ROSALINE PALMER TAKES THE CAKE by Alexis Hall – double review!

Following the recipe is the key to a successful bake. Rosaline Palmer has always lived by those rules—well, except for when she dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie. Now, with a paycheck as useful as greaseproof paper and a house crumbling faster than biscuits in tea, she’s teetering on the edge of financial disaster. But where there’s a whisk there’s a way . . . and Rosaline has just landed a spot on the nation’s most beloved baking show.

Winning the prize money would give her daughter the life she deserves—and Rosaline is determined to stick to the instructions. However, more than collapsing trifles stand between Rosaline and sweet, sweet victory.  Suave, well-educated, and parent-approved Alain Pope knows all the right moves to sweep her off her feet, but it’s shy electrician Harry Dobson who makes Rosaline question her long-held beliefs—about herself, her family, and her desires.

Rosaline fears falling for Harry is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Yet as the competition—and the ovens—heat up, Rosaline starts to realize the most delicious bakes come from the heart.


Title : Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake
Author : Alexis Hall
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Forever/Piatkus
Release Date : May 18, 2021/August 5, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I definitely had warmer feelings about this story overall than I did about my last few Hall reads but unfortunately most of those warmer feelings kind of depleted over the course of the story. Not because of the events as much as because of certain characters.

When this story focused on some of the secondary cast, specifically Lauren, Harry, and Anvita, it was a great bantery blissful time. When we were in the bake-off segments with the ensemble in addition to all the filming hijinks? Delight. When we were dealing with Alain, or sometimes Rosaline herself? Ugh.

I don’t really want to reveal who Rosaline ends up with, especially for those #TeamNoBlurbers who won’t read the summary, or for those who might not infer from the synopsis how it all goes down, but. I’m very happy with the end result. It was just quite the journey to get there. And I’m not quite sure Rosaline deserved him, full stop, but also because the way things just fall into place is well.. convenient. For her.

Notably, another thing that dampened my enthusiasm about this story, was that it falls into a common and recent trend of feeling like a very “teachy” kind of book. Lots of discourse about gender stereotypes, important dialogue about biphobia, classism, and more, but not only does it handle that.. it also sorta beats you over the head with it. Both in how it’s challenged but also the frequency. Lumped into this were the circumstances of Rosaline’s life, her daughter, and so many horses died in the telling and overtelling of that plotpoint. But what made it worse was how inconsistent, and flipfloppy, even Rosaline told it.

Overall Rosaline was just a very flawed character, which is fine, I just wish maybe it had been showcased differently? For all that Alain was a dick, I understood his reasons (except for that one part; that one part is completely not understandable). I didn’t understand when Rosaline was also a dick (but I think maybe one specific area I couldn’t get was very British-specific in regards to classism that I just don’t think we have in my part of the world; at least not in this way). I didn’t understand her appeal. She had great friends but.. I don’t think she, herself, was always a good friend. We see everyone constantly stepping up for her and rarely does she return the favour. I realize this is her story, not anyone else’s, but it feels unbalanced, in a way.

There’s definitely a lot to recommend within the pages of Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake. I think a lot of people will like this. It is definitely an easier, more mainstream read, than Boyfriend Material (which I realize I’m biased against, so, I mean, grain of salt). But I can also see people who loved that book also loving this. Mostly I’m just happy that my experience with the other might have been an outlier because for all that this wasn’t a win, it wasn’t quite a fail, either. In the century that is 2020-2021, we take what we can get.

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

4.5 stars

Headlines:
Brit Bake Off vibes
Banter for days
Charmed to the hilt

If I could describe my reading experience of Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake in one word, I would say charming. The characters were just simply a delight to sink into. They were messy, flawed but they were also incredibly endearing and a bucket load of funny.

I’m 100% a ‘Bake Off’ fan so this reimagining of a British TV Show in a similar vein was always going to speak to my fandom and it delivered completely. I loved the baking scenes in the competition alongside the behind-the-scenes elements. I grew to love Rosaline as a character, to cheer for her crawl out from the weighty expectations of her parents and she was doing a great job of the mother-juggle. Her bi-sexuality was such an issue for some people and this book really explored other people’s perceptions, expectations and some rather hideous elements to that.

“It’s me. I’ve done it. I’ve made a penis. I’ve made an enormous bread penis. Someone always makes a penis. And this year it’s me who made the penis.”

The two guys of the piece, Alain and Harry really altered my allegiances and expectations along the way. A lot of what happened with them was unexpected in the main and I loved how that story played out. Amelie, Rosaline’s daughter was a super-intelligent and outspoken eight year old but I did enjoy her character.

This book bantered me from front to back, I highlighted so much that it would take an essay to share them all but you won’t be disappointed at the dialogue and Rosaline’s inner monologue. As with all Alexis Hall’s offerings, everything about this book was quintessentially British and I love his style of bringing different British types of characters, accents and speech to the page.

And Rosaline tried very hard to keep her face ungifable.

I’m pretty enamoured with this book and I can see myself returning for a re-read. This story is definitely on my contemporary 2021 favourites line-up.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the early review copy.

HERE WITH ME by Samantha Young – double review!

Settled in the tranquil remoteness of the Scottish Highlands, Ardnoch Estate caters to the rich and famous. It is as unattainable and as mysterious as its owner —ex-Hollywood leading man Lachlan Adair—and it’s poised on the edge of a dark scandal.

After narrowly escaping death, police officer Robyn Penhaligon leaves behind her life in Boston in search of some answers. Starting with Mac Galbraith, the Scottish father who abandoned her to pursue his career in private security. To re-connect with Mac, Robyn will finally meet a man she’s long resented. Lachlan Adair. Hostility instantly brews between Robyn and Lachlan. She thinks the head of the Adair family is high-handed and self-important. And finding closure with Mac is proving more difficult than she ever imagined. Robyn would sooner leave Ardnoch, but when she discovers Mac is embroiled in a threat against the Adairs and the exclusive members of the estate, she finds she’s not yet ready to give up on her father.

Determined to ensure Mac’s safety, Robyn investigates the disturbing crimes at Ardnoch, forcing her and Lachlan to spend time together. Soon it becomes clear a searing attraction exists beneath their animosity, and temptation leads them down a perilous path.

While they discover they are connected by something far more addictive than passion, Lachlan cannot let go of his grip on a painful past: a past that will destroy his future … if the insidious presence of an enemy lurking in the shadows of Ardnoch doesn’t do the job first.


Title : Here With Me
Author : Samantha Young
Series : Adair Family #1
Format : eARC
Page Count :506
Genre : Romantic Suspense
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : May 11, 2021

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Broody v ballsy
Sinister escalations
Feisty female lead

I love a good romantic suspense read and Here With Me reminded me very much of a Nora Roberts read in that genre. I think that’s a pretty high accolade. This was a long book but it didn’t feel it.

The meeting of a Bostonite and a Scot on a highland estate was the premise for this read but there was a rich plot of Robyn’s estrangement from her dad, Mac and some sinister goings on at the exclusive club that Lachlan owned.

Lachlan was the right level of brooding with character depth and Robyn was such a great, confident and feisty character. I loved Robyn’s attitude towards Lachlan and how their antagonism grew into something more.

The suspense plot was good, with periods of tension but not constant. To be fair, I guessed the person behind the things happening on the estate early on but it didn’t affect my enjoyment. I am here for more from this series and I curious as to whether they will all be suspense. Here With Me will appeal to On Dublin Street fans even with the suspense added in, the characters have a similar vibe.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Having never read anything by this author before I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had seen friends really enjoy this series and thought hey, my library has it, why not. And while we started off a little rocky with some inconsistent details that my brain refused to let go of, despite the fact that it was pretty silly, and I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with the love interest, Robyn quickly won me over; and honestly she’s the reason I enjoyed this so much.

We love to see a strong, badass, kickass, capable, woman — but one who doesn’t also fall into the pitfalls some authors lean into by also making her emotionally closed off or invulnerable. Robyn was very well rounded, very open with her thoughts and feelings and communicated them well, and honestly I don’t think Lachlan deserves her. But I did warm to him over time; Young gave him some realistic reasons for the way he was but.. he still didn’t make a great impression and did still frustrate me at times as he continually stumbled over things, screwed up, and had to make amends. Again and again. But. I respect how the author made him challenge himself and his emotional response to some things (I’m thinking of one particular instance) even if half the time his family had to kick his ass to get it all moving in the right direction.

I did guess who was behind the big whoddunit it of the story pretttyyyy early on and I want to make a comment about something kind of obvious that was a huge red flag clue but I don’t want to hint or spoil at anything for anyone else so I’ll zip it. So that was a little annoying to live through b u t I also appreciate that we got to see how frustrating it can be for investigators when clues don’t add up in a neat way, you’re fooled by what’s right in front of you, and cases drag out. There was no quick solve here and that did feel pretty realistic.

I’ll admit one thing I really dislike in a story is getting a backstory via internal exposition and then immediately having it explained in dialogue as well; it’s one thing to have it come up a chapter or two before and then it’s expressed in dialogue later but Young often had it back to back and I was a bit annoyed by that. I don’t know if that’s a style choice or it just happened to show up in this one. Not my favourite.

This book, and likely the series, is made up of some pretty complicated and complex dynamics; in both sibling and parental relationships and I did enjoy some of it but others kind of drove me batty. I’ll be interested to see how the second book plays out considering I feel zero compassion towards the new leading lady (though I’m sure she’ll be made out to have reasons for her actions) whereas I have plenty for the love interest. So maybe my bias will switch out for that one? Who knows.

HERE WITH ME is definitely a little over the top in some ways, a bit dramatic, but there’s a backbone of really good emotional beats and discussion around family and forgiveness that, as mentioned, was carried by a great leading lady. I might not be awarding top marks but I devoured this (not short) book in one sitting so maybe that says enough.

THE LOOK OF A KING by Tom Dumbrell

Two young men.
One with a dark past, the other with a bright future.

Cyrus is a storyteller frustrated by the mundane trappings of village life, while Prince Augustus struggles to meet high expectations after an upbringing of royal privilege in the bustling capital. As both try to forge their own paths, a royal assassination unexpectedly closes the gap between them. The nation of Easthaven is thrown into war with their oppressive neighbours, and so begins a conflict from which neither can walk away.

Will a young prince finally measure up to his destiny? Will a storyteller create a legend of his own?

Cyrus and Augustus’s lives may seem worlds apart, but perhaps they aren’t so different after all…

The Look of a King is a fast-paced, adventure fantasy for readers aged 12+. It is perfect for readers who enjoy the pacing of books like The Hobbit, but with the unpredictable ruthless quality of Game of Thrones, where nothing is as it seems. Readers have described The Look of a King as ‘enthralling’, ‘engrossing’, ‘fantasy without the waffle’. The book will suit reluctant or time-poor readers who want a book that is easy to pick up and dive into with movie-like action. Book II: No Place for Peace – coming October 11th, 2021.


Title : The Look Of A King
Author : Tom Dumbrell
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 262
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : March 6, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Historical in a fantasy world
Coming of age in war time
Identity

The Look of a King was a fast and engaging read. It was historical, in a fantasy world but not a magical world. It had some themes I really enjoy like found family, familial relationships and all that happening during a time of great unrest and war in this world.

The protagonist Cyrus was very likeable, humble and lacking in self belief but due to the circumstances of the story, there was a lot of character growth. Cyrus was a young man, finding his way in the world, finding a personal route in life until holy twist on a stick, things happened.

Talking of twists the story had a smattering of them, none of which I saw on the horizon, so that kept me glued to the story. There were some great side characters, those to cheer for and those not so much. The two sides of the coin could not have been more different despite outward appearances and ugh, I did not like one character in particular.

I would say that this book is definitely a grower, it didn’t start with a boom but it got me on board in a few chapters. I’ve ended it really wanting to know what’s going to happen with the double crossing, double-faced characters and with those I’m rooting for. Tom Dumbrell has written a great debut with care; it’s definitely worth checking out.

Thank you to the author for the gifted copy, this did not affect my honest review.

COOL FOR THE SUMMER by Dahlia Adhler

Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life.

Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.

Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?

Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.



Title : Cool For The Summer
Author : Dahlia Adhler
Format : eARC
Page Count : 272
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Wenesday Books
Release Date : May 11, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

If you’re looking for a cute summery romance that happens to feature a girl torn between the guy she’s crushed on for years and the girl she met, and discovered previous unknown parts of herself with, over the summer, you should definitely pick this one up. This would be a great way to kick off the season of beach-y reads.

How do you tell people who’ve listened to you babble about your crush on a guy for a thousand years that whoops, you spent the summer fooling around with a girl?

What keeps this from being a love instead of a like is that certain parts did feel a little rushed (which makes sense as this isn’t very long) and while I believed in the unexpected romance between the girls, and also could totally understand the protagonist’s longtime crush on the boy, I didn’t quite buy into him suddenly sitting up and noticing her after so long. And I didn’t quite buy.. something else, that I realize might be a bit spoilery. This isn’t going well to explain my reasons but suffice it to say some parts of how this was set up and executed was so well done, others.. less so.

How do you tell your closest friends, when you only have one year left before you all head off in new directions, that they don’t know you as well as they think? How do you have that conversation when it means facing that you didn’t know yourself as well as you thought you did?

Additionally, I think I only actually liked our main character? I didn’t dislike the romantic interests, or anyone really, but she was the only one who felt really well rounded. I loved how she discovered a new sense of herself (beyond her sexuality) when she was put into a situation away from her home and longstanding friends. I loved how she started seeing herself from the outside and how she felt hampered by that view but would also think about the friendships and relationships had defined so much of her life. Not in a negative way, I loved the reflections she had about her very different friend group, but I really liked the introspection, of trying to figure herself out. Again, I really liked Lara.

Cool For the Summer is a quick fun read that also has a bit of YA-appropriate steam. Between the bi-questioning, the very different kinds of love interests, and the Grease vibes, this is definitely worthy of being on your radar.

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

YOU AND ME ON VACATION by Emily Henry – double review!

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart–she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown–but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together–lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?


Title : You and Me On Vacation (UK) / People We Meet On Vacation
Author : Emily Henry
Narrator : Julia Whelan
Format : Paperback/Audio/eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : romance
Publisher : Penguin UK / Berkley
Release Date : May 11, 2021

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Roller coaster friendship/love
Holiday vibes
Chem-is-try

There was nothing that I didn’t enjoy about Emily Henry’s upcoming release. The fact that she delivers on summery read to remember (again) and that I was lucky to read and listen in tandem to this book. Both formats were as good as one another.

You and Me on Vacation was told over a number of summers, charting the most lovely friendship; in the main this was platonic…until it wasn’t. Then, oh boy, the chemistry set fire to the pages, slowly.

We’re magnets, trying to draw together even as we cradle the careful distance between us.

In all the ways, both Poppy and Alex were opposite in personality and goals. They worked so well as friends and their summer trips were fun expeditions and something they both lived for. I loved seeing these trips unfurl as the years were recounted. I loved the people they met, the places they went but nothing was more interesting than THIS SUMMER. I loved getting back to that narrative.

The pages of this book, the minutes of the audio just turned themselves and I was sad to get to the end. Emily Henry knows how to inject just a little drama and tension with a great contemporary story. I’m here for next summer’s installment!

Narration-wise, this was single POV and single narration and it was excellent. I got all the sense of characterisation and the emotional feels from the listen. It’s such a perfect format to absorb the story while on literal vacation!

Thank you to Penguin for the gorgeous book and audio early copies.


Hollis’ 4 star review

I absolutely loved Beach Read so to say People We Meet On Vacation was highly anticipated would be an understatement. Expectations were high (sorry self! sorry book!). Then I found out it was a best-friends-to-lovers romance and I braced myself; it’s not one of my favourite tropes (though I like it a lot more than second chance romances) and the track record for enjoyment has been pretty hit or miss. I don’t mind people who initially start as friends and transition but long-time friends to more? I don’t know, I’m generally not sold.

But this might be a new favourite?

He is tall, quiet, and eager to see the library. I’m short, loud, and hoping someone comes by and invites us to a real party. By the time we part ways, I’m fairly confident we’ll never speak again.

The way this story was told flirts with that “one day a year in the life” concept but in a much better way. Also, on the topic, the flashback element? Solid. Sometimes it just does not work well but it was so good. Particularly how it built. Also also this was one of the better-done third act breakups (it’s not a spoiler, we all know to expect it!) because I hate manufactured drama and this just felt perfectly timed for r e a s o n s.

When a hot babe approaches you at a bar, the number one thing you should not bring up is your codependent relationship with your asshole cat.”
First of all, Flannery O’Connor is not an asshole. She’s shy.”
She’s evil.
She just doesn’t like you. You have strong dog energy.”

This doesn’t quite get full marks from me but I think that’s my fault. Mostly. The ARC has some minor but annoying formatting issues, yes, but more than anything I think I just read this too fast. I did not savour this experience and I wonder if maybe I should’ve soaked up the feels and the nuance and the awkward and the everything else that this book did such a good job of doing. I will definitely be adding this to the re-read pile and I hope to eventually come back and bump this up a little higher. But it’s still such a great time. Because of the sorta-grumpy-sunshine mix. The millenial ennui. The way so much just didn’t go according to plan. The heart. The so much more I’m not even touching on.

I think you’ll like this! And if nothing else you can live vicariously through the vacation and jetsetting. That alone is worth picking this up. The laughs and swoons are just a bonus.

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

A VOW SO BOLD AND DEADLY by Brigid Kemmerer – double review!

Face your fears, fight the battle.

Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace. 

Fight the battle, save the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and a dangerous enemy returns, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.


Title : A Vow So Bold and Deadly
Author : Brigid Kemmerer
Series : Cursebreakers (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)/audio review
Page Count : 408
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA/Audio
Release Date : January 26, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think I’m only actually bothering to review this one because I have reviews for the first two on the blog and so my completionist gene poked me to.. well, complete the trilogy of reviews. But overall I really don’t have much to say?

I think ultimately what failed this series, though, was the villain. Where it worked was that often the stakes did feel high because the violence and death toll was real. The author did not shy away from some of the more brutal consequences. But at the same time.. like, it felt not high at all? I still struggle with the motivations of it all, really. It felt a bit like a misstep because the whole conflict felt off balance. And then ultimately.. I mean, really? All that for.. what.

But likewise I feel like the other characters, too, had their moments with this. Maybe that’s why this series never achieved great heights for me. I think I like the concepts and the unfolding of the story but kept getting knocked out of it because the characters themselves didn’t quite match the rest.

Having said that, though, the big confrontation conflict moment? Confusing. Chaos. Hard to follow. And then.. over. That is my biggest gripe with this particular installment. I had lost the love over the main pairing back at the end of book one, or early two, so I was only into the secondary pairing, and they definitely delivered. The first? Less so. But I think that also plays into me just not being into the main plot? And is why I liked book two more? Did I rate this book too high? Is this actually a 2.5? Hm.

Anyway. Overall, this series had some things to like about it but also had enough that either didn’t pan out or just didn’t work for me. But it also made for quick reads (this one being no exception) and I’m not mad about the time I spent in this world; but nor will they linger in my memory; which is totally fine. I need every ounce of salvagable free space in my brain I can get.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Family fighting
New roles for old friends
The threat of war

I’m feeling an overall sense of satisfaction with where the series has left readers and the latter part of the reading journey was incredibly fulfilling. Some of the middle journey didn’t always keep me fully engaged.

The two factions of this story were really pitched against one another at the end of the previous book with the queen of evil in the middle. I appreciated the stories on both sides of this but what has been hugely interesting to me has been my own feelings across the series as I’ve gravitated from one set of characters to another in terms of loyalty. I wanted to stay in Grey’s crew and had to remind myself to care about Rhen and Harper. I do feel like Harper’s character has faded a little across the series. Lia Mara still left me feeling a bit ambivalent.

Things I enjoyed about this installment included the strategy, the uncertainty that characters had of one another, healing of old hurts and reconciliations. It felt good to complete the series.

This was an audio listen and I enjoyed the narrators, the atmosphere and the general vibe of the book in this format. There was an early slip up with one narrator saying ‘Lia Maria’ instead of Lia Mara a few times, but it didn’t get repeated more than twice.

Readers new to the series will get to power through the three books and I think this will be a great binge.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for this audio review copy.

BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.


Title : Black Sun
Author : Rebecca Roanhorse
Series : Between Earth and Sky (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 464
Genre : fantasy / sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : October 13, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

So obviously this isn’t the five star review all my friends, and likely your friends, are writing. So skip right by.

For the second time in the last month (maybe.. what even is time) or so I have attempted to dive into a fantasy to pull me out of this endless slump and for the second time.. it has not worked. Has, in fact, failed miserably. This is probably, very likely, a me thing; hence the skipping.

What works? This isn’t yet another generic-Euro-centric fantasy. The writing is easy; I chewed through this very quickly despite the chonkyness. It was very queer.

That’s all I got. I know, I suck, I’m sorry.

Give this a try, you’ll probably like it.

PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir – double review!

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission – and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crew mates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realises that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian – while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.


Title : Project Hail Mary
Author : Andy Weir
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : Sci-Fi
Publisher : Del Rey UK
Release Date : May 4, 2021

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Rookie astronaut
Dystopia background
A rainbow of emotions

Just wow. I feel like Project Hail Mary has spoilt me for other books in 2021 and it’s only April. So much could be said about the plot but everything would potentially be spoilery, so this review will be more about the reading experience than context. All I can say about context is that Earth was in peril, the protagonist Ryland Grace was an unusual ‘saviour’ and that the story was complex but so wonderfully deep and follow-able. I highlighted a lot but again, no quotes shared here so as not to spoil.

I am science-geeky, I like my sci-fi reads to be well grounded in science and good research. This book had all that and more. For me, this book might just top The Martian or at least tie, in terms of that kind of goodness. What we got in this book was a deep sophistication of writing alongside the most amazing plot.

I didn’t expect the story direction but I delighted in it. I adored Rocky and that Rookie-Rocky connection so damn much. I loved the linguistics, the materials, the experiments, the in-space context as well as the earth context. The past and present narrative was excellently executed and not overused. It had a real purpose in this story and when answers from the past came, they really were worth the wait.

There were so many banter-y moments of dialogue/monologue, sarcasm, laugh out loud moments that made this signature Weir. However, there were bucket-loads of tension and surprisingly, I found myself in tears twice, once in sadness and another time in pure joy.

I cannot imagine this not being at the top ten of 2021 reads, it’s definitely a contender and totally unforgettable. Please, please can we have a film too? I imagine this is going to be epic on audio and so I’ll be planning in a re-read that way.

Thank you DelReyUK for the early review copy, you made my year!


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So I definitely did not like this as much as my buddy (hi buddy!) but I did like it.

Despite my insane love for The Martian (the movie), I’ve actually not read the book, or any Weir, so this was my first experience with the author. And wow he really doesn’t skimp on the science! Page after page had me feeling more and more stupid but it was also.. easy to follow? Like, nothing was dummed down but it was still explained in a way that I understand. So on behalf of dummies everywhere, thank you?

While there was some humour, however, I didn’t much like the dialogue. Whether this character in particular was supposed to be a little weird or a little silly or just offbeat, or that’s just how the author writes (I can’t say!), I don’t know. But I found it was a weird balance.

There is plenty of uncertainty, suspense, some feels, and yes, a few laughs. There are definitely moments that stand out for me (Rocky!) but overall I don’t think I’ll think much about this overall. But that said, this is very actiony and tense and exciting and, honestly, will make a fabulous movie. I would definitely watch it.

JUST LAST NIGHT by Mhairi McFarlane – double review!

International bestseller Mhairi McFarlane explores lifelong friendships, long-buried secrets, and unexpected love in a heartfelt, emotional new novel, perfect for fans of Evvie Drake Starts Over, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, or In Five Years.

Eve, Justin, Susie, and Ed have been friends since they were teenagers. Now in their thirties, the four are as close as ever, Thursday night bar trivia is sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed. Maybe she should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed still thinks about it, too.

But then, in an instant, their lives are changed forever.

In the aftermath, Eve’s world is upended. As stunning secrets are revealed, she begins to wonder if she really knew her friends as well as she thought. And when someone from the past comes back into her life, Eve’s future veers in a surprising new direction…

They say every love story starts with a single moment. What if it was just last night?


Title : Just Last Night/Last Night
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : women’s fiction
Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks/Harper Collins
Release Date : May 4, 2021

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


Hollis’ 5 star review

‘I’ll just pick this up to kill an hour or two before dinner’, she thought. ‘That’s all. Just dip my toe in and then read the rest later or tomorrow.. ‘

.. fast forward to four hours later when I have not even moved from the couch. I swear. No pee breaks, no food, nada. I love that feeling. Also I should’ve known better because not only is it me but it’s also a McFarlane book.

Is my face covered in tears? Yes. Was this exactly what I (even limited #NoBlurber that I am) thought it would be? Nope. Did I love it anyway? Obviously.

This feels like the most McFarlane book to McFarlane since I read Don’t You Forget About Me in 2019. I’ve experimented with some of the author’s backlist, read her most recent release, and now this one. But this is the closest I’ve got to that all-consuming feeling I first had a few years ago upon discovering this author. If you’ve read her before, you know exactly what I mean.

I’m honestly without any kind of words. I’m just feelings. I laughed, I cried, I did both some more, and mostly I just marveled at how good she is at creating complicated messes that don’t feel like someone who is contriving to write about complicated messes. It feels like eavesdropping on real lives, people you sort’ve know, and are therefore invested in. No perfect specimens, no uncomplicated situations. Just real.

I still have a few McFarlane’s to dip into but in looking back through my memories of what I have read I think where I waffle is sometimes I’m just not into the romance element. I’m here for the wit, the biting truthbombs, and the friendships, but sometimes I’m not sold on the romance. I do still think Don’t You Forget About Me tops the chart, even in that respect, but this was the closest I’ve had since. And just, overall, I loved every single thing about it, too.

If you’ve yet to try this author you absolutely must.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Deep and thoughtful plot
Riding the waves of grief
Behind the face of friendship

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest Mhairi McFarlane book, it was definitely my favourite of hers so far. This is a story all about friendships, unpeeling the layers, finding why you love your friends so much but also finding the real, the skeletons, the unsavoury. Friendships are messy and Last Night really explored that.

Eve was the protagonist but she was alongside the cast of Susie, Ed, Justin and later Finlay. The overarching plot theme was grief. I felt like this was represented so well, seeing friends and family members grieve differently, dealing with the practicalities of death and then the overwhelming emotions. I was gripped and invested by this journey.

Grief often is a catalyst for change, it can facilitate a re-examining of your life and events and this happened to Eve and others. I loved seeing the grudging friendship develop between her and Finlay and what a story that ended up being. Even though this was a story about grief, there were many funny and sarcastic lines that tickled me.

“Is it too soon for me to say “You’re a fucking menace in a polka dots, sister”was an absolutely incredible line?!” Justin whispers.

Thank you to Harper Collins for the review copy.

RULE OF WOVES by Leigh Bardugo

The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.

The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible. 

The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.

The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.

King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.


Title : Rule of Wolves
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Series : King of Scars (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 598
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Imprint
Release Date : March 30, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So I think I’m in a pretty similar space and feeling about this book as I was with book one. It didn’t quite deliver the kicking of ass I expected but I was a lot less bored. And yet..

I don’t know, I feel like this book did a lot of good, or great things, but I think I enjoyed it because of the whole. This really is a ‘verse now, and we had even more reunions and cameos in this follow up installment than we did in book one, and I did enjoy myself. But this particular book and series? I don’t know.

But what this spinoff set up for us to come? Some of the loose ends, or unknowns, it tied up and revealed to us? I mean, I’m pretty satisfied.

While I was less bored, which was my main complaint about King of Scars, this did take me a huge chunk of the day to get through (and yes it a chonky book in general) because it just didn’t compell me, capture my attention, keep me from reaching for twitter. But despite that it did keep me reading all day which is in short supply lately (always).

So, make of all this what you will! I will continue to reach for books, or whatever kind of content (one week as of the writing of this before the show!) Bardugo offers us, but is this series a favourite? No. Maybe on reread? Who can say. But I had a good time anyway.