MONTHLY WRAP UP – JUNE 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

Seven Days In June by Tia Williams — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir — see Hollis’ review here
Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly deVos — see Hollis’ review here
Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin — see Micky’s review here
For the Wolf by Hanna Whitten — see Micky’s review here (!)
I Walk Alone by Wren Handman — see Hollis’ review here
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

For the Wolf by Hanna Whitten — see Hollis’ review here (!)
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri — see Hollis’ review here
Fable by Adrienne Young — see Hollis’ review here
We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman — see Micky’s review here
Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon — see Micky’s review here
Don’t Breathe a Word by Jordyn Taylor — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ star reads

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir — see Hollis’ review here
A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir — see Hollis’ review here
A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir — see Hollis’ review here
Namesake by Adrienne Young — see Hollis’ review here
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid — see Micky’s review here
The Ippos King by Grace Draven — see Hollis’ review here
Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June — see Hollis’ review here

star reads

u n r a t e d

Hot Copy by Ruby Barrett — see Hollis’ review here

DNF


additional reads not reviewed for blog : a handful
total reads by Micky : seven for June plus all the books I’ve been reading for July
favourite read of the month : Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
least favourite read of the month : Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
most read genre : contemporary

total reviews by Hollis : fourteen
favourite read of the month : I Walk Alone by Wren Handman
least favourite read of the month : Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June
most read genre : fantasy

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JUNE 29, 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.


I Walk Alone by Wren Handman is the sequel to In Restless Dreams which is a YA fantasy featuring a girl torn between the fae world and her own world.

Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly DeVos is basically Shaun of the Dead meets Dumplin‘. Yeah, we didn’t need to know more than that, either.


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

EAT YOUR HEART OUT by Kelly deVos

Shaun of the Dead meets Dumplin’ in this bitingly funny YA thriller about a kickass group of teens battling a ravenous group of zombies.

In the next few hours, one of three things will happen.

1–We’ll be rescued (unlikely)

2–We’ll freeze to death (maybe)

3–We’ll be eaten by thin and athletic zombies (odds: excellent) 

Vivian Ellenshaw is fat, but she knows she doesn’t need to lose weight, so she’s none too happy to find herself forced into a weight-loss camp’s van with her ex-best friend, Allie, a meathead jock who can barely drive, and the camp owner’s snobby son. And when they arrive at Camp Featherlite at the start of the worst blizzard in the history of Flagstaff, Arizona, it’s clear that something isn’t right.

Vee barely has a chance to meet the other members of her pod, all who seem as unhappy to be at Featherlite as she does, when a camper goes missing down by the lake. Then she spots something horrifying outside in the snow. Something…that isn’t human. Plus, the camp’s supposed “miracle cure” for obesity just seems fishy, and Vee and her fellow campers know they don’t need to be cured. Of anything.

Even worse, it’s not long before Camp Featherlite’s luxurious bungalows are totally overrun with zombies. What starts out as a mission to unravel the camp’s secrets turns into a desperate fight for survival–and not all of the Featherlite campers will make it out alive. 

A satirical blend of horror, body positivity, and humor, Kelly deVos’s witty, biting novel proves that everyone deserves to feel validated, and taking down the evil enterprise determined to dehumanize you is a good place to start.


Title : Eat Your Heart Out
Author : Kelly deVos
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA horror/sci-fi
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : June 29, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This YA horror is pitched so perfectly. It really is like Shaun of the Dead meets Dumplin‘. This mashup has both the conversations surrounding fatphobia and diet culture alongside the unlikely group of individuals, each fitting a specific movie archetype, having to battle zombies.

How are fat camps still even a thing? Don’t they belong in a museum with inflatable dart boards, Flowbeers, and Thigh Masters?

I loved how the conversation around weight was done, I loved how much acceptance was in this story, and how despite being set at a fat-camp, and how this particular zombie apocalypse unfolds, it doesn’t feel like a story about being fat. Even though it is. Hard to explain!

Between the gorgeously colourful cover with a fat girl, unapologetically front and centre, and the satirical content that sadly doesn’t feel far off from how fatness is dealt with in our own world, this is a read that we all need. Sure, we’re sorta in out own apocalypse but this particular set-up is lightyears away from our own. I promise it won’t stress you out!

I’m not sure I would reread this, which is usually why I award four stars to books, but I just appreciate this so much. Was it perfect? No. While we get to know the characters enough to be invested, it is still a bit surface level, as we’re thrown pretty much right into disaster mode. Think of the way Cloverfield unfolds. We sorta get to know our protagonists as they navigate their new reality but it’s more about surviving than anything else. But this book did exactly what it set out to do and it still managed to have a few surprises along the way, too. Would recommend!

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

I WALK ALONE by Wren Handman

As the Phantasmer, Sylvia brought order to the Fairy courts. Now if only she could do the same to her own life…

It’s been three months since Sylvia used her powers to rewrite the ruling structure of Fairy, dismantling the Seelie and Unseelie courts. Recovered from her injuries, she’s back at school and struggling to balance her “real” life against the much more immediate (and exciting) world that magic has to offer. Not to mention the distraction of her utterly hot and completely fish-out-of-water boyfriend. 

But in Fairy, there are rumblings that an ancient prophecy is about to come to pass. “Beware the coming of the one who should not have been, for he shall bring with him the end of days. Take back the mantle, or all will be lost.” Will Sylvia be able to uncover the truth behind the prophecy, learn how to use her ever-growing powers without risking her relationship, and convince her best friend Fiona that it’s not weird that her boyfriend is a thousand years old? It won’t be easy. 


Title : I Walk Alone
Author : Wren Handman
Series : Phantasmer (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 226
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Parliament House Press
Release Date : June 29, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Sequels and finales, especially in the YA genre, often seem like a mixed bag. Either events are rushed through or made too convenient. Not so in I Walk Alone.

The story picks up a few months after the big confrontation, and shake-up, in In Restless Dreams and Sylvia is not only trying to re-integrate into her life, balancing the two sides — the fairy world and her human world — but also shouldering both the decisions she’s made for a whole people and also the damage that she, herself, was dealt.

I can’t remember if I had mentioned this in my review for book one but I really appreciated that Handman took pains to not neglect Sylvia’s every day life. Yes, she finds school to be dull and a chore, especially when compared to her adventures and her magical boyfriend, but those doldrums, her responsibilities, aren’t glossed over. We see the struggle to fit in, to balance home work, the repercussions for her slacking off, her lies, and it keeps not only her but the reader grounded. I can barely handle multitasking facetiming and cooking at the same time and yet she’s submitting homework, being a good friend and sister, a caring daughter, nurturing a new relationship, and going on adventures. She doesn’t do it all successfully, which.. I mean, good, because that wouldn’t be realistic!; but we see her try.

Just as she tries to navigate a world, and a people, who are both terrified and resentful of her choices, her power, and how that spills over into her relationship with her boyfriend who is very much part of that same world. All while a prophecy hangs over their heads.

The conclusion to this series, and the resolutions, unraveled so well. As with book one, the story is layered with the themes that come full circle at the end, so you see the slow unfurling of what is to come and how it isn’t just an impulse decision or a convenient epiphany at the moment it’s needed. I thought it was brilliantly done.

If you’re looking for a fresh take on a fae-based YA fantasy, look no further.

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

A SKY BEYOND THE STORM by Sabaa Tahir

Picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…

The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.

At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.

Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.

And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows.


Title : A Sky Beyond the Storm
Author : Sabaa Tahir
Series : Ember Quartet (book four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 516
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : December 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I’m not really going to harp on this much because I’ve finally conquered this series, and it’s over, and we never have to talk or think about it again but.. oof. This was a lot of things.

This is a long book, yes, but the sheer amount of time this took to complete, when I know I’ve crushed books this length, and longer, in a much shorter amount of time.. and, worse, when said book didn’t need to be this long (and that goes for the series, too), it’s just a whole pile of frustration. I would say there’s maybe 20-25% (in this installment, not the whole series, elle oh elle, that would be extra tragic) that was good.

Tahir’s writing has definitely improved over the years but, as always, there was some repetition and the weird lapses in editing were A Choice. Ultimately though this was definitely a case of me not getting on with a series and the direction it went in and how that changed characters I thought I had liked. This did go in some interesting directions as far as challenging the reader to question motivations that lead to bad or evil actions but it also kind of left one out to dry (like, the Keris thing, are you fucking kidding me with that, no, I can’t). I’m just a bit (a lot) baffled by so many things.

But I cried. Oh I’ll admit it. I was pretty caught unawares because a lot of sad and awful shit happens over the course of these four chonky books and I was definitely detached from it all until I wasn’t. So, maybe that’s why I want to round up on this? A little? I won’t, though.

And that’s it, it’s over.

This marks the third unfinished series to be completed from my five series to tackle post so. I’ll take the win for what it is. A sad little checkmark on a list that only I care about it. But in pandemic season we celebrate any little win we can.

EXCUSE ME WHILE I UGLY CRY by Joya Goffney

A passionate, hilarious and heartfelt YA romcom debut full of juicy secrets and leap-off-the-page chemistry about how we choose to live our lives and what it means to live your truth.

For fans of Jenny Han, Nicola Yoon and Justin A. Reynolds. Quinn keeps lists of everything – from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud,” to all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears (as well as embarrassing and cringeworthy truths) on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing . . .

An anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett – the last known person to have her journal and who Quinn loathes – in a race against time to track down the blackmailer. Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love. A razor-sharp, passionate and addictive YA romcom that readers will love.


Title : Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry
Author : Joya Goffney
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count :352
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : May 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Personal identity and empowerment
I love lists
Deep feelings and firsts

Oh this book won me over good. It was the kind of book that engaged me early on but it really built up, especially the last quarter of the book as answers were coming. This was a rich YA contemporary with some high school drama that felt authentic but really this story was all about Quinn’s identity as a young black women; the lies she told herself and the lies others told.

Quinn was a list maker and this story had an occasional epistolary feel to it with Quinn’s and much later, Carter’s lists. I loved getting to them, they were personal, sometimes emotional and I really got to know the characters this way. The big plot of this story centred around Quinn’s journal, who had it and who was blackmailing her for the contents (this is all in the blurb).

The friendships Quinn had weren’t what she thought and Carter, Livvy and Auden came into her life at the right time, affirming and empowering her identity and showing what real friendship was all about, flaws and all. I did feel a bit left without the end tied up on Matt, I just wanted a bit of closure on that, I think.

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry was a light but also a deep read. It had themes that were important but it still had the levity of life for an 18 year old. The characters were well developed and there was a nice sprinkle of chemistry across the pages. Highly recommended.

Please check out some black reviewers on this title. Also, there are some triggers in this book, so look for other reviews if you need that info, or DM me for more details.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JUNE 22, 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.


My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows kicks off a new series from this group of authors.. this time featuring Marys!

Darling by K. Ancrum is a YA thriller reimagining of Peter Pan.

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon is an anthology with stories by all these incredible authors about featuring “charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

Subtle Blood by KJ Charles is the third novel in The Will Darling Adventures series which is a m/m romance set in the 1920s.


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

JAY’S GAY AGENDA by Jason June

There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all this friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.

Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs, where he can flirt with Very Sexy Boys and search for love. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones…because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.

From debut novelist Jason June comes a moving and hilarious sex-positive story about the complexities of first loves, first hookups, and first heartbreaks—and how to stay true to yourself while embracing what you never saw coming.


Title : Jay’s Gay Agenda
Author : Jason June
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So this wasn’t quite the lovely, hilarious, quirky, queer, YA love story I expected it to be. It was, however, very sex positive (though in only one specific way.. more on that later) and I think that should definitely be celebrated. Mostly because it’s the only positive thing I can attribute to this read. Sorry, no, that’s a lie. I liked Jay’s parents. Who were also very sex positive. There we go.

The problem really starts, and ends, with the main character. Not only was he a bit OTT in some ways he was just completely.. well, dick-crazed? To put it nicely, I guess (it would’ve been nice if the focus on virginity hadn’t been so prevalent but also why did no single person address the fact that sex comes in lots of forms, not just penetrative? for a queer novel, this was a very heteronormative view). And he was totally oblivious to literally so much, including his own hypocrisies. I’m not saying he was the only one to be guilty of such, and hey, this is a bunch of eighteen year olds we’re talking about here, but.. still.

I wish I could’ve loved this but I barely liked it. I hope people can enjoy this, because I absolutely think queer readers need messy romcoms they can see themselves in, and there’s definitely a plethora of messy romcoms for those of us who are straight, I just.. I hated the lying, yes, and I hated the cheating, but more than that (and this is big because I really hate cheating) was how easily he was forgiven. By literally everyone. Yes, yes, it’s a YA, we need to wrap up everything nicely, but.. nope. Teens deserve to see consequences play out. We all do. It’s part of life.

Also, COVID/quarantine was mentioned offhand like twice and a) that was really jarring and b) no, stop, I don’t want this in my fiction.

I have no idea if there’s more to come because GR indicates this is the first in a series but I don’t think I’ll be reading on. Especially not if book two is from Jay’s POV.

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

HOT COPY by Ruby Barrett

Corinne Blunt knows what people think of her—she’s an icy, unapproachable executive. It’s the price she’s had to pay to get to the top. But there’s knowing you have a reputation in the office, and there’s hearing your new intern laugh when someone calls you “Blunt the C*nt” in the elevator on his first day.

She’d hoped to finally find an ally in Wesley Chambers, but she’s not about to let him off the hook for joining the office boys’ club. Taking refuge in the professional boundaries between them, she relegates Wes to assistant work—which would do the trick, if he weren’t so eager to prove he’s a decent human being.

Wes is sincerely apologetic, insisting it was a misunderstanding, and to her surprise, Corinne believes him. Being forced to work together was one thing, but long hours at the office with what turns out to be a kind, thoughtful man soon has their business relationship turning personal, and things get complicated—fast. Could this be something more serious than either of them dared to hope for? Or is their relationship just playing into the harmful power dynamics Corinne’s had to endure her entire career?


Title : Hot Copy
Author : Ruby Barrett
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 297
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

If you craved the dynamic from The Proposal but wanted it to get the full sexy treatment? You might like this. At least, that’s what I thought to expect about this when going into it (because I don’t read blurbs). Except in Hot Copy not only is there an age gap (I was still on board) but he’s an intern.. not the assistant (I’ve edged a foot off the board at this point).

The latter would’ve been pushing it a bit to begin with but this went a step further. Everyone is not only consenting but also adult however it made for a frustrating parallel to the very real, and pervasive, inappropriate conduct happening all around the couple. As if to say, “this is okay because want it and aren’t sleazy about it”? I don’t know. I could probably have put my brain on hold about the whole thing if not for all the ick going on around them because it kept reminding me that this wasn’t great. But, when I could check my brain out for a second, I appreciated the switch up of the dynamics we’re used to seeing play out.

Except Corinne kept wrongfooting the whole relationship (or not-relationship) which is ironic as they get off on the wrong foot because she wrongly attributes something to him. So, I mean, maybe it’s not ironic. Maybe that initial interaction was foreshadowing for the whole story. He would be everything sweet, caring, kind, understanding, dedicated, and she would abuse it, not appreciate it, take it for granted.

Which isn’t to say Wes is perfect as he becomes so wholly invested in her that his real life suffers for it. And then the one time he doesn’t put Corrine first.. well, lets just say I fucking hated that particular argument.

What frustrates me about the whole experience though is that this could’ve been really good. There’s an emotional thread woven through the story that really got me choked up at times and while I thought the repetition of that same element was maybe too much.. I still cried at a certain scene near the end. I wasn’t immune. But yeah, the nitpicky part of me wishes it had been similar but not the same.

I’m mixed about my feelings so I’m totally copping out and not rating this (at least for now). I would definitely read from this author again as I thought the writing was surprisingly solid for a debut but this particular dynamic/romance will definitely be polarizing.

If you’re down for a bit of a messy romance, and are craving something to fog up the glasses, check out some reviews and see if this’ll be your cup of tea.

REAPER AT THE GATES by Sabaa Tahir

Beyond the Martial Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, is desperate to protect her sister’s life and the lives of everyone in the Empire. Yet danger lurks on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable and violent, while Keris Veturia, the ruthless Commandant, capitalizes on the Emperor’s volatility to grow her own power—regardless of the carnage she leaves in her path.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows that the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. During the hunt to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would help her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. However, in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that demands his complete surrender—even if that means abandoning the woman he loves.


Title : Reaper at the Gates
Author : Sabaa Tahir
Series : Ember Quartet (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 458
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : June 12, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I don’t know where to begin. I wish I had some positive things to say but they are just overwhelmed by the stuff that annoys me, bores me, or frustrates me. There are glimmers of good, or maybe just fine, but ultimately it’s hard to hold onto them in the face of so much other stuff.

One of those glimmers? The final chapter. That really captured my attention (I didn’t reach for my phone once!). But overall I’m just really perplexed by where we’re going and how we’re getting there. I struggled through three of the four (five?) POVs this time. I’m long since over the romance — since early book two, actually, you’ll notice I didn’t even mention it in my review. And at this point I just want to get to the ending for all the whys. Mostly, why I’m enduring this (haha, completionist pain).

This book did feel a little stronger overall than the last one, occasionally less repetitive (though now we’ve introduced “bleeding” as a curse and boy did we make up for lost time on that..), so clearly that extra time between releases was put to good use. But, yeah, overwhelmingly I’m just kind of sitting back and watching things happen, mostly as a result of character choices, and marveling : why.

Here’s hoping book four offers some satisfaction. Because there hadn’t been much of that yet.

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