ALL’S WELL by Mona Awad

Miranda is a theatre professor whose life is less than satisfactory. After falling during a performance early in her acting career, she finds herself in constant, seemingly incurable pain and struggles to even sit still. When she hopes to revisit the glory of her acting days by having her class stage Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, she is met with a mutiny from her students, led by her least favourite undergrad–the devious Briana. Forced instead to put on Hamlet, Miranda is devastated at the duplicity of her students, underhandedness of her boss, and is consumed by frustration at the lack of control she has over her own body and life.

When she’s drowning her sorrows at the local pub one night, her path takes a sharp turn. Three mysterious men in suits who seem to know everything about her–her pain, her glory, and her deepest desires–offer to help her. After drinking a glowing, golden liquid, she wakes up the next morning with no memory of the night before, and her chronic pain has lifted. Miranda’s life starts falling into place: she is not only walking but running with ease; Briana has become gravely ill; and a twist of fate allows Miranda to stage her beloved All’s Well That Ends Well. But as a lover of the Bard, Miranda should know that sudden streaks of luck always come at a price… 

All’s Well is a searing exploration of chronic pain and depression through the classic tensions between saints and sinners, healers and witches, revenge and jealousy, love and lust to craft a completely modern and truly unique rendition of a Shakespearean play


Title : All’s Well
Author : Mona Awad
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary / magical realism?
Publisher : Hamish Hamilton
Release Date : August 3, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ 


Hollis’ 1 star review

All’s well.. now that I have finished this book. Because this was not for me.

I don’t quite know what I expected from this; well, okay, this was one of those rare cases where I did read most of the blurb before requesting. So I expected the summary. Which does sound good. And yes, I had heard some strange and varied things about Bunny, the author’s previous release, and thought, of the two, this might be more my speed to test the waters on a new-to-me author.

But no.

While the commentary surrounding chronic pain and how it is treated in the medical community, particularly with women patients, was definitely frustrating, and heartbreaking, the writing was.. manic? Stream of conscious strangeness? And that was before the was-it-magic-or-delusion-who-even-knows.

This was just so strange, and often uncomfortable — in the sense that it was visceral and I did, often, find myself in Miranda’s shoes as if I, too, was haunted by her pain; at least in the beginning, before I started to check out. So I did feel things but I didn’t like anything I felt and, again, the rest just felt like it went a bit off the rails. It was also a bit repetitive with the actual preparation of the play, which made it feel dragged out, and.. yeah, obviously, I didn’t like this so why I’m still trying to justify the reasons, I don’t know.

I can’t make myself round up on this and definitely can’t recommend it, either.

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

DARK WATERS by Katherine Arden

New York Times bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces and Dead Voices.

Having met and outsmarted the smiling man in Dead Voices but fearful of when he’ll come again, Ollie, Brian, and Coco are anxiously searching for a way to defeat him once and for all. By staying together and avoiding remote places, they’ve steered clear of him so far but their constant worry and stress is taking a toll on their lives and friendship. So when Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mom plan a “fun” boat trip on Lake Champlain, the three are apprehensive to say the least. They haven’t had the best of luck on their recent trips and even worse their frenemy Phil is on the boat as well. But when a lake monster destroys their boat, they end up shipwrecked on a deserted island. This isn’t just any island though. It’s hidden from the outside world in a fog and unless everyone works together to find a way to escape, they won’t survive long. 


Title : Dark Waters
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Small Spaces (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 256
Genre : MG paranormal fantasy
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young 
Release Date : August 3, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

First of all, that cover? Amazing. It’s definitely my favourite of the series. But this didn’t nudge out book two for sheer spooky creepy excellence, unfortunately.

Now spring (following fall and then winter themes for books one and two), this trio of besties are still researching ways to defeat their nemesis the Smiling Man. Their adventures have taken a toll, as has their preoccupation, and so they jump on the opportunity to spend some time outdoors, away from small spaces and mirrors and any situation that might provoke another encounter, and go sailing. But they still can’t escape a brush, and more, with the otherworldly forces.

This particular scary story didn’t grip me quite the same way as the last book; Arden still did a great job with the vibe, and sending a few twists along the way (the ghost in this story was so good, and heartbreaking), but the story didn’t feel as tight or focused. I wish it had been longer, had spent more time building some suspense, digging into the feeling of isolation or more. But maybe that’s just the adult in me talking. That said, this did feel more like a build up to the cliffhanger and thus the big finale to come in book four. I still did enjoy it, though, and especially loved seeing the parents get mixed into things, as well as a new friend. Mostly, I’m just excited to reread/binge this series when book four comes out.

If you, or the younger human in your life, is into the spookier side of things ala Goosebumps, I definitely recommend.

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

RED WOLF by Rachel Vincent

For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember, the village of Oakvale has been surrounded by the dark wood—a forest filled with terrible monsters. A forest that light itself cannot penetrate.

Unlike her fellow villagers, Adele cannot avoid the dark wood.

Adele is one of a long line of guardians: women who secretly take on the form of a wolf, in order to protect their village.

But when accepting her fate means giving up the boy she loves, abandoning the future she imagined for herself, and breaking her own moral code, she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.


Title : Red Wolf
Author : Rachel Vincent
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count :359
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Harper 360YA
Release Date : August 5, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Such easy reading
Fresh retelling vibes
Unexpected plot directions

We’ve had a few wolf stories hit the shelves this year and they’ve all worked for me. What is totally in Red Wolf’s favour is the writing and ease with which the reader can sink into this story and not want to put it down.

Red Wolf set the scene well immediately, a dark wood, evil woodland creatures and a village at risk. I will say no more as the events that arise from there were pretty unexpected and I was hooked to the page.

The Duvall women in this story were captivating; they were brave, humble and focused. Adele had a lot of carry on her shoulders and she struggled to adjust, very understandably. I thought Max was a great character, supporter, feminist and I definitely need more of him.

This book has left me wanting more. It was full of action, pace and some tragedy. This is my first book by Rachel Vincent but she’s reeled me in.

Thank you to Harper360 YA for the review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – AUGUST 3, 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.


Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan is the start of the Rise and Fall series but set in the same universe as some of his other series. This author’s adult fantasy comes highly recommended so we’re looking forward to giving this a try.

Dark Waters by Katherine Arden is the third book in the author’s middle grade horror series (think Goosebumps series) and boy did it set up something good for the fourth, and final, book. We’ll have a review on the blog so keep an eye out.

If The Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy is the author’s adult release debut. From the blurb it seems to be romcom retelling of Cinderella with a plus sized main character and a focus on self-love. Need!

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren get’s its UK paperback release this week and this step into dating for a single mom sounds like a wonderful premise.

Similarly, Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake by Alexis Hall also gets a UK paperback release and if you’re a Great British Bake-Off fan, line up for this one with fabulous bisexual rep.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee is a dark twisty thriller and perfectly suited for those looking for more dark academia offerings.

All’s Well by Mona Awad is, “a darkly funny novel about a theatre professor suffering chronic pain who, in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers.” We’ll have a review for this one coming this week.

Hope on the Rocks by Annabeth Albert is the long awaited addition to the author’s Rainbow Cove series. This looks to be both an age gap and an opposites attract romance. Looking forward to this!

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson isn’t out until August 5, 2021, but we are super keen on this third release in the Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series.



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

A LESSON IN VENGEANCE by Victoria Lee

For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself. 


Title : A Lesson in Vengeance
Author : Victoria Lee
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ paranormal/thriller
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : August 3, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I think this would’ve worked so much better if, like one of the comp titles, this had been an adult (or at least new adult) novel. I think so much of what I struggled with, or found hard to believe, could have been easier to swallow if this had been aged up.

That said, I really enjoyed the first half of the story. We open up with our main character returning to this elite/exclusive/preppy highschool, almost like a pre-college collegiate style school, after time away in recovery from her girlfriend’s death. She soon finds being back on campus is damaging to her ability to discern reality from the belief that she’s being haunted; not by her girlfriend (or not only..) but by the ghosts of girls long dead who are built into the history, the mythology, of the school. Felicity sees things, feels things, and it makes the reader question her reliability as a narrator; is she delusional, is her grief causing her prior obsession with witchcraft, with the dead girls, making her see things that aren’t there or are these manifestations actually real?

.. grief would tie itself to the small things, that I’d be living my life as normal and then a bit of music or the cut of a girl’s smile would remind me of her and it would all flood back in.

Felicity’s journey, her obsession, her grief, her hauntings, they were all compelling. Where I started to side-eye things was with.. well, almost everything else. Certain characters, with certain influences and motivations, and how transparent it all seemed. And also, my biggest problem really, was just.. why? Maybe there wasn’t supposed to be a why. Maybe I just didn’t get it.

There was one big exception to the transparent bit, though. Something I definitely didn’t see coming. And I loved it? I don’t think many will. Infact, I think the ending in general will be polarizing. You’ve been warned!

I was definitely a bit hesitant going into this, no matter how pumped I was over the concept, because I had a rough go with Lee’s debut series. This? I loved the writing, I loved the dip in and out of spooky paranormal horror, the uncertainty of it all. I started this late at night and I won’t say it scared me but oh did it do a good job with the eerie vibes.

This might not have been a solid win but parts of it worked so so well for me. I’m definitely looking forward to more from this author, especially if they write more in this darker vein, but I think Lee would absolutely excel at an adult story. I hope one day it happens.

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

LORE & LUST by Karla Nikole

The slow burn vampire romance you didn’t know you needed…

Haruka Hirano is alive, but not quite living. Surviving but not thriving. As an elite purebred vampire in the twenty-first century, he is broken. Content in his subpar existence.

He is done with life. But life is not finished with him.

When he receives a formal request to oversee an antiquated vampire ritual at Hertsmonceux Castle, Haruka grudgingly leaves his home to meet another purebred. The vampire is not what he expects. Truly, he is unlike any vampire Haruka has ever encountered: cautious, innocent and with the warmth and gravitational pull of the sun.

Lore and Lust is an exploration of cultures, contemporary society and romance. It puts a whimsical spin on traditional vampire lore, while also creating a vivid new world where love is love. No questions asked.


Title : Lore & Lust
Author : Karla Nikole
Series : Lore & Lust (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 284
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Karla Nikole Publishing
Release Date : October 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Surprising no one, I have disappointed buddies once again by not being able to love a non-recommendation (they don’t recommend books to me anymore, this is my fault, not theirs). To be fair, I think I expected something very different from this because despite of the title, and because of what many of us have grown accustomed to with vampires/paranormal plots. So, heads up : this is very slow moving and more sweet than angsty and violent or dark.

This actually gave me some All Souls series vibes as one of the plot points surrounds this document one of the main characters has in his possession which details accounts and records of vampires who have bonded (mated, for context) and the circumstances around that. And some random vampire suddenly seems really keen to get his hands on it. But that’s likely where the comparison stops. However it also gave me Mortal & Divine series vibes with some of the formality in both customs and speech, not to mention the fact that there’s aristocracy and clans with these particular vampires, but, again, that’s where that comparison stops, too.

It’s definitely a unique take on vampires as a culture, sort’ve in line with Regency era behaviours, except also.. not. Because these vampires are almost all exhaustingly useless and rude and entitled but simultaneously thirsty (and not just literally) AF. And I found most of them hard to endure. Some of which, in a different sense, spilled over onto one of the main characters, Haruka. I could sorta feel bad for what he had gone through, how insufferably he was constantly treated by others (which I mean.. I still feel like I didn’t get a good handle on the why behind this? was it just snowflake syndrome and he was just All That? still not clear). But the only character I actually liked was our other lead, Nino.

Aspects of this world was interesting, how the vampires mingled (or didn’t) with humans, how apparently they are not apart but worked into knowledge and existence (again, not a hundred percent clear on this, either), and the whole bloodline thing. But was I liking anything? Not really. Did anything really happen? Also not really. This was pretty slow, both in plot — of which there is no action only weird discussions about art and politics? these vampires are so weird — and also in romance, but we do at least get some satisfaction on the latter before the end of this instalment.

I struggled a bit with the writing, too, and how descriptors were constantly repeated and used as reference to people; male, dark, male, dark, etc. In addition the tense this was written in (third person present) just kept throwing me out of the story; and considering I struggled to connect to begin with, and then stay connected, it just all added to being checked out.

Overall, though? This just wasn’t what I thought it was and while the second half was easier to chew through than the first, I can’t claim to be a fan. But once my fellow buddy reader (hi buddy!) catches up, I’ll be reading on. Hopefully book two offers something more exciting; but if not at least I’m prepared for it.

THE SOULMATE EQUATION by Christina Lauren – double review!

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess–who is barely making ends meet–is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist–and the science behind a soulmate–than she thought.


Title : The Soulmate Equation
Author : Christina Lauren
Format : eBook (overdrive)/Paperback
Page Count : 365
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Gallery Books/Piatkus Books
Release Date : May 18, 2021/August 5, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I have been so disappointed by the last handful of CLo novels so I guess it was about time my luck changed.

I saw a lot of early buzz and excitement for this release but I expected nothing less. What intrigued me was seeing the same excitement from other often-disappointed CLo fans. That made me sit up and take notice.

It’s so hard for me to be inspired to pick up a book during the working week and yet I sat down the same night my library hold came in and I d e v o u r e d the whole thing. It made me laugh. It made me soft. It maybe even made me tear up once.

Is the premise of this book a little outlandish? Yes (if it’s based in real science pls insert my apologies here but I suspect not). Did some elements of the romance veer a little too quickly into the all-systems-go lane once the hook had taken over, particularly after the way their previous interactions had gone? Yes. Did I hate the financial conflicts with the MC’s mother? A thousand times yes (this kind of plot is a huge issue for me in general though so I didn’t expect anything different). So, is it perfect? No. But I had such a great time.

There’s a core group of supporting characters that are funny and charming and lovely, the reluctant connection between humans who don’t seem to click, or are so different, as a base for the romance is always (often) a hit, and I was definitely feeling the chemistry even in this lower range of heat we’ve come to expect from the new CLo books. Though I do think maybe there was more going on this time than there has been. Coincidence? I think not.

Suffice it to say I had a really good time and while I will not hold out hope that this trend will remain true with what’s to come from this duo, there’s a reason I keep picking these authors up. When they are good, they are good.


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Lets have more geeky scientist/mathematician combos
Fakey breaky goodness
Sold down the river for River

The Soulmate Equation seemed to find that sweet spot of the right push and pull alongside sweetness and angst; everything was in good measure to formulate the ideal equation for a story. Sorry, I’ll stop using title puns now. But seriously, the characters and plot brought a cross of Darcy with The One and equaled a lose-yourself read.

River Pena was all of Darcy’s best angles: arrogance, dismissal but alluringly handsome. I felt on a string from his first ‘Americano’ sighting. Jess, a single mom with her own brand of geek was a great protagonist with the best family to read about.

…the only thing she could focus on was the way he spoke like he was reading aloud from a textbook. God, Siri carried on a more familiar conversation.

This couple’s journey carried elements of awkwardness but staying for the journey to reach the delicious chemistry was worth the wait. This story really grew for me, especially from a third into the book. The way River stepped up in certain situations was complete swoon territory. There wasn’t a lot of on-page steam but you felt every inch of chemistry between these two.

I thoroughly enjoyed this standalone from Christina Lauren and I can’t see a day when I will not be reading their offerings.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the review copy.

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