INTO THE CROOKED PLACE by Alexandra Christo – double review!

The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.

Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.

Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.

Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.

And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.


Title : Into the Crooked Place
Author : Alexandra Christo
Series : Into the Crooked Place (book one)
Format : eARC / ARC
Page Count : 380
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends/Hot Key Books
Release Date : October 8, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★  / DNF


Hollis’ 2 star review

Here’s a big reason why I think the current GR rating is what it is (which, as of the writing of this review, is 3.73) : it very much feels, and reads, like another book. Which, as my buddy said, doesn’t mean a certain author holds the copyright to heist ensemble gangster anti-hero/amoral stories. It’s just.. like, wow, a little effort to be different, when so much of today’s culture is comparisons, would’ve been nice?

But here’s where I get a little less snarky. After bemoaning the comparisons, and the utter boredom, for almost 50%.. this book did shift gears. A little. I won’t say I liked it after the first half but while I predicted a lot of what was coming.. some things I didn’t. I felt good about the ending — particularly the last 20% — which, I mean, I guess didn’t take much considering how not-good I was feeling about the book in general, so that’s definitely a low-ish bar. Also, the shift in plot doesn’t quite take away from how much this book is like other things. I’m talking vibe, tone, names.. yeah, it’s a lot.

But. Again, I say, but.

I might pick up book two (thank goodness it’s not a trilogy). Hell, I probably will. I’m a bit of a masochist but I did feel this ended on a good — well, no, not good, but you get what I mean — note. Also there is a lot of diversity in this story, which is one of the few uncomplicated things to celebrate.

So, yes, this is kind of a hash, for a book I wanted to DNF and yet now find myself intending to read even more of now that I’ve finished it, and yet here we are.

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


Micky sadly DNF’d at 30% – unrated

I’m sorry to say that this was a full day’s struggle of picking it up and putting it down repeatedly because I did not like this world that felt pretty familiar and I did not buy into the characters or story. I found the names of people and phrasing too similar to the Grisha world to discount and it was told without the finesse of that one.

I strongly believe there is no copyright on this kind of story (heisty-gangster fantasy) because the whole book world is built on a jenga pyramid of similar stories. That said, its hugely important to find your slice of uniqueness and according to my bud Hollis, that issue settled a bit from half way in. I didn’t get that far because I just didn’t engage with the story and I was consistently bored.

I feel disappointed in myself on the one hand because I loved Christo’s previous book but I think this review would look a whole lot worse if I had.

Thank you to Hot Key books for the review copy and I’m sorry I couldn’t see this through to the end. Gratitude for the chance to read early.

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THE BEAUTIFUL by Renee Ahdieh – double review!

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.


Title : The Beautiful
Author : Renee Ahdieh
Series : The Beautiful #1
Format : ARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Hodderscape / G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 8, 2019

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Such a highly anticipated title for me from an author I’ve enjoyed in the past. Although my rating isn’t a wow rating, it delivered on some aspects of enjoyment and not on others. I’ll definitely be continuing with the series however as there’s much still to discover (I’ll return to this point).

I immeditely fell into like with the tenor of the book, in pace, mystery and ambience. New Orleans in this book’s era had such a temperature of the magical that was enticing but it also sparked trepidation. The heroine Celine was running from her life in Paris, straight into the burning flames of a furnace. She courted danger in a way that didn’t seem befitting of a woman of that time but that was the kind of character she was. I was intrigued by her and the character of Bastien, as I was supposed to be.

What started out as mystery in terms of who or what kinds of beings prowled New Orleans, became a bit of a frustration as world building didn’t come but in a fog towards the end. I feel like I was possibly promised vampires but didn’t really get this. I got the measure of Celine and Michael, but Bastien, his uncle and many others were clouded and this became increasingly difficult as a reader.

The violent happenings in the story were the good part of the mystery. The unknown povs added to this. The descriptions of sights and smells, heat and darkness were vivid and alluring. There was very little romance in literal terms but the suggestion of it was threaded through the story.

I enjoyed the idea of this story but I wanted a bit more from the execution of it. I enjoy Renee Ahdieh’s narrative voice very much, she’s easy to read and her work pulls you into the story. However, I wanted more from the story in terms of the final reveal and last chapter. I will be back for more.

Thank you to Hodderscape for this early copy to review.


Hollis’ 3 star review

So this one is an interesting mix for me. Because on the one hand, I was pretty damn entertained while reading this. I read it mostly in one sitting, with only brief pauses, and had a pretty romping good time while I was in it.

It was during those breaks, though, and post-epilogue where I really paused and went, huh. So, we do have some problems.

First of all, let me say, I loved Ahdieh’s first series. And she brings that same magical weaving of atmosphere and setting, of flowy but not too purpley, prose, to THE BEAUTIFUL. Between the vibrancy of a carnival in the dark of the night, the decadence of the food, the colours of a masquerade, it’s a treat to read. I love the French woven through the story, along with a few other languages!, and how sometimes it isn’t even translated. That worked for me, though I imagine it won’t work for all, but. I liked it because it felt true and authentic to the scenery. I’m not entirely sure about the choice of the time period, other than wanting some old world charm, complaints about corsets, and an impetus to send a bunch of girls, mainly our main character, across the sea to the New World to escape their pasts, though. Because there was so much of this that felt very present-day, had very modern commentary, and overall just felt a bit uneven.

If you think I used my wiles to catch your notice like a girl trying to fill her dance card at a ball, then–
Whatever I think has nothing to do with you. My behaviour is not your responsibility.”

Also in relation to the setting, beautiful (hah) as it may be, I have some world building/mythology confusion regarding The Fallen and The Brotherhood — though honestly I think we’re meant to want to know more, wanting to have it all explained, as that will drive us to pick up book two. Additionally because we obviously want a resolution to the events of said epilogue. Which is probably the biggest thing that made me go, huh.

I don’t quite remember seeing it but apparently with the announcement of this book, they came right out of the gate trying to throw shade on a certain other vampire series. Which, hey, whatever. We probably all throw some shade at it. That’s not my issue here. My issue here is that.. why are we throwing shade when some of this book is so damn similar to said other book? I’m not spoiling specifics. But I can’t be the only reader who is seeing it?

I’ve heard many people say tragedy shapes us. But I am not the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, nor am I the worst thing I’ve ever done. Nothing in life is that simple.”

Anyway. A lot of this, like I said, was really good. I was hooked in. I like Celine for the most part, I liked Bastien for the most part, and I definitely loved Odette, the glue that kind of holds them together when initially they are keeping to the hate part of their hate-attraction-situation. But honestly these two were best when they were snarking at each other or when.. ahem, well, there was that one time.. because otherwise? I don’t know. They’re both too much and not enough.

I can stand there forever in irritated silence. It it no bother to me. You can perish wondering what I’m thinking, for I’ll never tell.”
Likewise.”

I do think this book suffers a bit from lack of polish. There’s so much going on, so much unknown, and it’s definitely going for a bigger scope that I imagine will get explained now that we’re on the other side of things going into book two. Or maybe not, who is to say. But I have lots of questions, lots of things that in hindsight, I say again, make me go, hm. But again. I had a good time with it. Though I’m going to hope for more vampires in the sequel. Because, minor spoiler? They were hard to spot. Like I said.. there’s a lot going on and this is more than what you might think it to be.

THE BEAUTIFUL is a slowburn plot build that develops into a murder mystery revenge story with more secrets than vampires and more modern day commentary and inclusion than a historical fiction novel actually deserves. But I’ll definitely be picking up book two.

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

THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett – double review!

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between. 


Title : The Grace Year
Author : Kim Liggett
Format : eARC / ARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : Dystopian/Fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : October 8, 2019

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


Micky’s 2 star review

Two little black sheep, all in a row, baa baa, this didn’t work us.

I got on board with THE GRACE YEAR for the first 15-20%, I was intrigued with village life, the dystopia and the female oppression themes. I also wanted to know what the heck this grace year was, oh so mysteriously referred to as it was.

I stick by my early status on Goodreads from that point where I said ‘hello, Lady of the Flies’. THE GRACE YEAR was just that, a descent into craziness, madness and destruction. I found it incredibly discomforting to read, which is not to say that discomfort is unwelcome, I enjoy that in a well written book. However, this was an unpleasant experience with a storyline that was unwieldy and didn’t hang together.

Things that I could not buy into included Tierney, the protagonist as she reached the heights of grand integrity whilst all around her crumbled. Ryker and Tierney…just no. What even was that, Stockholm syndrome? Michael after the grace year felt totally out of character and too convenient. I did like Kiersten’s character for the general evil and nastiness. You can see that I wasn’t enamoured by a lot.

The plot line felt to be general chaos, disconnection and what the hell moments, but not in a good way. There were a bunch of disconnected parts, with a narrative that did not coherently mesh together. I did not highlight a thing in this book as the writing did not jump out at me. I felt like I just had to power through to the end and I did.

I realise that many have enjoyed this book already and I would say maybe it is just me but I do think the writing, characters and story development are weak. I will stand by that.

Thank you to St Martin’s Press and Wednesday Books for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

So this wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. This is more LORD OF THE FLIES than THE HANDMAID’S TALE, though there’s definitely shades of the latter, and the main problem is I didn’t like LORD OF THE FLIES. And neither did I like the all-female version of it, either.

There’s also a weird sorta-THE HUNGER GAMES element that I couldn’t unsee, once I kind of picked up on it, but maybe that’s because I just wanted to see some good in this. Something that didn’t feel like a strange altered-state fever dream of random and nothing and awful.

So much of this world, this societal structure, feels.. not fleshed out or vague for the sake of suspense and uncertainty. At least up until a certain point. And afterwards, it’s just, like.. that’s it? That’s all we get?

The backbone of the story, the theme or message that we earn by making it through the hazy plot, which you don’t see until almost the very end, is worth celebrating. There are elements that feel important, because they are, but they are mired in.. everything else. Honestly, I’m just baffled. I’m disappointed. And I’m not sorry to say there was some skimming because this wasn’t exactly how I wanted my Friday night of reading to go : both bored and confused. But at this point, I’m definitely an outlier, because so many people are buzzing about this (heck, we were buzzing about this in our anticipated list!), so, this might be worth picking up if only to give it a try.

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

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS by Charlotte Nicole Davis – double review!

Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.


Title : The Good Luck Girls
Author : Charlotte Nicole Davis
Series : The Good Luck Girls (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen/Hot Key Books
Release Date : October 1, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is a YA fantasy unlike almost anything I’ve read. This also feels both dystopian and historical and yet is set in a fantasy world, so is truly neither of those things.

It’s about strong women and daring stakes. It’s about learning to trust when no one has ever given you reason to. It’s about sacrificing your own chance at a happily every after for the benefit of others. It’s a whole lot of things. It’s also diverse, a little queer, and is all sorts of magical; though not in ways I expected.

Despite my obvious enjoyment, there is still something holding me back a bit on this one. And I don’t even know really know why. This was unique and brutal with characters both tough as nails and hella vulnerable with plenty of issues mirrored in this unusual world that are also present in our own. It’s a scary possible reality that makes you, as a reader, and a human, and, in my case a woman, want to fight back.

And yet again, I don’t know why I just didn’t love it. I wasn’t bored by anything, necessarily, though I did find sometimes that I would skim a passage or two. I didn’t always love Aster, our main POV, and yet could also totally understand why she wasn’t always likeable. And.. yeah, I don’t know. This one is just a bit of a mystery for me, I think.

But I would definitely recommend it if anyone was already interested in picking it up!

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


Micky’s 3 star review

I am very close to Hollis in my experience of reading this book. It’s a curious context that has a fresh feel, slicing dystopia with an old time world, almost like a western. The start of the book was super strong for me with a compelling narrative that brought all my compassion to the surface. That strong start waned at times but this was a series starter that I will definitely finish.

What worked for me were the sisters (Aster and Clementine) and the group of young women, sometimes very polarised against one another, but with a common goal of escapism and freedom. There were analogies to contemporary themes such as traficking and oppression that were appealing. What I found less appealing were the fantastical developments such as raveners and vengeants. I didn’t bond with that aspect of the world.

I moved between reading avidly to feeling a slowing of the pace of the story that left me wanting to feel more involved. Despite the fleeing, chases and general tension, I wanted a bit more attachment to the book than I felt and I can’t quite explain why I didn’t feel this. Maybe I wasn’t connected to Aster and Clementine enough, but I do still want to know where this goes after book one.

Thank you to Readers First and Hot Key Books for this finished review copy.

BEARD WITH ME by Penny Reid — double review!

No one is better at surviving than Scarlet St. Claire and making the best out of circumstances beyond her control is Scarlet’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, she’d be the last person on earth, hermitting like a pro, singing along to her CD Walkman, and dancing like no one is watching. 

Scarlet is clever, Scarlet is careful, and Scarlet is smart . . . except when it comes to Billy Winston.

No one is better at fighting than Billy Winston and raging against his circumstances—because nothing is beyond his control—is Billy’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, he’d be the first person on earth to lead others to safety, overcome catastrophe, or die trying. 

Billy is fearless, Billy is disciplined, and Billy is honorable . . . except when it comes to Scarlet St. Claire.


Title : Beard With Me
Author : Penny Reid
Series : The Winston Brothers (book 5.5/6)
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : September 16, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Here it is, the highly anticipated origin story about Billy and Claire (Scarlet), easily the angstiest ship in the Winston Brothers series. And wow, there’s a lot to unpack here.

I wished she’d stop making everything so hard. I wished she’d just let me take care of her. Tricking her into doing the right thing, the smart thing, made me feel like an asshole.

A lot of this story worked for me and also a lot of it didn’t. I was mostly just going through the motions (sad motions because there is some unfortunate content to work through but still, not hooked) until about 70%. At which point things take a turn and I was so so so so here for it. The last 30% isn’t all greatness, of course, and it certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As warned, as we all knew to expect, this isn’t a romance, there is no HEA. Not yet. But it was still probably my favourite part of the whole story.

Have you ever wanted something you know you can’t have?
All the time.”

I also have a sorta mild discomfort with some of said romance. At least at this stage. Well, not just the romance; this book — and series — is rife with uncomfortable things, dark things, violent things. For all the quirky, home cooked, sweetness and charm, of the south, which Reid definitely infuses these books with, there is a darkness to this series, too. But my issue with the romance is that, well. These kids are young. There’s nothing graphic, it stays pretty solidly PG-13, but there is a weirdness to reading about people being attracted to a fourteen year old. Even if the other protagonist is only sixteen. Reid addresses this, not only through Billy but another character, but still.

I would’ve called him a sonofabitch, but his mother was a nice lady.

It was strange, but also delightful, to see Cletus in his younger form.. and yet still very much the same Cletus. Most of my highlights were from him, naturally. Literal highlights I mean, on my kindle. Though I suppose the high points also included him. I’ll admit, though, that it was hard to remember that these characters were much younger than we’re used to them being. Both because of circumstance and attitude, I think. Either they weren’t written young enough or I’m just too used to their future selves. Not sure which. Maybe both. And maybe that’s where, as much as we all wanted this prequel, maybe it would’ve just been better in a smaller doses. Like flashbacks within a book. But either way, I’ll be glad to reunite with Adult Winstons and Adult Claire. Though I did love seeing Bethany, the Winston matriarch, again.

Cletus Byron Winston! Are you crazy? You asked your twelve-year-old brothers to get you a keg?
If by ‘crazy’ you mean genius, then yes I am.”

The end of this book is achingly tragic and sad as we expect, not just because of the Billy and Claire situation, but because of the Billy and everything situation. My heart breaks for him. There are so many characters to dislike, either because of their bad intentions or because of their good intentions that still make them unlikeable, but at the core I love the Winstons, always. The upside of reading this, too, is that I’m extra pumped for my full series reread now. All the little easter eggs, all the foreshadowing, I’ll be able to relive with new eyes, now that we have this story.

The last thing I ever want to be for you is a regret.”

I’m so looking forward to Billy’s happy ending and definitely Claire’s. These two deserve it. But I know it’s going to be hella rough along the way. And, complicating matters, knowing it’s going to be the end? I fully expect much tears to come in this final book.

** I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. ** 


Micky’s 4 star review

…and exhale. I feel like I’ve held my breath for the last 30 minutes reading this book. It’s been a journey, beautiful and tough in equal measure and I am left needing more from Billy and Scarlet, so much more. When will their next book be (rhetorical question).

The warning at the beginning of the book is right, there are triggers for days but call me up to the challenge and in I went. Clever Penny lulled me in with ease for a while until my adrenaline started pumping, my eyes filled and my heart hurt. This is an emotive story to the power of 10 and everything about Scarlet in particular, is tragedy with hope; it was that hope that kept me going in this book.

Amongst the tough and tragic is an engaging story of first love. What evolves between Billy and Scarlet is so tangible and everything lovely, that as a reader, I was on their side. Just as you get carried up in the lovely, it doesn’t matter because the story builds your trepidation, ready for the fall. Bonus time is that Cletus as a teen was pretty fun and this is a balm that will see you through the journey that this story takes you on.

BEARD WITH ME was discomfort sliced with beauty and it has left me discomforted now after reading. That said, I am glad I did and I feel that through all these Winston Brother stories I have read, I really was in the dark about the depth of what had gone on between these two. This is a story worth your time and unsettling.

Penny Reid wrote what is essentially a YA story but it felt more like contemporary romance because that is where I’m used to seeing this family. I am a mixed ball of feelings and I know I’m going to be thinking about this for a while when really I just want to move on. It’s hard not getting the ending you want, but I am ready to wait for it even so.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thanks to the author.

THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK by Adrienne Young – double review!

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.


Title : The Girl The Sea Gave Back
Author : Adrienne Young
Series : Sky In The Deep (book two)
Format : ARC/Finished Copy
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books / Titan Books
Release Date : September 3, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I feel like everything that kept me from loving SKY IN THE DEEP, was missing in THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK. This makes me very very happy.

I was sure this was going to be an easy three star read; lots to like but not quite getting me all the way there which, I mean, would’ve been a better result than book one. So colour me surprised by this rating.

This story takes place ten years after the events of SKY IN THE DEEP and, once again, we have warring clans. The characters we knew from book one have known peace and a time of rebuilding, rebirth, as a united people but now another group, the Svell, are stirring up trouble. Made worse by the fact that the Svell people are, themselves, divided. Additionally, they feel they are cursed by the existence of an outsider who lives among them, who washed up on their shores, and yet they also rely on her for her gifts at reading the runes, and predicting the future, as she is a Truthtongue. 

It’s Tova’s prediction that sparks tragedy for Halvard’s people and we watch as they are on opposites sides of a war neither of them want. Halvard loses people he loves and Tova is blamed for things beyond her control as the fragile trust she has with the man who has raised her.. frays. Betrayal abounds with the Svell people and she’s tossed amongst them, lost, confused, and resigned.

Tova doesn’t know who she is, Halvard is bound so strongly with his family, both blood and found, and I actually really enjoyed bouncing back between their perspectives and the glimpses we got from their past. Their connection isn’t much, either, but yet feels.. present. There’s almost no romance here and yet we see possibility, potential, and that’s honestly where this book became more than I thought it would be.

I found the pacing to be pretty much perfect and I loved where the book, and our characters, ended up. This is a stronger book and the events, the loss and brutality, felt more real. The stakes somehow higher. The surprises (of which maybe there was only one but it was a good one) more surprising. I definitely have a question or two about how some things played out but those niggles are buried pretty far underneath my general contentment over the story.

If SKY IN THE DEEP wasn’t a book you were able to get on with, I would definitely recommend you pick up this sophomore offering. And if you loved SKY IN THE DEEP, I think you’ll be just as satisfied, if not more, by this follow-up in the author’s viking world.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

This was my first read by Adrienne Young and I was informed by a few that it stands alone as a book and reading book one wasn’t vital. I made the mistake of jumping straight into THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK and I think that I missed out on some world building that would have helped me so much with this read. There wasn’t much space given to any world-building in this book and felt like I was playing catch up with the different tribes, their names, their belief systems and allegiences.

After about 20% of the book I felt that I had some context to understand the story that was playing out with two characters having alternate POVs – Tova and Halvard. These were two characters that were mystically connected but geographically separated. Halvard was a reluctant heir to leading his people and Tova was a virtual prisoner of her adopted people. This story is told over just a number of days with battle, strategy and mysticism at the core.

I enjoyed the mystical part of this story, the fate ruled by runes, spinners and the All Seer. I liked the concept of Tova and her race. There were however, a lot of characters to dislike in this book. So many prejudiced people with cruelty being part of life. The back and forth of past and present was written a little confusingly to me.

Ultimately, I felt unsatisfied with the story overall and this was just an okay read for me. I felt that the connection between Tova and Halvard was pointless in the end but I appreciated the how the different races were at war or peace at different times.

Thank you to Titan Books for the early finished copy for review.

THE RIGHT SWIPE by Alisha Rai

Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionized romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career—and the occasional hookup.

The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules:
– Nude pics are by invitation only
– If someone stands you up, block them with extreme prejudice
– Protect your heart

Only there aren’t any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former pro-football player Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night… and disappears.

Rhi thought she’d buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful—and in league with a business rival. He says he won’t fumble their second chance, but she’s wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…


Title : The Right Swipe
Author : Alisha Rai
Series : Modern Love (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : HarperCollins/Avon
Release Date : August 6, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ .5 /


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

So I didn’t love this, which is obvious, and there’s a bunch of reasons for that but it’s mostly because I didn’t like the characters. Specifically, Rhiannon.

The plot opens up with our heroine fixated on the fact that she wants to buy up this eHarmony-esque dating site, one of the OG sites of its type, to expand her own app-based dating service. We see her drive, we see her reminisce about the one that got away, and who happens to be the new face of her competition’s marketing campaign? The one who got away. The one she almost threw her rules out the window for. And boy does she have a lot of rules.

The girl is.. rigid. Uncompromising. Unforgiving. Hard to forking love and, as a reader, hard to endure. I don’t want to be dismissive of the heroine’s very real trauma and trust issues but holy forking shit did she also make this a brutal read. She’s something of a shark when it comes to business, she’s successful, all that, all of which are positive things that loads of women get flak for, so it’s unfortunate I found this kind of character so frustrating, but she’s also problematic. She skirts very very close (and sometimes crosses the line) into outright manipulation of the hero — as well as relying on an emotional debt she feels she’s owed (and maybe sorta is but not in this particular context) — and it felt gross. She constantly doubted him, (falsely) accused him of this that or the other thing, was totally hypocritical.. and it was just hard. I am exhausted from it.

She’s not the only drawback THE RIGHT SWIPE, though. The hero, for all his goodness, didn’t do much for me. There’s a whole secondary plot line surrounding brain injuries and concussions (which makes for the second or third time I’m reading of this particular issue in sports-ish romances — not a complaint, just an observation) and a whole lot of baggage that Samson is carrying around but, back to my point, it didn’t do much for me. Which is rather how I feel about the story itself.

What didn’t frustrate or exhaust me just.. did nothing.

There were a few side characters that lightened some of the load of the plodding, and that helped a bit, but not enough. Infact, a certain eccentric aunt did the opposite of what I think she was supposed to do — which was charm the reader. Even she annoyed me. Or, maybe more to the point, I didn’t care and so, again, I was unmoved.

The writing made for an easy read but the plot, the people, the point? Nope. I have yet to determine if I’ll read on in this series. I think it hugely depends on which side character will get the spotlight and I’ll definitely have to pay closer attention to the plot. It’ll have to really draw me in for me to push on in this spinoff. I’ve loved Rai’s books in the past, in particular her Forbidden Hearts series had so much greatness, but this one just totally missed the mark for me.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

THE RIGHT SWIPE has a synopsis that bites, a cover that entices and an inside that lacked something in execution for me. A dating app mogul is how I would describe Rhi (Rhiannon). She’s all hard lines, walls up to the sky and even a little harsh with those that she loves, her family and friend. Her life’s ambition was work, work over family, work over her friend and work over down time. I found her so very hard to like and that was my biggest struggle with this book.

Samson Lima, ex-NFL player and minor shareholder in his Aunt’s rival app to Rhi’s Crush app was everything opposite. He was kind, patient and a large gentle soul. I really liked Samson’s character and in particular, his background family story which was rich and detailed. I get that these two were opposites but I remained forever uncertain that Rhi deserved Samson’s affection and more.

This isn’t about not tolerating a women in the mogul position, a reversal on that trope found in so many romance books, it is about how Rhi was written right to the end, she was so harsh. For me, it was also about Rhi and Samson’s lack of ‘more’ until the final pages. I felt all we got was friends with benefits and I was ready to move beyond that from halfway through the book.

What I did enjoy was the general storyline focus of the battle for the matchmaker app and also the background story of concussion in football players. There was some weak resolution for both, however. The harrassment in the workplace storyline was the strongest and it gave me all the feels. All that said, it was a relatable and contemporary storyline for the age group of the main characters.

THE RIGHT SWIPE was an okay read but it didn’t grab me in the way that previous Alisha Rai books have. I am interested to see character beyond Rhiannon in this series, particularly her friend Kirsten.

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the review copy.