it, this is a second chance at being something more than enemies for the main characters and there’s cooking involved. Ready to click?

THE INFINITE ONION is a new standalone m/m contemporary romance from Alice Archer. What caught Hollis’ attention was this bit of the blurb : “Amid the buzz of high summer, unwelcome attraction blooms on a playing field of barbs, defenses, and secrets.”


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

PROVIDENCE by Max Barry

Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson are astronauts captaining a new and supposedly indestructible ship in humanity’s war against an alien race. Confined to the ship for years, each of them holding their own secrets, they are about to learn there are threats beyond the reach of human ingenuity—and that the true nature of reality might be the universe’s greatest mystery.

In this near future, our world is at war with another, and humanity is haunted by its one catastrophic loss—a nightmarish engagement that left a handful of survivors drifting home through space, wracked with PTSD. Public support for the war plummeted, and the military-industrial complex set its sights on a new goal: zero-casualty warfare, made possible by gleaming new ships called Providences, powered by AI.

But when the latest-launched Providence suffers a surprising attack and contact with home is severed, Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson must confront the truth of the war they’re fighting, the ship that brought them there, and the cosmos beyond.


Title : Providence
Author : Max Barry
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : science-fiction
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date : March 31, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

This might be a case of “this reader is too dumb for this book” because I have no idea what I just read.

This is a story almost completely set in space, featuring four humans who are responsible for an AI ship as it travels through space to eradicate an alien species that had previously attacked one of their exploratory crews. This story really does feel like being in a bubble because for all that they spend two years in space, traveling and manning the ship that is killing these hives of alien things, you feel very removed from it. In that sense, Barry did well at expressing the lack of need of human involvement in the war. The crew, Life, Intel, Weapons, etc, are all just there to monitor what the ship is doing. The ship, as we hear often, is smarter than them. They just have to let it do what it does best.

Throughout their time on board, we do learn about the strange personalities aboard the ship, each unique, but also, like.. I never liked any of them? Maybe we weren’t supposed to. Maybe they were just meant to exist. But I think I kept waiting for more. I wanted, or rather expected, something to happen and it never did. Maybe that is what makes this unique, that lack of something, or maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know. Again, maybe I’m just too dumb for this.

There were a few discussions built into this story, about war propaganda, our society’s reliance on technology, and more, and I’ve come to expect that from Barry, but in a more satirical, clever, or even funny, way. This didn’t feel like any of that. Ultimately this wasn’t engaging, it was just kind of.. rote. This doesn’t feel like anything special or typical of the author’s brand and I guess that’s fine. I just wouldn’t have requested it had I known that.

This is a military/space adventure story set in the near future that definitely has unique elements, and I’m sure some readers will enjoy, but for me it will ultimately be forgettable. And I’m just glad it didn’t take too long to get through. Can’t say I would recommend.

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

THE RICH BOY by Kylie Scott

I’m the type of girl who’s given up on fairy tales. So when Beck – the hot new busboy at work – starts flirting with me, I know better than to get my hopes up. Happily ever afters aren’t for the average. I learned that the hard way.

But how can I be expected to resist a man who can quote Austen, loves making me laugh, and seems to be everything hot and good in this world?

Only there’s so much more to him than that.
Billionaire playboy? Check.
Troubled soul? Check.
The owner of my heart, the man I’ve moved halfway across the country to be with, who’s laying the world at my feet in order to convince me to never leave? Check. Check. Check.

But nobody does complicated like the one percent.

This is not your everyday rags-to-riches, knight-in-shining armor whisking the poor girl off her feet kind of story. No, this is much messier.


Title : The Rich Boy
Author : Kylie Scott
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : March 9, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2-2.5 star review

Yes, that is my sad face you can see as I am a big Kylie Scott fan. I’ve read all her contemporary books and I love her work. There are a number of reasons THE RICH BOY didn’t work for me and I will try and constructively explain.

The story started out strong, after a short while there was a need to suspend a bit of reality to go with the storyline as the heroine, Alice gave up her life to go and be with Beck after a few days. Even so, I was still invested in these two at this point. However, what I found was a very ’50 shades’ storyline (I’m not going into detail because spoilers), too many coincidental similarities occured but without the sex. It was a slow burn, but I wasn’t invested nor did I understand the need for the slow burn with these two.

Beck was something of a Mal (Stage Dive) character but with some facets I didn’t like. As the story progressed, I struggled with the subtle control Beck had over Alice and her being kept at home. Alarm bells rang in my head a number of times. Even when Alice seemed to revolt, it wasn’t followed through enough for me. There were insta-feelings and insta-more and that just wrecked my investment.

I know this is short and not so sweet and once again, I am sorry about that. I have great love for Kylie Scott’s work but I couldn’t find the heart or soul in this story and I didn’t believe in it. I hope this works for other readers more than it did for me.

Thank you to the author and Social Butterfly PR for the early review copy.

DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier – rereading a favourite!

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift – by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all..


Title : Daughter of the Forest
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 544
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : TorBooks
Release Date : March 14, 2001

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

We’ve talked on this blog before of rereading, and what inspires us to do so, and when we reach for favourites. I remember mentioning how my rereads tend to be done over the holidays, for nostalgia and comfort, but, yikes. This is no holiday, quite the opposite, but definitely a time for comfort and self-care. Even if this book put me through the wringer.

Most people can’t choose a favourite book; and rightly so. With so much choice, so much to love, it’s akin to picking a favourite child (though we all know those exist.. I see you, parents). But if you asked me? I would say DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier. All of the original Sevenwaters books, actually, as it’s really just one long story.

If I were telling this tale, and it were not my own, I would give it a neat, satisfying ending. [..] In such stories, there are no loose ends. There are no unraveled edges and crooked threads. [..] But this was my own story.

There is something so magical about slipping into a favourite, particularly one you haven’t read in some time, and when the story itself is magical? The experience is so much more. This story is deeply moving. It’s a story of family, of loss, of tragedy and violence, healing and love, sacrifice and hope, and magic and wonder. It’s also one of the most perfect (in my opinion, obviously) portrayals of the complexity of dealing with the Fair Folk, who demand much of the mortals they encounter, who make bargains and promises, all in an effort to guide events and people to a desired end. No matter who gets hurt, or how, in the process.

This story isn’t always easy. The road Sorcha walks is treacherous, the task she must complete to reunite her family is unimaginable, and she is young and alone. Until she isn’t. At which point she’s among her enemies, far from home, and still darkness dogs her steps. But it’s her strength, her perseverance, even when faced with more tragedy, with uncertainty, even when tormented by her own doubt and despair, that is truly incredible.

Marillier’s prose is enchanting, resonating with emotion, and gorgeously descriptive. There are characters to love, and characters to hate, and though I’ve read this story countless times (seriously, I couldn’t even guess), I still dreaded certain events, I still wept; everything hit just as hard. And if that isn’t a sign of a great book, I don’t know what is. What made this particular reread even more special was being joined by a friend who experienced it all for the first time.

I have never tried to review this, all my reads predate the blog or my reviewing on GR, and I know I haven’t done this book any justice at all. It’s impossible to express my love for this book because it’s honestly so deeply embedded in my soul. I read this as a young human and it’s been with me, and I’ve relived it, over and over throughout the years, and we are irrevocably entwined. Some books you lose the love for other the years, as your taste or perspective or style as a reader changes. This book, this series, isn’t one of those.

Would I recommend? Absolutely. This story has something for everyone. Particularly if you’re a fan of fantasy, folklore, and retellings. Because this is all of that and more. And if you discover you don’t like it? That’s fine, we just can’t be friends — kidding.

Maybe.

IF I NEVER MET YOU by Mhairi McFarlane – double review!

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real? 

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend… 


Title : If I Never Met You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks/Harper Collins
Release Date : March 24, 2020/January 1, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

This is only my second McFarlane, whereas I’ve read a lot of contemporary writing by a lot of authors, but I think I can safely say that no one writes real life quite like her.

Laurie knew that most people were murdered by someone they knew; she’d stood up in court and argued or the killers’ bail applications while they wept not only about their fate, but about their loss. In this moment, she understood why.

IF I NEVER MET YOU is a women’s fiction title, much like the other one I read by her, DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME, but this one does have a higher romance-content than the latter. That isn’t to say you’re going to get any page time detailing swoony kisses or hot and heavies between the sheets, but instead you’re going to read a romance (fake romance, did I mention the fake dating trope?) that is heavily reliant upon friendship. And while I love me some romance, I love when the characters are friends, too.

Laurie noticed that someone “finishing” with someone else was such a savage language. They canceled you. You are over. Your use has been exhausted.

That said, I am finding it hard to nail down my feelings on this one. There is so much intelligence, strength, and emotion in McFarlane’s writing. This one deals with the emotional devastation and grief in the post-breakdown of an almost two decades long relationship, and where one goes after surviving that; particularly when one’s ex is a total cad. Throw in some maybe-not-so-healthy desire for revenge, the perfect playboy to get it with, and you have a fake dating meets office romance meets friends to real lovers story. But there’s even more than that, too.

“Oh, for fu– I’m sick of this perception of me as the greatest man slag of the northwest.”
Then be less man slag. Be the unslaggy man you want to see in the world.
Pfft. I’m selective.
Then select fewer of them.”

Complicated family dynamics, guilt and grief, enduring female friendships, and, of course, hilarity. And a cat named Colin Fur.

Are you girls ready to order? Need me to explain anything?
We’re not girls. So you can explain your mode of address.”
Hey, y’all look pretty young to me.
Oh, you dear sweet fool, she will now verbally decapitate you.”

I think part of why I find this one harder to rate than the other, which was such a no-brainer, is that for all the emotions, I didn’t quite get caught up in any of them. I very much liked both of these characters, each with their stories that made them so much more than what they were perceived to be, and also deserved so much more for themselves, and I quite liked their respective besties, but.. yeah, just not quite the same charm or outright love. But it’s still such a great story, and so well written, whilst balancing that very real ‘life is messy and sometimes imperfect’ dose of reality, and I’m still a thousand percent keen to dive into the author’s backlist that I’ve yet to explore.

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


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

It’s been a long while since I’ve read Mhairi McFarlane and I’m glad to be reacquainted. IF I NEVER MET YOU was a read of phases for me, one of difficult angst for the first part and then a slow relax into a great story for the rest. I think I was expecting lightness from the start and that early heavy context took me by surprise initially. On reflection, that start made this a deeper story which I really appreciate.

Laurie was an incredibly likeable heroine from the start and it was not at all difficult to get on her side when she was wronged. I hated that sitution, the perpetrator and the demise of things. I loved the strong, successful women that Laurie was and her ability to keep her professional head throughout; I honestly thought that was completely realistic of so many women.

The ensuing story of Laurie and Jamie was pretty damn fun, full of tension and banter. So many lines were highlighted and I loved being the fly on the wall, stalking their dates and plotting. Jamie was a deeper character than I expected but I still think I’d have liked to have known him a little better.

This book was a Mancunian’s gift, set in the city and even more fun for me, visiting places around my work setting. I loved every single Manchester bit.

This was delightful Saturday read, I powered through it in a day, reluctant to put it down. It had some shades of predictability but that made it no less fun. Highly recommended for the kind of romantic read that has you laughing out loud.

THORN by Intisar Khanani

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future. But powerful men have powerful enemies – and now, so does Alyrra.

Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realise, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

Inspired by The Goose Girl fairytale by the Brothers Grimm.


Title : Thorn
Author : Intisar Khanani
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count :
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : March 24, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

THORN by Intisar Khanani has actually been on my radar for a number of years, previously released as an indie book but has now very rightfully found publishers in the UK and US. I’m really glad I waited as this is Thorn’s moment and just look at that gorgeous cover.

This is a loose retelling of the Brother Grimm’s goose girl, which I didn’t recall but being a lesser-known tale, the storyline was all good and unexpected things. It is a story construted around royalty and magic but it very much moves into the world of the ordinary and I loved that element of the context so much. Thorn had a number of identities but essentially who she was at the core was the kind of quiet heroine you could only feel connected to. Her integrity made me love her; she felt very real in her plain life and royal connections.

Thorn’s family were vile, no beating around the bush here. Thorn was scarred in a number of ways; this particular narrative was addressed sensitively. I liked how she worked through some issues as she adapted to life outside of her family. Thorn also acquired some unconventional friendships with a horse, the wind, thieves and street kids. This tale was just full of richness.

Kestrin, was a prince amongst other things and he grew on me. The story travelled from one world to another and magic forces were at work on the way. This wasn’t an all-consuming romance but a tentative friendship and the potential promise of something more with roots. I appreciated the subtlety of the relationship between these two and I would love to read more in what seems to be a series.

Intisar Khanani’s writing was inviting and her ability to tell a story was full of richness and depth. This is a great YA fantasy that could standalone as it is but it also looks like there is more to come and I am cheering for that.

Thank you to Hot Key books for the early review copy.