MONTHLY WRAP UP – NOVEMBER 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

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune — see Micky’s review here
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin — see Hollis’ review here
The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin — see Hollis’ review here
Cracked by Eliza Crewe — see Hollis’ review here
Crushed by Eliza Crewe — see Hollis’ review here
Crossed by Eliza Crewe — see Hollis’ review here
The Kinsmen Universe by Ilona Andrews — see Micky’s review here
The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams — see Micky’s review here
Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier — see Micky’s review here
House Swap by Olivia Beirne — see Micky’s review here
Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews — see Hollis’ review here
When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari — see Micky’s review here
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhou — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore — see Hollis’ review here
The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin — see Hollis’ review here
The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling — see Hollis’ review here
The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi — see Hollis’ review here
Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo — see Hollis’ review here
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell — see Micky’s review here
Out Of The Blue by P. Dangelico — see Micky’s review here
Seer of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier — see Micky and Hollis’ reviews here
Gilded by Marissa Meyer — see Micky’s review here
Murder Most Actual by Alexis Hall — see Micky’s review here
Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

star reads

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao — see Hollis’ review here

u n r a t e d

DNF


additional reads not reviewed for blog : The Girl With The Louding Voice, Covet, Seven Devils, A Memory of Summer, This Poison Heart
total reads by Micky : eighteen
favourite read of the month : Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
least favourite read of the month : Murder Most Actual by Alexis Hall
most read genre : SFF

total reviews by Hollis : thirteen
favourite read of the month : Soul Eaters series by Eliza Crewe
least favourite read of the month : You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao
most read genre : fantasy

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – NOVEMBER 30, 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.


Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult was out in the UK on November 25, 2021, and is out everywhere else today.

Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey is the ninth and final book in the beloved The Expanse series. We are big fans of the show (which also has its final series airing in December!) and there may be a binge of these chonky sci-fi books in our future.

Girls of Fate and Fury by Natasha Ngan is another series finale which promises to be “stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking“.

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee is yet another series finale and may inspire yet another binge (overdue!) of this East Asia-inspired fantasy saga ala The Godfather with intergenerational blood feuds, vicious politics, magic, and kungfu.



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

CROSSED by Eliza Crewe

War is here.

Full-scale war has erupted between the Crusaders and demons and even Chi has to admit isn’t going well. Like any sensible rat, Meda’s eager to abandon the sinking ship but, unfortunately, her friends aren’t nearly as pragmatic. Instead, Meda’s forced to try to keep them all alive until the dust settles.

As the Crusaders take more and more drastic measures, the tables turn and Meda suddenly finds herself in the role of voice of sanity. No one is more horrified than she is. When old enemies reappear as new allies and old friends become new enemies Meda has to decide—again—whose side she’s really on.

And then the Crusaders decide that Meda should go to Hell. Literally.

Can’t a monster ever catch a break?


Title : Crossed
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : August 13, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

I definitely expected this ending to be unexpected but the fact that it was also delightful and delicious? So good.

I have seen too much good in my enemies, too much evil in my allies.

Obviously there’s even less I can say about this finale than the books that came before because I in no way want to spoil the surprises that await you. But just know.. they await. Patiently.

It’s this, my own depravity, that makes me unable to condemn others for theirs, that makes me want to believe that no matter what mistakes I make, that there is forgiveness. There is hope.

This series has a snarky hilarious narrative built around our not-at-all innocent soul eater, a half demon, Meda. It has strong female friendships that are complicated by differences and realness but endure nonetheless. It has an interesting and complex romantic element that constantly surprised me. It has darkness and violence but also hope and light. And so much more.

Just as the Crusaders are plagued with hate, demons are afflicted with hope. The equal opposite nature of the cosmic game board means no one is above reproach, and no one is below it.

If you’re looking to beef up your backlist reading, you love YA, and you enjoy a twist on the usual formula; if you love to revel in some excellent dialogue around good and evil, the truths we avoid and the lies we tell ourselves, no matter what side we’re on, this would be a high recommend from me.



KINGDOM OF GODS by N.K. Jemisin

For two thousand years the Arameri family has ruled the world by enslaving the very gods that created mortalkind. Now the gods are free, and the Arameris’ ruthless grip is slipping. Yet they are all that stands between peace and world-spanning, unending war. 


Title : Kingdom of Gods
Author : N.K. Jemisin
Series : Inheritance Trilogy (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 613
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : October 11, 2011

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m trying not to be bummed because three stars is still a good rating (and I think I’m an outlier, on a brief scan of ratings on GR) but this just didn’t satisfy me the way books one and two did.

I’ve mentioned in my other review that the way book two fit into book one was different but still connected. Well that trend continues with book three but this one steps even further away from the major themes that connected those earlier instalments. This one also shifts gears in the particular perspective we follow.

Regardless of my liking of it, though, it’s impossible to argue against the fact that Jemisin did really interesting things with this. We really delved into the meat of her world, her characters, and the division between her mortals and her gods and all from the perspective of a character we’ve grown to love up until this point. But while I appreciated some new facets to him, and again a better understanding of the way it all worked, I think the problem was I just wasn’t as compelled by him; or the new characters we met along the way.

But again, it was all interesting.

It can’t be said Jemisin isn’t creative as hell and what she does with her concepts, the narratives and explorations, not to mention her late stage reveals, are just brilliant. And while I dragged my feet a bit, and didn’t love the (long) journey of this one every step of the way, I did actually like the ending. It’s such a change from where we started and I love that.

And it’s not over! I actually have two novellas still to complete but I don’t think I’ll do much reviewing of them unless they blow me away. So thus concludes the last series on my latest Five On Our TBRs list. Super glad I gave myself the push to get through this and don’t regret a single moment of it. If you’ve read to read Jemisin, if you’ve yet to read this debut series of hers, don’t delay. I highly recommend.

SKIN OF THE SEA by Natasha Bowen

An unforgettable fantasy debut inspired by West African mythology, this is Children of Blood and Bone meets The Little Mermaid, in which a mermaid takes on the gods themselves.

A way to survive.
A way to serve.
A way to save.

Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata–a mermaid–collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.

But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi does the unthinkable–she saves his life, going against an ancient decree. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy it.

To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But something is amiss. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail. . . .

Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she doesn’t, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.


Title : Skin of the Sea
Author : Natasha Bowen
Format : Physical ARC
Page Count : 323
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : November 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
West African fantasy wow
Slavery and fighting back
Lush cover

I’m blown away by the cover on this book, it is stunning and provides such a fantastic visual for Simi the main character. I really bought into this story initially, Simi being a mermaid-esque being but able to transform to human on land. Her job was to collect the souls of those dying at sea, particularly slaves killed on the boats taking them away from their native shores.

I really loved the early elements of the folk lore& gods but it did get more complicated and a bit harder to follow at times. It wasn’t a long book but the second half felt a little longer than it should have to me. Kola, the human alongside Simi had a joint quest to fulfill with Simi and that premise for the story was interesting but again with a rather complex set of gods and magical elements to follow.

I liked this book but sadly I didn’t love it like I thought I might. I’d definitely read this author again however and I really appreciated the slavery perspective and generally the African fantasy context.

Please check out some black reviewers on this book. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC through netgalley.

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali Hazelwood

When a fake relationship between scientists meets the irresistible force of attraction, it throws one woman’s carefully calculated theories on love into chaos.

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive on her way to a happily ever after was always going to be tough, scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting woman, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when he agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire and Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support (and his unyielding abs), their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion.

Olive soon discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.


Title : The Love Hypothesis
Author : Ali Hazelwood
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : September 27, 2021

Reviewer :  Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Awkward equals awesome
Tentative growing feelings
Consumed every word

I inhaled every word of this book as best I could over 24 hours with a work day in the middle, but if I could have done, I would have read this front to back without a break. It really was unputdownable.

This contemporary romance set in academia and around PhD programmes in STEM was so much fun for me because so much of it resonated, even though my PhD programme didn’t have so much excitement. The life of an academic was so true to life, the pressures, the pedanticness, the politics and good bits too. There were a lot of funny details that were all so real to me, jokes that hit the funny bone. I loved seeing this world in the background of a fantastic story with engaging characters.

…but academia was a lawless land.

These two, Olive and Adam were all quirk and awkwarness. From that kiss on the cover, to the uncomfortable realisation of feelings, was brilliantly writtten with endearing characterisation. Adam the ass of a supervisor, brought a genuine and honest side of himself to Olive from the beginning. Olive was a sometimes chaotic and always committed student, who was in the fake relationship for the sugar.

The plot was interesting in every moment, even through the uncomfortable themes that arose. I didn’t want the story to end but I appreciated the smiles that crossed my face when reading. Also did I mention the heat? Yeah, that was great.

Thank you Piatkus for the review copy of this now firm 2021 favourite.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – NOVEMBER 23, 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.


Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon is the ninth (!) book in the long running Outlander series and marks the first release in almost ten years. Sheesh. Who else needs a reread?

Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews and.. oh, you stopped reading after Ilona? Us too. Who even cares what these authors are publishing; we’ll be reading it.
(incase you’re curious though it’s a new novella in their Kinsmen universe).

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson is the third book in the Skyward series (trilogy?) “about a girl who will travel beyond the stars to save the world she loves from destruction.



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

FATED BLADES by Ilona Andrews

An uneasy alliance between warring families gets heated in this otherworldly novella from bestselling author Ilona Andrews.

At first glance, the planet Rada seems like a lush paradise. But the ruling families, all boasting genetically enhanced abilities, are in constant competition for power―and none more so than the Adlers and the Baenas. For generations, the powerful families have pushed and pulled each other in a dance for dominance.

Until a catastrophic betrayal from within changes everything.

Now, deadly, disciplined, and solitary leaders Ramona Adler and Matias Baena must put aside their enmity and work together in secret to prevent sinister forces from exploiting universe-altering technology. Expecting to suffer through their uneasy alliance, Ramona and Matias instead discover that they understand each other as no one in their families can―and that their combined skills may eclipse the risks of their forbidden alliance.

As the two warriors risk their lives to save their families, they must decide whether to resist or embrace the passion simmering between them. For now, the dance between their families continues―but just one misstep could spell the end of them both. 


Title : Fated Blades
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Kinsmen (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 222
Genre : fantasy sci-fi romance
Publisher : Montlake
Release Date : November 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, listen, this might not measure up to other books by these authors that I’ve given four stars to but it feels like it’s been a hundred years since they published a book (time has no meaning anymore) and I started having a good time almost immediately after starting it, and said good times pretty much didn’t stop, so. It gets a four.

He felt a sudden urge to do something dramatic and impressive. He needed to get ahold of himself.

I probably should’ve reread the preceding novellas to see if there was, in fact, any carry-over or easter eggs in this one because as far as I can remember the first two were completely unconnected, beyond being set in the same universe, and this one feels the same. I’ll leave it to my blog buddy to confirm this, though, as she’s read them more recently than me.

All you really need to know is this is Andrews but sci-fi. The world, the hierarchies, it’s all pretty much explained in this novella so if you choose to start here, you aren’t going in with a loss of context. Everything relevant you need is here.

Am I seeing things? Clearly this is just a weirdly specific bad dream, one where two people who hate each other team up to bust into my office and destroy my prized furniture.

Oh, and also? It’s an enemies-to-lovers romance but more in the sense that the enmity is inherited, not personal, and they have to come together in an extreme situation when they are both, similarly, betrayed. The journey takes them through a reluctant teaming up, to respect, to.. well, more. Obviously.

If you like action scenes, if you like family politics, if you like snark and banter, if you like my-enemy-is-my-enemy-but-I’m-making-them-my-friend dynamics, and also if you can’t infer the other trope I won’t list by the title..? Well, just give it a think.

This is a very biased review because there are so few books by this duo I don’t enjoy and I would honestly read their grocery list and probably have a good time. And I make no apologies for it. If you haven’t yet joined the Andrews bandwagon, what are you waiting for?

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

CRUSHED by Eliza Crewe

Meda Melange has officially hung up her monstrous mantle and planted her feet firmly on the holy and righteous path of a Crusader-in-training. Or, at least, she’s willing to give it a shot. It helps that the Crusaders are the only thing standing between her and the demon hordes who want her dead.

The problem is, the only people less convinced than Meda of her new-found role as Good Girl are the very Crusaders she’s trying to join. So when a devilishly handsome half-demon boy offers escape, how’s a girl supposed to say “no?”

After all, everyone knows a good girl’s greatest weakness is a bad boy.

uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.


Title : Crushed
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 271
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : August 5, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

So, yes, I’ll admit the rating on this one may be a bit confusing but I’ll explain. This one is not quite as satisfyingly all around excellent as book one but nonetheless it’s still really good. Which is why it’s rounding up. But within the ranking of the series it’s worth noting this is not quite on par.

Having said that, Crewe had already shown she was willing to do things differently with this series and she continues that trend and then some. While things in this world are pretty black and white, despite some book one teasing about the good guys willing to lie, cheat, and steal, as long as their intentions were honourable or purposeful to the cause, this one really leans into the extremes for which both sides will go to win. And for Meda, who is half demon and half good, with a third important element within her at play, this is a dangerous place to be; especially when she’s chosen the side she’s chosen.

Contrary to what you might expect, I don’t go on a murderous rampage. A real monster is too clever for that. A real monster shakes the hands of elderly couples as he invests their life’s savings in his Ponzi scheme; she kisses babies and runs for political office; he waits until she’s in love. A real monster knows that an attack huts; but a betrayal scars.

It’s not easy being caught up amongst the stirrings of a war and she learns she doesn’t fit anywhere. Worse, her best friend, doesn’t seem to be standing with her, either. And that’s the final straw. Something’s got to give.

I can’t be good, but apparently I can’t be mad, either. I’m a wasted half of everything.

Honestly, I’ll admit, the first half of this book was hard. It was hard seeing Meda stuck where she was and at the mercy of those around her. Specifically there was a possession scene that had me crawling out of my skin. It was just.. wow. Huge kudos. This series, for all its darkness and violence and death, has never felt truly dark or horror-ish but that moment was it for me. Hoo boy.

But, don’t worry, the humour was still here too. Meda’s voice is a little less cheeky, mostly because of her circumstances, but it’s still there. And there’s heartbreak, too, that was so beautifully done. Again, this author is really challenging our expectations for the usual plotlines and expectations of how things go, particularly with YA.

Super excited to see how Crewe wraps this in book three because I have a feeling more unexpected excellence is awaiting me but I won’t have to wait long because yes I’m diving right in.

THE BROKEN KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a homeless man who glows like a living sun to her strange sight. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. 

Oree’s peculiar guest is at the heart of it, his presence putting her in mortal danger — but is it him the killers want, or Oree? And is the earthly power of the Arameri king their ultimate goal, or have they set their sights on the Lord of Night himself?


Title : The Broken Kingdoms
Author : N.K. Jemisin
Series : Inheritance Trilogy (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : November 3, 2010

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

And here I was just saying how book one hadn’t been as devastating as other Jemisin works. Welp, eating my words a little here. Nom.

I had a weird time with this book because while it was so different from book one, it was also great. Yet I had a hard time focusing on it despite that. Probably a me thing. Though there could’ve also been a bit of a middle lull. But I’m not shaving off any points because overall I’m so enjoying this story. And also because the last 15%? I devoured. And I was aforementioned devastated by.

I definitely shouldn’t have doubted this author because how the hell did we end book one with a very clear horrible villain and here I am in book two.. feeling bad for them?

While I couldn’t have predicted how this series tied together after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, it makes so much sense now. I may have been overthinking it because, haha, in hindsight it’s obvious. Also not quite as mind-bendy as the narrative in her other series, which is fine, because again, I think this is a more palatable and easier fantasy to follow and process. But that doesn’t make it any less interesting or special or challenging or thought provoking.

It’s all very well to say the world values reason and compassion and justice, but if nothing in reality reflects those words, they’re meaningless.

It’s been ten years since the end of the big shake-up, the end of book one, and in The Broken Kingdoms we follow Oree, who is blind but able to navigate to some degree due to her ability to see the echoes and presence of magic. She lives in the shadow of the World Tree, under the city where book one took place, which is city now populated by godlings. Some are her friends, another was a lover, and so when godlings start dying, Oree is caught in the middle of it. Made worse by the presence of a stranger she rescues who won’t speak, isn’t a godling, but is something.. else.

Watching the way things played out in the aftermath of book one was, in some ways, somewhat predictable, based on the geas, but in other ways? Not at all.

Even now, with a better understanding of the way this series is piecing itself together, I can’t predict what might await us in book three. Mostly because I’m sure Jemisin has some surprises along the way. And hopefully some more devastations. Because what can I say, she does them well, and I like the pain.

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