SORCERY OF THORNS by Margaret Rogerson

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.


Title : A Sorcery of Thorns
Author : Margaret Rogerson
Format : eARC
Page Count : 464
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date : June 4, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Just the other day I was pouting about YA fantasy just not hitting the mark for me in 2019. And in struts SORCERY OF THORNS just to prove me wrong. I didn’t really know what to expect for this one other than it had something to do with library with a hate to love (possibly) and magic and, not having read Rogerson’s first novel, didn’t know how that would all translate in the writing.

Well, it translated super well.

You used a demonic incantation to pack my stockings!”
You’re right, that doesn’t sound like something a proper evil sorcerer would do. Next time, I won’t fold them.”

This not-quite-medieval but not-quite-steampunk world is populated by living, magical, books and sorcery from demonic bargains. Librarians are the keepers of the books and look down upon the Magisters, the sorcerers, for their alliances with demons. So naturally this is a great set-up for an orphan, raised in the library and on her way to become a Warden, to get tripped up with a Magister.. who then trips up all her pre-conceived notions, too. 

I don’t mean to be forward, but is that a–“
A sword hidden under my dress? Yes, it is.”
I see. And how exactly is it–“
I thought you didn’t mean to be forward.”

The banter and dynamic between the two leads was great. Even during a weird lull, where I worried my experience with this one was also going to crash and burn, I was comforted by the four and five star worthy dialogue of bickering and nicknames. It was just fabulous. What I could never have suspected, though, was how much I would love a certain demon and that my love for him would have me shedding a tear or two. 

Can you go on?”
Of course I can. I may be useless, but my good looks might prove critical for morale.”

Honestly, the mayhem and calamity that is crashing down around their ears didn’t interest me half as much as the Help Save The World Adventure Squad Trio.. but, to be fair, I did like them a lot so even half of that.. isn’t bad. But I’ll admit I lost a wee bit of love somewhere around the middle bit. Things went in a strange direction I didn’t see coming and there was an odd interaction or two I didn’t quite understand, but overwhelmingly this book was just.. unexpected. Interesting, creative, funny, clever, and fun. There’s one specific thing I liked so much, and liked how it wasn’t really made into A Thing, but I’m not even going to remotely hint at it so that you, too, can be pleasantly surprised about it. Instead, I’ll say how much I appreciated the constant reinforcement, and reminder, of shades of grey as it applies to so many things, including people. It made for a richer story that was already pretty lush. 

These weren’t ordinary books the Great Library kept. They whispered on the shelves and shuddered beneath iron chains. Some spat ink and threw tantrums; others sang to themselves in high, clear notes on windless nights, when starlight streamed through the library’s barred windows like shafts of mercuryOthers still were so dangerous they had to be stored in the underground vault, packed in salt. Not all of them were her friends.

I feel a little nitpicky for harkening back to this after all the nice things I’ve said but for all the good, there were those moments I wasn’t too sold on, and definitely a few typical fantasy roadblocks as we see when the hero/heroes are trying to convince People In Charge that they are Here To Help. It isn’t without some clichés or slower moments so, yeah, it’s not a perfect ten. Hence the four (#math).

Tempting as the prospect is, we are not attempting world domination. It sounds fun in theory, but in reality it’s a logistical nightmare.

But the moments that were good, were great. The parts that made me laugh, really tickled. And those unexpected glimpses of brilliance and emotion.. they are definitely there. I didn’t always like how the perspective could be fluid but at the same time I also really loved how the narrative flowed and didn’t always need us to live through the events but would still catch us up. And I love love loved the end.

I dragged you into this. You wouldn’t be here it it weren’t for me.”
You’re right. I would be alone in my study, utterly miserable, spending my final hours unaware that demons were about to overrun the world. I like this version better. The one with you in it.

SORCERY OF THORNS is definitely worth picking up. I have no idea if there’s more to come and, because of the ending, I almost hope not. But I wouldn’t say no to more, either.

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

RED, WHITE and ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


Title : Red, White & Royal Blue
Author : Casey McQuiston
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : contemporary new adult romance, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Griffin
Release Date : May 14, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

Do either of y’all know what a viscount is? I’ve met, like, five of them, and I keep smiling politely as if I know what it means when they say it. Alex, you took comparative international government relational things. Whatever. What are they?
I think it’s that thing when a vampire creates an army of crazed sex waifs and starts his own ruling body.

I can’t even tell you how happy I am that this book was everything I wanted it to be — and a million things more.

Oh my god, this is like all those romantic comedies where the girl hires a male escort to pretend to be her wedding date and then falls in love with him for real.” “That is not at all what this is like.

RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE is the happiness and sweetness we deserve; not just right now (though maybe especially right now?) but in general. This is one of those rare gems of a story where there isn’t a single character to dislike. Where there is representation in so many fabulous forms. Where there is silliness and drama and charm and swoons and just enough angst to make you hurt and the best kind of ending — the one that makes you cry and cheer and cry some more and hug your kindle to your chest. The kind of ending you’ll relive because you know, absolutely, one hundred percent, that you’ll be reading this book over and over again.

I never thought I’d be standing here faced with a choice I can’t make, because I never.. I never imagined you would love me back.

Royals, politics, biracial rep, bisexual rep, grief, addiction, anxiety.. McQuiston somehow spins it all into a delightful tale that will make you laugh and shed tears and wish you could be friends with the characters within the pages.

Wait, are you watching videos of Justin Trudeau speaking French again?” “That’s not a thing I do!

This is pure fun and totally heartwarming, with tons of real world tongue-in-cheek dialogue (that, hey, it’s nice to laugh about, all things considered), and I’m so happy that release day is (almost!) finally here so I can go about shoving this book in everyone’s face.

I don’t think this election is going to hinge on an email server.
You sure about that?
Listen, maybe if [he] had more time to sow those seeds of doubt, but I don’t think we’re there. Maybe it it were 2016.
^– probably too soon but h o n e s t l y.

Highly highly recommend.

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


THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK by Lucy Parker – double review!


A double review today and we are very in tune over the greatness of this book. In fact, we recommend all of Lucy Parker’s books.

Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.

She can’t take her eyes off him.

Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.


Title : The Austen Playbook
Author
: Lucy Parker
Format : eBook / eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 22, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ ★ .25 / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4.25 star review

The man looked like an assassin in a war film, and would be temperamentally suited to the part. He probably even orgasmed with a frosty stare into the middle distance.

I finished THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK with happy tears in my eyes. This book gave me all the feels. And all the lols, too. As usual I highlighted the crap out of this book.

She wanted to do productions that she wholeheartedly enjoyed, she wanted a passion outside of theatre, and really — she just wanted to be happy. She also wanted other people to be happy, and it often seemed to be an either/or choice.

Parker’s grumpy heroes are some of my favourite, and Griff is no exception, but we need to talk more about her real and charming heroines, too. Freddy was forking fabulous. But the added element of reality to the author’s romances (stretch marks, bad shower sex, just to name a few delightful examples) are what keep this grounded and balanced considering the London West End-style hijinks and drama that tend to ensue.

According to London Celebrity, control freaks are at much greater risk for arthritis, impotence, and pattern baldness. Just so you know.
As long as you have a reliable source.

This couple was so beautifully, wonderfully, honest. Their openness, their communication, the acceptance of their feelings.. it was just gorgeous. It made me happy, and fuzzy, and very swoony.

His tone conjured images of empty chocolate boxes, and the aftermath of a party, and missing the bus by thirty seconds, and all of life’s fleeing moments of gloom.

Set against a live-action whodunit Austen performance, there are reveals and betrayals and all sorts of excitement to be had. There was really nothing I didn’t love about this one but, as always, Parker includes some nastier characters in amongst the lovelier ones.. though I just about died when one of said nasties got a wooden phallus in the eye. Trust me, not only is it on brand for the story, it’s just what she deserves.

For a man who grew up in a house with blowjob carvings on the library mantle, you’re very judgmental of other people’s decor.

With each new addition to the London Celebrities series, it’s getting harder and harder to have a favourite couple because they are all so wonderful. Freddy and Griff are a great addition to this world and I hope to see them in some of Parker’s famous extras and, maybe, even in the background of book five? Hmm? Maybe?

Calls me a contagious joy fairy when we’re alone in a dusty backroom. Compares me to a stagnant pond in a London newspaper. Timing, my friend. It’s a beautiful thing.

Highly recommend.


Micky’s 4 star review

Delightful and witty with a great story to keep the reader fully engaged, THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK continued the series with the same quality of writing and development of characters that I have come to expect from Lucy Parker.

Book four took the setting outside of London to Grumpy Griff’s (Ford-Griffen) country seat. Griff was a TV/stage critic whilst managing the failing finances of his family’s home. Griff had thrown a few review punches at Freddy, the quirky heroine, in the past. Freddy was a breath of positive fresh air with some vulnerabilities hidden behind the ‘everything will be okay’ facade. I took to her immediately.

“He was frequently rude, definitely a Slytherin, and clearly viewed her as a sort of irritating insect who kept buzzing around his space, but there was something very reassuring about his solid warmth when she hurt.”

There was an interwoven backstory behind the main story of a play in the country. Freddy and Griff were thrown into each other’s paths and there was a persistent, bubbling chemistry between them. I had all the feelings when they were interacting, either with looks or banter.

“It was more than physical; it was a building and layering of a bond that went much deeper than that.”

As well as the clever backstory (which Parker conveys with ease), there were a literal cast of side characters, brothers, mean girls, fathers, colleagues and sisters. There is something about the acting world on stage that Lucy Parker translates so well to the reader. The English setting was spot on as always with dialogue, colloquialisms and contexts. The banter and dialogue were engaging. My only little niggle was the unstated dual POV, I loved the dual POV but had ‘who is this’ moments, however I did settle into it.

I can’t recommend this series enough and the best thing is they standalone, you can dip your toe into any of them and read out of order if that’s how you roll. Go discover Lucy Parker and you won’t regret it.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. Thank you Carina Press and Netgalley.

HEATED RIVALRY by Rachel Reid


Nothing interferes with Shane Hollander’s game—definitely not the sexy rival he loves to hate.

Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.

Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.

As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…


Title : Heated Rivalry
Author
: Rachel Reid
Format : eBook
Page Count : 310
Genre : adult sports romance, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : March 25, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

You are very beautiful.
Hottest Man in the NHL, according to Cosmopolitan.”
They are idiots. They put me at number five. Five!
It does seem generous.

I’m pretty stingy with ratings. I know it, you know it, it’s just how it is. However.. today is not that day.

I like girls.
Yeah, no shit.
But I also like you.
Well, lucky me.
Not as a person, of course. But you have a good mouth.

This is an easy five because of the total and utter joy that is this book. I had such a good time reading it, sending screenshots to buddies, and just being completely bowled over by hilarity and feels.. often at the same time. This is my favourite kind of romance — not exactly enemies to lovers but enemies while lovers? grudgingly boning? not quite hate to love but like.. oh whatever fuck it. I give up — but throw in some hockey and opposites attract, not to mention the fantasy surrounding the real people this story is based off of, and I’m just as happy as a pig in shit.

I can’t keep pretending I don’t like you.
You don’t like me.
I do. I.. I maybe like you too much.

HEATED RIVALRY is a joy. There’s really not much more to say. But it’s hot af and also sweet but not in the way book one was; this was gooey, yes, but way more realistically so. I loved the overlap from GAME CHANGER, loved the time jumps, the little flashes of interactions over the course of almost a decade, loved how things came together without ever having to dissolve into angst, loved the ending, loved everything about it, really.

I just don’t understand. How could this have even happened between you? Weren’t there any nice men in Montreal, Shane?
Probably.

Surprising no one I have more highlights than I have words to gush with, and I’m just a pile of soggy grinning goo right now, so, just.. read this.

ps, I want more Game Changers kthanxbai.