THE WINTER OF THE WITCH by Katherine Arden

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingaleand The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all. 


Title : The Winter of the Witch
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight (book three)
Format : physical hardback
Page Count : 372
Genre : historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : January 8, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was a reread for me, though unlike the other books in the series it was only my second time doing so. Not to sound like a broken record but I still cannot believe how long it’s been since originally reading this series, considering how much I love this world, but I am so happy to have been reunited.

Love is for those who know the griefs of time, for it goes hand in hand with loss. An eternity, so burdened, would be a torment. And yet –yet what else to call it, this terror and joy?

Unlike my recent reviews for book one and two, however, I am SOL to cheat and just copy in parts of my original reviews from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I was too in my feels to properly review it at the time. And I’m pretty much right back in the same boat so, like, damn this sucks.

The world has lost its wonder.

As opposed to the book which resoundly does not.. suck, that is.

You shouldn’t have told them I was a girl. Then they might have believed that I was dangerous.

If I thought I couldn’t say much about book two its a whole lot of that but more for a finale. But if you’re expecting a big confrontation, or two (or three?), a whole bunch of secrets revealed, heartbreak, and romance, and tears, and more? You’ll get it. A lot of all of that.

I am sorry for this awful non-review review but you’ll just have to believe that the book, this series (this author!), is worth reading. I truly honestly cannot recommend this series enough. And cuddling up to it on Christmas Eve, with some much deserved snow coming down? Nothing better.

THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.


Title : The Girl in the Tower
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight (book two)
Format : physical hardback
Page Count : 384
Genre : historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : December 5, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was a reread for me, my third in fact (!), and yes if you’re feeling deja vue I had also just reread The Bear and the Nightingale for the third time, too. I still cannot believe how long it’s been since originally reading this series, considering how much I love this world, but I am so happy to be reunited.

Witch. We call such women so, because we have no other name.

That said, as with my recent review for book one, I’m going to cheat and just copy in parts of my original reviews from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I’m lazy but also because none of my opinions have actually changed.

Has the world run dry of warriors? All out of brave lords? Are they sending out maidens these days to do the work of heroes?
There were no heroes. There was only me.


I honestly don’t know how to review this book. So much of this story relies on book one’s plot and information but the basics are : The Girl in the Tower is a story about a brave girl and her impossible horse. But it’s also a story about the tug of war between the faith in the old world, the myths and the legends, and that of God and wealth and power. It’s about the harsh bite of cold, the hollow cramp of an empty belly, villages burned to the ground, girls stolen away in the night, and a power desperate to be unleashed from its bridle. And through all that, Vasya is still fighting for her place in the world — not that of marriage or stuck in a convent, but for adventure.. and to be believed by those she loves. The politics in book two take a sharp turn, though they’ve always been present, and an uprising must be stopped even as an ghost from Vasya’s past, who plays a significant role in a present-day evil, is laid to rest.

It is going to end. One day. This world of wonders, where steam in a bathhouse can be a creature that speaks prophecy. One day, there will be only bells and processions. The chyerti will be fog and memory and stirrings in the summer barley.

The Bear and the Nightingale is like a slow-moving chill, it creeps up on you and chips away at your warmth ever so subtly, until you’re frozen. Whereas The Girl in the Tower is more like trying to out-pace a blizzard. Both books are enjoyable but in this sequel we see Vasya tested even more than she was in the first book.. and we also see her rise above. She gets a glimpse of who she could be if not for the constraints of her sex and it’s bittersweet and beautiful.

Curiosity is a dreadful trait in girls.” 

Knowing how this one played out in advance, I loved picking up on all the clues, all the foreshadowing, that Arden laid out for her readers. None of the excitement was lost; and certainly none of the trepidation, either, for a specific chapter with a certain race. I now feel my own bit of added trepidation knowing what awaits me in book three. I want to race to it but I also want to lurch to a halt and wait. I want both. I want it all.

Suffice it to say, you need to read these books. Arden’s series is atmospheric, harsh, brutal, unkind, beautiful, magical, wonderful, hopeful. It’s everything. You deserve some of that.

ALL THIS TIME by Mikki Daughtry & Rachel Lippincott

Kyle and Kimberly have been the perfect couple all through high school, but when Kimberly breaks up with him on the night of their graduation party, Kyle’s entire world upends—literally. Their car crashes and when he awakes, he has a brain injury. Kimberly is dead. And no one in his life could possibly understand.

Until Marley. Marley is suffering from her own loss, a loss she thinks was her fault. And when their paths cross, Kyle sees in her all the unspoken things he’s feeling.

As Kyle and Marley work to heal each other’s wounds, their feelings for each other grow stronger. But Kyle can’t shake the sense that he’s headed for another crashing moment that will blow up his life as soon as he’s started to put it back together.

And he’s right.


Title : All This Time
Author : Mikki Daughtry & Rachel Lippincott
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Release Date : September 29, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★


Micky’s 2 star review

I’m sorry to say this story didn’t work for me on any level, so I’m going to keep my review short. I really enjoyed this author duo’s FIVE FEET APART, so I was eager to see another story from them. The cover is pretty and it felt like a style that fitted with their previous book.

This story takes the reader through death, loss, grief, healing, recovery and yet, does it really? From the first few pages, this story forced a seemingly emotional story on the reader. It felt too much, too soon. The protagonist Kyle was going through so much and yet I had a sneaking suspicion.

Honestly, the story didn’t relent, lurching from one emotional event to another, with Kyle, Sam and Kim then Kyle and Marley. I found the plot utterly ridiculous when at 65% what I suspected was coming, was realised. How I limped to the end, I’m unsure. This felt like an immature plot and read for me and I’m gutted to be saying that so plainly. I suspect this will work on a surface level for teen readers and for that I’m glad.

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

MONTHLY WRAP UP – SEPTEMBER 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

FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez — see Micky’s review here (!)
HEARTSONG by TJ Klune — see Hollis’ review here
BROTHERSONG by TJ Klune — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

CHARLOTTE by Helen Moffett — see Micky’s review here
A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik — see Micky & Hollis’ reviews here
TOOLS OF ENGAGEMENT by Tessa Bailey — see Hollis’ review here (!)
PUNCHING THE AIR by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam — see Micky’s review here
COMMON GOAL by Rachel Reid — see Hollis’ review here
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SKY by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner — see Hollis’ review here
RED ROOSTER by Lauren Gilley — see Hollis’ review here
WOLFSONG by TJ Klune — see Hollis’ review here
RAVENSONG by TJ Klune — see Hollis’ review here
THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden — see Micky’s review here
SERPENT & DOVE by Shelby Mahurin — see Micky’s review here
FABLE by Adrienne Young — see Micky’s review here
THE SILVERED SERPENTS by Roshani Chokshi — see Hollis’ review here
WHO I WAS WITH HER by Nita Tyndall — see Micky’s review here
A ROGUE OF ONE’S OWN by Evie Dunmore — see Micky’s review here
THE OBELISK GATE by N. K. Jemisin — see Hollis’ review here
THE STONE SKY by N. K. Jemisin — see Hollis’ review here
THE RETURN by Nicholas Sparks — see Micky’s review here
NOTES FROM SMALL PLANETS by Nate Crowley — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne — see Hollis’ and Micky’s review here
TOOLS OF ENGAGEMENT by Tessa Bailey — see Micky’s review here (!)
FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez — see Hollis’ review here (!)
BLOODY ROSE by Nicholas Eames — see Hollis’ review here
WELL PLAYED by Jen DeLuca — see Hollis’ review here
YOU HAD ME AT HOLA by Alexis Daria — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ star reads

BLOOD & HONEY by Shelby Mahurin — see Micky’s review here
BREATHLESS by Jennifer Niven — see Micky’s review here

star reads

u n r a t e d

DNF

BEYOND THE SEA by LH Cosway – Micky’s brief GR thoughts here


additional reads not reviewed for blog : two
DONT YOU FORGET ABOUT ME –see Micky’s GR review here
total reads by Micky : fifteen
favourite read of the month : FURIA
least favourite read of the month : BREATHLESS
most read genre : YA contemporary

total reviews by Hollis : seventeen
favourite read of the month : HEARTSONG by TJ Klune
least favourite read of the month : YOU HAD ME AT HOLA by Alexis Daria
most read genre : paranormal/fantasy

BREATHLESS by Jennifer Niven

The much anticipated new novel from international bestselling author Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places.

You were my first. Not just sex, although that was part of it, but the first to look past everything else into me. Some of the names and places have been changed, but the story is true. It’s all here because one day this will be the past, and I don’t want to forget what I went through, what I thought, what I felt, who I was. I don’t want to forget you. But most of all, I don’t want to forget me.

For her last summer before college, Claudine Henry and her mother head to a remote island off the Georgia coast. There, amidst the wild beauty of the place, she meets the free spirited Jeremiah Crew. Their chemistry is immediate and irresistible, and even though they both know that whatever they have can only last the summer, maybe one summer is enough . . .


Title : Breathless
Author : Jennifer Niven
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Random House Children’s UK
Release Date : September 29, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★.5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

I’ve found this to be a hard one to find a comfortable rating and so I’ve settled at the 2.5 point after much pondering. Reading BREATHLESS proved to be a frustrating experience. The main character Claud felt all over the place and while she had reasons, the drama whiplash was severe at times.

I felt a little more settled in the story when Claud got to her island summer home, I liked the vibe of the place and the eclectic mix of people. Claud however, remained chaotic and sex-obsessed when she got there. I did feel that she seemed written a little young for her character’s age.

Sadly the story, whilst it had some definite highlights like the parental story line and Claud’s relationship with her father, there were a lot more dull periods. And then there’s the ending, which I hated as much as drinking a glass of sour milk. Sadly, this book didn’t hit the spot for me and there was more I disliked than liked.

There are triggers for days in this book, so if you need that information, please go and look for warnings.

Thank you to Random House for the early review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 29, 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 second in her Devil You Know series, ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne most of us only need to see the name Byrne for us to say yes and please.

DEAR JUSTYCE by Nic Stone follows on from the brilliant DEAR MARTIN; Quan who we met in that book is incarcerated and begins to write to Justyce this time. This is highly anticipated for Micky!

A hugely anticipated title worthy of the buzz is A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik which features prophecies, dark sorceresses, and more.

THE TOWER OF NERO by Rick Riordan is the fifth book, the finale, in the Trials of Apollo series, set within the main Percy Jackson world, which we honestly hope Riordan never stops writing about. This is likely to have all sorts of action and likely some feels, too.

We’re expecting to be all up in our emotions with ALL THIS TIME by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott. After their FIVE FEET APART, we know to brace. This story follows a young couple after traumatic brain injury…grab your tissues.

BREATHLESS by Jennifer Niven brings another coming of age YA story where the protagonist’s parents go through a break-up, changing everything for this young woman. It sounds very relatable!

THE RETURN by Nicholas Sparks is the story of an army surgeon recouperating from injuries at his family’s cabin and local life has some pull in lots of ways.


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

ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne – double review!

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London’s most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips…Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women…and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?


Title : All Scot and Bothered
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : Devil You Know (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : September 29, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was pretty close to rounding up on this one but couldn’t quite tip it over the edge. But this was still a fun read.

He said he and I were similar souls. It was though he could see parts of himself in me.
I can guess which parts.”

I found I got off to a bit of a rough start with this because we’re thrown into a weird situation out of nowhere, alongside one of our MCs, but while she got some answers along the way, I still felt it took too long to settle into the goings on. Likewise, I felt it dragged just as things started to really settle. But then near the end? I was crying. I was moved. And then wham bam we had lots of action and reveals, ma’am. Things wrap up pretty quick, in fairly predictable ways — though we had a delightful tease and set-up for book three — but I was still feeling those earlier lovelier feels.

I am a woman, Ramsay, I am used to pain.”

Jean-Yves is the star of this show, yes he is. I want a devoted French butler, please.

Are you all willing to resort to violence?
No.”
Yes.”
Only if strictly necessary.

This series is definitely a highlight when it comes to strong female characters but also fantastic female friendships. The depths the author gives these Red Rogues is just delightful. I was really happy with the dimension Byrne had given to book one’s hero but found this one a bit less memorable and a little more typical and/or standard for HR. That said, I think we’re going to get a change-up when it comes to the next man in this round up (or at least I hope so!). And with that said..

Looking forward to book three.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I definitely like the vibe that Kerrigan Byrne brings to these stories and her character creations. ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED was a good second instalment in the Devil You Know series but I liked it a little less than book one.

Cecelia and the Red Rogues found themselves a little more separate in this story but Cecelia and Ramsey took up that space nicely. Cecelia’s character felt a little ellusive to me throughout this read but I did like her, I just wanted to feel a little more immersed in how she thought rather than just how she acted. She was a feminist, a carer for others, but also naive. Ramsey, the stubborn, hard-headed and arrogant hero was also strangely likeable despite his thick skull.

But he knew that if he relented, her flames could prove to be hellfire, consuming everything good about the life he’d built from nothing.

The story wandered from London to the lowlands of Scotland but I didn’t get the feels for Scotland in this one and I longed for that a bit. Nevertheless, Scotland did bring an impasse of understanding between these two, a place to be on the same page. Jean-Yves and Phoebe were sweet side characters who enriched the narrative.

What would a lifetime of her smiles do?

I really liked the story in the background for the first three quarters but that lost a little traction for me in the last quarter. All that said, it was a very satisfying story and I’ll definitely be here for the next book in the series. It was easy to read over a weekend and brought some welcome escapism.

Thank you to St Martins Press for the early review copy.

A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik – double review!

In the start of an all-new series, the bestselling author of Uprooted and Spinning Silver introduces you to a dangerous school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death – until one girl begins to rewrite its rules.
_______________________________________

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.

There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal.

Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.

El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.

Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.
_______________________________________

Wry, witty, endlessly inventive, and mordantly funny – yet with a true depth and fierce justice at its heart – this enchanting novel reminds us that there are far more important things than mere survival.


Title : A Deadly Education
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : Scholomance #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Random House UK/Cornerstone / Del Rey
Release Date : September 29, 2020

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


Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

I’m a bit dithery over that rating, take it as 4.25 if that helps! I just about devoured this book whenever I could and it made for tasty reading. The Scholomance was a school like you’ve never imagined, a school trying to kill its pupils with brimming magic, a void and tonnes of deadly creatures.

This was a witty read and that really surprised me. We’ve definitely seen shades of Novik’s sarcastic humour through Uprooted but this story had a lighter, laugh-out-loudness to it. I thought the whole concept of The Scholomance (the boarding school for wizards) was unique. Add to that the snarkiest heroine I’ve read in a while in Galadriel (El) and it was hard for this book to put a foot wrong.

When I want to straighten my room, I get instructions on how to kill it with fire.

Odd right? Spells didn’t flow in the expected way for her, but Galadriel was not a conventional wizard by Scholomance pupil standards, she was quietly and covertly exceptional. I loved reading about her systems, her talents and the languages she was studying. Most of all, I enjoyed reading her growth in friendships. El was almost made perfect with her use of British swears. I can say that Novik wrote a Brit (she was actually Welsh) particularly well.

The begrudging friendship/white knight (not needed) in Orion made for hilarity and chuckling. It was hard not to like Orion despite his saviour complex but there’s definitely more to unpack with him and I’m so glad we hopefully get to do that in the next book.

“You know, it’s almost impressive,” he said after a moment, sounding less wobbly. “You’re nearly dead and you’re still the rudest person I’ve ever met.”

The heirarchies in the school were something else and the void was just nausea-inducing to me. This truly was the school of nightmares and I wouldn’t last more than a minute in there! I simply cannot wait for the next instalment. And so I leave you with my favourite line (kudos to Jane Eyre here).

Reader, I ran the fuck away.

Thank you to Cornerstone/Random House for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

A DEADLY EDUCATION is like a dark mashup of Harry Potter — if the only class was Defense Against the Dark Arts — complete with the magical puberty problems and monster-attraction issues ala Percy Jackson, but if instead of Buffy we had Faith saving the world all the time.. though hella reluctantly. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This book is nothing like what I expected a book by Novik would be. This, for all the darkness and the fact that it’s set inside a castle that seems to be actively working to kill it’s residents — or at last lead it’s inhabitants into a position to die and casually look away — is funny, quippy, and strange.

Unlike Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or even Faith, we are tossed into the depths of things via Galadriel’s (El’s) point of view. She isn’t a noob blinking big innocent eyes as she wanders into this new world, no. She’s in her second to last year, having survived many years, many near deaths, with a prophecy already hanging over her head; she’s full of the bitterness and disdain from years of rejections, years of loneliness, and completely unimpressed when the school’s hero not only suddenly takes a shine to her but also saves her life.. a lot.

I liked our MC so much. I thought El’s snarky voice, her rudeness, was great. She has cultivated her niche deliberately because of circumstances completely out of her control but as delightful as she is at the onset, I loved her journey and evolution even more. Equally fun was Orion, the hero, the saviour, was equally not as one-note as he could’ve been. There are layers to both these characters and their interactions were a lot of fun as this definitely leaned into the enemies-turned-reluctant-allies-turned-friends trope. Infact, I don’t think I disliked a single character? Yes, I, too, am shook.

Though we never leave this young-person death trap of a school, Novik still manages to make her world feel big. This is helped not only because of the diversity of the students we are exposed to but, more importantly, all the Enclaves all over the world (think of them as Shadowhunter Institutes) they might be invited to after graduation if they are smart, skilled, or sought after enough. The rules are strange. I won’t explain further but.. don’t expect House points!

I had such a good time reading this, despite how different it was from my expectations, and I devoured it in less than a day. I enjoyed this so much and am very intrigued and very keen for more.

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

THE RETURN by Nicholas Sparks

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with a moving new novel about an injured army doctor and the two women whose secrets will change the course of his life.

Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, North Carolina. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked as an orthopedic surgeon sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he’d inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any.

Tending to his grandfather’s beloved bee hives while preparing for a second stint in medical school, Trevor isn’t prepared to fall in love with a local . . . yet, from their very first encounter, Trevor feels a connection with deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson that he can’t ignore. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she’s hiding.

Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road. Claiming to be 17, she works at the local sundries store and keeps to herself. Discovering that she was once befriended by his grandfather, Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, but she offers few clues – until a crisis triggers a race that will uncover the true nature of Callie’s past, one more intertwined with the elderly man’s passing than Trevor could have ever anticipated.

In his quest to unravel Natalie and Callie’s secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness . . . and that in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began.


Title : The Return
Author : Nicholas Sparks
Format : eARC
Page Count : 296
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Sphere
Release Date : September 29, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Nicholas Sparks excels on the quirky, small-town feel with this book. He created some rather ordinary characters, at first glance uninteresting and at second glance, they were everything I wanted to read.

The protagonist Trevor, recovering veteran and retired doctor had a life that was secluded, involved focus on recovery, health and bees. Bees…honestly, I adored this aspect of the story, the foundation and focus it brought to all the characters in the book . And my favourite character? Trevor’s grandpa, what a man. Alongside Trevor, there were a small cast of characters and they were all interesting, especially Natalie and Callie.

This was a story of why a loved one died mid-adventure and what he was up to, who was Callie and why was she so closed up and why was Natalie the way she was. It was a tale cleverly woven together, I felt like I almost got there with some of my guesses but they were just out of reach. When the reveals came, I was all ‘oh my’.

I actually only acrued two cry counts for this Sparksy. I don’t cry easily at books but Sparks can usually eek out a little more from me. That said, I was glad not to be a weeping wreck.

THE RETURN was a generally enjoyable, quirky, small-town story with grief, illness, bees, romance and that signature lament. It was pretty wholesome and it left a good feeling on completion.

Thank you to Sphere, Little Brown UK for the early review copy.

WELL PLAYED by Jen DeLuca

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.
 
When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.
 
Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.


Title : Well Played
Author : Jen DeLuca
Series : Well Met (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : September 22, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I have to be honest, I’m a little disappointed about this one. It’s not remotely a bad book but I expected more of the delight of book one’s banter and chemistry to show up here and, due to circumstances of the meet/genesis of the relationship, we don’t quite get it.

Stacey was really relateable character in a lot of ways; stuck in a small town, post-college plans derailed, days spent looking at the lives of others through social media or her phone and feeling like she’s missed opportunities for more. And equally, I felt a lot of things about love interest, who was quite soft and sweet; even though in critical moments he just completely left Stacey hanging out to dry. Neither were perfect, of course — I found Stacey randomly being annoyed by people sometimes jarring because it seemed to come out of nowhere — but I think this is going to be a situation where we all might be wishing for a bit more groveling on the side of the guy. I know I did.

What the hell is wrong with you two? You’re both nerds, you know that? In this century we don’t go straight for a Cyrano reference. We all it catfishing.”

Overall though I think that’s maybe what’s missing and letting this one fall a little short. It’s just missing that edge, that extra bit of something something. I also wonder if maybe Emily and Simon, book one’s couple, were just a little too centre stage in some of the plot. I suppose to fits with the theme of Stacey feeling like she’s just stuck in place, watching life happen around her, but.. maybe without them being so present it would’ve just been a sadder book?

Also, if you wanted higher heat levels in the wake of book one? Well, you’ll get them.

It was nice being reunited with everyone, we get to see all the familiar faces, and I’m excited at some of the breadcrumbs laid in preparation for book three, but while there were some sweet moments.. it won’t be anywhere near as memorable as WELL MET.

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

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