ACT YOUR AGE, EVE BROWN by Talia Hibbert – double review!

In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior. 


Title : Act Your Age, Eve Brown
Author : Talia Hibbert
Series : The Brown Sisters (book three)
Format : eARC/audio
Page Count : 400/10 hours 51 minutes
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon / Little Brown UK
Release Date : March 9, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I mean, is anyone surprised that this was a delight? Nope. Because I don’t think Hibbert can do any wrong. And The Brown Sisters series has been truly wonderful and I’m pretty sad it’s over. But.. might there be hope of a spinoff? With the Montroses? Pretty please?

[..] you’re not even supposed to give them bread.
You aren’t? Oh dear. Why on earth not?
It’s bad for the disgestion! Christ, woman, read a waterfowl blog.”
Which you do because..
Because. Know thine enemy.

This final installment was a grumpy/sunshine delight of a matchup. These are two such very different characters and their first interaction, quickly followed by disaster, certainly set the tone for their wee bicker banter battles. The evolution from that, to friends, to scorching, to more, well.. it was delicious and fun and sweet and also a little heartbreaking. What added to the loveliness of this pairing wasn’t just their differences, though, but also how they fit together almost like two sides of the same coin. Not the same but alike.

Jacob’s attitude was rather like a barbed-wire fence; designed to rip you to shreds if you got too close, but only to protect something special.

While I still think I maintain that book one, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, was my favourite, as much as seeing the sisters and their partners was nice, it didn’t get me as excited as I would’ve thought, as Eve was truly was the star of her own story. And I just wanted more time with her. Jacob, too, was just.. I can’t think of any word but special. But he was.

[..] the world would be a much better place if they stopped congratulating themselves on being normal and started to accept that there were countless different normals, and Jacob’s kind was just as fine as everyone else’s.

My only tiny complaints were the third act drama, though now that I’m outside of the moment I think I’m less bothered by it in hindsight, it’s far from the worst I’ve read!, and the ending. Despite the sweetness of the moment, and how it’s not leading upto what you might think, it did end a tad abruptly and I was left bereft; and not just because it’s over.

This is such a lovely town. I don’t know how you manage to stay so grumpy when you live here.”
Through great force of will.”

If somehow you’ve managed to resist picking up this series, or even a single Hibbert, I’m here to yell at you until you change your mind. This is a much beloved author for a reason and you will be better for reading her books. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here and, surprising no one, will pick up whatever she releases next.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Neurodivergent rep
Steam
Bad driving
Sisterhood
Did I mention steam?

There’s something just so easy about sinking into a series where you know something about the characters and The Brown Sisters is a series that has really floated my boat from the start. As with the other Brown sisters, Eve was wholly individual but also quirky, confident and yet not.

The story started with a blow-up, an escape and a bang as Eve found herself in the Lake District which was pretty fun but <enter side left> came Jake. Abrupt, grumpy, perfectionist and with a hard shell, Jake’s character had to be unravelled and Eve was certainly up to the task.

This story had elements of the ridiculous (just as life is sometimes) and the combination of Eve and Jake interacting and at odds with each other brought much humour, me sniggering and dialogue that you just couldn’t make up. I can’t deny that when the family came together in the story I had moments of cosily settling in, seeing these sisters and their partners together.

The representation in this book felt genuine, not forced. The story repped neurodivergent characteristic and body positive behaviour with sloganed T-shirts. All these things for the win. I would be interested in finding some neurodivergent #ownvoices reviews to check how this felt on reading.

Overall, Act Your Age, Eve Brown was a pleasurable read with intense heat and the wit I’ve come to know Talia Hibbert for. These books go on the re-read pile.

I did a combination of physical and audiobook and the narration (dual POV) was excellent and fitted the mood and characters really well.

Thank you Piatkus, Little Brown and LibroFM for the early review copies.

PERFECT ON PAPER by Sophie Gonzales – double review!

In Sophie Gonzales’ Perfect on Paper, Leah on the Offbeat meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: a bisexual girl who gives anonymous love advice to her classmates is hired by the hot guy to help him get his ex back

Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.

Darcy Phillips:
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes―for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89―out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service―that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach―at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?


Title : Perfect on Paper
Author : Sophie Gonzales
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Wenesday Books/Hachette Kids-TeamBKMK
Release Date : March 9, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

It’s always strange to like something but have complicated thoughts or feelings about aspects of it.. and yet still can’t help but rate it highly. That’s really where I’m at. I don’t think this is going to be a particularly informative or cohesive review, just warning you now.

Overall I just want to say how happy I am that, conflicted confusedness aside, it is easier to like to this vs how I felt about Only Mostly Devastated, which just didn’t settle with me very well. The abovementioned was so messy and while we do have some mess, some misguided elements in Perfect on Paper, it was.. a more acceptable mess, if that makes sense. Or maybe I was just more forgiving of it.

You do realize I’m agreeing with you here?
I guess I’ve never had agreement feel so much like an argument.”

I can definitely suspend some of my disbelief at how competent a sixteen year old was at dispensing sage and well researched romantic advice to her peers but the narrative is pushed that said advise is well researched, well intentioned, so I can probably eat that one. And what helps to sell it is that while she’s being paid, she’s doing it to help others, as a passion project, and that goes a long way vs just doing it just for cash or to collect secrets on her peers. The motivation changes everything.

Did a fight lead to the breakup?
More or less. I guess I gave her an ultimatum.
You didn’t.”
I wish that were true.
Why didn’t you just throw a fucking grenade between you while you were at it?

So many elements of this felt strong; the mention but lack of focus, or harping, on her sister’s transition. The discussion around queerness, specifically internalized and externalized biphobia. The ego checks our lead received throughout regarding missteps in advice, in realizing some people didn’t want her help, and more.

Where I think this was a bit weak, even though it played a big role, was her relationship with her best friend and, initially, the characterization of a love interest. Eventually the latter smoothed out but I do wonder if I missed something to explain why he behaved the way he did in the beginning. I’m not quite complaining as I found the interactions totally delightful because of how frustrating they found each other, but I still wish maybe something had been offered up as a why. But for the best friend, well.. I don’t know. Something never really sat right about that dynamic. And I don’t want to touch on too much for risk of spoilers — and a few other niggles are maybe too specific to mention for that same reason — so.. insert vague vagueries here.

I don’t know if this review is coming across as positive as a four star would warrant but I’ll refer you back to my opening paragraph. Something about this just confuses me even though I enjoyed it so so much. Was it perfect? No. But it did just enough right. And I was just so happy about the ending, particularly one little interaction that shouldn’t be so momentous, and may not even be remarked by many, but just.. wrecked me a bit. Left me so soft. And that combined with the fact that I couldn’t tear myself away from this, well.. here we are.

After my (albeit, strange) success with this sophomore release, I’m even more excited for what is to come for this author.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Page turner
LGBTQIA+ rep for days
Incredibly cute

A clever story was contained in these pages, all centred around Locker 89 and Darcy. Darcy was bi-sexual, crushing on her friend and seemed to limit her life options and expectations. She also ran an advice service through locker 89 (you’d have to read to understand). Now I’ve got that out of the way, I can talk about my own expectations – I had no idea where the romance of this story was going to go for the first part; I loved the lack of expectation.

Friendships were on the menu, a smattering of drama, lots of secrets and lies and problematic parents. I liked Brooke but only a bit, Ray definintely grew on me, Ainsley was fab and Brougham delivered on the slow building chemistry. Brougham slowly defrosted in this story and I enjoyed the reveal of his character.

There was something special about being seen the way that Brougham seemed to see me.

There was something flawed and cocky about Darcy but also plenty of self-realisation and awareness to mitigate the cockiness. The bi context delved into the some really important experiences, which only enhanced the story even more. This book had a lovely pitch of light with the odd casting of darkness across the page. I loved that circle back around to the ‘job’ towards the end.

Perfect on Paper confirmed that Only Mostly Devastated was not a one-off piece of goodness, Sophie Gonzales followed that up with another superb offering. I still need to visit her back catalogue of titles.

Thank you to Hachette Kids & TeamBKMK for the early review copy.

BLOOD HEIR by Ilona Andrews – double review!

Atlanta was always a dangerous city. Now, as waves of magic and technology compete for supremacy, it’s a place caught in a slow apocalypse, where monsters spawn among the crumbling skyscrapers and supernatural factions struggle for power and survival.

Eight years ago, Julie Lennart left Atlanta to find out who she was. Now she’s back with a new face, a new magic, and a new name—Aurelia Ryder—drawn by the urgent need to protect the family she left behind. An ancient power is stalking her adopted mother, Kate Daniels, an enemy unlike any other, and a string of horrifying murders is its opening gambit.

If Aurelia’s true identity is discovered, those closest to her will die. So her plan is simple: get in, solve the murders, prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, and get out without being recognized. She expected danger, but she never anticipated that the only man she’d ever loved could threaten everything.

One small misstep could lead to disaster. But for Aurelia, facing disaster is easy; it’s relationships that are hard.


Title : Blood Heir
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Aurelia Ryder (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 359
Genre : urban fantasy / paranormal romance
Publisher : NYLA
Release Date : January 12, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

It happened. It really happened. We are back in the Kate Daniels universe. What a time to be alive.

However, so saying, I don’t even know where to begin writing this review. Everything kind of feels like a spoiler? Even though the synopsis reveals the score it still feels like it could be a surprise to those who are even more blurb and spoiler averse than myself. So suffice it to say.. you are in for so much fun.

My patience is an infinite lake. Feel free to drown yourself.

I feel like that quote, however, is a direct callout to the readers. Because these authors now know (always knew..) we are going to be clamouring for more and thankfully have quickly set expectations for their schedule. This series is not being traditionally published so it comes last in current commitments but from what I recall they said they would be starting to draft this year (incase you didn’t know they did confirm two more for this series) and maybe spending next year dealing with a bunch more self-published works? I think that even (finally) might mean more Hugh.. dreams do come true! But the fact that this even became a book at all is just.. I’m so happy.

I realize this review is mostly a discussion about the authors and book release, so, ahem. Here you go. I loved being back in this world, I loved the new direction, and I loved how things have shifted (hah.. sorry, shifter joke) for some of the familiar faces. Snark, banter, kickass battle sequences, weird ass monsters, nostalgia (for me AND our lead), complex magic, prophecies and destinies and predictions of death, and aaaaaangst. It is all here. Good times.

Also don’t forget to check out the little extras at the end! Even more good times.


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Happy sighs, favourite world
Slow burn
Secrets
Potential couple goals

I am all smiles that I got to read another book in this world when I thought re-reads would be the only balm on Kate Daniels need. I loved that even though there was much familiarity, there was also freshness to revel in.

Aurelia was unexpected and fierce. I really enjoyed the details of her character, her powers, her missing history was slowly revealed and I was always guessing about her. I know for sure there is more revealing to come as this series plays out.

Aurelia wasn’t the only familiar face to spring through the pages and some I knew would be coming and others bowled me over with a bit of a shock wave. This one wasn’t to gory for my delicate nature (I often had to grit my teeth through Kate Daniels gore). I felt like there was some nuture coming into play with Aurelia and the street kids. That was something that really drew me to Aurelia.

There’s a slow burn of something in this first installment and it oh so reminded me of Kate and Curran but again with a fresh feel. No details here but I found it pretty thrilling. Also banter, this world brings all the banter and I lap it up

“Stabby.” She claimed it wasn’t a proper name for a weapon, so after the first Dakkan broke, I offered to name the new one Sharpy McStabbison, the Son of Stabby.

Ilona Andrews fans will not be disappointed.

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins – double review!

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie­ Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?


Title : The Wife Upstairs
Author : Rachel Hawkins
Narrators : Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Fortgant
Format : Audiobook / eBook (overdrive)
Length : 8 hours 39 minutes / 277 pages
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : MacMillan Audio / St. Martin’s Press
Release Date : January 5, 2021

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Morally grey characters in every direction
Unreliable narrators
Twists in unexpected ways
A side order of Big Little Lies feeling

I heard the words Jane Eyre re-telling and I ran pretty fast to this audiobook. The Wife Upstairs mostly had the atmosphere I was seeking and I totally enjoyed seeing a contemporary envisoning of the familiar characters of Jane Eyre, especially Eddie, Jane, Blanche and B. Adele was a treat too.

As you would imagine, the focus started on Jane and I liked that Jane was not the angel she was in the original book, this made me feel more invested because I knew this was going to be different. Jane was a plotter, a climber and she had goals, so much so that I thought I knew where this would lead; I was wrong.

Blanche and B ‘Bertha’ were like the ugly sisters or mean girls all rolled into one. Blanche being a more fleshed out character was a very welcome element to the story. Eddie was never really likeable and that crushed my Rochester-loving heart a little but then this wasn’t a romance.

The storyline was pretty clever and this audiobook kept me guessing and invested. I did sometimes get confused with Bee (or B) and Blanche and the two female narrators didn’t sound that different to me, even with their different accents, so I had to really concentrate at times.

The culmination was good, if quick wrap up. The Wife Upstairs was an addictive and enjoyable listen. I would love to see some more classic re-envisioning as thrillers. Such a great idea.

Thank you to LibroFM and MacMillan Audio for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything Rachel Hawkins has released (notably mostly YA stuff but hey!) so this was on my radar even before I knew it was a Jane Eyre-inspired retelling; and not only that but a thriller/mystery to boot. Lots of boxes were being checked here.

I’ll admit this was kind of a slowburn for me that never really built the blazing inferno I might’ve expected.. or at least wanted. But at the same time it dragged me away from other distractions throughout the day and I chewed through it pretty quick. So maybe it was less of a build and more just a steady solitary flame?

Either way, if you’re a fan of the original classic or just know the bare bones this’ll definitely appeal to both kind of reader. There’s enough that sticks true to the story but so much, too, that differs; and I was particularly interested in which characters Hawkins decided to flesh out, and how.

If you’re looking for a Southern Gothic vibe kind of mystery, with twists and homages, you should give this one a try.

BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore – double review!

Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.

But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.

Whatever that past holds.

Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . .


Title : Bitterblue
Author : Kristin Cashore
Narrator : Emma Powell
Series : Graceling Realm (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)/audiobook
Page Count : 572/17 hours, 58 minutes
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : May 1, 2012

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Oof, now I understand why I had weird rememberings of not quite enjoying this on the same level as the other Graceling Realm books. Because this one is a lot. Not just in page length, either (ba dum boom hiss..).

I feel like Cashore has done a really great job up until this point introducing unsavoury characters who have done terrible deeds and that lead-in is what makes Bitterblue especially tough in the aftermath. And the way Cashore handled this, the slow, twisting, winding path in getting us to the end..? Well, I can definitey see that maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset to take that journey the first time I read it. Maybe I was distracted, maybe I put it down too many times to keep all the threads clear in my mind, who knows. But wow I could not pull myself away this time. Sure, there are some parts that are better than others, maybe sometimes it gets a bit bogged down or meandering, but it’s not without purpose. These things play an important role, and the confusion and frustration is real, in trying to pick apart lies and secrets. As well as the lost moments, lost people, lost items.

“.. that’s how memory works. Things disappear without your permission, then come back again without your permission.”

In a post-Leck world, after surviving the reign of a man who could crawl into your mind and convince you to do things — and generally his inclination was for awful things — how do you live with yourself? How do you deal with the trauma you’ve survived or the trauma you’ve forced upon others? When your mind has been so twisted and torn apart that you can’t even remember some parts of your life.. while other events, other deeds, that you would wish to forget have been tattooed into your memory.

[the] challenge, she thought, is to balance knowing with healing.

This was a hard read, it was. There is still some excitement, some romance, a little bit of levity and loveliness from reuniting with characters from previous books, and a whole ton of mystery, but Cashore has set up this devastating situation and she works her characters through it. She works her reader through it. And yeah, fine, no one is surprised by this anymore, but there were like three or four instances near the end that just had me in and out of tears. Feels, emotions, I had so many.

The characters in this world, particularly this book, are.. something else. Not perfect, no, and complicated, stubborn and bratty and self-sacrificing, so many things. But they are so much themselves, in their choices, their mistakes, their tragedies, in their missteps even with one another, that you (I) cannot help but love them.

I am so so incredibly glad I reread these going into book four (out January nineteenth!) and it is incredibly relieving, in my current “get rid of and downsize books you don’t love!” mode that these are not going anywhere. They are staying pretty on my shelves.



Micky’s 3 star review

I ended up listening to Bitterblue on audio as the library wasn’t being helpful with a copy at the ready. Although I enjoyed the read, I think audio may have affected my experience a little and I’ll explain why later (it has nothing to do with the narration).

I loved Bitterblue’s character and the depth of her experiences in Graceling, so I was looking forward to her book. When we met Bitterblue in this book, years had passed (about eight) and she was frustratedly ruling her kingdom. Bitterblue still had that wild streak and much of this story stemmed from her rebellious high jinks, just attempting to get a bit of real life experience outside of queening.

You can imagine that Monsea was a mess post-Leck and story rotated around that history, atrocities and its legacy. Bitterblue found herself embroiled with a character called Saf, a thief with integrity. This connection was meant to partly be the crux of the story but I didn’t feel their bond and I actually wanted Bitterblue with Giddon. Giddon seemed much changed since Graceling and I liked him so much more.

Major bonus points for all the Po time there was in this instalment and the bit of Katsa we got. Also the reappearance of an character (now elderly) from Fire. I love the interweaving of these seperate lands, time frames and characters Cashore has brought to the series overall. The last 20% of this read was the best part for me and pulled me back into love with the series after feeling a bit uninspired for the majority of the listen.

The narration was excellent, so it wasn’t this element that made me enjoy this book less. I think my issues were more about the many different characters and keeping track on audio can be more difficult (and you can’t flick back through the book to remind yourself). Also the Saf/Bitterblue connection reduced my feels on this.

But…I am primed and ready for Winterkeep and I’m really looking forward to it.

MEMENTO by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – double review!

From New York Times bestselling authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff comes an Illuminae prequel digital novella that gives readers a hair-raising glimpse into the calamity that befell the invincible AI system known as AIDAN–and the daring young programmer who would risk her life to keep it from crashing.

AIDAN is the AI you’ll love to hate.

The advanced AI system was supposed to protect a fleet of survivors who’d escaped the deadly attack on Kerenza IV. AIDAN was supposed to be infallible. But in the chaotic weeks and months that followed, it became clear that something was terribly, terribly wrong with AIDAN…


Title : Memento
Author : Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series : The Illuminae Files (book .5)
Format : audiobook (overdrive)
Page Count : 59 (hour and a half via audio)
Genre : YA sci-fi
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 20, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I had intended to read this in true Illuminae Files form by listening to the audiobook and following along with the physical but, as I was doing chores while listening along, the physical follow along kind of crashed and burned before it could even take off. That said, shockingly, this was so easy to follow along with anyway; a big miracle for me considering I only do audio for rereads. But I think between my familiarity with the world, and the short novella length, this wiggled its way into a sweet spot for me.

I absolutely loved returning to this world, and to this fantastic production and full cast audio, and it shed some light on the events leading into the events of book one in this world. The problem I have is now wanting to just continue on and reread the rest..

This whole premise is basically a spoiler to the main series so there isn’t much I can say but if you like space, like snark, and want to have a mini movie playing out between your ears? Give this a go. And then do what I am now resisting : read the rest. This series is just perfection. Highly recommend.


Micky’s 4 star review

Fantastic short story but how I wanted more. How dare Kristoff and Kaufman drag you into new characters, get you invested and then it be over within a brief time. I love this world, this series and I miss it. This story took you to the prior to of Illuminae, AIDAN was at the centre of this and all I can say is …sneaky, sinister AIDAN who I can’t help but like. He’s the darkest of heroes.

I don’t want to spoiler, I won’t spoiler, but AIDAN what the f***. I did really love Olivia and her story arc was definitely a roller coaster. What all this tells me is that my favouritie author duo could definitely write more in this world…pretty please?

I do feel like the narrator for this AIDAN was different to rest of the series and I preferred the original cast member.

FIRE by Kristin Cashore – double review!

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.


Title : Fire
Author : Kristin Cashore
Series : Graceling Realm (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 480
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : October 5, 2009

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was quite a different experience for me for this reread. Initially I had a really hard time connecting to this story, the worldbuilding, the characters even a little (though they were easier to lose myself in), and I don’t really know why. True, this is part of the Graceling Realm but it’s a totally different part of that world and while we do have a character from book one present, though in a very different state and from a different time, it’s night and day compared to what we knew of this world from reading book one. So just bear that in mind. Likely you won’t have my issues, and I still don’t truly understand them, but I was definitely worried for a while this would be a total miss for me.

It wasn’t.

This book, even some of the themes, and certainly the events, differ so much it’s definitely it’s own animal. I have no sense of memory as to whether anything from this book will be relevant in book three (my memory, she bad), so it’s almost better to treat this as less of a prequel and more of a companion. Which most people likely do anyway. But enough rambling.

I really did come to love this story, and especially the characters, once I’d regained my footing. In fact this made me cry, or tear and choke up, at least a few times. Hormones could be blamed but I think it was just also the writing, the moment, and how I’d come to appreciate this complicated layered personalities.

While Graceling featured a protagonist who had done things that made her feel monstrous, this time we really do have a monster of a protagonist. And if that doesn’t hook you into picking this book up, what will!

Cashore’s writing was vivid and lovely, descriptive and occasionally devastating, and layered with all sorts of interesting.. well, layers. Also, once again, full on repping the normalize talk of periods and what a body undergoes. It had a pretty relevant reason for being talked about to the extent it did, too, and I loved how she worked that in.

But anyway. Read this series. So far this revisit is going really really well and I’m excited to read the third book which I do remember not liking as much, or very much at all, but honestly.. that’s all I remember. So we shall see.


Micky’s 4.5 star review

4.5 stars

Fire swept me up immediately in this Graceling Realm tale. I had stupidly thought this would be a continuation of Katsa and Po but this was a totally different land and cast of characters from the world. Gracelings were a minor but important feature.

The story was set in the time of Leck’s childhood (nausea brewing) and you need a steally stomach for elements of this especially pertaining to animals. Talking of which, I adored Small in no small way. Fire and Small’s connection was just lovely. Fire’s character was a slow revealing throughout the story, she became more as she revealed more of herself to others. I had a really vivid picture of her in my head. The whole premise to Fire’s attraction was fascinating and difficult for her to live with; I enjoyed that whole story arc.

There was a delicious slow burn romance in the background that was founded on hate. Fire and Brigan had such a believable connection spurned on tragedy, trust and mistrust and family. There were side characters for days that made this read as colourful as Fire’s hair. I found Nash annoying then hilarous, Hanna was sweet, Clara forthright and Fire’s guard were fantastic.

This really was an addictive read, I wanted to devour it and thought of it when I wasn’t reading. If you’ve not read this series, put it on your planning for this year.

FOREVER WILD by K.A. Tucker – double review!

From the international bestselling author of The Simple Wild comes Forever Wild, a novella that continues the story of Calla’s journey to the Alaskan wild and a life she never imagined for herself. 

The holiday season is upon Calla and Jonah, and with the mistletoe and gingerbread comes plenty of family drama. Jonah is bracing himself for two weeks with a stepfather he loathes, and while Calla is looking forward to her mother and Simon’s arrival, she dreads the continued pressure to set a date for their wedding … in Toronto. Add in one bullheaded neighbor’s unintentional meddling and another cantankerous neighbor’s own family strife, and Christmas in Trapper’s Crossing will be anything but simple. 


Title : Forever Wild
Author : K.A. Tucker
Series : Simple Wild (book 2.5)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 156
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : December 1, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

So somehow this novella did what the previous full length installment didn’t do for me. It made me happy, it made me sad, it made me cry, and it also made me excited about a companion book featuring the same cast and crew but with a different protagonist. It was also all that and very festive and lovely for the holiday season, too.

My one gripe would be that there was a dynamic introduced between Jonah and another character that definitely worked as a way to give this short read some angst and tension.. but I’m not entirely sure it wrapped in a satisfying way. Or, like, at all? It also had another suspense/tension element that ties into this and also maybe wasn’t necessary, particularly as the thing that ties it all together was.. again, not quite a resolution. So if I think too hard on that I might be tempted to round down but.. honestly, carrying over from the major positive in book two? Roy. Roy broke me in this one. I had so many feels. I enjoyed the Calla and Jonah romance dynamic too, don’t get me wrong, but was more periphery for me. I was more invested in the whole town/group dynamic. And yeah mostly Roy. My heart..

So if you want something sweet and cozy and maybe also a little sad but still lovely, and you’re already a fan of this series, you absolutely need to fit this in before the end of the year; or at least while still in the throes of winter.

Micky’s 3 star review

A short and bland review from me I’m afraid. As with all the books in this series, Forever Wild was easy reading and mildly entertaining but it didn’t give me much on the feels front. It’s definitely an added extra and not required reading in the series. In fact, I felt short-changed a bit by the end section, it was very rushed.

I do have an vague affinity for Calla and Jonah but even more for the setting of Alaska and romance in that context. I liked Calla in this but Jonah fell flat for me on this one. There wasn’t much of his personality on the page unless you count the grounching at parents. The storyline was sweet and enjoyable. Roy was a highlight, his grumpy self was so endearing.

One of the best things was the promise of a book for Marie, I’m definitely here for that.

GRACELING by Kristin Cashore – double review!

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. 

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po. 

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. 

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.


Title : Graceling
Author : Kristin Cashore
Series : Graceling Realm (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 481
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : October 1, 2008

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was another reread for me, and another that I haven’t read in aaages, and honestly I’m not mad at all about ending a crap year with some old favourites which are all turning out to still be favourites. Is there anything better?

When you’re a monster, she thought, you are thanked and praised for not behaving like a monster. She would like to restrain from cruelty and receive no admiration for it.

That said, nostalgia wasn’t the only reason for revisiting this world after so long. As has been the trend for a few older and beloved trilogies, we have a new release coming very shortly for book four in the Graceling Realm world, and I definitely couldn’t pick that up without a solid refresh. Most of the plot points I had remembered but the details, the emotions, some of the characters? All hazy.

Mercy was more frightening than murder, because it was harder.

But oh man was this good. I love when YA stands the test of time. And, in hindsight, Cashore did so many great things with her characters, things we expect now but didn’t always get then, and that’s why it will continue to do well even ten years from now.

The basic premise of GRACELING follows a king’s killer, a Graced individual with the gift for killing, and how she breaks away from his control to be her own person, in control of her own actions, and along the way helps to save another nation, and even find love. Yes, I’m being vague, but a lot of people have read this so why rehash and for those who haven’t? I want to tempt you, tease you, tantalize you into picking this up and learning more.

This is such a fabulous fantasy and I am excited to continue this reread journey; not only to get to the new content but revisit all the things from books two and three that I’ve forgotten — which is pretty much everything!


Micky’s 4 star review

Another late entry to the party on this beloved-by-many series. It took me a little while to get into it but I really enjoyed the characters and world that Kristen Cashore created. The graces that certain chosen ones were bestowed with at birth were varied, interesting and not always for the good.

Katsa swept me away in this book. She wasn’t easy to get to know initially but when she cracked her facade a little, her whole self was so likeable. Po brought out the best in Katsa as did Bitterblue (I can’t wait for Bitterblue’s book). This story had the most vile villain and I loved everything about how that played out.

For me, this was a subtly feminist tale. Katsa was wholly feminist but there were themes that really sold this to me – the haircut and marriage views. I loved this element to the story and that it underpinned Katsa as a strong woman but still a woman with a heart.

This was a story told over time, time for character building and development, for friendships and relationships to really feel solid and for there to be a strong history to how the tale played out. This all makes me think this is so well written, I can’t find fault with any of that. I’m so looking forward to reading on with this and the plan is to get completely up to date with the series this month – wish me luck!

I read and listened to this on an audio/ebook combo and despite this being a full cast audio, I really didn’t gel with it. For me, the ebook was preferable.

SPOILER ALERT by Olivia Dade – double review!

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster. Through his stories, Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favourite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her ‘real life’ for years – but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realises life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realises that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?


Title : Spoiler Alert
Author : Olivia Dade
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus/Little Brown UK / Avon
Release Date : October 6, 2020

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Rounded up to 5 stars!

I lived for this book for 4 days of a work week, I couldn’t wait to get back to the characters. SPOILER ALERT was a contemporary romance with heart and some heat. It focused on fandom and fan-fic life and this couple’s story was something that most readers would cheer for.

April and Marcus met under unconventional circumstances, and for April it was an almost dream-like situation. I was completely on board and gripped from that moment. The chemistry between these two ended up being so believable because it took time to find its footing.

Both Marcus and April had trust issues and I really enjoyed the foundations of those back stories, they were real and identifiable. I did struggle somewhat with the secret between them. When this book turned serious and the peak of the inevitable crash happened…the emotion was raw and dialogue was fantastic. I highlighted and highlighted because it just hit me in the gut and made me feel.

At long last, he was letting her see him without any barriers, any artifice, any deception between them.

Basically, Marcus was my favourite character. He had such hidden depths and evolving character development, I couldn’t help but love him. April was his worthy opponent.

If you want a fun, flirty story that turns out to run deep with feelings, then SPOILER ALERT is for you. It’s one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read this year.

Thank you to Piatkus, Little Brown UK for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

I feel there like there was no real downside to this book. In any way. What a fun ride.

SPOILER ALERT tackled so many things — particularly emotional things, like body shaming, like learning disorders, like being accepted for who you are and how you look — and yet never lacked in fun. I think this is partially because of the fandom aspect and how our leading man’s starring role was a Game of Thrones-esque phenomenon, complete with all the final season nonsense that we as fans (and they as actors) experienced, and also because not only did we get fanfic snippets between chapters but, my favourite? We got mini scenes and dialogue from the protagonist’s previous acting gigs.. and they were almost unanimously.. terrible. Hilariously bad.

While I do question the ease in which this relationship developed, with little to no celebrity + non-celebrity drama (not a bad thing, really, maybe it’s just that I’m used to that particular drama?), I loved the catalyst for it (we love a twitter connection!). And while I really liked the characters, I’ll admit they didn’t quite jump off the page for me. They both felt pretty real, and each had both baggage and hangups that never felt contrived or unrealistic, and even better they were on the not-twenty-five end of the age spectrum, I didn’t quite lose myself in them. But I did lose myself in the story; I couldn’t tear myself away all night. I’ve only just looked up to realize I’m hours past a reasonable time to eat dinner, haha, whoops.

This hit so many of the right notes and I’m so relieved because just before starting this I worried I was teetering on a slump or just general book ennui. Not so! Do yourself a favour and pick this one up. It’s hot, it’s got some heavy, but it’s also got heart.