MONTHLY WRAP UP – AUGUST 2021

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

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis — see Micky’s review here
Living Beyond Borders edited by Margarita Longoria — see Micky’s review here (!)
Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier — see Hollis’ and Micky’s reviews here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Living Beyond Borders edited by Margarita Longoria — see Hollis’ review here (!)
Uncharted by Adriana Anders — see Micky’s review here
Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake by Alexis Hall — see Micky’s review here
Battle Royal by Lucy Parker — see Hollis’ & Micky’s review here
Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent — see Micky’s review here
The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren — see Micky’s review here
Viper by Bex Hogan — see Micky’s review here
False Witness by Karin Slaughter — see Hollis’ review here
The Second Rebel by Linden A Lewis — see Micky’s review here
There With You by Samantha Young — see Micky’s review here
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee — see Hollis’ review here
Role Model by Rachel Reid — see Hollis’ review here
Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson — see Hollis’ review here
Vow of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson — see Hollis’ review here
The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic — see Micky’s review here
Dark Waters by Katherine Arden — see Hollis’ review here
Cazadora by Romina Garber — see Hollis’ review here
The Women of Troy by Pat Barker — see Micky’s review here
It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ star reads

The Vanishing by Karla Nikole — see Hollis’ review here
Neon Gods by Katee Robert — see Hollis’ review here

star reads

All’s Well by Mona Awad — see Hollis’ review here
The Good Lie by A.R. Torre — see Micky’s GR review here

u n r a t e d

DNF


additional reads not reviewed for blog : a bunch of old netgalley offerings!
total reads by Micky : 21
favourite read of the month : Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier
least favourite read of the month : The Good Lie by AR Torre
most read genre : SFF/contemporary even

total reviews by Hollis : fourteen
favourite read of the month : Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier (reread!)
least favourite read of the month : All’s Well by Mona Awad
most read genre : half and half contemporary and fantasy

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – AUGUST 31, 2021

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 Heart Principle by Helen Hoang is the h u g e l y anticipated third book in the author’s Kiss Quotient universe and, finally (finally!), features Quan in his own romance. But we don’t need to tell you that..

The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha is the second in the author duo’s apocalyptic Mercenary Librarians world.

Freckles by Ceclia Ahern is a new standalone women’s fiction about feeling the outsider and connecting the dots of what makes you, you.

The Last Library by Freya Sampson is a contemporary/women’s fiction about community and friendship over a threatened closure of the local library.



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

UNCHARTED by Adriana Anders

Hotshot pilot Leo Eddowes is afraid of nothing and no one. So when she’s asked to evacuate a man from the wilds of Alaska, she doesn’t hesitate. But with enemies in close pursuit and the weather turning sour, what should have been a simple mission quickly shifts to disaster.

And there’s only one way out.

When Elias Thorne disappeared, he was America’s most wanted. Now he’s spent more than a decade in one of the most remote places on earth, guarding a dangerous secret. Leo’s arrival, quickly followed by a team of expert hunters, leaves him no choice but to join forces with her—and run. Neither is prepared for their reluctant partnership to flare into something as wild and untamed as the frozen world around them…but as desperately cold days melt into scorchingly hot nights, Leo and Elias must learn to dig deep, trust in each other, and forge a bond as strong as the forces of nature.

Stranded together in a frozen wilderness,
There’s nowhere left to run… 


Title : Uncharted
Author : Adriana Anders
Series : Survival Instincts #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : Romantic Suspense
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : August 24, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Action-brimming
Survival with proximity
Page-turner

The second book in this series did not disappoint me at all, in fact, it lived up to all my hopes. It was a new couple and I wondered if I could feel the same connection as the previous couple. The answer was I did and quickly.

The story started with a bang and with Leo, a pilot, brave and a bit stupid gung-ho. She held the stage until Elias entered the story and together they made compelling reading. I want to say nothing about the plot because it was clever and kept the story from book one going but in a fresh way, however these two were part of that complex picture.

While this book had its adrenaline moments, feelings of helplessness, that was well balanced with a suspicious connection between the MCs that built into both investing in surviving. As that relationship evolved, it was as much of a page-turner as was the suspense plot.

He felt rearranged by this woman. His insides would never be the same again.

I loved everything about the Alaskan context, the danger of it, the nature. The set up for the next book sounds good and I can’t wait to read more.

Thank you to the publisher/netgalley for the early review copy.

THERE WITH YOU by Samantha Young – double review!

For Regan Penhaligon, there’s no better place to run to than the exclusive Ardnoch Estate in the remote Scottish Highlands. Her impulsive behavior has finally caught up with her and Regan’s visit with her sister, Robyn, is an opportunity to hide from someone who has grown dangerously obsessed with her.

Determined to make amends for her mistakes, Regan plans to repair her relationship with Robyn by staying close. And when an offer of help comes from Thane Adair, Regan gratefully accepts.

Widower, Thane, needs a new nanny housekeeper for his two young children and when they bond with Regan Penhaligon, he offers her the job. But as the weeks pass and the complex American reveals who she really is, Thane struggles with his growing attraction to her.

Regan never expected to feel so intensely for Thane, but she can’t deny her passion for him or her love for his children. When someone from Thane’s past threatens his family, Regan wants to be his pillar of support. However, his continued inability to trust her might just destroy their chance at future happiness… and the person who drove Regan to Ardnoch might snuff out her chance for any future at all.


Title : There With You
Author : Samantha Young
Series : Adair Family #2
Format : e-ARC
Page Count : 374
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : August 24, 2021

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Too Scot to handle
Gentle suspense
Sense of family

I’m already getting sad that this is marked as a three book series on Goodreads and retailers as I know I will want more than three books from this family and setting. I really enjoyed book one and I loved book two. This series is clearly building into a favourite contemporary romance/romantic suspense.

While the suspense in There With You felt gentler than book one, it was no less gripping. There was something very tangible about Thane and Regan’s story. With a nanny(ish) trope and the most engaging family, this story had me struggling to put my kindle down for the 24 hours that I read it. Thane could be an a**e but he had valid reasons and Regan was so misunderstood; I really enjoyed people realising her character just by being around her for a while.

“These Adair men…emotionally constipated, I tell you.”
“So what are we? The laxative?”

The chemistry between these two was so believable and had all the feels, as did the reluctant emotional connection. On top of that, I have been reflecting on the thoroughness of plot points, large and small in many of Samantha Young’s books and There With You was a great example of this. I was never once left feeling something was loose ended, nor were things neatly tied; she hits a great balance.

Sign me up for more Adair, I want more, I need more and I will definitely re-read this series. Oh, and I read this book in Gairloch on the NW coast of the highlands…pretty perfect all round.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy, this has not affected this unbiased review.


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

(insert song clip gif of Chris Pine singing Agony from Into the Woods here)

Phew, well, I had expected this one to go a little awry considering Regan didn’t make a favourable non-impression in book one, and it’s true her introduction here was rocky and I was not very inclined towards her, but while she did grow on me a bit she won’t be a favourite. Instead what ruined this was Thane, the love interest.

This went hot and cold and then back and forth more chaotically than a spring day in Canada. It was actually painful. But somehow, what was worse, was this preoccupation with people making assumptions about Regan. She’s leaving, she won’t stay; she’s young (twenty five, but from the amount of times it was mentioned you’d think she was eighteen) and will regret settling; she doesn’t know her own mind or her own feelings. Did anyone fucking ask her what she’s doing or what she wants before she was forced to set things straight multiple times because everyone was, once again, steering her around as if they knew her? No. No they did not. I may not have really liked her but ugh she deserved better.

And tied into the age thing, I’m sorry, this isn’t a historical novel, why was there such a preoccupation with her being a little bit younger and taking up with the single dad? Just because she’d started out as the nanny? Who cares what the town had to say? Again, she was not underage. The whole reason for this relationship being played out on the downlow was just dumb.

Don’t even get me started on Robyn and Regan’s mother. Do not.

Anywayyyy yeah this wasn’t a favourite. I’m kind of glad there’s only one more member of Robyn and Regan’s family that’s left to hook up with an Adair because it’s getting to be A Lot (and I can only imagine how weird the family tree will look). So after Mac seals the deal with Arro in book three, which I’m sure will be angsty as hell but I’m keen on it regardless because Mac has been a gem this whole series, I think I know who might wind up with one of the remaining brothers; and as this is a five book series, which makes sense as there’s five siblings, I guess the last one will be a surprise. Though I’m not too enthused about what I assume will be book four (Brodan) because he was a gross jerk in this one.

But yes, I’m reading on.

NEON GODS by Katee Robert

He was supposed to be a myth. But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell… he was, quite simply, mine.

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.

With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth… a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…

A modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that’s as sinful as it is sweet.


Title : Neon Gods
Author : Katee Robert
Series : Dark Olympus (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 380
Genre : myth retelling / romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I was close to rounding up on this one but.. there was too much about this particular retelling’s worldbuilding that haunted me for too long. And, in fact, it was only upon starting this review, as I started to talk (write) it out, that I actually started to piece together some of those holes. Sorta. But that doesn’t take away the fact that I found it so distracting for the whole duration of the book. Nor does it solve all the worldbuilding issues. There’s something about this modern but still removed but still modern Olympus that just breaks my brain.

As for the romance.. listen, if I don’t think too hard about how rushed Persephone’s character growth/arc/reveal was, the romance is sweet with a touch of spice. I want to be able to champion the female lead and poke holes in the male but sadly, in this case, as much as I could appreciate Persephone over the course of the story, I never really felt we got to see that duality in her to explain why she’d been one way only to reveal herself as something else. Yes, yes, being able to explore herself, removing masks, yes, it’s all told to us but I didn’t see it because I didn’t see her the other way. A few offhand comments do not a character make. Maybe if we’d spent less time early on to establish that Hades was a fussing mother hen and Persephone needed to eat a few more meals, that page time could’ve gone towards a better foundation.

But yeah, Hades is soft. I don’t really know if this is supposed to be a true D/s romance, maybe it just flirts with the concept (I’ll check some reviews), but even when he was D.. he was soft. I didn’t mind that at all, either. This isn’t a criticism.

Instead my criticisms are definitely worldbuilding and the fact that I couldn’t get a handle on a few things until the end. Sometimes retellings are hard when you know enough about the source or the myth and you just end up tripping yourself up instead of enjoying the homage. This was one of those for me. I also expected to see one of the more famous parts of this myth incorporated and Robert flirted with the idea but didn’t quite commit. So because I expected that, and therefore some angst, and didn’t get it, that also sort’ve twisted me up. Expectations, whatcha gonna do.

This did guarantee I would be humming Eurydice by The Crüxshadows almost the whole time I read this, though. I’m exposing my early aughts goth child with that reference but I don’t even care. What a jam. What a moment. Excuse me while I lose myself in a playlist..

I’m sad to say but for this reader this definitely didn’t live up to the hype. But, minor irritants with my brain not cooperating over those worldbuilding bits, I didn’t hate my time with this, either. Which is why I will read on.

FALSE WITNESS by Karin Slaughter

AN ORDINARY LIFE

Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.

HIDES A DEVASTATING PAST

But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.

BUT NOW THE PAST IS CATCHING UP

Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT

If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Callie, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…


Title : False Witness
Author : Karin Slaughter
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 512
Genre : contemporary / crime-thriller
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : July 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

Even though she writes some of the most disturbingly dark and twisty stories, there’s really nothing like sinking into a Slaughter. And this was no different.

Due to the subject matter, I couldn’t possibly recommend this (check for triggers or, you know, just don’t read from this author..), but the way this story unfolded was so well done. And that started right from the beginning.

I don’t read many summaries in general but I never do for this author and so I had no idea where we were starting or where we were going. Unlike her usual procedurals, there’s no real investigation to be done in False Witness because the crimes have already been committed and there’s no question who has done it. We watch as Leigh Collier, a defence attorney, is faced with an unexpected criminal trial where the accused happens to feature a face from her past. But this isn’t a nostalgic reunion but instead someone who, it seems, knows Leigh’s darkest secret. Worse, this connection to her past is now trying to use that secret against her in order to get away with horrible acts.

This was uncomfortable, I’ll be honest, and not just because of what happened in the past, or what the present-day villain was doing, but because Slaughter is so good at writing horrible horrifying terrifying characters. The subtle menace in how she describes their behaviour, their expressions, it’s palpable.

That said, for all this wasn’t a mystery to solve, there were quite a few surprises along the way. One of them being how the beginning narrative makes you think one thing, only to realize another. But in other ways, too.

Also? For all the darkness, this was heartbreaking, lovely, and so sad. The connection between these sisters, the struggle Leigh’s sister, Callie, faced every day. Everything that had been stacked against her. And yet she was so.. kind. Sweet. Caring. And their relationship, and what these two sisters were willing to do for each other.. I definitely got choked up.

Unexpectedly, COVID has a very real presence in this story. I wasn’t sure I liked that at first but actually it worked. It was taken seriously, with everything still happening in real time, not just as a flippant or off the cuff reference, or used as a plot device. That said, if you don’t want to deal with that in your fiction, this is your warning.

If Slaughter wants to churn out some more standalones like this between now and the next Will Trent? I wouldn’t be mad at all.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – AUGUST 24, 2021

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.


Uncharted by Adriana Anders is the second in this romantic suspense series set in northern, cold regions. The second book did not disappoint Micky and this is a quick, engrossing read.

Bombshell kicks off a new series by Sarah MacLean which has ties to a few of her other works and is, unsurprisingly, “blazingly sexy, unapologetically feminist.” Yes please!

The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis picks up a changed set of characters from the end of The First Sister. This is fast-paced, a little complex but worth the investment.

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker follows up Briseis’ narrative now that Troy has fallen. If you liked The Silence of the Girls, this is a sequel you need.



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

THE WOMEN OF TROY by Pat Barker 🎧

Following her bestselling, critically acclaimed The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker continues her extraordinary retelling of one of our greatest myths.

Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home victors, loaded with their spoils: their stolen gold, stolen weapons, stolen women. All they need is a good wind to lift their sails.

But the wind does not come. The gods have been offended – the body of Priam lies desecrated, unburied – and so the victors remain in limbo, camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, pacing at the edge of an unobliging sea. And, in these empty, restless days, the hierarchies that held them together begin to fray, old feuds resurface and new suspicions fester.

Largely unnoticed by her squabbling captors, Briseis remains in the Greek encampment. She forges alliances where she can – with young, dangerously naïve Amina, with defiant, aged Hecuba, with Calchus, the disgraced priest – and begins to see the path to a kind of revenge. Briseis has survived the Trojan War, but peacetime may turn out to be even more dangerous…


Title : The Women of Troy
Author : Pat Barker
Narrator : Kristin Atherton
Format : Audiobook
Length : 12 hours, 18 minutes
Genre : Greek Mythological Retelling
Publisher : Penguin Audio
Release Date : August 26, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Intensely detailed retelling
The rise of women
Tragedy and heartbreak

The Women of Troy picked up the story immediately after the end of The Silence of the Girls. It amazed me that a successful outcome of the war didn’t really change dynamics in the camp. The men still treated the women terribly, used and abused them with zero respect. The men across the ranks were petty and egotistical, none more than those who were senior. Again, with this installment, I found there was hardly a man to cheer for. Expect to feel emotions of anger at the misogyny and abuse.

I enjoyed hearing the story from Briseis’ perspective; she really was a character to admire. She was all about survival but she maintained a degree of integrity and compassion for her female companions and occasionally for some men. When the story flipped on occasion to one of the male’s perspectives, I was less invested but Briseis carried the majority of the story.

The narration was superb and the emotional temperature of the camp was translated well.

This story definitely is on the heavier end of spectrum for Greek mythology/ancient history fiction. The detail was both welcome but also at times slow in pacing. I did prefer the first installment of this series but I’m also glad I saw this story through to it’s completion. It ends in a place of possiblity of more but I’m not sure if this is the plan.

Thank you to netgalley and Penguin Audio for the early review copy.

THE VANISHING by Karla Nikole

Nearly two centuries ago, hundreds of purebred vampires disappeared without any explanation—vanished like mist swept away in the breeze.

Nino Bianchi and Haruka Hirano are mated purebred vampires: madly in love and exploring the depths of their young bond. But an unexpected event brings their cozy lives to a screeching halt. A new vanishing, much too close to home.

The world of Lore and Lust stretches deeper with more romance, mystery, love and trust. A queer vampire love story full of heart and delicious heat.


Title : The Vanishing
Author : Karla Nikole
Series : Lore & Lust (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 338
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Karla Nikole Publishing
Release Date : February 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

On the one hand, a lot more happened in this instalment compared to book one, which had been one of my big complaints, but overall.. I’m sorry, I’m still not really getting this series.

I still don’t fully comprehend this vampire society, aristocracy, hierarchy, whatever, but we did get some insight behind — go figure — the big Vanishing; which was basically the complete loss of the English pureblood (purebred?) population. Why only England I have no idea but I’m just chocking that one upto one more thing I don’t understand and just kinda rolling with it. That said, the reason for it, and the villain behind it, feels pretty flimsy. Maybe we’ll get more about that in book three.

In this book we had two romances playing out, the one from book one and another between characters connected to the main protagonists. It offered up something different and, dare I say it, more interesting.

That said, where Nino had been my favourite character in book one, there was a certain interaction with his brother that changed my opinion of him. And a few other revelations and observations from his best friend added to that. Somehow Nino’s brother Giovanni, grumpy alpha asshole who nonetheless shoulders so much responsibility and does so much for Nino, now holds the top spot.

Aside from that positive, I’m still struggling with the writing, the weird dialogue, plus all the aforementioned plot and worldbuilding weirdness, and sometimes the chapters ends abruptly or we transition into something in a strange manner. But it’s also just that.. I just don’t understand the point. This time there was less focus on the Lore & Lust book, at least in talking about it, but instead Haruka is translating stuff with a family and I just.. I don’t understand why?

This whole series is just befuddling to me.

I’m going to see through this series to the end, the third (and final?) book is out in the fall, but unless things really take off I’m not sure I would pick up this author again.

VOW OF THIEVES by Mary E. Pearson

Kazi and Jase have survived, stronger and more in love than ever. Their new life now lies before them―the Ballengers will be outlaws no longer, Tor’s Watch will be a kingdom, and the two of them will meet all challenges side by side, together at last.

But an ominous warning mars their journey back, and in their rush to return to Tor’s Watch, just outside the fortress walls, they are violently attacked and torn apart―and each is thrust into their own new hell.

Unsure whether the other is alive or dead, Kazi and Jase must keep their wits among their greatest enemies and unlikeliest allies. And all the while, Death watches and waits.


Title : Dance of Thieves
Author : Mary E. Pearson
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : August 6, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .75


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

So, my theories were crap. But only because at least one thing I expected to be revealed.. wasn’t. Which is perplexing. Are there more books to come for this world to explain? Is it something that just won’t be? I have fewer theories but more questions.

I truly don’t know how to rate these books. More and more I hate having a star system and wish I didn’t have to assign a value to anything. Anyone else? Anyway.

What Pearson does so well, and this book/series is no exception, is how messy and complex and crafted the plots are. Some characters (usually the villains) are eight steps ahead of the rest of the players; not in an outlandish, it’s not possible, kind of way but legit villainy. Obsession. Carefully considered moves and steps and feints. Which makes sense because the heroes, those fighting back, are so good, so clever, themselves that they need a true opposition to make the stakes feel high. And they always do feel high; especially in this instalment. 

For all that the action was dialled up in this one, letting the romance take a bit of a backseat, I did find myself pulled away from the story more than book one. I don’t know why. Might’ve just been my distractible brain.

But for all that I’m fretting over the rating, for all that I wasn’t as absorbed, I did still devour this book and am actually kind of sad I’m now all caught up. I guess I’ll be joining the queue of fans to see if there’s more to come from this world which is such a strange mix of fantasy, dystopia, and science fiction. Am I still the only one who doesn’t quite know how the original world fell apart, though? Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.

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

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