KATE IN WAITING by Becky Albertalli

Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theater rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.

But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off script. Matt Olsson is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.

Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship. 


Title : Kate In Waiting
Author : Becky Albertalli
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : April 22, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Sweet, fun and musical
Friendships colliding and together
School crushes

This was an easy, fun and light read from Becky Albertalli. Kate In Waiting was uplifting with strong themes of friendship; I mean we’re not surprised about that, are we? Musical theatre fans will gush towards this book because it’s framed around a high school drama/musical theatre group. While I’m not a groupie of that kind of entertainment, I still enjoyed the backdrop and got on board with the ride.

This read was all about the bonds within the group, but friendships were tested as crushes grew. It was funny throughout with mild tension at times and it brought a welcome light-vibe to my week. Becky Albertalli has a skill of getting you involved in friendships groups and she can make you connect with more than the MC; I did in this.

While this wasn’t my Albertalli favourite it was fun and easy to sink into.

Side note: I don’t ever want to see the phrase f**kboy or f-boy 63 times again.

Thank you Penguin for the early review copy.

ARIADNE by Jennifer Saint

A mesmerising retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Perfect for fans of CIRCE, A SONG OF ACHILLES, and THE SILENCE OF THE GIRLS.

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.


Title : Ariadne
Author : Jennifer Saint
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 388
Genre : Mythology/Retelling
Publisher : Wildfire Books
Release Date : April 29, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★. 5


Micky’s 4. 5 star review

Headlines:
Feminist and sisterhood
Bittersweet
Betrayal
I’m so over Greek mythology men

I was captivated by the writing and story of Aridane’s world very quickly but honestly, don’t come into this story expecting gentleness. Ariadne was told with raw brutality at times, no holds barred and personally, I appreciated the gritty immersion. Please do check trigger warnings on other reviews or dm me for details.

The story was ladened with tragedy and also times of happiness but there was always that overwhelming sense of foreboding. It wasn’t a book that left you settled, it left me on edge and tense. Most of these feelings stemmed from the male characters in this book, mortal and god alike. Misogyny was rife but some of the key male characters were simply awful.

I had cried all the tears I thought I could ever produce; I had spat and screamed and now I felt strangely cleansed.

The separate stories of Ariadne and Phaedra were so interesting and I had such hopes for their presents, futures and their ability to deal with the past. The legacy of their experiences was a heavy burden and these sisters were close but driven apart by circumstances.

The tone of the story was broadly feminist with a sense of sisterhood at the heart of it. The children were also a balm to the tragedies. I’m not going to lie, I did struggle with the conclusion a little but it was true to the tale and to the tone of the book overall.

Ariadne was an immersive experience with the kind of writing that got you lost in the page. It was a truly impressive debut. The cover is stunning and I’ve ordered myself a finished copy. I can’t wait to see which story Jennifer Saint will retell next.

Thank you to Wildfire Books/Headline for the early review copy.

cxz

BROKEN FRENCH by Tasha Boyd

A widowed, billionaire, single dad romance.

Josie thought she was getting a promotion at her architectural firm, but instead her career implodes. She impulsively takes up her roommates’ offer to nanny for a little girl on a mega yacht in the South of France. Even though she can’t stand boats, this seems like fate giving her an opportunity to lick her wounds in a bucket list paradise while she figures out how to get her life back.

But this little girl she’s arrived to look after has a daddy. A widowed, hot, young, billionaire of a daddy. A man who, for all his wealth, is grumpy, conceited, and utterly closed off.

Xavier Pascale is on an emotional island of his own making. It’s just him and his daughter and he likes it that way. He works hard, his shareholders are happy, his best friends are his body guard, and the people who work for him. What’s wrong with that? But then he meets Josephine Marin. Her arrival in his life is like a deep ocean tremor along a catastrophic emotional fault line. And now… well, now, he’s very, very aware of his isolation and his very human need. But he can’t be distracted. When he gets distracted terrible things happen.

He should send the nanny home.
He really should.
But what if he just takes what he wants, just this one time …

This is a standalone, contemporary romance. It includes luscious scenes of sparkling blue ocean, and tantalizing, seductive food, as well as a smoking hot, dirty-talking Frenchman. If traveling scares you, or sexy times scare you, then this book is not for you. But if you’re looking for a decadent armchair vacation after being stuck in one place for over a year–that will make you laugh, swoon, and cry–then this one is for you!


Title : Broken French
Author : Tasha (Natasha) Boyd
Format : eARC
Page Count : 499
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Self-published
Release Date : April 26, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Yachting around the coast of France
Nanny-single dad
Chem-is-try
Plot depth

Broken French brought all the French visuals and smells to this pale, English reader. Visuals of turquoise seas, sun, yachts, bread, wine and the most delightful little family that took a second and third glance to get to know. Alongside this, there was a found-family crew that was endearing.

The protagonist, Josephine was not really a nanny but one by circumstance. Her quick entry into the lives of this family was both awkward and natural all at once. Josephine had a temper and bite but Xavier came across arrogant and cold. Xavier’s dad-skills had a lot to do with my tolerance of him until I got to know him better.

If the nanny trope is not your favourite, I want to tell you that this felt so much more than that. There was a depth to the characters and story, a unexpected turn of events, some suspense and a bucketful of chemisty. I’m still fanning my face over here.

Dauphine was a signficant part of why I enjoyed the story. She wasn’t precocious as I imagined and the bond between her and Josephine was pretty gorgeous to observe.

This longer than normal romance was worth every page and the depth to the plot and story in general was refreshing. I am delighted to have read a new Tasha Boyd book after her hiatus and I definitely look forward to more.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

FUGITIVE TELEMETRY by Martha Wells

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


Title : Fugitive Telemetry
Author : Martha Wells
Series : The Murderbot Diaries (book six)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 176
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : April 27, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was [..] a construct made of cloned human tissue, augments, anxiety, depression, and unforcused rage, a killing machine for whichever humans rented me, until I made a mistake and got my brain destroyed.

So let’s get the mild bits that bummed me out.. out of the way. First of all, this is a novella length installment again, after book five was full length. Not too bad, really, as we’re mostly used to this. However the major thing that bummed me out? No ART.

Don’t look at me like that’s my fault. I’m just telling you shit I know.

But otherwise? This was another Murderbot adventure that made me laugh, snicker, and entertained me. After all the excitement of book five it maybe was a little lacking in tension and edginess but it was still really great. I likely have more quotes I want to insert than I actually have material for a review because I mean.. at this point we all kind of know what to expect. Murderbot rescues people despite a lack of trust. Murderbot wishes they are just watching Sanctuary Moon. Hijinks ensue.

I would have either disposed of the body so it was never found, or made it look like an accident.
How would you dispose of a body so it wouldn’t be found?
If I told you, then you might find all the bodies I’ve already disposed of.

If you aren’t already into this series you totally should be.

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

THE INTIMACY EXPERIMENT by Rosie Danan

Naomi and Ethan will test the boundaries of love in this provocative romance from the author of the ground-breaking debut, The Roommate.

Naomi Grant has built her life around going against the grain. After the sex-positive start-up she cofounded becomes an international sensation, she wants to extend her educational platform to live lecturing. Unfortunately, despite her long list of qualifications, higher ed won’t hire her.

Ethan Cohen has recently received two honors: LA Mag named him one of the city’s hottest bachelors and he became rabbi of his own synagogue. Taking a gamble in an effort to attract more millennials to the faith, the executive board hired Ethan because of his nontraditional background. Unfortunately, his shul is low on both funds and congregants. The board gives him three months to turn things around or else they’ll close the doors of his synagogue for good.

Naomi and Ethan join forces to host a buzzy seminar series on Modern Intimacy, the perfect solution to their problems–until they discover a new one–their growing attraction to each other. They’ve built the syllabus for love’s latest experiment, but neither of them expected they’d be the ones putting it to the test.


Title : The Intimacy Experiment
Author : Rosie Danan
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 336
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus, Little Brown UK
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Faith & Intimacy
Rabbi & Naomi
Refreshingly sweet & deep

I liked Naomi in The Roommate but it was a mild interest. In The Intimacy Experiment, Naomi’s character was slowly evolving and revealed. She kept that hard, successful shell but there was more to her.

It cannot be escaped that what made this book so great was the idea of a Rabbi and an ex-sex worker. But it’s so much more than that, there were deeper themes of faith and intimacy that I found really poignant. I do have a faith, but I’m not Jewish. I have scoured reviews to find some own voices take on how the reform Jewish perspective was conveyed but I can’t find any. I really enjoyed that aspect but I will continue to look out for own voices reviews.

“It’s simpler than that. I want to give people a reason to believe. In themselves, each other, and something more.”

There was a softness to this book that gave me something more to feed my reading soul. The vulnerabilities and honesty of both main characters really hit the spot for me. Ethan especially had such a kind and genuine soul, his lack of judgement but also his humanity really drew me into the story. I highlighted so many lines, bits of dialogue, inner monologue that just hit the gut with me. I will forever think of “the cuddling incident”.

The Intimacy Experiment brought a fresh take to this year’s contemporary romance and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I can’t wait to read more from Rosie Danan.

Thank you to Piatkus for the review copy.

A STRANGER IN TOWN by Kelley Armstrong

In #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong’s next Rockton book, A Stranger in Town, the biggest mystery is the fate of the town itself.

Detective Casey Duncan has noticed fewer and fewer residents coming in to the hidden town of Rockton, and no extensions being granted. Her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, presumes it’s the natural flux of things, but Casey’s not so sure. Something bigger is happening in the small town they call home.

When an injured hiker stumbles from the woods, the sole survivor of a hostile attack, it’s all hands on deck. Even a member of the elusive Rockton council comes in to help. This council member also comes bearing news: Rockton is being shut down due to the hostile situation.

Casey and Eric must now race to save the town that has allowed residents to have a fresh start, away from the mistakes of their past, while also getting to the bottom of this latest attack. 


Title : A Stranger in Town
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : Rockton (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 9, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Realistically I should not have liked this so much, particularly considering the last two books in this series were somewhat of a disappointment (but only in the grand scheme of the series, I mean, and when compared to books one to three). But the plot got so.. I won’t say wildly but quite a bit out of control, much suspension of disbelief required, and yet I had a great time anyway.

To more or less copy over from my previous review’s summation, this series is about an off-the-grid town in the Yukon, called Rockton. Rockton being a town populated by people who have escaped horrors, are on the run from something in their pasts, and have found a place where they can disappear for a few years. Sometimes, too, they are the ones who caused the horrors and just paid enough to a particular group in order to be admitted in order to lay low. Our lead protagonist is Casey Duncan, who arrived to this town to help her friend escape her ex, and has become one of the three detectives who help to police the outlaw-esque locals and keep the peace. Each book has juggled conflicts from within the town but also dealt with those who run the program that allows this to exist, as well as outside elements; as in, literally the outsider weather elements but also.. more.

This was the first since installment since book three that actually felt true to the origins of the series. Yes, via Casey, two years in, we are now settled into the running of this town, but equally her involvement has shed much to light — in a multitude of directions. Specifically this mystery, this adventure, while it had so many moving parts, it managed to juddle them without ever feeling overwhelming, and watching them come together was ever so satisfying; even though for some of them I was tapping my foot waiting for the characters to clue in. It was a smug kind of foot tapping, though, not the impatient kind.

Additionally, this book has broader impacts to the series at large, making me wonder if maybe Armstrong really is trying to wrap things up soon. She must have an end in mind and I wonder if maybe we’re nearing that now. Because if the characters go down a particular path they are considering, especially now that a particular element is more or less out of the way, well.. that would be it, wouldn’t it?

Either way, I’ll be eagerly anticipating that upcoming journey, no matter how it looks.

MALICE by Heather Walter

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who cursed a line of princesses to die, and could only be broken by true love’s kiss. You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one actually cares about what happens to our princesses. I thought I didn’t care, either. Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to the throne. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating – and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I-

I am the villain.


Title : Malice
Author : Heather Walter
Format : Paperback ARC
Length : 468
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey UK
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headline:
Twisty plot
Retelling heaven, so fresh
Exponential explosion

Welp, what am I supposed to do with myself now? Malice consumed my down time in a work week, going to bed reading it, waking up thinking about it, finishing and now staring into the distance…

So cleverly written, Malice delivered a plot of intricacy that was carefully built and easily followed. Inspired by Sleeping Beauty but really, so far removed, Alyce was a wonderful, morally grey protagonist. She was oppressed but slowly rising above that difficult life, inspired by the cursed crowned princess Aurora. The contrast of the graces’ powers and the dark grace’s power was such an interesting aspect to the story. Rose was a complex, love to hate character.

Aylce and Aurora’s friendship to more was so well written and credible but also, it was peppered with problems, roadblocks and ultimately a lot of difficulties. While I got to know Aurora less than I hoped (I’m such a greedy reader), there was enough connection there. As an Alyce fan, I needed some better times for her, people to trust (like who?), and friendship.

I am beyond glad there’s another book because I’m in freefall. I need some resolution, some more Alyce, some revenge, some regret. I think you can see that I have all the feelings.

This was a stunning read, a page-turner and the kind of book that makes you wish away the months till you can get hold of the next. I highly advise taking a dive into this book.

Thank you to DelRey UK for the early review copy.

DARK LULLABY by Polly Ho-Yen

For fans of Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale, in Dark Lullaby a mother desperately tries to keep her family together in a society where parenting standards are strictly monitored.

When Kit decides to have a child, she thinks she’s prepared. She knows how demanding Induction is. She’s seen children Extracted. But in a society where parenting is strictly monitored under the watchful gaze of OSIP (The Office of Standards in Parenting), she is forced to ask herself how far she will go to keep her family together. 


Title : Dark Lullaby
Author : Polly Ho-Yen
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : Dystopian
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : March 23, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 2.5 – 3 star review

Dark Lullaby was a tale centred around infertility dystopia and needless to say, this was a story that was mostly impactful on women. The book plunged the reader immediately into a sad and oppressive world where there seemed to be limited hope and expectations for people. This world was very similar to the world we exist in now. As a reader, you did feel the various stages of desperation that the women in this book experienced. I would have liked more from the male characters in the book.

It was a discomforting read as you would imagine, but it was also an unsatisfying read for me. The story was told in ‘then’ and ‘now’ and this element was executed well but I was left wondering about issues all the way through, some of which were never answered. There were conveniences in the plot that I struggled with; the ending felt rushed.

Overall, I was left somewhat unsatisfied throughout the read and in the culmination. The theme of the story had all the potential, the characters were not necessarily likeable but they were robustly developed. I don’t why this just didn’t hit the spot for me considering my enjoyment of dytopia. I’m a huge fan of The Handmaid’s Tale that also tackles this theme of infertility changing the world but that book was so much more, in my opinion.

Thank you to Titan Books for the early review copy. Dark Lullaby is out now.

WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD by Ciannon Smart

Divided by their order. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance. 

Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power. 

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But power is intoxicating, revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths they will go to win this game.

This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of Furyborn and Ember in the Ashes


Title : Witches Steeped in Gold
Author : Ciannon Smart
Series : Witches Steeped in Gold (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 560
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : April 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Look, I’m not saying I’m an idiot for picking up a dense complicated fantasy while trying to pull myself out of a slump but.. if the shoe fits, right?

While a good portion of my struggle with this book is, as above, my own damn fault, I also think the first half of this book is just too thick. There is so much to wade through as far as history and worldbuilding and terminology, which is kind of understandable with a series-starter, but it just didn’t sink in. And while the second half of the story was full of action and betrayals and reveals, oh my, I’m still left wondering if I understand anything about this world.

I’m also kind of confused as to where we ended up with one of the main characters. But that’s a whole other thing.

Easily my favourite thing about this was the writing; even when I was struggling with a character, or two, or the plot, I enjoyed how it was all written. But overall, beyond the representation, I’m not entirely sure this is memorable and I know I will absolutely to remember anything about this by the time the sequel is out. Which is a bummer.

I definitely suggest you still give this is a try if you’re interested, though; I’m writing this just two weeks shy of its release and the early buzz is poppin’. This is connecting with, and entertaining, so many readers. So don’t let this slumpy party pooper put you off.

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

WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

An academic enemies-to-lovers YA with all the nerdy drama, high school antics, and heartpounding romance of the Netflix original series Never Have I Ever

Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead. 

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.


Title : What’s Not To Love
Author : Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary romance
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

I am so relieved right now. I was really starting to think If I’m Being Honest was a fluke for this duo. While I had liked everything else they had written, nothing had edged over into love category and while I enjoyed the topics and themes, I was nonetheless a little disappointed.

What, Sanger? You don’t enjoy our conversations?
They’re not conversations, they’re hostage negotiations.

Until now.

For every reason I have to despise Ethan, I’m grateful for the chance to prove my worth. To prove not that I am the best, but that I can be the best.

That said, I was definitely feeling some minor trepidation with this one, too. I was loving the competitive dynamic between the two leads but, not unlike in another romance (though, that one was adult, not YA), I worried it was just a little too much to come back from. Too often toeing over that line where the bickering and banter becomes too harsh, the back and forth too toxic, the overall relationship too problematic. But not only did the characters have dialogue about those moments but how it all unfolded ended up working just right.

I’m surprised this many people want to celebrate his birth. I would rather commemorate it the way one would a natural disaster or other unfortunate occurence — somber social media posts, vows to stay strong on this dark day.

This particular match-up was also so much more than I expected it to be, in regards to motivations and self-awareness. I’ve definitely appreciated how these two authors have explored the strangeness of post-highschool life, and what that looks like, what it has to be, both on personal and romantic levels, and I liked how they worked through it via a new angle with these two characters; and even with those within their friendships and families.

Even when you think you’ve found your story, you might need to change it later if the one you’ve living doesn’t work.

Overall it was just.. fun. The tension, the combativeness, the mixed feelings when one would deviate from the expected, and how that looks going into their future. I would definitely recommend this one. Obviously.

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