MASTER OF ONE by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett

Sinister sorcery. Gallows humor. A queer romance so glorious it could be right out of fae legend itself. Master of One is a fantasy unlike any other.

Rags is a thief—an excellent one. He’s stolen into noble’s coffers, picked soldier’s pockets, and even liberated a ring or two off the fingers of passersby. Until he’s caught by the Queensguard and forced to find an ancient fae relic for a sadistic royal sorcerer.

But Rags could never have guessed this “relic” would actually be a fae himself—a distractingly handsome, annoyingly perfect, ancient fae prince called Shining Talon. Good thing Rags can think on his toes, because things just get stranger from there…

With the heist and intrigue of Six of Crows and the dark fairy tale feel of The Cruel Prince, this young adult fantasy debut will have readers rooting for a pair of reluctant heroes as they take on a world-ending fae prophecy, a malicious royal plot, and, most dangerously of all, their feelings for each other.  


Title : Master of One
Author : Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett
Format : eARC
Page Count : 544
Genre : YA fantasy / LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : November 10, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This might be a read I could actually round up on but for now I’m going to linger just under a three. I definitely didn’t hate this and, despite the length (so long!), it was a pretty easy read — I swear, my eyes only skimmed the tiniest bit. Also the concept is definitely different and I appreciate that. But I do rather feel the pitch of this book as being a big ol’ heist adventure is patently false.

Instead, this book is about the ever lasting reign of a queen who has committed, or at least contributed to, genocide against the fae that used to live alongside them. And a resistance that has spawned in the wake of not only her un-ending reign but also the secrets that lie beneath the surface.

Said resistance is led in part by unsuspecting characters who are pulled together by some kind of fae destiny as the discovery of one leads to another, who leads to the next, etc. This is not the standalone I thought it to be (again, see aforementioned length) so nothing is quite resolved and players are still to be discovered (hope you like multiple POVs!). Along with, you know, taking down the queen and her various sorcerers and unmasking her along the way.

What kept me from enjoying this to the extent I thought I could was how removed I felt from so much of it. I mostly felt this in the characters but I also kind of feel it of the world, too. Like, I can mostly visualize it but it’s very.. rough. Not fleshed out. The authors have set the stage but forgotten the props. You understand the motions that are playing out but there’s nothing to draw the eye. Anyway, enough of that.

I will pick up the next book because I’ll admit I’m curious at the motivations behind the big ruse. But that’s mostly it. Plus, I do have one character that kind of was a favourite, even though he’s the love interest for one of the more annoying main characters. Poor guy.

If you like fae, if you want a fantasy that has queer rep, and are keen to dive into a pretty substantial series (duology, trilogy, who can say!) opener, this might just be the book for you.

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

INSTANT KARMA by Marissa Meyer

In this young adult contemporary romance, a girl is suddenly gifted with the ability to cast instant karma on those around her—both good and bad.

Chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate. 



Title : Instant Karma
Author : Marissa Meyer
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary / magical realism
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends
Release Date : November 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 2 stars review

It’s not like I asked for this gift, so I figure I must’ve done something to deserve it.

So, full disclosure, I didn’t remember requesting this and when it popped up for download I did experience some minor trepidation. I’m not sure why. I just wasn’t sure about this one, even knowing as little about it as I did, so again, why on earth did I click? I blame quarantine brain.

I can punish and I can reward. It makes perfect sense. I’d just been so eager to right wrongs before that I hadn’t considered how karma flows in two directions.

And ultimately I guess my gut instinct was right. But not quite to the extent I expected. Because Prudence? Completely and utterly insufferable — even before she’s given the power to award and punish those around her for situations she infers at a glance. No context, no understandings, just snap judgments and bam, a bird shits on your car, bam you fall and break a leg, bam a baby pukes on your feet, and on and on. The reward element of her magical powers are very underutilized as is to be expected from someone who assumes she knows all and not only has a right to judge others but has somehow earned it.

So you’re officially volunteering at an animal rescue centre for the next month. How very selfless of you, dear Prudence.”
Hey, I can be selfless.
I know you can, but don’t you see the irony? You’re only doing this for the grade.
So? Actions make a person good, not motives.”
I’m not sure I agree with that.”

^^ additionally the irony is Prudence’s whole argument definitely feeds into her delusion of thinking she knows best. But also.. doesn’t the fact that she’s directing the universe to work through her to punish others also mean her actions, despite her motives, make her a bad person?

The frustrating thing is there was such a lovely element to this story, which thankfully did take up a lot of page time and is what kept me reading, regarding the animal rescue centre and all the animals requiring care and rehabilitation and, occasionally and happily, even a return to the wild. There is a big emphasis on the environment and conservation and protection of animals, both those in the wild but also farming practices and the meat industry too. It worked to ground the story, yes, but was also a nice distraction from everything else.

Ultimately, though, even though Prudence undergoes many little epiphanies and realizations that she’s erred in judging others, I’m just not sure she ever really overcame where she started from. I liked Quint, the love interest, but do not think he deserved half of what he put up with. Though he did have a line regarding his feelings towards Pru that summed it up perfectly, I think. I won’t spoil it though. It’s worth experiencing in the moment.

And, to make matters worse, there ended up being a person who deserved true karmic justice and ultimately didn’t get it. So after putting up with all Prudence’s choices for the whole book, when she finally gets the chance to make an informed decision and enact justice and retribution — even though I don’t agree with someone having that kind of power, particularly an entitled sixteen year old — the one person who does deserve it? Doesn’t get it. Arg.

This definitely wasn’t a win. It wasn’t quite terrible. But it definitely skirted the line for me. It was frustrating, and there were a few too many things left unresolved, but it wasn’t toss-the-book-across-the-room rage inducing. Plus, the image of big eyed seals are keeping me from rating this any lower. So, thank the seals.

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

THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE by V. E. Schwab – double review!

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.


Title : The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Author : V.E. Schwab
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books/Titan Books
Release Date : October 6, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I don’t know how to start this review — I’ve watched the cursor blink for a while now — or even how to go about explaining how I knew I was enjoying this story throughout, was likely to rate it a four, but kept waiting to be blown away. It was an almost love, complete with admiration for the creativity, the detail, everything the author researched; it was a maybe reread, but equally maybe not, which is a distinction not many books get, as we all know.

Being forgotten, she thinks, is a bit like going mad. You begin to wonder what is real, if you are real. After all, how can a thing be real if it cannot be remembered?

And then suddenly I’m crying. Then I’m marveling at.. something. Then I knew I loved it.

Time has no face, no form, nothing to fight against. But in his mocking smile, his toying words, the darkness has given her the one thing she truly needs : an enemy.

Even knowing the premise of what this book was about, I didn’t think long enough on the mechanics of it, the complexities and caveats created by the bargain. And I thought that was wonderfully done. I’ll admit certain bits did feel a bit repetitive in the beginning, and I wasn’t always totally immersed in Addie’s mind or perspective (though I couldn’t tell you why), but neither of those things take away from the fact that the way this was written, the choice of words, the passages, the.. everything.. was just so beautiful. I don’t know if maybe the sheer loveliness or the sheer loneliness is to blame for sometimes pulling me out of the story, instead of pulling me under, but I mean.. that’s still kind of a good thing?

This should definitely be on your radar and, incase you couldn’t tell, I can’t wait to read this one again.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

This was a book of two definite halves for me. The first half I found morose, depressing and inexpliably sad. I told my buddy that it needed to be called The Hopeless Life of Addie LaRue. But on reflection, VE Schwab knows best.

The story was compelling, even in the first half, no doubt about that. But, it was hard to read about Addie’s life, her struggle, the moments she had to get through. The past and present timelines were so clearly outlined that I never faltered with the jumps back and forth.

“Are you lost?”
Déjà vu. Déjà su. Déjà vecu. Already seen. Already known. Already lived.

The second half did a number on me, it won me around in a way I didn’t see coming. It made the first half fall into place and as a whole it was 100% memorable. I found hope, I found fear and everything came with an aftertaste of bittersweet. This wasn’t a neatly tied story, it was incredibly melancholy but I do welcome a read that takes you out of a normal format of story strucure and expectations.

I’ve told you nothing about the story in this review but the characters were exceptional. Addie in particular was humbly endearing with necessary grey facets to that character. I’m left feeling unsure how I feel about Luc, how believing I was of him, but I know this, Henry was a beautiful creation who won my heart.

“Three hundred years,” she whispers. “And you can still find something new.”

There were illustrations at the start of the seven parts to this book and they took my breath away, none more than the start of Part Seven where tears gently welled.

VE Schwab wrote uniquely, with imagination that is rare. This was some story that definitely needed to be told. If you do struggle with that first half, hold on, because there are words to pull you through.

I remember you.

Thank you to Titan Books for the gifted review copy.

AS THE SHADOW RISES by Katy Rose Pool

The Last Prophet has been found, yet he sees destruction ahead.

In this sequel to the critically-acclaimed There Will Come a Darkness, kingdoms have begun to fall to a doomsday cult, the magical Graced are being persecuted, and an ancient power threatens to break free. But with the world hurtling toward its prophesized end, Anton’s haunting vision reveals the dangerous beginnings of a plan to stop the Age of Darkness.

As Jude, Keeper of the Order of the Last Light, returns home in disgrace, his quest to aid the Prophet is complicated by his growing feelings for Anton. Meanwhile, the assassin known as the Pale Hand will stop at nothing to find her undead sister before she dies for good, even if it means letting the world burn. And in Nazirah, Hassan, the kingdom-less Prince, forms a risky pact to try to regain his throne. When the forces of light and darkness collide in the City of Mercy, old wounds are reopened, new alliances are tested, and the end of the world begins. 


Title : As The Shadow Rises
Author : Katy Rose Pool
Series : Age of Darkness (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m not going to say this was a disappointing sequel, because it wasn’t, but I’ll admit that the excitement I felt in book one was mostly missing here. Whereas in THERE WILL COME A DARKNESS I think I was pretty interested in all of the POVs, this time I definitely had favourites and sorta slogged along in some of the paralell plotlines as they eventually converged into one. That said, this is definitely a twisty installment and of a few of the reveals, I think I only managed to predict one of them. I really liked that.

I mentioned in my review for book one, this is definitely a darker, grittier, version of the Falling Kingdoms series. And I totally stand by that assesment; in fact, this book only solidified my opinion on that comparison. We didn’t gain any new POVs, though we did gain quite a few new faces along the way, but what did change were many of the dynamics we had been given in book one. I enjoyed seeing these characters overlap, pass amongst each other, and then come together.

I did like this installment, it pretty much absorbed me all afternoon, but I hope book three pushes this out of like-zone and back to really like (if not love!)-zone to round out the series.

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

ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED by Kerrigan Byrne – double review!

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London’s most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.

IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY

Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips…Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women…and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?


Title : All Scot and Bothered
Author : Kerrigan Byrne
Series : Devil You Know (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date : September 29, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was pretty close to rounding up on this one but couldn’t quite tip it over the edge. But this was still a fun read.

He said he and I were similar souls. It was though he could see parts of himself in me.
I can guess which parts.”

I found I got off to a bit of a rough start with this because we’re thrown into a weird situation out of nowhere, alongside one of our MCs, but while she got some answers along the way, I still felt it took too long to settle into the goings on. Likewise, I felt it dragged just as things started to really settle. But then near the end? I was crying. I was moved. And then wham bam we had lots of action and reveals, ma’am. Things wrap up pretty quick, in fairly predictable ways — though we had a delightful tease and set-up for book three — but I was still feeling those earlier lovelier feels.

I am a woman, Ramsay, I am used to pain.”

Jean-Yves is the star of this show, yes he is. I want a devoted French butler, please.

Are you all willing to resort to violence?
No.”
Yes.”
Only if strictly necessary.

This series is definitely a highlight when it comes to strong female characters but also fantastic female friendships. The depths the author gives these Red Rogues is just delightful. I was really happy with the dimension Byrne had given to book one’s hero but found this one a bit less memorable and a little more typical and/or standard for HR. That said, I think we’re going to get a change-up when it comes to the next man in this round up (or at least I hope so!). And with that said..

Looking forward to book three.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I definitely like the vibe that Kerrigan Byrne brings to these stories and her character creations. ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED was a good second instalment in the Devil You Know series but I liked it a little less than book one.

Cecelia and the Red Rogues found themselves a little more separate in this story but Cecelia and Ramsey took up that space nicely. Cecelia’s character felt a little ellusive to me throughout this read but I did like her, I just wanted to feel a little more immersed in how she thought rather than just how she acted. She was a feminist, a carer for others, but also naive. Ramsey, the stubborn, hard-headed and arrogant hero was also strangely likeable despite his thick skull.

But he knew that if he relented, her flames could prove to be hellfire, consuming everything good about the life he’d built from nothing.

The story wandered from London to the lowlands of Scotland but I didn’t get the feels for Scotland in this one and I longed for that a bit. Nevertheless, Scotland did bring an impasse of understanding between these two, a place to be on the same page. Jean-Yves and Phoebe were sweet side characters who enriched the narrative.

What would a lifetime of her smiles do?

I really liked the story in the background for the first three quarters but that lost a little traction for me in the last quarter. All that said, it was a very satisfying story and I’ll definitely be here for the next book in the series. It was easy to read over a weekend and brought some welcome escapism.

Thank you to St Martins Press for the early review copy.

A DEADLY EDUCATION by Naomi Novik – double review!

In the start of an all-new series, the bestselling author of Uprooted and Spinning Silver introduces you to a dangerous school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death – until one girl begins to rewrite its rules.
_______________________________________

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.

There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal.

Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.

El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.

Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.
_______________________________________

Wry, witty, endlessly inventive, and mordantly funny – yet with a true depth and fierce justice at its heart – this enchanting novel reminds us that there are far more important things than mere survival.


Title : A Deadly Education
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : Scholomance #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Random House UK/Cornerstone / Del Rey
Release Date : September 29, 2020

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


Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

I’m a bit dithery over that rating, take it as 4.25 if that helps! I just about devoured this book whenever I could and it made for tasty reading. The Scholomance was a school like you’ve never imagined, a school trying to kill its pupils with brimming magic, a void and tonnes of deadly creatures.

This was a witty read and that really surprised me. We’ve definitely seen shades of Novik’s sarcastic humour through Uprooted but this story had a lighter, laugh-out-loudness to it. I thought the whole concept of The Scholomance (the boarding school for wizards) was unique. Add to that the snarkiest heroine I’ve read in a while in Galadriel (El) and it was hard for this book to put a foot wrong.

When I want to straighten my room, I get instructions on how to kill it with fire.

Odd right? Spells didn’t flow in the expected way for her, but Galadriel was not a conventional wizard by Scholomance pupil standards, she was quietly and covertly exceptional. I loved reading about her systems, her talents and the languages she was studying. Most of all, I enjoyed reading her growth in friendships. El was almost made perfect with her use of British swears. I can say that Novik wrote a Brit (she was actually Welsh) particularly well.

The begrudging friendship/white knight (not needed) in Orion made for hilarity and chuckling. It was hard not to like Orion despite his saviour complex but there’s definitely more to unpack with him and I’m so glad we hopefully get to do that in the next book.

“You know, it’s almost impressive,” he said after a moment, sounding less wobbly. “You’re nearly dead and you’re still the rudest person I’ve ever met.”

The heirarchies in the school were something else and the void was just nausea-inducing to me. This truly was the school of nightmares and I wouldn’t last more than a minute in there! I simply cannot wait for the next instalment. And so I leave you with my favourite line (kudos to Jane Eyre here).

Reader, I ran the fuck away.

Thank you to Cornerstone/Random House for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 4 star review

A DEADLY EDUCATION is like a dark mashup of Harry Potter — if the only class was Defense Against the Dark Arts — complete with the magical puberty problems and monster-attraction issues ala Percy Jackson, but if instead of Buffy we had Faith saving the world all the time.. though hella reluctantly. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This book is nothing like what I expected a book by Novik would be. This, for all the darkness and the fact that it’s set inside a castle that seems to be actively working to kill it’s residents — or at last lead it’s inhabitants into a position to die and casually look away — is funny, quippy, and strange.

Unlike Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or even Faith, we are tossed into the depths of things via Galadriel’s (El’s) point of view. She isn’t a noob blinking big innocent eyes as she wanders into this new world, no. She’s in her second to last year, having survived many years, many near deaths, with a prophecy already hanging over her head; she’s full of the bitterness and disdain from years of rejections, years of loneliness, and completely unimpressed when the school’s hero not only suddenly takes a shine to her but also saves her life.. a lot.

I liked our MC so much. I thought El’s snarky voice, her rudeness, was great. She has cultivated her niche deliberately because of circumstances completely out of her control but as delightful as she is at the onset, I loved her journey and evolution even more. Equally fun was Orion, the hero, the saviour, was equally not as one-note as he could’ve been. There are layers to both these characters and their interactions were a lot of fun as this definitely leaned into the enemies-turned-reluctant-allies-turned-friends trope. Infact, I don’t think I disliked a single character? Yes, I, too, am shook.

Though we never leave this young-person death trap of a school, Novik still manages to make her world feel big. This is helped not only because of the diversity of the students we are exposed to but, more importantly, all the Enclaves all over the world (think of them as Shadowhunter Institutes) they might be invited to after graduation if they are smart, skilled, or sought after enough. The rules are strange. I won’t explain further but.. don’t expect House points!

I had such a good time reading this, despite how different it was from my expectations, and I devoured it in less than a day. I enjoyed this so much and am very intrigued and very keen for more.

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

WELL PLAYED by Jen DeLuca

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.
 
When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.
 
Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.


Title : Well Played
Author : Jen DeLuca
Series : Well Met (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : September 22, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I have to be honest, I’m a little disappointed about this one. It’s not remotely a bad book but I expected more of the delight of book one’s banter and chemistry to show up here and, due to circumstances of the meet/genesis of the relationship, we don’t quite get it.

Stacey was really relateable character in a lot of ways; stuck in a small town, post-college plans derailed, days spent looking at the lives of others through social media or her phone and feeling like she’s missed opportunities for more. And equally, I felt a lot of things about love interest, who was quite soft and sweet; even though in critical moments he just completely left Stacey hanging out to dry. Neither were perfect, of course — I found Stacey randomly being annoyed by people sometimes jarring because it seemed to come out of nowhere — but I think this is going to be a situation where we all might be wishing for a bit more groveling on the side of the guy. I know I did.

What the hell is wrong with you two? You’re both nerds, you know that? In this century we don’t go straight for a Cyrano reference. We all it catfishing.”

Overall though I think that’s maybe what’s missing and letting this one fall a little short. It’s just missing that edge, that extra bit of something something. I also wonder if maybe Emily and Simon, book one’s couple, were just a little too centre stage in some of the plot. I suppose to fits with the theme of Stacey feeling like she’s just stuck in place, watching life happen around her, but.. maybe without them being so present it would’ve just been a sadder book?

Also, if you wanted higher heat levels in the wake of book one? Well, you’ll get them.

It was nice being reunited with everyone, we get to see all the familiar faces, and I’m excited at some of the breadcrumbs laid in preparation for book three, but while there were some sweet moments.. it won’t be anywhere near as memorable as WELL MET.

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

THE SILVERED SERPENTS by Roshani Chokshi

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumoured to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.


Title : The Silvered Serpents
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Series : The Gilded Wolves (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA historical fiction / fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 22, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

You know the chorus from Paramore’s Decode? How did we get here? I used to know you so well? Well that’s what was running through my head as I finished this book. How did I go from confused tolerance for book one to.. exceedingly enjoying this one? Every now and then this happens to me and it only reinforces my behaviour to read on in series that I maybe didn’t love or had mixed feelings on. Yet when it works in my favour I’m still always surprised.

Be a light in this world, [..], for it can be very dark.

I mean, it could still all go to shit in book three, but right now? Hi hello. We like.

As per usj, this is a sequel, so there’s not much I can or will say. But if you loved book one? I think you’ll love this, too. And for those, like me, who were uncertain or confused or not wholly into it? I might suggest you push on. Everything is still the same, I can’t quite articulate how things have changed (besides the obvious spoilery ways), but I found this one a lot easier to follow.

You rescued us. This almost feels like a fairy tale, and I’m the damsel in distress.
You’re not a damsel.”
I am in distress, though.
But–
Let me have this.”

While I don’t think I ever really got sucker punched in the feels, or felt anything was particularly funny or humourous, I nonetheless felt more connected to these characters and their myriad tragedies, losses, or heartbreaks. It’s weird. I was so disconnected from them in book one but now? I don’t know how it happened.

When she thought of evil, she did not think of mechanical monsters swimming in lake waters, but of people; [..] the people who hid cruelty behind politics.

I will say this was also an easier book to visualize (always my number one problem with this author’s writing) but there were still two scenes that stuck out to me where I was really grasping to understand how things were happening or what it looked like. So, like, literally almost everything I struggled with in book one doesn’t apply to this one. We love that!

My life, and whatever is left of it, will not be what his soul gnaws on to regain its strength. My death is not in service to his character, and I will not be a sacrifice simply for him to find peace of mind. He is not my responsibility to save.

I’m definitely keen to see these characters come back from where they’ve ended up and how this whole story wraps. Bring on 2021 (.. and for more reasons than just this book! all the reasons!).

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

TOOLS OF ENGAGEMENT by Tessa Bailey – double review!

In Tessa Bailey’s latest rom-com, two enemies team up to flip a house… and the sparks between them might burn the place down or ignite a passion that neither can ignore!

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.


Title : Tools of Engagement
Author : Tessa Bailey
Series : Hot & Hammered (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : September 22, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Possibly my favourite of the series?

We love a hate-to-love in this house, or at least a somewhat antagonistic dynamic hiding attraction, particularly when the pair are opposites, but throw in an age gap and a single dad-situation, too? I mean, c’mon. Catnip.

I like being referred to as your foreman. It’s got a nice ring.”
Especially compared to what I usually call you.”
Truth. It’s a definite improvement from dickhead.”

The build-up for this match up has been bubbling away in the background of this series for a while and, for this reader, it was definitely worth the wait. Pretty much everything about this just worked for me (maybe also helped by a bit of a dry spell in the contemporary romance genre?). Besides the delightful tease and torment, the peeling back of layers, I just really appreciated all the situations navigated. Bethany’s insecurities, Wes’ impermanence, and the fact that as they tear down a structure to rebuild, and do it together, they realize how well the fit. How one has a house — though it isn’t a home — much less one filled with joy, while the other is only ever a guest, never asked to stay. Never needed or wanted.

Can you tell this book made me cry?

Don’t worry, though, it’s also sexy and hot af, as one expects from a Bailey.

I’m not interested in a fling — and even if I was, you’ve wisely removed sex from the equation–
Deepest regret of my life.”
Yeah, pretty shortsighted of you.

I’ll admit the introduction of the reality show element wasn’t my favourite, though it worked as the spark to kick things off and ramp up the intensity and the stakes. And I didn’t love the big reconciliation moment (I think I said the same about book one? I’m just not always into these big showy expressions, I think). But I appreciated that things ended happily though not with every bit tied off in a bow; and but that I mean with the characters and their journeys, too. It helps shave off a bit of cheese from the whole HEA and makes it much more palateable.

That was poetic.
Your epitagh is going to be poetic once I strangle you.”
Having your hands on me is the ideal way to go.”

If you’ve enjoyed the books in this series, I think you’ll definitely like this one, too.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

This was another fun instalment in the series and what I’ve loved about the series, are the characters Tessa Bailey creates. Bethany and Wes were no exception and probably the most endearing characters so far. Bethany was a perfectionist with sometimes crippling anxiety and Wes was an ex-bullrider, trying to parent his niece. Said niece was funny and adorable. I love flawed (normal) characters so I found this set up appealing.

This was a bit of an age-gap romance (7 years) however at 23 and 30, it didn’t feel that much of an issue to me, but it was to Bethany. I was glad to see Bethany in close focus in this book and she was much more than the perfect house and event stylist I’d seen from other books. The tension between her and Wes was pretty hot-banterish with a side of snarky fake-hate. The dialogue was extremely fun.

Wes was adorable, parenting his niece, making it up as he went along but he was such a good guy despite the innuendo towards Bethany. He was protective to them both without being overly alpha-ish , which I really appreciated. The story was predictable but fun.

I don’t exactly know why this book didn’t hit the 4 stars having said all the above but I did keep putting the book down and it didn’t hold my attention on holiday, with no outside stressors. By 70% I wanted to get to the end, the predictability had won over and I knew there would be a hurdle then smooth. However, it left me with all the good feels with a strong ending.

This was a good instalment in the series, but book 2 remains my favourite.

Thank you to Avon for the early review copy.

COMMON GOAL by Rachel Reid

New York Admirals goalie Eric never thought his friends-with-benefits arrangement with much-younger Kyle would leave them both wanting more…

Veteran goaltender Eric Bennett has faced down some of the toughest shooters on the ice, but nothing prepared him for his latest challenge—life after hockey. It’s time to make some big changes, starting with finally dating men for the first time.

Graduate student Kyle Swift moved to New York nursing a broken heart. He’d sworn to find someone his own age to crush on (for once). Until he meets a gorgeous, distinguished silver fox hockey player. Despite their intense physical attraction, Kyle has no intention of getting emotionally involved. He’ll teach Eric a few tricks, have some mutually consensual fun, then walk away.

Eric is more than happy to learn anything Kyle brings to the table. And Kyle never expected their friends-with-benefits arrangement to leave him wanting more. Happily-ever-after might be staring them in the face, but it won’t happen if they’re too stubborn to come clean about their feelings.

Everything they both want is within reach… They just have to be brave enough to grab it.


Title : Common Goal
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changers (book four)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 282
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sports romance
Publisher : CarinaPress
Release Date : September 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Do you continue to pick up books in the Game Changers series because you want Ilya cameos? Because hi, it me.

Ilya Rozanov wants to hang out with you tonight? At a gar bar?
Apparently.”
That guy is so weird.

Just kidding. I’m also here for the hockey and the romance. And surprising no one, in a series of hockey romances, we had both here.

Dating a much younger man would pretty much make him a walking midlife crisis, and Eric really didn’t want that kind of attention. He couldn’t stomach the idea of being a recently divorced man rebounding with a pretty young thing. And then there was the fact that Kyle was a man.

This was definitely the strongest in this series post, and pre, HEATED RIVALRY, and I’m so relieved about that. The dynamic of this couple, the age gap and the fact that it’s the older man needing guidance as he explores his hitherto unexplored attraction to men, was so sweet without ever getting into book one levels of sucrose. I think what really helped this romance for me was that I believed in the friendship that was the foundation for what later bloomed. And, honestly, the first kiss? Heart eyes. Pure heart eyes. This is actually one of those romances where I was less into the hot and heavy scenes and more into the burgeoning affection between the leads.

Not that I’m not happy for Scott, but I’ve been thinking about my own wedding, I guess.”
You can remember back that far?
Shut it.”
I forget. Was Holly a war bride? Was she your nurse after the Germans shot you?
All right, I’m going home.

As I’m forever saying, I’m a sucker for an ensemble, particularly when it’s a sports team ensemble. These players? I adore them. There were so many hilarious little moments and yes, as I teased above, Ilya was at the center of a lot of those funnies. Getting those moments with him, particularly when sharing page time with Hollander, and knowing we’re finally getting a sequel? I’m trying to cram my expectations into a small box but it’s hard, yo.

Who knew Rozanov had such a big heart?
I had a hunch. I think he might secretly be a big softy.”
He does a damn good job of hiding it.

Back to COMMON GOAL, I want to mention how awesome it was to see dialogue about consent and expectations about intimacy between two men because even in m/m romances I don’t think that’s really talked about. Safety, protection? Sure. But feeling obligated to put out, or return the favour, especially if you aren’t comfortable or as enthusiastic as you might have been? We love to see that. Also the discourse around the validity of bisexuality even if you haven’t explored part of that spectrum? Fabulous.

Toronto was a team of weirdos. <– this quote isn’t included for any context, it just made me laugh

Overall, I had a really good time with this read and would definitely recommend fans of this series who may (or may not) have been a little less enthusiastic about book three, particularly in the wake of Ilya and Hollander, to give it a go. I was also about to suggest those missing hockey to dive face first into this to get your fix but hockey is, like, back now? But weird? In August? 2020 man, it keeps on keepin’ on.

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