LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.

Like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.


Title : Lessons in Chemistry
Author : Bonnie Garmus
Format : ebook
Page Count : 392
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Transworld Digital
Release Date : April 5, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 4.5-5 star review

Headlines:
Here for Six Thirty
Raging misogyny
Gratitude to all the feminists before me

What an utterly brilliant read Lessons in Chemistry was. It was funny, with so many lines making me laugh out loud, it hurt my heart in numerous parts, it made me feel angry but it was overall wonderful. A read for all genders who are feminst.

This era of feminism (1950s) isn’t one I’ve reflected on much but life was damn difficult for those crossing very set boundaries. Elizabeth Zott, chemist, feminist and one prone to bold, frank speech had her work cut out. The tale took us through her life in a male-dominated academic profession, falling in love, family and fighting to find her place again. It was sweeping, captivating and full of immense hope. Zott never meant to be funny but she was.

This read was equally challenging as it was amusing. Elizabeth Zott experienced things one never should, as did other women in this piece. I want to say nothing about the other character in this book that sold the story one chapter at a time, because if you read this, you need to discover this character as it arises (sorry for the mystery).

I finished the final pages in utter tears. I’ve been thinking ever since about how I have strode on in academia, yes facing misogyny, but nothing like Zott did. I was able to apply for and complete a PhD and be respected for my work and contribution to knowledge without thinkng there’s a man behind it. I am grateful to every women that has strode before me on this journey.

What a book, a total must-read.

Thank you to Transworld books for the review copy.

MY EYES ARE UP HERE by Laura Zimmermann

Insightful, frank, and funny, My Eyes Are Up Here is a razor-sharp debut about a teenage girl struggling to rediscover her sense of self in the year after her body decided to change all the rules.

A “monomial” is a simple algebraic expression consisting of a single term. 30H, for example. Fifteen-year-old Greer Walsh hasn’t been fazed by basic algebra since fifth grade, but for the last year, 30H has felt like an unsolvable equation – one that’s made her world a very small, very lonely place. 30H is her bra size – or it was the last time anyone checked. She stopped letting people get that close to her with a tape measure a while ago.

Ever since everything changed the summer before ninth grade, Greer has felt out of control. She can’t control her first impressions, the whispers that follow, or the stares that linger after. The best she can do is put on her faithful XXL sweatshirt and let her posture – and her expectations for other people – slump.

But people – strangers and friends – seem strangely determined to remind her that life is not supposed to be this way. Despite carefully avoiding physical contact and anything tighter than a puffy coat, Greer finds an unexpected community on the volleyball squad, the team that hugs between every point and wears a uniform “so tight it can squeeze out tears.” And then there’s Jackson Oates, newly arrived at her school and maybe actually more interested in her banter than her breasts.

Laura Zimmermann’s debut is both laugh-out-loud funny and beautifully blunt, vulnerable and witty, heartbreaking and hopeful. And it will invite listeners to look carefully at a girl who just wants to be seen for all she is.


Title : My Eyes Are Up Here
Author : Laura Zimmermann
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Dutton Books
Release Date : June 23, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Made me sad
Body negativity

This book is about boobs, growing up with them, living with them, accepting them (or not). I am of the big-boobed population, so in some ways I could relate to the protagonist in this story but equally, I really did not relate to her. I did feel really sorry for her, not for her big boobs but for her self-perception and poor body image. The book made me incredibly sad, to be honest.

What I did like about the story was Greer finding a sport she loved and how she navigated the boob problem through playing, made her address her day to day boob-dom. Honestly, sometimes this story was just painful to watch play out and read.

The side story of Jackson and Greer was the nicest thing about the plot if only Greer could look away from her ‘girls’ a moment or two. I did love Jackson’s final declaration at the end, that was worth the wait.

Maybe this book will help young people with big boobs feel seen while trying not to be seen (if you get my drift) but I would have loved to have seen a more positive stance on this issue.

THE CRUEL STARS by John Birmingham

They thought the Sturm were dead. They were wrong.

Centuries after their defeat, the enemy has returned with an overwhelming attack on the fringes of human space. On the brink of annihilation, humankind’s only hope is a few brave souls who survived the initial onslaught: Commander Lucinda Hardy, commander of the Royal Armadalen Navy’s only surviving warship; Booker3, a soldier of Earth, sentenced to die for treason; Alessia, a young royal forced to flee when her home planet is overrun and her entire family executed; Sephina L’trel, the leader of an outlaw band.

And, finally, retired Admiral Frazer McLennan, the infamous hero of the first war with the Sturm, who hopes to rout his old foes once and for all – or die trying.

These five flawed, reluctant heroes must band together to prevail against a relentless enemy and near-impossible odds. For if they fail, the future itself is doomed.


Title : The Cruel Stars
Author : John Birmingham
Series : The Cruel Stars #1
Format : Physical
Page Count : 496
Genre : Sci-Fi
Publisher : Head of Zeus
Release Date : August 19, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Deep saga
Lots of seperate characters & stories
Concentration needed

If sci-fi war and strategy is your kind of thing, then The Cruel Stars may be the story and series starter that you’re looking for. This book reels you in initially but be aware that those characters you just enjoyed reading about switch up pretty quickly and lead you to the style of this book.

For the first half of the book it felt like there were a bunch of short stories, in the same universe, experiencing a similar attack from the Sturm. Over time, these stories did connect but you have to wait for that payoff.

The universe was interesting, with an almost unseen enemy who had different values about modifying and reviving the body and consciousness. There was a lot of unpick and it was pretty complex. I did find it hard going sometimes and I’ve come away with some questions still about what I understand about some elements of the grand plot.

I did a combination of traditional read and audio and the narration was engaging and the different voices kept me orientated to the different stories in tandem. I will definitely continue with the series but I need to do it soon while the plot is still fresh in my mind.

Thank you Head of Zeus for the review copy.

ELEKTRA by Jennifer Saint

The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

Clytemnestra
The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them and determines to win, whatever the cost.

Cassandra
Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

Elektra
The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?


Title : Elektra
Author : Jennifer Saint
Format : Physical
Page Count : 352
Genre : Historical/Greek Mythology
Publisher : Wildfire Publishing
Release Date : April 28, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Women, the powerful and powerless
Vengeance and bitterness
War and tragedy

Buckle up for another great retelling of a famous Greek mythological story but told from three key female perspectives, ones that are lesser known. The story revolved around Clytemenestra, Cassandra and finally Elektra and this was a tale told over decades. There’s much to immerse yourself into and it was an absorbing read filled with tragedy over three parts.

The book took the reader from Sparta to Troy and even other places briefly. I’ve read a fair few Greek mythology books around some of these events, especially Troy but Saint had a fresh perspective to bring on this, especially through Cassandra’s eyes. Expect all the brutality that comes with an authentic telling of these tales, especially violence and sexual violence towards women.

What was interesting about this story was how the women and girls did not stand together, they weren’t united in war, tragedy or loss. Grief drove some to all-consuming bitterness, others to violence and some to a sense of lethargy. There aren’t many characters to like for their personalities but I loved them for their dark sides and unexpected behaviours. Cassandra was the character that stuck out for me the most, the one I empathised with and felt most for.

This second book from Jennifer Saint was a consuming read, easy to digest despite the themes and I am a confirmed fan with this second offering.

Thank you to Wildfire/Headline Books for the early review copy.

ALWAYS YOU by Samantha Young

Arrochar Adair has loved her brother’s ex-bodyguard and best friend, Mac Galbraith, for years. Once upon a time, she was too young for him, but now that she’s a mature woman in her thirties, Arro can see no issue with their difference in age. Yet something deeper, a problem much more difficult to surmount, is keeping them apart.

Mac Galbraith remembers clearly the night Arro became everything to him, no longer just his best friend and boss’s younger sister. However, having made many mistakes over the years, there is one mistake Mac is determined not to make: to believe that he is worthy of Arrochar Adair. Allowing them to grow closer during his daughter, Robyn’s, return has proven his undoing. And when Arro forces the subject of their relationship, his response pushes her away. He just never meant for it to destroy them completely.

Devastated by Mac’s final rejection, Arro is determined to move on without him in her life, though he seems intent on staying put. And when the Adair family face a new threat, one that may have ties to Mac’s past, Arro can’t seem to be rid of the man. In fact, Mac will do anything to protect her.

But with so much hurt between them, will Arro let Mac close enough to guard her from their enemy… before it’s too late?


Title : Always You
Author : Samantha Young
Series : Adair Family #3
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : Romantic Suspense
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Push and pull
Murderous designs
Longings

I’ve been waiting for Mac’s story in particular from the Adair family and it was an epic push and pull of emotions with plenty of angst along the way. The Highland setting remains a great backdrop to this family and as ever with this series, we get the previous couples along the way which I enjoyed.

Arro and Mac’s long and convoluted, crush, attaction, denial, resistance and pull was something to unravel. The narrative had some past and present in the first half to truly understand the history of these two. There was much more to their story than I realised. I had moments of finding both Arro and Mac infuriating, their miscommunications, some of Arro’s actions, followed by Mac’s…but, it made for a deep story and deeper connection.

There was an interesting side story of Mac seeking therapy which I appreciated even if I didn’t really engage that much with the narrative of those sessions. The suspense element of this story harked back to previous vendettas and plots while bringing some newer complications. I do like that this series is romantic suspense.

I love the weaves of Ery’s story being set up and I can’t wait to know more about her. I’m hoping she’s next.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

KAIKEYI by Vaishnavi Patel

In the vein of Madeline Miller’s Circe comes a bold and sweeping debut that reimagines the life of Kaikeyi, the vilified queen of the Indian epic the Ramayana.

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story, that of a young woman determined to create her own destiny in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come. But as she transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most-favored queen, Kaikeyi’s will clashes with the path that has been chosen for her family. And she must decide if her resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak.


Title : Kaikeyi
Author : Vaishnavi Patel
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : historical retelling
Publisher : Redhook
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, I am prefacing this review by saying I know nothing of the epic that inspired this book. I didn’t even know the name Kaikeyi. Had I heard it, I wouldn’t even know to guess what it would be about. But seeing it compared to Circe, or at least likened to this style of female-focused retelling, I had to snatch it up.

Curiously, I read the wikipedia summary after finishing this book and wow. I mean, I don’t know if it’s accurate (again, prefacing, I am Jon Snow and know nothing), but what a different spin on things. And actually it made me appreciate this story even more.

It occurred to me [..] that maybe the gods had marked me for my mother’s sins. Sons could not be held responsible for maternal sins, but daughter’s? [..] Nothing protected me.

I truly don’t even know where to begin, really. This isn’t a short book and nor is it one that you can blast through; this took me hours to read. Maybe I savoured it, maybe I just didn’t rush, but either way, it took time.

The story spans decades, from Kaikeyi’s birth until well into middle age (ish), when her son is almost full grown. We see her grow up amongst many brothers, lose her mother, and try to find a place where she belongs. Then, once married off, she is even more at loose ends having lost the connections and stability she had at home. She struggles for a time to be a wife — one of three — but is lucky enough to be married to a good man who finds more value in her than just someone to give him sons; though she eventually does. And it’s after the birth of her child, and others, that things begin to change again.

Kaikeyi, remember that you did the right thing. You are not wicked.
Then why do I feel wicked?
Because those who are good question themselves. Because those who are good alway wonder if there was a better way, a way that could have helped more and hurt less. That feeling is why you are good.”

Please note, I made a very oversimplified summary of things and omitted a lot because spoilers. There is so much more to this than the above. There are gods, and demons, magical connections, unexpected friendships, the fight to empower other women in a society that only values them to a certain extent, and more.

I was sad this ended, I could have definitely read more, and I do wish some plot points had been made clearer. But maybe that’s just because I’m unfamiliar with the source material. I don’t know. Overall, I thought this was very strong, very interesting, and would absolutely recommend. I will be very interested in Patel’s next release (can you believe this is a debut!?), whether related or not, and will definitely be picking it up.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – APRIL 26, 2022

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.


The Long Game by Rachel Reid is the much anticipated sequel to Heated Rivalry (and a new instalment in the Game Changers world) and, after all this time, we can’t believe it’s finally here.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel is a “mesmerizing debut [that] shines a brilliant light on the vilified queen from [the Indian epic] the Ramayana….This easily earns its place on shelves alongside Madeline Miller’s Circe.” 

The Damning Stone by T.J. Klune is the next (finale?) instalment in the Tales From Verania series.

Elektra by Jennifer Saint is out in the UK on April 28, 2022 and follows a handful of women culminating in Elektra’s experience. Expect a female centric and wonderful read.



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

THE LONG GAME by Rachel Reid

To the world they are rivals, but to each other they are everything.

Ten years.

That’s how long Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov have been seeing each other. How long they’ve been keeping their relationship a secret. From friends, from family…from the league. If Shane wants to stay at the top of his game, what he and Ilya share has to remain secret. He loves Ilya, but what if going public ruins everything?

Ilya is sick of secrets. Shane has gotten so good at hiding his feelings, sometimes Ilya questions if they even exist. The closeness, the intimacy, even the risk that would come with being open about their relationship…Ilya wants it all.

It’s time for them to decide what’s most important—hockey or love.

It’s time to make a call. 


Title : The Long Game
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changers (book six)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance / sports
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I can only imagine the pressure Reid faced when sitting down to tackle this “sequel”. Granted, I think I’ve said that about every post-Heated Rivalry release but this was the biggie because finally we weren’t just getting cameos sprinkled amongst other stories but we were getting more Shane and Ilya. Front and centre. Live in HD 4K — or whatever the cool kids say. It was finally time for them to get (maybe?) their true HEA. So, having said all that, I hope the readers find it not only worth the wait but just as satisfying as book two.

I hate this. My team was perfect. Now we have this asshole.”
Your team is terrible.”
Yes, but, you know. The vibes are good.

And speaking of a wait, this was a romance eleven (thirteen?) years in the making. I loved a lot about their relationship, particularly what we got to see unfold in this instalment, but my favourite parts were the nostalgic reminiscing on where and how it all began; and how differently things may have gone.

I will kiss you during a face-off.
Pretty sure that would be a face-off violation.

For me, the highlight, as always, was Ilya. I think maybe we’re all a bit trash for him but honestly he’s just burrowed under my skin in all the ways. With his humour, his language fails, his chirping, his vulnerability; with everything. Shane, however, is a little less complicated and sometimes does come across a little oblivious and a little self-absorbed but never intentionally or maliciously. It’s just how he is.. until he’s made aware of something and then he totally course corrects. But it absolutely suits him not only because of his upbringing but also the way he took to his career. The way these two bounce off each other, how they also fit, is just lovely.

Why is it a secret? You wouldn’t be the only gay hockey players. Or queer. Sorry, I shouldn’t assume.”
I am bisexual. Shane is super gay.”
I’m regular gay.”

There were moments about this that surprised me (certain topics and issues previously addressed that were repackaged so beautifully for this particular instalment; no I’m not spoiling), moments that moved me (yes, I teared up), and, of course, moments (Ilya!) that made me laugh. I couldn’t believe how quickly I chewed through this chonky book (almost five hundred pages!) and while at first I did think we were spinning our wheels a bit, it took me a moment to realize this story spanned the timeline of all books since Heated Rivalry. I knew that in theory but it took me a moment to realign myself with the events without external prompting via chapter headings. Obviously there are elements of this story that are a bit repetitive because the conflict that spans the book is the same and yet I also appreciated the way the beats of the story played out.

I fear not living up to the expectations of the Montreal Voyageurs organization and our fans.”
Would be easier to cheat death than to meet Montreal’s hockey expectations.

Not wholly related to the book, however, it needs to be said : I have always loved how Reid has portrayed her hockey world — I always find it interesting to see how authors reinvent the teams and what they keep or discard from the real world — and seeing her more or less break up with Montreal in fiction as (I believe) she’s broken up with them in real life was bittersweet but, hopefully, satisfying as a creative to work through that ending. I hope, if we get to see these two again, we’ll have more Ottawa jokes to look forward to. I highlighted so many of those.

You should sign with Ottawa. Your contract is probably cheap, yes?
You’re a hard guy to like, Rozanov.”
That is not what Shane thinks.

The Long Game has plenty of steam, plenty of sweet, plenty of feels, plenty of fun, and, of course, plenty of hockey. All in all, I think fans of this couple, and this series, will be very pleased by this long-anticipated and long-awaited reunion — though maybe less pleased about the cover.

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

DEADLY CURE by Mahi Cheshire

THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH: FIRST, DO NO HARM…

Dr Rea Dharmasena is devastated when she loses out on her dream research job to her med-school rival and best friend, Dr Julia Stone.

To add insult to injury, Julia used Rea’s own cutting-edge research to get it.

But just as Rea finds it in her to forgive the betrayal, Julia, after a life-changing medical discovery, is found murdered.

Now Rea has the dream job she’s always wanted.

But at what cost?


Title : Deadly Cure
Author : Mahi Cheshire
Format : Physical
Page Count : 384
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Viking Books
Release Date : April 21, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Holy smokes, the twists
Unreliable narrators
Nothing is as it seems

I want to start off this review with my professional head on and state that the events in this book would never really happen in the UK. Health professionals would not be so lax in their personal values or their ethical accountability, on top of which medical research is tightly legislated and regulated in the UK. However, a thriller can be fantastical, right? And so, I read this by stowing all my professional knowledge and going with the flow.

This thriller was about friendships, twisted ones and genuine ones. There was a threesome of friendships in Julia, Rae and Feng, a shady bunch they were. Out of these three, I loved Feng and I basically didn’t like one other character in the book but it was never the intention of the author to make likeable characters, I don’t think. I had that ‘love to hate’ thing going on.

The setting was in the medical world, straddling the medical research world and there were some unrealistic aspects to how this written but I think that artistic licence worked on the whole here. The story depicted a search for cure to cancer that was nicely pitched alongside the personal lives of the three. I liked the fact that I was taken in by some of the characters and totally proved wrong. I had theories, none of which came to fruition, so this one really kept me guessing.

This was a gripping read and definitely one that can whisk you away. Please trust your health professionals at the end the day though please!

Thank you to Harvill Sacker/Viking Books for the review copy.

THE SCOTTISH BOY by Alex De Campi🎧

1333. Edward III is at war with Scotland. Nineteen-year-old Sir Harry de Lyon yearns to prove himself and jumps at the chance when a powerful English baron, William Montagu, invites him on a secret mission with a dozen elite knights.

They ride north, to a crumbling Scottish keep, capturing a feral, half-starved boy within and putting the other inhabitants to the sword.

But nobody knows why the flower of English knighthood snuck over the border to capture a savage, dirty teenage boy. Montagu gives the boy to Harry as his squire, with only two rules: don’t let him escape, and convert him to the English cause.

At first, it’s hopeless. The Scottish boy is surly and violent and eats anything that isn’t nailed down. Then Harry begins to notice things: that, as well as Gaelic, the boy speaks flawless French, with an accent much different from Harry’s Norman one. That he can read Latin too. And when Harry finally convinces the boy – Iain mac Maíl Coluim – to cut his filthy curtain of hair, the face revealed is the most beautiful thing Harry has ever seen.

With Iain as his squire, Harry wins tournament after tournament and becomes a favourite of the King. But underneath the pageantry smoulder twin secrets: Harry and Iain’s growing passion for each other, and Iain’s mysterious heritage. As England hurtles towards war once again, these secrets will destroy everything Harry holds dear.

A sexy, slow-burn, enemies to lovers historical romance, Alex De Campi delivers a steamy but tender love story. “Brokeback Mountain” meets “50 Shades of Grey” set again the vivid backdrop of Medieval Britain. Perfect for fans of Madeleine Miller’s “Song of Achilles”, the novels of C. S. Pascat, and K.J. Charles.


Title : The Scottish Boy
Author : Alex De Campi
Narrator : Richard Pearce
Format : Audiobook
Length : 15 hours, 50 min
Genre : Historical Fiction/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Saga Audiobooks
Release Date : March 16, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2.5 -3 star review

Headlines:
Men not boys
Romp-fest

Sigh, I have a lot of thoughts about this book and I’m sad they’re not hitting the expectations I had. The premise for The Scottish Boy was great and it started off really well, with a plot that had traction and potential. Iain was the wiley, captured wildling and Harry was the nobleman of sorts. These ‘boys’ were young adults.

The plot had a sort of loose A Knight’s Tale theme but with a gay relationship and lots of sex (full emphasis on the sex). I am reluctant to ever judge if there is too much sex in a book, that’s subjective, but for me, the constant romping overtook everything else, the plot suffered and I just got bored by it. The initial connection and hatred between Iain and Harry was really compelling and their push and pull kept me reading but I cannot lie, I wanted more depth to the plot.

The book itself felt a little overlong, 500+ pages, 15 hours on the audio. From an audio perspective, the narration was solid and definitely enhanced the experience. This was a single POV, from Harry’s perspective but with good dialogue and accents.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the audio review copy.

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