THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.


Title : The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author : Samantha Shannon
Format : Paperback/Audio
Page Count : 804
Genre : High Fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury
Release Date : February 26, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

There is so much to this book as you would imagine by the size, so much I could talk about, wax lyrical about but I’ll have to just focus in on some areas. This review is going to be more about contexts, themes and feelings rather than storyline. I wouldn’t know where to start to explain the story to you…I guess you’ll just have to read it.

If you are looking for a feminist read, this is the one for you. The characters and storyline are empowering from a feminist perspective without belittling men. However, women as leaders was a theme portrayed throughout this fantastical world and the characters of Ead, Tane and Sabran absolutely sold the show. Ead most of all was the star, quietly rising to might and yet selfless. Sabran was a character that had to grow on me and she did. I loved the connection between Tane and her companion sea dragon Nayimathun, I lived for their parts.

There were some great themes in relation to the validation or not of women through their ability to bear a child, I really appreciated that context and I’d like to see it more in literature. The romantic connections in this book were varied and there was a strong sapphic story to be told at the heart of this tale.

The story was told mainly in East and West chapters where, as a reader, you really gain a sense of the different cultures and beliefs. I came to favour one side over the other and then it all got thrown into the air. See the dragon on the front? Of course you did, but there are good and bad draconic creatures in this book, some referred to as wyrms and it took some reading to really find my way with which was which.

Like many people, I had a little trepidation about a large read like this but I was asked to join in a readalong and quickly got swept up. I would advise some intense reading for the first hundred pages or so and then you’ll find your way with the story and characters. Also do not miss the three sections at the back ‘persons of the tale’, ‘timeline’ and ‘glossary’. The persons of the tale was invaluable for me for the first few hundred pages, I referred to it numerous times. Go read this, it was an epic tale, truly enjoyable and one to remember.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for the review copy and to Tandem Collective for organising the readalong.

THE RICH BOY by Kylie Scott – release blitz!

“Rich Boy takes you on a literal ride! Funny. Angsty. It’s a definite recommendation from me! 

–Tijan, New York Times bestselling author

The Rich Boy, an all-new slow-burn standalone with white-hot chemistry and witty banter from New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott, is out now!


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.


Download your copy today!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2O54ogZ
AppleBooks: https://apple.co/2O3wB80
Amazon Worldwide: http://mybook.to/RichBoy
Nook: http://bit.ly/38Igu7K
Kobo: http://bit.ly/3aLkJBe
Google Play: http://bit.ly/3aJlVVX
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2sv6LlG 


About Kylie

Kylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013, 2014 & 2018, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet. 

Connect with Kylie 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XujcZh
Bookbub: http://bit.ly/2GngiQq
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2OiXx3I
Twitter: http://bit.ly/391pjJM
Instagram: http://bit.ly/2EUrx11
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2Imusk3
Pinterest: http://bit.ly/2S7cc32 
Book+Main Bites: http://bit.ly/2ETz5RQ
Stay up to date with Kylie by joining her mailing list:http://bit.ly/2TOOivT
Website: https://kyliescott.com/


DISPEL ILLUSION by Mark Lawrence

Sometimes being wrong is the right answer.

Nick Hayes’s genius is in wringing out the universe’s secrets. It’s a talent that’s allowed him to carve paths through time. But the worst part is that he knows how his story will end. He’s seen it with his own eyes. And every year that passes, every breakthrough he makes, brings him a step closer. Mia’s accident is waiting for them both in 2011. If it happens then he’s out of choices.

Then a chance 1992 discovery reveals that this seeker of truth has been lying to himself. But why? It’s a question that haunts him for years. A straw he clings to as his long-awaited fate draws near.

Time travel turns out not to be the biggest problem Nick has to work on. He needs to find out how he can stay on his path but change the destination. Failure has never been an option, and neither has survival. But Nick’s hoping to roll the dice one more time. And this new truth begins with a lie. 


Title : Dispel Illusion
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Impossible Times (book three)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 234
Genre : sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : 47North
Release Date : November 14, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Well well welllllll.

This series has been a wild ride of weirdness, geekiness, violence, and wtf’ery. That last mostly in the sense of “I have no idea what’s happening, I’m so dumb, this book is hella smart, why am I reading this.” But this final installment?

W o w.

Not only is this my favourite of the set, it also wraps everything so.. perfectly. The cleverness of the author, of bringing all these convoluted strands of time, events, people, and more, together, is just unreal. Again, I stumbled my way through the first two, but this one — even though, again, my brain couldn’t keep up sometimes — actually made sense. It worked. And it worked because of everything that came before.

This is definitely a series I recommend that you binge but, if not, Lawrence was kind enough to include a “previously, on..” at the beginning of this third novella. I won’t say it helped to make things any clearer than it felt to actually read said previous books but it got me upto speed on some of the finer details I’ve forgotten since finishing book two. Which, again, meant I was still the tortoise in this hare race. But this time it was way more enjoyable overall.

But, yeah, this isn’t a series I would necessarily recommend because, again, complicated, and weird, and nerdy, but if you like time travel, if you like characters that play D&D, if you enjoy twisty turny, timey wimey, and aren’t afraid of being confused (or maybe you’re smarter than the average duck), you should give these a try. For all that your brain needs to invest a bit in the details, you aren’t really investing your time (hahahah I didn’t do that on purpose) because these novellas aren’t long. But a lot does happen. So, figure that one out.

Once again, this has cemented my need to read more from this author — something I haven’t done since finishing the last installment of this book, whoops — and I can’t wait to explore his epic fantasy series’.

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

A MURDEROUS RELATION by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell navigates a dark world of scandal and murder in this new adventure from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l’Etoile, and the proprietess, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper–and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore’s high class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family–and it’s up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it’s too late for all of them.


Title : A Murderous Relation
Author : Deanna Raybourn
Series : Veronica Speedwell (book five)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : historical romance/mystery
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : March 10, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Listen, I already know I’m going to be an outlier on this one (again!) so you should just scroll right past this review before you get too sad about this rating.

For various reasons, the last two books in this much beloved series have just not done it for me. Book four because of what I felt were out-of-character behaviours for characters I had grown to love so much, and in book five, it’s the mystery. This book had a lot of expectation riding on it because of where things ended in the previous installment and while it started out hopeful.. it kind of rambled about in another direction, putting certain things on hold, only to pick up a plot from a few books before; one I kind of thought we had moved on from. Only now do I see that this particular bit has finally (please?) run it’s course.

The particular investigation in this book runs parallel to when Jack the Ripper is rampaging around London and I definitely thought there would be some crossover with that. It seems a popular, or common, event for this time period. Strangely, we ended up bypassing it, and in some ways that was a refreshing choice. But there was a moment.. oh, wow, it perked me up. What a brilliantly written interaction.

As for the will-they-won’t-they-have-they-finally-just-got-on-with-it question, whether things progressed or not, you’ll just have to read to find out.

Considering my rather lukewarm feelings about this one on the whole, however, I wonder if this series has just run its course for me. I hate to think it so, I’ve so loved so much of this (again, books one to three? great, delightful, the best kind of frustrating), but lately? Again, I doubt this’ll be the common feeling. So definitely be excited about more Stokewell on your kindles or on your shelves. I’ll just be over here hoping to find the love again in book six. Not willing to throw in the towel quite yet.

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

THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


Title : The Fever King
Author : Victoria Lee
Series : Feverwake (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 376
Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Skyscape
Release Date : March 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This is a book that my mind is shying away from being too critical about because it’s doing a lot of great things. And yet..

Beyond the representation offered in Lee’s characters (one lead is bisexual and Jewish/Latinx, the other is black, I believe), this is a sci-fi/dystopian story that heavily deals with how society treats refugees. For all that this is set, like, a hundred years (or something?) in the future, this is a very timely narrative and I felt the author did a good job of making this less of just a conveniently relevant backdrop and, instead, you really feel the struggle, the disparity between the social classes, which is made more dramatic by the haves, and the locals, being magical while the have-nots, those who have fled their home, are not.

But I found the worldbuilding somehow overly complex, or confusing, and I’m not entirely sure why. It centers around this big event that tore apart the US and left the remaining habitual areas into their own countries, the wars and tragedies that ensue, and along the way we’re given glimpses into that history, and particularly the figureheads of that time; one of which happens to still be around, now that he’s not only all powerful but also immortal. Somehow Carolinia is the only place in the world where it’s okay to be witching, someone who survives the fever brought on by a magical surge (or something.. notice a trend?) and Britain and Canada had tried bombing them, because to hell with magical people, but now.. they don’t? But, instead of Carolinia being a refuge for people, they close their borders? And, specifically relevant to the current plot, there’s the Carolianians vs the Atlantians conflict, because in Atlantia apparently it’s really terrible and toxic and you die, but somehow they make it to Carolinia anyway, but Carolinians want nothing to do with them, and.. I don’t know, like, I get what was happening but I also feel like I have no idea what was happening. Even in writing that summary (ish) I confused and doubted myself. I have no idea what’s just happened, I think I blacked out.

This paragraph is where I had a bunch more words written that I’ve since deleted. I mention this to honour their memory. You tried. You tried to make this review work. But it just didn’t.

Suffice it to say, this book is doing a lot. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters we don’t know if we are supposed to like, and a hate-to-love romance I wanted to get behind.. but only sometimes did. This book should’ve been a new favourite because of all that, plus a lot of darker and adult themes which made this YA the least YA-feeling YA book I’ve read in a long time (take a shot for every time I said “YA”) but I found it easy to put down, either because I was bored or my brain was just processing white noise. This should’ve been action packed and thrilling (and I guess it sort’ve was in a muted kind of way) and I should’ve been speculating and making theories (some of which I did, shoutout to my buddy Amanda who loves this book and got some of my reactions), and while I was clearly invested and following along enough to guess some things correctly, to see things coming, I’m still not sure what to do with any of it. Particularly after that ending. I think half the problem is there’s so much still not being revealed, or left unknown, and that is why I have one foot out the door on this one.

I can only hope book two has me diving into the feels, and the love, with both feet.

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

AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY by Danielle Jawando – double review!

An emotionally rich and current story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media.

When fifteen-year-old Nathan discovers that his older brother Al has taken his own life, his whole world is torn apart.
Al was special.
Al was talented.
Al was full of passion and light…so why did he do it?
Convinced that his brother was in trouble, Nathan begins to retrace his footsteps. And along the way, he meets Megan. Al’s former classmate, who burns with the same fire and hope, who is determined to keep Al’s memory alive. But when Nathan learns the horrifying truth behind his brother’s suicide, one question remains – how do you survive, when you’re growing up in the age of social media?


Title : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly
Author : Danielle Jawando
Series : And The Stars Were Burning Brightly #1
Format : Paperback ARC / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Simon and Schuster UK
Release Date : March 5, 2020

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


Micky’s 5 star review

AND THE STARS WERE BURNING BRIGHTLY is the kind of book you do need a snapshot of insight into before you enter, in this case I do recommend reading the blurb. This is a story about suicide, grief, bullying and social media. It is powerful and painful, chilling and stunning. I think it’s a really important book and it’s 100% worth the emotional investment.

The book started and ended with an author note, I had the privilidge of hearing the author read the beginning note and the first chapter at a publisher event. There wasn’t a whisper in the room and I fought tears listening to her. The reading experience is pretty much like that, the story and the characters plunged me into their worlds, wrapped me up in their fraught emotions and spat me out a bit of wreck.

Nathan was the brother, grieving his older sibling and questioning everything; he needed the why to these events, some reason and he was determined. Alongside Nathan were family, other siblings, his mother, his friend, Al’s friend Megan and some nasty characters. This was a intricately woven story, where as the reader you were alongside Nathan, searching for answers.

“My chest goes all tight, knowing that I’ll never see him for real again, that he’ll only ever be this person in a photo.”

Eli’s character was tangibly written, believable in his cruel manipulations and plain bullying. Tara and Lewi were more subtle in their connections to the situation and how events finally wove together was pretty shocking. Social media was the weapon wielded in this book and some of the elements took my breath away.

The picture of grief was palpable, I could feel the anger, despair and sadness rising out of the pages, I’m not an easy crier at books but I was an easy crier at this book. Nathan’s emotions had the power to affect me deeply as did Al’s short chapter starters.

For me, as a Mancunian, this book was gift in dialogue and narrative. It was written as Mancunians speak, quite literally and I found it easy to sink into. I don’t think this element will be difficult for any other readers, but you might wonder for the first few pages as you settle into this.

Danielle Jawando captured the issues in this book with honesty, she didn’t hold back on the difficult stuff, this was an absolute strength of this book. These issues shouldn’t be diluted to make it more palatable, your heart should break as you navigate this with the characters. I am beyond impressed with this fictional debut and I will be watching avidly for more from this author.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for this early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

Despite what this book made me feel, and the tears, I’m happy I read this book. Not just because it helped to haul me out of a slump but also because this story is so important to read, particularly for teens, and was done so beautifully.

I went into this read pretty unaware, as per usual, and knew only that Micky, blog buddy extraordinaire, has been raving about it for what feels like ages now. I’m so thankful she put this on my radar.

When you’re angry, it takes you away from the pain somehow. Stops it from tearing into you.

I truly don’t have much to say, and certainly nothing to add to my partner’s great review, but I couldn’t not make a point to add something, to repost this, boost it once more, because this story deserves more awareness and, most importantly, deserves your time. It’s heavy but never without hope, without light — just like stars; though they aren’t seen until it’s dark.. they shine so bright.

KISS OF VENGEANCE by S. Young

A standalone adult paranormal romance from New York Times Bestselling author Samantha Young writing as S. Young.

Fionn Mór was once a high king of Ireland; a fierce warrior who led his tribes against the invading fae. It was a war he couldn’t win and to save his family he turned consort for the Fae Queen. Fionn escaped as the thing he once despised, and the people he loved betrayed him for it. Now, centuries later, it’s time to reopen the gates to Faerie to take his revenge against the Faerie Queen.

At sixteen Rose Kelly discovered family secrets that changed her forever. Years after, she’s still lost, traveling across Europe in search of that elusive missing ‘something’. When she’s attacked by a vampire, not only is she wrenched into a supernatural underworld she never knew existed, a knock on the head releases a spell on her mind and unlocks powers beyond her wildest imaginings. And with them more questions. Questions Fionn Mór claims to have answers to.

Following the powerful and enigmatic Fionn to Ireland, Rose quickly realizes she’s a pawn in his plan for vengeance. What begins as a passionate battle of wills leads to an inexplicable but undeniable connection. One that will force them to face an impossible choice between the deepest love… and the darkest revenge.


Title : Kiss of Vengeance
Author : S. Young
Series : True Immortality #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : Paranormal Romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★. 5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This second in the True Immortality series is definitely a standalone, the characters do ultimately connect to the wider story but you could start here if you wished (don’t do that, read book one). Thea and Connor from book one do make an appearance later in the story too. This book however focused on Rose who briefly appeared in WAR OF HEARTS. Rose was roaming Europe, stopping to work in cities when she encountered a bunch of odd people one evening in the bar she worked in. One of those people was Fionn, there was something strange immediately about how he made her feel.

Fionn was a character I really struggled to get on with. He was fae like Rose, he was arrogant and he had an obsessive focus with revenge at the exclusion of everything else. Even over time when he and Rose became more, he prioritised his obsession. I struggled with his superiority, egotism, his closed-off feelings and redemption on this front came late.

Rose however, was a character I liked. I enjoyed her experience of coming into her powers and she had integrity, maybe her character brought balance to Fionn’s. Sometimes, I didn’t know how she persevered with Fionn.

The story itself was interesting, pretty fast-paced and through it, I learnt more about the Immortality world. I am definitely interested in this world and how the supernatural creatures interact, fight and exist. I am so very excited about the next couple, especially because the male character I like and seems less like Fionn.

Overall, I had a few problems with the male MC but I am invested in this as a series.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

GRIEF ANGELS by David Owen

15-year-old Owen Marlow is experiencing a great, disorienting loss after his father suddenly passed away and his mother moved them to a new town. None of his old friends knew how to confront his grief, so he’s given up on trying to make new ones. There is one guy at school who might prove to be different if he gives him a chance but lately, Owen has been overwhelmed by his sadness. He’s started to have strange, powerful hallucinations of skeletal birds circling above him. Owen tells himself that these visions are just his brain’s way of trying to cope – until one night, the birds descend and take him to an otherworldly forest. There, he is asked to go on a dangerous journey that promises to bring him the understanding he so desperately seeks – if he can survive it.

Grief Angels is an urgent and heartfelt look at the power of nostalgia and the many different forms of grief. It’s about young men learning how to share their stories, and teens discovering who they are, and who they might one day become.


Title : Grief Angels
Author : David Owen
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Atom Books
Release Date : March 5, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 2.5-3 star review

Let me preface this review by saying that I really felt drawn to this book and its themes of grief. I have a professional and research interest in grief and for me this means that my mind is open, I respect utterly how people grieve according to their individualised needs and nature. I am sad this didn’t work for me in some aspects.

GRIEF ANGELS is an unusual read in many way, I truly appreciated this story that took young adult male friendships, didn’t sexualise them and realistically depicted a compelling story through them. The narrative was told through the two main characters of Duncan and Owen. Duncan was a young guy dealing with depression and toxicity in his long standing friendship group. Owen was a new guy in school, grieving the death of his father and finding himself along the way.

What was unique about this story was that Owen was whisked off in his grief by the ‘grief angels’ (read birds) to a fantastical land where he went on a quest with someone to do something. I remain unclear about some of this, so excuse the vagueness. I do not know if this part of the story was magical realism, analogy, hallucination or what. I feel that by the end I should have known this. I kept reading, kept pushing through with this element, wanting to find out the answer. I can make my best hypothesis about this but this element needed some world building and structure.

It is testement to the great YA story in the contemporary setting that I haven’t rated this book lower. I loved it when the story switched back to life at school and in the friendships. I wanted to stay there.

I’m sad this particular story didn’t work for me but I would definitely read David Owen again. I liked the characters he created and I enjoyed the larger parts of his writing.

Thank you to Atom books for the review copy.

WICKED AS YOU WISH by Rin Chupeco

Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends. 

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….


Title : Wicked As You Wish
Author : Rin Chupeco
Series : A Hundred Names for Magic (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA fantasy
Publisher : Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I honestly try not to let other reviews and ratings affect me prior to diving into a book but unfortunately this one was definitely a victim of me doing a whole lot of side-eye as the GR rating went down, down, down in the weeks leading up to release (and, as of writing this review, there’s still three weeks to go..). I stayed away from reviews for the most part but I went into this with concerns not only due to the rating but also after seeing a few DNFs pop up in my feed.

Suffice it to say, I understand why this was a struggle for some readers. The worldbuilding, the mythology, the folklore, the history.. it’s so much. It’s so extra. This is a world where, like, fairytales are on crack. Think of every story, every myth, every legend, everything you’ve ever heard of or read, throw them into a blender, and top it all with a sprinkling of real-world concerns and politics. That’s what this universe is like. There is so much going on just in the every day common knowledge (or not, if you’re the MC, who knows almost nothing, Jon Snow), not to mention this big life-changing, world-altering event, of Avalon, a country where magic first began (or something..?) was frozen over by the Snow Queen, killing Avalon’s rulers, and sending the prince into exile and hiding. Said prince shows up into the armpit of Arizona, where most of this story takes place, and is now being taken in by Tala, our protagonist’s, family, who are all a bunch of famous ex-Avalonian.. militia, or something.

Anyway, eventually they are discovered, the Snow Queen invades a place they once believed she never could, and Tala, the prince, and a ragtag group of teens, find themselves returning to Avalon to break the curse. One of the many curses because, like, everyone has a curse or a doom or a geas and like.. I’m already tired trying to explain this. Because, again, it’s a lot. There’s a huge cast of characters. Prophecies and secrets abound and there’s a lot we, as a reader, are left in the dark about, while other characters seem to prefer to just spout weird prophetic statements without any care to shed light on things, and we bounce from one battle or confrontation to another, all while watching this group form rather predictable connections, despite themselves, and while the Prince acts like an ass.. for no discernible reason.

So, yeah, I have no idea what to do with this. This book was a big floppy trade paperback of an ARC, with tiny tiny writing, and I spent two days slogging through what was, admittedly, a clever and interesting world that I should’ve really loved reading about, but somehow never quite did, and dealing with a pile of characters who should’ve been interesting and fun and only ever sometimes managed a little of that.

The upsides? Beyond the creativity and the astounding amount of work it must’ve taken to put this together and keep it all consistent (seriously, my brain, it hurts), this is heavily steeped in the author’s own culture and there is a lot of representation. Also, I might even pick up book two. But that last point is probably less to do with the book and more to do with my stubbornness and curiousity, so. I don’t know. I can’t recommend. But nor do I think I want to not recommend. There are definitely going to be people who love this but I see just as many, like me, who won’t know what to do with it.. or can’t even get far enough to bother.

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

GLOVES OFF by Louisa Reid

A page-turning and immersive YA novel in verse, telling the story of Lily who is mercilessly bullied at school and who turns to boxing in an attempt to fight back; a story of hope and resilience breaking through even the most difficult situations.

Lily turns sixteen with two very different sides to her life: school, where she is badly bullied, and home with her mum and dad, warm and comforting but with its own difficulties.

After a particularly terrible bullying incident, Lily’s dad determines to give his daughter the tools to fight back.

Introducing her to boxing, he encourages Lily to find her own worth. It is both difficult and challenging but in confronting her own fears she finds a way through that illuminates her life and friendships.

Meeting Rose, and seeing that there is another world out there, enables her to live her own life fully and gives her the knowledge that she is both beautiful and worth it.


Title : Gloves Off
Author : Louisa Reid
Format : Paperback
Page Count :
Genre : YA Contemporary
Publisher : Guppy Books
Release Date : March 5, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

GLOVES OFF was a quick but satisfying read of a young person going through a transformation of identity, poor self image and sexual identity told in a backdrop of hideous bullying. The whold book is told in prose and I loved that aspect. I slipped into the style of prose immediately and I found the words powerful.

butterfly bright,
dragonfly gold,
(their teeth as sharp as fangs
their nails like claws.)

Lily was sixteen, living in a household where food and weight were issues and that seemed to be taking a toll on how she was perceived and treated at school. She had no real friends and she was utterly isolated in her misery. As events escalated, Lily’s father called time on what was happening and motivated Lily to fight back in both a psychological and literal sense; she started boxing training.

The story was engaging, the characters were very much so. The story was told mainly from Lily’s POV but there was the occasional Lily’s mother POV. Lily had great character and identity growth. The sexual identity issues were in the background but they were handled well. It was good to see Lily find some friends, a sense of community and something more.

i am going to be the girl
who rises up
out of the mud
out of the gutter
out of silence
out of a void that has been carved for me

This is not your average story, it is special, especially considering how well the prose was written.

Thank you to Guppy Publishing and Darkroom Tours for the review copy.