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WILDWOOD DANCING by Juliet Marillier – double review!

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.

But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.

When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love.


Title : Wildwood Dancing
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Wildwood (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 407
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date : January 23, 2007

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Even though this couldn’t be more different from the Sevenwaters Saga, there is something intrinsically Marillier about this story. A group of siblings. A mystery to be solved. Transformation. Magic. The Other folk. But this is still very unique, for all that it’s also based on, or paying homage to/a retelling of, folklore stories like The Twelve Dancing Princesses and, well, another one I won’t mention so it doesn’t ruin the surprise. Additionally, we have a story set not just in Britain, or Ireland, as most folklore and fairytales are, but in Transylvania, making the story further unique; because how often do we get that for a setting? And, complementing that setting, some of her creatures may feel a little.. familiar, too.

Joining me on this adventure was Micky but unlike previous Marillier buddy reads, I’m not sure I ever read this one. GR says no and having now read it I don’t think that was a data entry oversight on my part. While this won’t be one I revisit the way I reread her other works, there’s a lot of good here. But also, unfortunately fitting with the times perhaps, in addition to just being the conflict and antagonist of the plot, it’s also a struggle. Now, of course, often times I can enjoy the conflict for what it is without feeling like the book itself was less fun as a result but in this case.. what at first became a game to theorize and assign blame on a character, who was shit from the start, over time because wearisome. Marillier is always great at creating fantastic villains who truly believe they are on the right side, doing the right things, but this time.. it wore on me. Maybe because instead of machinations sprinkled over the course of a trilogy, everything was crammed into one instalment. Or maybe it was the kind conflicts (misogyny, patriarchal behaviour, all flavours of that kind) just rubbed me in places that were too raw. What also frustrated me was the fact that our lead was rarely, if ever, supported by those around her to fight these conflicts. Sure, again, maybe it’s a sign of the times. The reality was they had little support in the first place which could explain why things happened the way they did. But it was exhausting.

As for the mysteries and magic, well. They were mostly fairly obvious from the get-go. We definitely saw a lot of it coming without much surprise. Which is fine. And I did absolutely love how everything kicked off (the game they played as children and the ripples it would have throughout their lives) because it felt true to the mischief and mayhem that comes with involving yourself with the Others. So, too, was all of Jena, our lead’s, assumptions and judgments. She did become rather difficult near the end after having spent so much time judging her sister and what she was going through, only to be found guilty of her own follies and not truly realize the parallels (I’m thinking of her preoccupation in her moment of loss which she saw Tati going through the whole time). Having said that, though, said sister was a little.. dramatic I think. To go from distracted and heartsick to what she did.. I don’t know. A little much.

I definitely wanted to love this more than I did. But I did enjoy the world, even if the characters sometimes frustrated me, and as usual Marillier does fae like few authors can. And, of course, it was a joy to read this with my buddy and theorize and rant about what was going on at any given time.

I do want to read on and I’m looking forward to seeing what new experiences await in book two. 


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
A flavour of retellings
Dancing sisters
Other folk of many types

Marillier knows how to craft an interesting world to invest the reader from the start. In this duology starter, I found myself in the Transylvanian mountains of Romania, somewhere I’ve never been in fiction before; so fresh. This story had the flavour of some fairytales but set in it’s own unique way, one of the influences was the twelve dancing princesses (but there weren’t twelve).

In no surprise to any Marillier fan, the other folk and their world collided with those of the protagonist Jena and antagonist Cezar. Cezar, (deep sigh) was vile in an exponential way as the story developed. Expect to feel shades of patriarchy, misogyny and control. There were many parts of this story with Cezar that enraged me. That said, many of the men in this story were empowering towards women.

Jena and her sisters were a colourful bunch. By the end, I really wanted a Tati story, more of what happened to her in this story and the afterwards. Gogu was a great character and although Hollis and I guessed much about this character, the reading of it was still entertaining.

In the other world we met a lot of different folk, dissimilar to her sevenwaters fair folk. The night people were illusively intriguing, I loved the brief pictures and connections between the sisters and Anatoli, Sten and othe dancing partners.

The romp to the end was predictable in some ways and less so in others but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment. I’m looking forward to the next book (and hoping my buddy is on board for this soon) and wishing already that there were more than two books in this series.

SHIP WRECKED by Olivia Dade – double review!

After All the Feels and Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade once again delivers a warm and wonderful romantic comedy about two co-stars who once had an incredible one-night stand—and after years of filming on the same remote island, are finally ready to yield to temptation again…

Maria’s one-night-stand—the thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man she left without a word or a note—just reappeared. Apparently, Peter’s her surly Gods of the Gates co-star, and they’re about to spend the next six years filming on a desolate Irish island together. She still wants him…but he now wants nothing to do with her.

Peter knows this role could finally transform him from a forgettable character actor into a leading man. He also knows a failed relationship with Maria could poison the set, and he won’t sabotage his career for a woman who’s already walked away from him once. Given time, maybe they can be cooperative colleagues or friends—possibly even best friends—but not lovers again. No matter how much he aches for her.

For years, they don’t touch off-camera. But on their last night of filming, their mutual restraint finally shatters, and all their pent-up desire explodes into renewed passion. Too bad they still don’t have a future together, since Peter’s going back to Hollywood, while Maria’s returning to her native Sweden. She thinks she needs more than he can give her, but he’s determined to change her mind, and he’s spent the last six years waiting. Watching. Wanting.

His shipwrecked Swede doesn’t stand a chance.


Title : Ship Wrecked
Author : Olivia Dade
Series : Spoiler Alert (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 413
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : November 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★  / ★  


Hollis’ 3 star review

This series has been a wild ride for me. We started strong, took a hard left into mostly nope, but then we are ending (right? it felt like the end!) on a mostly better note.. which I’m happy about.

I’ll admit, though, this started off rough. But not literally. Chapter one? Hoo boy hot. Chapter two? My reaction to the Peter’s behaviour was the buzziest of buzzkills. Eventually we get the reasons why but his defrosting was tough. Meanwhile Maria was delightful always. My only real issue was her quick pivot on her feelings for Peter out of nowhere offpage.

Naturally I hated the third act conflict but that’s mostly because it felt a miscommunication-adjacent and I hate that trope.

I’m definitely here (again, always!) for all the positive rep. But the highlight, as always, was the snarky commentary around this not-GoT but definitely GoT show at the centre of the plot. It’s incredibly satisfying. It’s also a little fanfic-y in of itself for all the people who were real-life shipping two characters who were mostly, sorta, embodied by Peter and Maria. Basically all the homages to everything around the show and actors were (chefs kiss) the best.

Having said that, once again, I’m hear to warn you away from playing drinking games; this time the keywords had to go with goats, herring, and other over-used bits used for increasingly lackluster and tired banter the longer it all went on.

But when the romance was in the transition from pining to confessions and then actually together? Delightful. The pre and post bits? I could leave them. The group chat threads? Hysterical. So, yes, equal parts fun and not fun. All that to say, I will definitely make an effort to dive into Dade’s backlist and continue to pick up whatever she does next.


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
On set complications
A love told over years
Scandi humour

The GOT/Gods of the Gates has never worked so well in this series as this book. The characters that Peter and Maria were inhabiting were fantastic but IRL, they were a blast to read. I went from like to serious Peter side-eye to warm to heart eyes.

I appreciated that this was a slow-burn romance told over years without it feeling too long to wait to see things reach a conclusion. The build-up was everything and the time the characters spent on set was my favourite part of the book. That meant that the second half of the book was a little less exciting to me.

I enjoyed Maria as a character immensely, she was sunny but realistic. Her body positivity was infectious and inspiring. Peter was a introverted grump at times but her sunshine made him eventually sunny(ish).

For me, this was a welcome addition to the series and I enjoyed the cameos of the previous characters.

THE ATLAS PARADOX by Olivie Blake – double review!

Six magicians. Two rivalries. One researcher. And a man who can walk through dreams. All must pick a side: do they wish to preserve the world—or destroy it? In this electric sequel to the viral sensation, The Atlas Six, the society of Alexandrians is revealed for what it is: a secret society with raw, world-changing power, headed by a man whose plans to change life as we know it are already under way. But the cost of knowledge is steep, and as the price of power demands each character choose a side, which alliances will hold and which will see their enmity deepen?


Title : The Atlas Paradox
Author : Olivie Blake
Series : The Atlas (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : October 25, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating :


Hollis’ 2 star review

Boy did this drag.

Look, I know I wasn’t out on the rooftops shouting about book one to begin with but I saw the potential, saw how many directions were open for intrigue and secrets and manoeuvrings, etc, for the books to come but I feel like this one both went off in a bunch of directions but also spun it’s wheels. Where things went, for the most part, felt tedious. Any potential spark? Fizzled. Dead.

Also maybe it’s just me and how I don’t really love mess but there were a few times I just felt tired from all the shifting dynamics and convoluted feelings everyone was having about this person, that person, and on. Maybe it’s supposed to muddle up the end games and keep you guessing but honestly it just headbutts me out of the story. Which is also how I felt every time we had a Reina POV. Talk about a buzzkill character.

Also, I’m now convinced when I reread The Atlas Six I must’ve not actually read the changed up/traditionally published version (and would track considering I was skeptical there had been any changes when I did that reread) because some things were just outright stated in this one, early on, and I felt it came totally out of left field. So either that was done on purpose, for some bizarre reason, or I legitimately missed something (example, Callum and the pain).

With so much tedium, hardly any stakes, and the characters now halfway scattered in various directions, I have no clue what is to actually be expected from book three. I will read it but I have a feeling this instalment may turn out to have been rather unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. That or it’s just typical book two syndrome. Womp.


Micky’s 2.5 star review (ish)

I’m not 100% sure what I just read but I’ve made note of the headlines from the plot. I have to admit this second installment was a struggle of rather epic proportions. It was confusing and convoluted and yet I’m still invested to some degree with certain characters, namely, Libby, Nico, Gideon and Ezra. That’s not to say I like Ezra, I don’t, but that storyline is an interesting one. I continued to dislike Parisa and I started to intensely dislike Reina. Atlas is fascinating.

I will be returning for the third go round for this series with the hope I can recapture the enjoyment I found in book one.


THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES by Naomi Novik – double review!

Saving the world is a test no school of magic can prepare you for in the triumphant conclusion to the Sunday Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.

The one thing you never talk about while you’re in the Scholomance is what you’ll do when you get out – not even the richest enclaver would tempt fate that way.

But that impossible dream has somehow come true for El and her classmates. And what’s more, she didn’t even have to become the monstrous dark witch she’s prophesised to become to make it happen. Instead of killing enclavers, she saved them, and now the world is safe for all wizards. Peace and harmony have enveloped all the enclaves of the world.

Just kidding.

Instead, someone else has picked up the project of destroying enclaves in El’s stead, and everyone she saved is at risk again with a full-scale enclave war on the horizon. And so, the first thing El needs to do after miraculously escaping the Scholomance, is to turn straight around and find a way back in.


Title : The Golden Enclaves
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : The Scholomance #3
Format : Hardback / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : DelRey UK / Del Rey Books
Release Date : September 27, 2022

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
It hurts
The reveals are huge
Clever, clever world; clever, clever author

What an utterly rich series and concept of a world The Scholomance has been. I did not expect to reset my perceptions of this world so much through the final lens of this book, but I did. The reveals Novik brought through The Golden Enclaves were pretty huge and reconceptualised the foundations for the good and bad constructs of this magical world. I was not unhappy about this, simply impressed.

The way things at the end of The Last Graduate had El in depths of despair and I was there with her. I thought the grief was well written the actions that ensued understandable (I have a spoiler tag for more info on this in my GR review). That early part of the book was captivating but a more gentle pace, then we got a blast of speed and the book took off.

I appreciated seeing life in the world outside The Scholomance. How the enclaves worked but more than that, the often priviledged people inside the enclaves with no thought to those less priviledged. That said, the story did have short periods of lull for me where I pushed through a bit and things picked up in a satisfying way. I was a little un satisfied by the wrap up on the New York mother (being vague here).

Overall, this was a great conclusion to the series and it’ll hold a happy place in my reading heart.

Thank you to DelReyUK for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

When I closed the chapter on this book, I was admittedly flying a little high. I thought I’d be smacking this with a four and calling it a day. But the longer it took me to sit down and write this.. the more I doubted, the more I remembered the few bits I struggled with, and so here we are.

First of all, full disclosure, I cried at two different parts. So are there emotions and do they hit? Yes and yes.

Second of all, are there some good character and plot choices along the way that make this a bit less straight forward than we’ve been told to expect (even if we doubted it would be that straight forward)? Also yes and yes.

And did the romance satisfy? Wellll.

Due to s p o i l e r s there are complications with my answer to that last one. But I’m both satisfied and not. Because Novik had El interact with another character in a way I didn’t expect but.. initially, I was fine with it. When it happened again, when circumstances had changed, though? I was not fine with it. I have a feeling, if I filter some low-rated reviews, this might be the number one complaint; outside of people being real tired and bored by the non-dialogue monologues, which, fair! It does get a lot. But honestly you have to sorta be expecting that after two whole books.. (yes, I am a hypocrite because I make the same complaints in series I don’t like but keep reading, so, pfft, it is what it is).

Obviously I can’t talk about anything else, or anything plot-related, so, was this a satisfying end? Yes and no. I was emotional, I was delighted, I was a little sad, I was surprised and also maybe disappointed, I was a lot of things. And ultimately I’m not quite sure I loved this ending enough to put this series on a favourites list — but I do think I would be up for recommending it.. and I definitely want to reread it at some point. Do with that what you will!

RUBY FEVER by Ilona Andrews – double review!

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews is back with the newest book in the exciting Hidden Legacy series—the thrilling conclusion to her trilogy featuring fierce and beautiful Prime magic user Catalina Baylor.

An escaped spider, the unexpected arrival of an Imperial Russian Prince, the senseless assassination of a powerful figure, a shocking attack on the supposedly invincible Warden of Texas, Catalina’s boss… And it’s only Monday. 

Within hours, the fate of Houston—not to mention the House of Baylor—now rests on Catalina, who will have to harness her powers as never before. But even with her fellow Prime and fiancé Alessandro Sagredo by her side, she may not be able to expose who’s responsible before all hell really breaks loose.


Title : Ruby Fever
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Hidden Legacy (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive) / eBook Edelweiss
Page Count : 320
Genre : paranormal romance / urban fantasy
Publisher : Avon/Harper 360
Release Date : August 23, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

As always, I never envy the task that is required by authors to wrap up a series. Especially one like this that is the continuation of the five books that came before.. and also sets up the (likely, eventually, p l e a s e n o w) books to come. That’s a lot of loose ends and a lot of new, tantalizing, threads to keep track of. And I think overall, IA did a good job. But.. it’s also a lot of stuff.

This book felt overwhelming in a lot of ways but mostly in terms of action sequences and throwbacks to the main trilogy (which, had I been smart, I would’ve reread all books not just Catalina’s, my bad) and sometimes it was just overload. I didn’t find that this had any emotional or feelsy moments, much less any swoons, and I’m really surprised by that.

In a lot of ways this is a very Catalina-centric story; she has the man she loves, they are committed, so there was less focus on them as a couple — barring a few specific interactions — instead it’s Catalina learning more about her powers (so cool!) and also some familial connections and surprises. Which, hey, I will never complain about Baylor Fam page time but I definitely expected to get socked in the feels along the way and there was only one tiny close call and even that didn’t cause a lump in the throat.

All that to say, as a romance? This was a little lacking. Alessandro ends up as a bit player, especially in light of a newcomer character who takes much of the spotlight because he is shiny and new and rather devious. This is much more plot and Big Bad confrontation plus wrap up than anything else. But with a secured love interest, I can see why; and at least they didn’t have any manufactured drama to deal with. Just something to keep in mind.

Despite some of the dynamic shifts from some of the well-earned reveals, which I really enjoyed, I don’t think this’ll go down as my favourite of the series. I think it’s book two, one, and three for me. But this is still solid, written by some of the GOATs, and featuring one of my absolutely favourite fictional families. I’m also so excited by the tease for Arabella’s book(s) and in reading this transcript (huge spoilers, mind you, you’ve been warned) I’m excited about the possibility of it being an self-published release so as to break out of the more restrictive trad-published formula.

But let’s be real I would be excited either way (also, not me losing my mind to see them reference book two of Iron and Magic because yesss, fiiiiiinally, 2018 was so many moons ago..) because even in a review sprinkled through with nitpicks, I have very little ability to remain unbiased in my love for these authors and their worlds. Having that said that, while I did initially round up on this, further thought (as in, I haven’t thought about this since finishing) has me deciding that.. well, this really was the weakest of the lot. Thus the rating should reflect that.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Grandparent hell
Spider warnings
Slow start

This was an pleasant but perhaps weakish installment in this UF series. I think my investment in this fandom, the sisters and the current couple kept me in the enjoyment sector but this book definitely had a slow start. The second half was a stronger read for me with more action and plot.

I always think with this family that the current couple I’m reading is my favourite, I loved Nevada and Connor, then Catalina and Alessandro came along…but now I find myself looking rather intently at Arabella and the indications we got in this book. Talking of couples, I felt a bit left wanting with Catalina and Alessandro, especially towards the end. Although these two are firmly in coupledom, I think we needed a bit more.

This was a strong plot, the best element being the grandparent storyline. I enjoyed how this part of the story came together. I did want more from the spider however…okay, maybe not.

I don’t know if this is the last Catalina story and Arabella is next but if so, I’m ready.

Thank you to Harper 360 for the eARC.

THIS VICIOUS GRACE by Emily Thiede – double review!

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

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

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


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

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


Hollis’ 2 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
The evil saviour
Deadly touch
Connection and hugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOR THE THRONE by Hannah Whitten – double review!

THE FIRST DAUGHTER IS FOR THE THRONE
THE SECOND DAUGHTER IS FOR THE WOLF

Hannah Whitten’s debut For the Wolf was an instant New York Times bestseller and word-of-mouth phenomenon. Now, the eagerly awaited sequel, For the Throne, concludes her brilliant dark tale of love, magic and the secrets written in the stars.

Red and the Wolf have finally contained the threat of the Five Kings, but at a steep cost. Red’s beloved sister – Neve, the First Daughter – is lost in the Shadowlands. But Neve has an ally, even if it’s one she’d rather never speak to again – the rogue king Solmir. Together they must journey across a dangerous landscape to find the mysterious Heart Tree – and finally claim the gods’ dark, twisted powers for themselves.


Title : For The Throne
Author : Hannah Whitten
Series : For The Wolf (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit Books
Release Date : June 7, 2022

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


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

My thoughts about For The Wolf were a little mixed, which I thought was only due to the delayed and prolonged reading of the book itself, but in hindsight.. maybe was just genuine feelings. Because other than the overall vibes and some character interactions, I felt rather lost by the story.

Well the same is true for the sequel. 

Even though I didn’t do myself a favour by making time to reread book one, I jumped right in and thought the first half was really good. It was slow reading but somehow also easy reading, even if I wasn’t engaged. However in hindsight, having finished the latter part, it was also the best half. Mainly because of Neve’s POV alongside her adventures with Solmir in the Shadowlands. As the story went on and we flipped to POVs for Red, and even Raffe, I was even more detached from things. I might not have been invested in the plot but, again, I was here for the vibes. I was here for the messy and evolving dynamic between Neve and Solmir. 

But where things really went off the rails for me, beyond being checked out during certain chapters, was the climax. I’m just.. I have no words. I don’t understand and I don’t want to understand. It is what it is and I’m not a fan.

I would probably pick the author up again but I could just as easily not. 

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Kings and trees
Souls and keys

I came into this sequel a bit unsure what to expect having really liked Red and Eamonn in For The Wolf and not sure if I was ready for a Neve-centric read. What I found was that Neve (and Solmir) pitched for my attention early on and won it. We got a fair bit of Red and Eamonn in this book, so fans of that couple should feel satisfied.

The Wilderwood evolved into something above and below with creepy feelings pervading. Whitten is particulary good at creating atmosphere with a sense of tension and foreboding. The quest involving keys, kings and souls was something that echoed things we’ve seen along folklore, fairytales and retellings in the past but with a sense of freshness to the plot.

However, some of the issues I had with For The Wolf around the plot complexity and not feeling the flow continued into this second book for me. While the plot was linear, it didn’t always feel linear and I stalled a few times reading this.

I like Whitten’s imagination in world and I especially like her characterisation. I’ll definitely read her again.

Thank you to Orbit Books for the eARC.

MAD ABOUT YOU by Mhairi McFarlane 🎧

Two strangers.
One big coincidence.
Driving each other crazy is just the beginning…

Harriet Hatley is running away from everything.

Getting married.
Her boyfriend’s family.
Her past.

A dream house-share seems like the perfect place to hide, but her unlikely housemate Cal is no stranger to running away himself. And he’s also hiding secrets of his own . . .

Can these two take a crazy risk, face the past and finally find a reason to stay?


Title : Mad About You
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Narrator : Chloe Massey
Format : audiobook
Length : 10 hours, 15 minutes
Page Count : 422
Genre : Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Harper Collins
Release Date : April 14, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Sarcastic wit
Chips are down
Coercive control

This story from McFarlane was equal parts sarcastic wit and life handing out crap one piece at a time. It started in one place and ended up in completely different location by the end. It took time for the themes of the story to emerge but they were valuable. Romance was very much on the backburner in this book.

The story centered around weddings, the endings of them, the photographing of them and a really impressive finale. Harriet was a likeable heroine, a hardy Yorkshire lass with the best Huddersfield accent on audio (I live 15 minutes away from that location and appreciated that so much). This tale took you on a mainly contemporary but sometimes retrospective journey of the past men in Harriet’s life and it wasn’t pretty.

Emotional abuse in the form of coercive control was a important part of this story and it’s a theme I welcome more about as it is so insidious in it’s form and difficult for victims to speak about and break free from. Bravo, Mhairi for this.

Overall, I wouldn’t say this was a fun read but it was absorbing and enjoyable. Excellent narration.

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for the audio review copy.

MY MECHANICAL ROMANCE by Alexene Farol Follmuth – double review

Nerds are so hot.
Especially battle robot building nerds.

Bel would rather die than think about the future. College apps? You’re funny. Extracurriculars? Not a chance. But when she accidentally reveals a talent for engineering at school, she’s basically forced into joining the robotics club. Even worse? All the boys ignore Bel—and Neelam, the only other girl on the team, doesn’t seem to like her either.

Enter Mateo Luna, captain of the club, who recognizes Bel as a potential asset—until they start butting heads. Bel doesn’t care about Nationals, while Teo cares too much. But as the nights of after-school work grow longer and longer, Bel and Teo realize they’ve built more than just a combat-ready robot for the championship: they’ve made space for each other and themselves.

This sharply funny, academic rivals to lovers romance explores both the challenges girls of color face in STEM and the vulnerability of first love with unfailing wit and honesty.


Title : My Mechanical Romance
Author : Alexene Farol Follmuth
Format : eARC
Page Count : 272
Genre : YA contemporary romance
Publisher : Holiday House
Release Date : May 31, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

Okay, before the three star scares anyone else, please note, this was really cute. And the enjoyable parts were very enjoyable. There is a good chunk of diversity, this is STEM-focused, and, for something a little different, it’s engineering kinda sorta Big Hero 6 style with combat robotics. Very fun. Overall I think this is also likely very relatable on the subject of expectations for YA-aged kids transitioning into college, etc, too. Especially these days.

“Sometimes I think I’d rather be forty and wondering where my life went instead of seventeen and relentlessly hounded about my future. I can’t wait for my life of quiet desperation so I can finally meditate on all the ways I wasted my precious youth.”

So with all that goodness, why not a higher rating? Truthfully I don’t know. There was just something.. missing. I don’t know if I wanted the rival-flavoured dislike (not quite hate) to go on longer or not because I really liked how they warmed up to each other. I appreciated, too, that it wasn’t all easy fun joy within the robotics group itself. There were contentious relationships and dynamics and that felt very real. It wasn’t just outsiders (notably other boys) who made life difficult, and judged, the female MC for being involved, it was also the other girl in the group. And her reasons do eventually become revealed and are valid. Not 100% but like.. even the female MC comes around to it. It worked.

She’s acting like she knows me, and I feel like that’s not fair. I’ve been enjoying getting to know her, but apparently to her I’m nothing new.

But between those conflicts, the pressure the male MC had pressing down on his shoulders from those around him, and particularly his parents, it was again very real. Though of course I liked this particular style of conflict less. But I can’t say it really soured the whole enjoyment.. I don’t think?

You’re new, you know? You’re like this new colour I didn’t know existed and now I see it everywhere and I’m like, thank god I can see it now. Such a bummer if I never did.”

See, honestly, I don’t know what was missing, or what maybe hit a wrong note (maybe it just could’ve been longer? maybe something could’ve been better fleshed out, more time with the secondary support so they felt a tiny bit more like their own persons? maybe, as I ponder this more, everything was just a little too.. surface) but regardless I think this is definitely worth your time if you’re interested in picking it up.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Cute
Nerds unite

My Mechanical Romance was cute but very familiar in that I felt like I’d read a version of this story a number of times before. There was some uniqueness related to the robot science-y fight club and I appreciated the swipes at misogyny the female MC faced, although that didn’t go as far as I’d have liked to have seen. Add in parent troubles, different side of the tracks and it made for a sweet and predictable read.

If you enjoy a nerd-centric high school (18 year old protagonists) setting with intelligent characters, then this book will work for you. I don’t think it’s ultimately memorable but it was a quick and mostly satisfying read. I enjoyed the epilogue and time jump.

Thank you to the publisher through netgalley for the eARC.

YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY by Akwaeke Emezi – double review

New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi (they/them) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.

Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again. 

It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career. 

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?

Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.


Title : You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty
Author : Akwaeke Emezi
Format : eARC/Hardcover
Page Count : 288
Genre : romance
Publisher : Atria Books
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : unrated/****


Hollis’ unrated star review

I’ve sat here, the minutes ticking by since I closed my kindle, waffling on how I feel about this book. Not just rating wise but overall feeling wise. This is going to be a polarizing book, I think.

After having fallen in love with The Death of Vivek Oji last year, I’ve been on a mission to slowly devour everything this author has written. The fact that they flit between genres, and themes, and styles, is so interesting and at the announcement of a romance novel — a romance novel with a Florence + The Machine lyric for a title — I mean, obviously I was sold. I wanted to see what they would do in this particular genre.

And for so much of it.. I was pretty into it. I enjoyed the voice (I make this distinction for a reason, I’ll expand more in a bit) and I enjoyed the friendship between Feyi and Joy. Their conversations were mostly limited to their romantic endeavours with the occasional hype moment from Joy on Feyi’s behalf but.. still, I felt the friendship, I felt the connection. But the romance? The various ones we follow? Welll..

I absolutely appreciate that Feyi, having survived what she did, and feeling like she’s maybe in a place to dip her toe in romance again, would be hesitant for more than something physical. And would shy away from something more. And I do feel like we saw some stepping stones out of her grief in the form of people but.. I don’t know. This is where I get mixed. Because I can see it what the author did (or, rather, I think I see what they were doing), and understand it, but I can also not love it? I guess? In some ways it’s brave and also real but..

Maybe it was the writing that hindered some of this. Because I’ll tell you right now I didn’t enjoy this writing the same way I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous writing. I can’t put my finger on what about it bothered me but something did.

Even without the romance drama, this book is messy. Grief is messy. Processing that, dealing with the concept of moving on, it’s all a mess. Emotional and fraught. And then when combined with romance? Messier. Add in some.. complicated results with how things shake out with said romance? Chaos. There’s a lot going on here. And there are times that Emezi has these beautiful notes, these little pauses of reflection, and they are just lovely. There are moments to be heard but also moments where the characters are listened to, and understood. But it’s still also dramatic and a lot. Which is fine! If that’s what you want.

I definitely see people loving this or.. maybe not hating it but being on the fence of it all. So while I’m taking the easy way out and not rating this.. it’s probably a 3. So just imagine that instead of the nothing and let me remain in a state where I don’t have to commit.

I will definitely continue to pick up titles by this author, as well as catch up on their backlist, but this wasn’t quite the breakthrough hit I thought it would be. At least not for me.

That cover is absolutely stunning though isn’t it? Gorgeous.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Messy love
Messy families
Grief

This story was completely messed up, from the main character Feyi, to her ultimate actions and the outcomes of that. I could not put this book down. It made for some fervent reading and I loved the experience, however wild it went.

Feyi had a whole room full of baggage that was understandable and endearing. Feyi was on an adventure to opening up back to intimate relationships and from the start, my eyes were wide. Her narrative was funny, intelligent and open.

The ultimate destination of this journey, I didn’t forsee until the airport arrival, then the path was clearly laid; my eyes did not leave the page while this mess played out. I liked Alim, I regretted the family fall out for the wounded parties but I still understood how the couple got to where they were.

There isn’t a neatness to this story, it’s raw, gritty and ugly in parts but it’s wonderful to read.