DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS by Laini Taylor

What power can bruise the sky?

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited — not in love, but in tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as — from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond — humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. 



Title : Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Author : Laini Taylor
Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book three)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 640
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 17, 2014 (original) / December 1, 2020 (new editions!)

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

I have so many feelings.

Also it’s nice to have memories because wow did I have very few of those for this installment! I definitely clung to very few recollections of any events post-book one and honestly it made the whole experience feel like the first time. I kind of love that this is how it went down.

In the legends, chimaera were sprung from tears and seraphim from blood, but in this moment they are, all of them, children of regret.

I can definitely see why this ending made many readers mad and I think I’m somewhere in the middle. There was definitely A Lot jammed in right at the end but it also didn’t feel too rushed. It was just a hard left when you think you’re going right. But also, I kind of love it? Like another series I read recently which took a lot of unexpected and not-so-popular and very risky choices, I feel this was one of those. And I guess in my old age I’m appreciating the unconventional a little more.

It was a new idea for him, that happiness wasn’t a mystical place to be reached or won — some bright terrain beyond the boundary of misery, a paradise waiting for them to find it — but something to carry doggedly with you through everything.

Plus, having read her more recent series, I think I finally understand the tie-in. It’s nothing to the extent that you need to read one to read the other but. Something. I’m not spoiling anything but I had a moment and then my brain tried to remember the ending of MUSE OF NIGHTMARES and I sprained something, so that was a bust, but. I feel another Taylor reread coming on.

Anyway, I just had such a good time, truly. There’s not going to be any kind of insightful breakdown or poetical word weaving in this review. Taylor’s writing is gorgeous. She loves to torment her characters (and us). There is plenty of darkness but always hope. And there are moments of such silliness, such every-day-ness by having certain “normal” persons woven in amongst all the monsters and magic, gods and other worlds, that it just grounds everything. It all just works.

You are a conniving, deceitful hussy. I stand in awe.”
You’re sitting.
I sit in awe.

I do think, in hindsight of this reread, I might love the Strange the Dreamer duology more. But I would need to reread that one to confirm my five stars are still five stars. Because this series did lose a star from each book during this experience. I still love them, and will likely revisit again in a couple years, but sometimes the bowled over and devastated or delirious feeling doesn’t quite come back. Nonetheless, I had so much fun rereading these, and it was absolutely everything I needed right now.

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

HEARTSTOPPER VOLUME 1 by Alice Oseman

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…? 

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…




Title : Heartstopper Volume 1
Author : Alice Oseman
Series : Heartstopper
Format : graphic novel eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 288
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Hodder Children’s Books
Release Date : February 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

This has been a long overdue read for me, mostly because I put it off thinking I would not enjoy (I don’t know where I got this idea..), and also because of sudden demand through my library, and luckily this popped up on my holds just when I needed a distraction.

This glosses over a host of topics in a fairly easy flip, but when I say gloss I don’t mean to imply anything is taken or handled lightly, and I think that’s because you get a double impact via the dialogue and the expressions and actions of the illustrations. It packs a punch whilst still distracting you with sweetness or pretty things and works to balance it all really well.

I flew through this so quickly as is fairly typical for a graphic novel. This might have been a series that would be better to binge, and I definitely wish I had the rest on hand, too, but alas.. we must continue to wait.

If you’re looking for a sweet YA graphic novel to lift your spirits, or if you need something to bump that GR reading goal up, you can’t go wrong with this.

Also, this review is not quite the greatest thing ever but you know what is? Micky’s. You can find her thoughts here but just be mindful she’s also reviewed volume two on the same post. Watch out for any potential spoilers incase you’re averse.

THE OFFICE PARTY by Whitney G

I can’t believe that I pulled my boss’s name for our company’s annual Secret Santa tradition…

As the devil incarnate, this infuriating, cocky bastard never gives us the holidays off, and he honestly expects us to be grateful for his generous alternative: The Office Party.

It’s a mandatory, all-expenses trip for two weeks at a surprise luxury resort—where we still have to work twelve to fifteen hours a day.

I’m so over this…

So, I put zero percent effort into his gift. I tear the tag off whatever my sister gifts me, add a five-dollar amazon gift card, and hand it off to him.

It’s not until my sister sends me a text that I realize how terrible of a decision that was.

If that’s not bad enough, this year’s “luxury trip” will be in my hometown–the place I’ve avoided for years. At the resort that my grandmother owns…

If the universe gets me out of this, I will never ‘regift’ anything ever again… 


Title : The Office Party
Author : Whitney G
Format : eARC
Page Count : 117
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : WGW Books/Indie
Release Date : December 18, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

This short Christmas steamy novella was classic Whitney G and it was perfect for a one-sitting with a cup of something and a snack. It gave all the hate-to-more, heat and Christmassy vibes all in one and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The male MC was the boss and his top executive was the female MC, Savannah. I was glad that the boss was less of an a-hole than many of her books and the pretend hate was just a load of fun. Savannah ended up pulling her boss’ name in the secret santa.

Whoever pulls Mr West’s name in the Secret Santa game this year, can you please gift him ten hours of psychological therapy? Then again, can we all pitch in for that anyway?

I would love to see Whitney G do a little role reversal in future books where the female is in a position of power rather than the hero. I like her brand of characters but I’d also like to see some variety on occasion.

So go forth and make your afternoon or evening’s free time with this short gem to get you into the season.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

STARBREAKER by Amanda Bouchet

Captain Tess Bailey and Shade Ganavan never wanted to be heroes. Now, revolution is in the wind and the universe on the brink of catastrophic war. Tess, Shade, and the remaining crew of the Endeavor are still the galaxy’s Most Wanted. With the Dark Watch—and every bounty hunter known to humankind—scouring the known sectors for them, the situation couldn’t be more desperate.

The clock is ticking. As their attraction builds and secrets are revealed, Tess and Shade must decide if they trust each other enough to plan their next move together. They could change the course of history…or at least bring hot water to the showers aboard the Endeavor. They’ll just have to tackle one crisis at a time.



Title : Starbreaker
Author : Amanda Bouchet
Series : Endeavor #2
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 448
Genre : Sci-fi Romance
Publisher : Piatkus, Little Brown UK
Release Date : November 5, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★



Micky’4 star review

The world of the Endeavor is one that I’m fully on board with. I really enjoyed being back with Tess, Shade, Jax and Merrick in particular. This crew are a family, found family and I have all the needy vibes now for book three.

As with book one, this was a fast-paced read, for all nearly 500 pages of it. Sometimes, I felt like I had to hold on tight with the drama and I let it sweep me along; that’s not a negative, just a sense of the tension this read brings.

I knew in book one that there was something fishy about Uncle Nate, so his storyline in Starbreaker didn’t surprise me and I liked where it was going but I’m gonna need that conclusion from book three. Shade and Tess gave me life and I enjoyed the development of something deeper from them. As with book one, I didn’t always gel with the on-page steam.

Close? It was all I could do not not flinch. I didn’t want close. I wanted fucking combined.

Bonk, the ship’s cat was just a delight, I’m such a sucker for animal companions. When he was in the story, I was at 100% attention. I could have done with a bit more of him.

Bonk followed her out like Tess was the comet and he was the tail that trailed behind her.

This is definitely sci-fi that’s heavy on the romance but I’ve found a world and family that I’m invested in and eager for the conclusion.

Thank you to Piatkus for the finished review copy.

A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS by Robyn Carr

A Christmas Miracle in Virgin River

Last Christmas Marcie Sullivan said a final goodbye to her husband, Bobby. This Christmas she’s come to Virgin River to find the man who saved his life, and gave her three more years with him. Fellow marine Ian Buchanan dragged Bobby to safety in Fallujah four years ago then disappeared. Since then, Marcie’s letters to Ian have gone unanswered.

When Marcie tracks Ian to the tiny mountain town of Virgin River she finds a man haunted by his past and afraid to look to his future. Not easily scared off Marcie pushes her way into Ian’s reclusive life to see beyond his pain to the man he once was. The man he can be again.

Ian doesn’t know what to make of the determined young woman who forces him to look into the painful past and, what’s worse, the uncertain future. But it is, after all, a season of miracles and maybe, just maybe, it’s time to banish the ghosts and open his heart.


Title : A Virgin River Christmas
Author : Robyn Carr
Series : Virgin River #4
Format : eARC
Page Count : 296
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Mills & Boon
Release Date : November 1, 2011

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I have a happy sigh over here because I am the worst to please when it comes to Christmas stories; they rarely work for me. I knew this one had a chance because I’ve become a fan of this series, both book and TV.

What was fabulous about this Christmas story was that the Virgin River characters were very in the background and the main characters were two new recruits to the series. This story was very focused around marine (combat) experiences which fit with Jack and Preacher’s legacy well.

Marcie was a widow of a marine searching for the best friend and Sargeant of her late husband. Ian was that man but really he was a wild bear of man, nomading in the wilderness, in a very sparse cabin. Their story was just beautiful and their forced proximity was aided by flu, snow, Doc and Mel. Marcie won me over with her determination and big heart.

There was a scene in the book where Marcie recounted her late husband’s death and I had quiet tears just dripping down. This book truly had all the feels. I really hope that these two characters will feature further in the series because I am such a fan.

Thank you to Mills & Boon for the review copy to fit with the season.

CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys, described by Entertainment Weekly as “groundbreaking.”

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.



Title : Cemetery Boys
Author : Aiden Thomas
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 350
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Swoon Reads
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

Man, I am so bummed right now. I really thought this was going to be a read that lived up to all the extraordinary hype and became a new favourite. But..

Okay, good stuff out of the way? The first half was pretty excellent (more reason for being bummed). The descriptions of both family and culture? So vivid. I could see the colours, I could smell the food, I could hear the overlapping chatter of families. Everything was written with such ease, such flow, that I couldn’t believe this was a debut. There were a few instances of repetition but it seemed to happen as new chapters started, almost like a reset, so.. I kinda forgave it. Also, I was a pretty big fan of Yadriel, our main protagonist, and thought his struggle to make a place for himself in the Brujx culture to be heartwrenching; he refused to give in, to compromise who he was even as every rejection, every time he was misgendered, or dead named, was a stab to his heart. That said, I didn’t love the love interest all the time. He had some extremes I wasn’t down with and while the protagonist didn’t always let him get away with it, it wasn’t fun to live through the tantrums. And some of the exchanges were just.. chaotic.

I would like to note that this isn’t a story with a big shocking mystery. You know who the villain is almost from the beginning. Or at least I did. But it’s fine. Just don’t be surprised if you are expecting a spooky dark mystery. This is actually fairly lighthearteded in the overall vibe.

Remember why we’re doing this.”
So they’ll see that I’m a brujo.”
Well, yeah, but other than that.
Spite?
Spite!

Where this went hella sideways was the big confrontation. I said things were chaotic at times? Wow, it got worse. Things happened at break-kneck speed and then my eyeballs were being assaulted by capslock and !? exclamations over and over again.. at which point events happen in such a way that a certain character is, like, doing something that amounts to crouching over another and snapping like a dog because they are worried or being protective, or both, and it was just. I had to put the book down because suddenly I didn’t know what I was reading or what was happening. Things just really went off the rails. It was all those moments I disliked about the character from before but magnified to a hellish extreme. Even the bestie of our main protagonist, who up until this point was a solid favourite, was just so.. over dramatic for literally no reason. It went full on soap opera/CW moment and I was just left baffled.

In conclusion. The first half? Very good. The second half? Actually, it’s not even a full half, it’s like.. maybe three chapters? It doesn’t drag out but it really slaps you in the face. Or at least it did for me. So that bit? A lot less good. But we had a sweet ending and there was something that did happen that I didn’t expect, possibly because I’m dumb, and said thing is a good thing. So while this wasn’t an overall win for me there is lots of enjoyment to be had, along with knowing you’re reading an #OwnVoices story with solid representation, and I will absolutely read this author again.

THE TOWER OF NERO by Rick Riordan

At last, the breathtaking, action-packed finale of the #1 bestselling Trials of Apollo series is here! Will the Greek god Apollo, cast down to earth in the pathetic moral form of a teenager named Lester Papadopoulos, finally regain his place on Mount Olympus? Lester’s demigod friends at Camp Jupiter just helped him survive attacks from bloodthirsty ghouls, an evil Roman king and his army of the undead, and the lethal emperors Caligula and Commodus. Now the former god and his demigod master Meg must follow a prophecy uncovered by Ella the harpy. Lester’s final challenge will be at the Tower of Nero, back in New York. Will Meg have a last showdown with her father? Will this helpless form of Apollo have to face his arch nemesis, Python? Who will be on hand at Camp Half-Blood to assist? These questions and more will be answered in this book that all demigods are eagerly awaiting. 



Title : The Tower of Nero
Author : Rick Riordan
Series : The Trials of Apollo (book five)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 419
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : October 6, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

Maybe I should’ve started with this as my slump buster.

Like my last read, Riordan is a comfort author and diving back into his Percy Jackson Universe is just.. fun. This final book in this particular series, which I think is also supposed to close the door on the whole world (?), was nostalgic and entertaining and just a great time all around. Though if it is the end it does feel a little.. well, not like an end? I think I would’ve expected more of a definitive and drawn out farewell tour. Which is why I think the door has been left open.. just a bit. Plus, I mean, did we get teased with the Nico stuff? There has to be more.

The only thing more unsettling than not understanding a prophecy was beginning to understand it.

Anyway. Not much I can say about a wrap up installment so suffice it to say you’ll just have to read it yourself! But this was exactly the kind of warm hug in book form that I needed.

I wanted to write a haiku in honour of Apollo but I’ve got nothing.

THE SUGARED GAME by KJ Charles

It’s been two months since Will Darling saw Kim Secretan, and he doesn’t expect to see him again. What do a rough and ready soldier-turned-bookseller and a disgraced shady aristocrat have to do with each other anyway?

But when Will encounters a face from the past in a disreputable nightclub, Kim turns up, as shifty, unreliable, and irresistible as ever. And before Will knows it, he’s been dragged back into Kim’s shadowy world of secrets, criminal conspiracies, and underhand dealings.

This time, though, things are underhanded even by Kim standards. This time, the danger is too close to home. And if Will and Kim can’t find common ground against unseen enemies, they risk losing everything.



Title : The Sugared Game
Author : KJ Charles
Series : The Will Darling Adventures (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 288
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance/historical fiction
Publisher : KJC Books
Release Date : August 26, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m not sure my feelings about this book are entirely fair as I’ve come out of quite a bit of a lull/slump and I knew the first book I picked up might suffer for it. But I thought a KJC might help battle that prediction and also I mean she’s kind of a guaranteed pick me up. And yet..

I don’t know about you, but the position of hand puppet to [spoiler] does not appeal to me.”
Nor me. If I want someone sticking their hand up my arse–
Oh, do go on.”
I’m not going to be [spoiler]’s hand puppet either, was what I meant.

Certainly not a bad book, not that I think she even has one, and a three star is far from a dislike but I didn’t quite enjoy this installment as much as book one. We did have some good reveals and how this plays out into book three will be interesting but to be honest I found myself less enamoured by the MC and the love interest and instead was just rooting for the ladies of the story. They had felt like full and realized characters in book one and yet they definitely stole the show for me in this one. And I love that it went that way because they are certainly deserving of a spotlight.

That said, if you are not yet on the KJC train you absolutely have to. If not this series, another, find a standalone, whatever. If you’re into queer fiction or historical fiction or where the two meet and you aren’t reading this author? What even are you doing!

Hoping that book three goes out with a bang but also hoping to not be battling anymore slumps between now and then. Fingers crossed!

NIGHT OF CAKE & PUPPETS by Laini Taylor

In this stand-alone companion to the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone series comes the story of Mik and Zuzana’s fantastical first date—as a gorgeously illustrated gift edition with bonus content included.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to make the first move, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy is not going to know what hit him.

New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Originally published as an ebook, this new print edition will include breathtaking black and white illustrations, plus bonus content in a gorgeous package perfect for new and current fans of the series.



Title : Night of Cake & Puppets
Author : Laini Taylor (illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo)
Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book 2.5)
Format : hardback
Page Count : 256
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Release Date : November 26, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 5 star review

Once you know magic is real, it’s really hard to remember what it was like not to know.

To me, this little book is magic. The story, the art, the way it breaks up the action in the main series to dazzle you.. everything about it is just perfection.

Zuzana in particular always felt like such a force as a supporting character but the brilliance of this novella is that she feels no different in the spotlight. Taylor had this character pegged from page one and she doesn’t feel any more real but instead feels just like herself.

The friendship moments between Zuzana and Karou, even just through text, are so authentic and silly and heartfelt that it felt like rereading my own texts to friends.

As for Mik, well. He’s definitely a sweet thing but doesn’t leave as much as an impression as either Zuz or even Karou. But it was how he thought about Zuzana, how he was instantly a believer in magic, and how self-aware he was, that make him worthy of our rabid fairy.

Reading this after my series reread makes me instantly crave more from this world and these characters — even though I only left them a week or two ago — and if that isn’t proof of magic, what is?

If you are a fan of this series but haven’t yet picked up this novella? You must.

EVERY LAST SECRET by A.R. Torre

Welcome to the neighborhood. Watch your husband, watch your friends, and watch your back.

Cat Winthorpe has worked hard to get what she has: a gorgeous home; social standing; and William, her successful, handsome husband. Then a friendly new couple moves into the estate next door. While cautious, a good neighbor like Cat greets them with open arms and warm hospitality.

Neena Ryder isn’t a fellow lady of leisure. A life coach with off-the-rack dresses, personal issues, and a husband who hasn’t delivered, she’s anxious to move up in the world. This beautiful new town is a step in the right direction. It’s also making Neena aware of what she doesn’t have. Namely, William. When Neena’s infatuation escalates into obsession, it’s just a matter of eliminating a few obstacles to get the life she wants. The life next door.

As Neena’s secret fixation grows, so does her friendship with Cat. But beneath their cordial interactions is a wealth of temptations, secrets, and toxic jealousy. For both women, the desire for a perfect life can turn perfectly dangerous.



Title : Every Last Secret
Author : A.R. Torre
Format : eARC
Page Count : 389
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Thomas & Mercer
Release Date : December 1, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Every Last Secret was enjoyable, unputdownable and a little crazy. This book was a bit consuming, a lot conniving and cunning with characters I don’t think I was ever supposed to like. However, I definitely appreciated the characters, their development, the evil sides and morally grey-ness. There were a few good types thrown in just to balance it out though.

The story focused on an uber-rich community and a interloping couple Neena and Matt. Cat and William were too good to be true and boy did that play out in a spectacular way. William in particular was an aloof character, not particularly nice and Cat was a crafted and perfected individual; lots of facets for the reader to get their teeth into.

The real William Winthrope was an asshole, and I was fascinated by him.

While I was there for every twist and turn, I did know where it was going broadly and who the perpetrator was. I really enjoyed the dynamics between Cat and Neena, Cat and William, Matt and everyone. The blurring of lines between these couples was gripping and kept me hooked.

She smiled, and I smiled, and the morning chill didn’t have anything on us.

There was something about the end portion of the book that begged for a little more depth in my opinion although I did love the final pages. This was such a clever story and A.R. Torre always gets me with her thrillers/suspense. I think this genre is where she is most talented.

Every Last Secret really gave me Big Little Lies-vibes so if you’re a fan of that book, definitely try this one.

Thank you to Thomas & Mercer for the early review copy.