THIS VICIOUS GRACE by Emily Thiede – double review!

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?


Title : This Vicious Grace
Author : Emily Thiede
Series : The Last Finestra (book one)
Format : ARC / audio
Page Count : 448
Genre : YA fantasy romance
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : June 28, 2022

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


Hollis’ 2 star review

I wish I could say that this was bad or awful in some way because then at least I would’ve felt something for it. But instead it was just aggressively kind of monotonous and slow and boring and vague (or hard to grasp) and, finally, predictable. The last one isn’t always a bad thing but it didn’t really help when combined with the rest.

What felt, at first, like a fresh and interesting setting quickly shifted into window (hah, you’ll understand if you read this..) dressing. I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around the worldbuilding and the curse or the mythology, whatever it is, because it just didn’t get enough attention. See aforementioned window (again, snicker) dressing.

To me, this felt like the author wanted a bodyguard romance, with some magical stakes, and then built up around that. And to be fair, the main pitch I saw was Serpent & Dove (which I have not read) meets The Bodyguard. So it’s definitely a big part. And if that’s more or less all you want, I think you’ll be satisfied. But while the romance does feel stronger than the rest, it’s only relative because the weak world and (despite the pitch) complete lack of tension or high stakes around it — both in the sense that there isn’t that many times he’s needed as a guard and also in the world-ending-event stakes. It is tasty in the sense that the dude is tortured and it’s a slowburn and there’s the whole taboo “no touchy” element at play and yes it was the best part of the book but, again, it’s all relative. And I would’ve preferred equal parts of both.

While I appreciate the element added near the end when it comes to the MC trying to solve the riddle of how she might save the world, overwhelmingly the rest of the cast of characters just didn’t stand out beyond their base archetype. And, in some sense, the solve that Alessa comes up with kind of goes hand in hand with how these characters ultimately end up : interchangeable.

I won’t even go into the sibling dynamic because that infuriated me.

Also, there was a priest/religious conflict that gave me Winternight vibes but in a very try-hard watered down way (the character, not the author, I mean). I’ll be curious to see if anyone else picks up on that. But actually I think watered down is a good all-around way to describe the story. I needed more lemons, and a whole extra heaping of sugar, in this glass of lemonade.

Having said all that negative stuff, however, I will probably read on if this is a duology (please be a duology) but if it’s a trilogy.. time will tell.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
The evil saviour
Deadly touch
Connection and hugs

This Vicious Grace is a story with an Italian world at the centre. Pasta and baked goods feature but this isn’t a recognisable world we know, it is one full of grey characters, a chosen fighter in the Finestra Alessa and a daunting day of reckoning ahead.

Alessa had a deadly touch and she was matched into coupledoms with chosen individuals to leech their powers. It was a pretty sick parasitic relationship but she was forced into it. It was a sad state of affairs witnessing Alessa’s life, with no family who cared, guardians who had a job to do and no friends surrounding her. Her loneliness was palpable and sad. This made the appearance of a friend something meaningful.

The read was very ebb and flow for me. Early investment was there and it got more exciting for me when Dante appeared and from halfway. But, I didn’t feel fully into the story or the characters and I can’t quite put my finger on why.

I didn’t love This Vicious Grace but I think many will.

The narration was very good, strong execution of accents for the dialogue and that delicious Italian intro for each chapter start.

3 stars rounded up. Thank you to Hodder Books for the review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JUNE 28, 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.


This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede is said to be both a dark fantasy and a romantic comedy but did it live up to either? Look out for a review from us tomorrow.

Katzenjammer by Francesca Zappia is “American Horror Story meets the dark comedy of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis“. Even though this has “dark” in the pitch, please be mindful of triggers — some of which are listed in our review.

Half A Soul by Olivia Atwater is a series starter in historical fantasy which is a smart, funny and adventurous read.



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

KATZENJAMMER by Francesca Zappia

From acclaimed author Francesca Zappia, American Horror Story meets the dark comedy of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis as Cat searches for a way to escape her high school. Katzenjammer is a tale of family, love, tragedy, and masks—the ones others make for us, and the ones we make for ourselves. Eerie and thought-provoking, this novel will haunt fans of Chelsie Pitcher’s This Lie Will Kill You and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. Features illustrations by the author throughout.

Cat lives in her high school. She never leaves, and for a long time her school has provided her with everything she needs. But now things are changing. The hallways contract and expand along with the school’s breathing, and the showers in the bathroom run a bloody red. Cat’s best friend is slowly turning into cardboard, and instead of a face, Cat has a cat mask made of her own hardened flesh.

Cat doesn’t remember why she is trapped in her school or why half of them—Cat included—are slowly transforming. Escaping has always been the one impossibility in her school’s upside-down world. But to save herself from the eventual self-destruction all the students face, Cat must find the way out. And to do that, she’ll have to remember what put her there in the first place.

Told in chapters alternating between the past and the present, Francesca Zappia weaves a spine-tingling, suspenseful, and haunting story about tragedy and the power of memories. Much like the acclaimed Eliza and Her Monsters, Katzenjammer features black-and-white illustrations by the author throughout the novel. Fans of Marieke Nijkamp’s This Is Where It Ends and Karen McManus’s One of Us Is Lying will lose themselves in the pages of this novel—or maybe in the treacherous hallways of the school.


Title : Katzenjammer
Author : Francesca Zappia
Format : ARC
Page Count : 276
Genre : YA contemporary / horror / fantasy
Publisher : Greenwillow Books
Release Date : June 28, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

Welp, this decides it. I’ve gone from loving Eliza and Her Monsters, my first experience with this author, to being perplexed and uncertain of how I felt (Made You Up) to truly actively disliking everything else (Now Entering Addamsville and, of course, this one). I think Zappia and I have to part ways.

First off, the list of triggers for this book are rather plentiful, so please go find a full list. But in broad strokes we have violence (various types, including gun violence), body horror and gore (again, a variety), bullying (you guessed it, various kinds), and more.

I expected, from the pitch, that this was to be all kinds of strange and dark and surreal but after a certain reveal.. I feel even stranger about the whole experience. I don’t think books with heavier subject matter or darkness need a happy ending but sometimes there’s something. For this book? Don’t expect anything.

While it is doubtlessly creative and sometimes the weirdness was.. winsome, even almost endearing, on the whole I just don’t know what to do with this whole experience. Normally my one-stars are very distinctly in the “I hated this” category but this didn’t inspire hate. It just didn’t work. And it’s not for me.

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

JUNIPER AND THORN by Ava Reid

A gruesome curse. A city in upheaval. A monster with unquenchable appetites.

As the last true witches living in a city shifting from magic to industry, Marlinchen and her two sisters are little more than tourist traps as they treat their clients with archaic remedies and beguile them with nostalgic charm. Marlinchen spends her days divining secrets in exchange for rubles and trying to placate their tyrannical, xenophobic wizard father, who keeps his daughters sequestered from the outside world. While at night, she and her sisters sneak out to enjoy the city’s amenities and revel in its thrills, particularly the recently established ballet theatre, where Marlinchen meets a dancer who quickly captures her heart.

But as Marlinchen’s late-night trysts grow more fervent and frequent, so does the threat of her father’s rage and magic. And while the city flourishes with culture and bustles with enterprise, a monster lurks in its midst, borne of intolerance and resentment and suffused with old-world power. Caught between history and progress and blood and desire, Marlinchen must draw upon her own magic to keep her city safe and find her place within it.


Title : Juniper and Thorn
Author : Ava Reid
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : Fantasy/Horror
Publisher : DelRey UK
Release Date : June 21, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Sinister family
Enchanted garden
Gore and abuse

Juniper & Thorn was the kind of read that felt like a Grimm fairytale, dark, sinister and twisty. Set on the edge of the Steppes, in a growing city with affluence and poverty alike, this story centred on the Vashchenko family, a wizard father and three daughters with magical powers. Marlinchen was the youngest daugter, the protagonist of the story and she had a rather miserable existence.

This family…oh my, what a complete mess of impaired connection, built on resentment, guilt, grief and greed. What do you do when your family puts you at risk? It took a lot for Marlinchen to have her eyes opened and this story was her journey. Please check the content warnings below.

I never knew what was around the corner in this book but despite the dark and desperate themes, it was soaked in hope for Marlinchen and her friend Sevas. The story brought sneak attacks of gore, abuse, mild horror (but I could cope with it) and you need a strong stomach in certain moments. It evoked such a sinister atmosphere.

One of the things that was fascinating about this book was the curious creatures that populated the Vashchenko estate. You never got the full view of them but they added to the creepy feel.

Ava Reid has sealed her talent with Juniper & Thorn. I’m a fan of her imagination, writing and characterisation.

Thank you to DelRey UK for the review copy.

CW: abuse, sexual abuse, grooming

HALF A SOUL by Olivia Atwater

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.


Title : Half A Soul
Author : Olivia Atwater
Series : Regency Faerie Tales #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : Historical Fantasy
Publisher : Orbit Books
Release Date : June 30, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
If historical romance met The Cruel Prince…
Light and fun

I knew almost immediately on starting this book that I was going to thoroughly enjoy it. It was engaging, light and fun but with depth to the characterisation and story. The characters felt fresh and three dimensional and I loved the MCs.

Dora had half a soul and as such, I saw parallels between how her character was written and some people’s experience of neurodiversity. She was was loveable just as she was and although some of the people around didn’t appreciate her lack of emotionality, she leapt off the page to me. The Lord Sorcier was such a grump sliced with oddity and integrity…I loved him too.

This story had every regency London feel even though there was an alter-location in Faerie. The ton, the sensibilities and proprieties brought that essential vibe of those times. It was interesting for sure to see this intersect with an acceptance of magic and fae existence.

The plot was totally engaging and the development of Elias and Dora’s friendship was just lovely. I was here for every moment. I’m so glad this is a series and I can’t wait to read more.

Thank you Orbit Books for the early review copy.

THE SILVER CHAIN by Jion Sheibani

Uplifting and unputdownable, a coming-of-age verse novel about family, mental health and the healing power of music.

Azadeh is a budding violinist on a music scholarship at an expensive private school, dealing with all the usual trials of being sixteen: trying her best to fit in, keep up and have fun. Then as her mum’s mental health spirals out of control, Azadeh’s world starts to unravel. Her friendships fall away, and as much as she and her dad try to keep a lid on everything, their problems insist on taking over. Feeling alone, it’s her violin that finally helps Azadeh to find her way back to her friends, herself and even her mum.

A beautifully packaged, highly important and irresistible novel about mental health struggles and the solace we find in music and rhythm, friendship, family and honesty.


Title : The Silver Chain
Author : Jion Sheibani
Format : Physical
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : June 23, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Told in verse
Parental mental illness
Poles apart friendships

There was a lot to unpack in this story told in verse. I really enjoyed the format where some sections were more lyrical than others, and some more straight narrative. Azadeh was something of a prodigious violinist, having a scholarship at a private school. In fact, Azadeh’s family were from humble means setting her apart financially from her peers but also in term of her heritage. Azadeh had a Persian father and I think an English mother although I wasn’t certain. Azadeh had some longings towards her origins that seemed unfulfilled.

Azadeh sought solice in her music, her violin, the notes, the message of the music. When things went wrong at home however, she lost her connection to music for some time. That seemed to untether her own mental wellbeing.

There were some slightly toxic friendships in this book, some lack of cultural understanding from friends and racist microagressions. Azadeh found this hard to navigate and it was uncomfortable to witness.

There was a strong storyline of mental illness and while that was good representation, I didn’t always feel that it was fully unpacked. It felt a little unfinished in the end from that perspective.

The most enjoyable aspect of this book was in it’s narrative style of verse. I found it very easy to read and listen to.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the early review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JUNE 21, 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 Silence That Binds Us by Joanna Ho, the “author of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, has written an exquisite, heart-rending debut young adult novel that will inspire all to speak truth to power.” This debut tackles themes of mental health, racism, and classism. 

Juniper and Thorn by Ava Reid is a “gothic horror retelling of The Juniper Tree, set in another time and place within the world of The Wolf and the Woodsman, where a young witch seeks to discover her identity and escape the domination of her abusive wizard father.”

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi  is the “first book of a visionary fantasy trilogy with its roots in the mythology of Africa and Arabia that sings of rebellion, love, and the courage it takes to stand up to tyranny, as three women band together against a cruel empire that divides people by blood” is out out today in US/CAN but not out until June 23, 2022, for the UKers.



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

THE SEAWOMEN by Chloe Timms

Everyone on this island has a story. This is mine.

Esta has known nothing but Eden’s Isle her whole life. After a fire left her orphaned and badly scarred, Esta was raised by her grandmother in a deeply religious society who cut itself off from the mainland in the name of salvation. Here, fear rules: fear of damnation, fear of the outside world and fear of what lurks beneath the water – a corrupting evil the islanders call the Seawomen.

But Esta wants more than a life where touching the water risks corruption, where her every move is watched and women are controlled in every aspect of their lives. Married off, the women of the island must conceive a child within their appointed motheryear or be marked as cursed and cast into the sea as a sacrifice in an act called the Untethering.

When Esta witnesses a woman Untethered she sees a future to fear. Her fate awaits, a loveless marriage, her motheryear declared. And after a brief taste of freedom, the insular world Esta knows begins to unravel…

The Seawomen is a fiercely written and timely feminist novel, at once gothic, fantastical and truly unforgettable.


Title : The Seawomen
Author : Chloe Timms
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Studio
Release Date : June 14, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

4.5 stars

Headlines:
Feminist, fantastical, fuming
Misogyny wrapped in religious abuse
Impeccable description, atmospheric

What a debut this book is. It was fresh, tense and the themes were dark and sad but it was a read that will stay with you and impact you. The story encapsulated the experiences of a young girl, Esta as she journeyed into adulthood. This island she resided on was set in a dystopian future but in a community that had removed themselves from the world to live in a bigoted, patriachial and abusive religious community, all about control.

This story evoked such an impressively described setting. I immediately began to imagine St Kilda or the Faroe Islands until later I realised the setting was more Shetlands or Orkney. The life this community lead was miserable and fearful…they were fearful of the seawomen. The sea was seen as evil to women and women were treated like potential witches of old.

How the story rolled out was unexpected, how Esta evolved as she grew was the kind of situation you couldn’t look away from, willing her on, telling her to persevere and not capitulate. There were a few men that had moments of empathy and Bennett was just about the only reasonable man. The women were not a community because the men in power caused a divisive atmosphere.

The second half of the book had me glued to the page, hoping for Esta, wanting her free.

I highly recommend this book for all my feminist reading friends. It has everything, a touch of dystopia, a touch of fantasy and a bucket load of great writing.

Thank you to Hodder Studio for the review copy.

DREAMFEVER by Karen Marie Moning

MacKayla Lane lies naked on the cold stone floor of a church, at the mercy of the erotic Fae master she once swore to kill. Far from home, unable to control her sexual hungers, MacKayla is now fully under the Lord Master’s spell.…In New York Timesbestselling author Karen Marie Moning’s stunning new novel, the walls between human and Fae worlds have come crashing down. And as Mac fights for survival on Dublin’s battle-scarred streets, she will embark on the darkest—and most erotically charged—adventure of her life. 

He has stolen her past, but MacKayla will never allow her sister’s murderer to take her future. Yet even the uniquely gifted sidhe-seer is no match for the Lord Master, who has unleashed an insatiable sexual craving that consumes Mac’s every thought—and thrusts her into the seductive realm of two very dangerous men, both of whom she desires but dares not trust. 

As the enigmatic Jericho Barrons and the sensual Fae prince V’lane vie for her body and soul, as cryptic entries from her sister’s diary mysteriously appear and the power of the Dark Book weaves its annihilating path through the city, Mac’s greatest enemy delivers a final challenge.…

It’s an invitation Mac cannot refuse, one that sends her racing home to Georgia, where an even darker threat awaits. With her parents missing and the lives of her loved ones under siege, Mac is about to come face-to-face with a soul-shattering truth—about herself and her sister, about Jericho Barrons…and about the world she thought she knew. 


Title : Dreamfever
Author : Karen Marie Moning
Series : Fever (book four)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 498
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : Dell
Release Date : August 25, 2009

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I mean.. in a lot of ways we know what that horrible cliffhanger reveals but still that one hurts. Worse than the last one! 

Overall, I think I expected to love this instalment more than I did. It has a lot of good juicy excellent bits, both character and plot wise, but I felt it to be strangely rushed along. Some moments got some of their due but others..? Others I think needed a lot more. 

What has been consistent, though, as I’ve said in probably all these reread reviews, is the presence of the usual side-eye towards Mac’s inner voice. We get less of that this time considering what she’s just survived and how she’s pretty much fully Mac 4.0 (whatever that means beyond wearing leather and caring less about pink, also, did we skip 3.0?) now. And honestly you sort’ve just have to lean into it or step around it, whatever works best. But the other consistency? The other consistency is for the times where there are these lovely passages full of wisdom, truth, grief, and hope. And they usually pop out when you least expect them. 

Also, as I was reading, I was picking up on foreshadowing for something (well, a few somethings!) I had completely forgotten about. As I said to my buddy reader, it’s so funny what the mind chooses to remember and otherwise completely deletes from the brain. Hoo boy. 

The author’s note at the end of this book, fourth in the Fever series, goes on to say how book five is the end of the journey. But we know that’s not true. It is, however, where I do recall the story started to shift.. and maybe go downhill?

I had such a good time chatting about this one with my buddy (shoutout to Hayley!) and we’re both really chomping at the bit to pick up where this left off and see what reveals await us (remembered and not) in the “final” of Mac’s story arc.



THE BLOOD TRAITOR by Lynette Noni

She’d failed them. All of them. And now she was paying the price.

Kiva thought she knew what she wanted-revenge. But feelings change, people change . . . everything has changed.

After what happened at the palace, Kiva is desperate to know if her friends and family are safe, and whether those she wronged can ever forgive her. But with the kingdoms closer to the brink of war than they’ve ever been, and Kiva far away from the conflict, more is at stake than her own broken heart.

A fresh start will mean a perilous quest, forcing mortal enemies and uneasy allies together in a race against the clock to save not just Evalon, but all of Wenderall. With her loyalties now set, Kiva can no longer just survive-she must fight for what she believes in. For who she believes in. But with danger coming from every side, and the lives of everyone she loves at risk, does she have what it takes to stand, or will she fall?


Title : The Blood Traitor
Author : Lynette Noni
Series : The Prison Healer #3
Format : eARC
Page Count : 482
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hodderscape
Release Date : June 14, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Trope check goodness
Unforgiveable?
Page-turner

I am so incredibly sad this series is over but then I couldn’t help race-reading this because it was so unputdownable. Picking up immediately where we were so cruelly left at the end of The Gilded Cage, this installment rushed at my brain like a whirlwind, grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

Jaren, Jaren, Jaren, Kiva, Kiva, Kiva. Oh the longings, the emotions, the hurt, it was a lot of everything and at this point, I was so invested in this couple that I had to let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding (I’m just messing with you) when they were on the page. The plot was so rich with found family goodness, I simply adored the cast of characters that found themselves on a quest. Tripp was a little more in the background but he still brought light when he was there.

It was so good to finally see the Corentine-Vallentis and other royal family stories go full circle, finding answers to series plot points and Noni delivered so well on these elements. Nothing was rushed, everything was carefully crafted and the journey readers have been taken on felt so worthy of these three books.

Also that last line of the book…precious.

I could definitely read a novella epilogue for these characters, pretty please?

Thank you to Hodder Books for the eARc and the ride!

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