MONTHLY WRAP UP – JANUARY 2022

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

Little Thieves by Margaret Owen — see Hollis’ review here
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan — see Micky’s review here (!)

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord — see Hollis’ review here
One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner — see Hollis’ review here
Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L Armentrout — see Micky’s review here
Here’s To Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera — see Micky’s review here
A Painted Winter by H. Barnard — see Micky’s review here
Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier — see Hollis and Micky’s reviews here
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots — see Hollis’ review here
Dead Lucky by Andreina Cordani — see Micky’s review here
A Fatal Crossing by Tom Hindle — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire — see Hollis’ review here
The Maid by Nita Prose — see Hollis’ review here
Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon — see Hollis’ review here
Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall — see Hollis’ and Micky’s review here
The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka — see Hollis’ review here
Love and Other Disasters by Anita Kelly — see Micky’s review here
Castles In Their Bones by Laura Sebastian — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth — see Hollis’ review here
The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox — see Micky’s review here
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan — see Hollis’ review here (!)
Real Easy by Marie Rutkoski — see Micky’s review here

star reads

u n r a t e d

DNF

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh — no thoughts from Micky but she gave it to 55%


total reads by Micky : eighteen
favourite read of the month : Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
least favourite read of the month : Real Easy by Marie Rutkoski
most read genre : fantasy/contemp mix

total reviews by Hollis : twelve
favourite read of the month : Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
least favourite read of the month : A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth
most read genre : fantasy and contemporary split

THE ROUGHEST DRAFT by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

They were cowriting literary darlings until they hit a plot hole that turned their lives upside down.

Three years ago, Katrina Freeling and Nathan Van Huysen were the brightest literary stars on the horizon, their cowritten books topping bestseller lists. But on the heels of their greatest success, they ended their partnership on bad terms, for reasons neither would divulge to the public. They haven’t spoken since, and never planned to, except they have one final book due on contract.

Facing crossroads in their personal and professional lives, they’re forced to reunite. The last thing they ever thought they’d do again is hole up in the tiny Florida town where they wrote their previous book, trying to finish a new manuscript quickly and painlessly. Working through the reasons they’ve hated each other for the past three years isn’t easy, especially not while writing a romantic novel.

While passion and prose push them closer together in the Florida heat, Katrina and Nathan will learn that relationships, like writing, sometimes take a few rough drafts before they get it right.


Title : The Roughest Draft
Author : Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : January 25, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Welp, this one is a wee bit of a bummer. Not that three stars is b a d, she says, endlessly into the void that is her own guilt complex. Ahem. But. Yeah, I definitely through this would wow me a lot more than it did.

This is the Wibbroka duo’s first adult romance so, hey, it’s basically like a debut, so I definitely won’t shy away from picking up their next attempt (please tell me there’s a next attempt) and it certainly won’t put me off their YA titles. But the epic spark and chemistry I expected.. well, it fizzled. Right as the couple got together.

These two writers, once darlings, have split after two books together. Four years have passed and with another book still on contract, and some pressure from Katrina’s fiancée (spoiler, I hated him, and you’re supposed to), not to mention how the buzz might inspire more sales for Nathan’s recent solo offering which.. didn’t flop but is not flying off the shelves, they reunite.

Untangling what went wrong, experiencing their tension, the struggle to fake being friends, even as they slowly become friendly again, the whole dynamic was great. But when we find out what sent them in opposite directions — by the way, we get flashbacks through the story — well. I had feelings. And then when these two finally worked it all out and their relationship changed.. I was.. not underwhelmed but. I was whelmed.

I was really into the concept of this, I enjoyed some the post-working-it-out conflict and unresolved angst of it all, and I especially enjoyed watching these two characters’ method for co-authoring (could it be how the authors themselves right? curious!), but between the fiancée, the letdown of the aforementioned reveals and romance, it just kinda went sideways on me. Part of this could be my expectations, I was hyped for this, but the other part I don’t think is me. So. Make of that what you will!

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

LOVE AND OTHER DISASTERS by Anita Kelly

The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut “that is both fantastically fun and crack your heart wide open vulnerable.” (Rosie Danan, author of The Roommate)

Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.

After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.

As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.


Title : Love And Other Disasters
Author : Anita Kelly
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : Contemporary Romance/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Headline Eternal
Release Date : January 18, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Great characterisation
Finding the real
Sweetness

I requested this book for the non-binary MC and for me, that element and the romantic connection was the thing I enjoyed most about this book. London was a grumpy, serious then often sweet character. Delilah was wildly flamoyant with anxious tendencies which made for an interesting mix as a couple.

The context of the cooking show had me somewhat disinterested and that’s probably because I’ve read a few this year, so I just wasn’t ready for another. I didn’t feel like we saw a great depth to the other characters in the story but Delilah and London were strong.

It was interesting seeing London and Delilah throw off their baggage, previous lives and find some new reality, I welcomed those parts. Overall this was enjoyable but it didn’t blow me away.

Please check out queer reviewers on this title.

Thank you to Headline Eternal for the review copy.

A FATAL CROSSING by Tom Hindle

November 1924. The Endeavour sets sail to New York with 2,000 passengers – and a killer – on board . . .

When an elderly gentleman is found dead at the foot of a staircase, ship’s officer Timothy Birch is ready to declare it a tragic accident. But James Temple, a strong-minded Scotland Yard inspector, is certain there is more to this misfortune than meets the eye.

Birch agrees to investigate, and the trail quickly leads to the theft of a priceless painting. Its very existence is known only to its owner . . . and the dead man.

With just days remaining until they reach New York, and even Temple’s purpose on board the Endeavour proving increasingly suspicious, Birch’s search for the culprit is fraught with danger.

And all the while, the passengers continue to roam the ship with a killer in their midst . . .


Title : A Fatal Crossing
Author : Tom Hindle
Format : Physical ARC
Page Count : 449
Genre : Historical Murder Mystery
Publisher : Century Books
Release Date : January 20, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
High seas mystery
Crew, toffs, mob and conmen

This historical murder mystery set on an atlantic crossing in the 1920s is unlike my usual reading choices but it turned out to be a good choice nonetheless. This was a story that started out with what seemed to be a reasonably easy to fathom death that may or may not be a crime. All this evolved into an incredibly knotted web of shenanigans. I was hooked from the first chapter.

The story brought two key characters in Birch, the ship’s officer and Temple, the policeman who happened to be on the boat; don’t ever believe in coincidences. Birch really had my heartstrings with his rather tragic past and depressed nature. I liked him a lot and felt him to be the intergrity compass of the piece. Temple seemed shady from the start with a slice of maybe he’s okay.

Side entrance to some stolen artwork, a lot of entitled toffs, a few characters from third class and a the crew being encouraged to hide what was happening to 2000 passengers. I read avidly, there was a bit of a lull after midway but then it picked up again.

There were some incredible twists to the plot, none more than the final twist. I would never have seen that coming and I really didn’t sense any foreshadowing even on reflection. Raymond maybe had me wondering at something but I wasn’t sure what.

This was a great debut, a great whodunnit that was really well crafted and written.

Thank you to Sarah Harwood PR and Century Books for the early review copy.

FLAME OF SEVENWATERS by Juliet Marillier – double review!

Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years she’s returning home, a courageous, forthright woman. But while her body’s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, fearing the shadows of her past.
 
Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara is desperate to see his only son, married to Maeve’s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean’s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish—only to allow their murdered bodies to be found one by one.
 
When Maeve finds a body in a remote part of the woods, she and her brother, Finbar, embark on a journey that could bring about the end of Mac Dara’s reign—or lead to a hideous death. If she is successful, Maeve may open the door to a future she has not dared to believe possible…. 


Title : Flame of Sevenwaters
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book six)
Format : physical
Page Count : 432
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : Roc
Release Date : December 7, 2010

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


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Riding the waves of all the feelings
Animals to break and heal your heart
Family

This series means so much to me now, finishing this last book on such a high has been emotional, wonderful and special. This series across generations has connected me to the Sevenwaters family and characters in the most unforgettable way.

Flame of Sevenwater brought us back to Maeve who we last saw in tragic circumstances in book three. This book represents disability so well, with realism, difficulty but also in an empowering way, showing Maeve’s autonomy and determination. Maeve was an easy character to love, a true heroine with biggest heart. Her skill, love and care towards animals was everything.

Bear, Badger, Swift, Finbar and the snatch we saw of Becan were so much of my favourite parts of this story. While I saw where the plot was ultimately going, there was one genius twist towards the end that pulled me back from ‘how could she do this to us again’ to Marillier is a genius’ territory.

That’s it. I’ll be over here in my emotions, my soggy tissues and in our buddy reading DMs until I’ve run out of gush.

Go read this series.


Hollis’ 4 star review

2022 has been off to a slightly shaky start but sinking into a Sevenwaters book was just what I needed; even though this was a bittersweet undertaking knowing it was the last in the series.

This world has such a special place in my heart, as I’ve gone on about endlessly, and it was so nice to have a reread, with some special friends, and also have the opportunity to finally reread the companion trilogy. They don’t quite hold a candle to the originals but each are special in their own way. And with Flame of Sevenwaters, Maeve’s story, we had a culmination of everything these last books had been leading up to whilst also having something of an homage to the original book that started it all. 

If I were telling a story of Sevenwaters — and it would be a grand epic told over all the nights of a long winter — I would surely end it with a triumph. A happy ending.”

And it is. A happy ending; as much as one can have in a Marillier story, at least. Maybe not in the obvious way for everyone, and certainly it isn’t an end for all, but there is an ending of a kind and happiness to be found for many — some immediately and some to come. And that’s what has always been a marvel about this world. It is so real, full of complex and complicated characters, differing motivations even within the same family, different priorities, but always a strong love, a strength of character. 

We don’t get a full reunion of all the siblings in the way many series-enders get but we did get a few people together again — even as a few bid farewell — and it was more special because of that, and less overwhelming, too. There are too many standout characters to have seen them all and there were enough updates along the way that those characters without page time still felt seen.

As for Maeve, I love that Marillier gave us a heroine with a disability. We’ve seen a main character before that had a different physical challenge, though in that case it had less to do with how others treated her and more about how she looked upon herself. In some ways it was also easier to hide. In this case it was very much out in the open and while Maeve wasn’t without some self-pity on occasion it was more in light of how others treated her vesus how she often felt about herself. Additionally, it was a disability that needed not just strength to endure but trust in those around her; both in knowing how much she could push herself, or be capable of, but also to trust they not be embarrassed or ashamed of her. Which makes coming back to Sevenwaters, after so long away, and to where she had been hurt, all the more frightening and challenging. But Maeve does it; not for herself but for a charge in need of her strength. A strength that plays a key role in the inevitable confrontation with the Big Bad.

I had done my best not to weep. I had tried not to feel sorry for myself. It came to me that it is not trials and travails that bring us down, but unexpected moments of kindness.

This one didn’t get me quite as emotional as many other in this series but there were plenty of feels during many interactions between Maeve and her brother and also with Ciarán. Once again this unlikely character from the main trilogy has had a chokehold on me for every book that has followed book three and I love that this book made a point to highlight his impact; not just on the others but the impact on him, too. 

As for the romance, well. This one may surprise you a little but if you followed the breadcrumbs.. maybe not. I’ll admit things do rush ahead a bit during the big moments, which was a bit of a pacing whiplash after all the dragging on prior to the conflict (I found myself rather impatient during these scenes, maybe because I just wanted all to finally be revealed? don’t know), but we get a few calmer quiet scenes to solidify all the big dramatic outpourings. And, again, as we have seen before, I like that things aren’t quite all wrapped up and signed, sealed, delivered by the final page. But we know they will be.

My issue with the pacing notwithstanding, this might be my favourite of the companion trilogy just for how much it gave me some original series vibes while still being very much it’s own creature. It was a nice way to book end this series and it definitely ends things on a higher note than the last two. I’m so pleased my Sevenwaters Squad feels the same way, too, as this whole journey was all new for them and I didn’t want them to come out feeling disappointed in any way after all my hype and bother.

With the series wrapped, we might not be the Sevenwaters Squad any longer but there’s plenty of Marillier still to consume. Maybe we’ll be the Marillier Maniacs instead? Who knows. 

If you still have yet to discover this series, or this author, I cannot recommend her enough. With stories full of heart, wisdom, respecting the earth and hearth, feats of strength of all kinds, love stories that truly conquer all, magic and sacrifice, the bonds of family, heartbreak and healing, and so much more, you can’t go wrong.




HENCH by Natalie Zina Walschots

Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy?

 As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured.  And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.

So, of course, then she gets laid off.

With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realizes she might not be as powerless as she thinks.

Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponize it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing.  And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.

It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.

A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.


Title : Hench
Author : Natalie Zina Walschots
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 403
Genre : sci-fi / fantasy
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : September 22, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★  .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was brutal and yet brilliant, not to say they are mutually exclusive, and I loved it. I spent a week and a half reading this (very unlike me, this year has been weird so far..) and yet even when I wasn’t, I was still thinking about it. Maybe had I blasted through it at my usual supersonic speed I would have more things to nitpick but.. this is how it went.

The vibe is much more shitty start-up than lair.”
Oh.”
Did you think there was a fucking lava moat?
Shut up.”
You did.
Shut up.”

If the show (or at least the premise) of The Boys intrigues you, if you love superhero stuff but want something grittier, want something that tackles the repercussions of heroism and super powers, if you want to see the villains win (maybe?) for once, you should absolutely pick this up.

Anna, do you know what this means?
That I may never walk normally again?
You fought Supercollider! You’re, like, a real supervillain!
If by ‘fought’ you mean ‘bled internally’ then, yes, the battle was long and valiant.

I honestly think that I would truly recommend you just read the synopsis for this one because I don’t think I could sell it to you any better. There are low-level henchmen pumping through excel sheets and crunching data, there is social media weaponry, there is physical therapy from an on-the-job injury, there is questioning of how far can one go even when you taking down the real bad guys, and just so much more.

Superheroes, for all their good PR, were terrible for the world.

It swings from being hilarious, thought provoking, and then gut-clenchingly gross (though to be fair this really only happens during one scene) and is made up of all the moral shades of grey. And.. yeah, I’ll say it again : so much more.

This definitely won’t be for everyone but for those who enjoy it, I think you’ll enjoy it a lot.

ONE STEP TOO FAR by Lisa Gardner

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a thrilling new novel that sends Frankie Elkin into the woods in search of a lost man–and the shocking truth about why he went missing in the first place.

Frankie Elkin, who readers first met in Before She Disappeared, learns of a young man who has gone missing in a national forest. Law enforcement has abandoned the search, but a crew of people led by the young man’s father are still looking. Sensing a father’s desperation, Frankie agrees to help–but soon sees that a missing person isn’t all that’s wrong here. And when more people start to vanish, Frankie realizes she’s up against something very dark–and she’s running out of time.


Title : One Step Too Far
Author : Lisa Gardner
Series : Frankie Elkin (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : crime/mystery
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : January 18, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

When I started this follow-up instalment in Gardner’s new series, featuring something of a lone-wolf cold case investigator (though not a professional one, just a concerned and capable citizen), I did not expect to cry as much as I did. But maybe that’s just me being a softie as always.

Now, the emergency whistle.”
I have a whistle! I carry it around tough neighbourhoods all the time.”
Your idea of self-defence in an urban environment is a whistle? Are you trying to die?

This particular case that Frankie stumbles her way into is so very different from the first we experience through her. Gone are the mean streets of Boston; say hello to the wilds and dangers of Wyoming. She hears about the fifth year anniversary — and final hail mary search — of a missing man who went camping with his groomsmen for their bachelor party and later disappeared. She manages to negotiate her way into the hiking expedition and from then on it’s exhaustion, sweat, secrets revealed, and everything going wrong.

I hate pity.”
Then stop being so pathetic.”
I hope Bigfoot kicks your sorry ass.
Wouldn’t that be something? Please take video.”

As I feel is often the case with Gardner mysteries, I did not see the reveal for this one coming. I had suspected something very different and was way off base. But this wasn’t one of those twists that come totally out of left field, either. So I loved that.

I thought you mountain-guru types were supposed to be able to sniff the dirt, lick a pine cone, then state unequivocally who came here at what date and time, not to mention their favourite food and astrological sign.
I know you’re a Virgo, does that help?
How do you know that?
Because you’re a pain in my ass.

I also loved all the new characters we were introduced to. Which is probably why I cried so much. Plus there’s a dog! But in addition to the new faces, I still really liked Frankie — or rather, maybe stated to like her more, as I don’t know if I appreciated her in book one the way I did in this one. Her internal monologue is a little repetitive when she gets going and thinking about her past, her life up until now, but it also makes sense considering her pile of regrets and the fact that she’s a recovering alcoholic. But I like the concept of her, this rogue individual, the fact that she’s lived a hard life and is committed to doing for other people, and also that she’s middle aged and not a spring chicken.

If a dog can do this, I tell myself, than I can, too. Of course, the dog has had way more training.

The whole unravelling of this mystery worked so well; the stakes were high, the players all had varying levels of expertise and capabilities, and again, the reveal? So good. I also really enjoyed how contemplative Frankie was near the end and how this story wrapped. That whole section was lovely.

Why do I do what I do? Because at the end of the day, the people left behind matter as much as the ones who are missing. We mourn the ones we’ve lost, but we agonize over the pieces of ourselves they took with them.

I’m always excited for new releases from this mystery/thriller author and I am happy to say I’ll now be as excited for a new Frankie book as I would be for a new DD book. Give me anything from this author. Looking forward to the next!

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

A RUSH OF WINGS by Laura E. Weymouth

Rowenna Winthrop has always known there’s magic within her. But though she hears voices on the wind and possesses unusual talents, her mother Mairead believes Rowenna lacks discipline, and refuses to teach her the craft that keeps their Scottish village safe. When Mairead dies a sinister death, it seems Rowenna’s one chance to grow into her power has passed. Then, on a fateful, storm-tossed night, Rowenna rescues a handsome stranger named Gawen from a shipwreck, and her mother miraculously returns from the dead. Or so it appears.

This resurrected Mairead is nothing like the old one: to hide her new and monstrous nature, she turns Rowenna’s brothers and Gawen into swans and robs Rowenna of her voice. Forced to flee, Rowenna travels to the city of Inverness to find a way to break the curse. But monsters take many forms, and in Inverness Rowenna is soon caught in a web of strangers who want to use her raw magic for their own gain. If she wishes to save herself and the people she loves most, Rowenna will have to take her fate into her own hands, and unlock the power that has evaded her for so long.


Title : A Rush of Wings
Author : Laura E. Weymouth
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA historical fantasy / fairytale retelling
Publisher : Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date : November 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

So there were three big, huge, reasons why I almost never read this book. One being that the fairytale this is inspired by also inspired my actual favourite book of all time (ten points if you’ve been here long enough to know which one) and so naturally nothing could ever measure up; two, I had already read another Six Swans inspired YA retelling this year (two back to back after all this time? it was weird!), and three, this is my third attempt reading this author after two massive fails and the only reason I broke my promise to never read her again was because of the premise. Spoiler alert, I probably am issuing that promise again because, as you can tell from the rating, this wasn’t a win. But.. it also wasn’t a fail.

The best part about this version of the story was the writing. Weymouth did a great job bringing me onto the rocky misty shores of this random village (or whatever) while bringing into focus the historical setting and tumultuous past of Culloden and an occupied Inverness. It made for a very real but mundane kind of danger while abutting all the fey dangerous magic, and also creatures, that was also present in this world. It certainly wasn’t perfect (I am still side eyeing the fact that the guards never saw the four boys going back and forth from within the castle or grounds or whatever while Rowenna was captured but, you know, we trudge on) but I could get swept up in it.

Where things didn’t work was.. well, almost everything else. This version definitely mixes things up; Rowenna is no Sorcha and I’m glad of that. I actually appreciated that she wasn’t the darling, wasn’t sweet, wasn’t easy, and was battling not just the curse but also herself. The lack of six brothers also speeds things up a bit for her as she has less curse breaking to do. But at the same time another hundred pages would’ve done a lot for this, I think. Mostly in giving us more familial dynamic because honestly beyond the general hope for her brothers to be returned to her, we didn’t know them well enough, or get enough foundation of their relationships and dynamics to root for them beyond principle — once they stopped treating Rowenna badly, at least. Which also applies to the love interest.

Strangely the strongest relationship or bond was between Rowenna and a sea creature. Now that could’ve been a story..

In all honesty, though, the absolute weakest part might have been the magical villain (as opposed to the human one) because I don’t quite think I ever understood their actual goal. Even in the end, when we see the devastation wrought, I’m still like.. (insert Ryan Reynolds, “but why?” gif here).

As for the aforementioned human villain, well.. the scene that almost made me chuck the iPad across the room is when Rowenna has an opportunity to triumph and does not. Like, yeah, I get it, but wow. Considering all the devastation he was responsible for, wow. But sure, get on that high horse. However what’s worse is how she initially ends up in his hands, and forced to do his bidding, and that whole little plot and.. I don’t know. I’m mixed about it all.

So, yes, incase you were wondering, this wasn’t a win and I don’t think it’s all to do with my bias though I’m sure that plays a part. If you’re a fan of this retelling, or just think it sounds up your alley, I would cautiously recommend, especially with the Scotland setting and uprising in the mix. H o w e v e r, while I’m normally not one to spell things out, I do want to caution you that if animal death or violence done to animals is a big trigger for you? Even when it’s somewhat spelled out without being graphic (if that makes sense)? Stay away.

DAUGHTER OF THE MOON GODDESS by Sue Lynn Tan – double review!

A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.


Title : Daughter of the Moon Goddess
Author : Sue Lynn Tan
Series : Daughter of the Moon Goddess (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 512
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Harper Voyager
Release Date : January 11, 2022/January 20, 2022

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


Hollis’ 2 star review

Nothing like starting off the new year with a very anticipated read and.. well, not hating it, but this took a lot of willpower to push through over the course of the first few days of 2022 and honestly, with the exception of one plot point, I did not enjoy.. any of this?

This is a long book, see above page count, however the problem was it also felt long. The beginning especially seems to go on forever with very little happening and also a very strange sense of time passage within the story itself. And considering how things started, and all the urgency that kicks off the story, well.. it dissipated as quickly as my New Year diet resolutions.

And I think overall that’s my issue with the whole story. The sense of forward motion, of urgency, of our main character’s dedication to saving her mother totally vanishes into the mundane doldrums of a whole other different story. And it’s only near the end that she suddenly seems to phase back into that main concern. Yes, she was working towards a thing that she maybe could use to her advantage but.. I don’t know. This felt like three different books in one and not in a good way.

As for the romance, well. I appreciated what the author tried to do with this love triangle, which was a more mature way of handling the usual YA fallback, however, at the same time, it didn’t work for me. And I worry about what awaits us in book two in that regard. Though.. I don’t think I’ll be reading it.

Normally I’m full of second (third, fourth, fifth..) chances for authors, particularly debuts, but nothing in this writing was passionate. Or compelling. Or enthralling. It was lovely at times but honestly it was pretty dry. Again, where was the urgency, the tension, the stakes, and, yes, the passion. Hell, emotion of any kind. I felt nothing, no matter how hard I tried. Sadly this read likely tripled my screentime for the month because I kept putting it down.. which, yeah, added to the time it took me to finish but goodness I took any excuse to look away.

Again, this is a huge disappointment as I fell in love with this cover months ago and thought it sounded utterly captivating and unique. But for me? It wasn’t it. As always, of course, don’t just take my word for it; I highly encourage you to check out other reviews as this low rating is but a drop in the current rave review ocean.

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Epically captivating
Triangles and twists
Lands, lore and dragons

This was a sweeping, wonderful reading experience. It’s a book with depth, a plot to twist you into knots and characters that you stand behind in complete support and belief. Daughter of the Moon Goddess was told over many years, these immortals have long lives after all. The main character Xingyin was young when we met her, but this woman she came to be was reading gold.

Xingyan battled for a place to exist in the celestial world both figuratively and later rather literally. Her companion and supporter Liwei stole my heart early on but then I came to doubt my heart’s loyalties. Wenzhi complicated matters and I liked him. I could never have guessed the twists, turns, betrayals and loyalty that lay ahead in this plot; it was extremely clever and made for addictive reading.

The celestial, demon, mortal worlds and more were painted so vividly. I had grand pictures of places, forests, seas and dragons. There were quests and battles but none too drawn out. The strong woman that Xingyin became was a dream to read. There were plenty of sketchy characters, those that were obvious and those hiding in plain sight.

This fantasy epic tied up the story well but I can see there is a second book to come. I loved these characters so much that I can’t wait to read more of their journey and adventures.

Thank you to Harper Voyager for the eARC copy. My pre-order is already filed and waiting, I need this on my shelf and I think you do too.

WEATHER GIRL by Rachel Lynn Solomon

A TV meteorologist and a sports reporter scheme to reunite their divorced bosses with unforecasted results in this charming romantic comedy from the author of The Ex Talk.

Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.

In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.

Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?


Title : Weather Girl
Author : Rachel Lynn Solomon
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : January 11, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

It hurts a bit to round down on this one because there is a lot in this story that is deserving of four stars. From the representation to how charming and slow-burny sweet it was and more. But the more I thought about it after having finished the more I started questioning things.

First off, I have to say, this was way better than another “scheme to get our bosses back together” romance I read in the last year. I can’t even remember the title of it, which says a lot, but you probably know the one I mean. This was handled so much better; it wasn’t nearly as manipulative and while their goal was to end some of their own frustration, it was also a plan hatched out of realizing that their bosses still had unresolved feelings. So if that is making you hesitant to pick this up, I think you’ll be happy with how it’s done.

You’re the kind of person who makes other people feel good to be around. That’s a great thing.”
You feel good being around me?
All the time.

Having said that, though, we have another romance marketed as a rom-com and it is.. not. I remember laughing out loud twice, probably at things no one else would laugh at, but overall this is a contemporary with serious topics and situations and romance. I don’t think I’d argue it’s steamy women’s fiction the way I have for other reads, though. It’s just got depth alongside the sex.

Why was abject horniness not listed as a side effect on this medication?

But about that sex, I’ll admit that for me the sexiest scene was one without any sex at all. Barely even touching (each other or themselves). However I did appreciate that their first time is not intercourse and some other elements and discussion around that early scene which I won’t detail. More of this please!

There are tropes to this romance I didn’t know going in, mostly because I’m a #NoBlurbsClub — but also because they aren’t mentioned. And? I loved them. I really did. I enjoyed both of these leads, too, as separate humans. But did I love them together? I.. don’t think so? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that they didn’t fit, I just didn’t feel it. I wanted to but it just didn’t spark. Even as I rooted for them and who they were, the struggles they had, and how accepting they both were of those struggles.

Eventually, you deal with something for long enough that it comes such an intrinsic part of you, and you cant imagine yourself without it. You accept it, maybe because you feel you deserve it but also because you’re scared that if you tried to change it, it wouldn’t work.

So between the lack of com to the rom and a romance that didn’t make me swoon, here we have a bit of a rounded down rating. But. Everything else? Again, the characters themselves? The discussion around mental health and depression, the presence of an plus-sized male love interest getting some well deserved love, the inclusion of not one but two (!) Jewish main characters, and more that I refuse to tell you? It was all so good.

I will continue to eat up Solomon’s romances so I can’t wait for what’s next.

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

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