MONTHLY WRAP UP – AUGUST 2021

To close out each month, we’ll be posting a break down of everything we reviewed, beginning with the reads we loved.. and ending with the reads we didn’t. Not only does this compile all our reviews in one handy summary for you to peruse, or catch up on, it also gives us an interesting birds eye view of the month and our reads. And maybe, even, our moods.


☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis — see Micky’s review here
Living Beyond Borders edited by Margarita Longoria — see Micky’s review here (!)
Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier — see Hollis’ and Micky’s reviews here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Living Beyond Borders edited by Margarita Longoria — see Hollis’ review here (!)
Uncharted by Adriana Anders — see Micky’s review here
Rosaline Palmer Takes The Cake by Alexis Hall — see Micky’s review here
Battle Royal by Lucy Parker — see Hollis’ & Micky’s review here
Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent — see Micky’s review here
The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren — see Micky’s review here
Viper by Bex Hogan — see Micky’s review here
False Witness by Karin Slaughter — see Hollis’ review here
The Second Rebel by Linden A Lewis — see Micky’s review here
There With You by Samantha Young — see Micky’s review here
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee — see Hollis’ review here
Role Model by Rachel Reid — see Hollis’ review here
Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson — see Hollis’ review here
Vow of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson — see Hollis’ review here
The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic — see Micky’s review here
Dark Waters by Katherine Arden — see Hollis’ review here
Cazadora by Romina Garber — see Hollis’ review here
The Women of Troy by Pat Barker — see Micky’s review here
It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ star reads

The Vanishing by Karla Nikole — see Hollis’ review here
Neon Gods by Katee Robert — see Hollis’ review here

star reads

All’s Well by Mona Awad — see Hollis’ review here
The Good Lie by A.R. Torre — see Micky’s GR review here

u n r a t e d

DNF


additional reads not reviewed for blog : a bunch of old netgalley offerings!
total reads by Micky : 21
favourite read of the month : Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier
least favourite read of the month : The Good Lie by AR Torre
most read genre : SFF/contemporary even

total reviews by Hollis : fourteen
favourite read of the month : Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier (reread!)
least favourite read of the month : All’s Well by Mona Awad
most read genre : half and half contemporary and fantasy

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – AUGUST 31, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang is the h u g e l y anticipated third book in the author’s Kiss Quotient universe and, finally (finally!), features Quan in his own romance. But we don’t need to tell you that..

The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha is the second in the author duo’s apocalyptic Mercenary Librarians world.

Freckles by Ceclia Ahern is a new standalone women’s fiction about feeling the outsider and connecting the dots of what makes you, you.

The Last Library by Freya Sampson is a contemporary/women’s fiction about community and friendship over a threatened closure of the local library.



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

NEON GODS by Katee Robert

He was supposed to be a myth. But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell… he was, quite simply, mine.

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.

With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth… a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…

A modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that’s as sinful as it is sweet.


Title : Neon Gods
Author : Katee Robert
Series : Dark Olympus (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 380
Genre : myth retelling / romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I was close to rounding up on this one but.. there was too much about this particular retelling’s worldbuilding that haunted me for too long. And, in fact, it was only upon starting this review, as I started to talk (write) it out, that I actually started to piece together some of those holes. Sorta. But that doesn’t take away the fact that I found it so distracting for the whole duration of the book. Nor does it solve all the worldbuilding issues. There’s something about this modern but still removed but still modern Olympus that just breaks my brain.

As for the romance.. listen, if I don’t think too hard about how rushed Persephone’s character growth/arc/reveal was, the romance is sweet with a touch of spice. I want to be able to champion the female lead and poke holes in the male but sadly, in this case, as much as I could appreciate Persephone over the course of the story, I never really felt we got to see that duality in her to explain why she’d been one way only to reveal herself as something else. Yes, yes, being able to explore herself, removing masks, yes, it’s all told to us but I didn’t see it because I didn’t see her the other way. A few offhand comments do not a character make. Maybe if we’d spent less time early on to establish that Hades was a fussing mother hen and Persephone needed to eat a few more meals, that page time could’ve gone towards a better foundation.

But yeah, Hades is soft. I don’t really know if this is supposed to be a true D/s romance, maybe it just flirts with the concept (I’ll check some reviews), but even when he was D.. he was soft. I didn’t mind that at all, either. This isn’t a criticism.

Instead my criticisms are definitely worldbuilding and the fact that I couldn’t get a handle on a few things until the end. Sometimes retellings are hard when you know enough about the source or the myth and you just end up tripping yourself up instead of enjoying the homage. This was one of those for me. I also expected to see one of the more famous parts of this myth incorporated and Robert flirted with the idea but didn’t quite commit. So because I expected that, and therefore some angst, and didn’t get it, that also sort’ve twisted me up. Expectations, whatcha gonna do.

This did guarantee I would be humming Eurydice by The Crüxshadows almost the whole time I read this, though. I’m exposing my early aughts goth child with that reference but I don’t even care. What a jam. What a moment. Excuse me while I lose myself in a playlist..

I’m sad to say but for this reader this definitely didn’t live up to the hype. But, minor irritants with my brain not cooperating over those worldbuilding bits, I didn’t hate my time with this, either. Which is why I will read on.

FALSE WITNESS by Karin Slaughter

AN ORDINARY LIFE

Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.

HIDES A DEVASTATING PAST

But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.

BUT NOW THE PAST IS CATCHING UP

Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT

If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Callie, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…


Title : False Witness
Author : Karin Slaughter
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 512
Genre : contemporary / crime-thriller
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : July 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

Even though she writes some of the most disturbingly dark and twisty stories, there’s really nothing like sinking into a Slaughter. And this was no different.

Due to the subject matter, I couldn’t possibly recommend this (check for triggers or, you know, just don’t read from this author..), but the way this story unfolded was so well done. And that started right from the beginning.

I don’t read many summaries in general but I never do for this author and so I had no idea where we were starting or where we were going. Unlike her usual procedurals, there’s no real investigation to be done in False Witness because the crimes have already been committed and there’s no question who has done it. We watch as Leigh Collier, a defence attorney, is faced with an unexpected criminal trial where the accused happens to feature a face from her past. But this isn’t a nostalgic reunion but instead someone who, it seems, knows Leigh’s darkest secret. Worse, this connection to her past is now trying to use that secret against her in order to get away with horrible acts.

This was uncomfortable, I’ll be honest, and not just because of what happened in the past, or what the present-day villain was doing, but because Slaughter is so good at writing horrible horrifying terrifying characters. The subtle menace in how she describes their behaviour, their expressions, it’s palpable.

That said, for all this wasn’t a mystery to solve, there were quite a few surprises along the way. One of them being how the beginning narrative makes you think one thing, only to realize another. But in other ways, too.

Also? For all the darkness, this was heartbreaking, lovely, and so sad. The connection between these sisters, the struggle Leigh’s sister, Callie, faced every day. Everything that had been stacked against her. And yet she was so.. kind. Sweet. Caring. And their relationship, and what these two sisters were willing to do for each other.. I definitely got choked up.

Unexpectedly, COVID has a very real presence in this story. I wasn’t sure I liked that at first but actually it worked. It was taken seriously, with everything still happening in real time, not just as a flippant or off the cuff reference, or used as a plot device. That said, if you don’t want to deal with that in your fiction, this is your warning.

If Slaughter wants to churn out some more standalones like this between now and the next Will Trent? I wouldn’t be mad at all.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – AUGUST 24, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


Uncharted by Adriana Anders is the second in this romantic suspense series set in northern, cold regions. The second book did not disappoint Micky and this is a quick, engrossing read.

Bombshell kicks off a new series by Sarah MacLean which has ties to a few of her other works and is, unsurprisingly, “blazingly sexy, unapologetically feminist.” Yes please!

The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis picks up a changed set of characters from the end of The First Sister. This is fast-paced, a little complex but worth the investment.

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker follows up Briseis’ narrative now that Troy has fallen. If you liked The Silence of the Girls, this is a sequel you need.



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

THE VANISHING by Karla Nikole

Nearly two centuries ago, hundreds of purebred vampires disappeared without any explanation—vanished like mist swept away in the breeze.

Nino Bianchi and Haruka Hirano are mated purebred vampires: madly in love and exploring the depths of their young bond. But an unexpected event brings their cozy lives to a screeching halt. A new vanishing, much too close to home.

The world of Lore and Lust stretches deeper with more romance, mystery, love and trust. A queer vampire love story full of heart and delicious heat.


Title : The Vanishing
Author : Karla Nikole
Series : Lore & Lust (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 338
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ paranormal romance
Publisher : Karla Nikole Publishing
Release Date : February 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

On the one hand, a lot more happened in this instalment compared to book one, which had been one of my big complaints, but overall.. I’m sorry, I’m still not really getting this series.

I still don’t fully comprehend this vampire society, aristocracy, hierarchy, whatever, but we did get some insight behind — go figure — the big Vanishing; which was basically the complete loss of the English pureblood (purebred?) population. Why only England I have no idea but I’m just chocking that one upto one more thing I don’t understand and just kinda rolling with it. That said, the reason for it, and the villain behind it, feels pretty flimsy. Maybe we’ll get more about that in book three.

In this book we had two romances playing out, the one from book one and another between characters connected to the main protagonists. It offered up something different and, dare I say it, more interesting.

That said, where Nino had been my favourite character in book one, there was a certain interaction with his brother that changed my opinion of him. And a few other revelations and observations from his best friend added to that. Somehow Nino’s brother Giovanni, grumpy alpha asshole who nonetheless shoulders so much responsibility and does so much for Nino, now holds the top spot.

Aside from that positive, I’m still struggling with the writing, the weird dialogue, plus all the aforementioned plot and worldbuilding weirdness, and sometimes the chapters ends abruptly or we transition into something in a strange manner. But it’s also just that.. I just don’t understand the point. This time there was less focus on the Lore & Lust book, at least in talking about it, but instead Haruka is translating stuff with a family and I just.. I don’t understand why?

This whole series is just befuddling to me.

I’m going to see through this series to the end, the third (and final?) book is out in the fall, but unless things really take off I’m not sure I would pick up this author again.

EIGHT PERFECT HOURS by Lia Louis

What if you fell in love…

… and then he disappeared?

When Noelle and Sam’s lives collide one snowy evening, they spend eight perfect hours stuck side by side believing that they’ll never see each other again.

But soon their lives become entangled in ways they never expected – and it’s going to change everything…

Don’t miss the latest, hotly anticipated love story from Lia Louis! Perfect for fans of Beth O’Leary, Josie Silver and Cecelia Ahern.


Title : Eight Perfect Hours
Author : Lia Louis
Format : e-ARC
Page Count :368
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Trapeze Books
Release Date : August 19, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Palpitations and angst
Kismet
Banter score 100
Down-to-earth relatable heroine

Eight Perfect Hours landed on my kindle from netgalley at 6pm and I opened at at 6:01pm, all other bookish plans cancelled (best decision ever). How long did it take me to get into it? One. Hot. Second.

Now that I’ve got the gushing over, here are some non-spoilery thoughts to encourage in new and those who are already Lia Louis fans. Noelle Butterby was one of the most relatable heroines I’ve ever read. Noelle would call herself boring and insignificant but this story was anything but. It started with a snowed up stationery motorway and a circumstantial meeting with Sam. Then they kept meeting one another. Now I want to say this is not some prolonged missed opportunities trope (which I do not gel with) it was something else.

Every time I’m near him, I want to stop the hands of all the world’s clocks. I never want to leave.

The characters in this book navigagted grief, ex-es, commitments and dependents. There were characters who annoyed the heck out of me (side entrance: Ed the Ped) and others that brought light and hope. All of this had me totally stuck to the page, I devoured this book, inhaled it really and I have no regrets.

Lia Louis keeps her streak for creating fantastic stories and characters but my actions on picking it up immediately showed that I never doubted it for a moment. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

BATTLE ROYAL by Lucy Parker – double review!

Beloved author Lucy Parker pens a delicious new romantic comedy that is a battle of whisks and wits.

Ready…

Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, colorful creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere, the hottest pastry chef in London. When her glittery unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has managed to use her fame to help fulfill her dream of opening a bakery, Sugar Fair. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess.

Set…

Dominic is His Majesty the King’s favorite baker, the go-to for sweet-toothed A-List celebrities, and a veritable British institution. He’s brilliant, talented, hard-working. And an icy, starchy grouch. Learning that the irksome Sylvie will be joining him on the Operation Cake judging panel is enough to make the famously dour baker even more grim. Her fantastical baking is only slightly more troublesome than the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her pink-streaked hair and irrepressible dimple.

Match…

When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they’re both determined to come out on top.

The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection.

In this royal battle, can there be room for two?


Title : Battle Royal
Author : Lucy Parker
Series : Palace Insiders (book one)
Format : eARC / eBook
Page Count : 411
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : August 17, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

While Battle Royal shares some similarities to one of my all-time favourite Parker reads, and obviously by the above rating I really loved it, I’ll admit this might end up being on the bottom rung of my top five favourites from this author. Which just goes to show you how much I love her books because so many of them are so great. But it’s easily the one that made me cry the most.

Some of us have compassion for others. It’s called empathy.
Some of us would hug a rabid squirrel if it shed a few tears and burbled an improbably sob story. It’s called gullibility.”

This story is doing a lot plot-wise, which may actually be what works against it a little bit, only because sometimes certain elements don’t quite get the full attention they deserve, or are tied-off pretty quickly and conveniently, but despite all that, I enjoyed everything that was done. And was also, like, moved by much of it; see aforementioned tears.

[..] it’s way too.. not beige to come from your kitchens.”
A neutral palette is universally appropriate.”
That’s not how you pronounce ‘dull’.

The obvious plot points to note are easily deduced by both cover and summary; there’s a pair of rival grumpy/sunshine bakers who feature not only on a GBBO-like baking competition but also are competing to win the royal wedding cake contract. But what’s less obvious? Is the lovely infusion of found family dynamics. As well as complicated biological-family relations. Less lovely but just as emotional? The talk and processing of loss and grief.

Jealousy is a destructive, pointless emotion and a complete waste of time.
Fairly annoying, then, that it’s seeping from your pores right now?
Very.”

Like many romances these days, we’re getting more bang for our buck and within the pages of this cutesy adorable outside is a lot of substance. Which isn’t to say the cutesy adorable ones aren’t just as satisfying. But I definitely picked this up for something joyful and fun and I got that.. and tears. That’s all I mean. And I don’t remotely regret getting more than I wanted. There were plenty of laughs (full out cackles a time or two) and I really enjoyed watching these two opposites fall for each other amongst all the other excitement happening around them. Bonus points because they are a bit older than the typical romance protagonists and, as always, Parker makes the steamy moments steamy and a little silly and all around endearingly real.

You have the table side manner of the shark from Jaws.

Though I maybe didn’t come off as strong about my love for this one, I think that’s a combination of having too many top top favourites from the author and also just because this one, despite the emotes, was a bit of a softer touch. A slower, gentler, burn of a story.

I’m equal parts terrified and aroused.”
What an excellent relationship motto for us.”

All that to say : this is a definite recommend. And I can’t wait for the next in the series.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
When your judge becomes your peer
When you hate each other, or do you…
A combination of family & found family

Well Lucy Parker started a brand new series in style and confirmed my trust in her brand of romance is unwavering. This story had a combination of a re-imagining of the Great British Bake Off with royalty, judges of the competition, business rivalry and so much chemistry.

Sylvie was the wildly creative character in this, full of glitter, focus and drive while Dominic was an ex-mentor as such, clean lines, minimalist and her opposite in every way. We all know that opposites make for the best couples though and this book provided an excellent plot to work alongside what built between these two. There was the most compelling family and found family context to this story, Pet had me glued to the page.

“You have the tableside manner of the shark from Jaws.”

Lucy Parker writes with wit (as ever) and dialogue that makes you feel the emotional temperature. The chemistry was palpable and there was nothing I didn’t enjoy about this read. I’m truly excited for more from this series.

Thank you to the author for the arc that I won in a giveaway, this hasn’t affected by unbiased opinion.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – AUGUST 17, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


Living Beyond Borders edited by Margarita Longoria is a collection of short stories, essays, poems and comics on what it’s like growing up Mexican American. Bonus points that this is edited by our friend Margie Longoria!

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker is the much anticipated start to a new series by a beloved author. We didn’t care what this was even about, we just wanted it; but knowing it’s an enemies-to-lovers/grumpy sunshine match-up set against a baking competition? Yes, all the yes.

Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko is the second in this West African fantasy duology. It promises to be exciting if Raybearer was anything to go by.

Codirection by Gregory Ashe is the fourth instalment in the author’s Borealis : Without a Compass series which features gay private investigators (or, rather, investigators who happen to be gay). One of us has been devouring the author’s backlist and is hyped to have done so in time for a new release.

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis all starts with a snow-bound motorway and an collision of chemistry. Micky loved this and you’re just going to have to pick it up if you want the details (and you do).



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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – AUGUST 10, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


Role Model by Rachel Reid is the newest addition to the author’s Game Changers series featuring queer hockey players. Now that the playoffs are over, this will not only satisfy your romance-loving heart, but give you the hockey content you are craving.



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