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.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – MAY 4, 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.


Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is for those science-y sci-fi lovers/geeks and delivers on story that has high tension and feels (yes feels).

Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane (well, really anything by this author) should absolutely be on your radar! Need more than that? Check out our review here.

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Gaffney is a tale of blackmail, colour and to-do lists. This YA is entertaining from the start.


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

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.

HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING by Denise Williams – double review!

One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.

When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.

Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.

Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.


Title : How to Fail at Flirting
Author : Denise Williams
Format : Paperback / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : December 1, 2020

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Good guy
Finding your voice
Academia
Work complications

This book has left me so up in my feels, warm, fuzzy and satisfied ones. I feel like this book was written for me because it was a great romance and the protagonist was in academia. You can tell the author navigates this life because as a female PhD myself in a male dominated world, on the endless hamster wheel of teaching and publications, there are endless goal posts.

Naya was a superb heroine, flawed and strong, striving and trying to disappear at the same time; I just loved her. This book had definite triggers for some (check out other reviews for trigger warnings or DM me) but that sensitive context really had me drawn in to Naya’s past, her present and future.

Let’s talk Jake, a nerd, cute and a great guy. It took time to reveal his character and I liked that I felt in Naya’s position, trying to work him out, was he really a good guy? The cheese was perfection, the chemistry was firey and delightful and the on-page romantics were just right. I really dug how this story played out, the banter, the sweetness, the demonstration of caring.

The plot lines were wholly realistic but the romance and the relationship never got lost, in fact, it was the navigation of the relationship alongside real life that made this book. Davis…I have no words, what a disgusting creature he was, he totally gave me the chills and not good ones.

I crushed How To Fail At Flirting in less than 24 hours which is pretty good for this woman with a family. Life is full of interruptions but this book had to be pulled from my hands to go out for a walk, that was my sacrifice for the day.

Do yourself a favour and pick this book up. I simply cannot wait for Denise Williams’ next book.

Thank you to Piatkus/Little Brown UK for the review copy.


Hollis’ 2.5 stars review

Obviously, going from the above rave review to mine is jarring and because I’m mostly struggling to like anything right now, it’s also likely worth ignoring.

That said, this isn’t remotely the laugh out loud and have good times romcom I wanted, and felt I needed. There are heavy topics within (seek out trigger warnings if you need them) and some not only uncomfortable flashback/memory scenes, but also stuff on page I did not expect. I think the discussion of partner violence is very important and what Naya, our main character, had experienced and was still processing is not often talked about. I think it was also important to see that there isn’t “one type” of person who will experience it. Or “one type” of person who will inflict it on others. Both these individuals being in academia, respected, was a very real change of pace from what I, at least, have experienced before in fiction. Which, I mean, sounds like a good thing? But it’s also not. Because it made me incredibly uncomfortable how much page time it got. See aforementioned “not remotely a laugh out loud and have good times romcom”.

Moving onto those laugh out loud and have good times, however, the romance was both very lovely and also let me down a bit. Things happen pretty quickly, another thing I did not expect. But, for all that Jake was more or less perfect, he at least came with a carry-on sized bit of baggage. Not much, but something. Though part of his own plot never actually resolved, despite the page time, which is.. convenient? I guess.

While I did enjoy the change in pace from office romances to an academic-set contemporary, I’ll admit I wasn’t too enthralled. I felt we never really got enough into what Naya did, beyond being good at it, and wanting tenure and being worried about department cuts. Honestly, it could’ve been about, and set in, anything else with some creative swapping out of scenes.

So what was good, you ask? Supporting cast. Naya’s friends were the best (a female friend AND a male friend, we love it!), and I liked Jake’s friends, too, even though they had even less page time. Naya trying to break out, take control of her life again — even if it’s more or less browbeat into her by her supportive friends (which I have mixed feelings about..) — and then, through Jake, reclaim her body, take charge of her sexuality, speak her mind.. I really liked that. There were very lovely glimmers in this story that worked for me. It just, in my opinion, kind of made a bit of hash in how some things played out.

Would I read the author again? Probably. No, definitely. This was a debut so I would definitely try again. But that said, I might acquaint myself a little better with a synopsis (gasp, who is she), or a review or three, just to better gauge if the next story is more in line with what I want, or need, in the moment. I’m not usually, or ever, a mood reader but I picked this up specifically wanting fun and fluff and, as mentioned over and over, it’s not what I got. Therefore this gets a cautious recommend from me; if it sounds like something you want, definitely give it a go.

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