GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.


Title : Gideon the Ninth
Author : Tamsyn Muir
Series : The Ninth House
Format : eARC
Page Count : 437
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So listen. The only reason I’m not giving this five stars is because sometimes, while reading, I would feel a little lost. Confused, even. It’s been awhile since I read an adult science-fiction novel, particularly one as complex as this, with such a large cast, and during the over (!) two (!!) weeks (!!!) it took me to read this, between slumps and life chaos and other ARC deadlines, it was just.. a lot.

I would have thought you would be happy that I needed you. That I showed you my girlish and vulnerable heart.
Your heart is a party for five thousand nails.”

But I never stopped having fun.

Gideon would’ve sworn there were tears in her eyes, except that no such liquid existed. Harrow was a desiccated mummy of hate.

The characters in this series are.. just, everything. Gideon is a riot. I spent most of my time, confused and non-confused, reading this book and giggling. Snorting. Cackling. Highlighting. This isn’t a comedy but is comedic af. The author, through Gideon, is snarky and sarcastic and just.. relentlessly relatable. For all that she’s the cavalier, swords-person/bodyguard, of a necromancer, in space, who is battling to riddle out puzzles of which the end goal is to make them immortal and all-powerful. You know, totally relatable.

I cannot and will not read your thoughts, control your body, or look at your most intimate memories. I don’t have the ability and I certain’t don’t have the desire.
It’s for your own protection, not mine. I imagined Crux’s butt once when I was twelve.”

I’ve seen this pitched, and even pitched it myself, as ‘lesbian necromancers in space’ and that does such an injustice to the scope and breadth and complexity of everything, plot and characters, of this book. But it’s one hell of a great hook and if it’s what pulled you in, fantastic. Just buckle the hell up and know there is so much more to this.

I’ll still do it.”
Why?
Probably because you asked.”
That’s all it takes, [..]? That’s all you demand? This is the complex mystery that lies in the pit of your psyche?
That’s all I ever demanded, you asswipe.”

This book is spooky, funny, heartbreaking, hilarious, rich in ‘I’m too dumb for this’ science, and even weirder magic. The cast is vibrant and diverse and while sometimes I wish I had taken notes on who is what and why and what are the Houses.. even confused, I was happy. Truly. This is a book that needed more time than I had to give it and that’s on me. Even though, yeah, okay, it’s on me but I’m also knocking down a star.

Why was I born so attractive?
Because everyone would have throttled you within the first five minutes otherwise.”

But.

Nav, show them what the Ninth House does.
We do bones, motherfucker.

I will say, brace yourselves. This isn’t the standalone I thought it would be. And I was u n p r e p a r e d for the end of this book in many many ways. I may have cried. Well, okay, welled up. But regardless I need book two yesterday. The good news is I’ll definitely reread this before the sequel (is it a duology? a trilogy?) so I hope to a) maybe have a better handle on things earlier on in the unfolding of the story and b) maybe, hopefully, round up.

Gideon was experiencing one powerful emotion : being sick of everyone’s shit.

Regardless, if you’re comfortable with adult sci-fi, prepared to hunker down with a long book, and want hilarity alongside diversity? You need this. The fact that this incredible title is a debut just blows my mind. Just the way the book itself did. Infact, just putting this review together, and pulling the quotes, actually makes me want to just.. start reading it all over again. And that almost never happens to me. So I hope that says it all! Even though I said.. a lot. Already.

You are my only friend. I am undone without you.”

Oh, did I mention there’s a hate to love f/f romance? Hm? Did I?

You definitely need this one in your life.

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

WELL MET by Jen DeLuca

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.


Title : Well Met
Author : Jen DeLuca
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : women’s fiction, romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

If what you’ve always wanted is a romance set against a Renaissance Faire, with a hate to love trope, then WELL MET is sure to be the book of your dreams. Or at least one of your top favourites from 2019.

I’ve only read one other book with this kind of setting, and honestly both the title and the author escape me, so that probably says a lot about how much I liked it. As a result I maybe went in to this one with lower expectations but whether that had anything to do with my enjoyment or if this is just that fun? Who can say (spoiler : it’s just that fun).

So, what, am I just supposed to pull an extra bard out of my ass now?
Not a bad idea. It might dislodge the stick that’s up there.”

This is a women’s fiction title but is more romance heavy than some of the more recent ones I’ve read and it was honestly just.. cozy. We have two sisters, separated by quite a few years, reconnecting when the older sister is injured in a car accident and needs help not only going to and from doctor’s appointments but also with her teenager daughter. As Emily’s life has recently imploded, losing her job and her boyfriend, it isn’t much hardship to uproot herself to her sister’s small town. Additionally, Emily thrives on organization and handling crises. Win win win.

Emma the Tavern Wench missed Captain Blackthorne greatly. She wanted him to come by the tavern he’d been neglecting lately, because she thrilled to see him and lived for those moments where his attention was like the sun. But Emily the Regular Person wanted to give Simon a good shake and ask him what his problem was.

Part of what Emily takes on is a volunteer position in the local Renaissance Faire. Her niece wanted to be part of it and the only condition is a parent or guardian volunteering alongside. So Emily jumps in with both feet; and splashes all over the event organizer, Simon. I don’t mean that literally. But Simon is basically the raincloud of Emily’s sun and it sets the whole tone for their relationship over the coming weeks.

A month ago I hated the guy, and I thought he hated me. This is like a summer romance on steroids.”

The Faire takes up the majority of the plot and events but it also acts as a great foil for some of the emotional issues that crop up over the story. DeLuca’s story touches on topics of grief and self-worth and I thought both were done really well and also just emotional enough without the angst or agony dragging on too long. I’ll admit there were brief moments where I thought Emily a touch too in her head or oblivious but it does fit in with her hangups and previous experiences and, in hindsight, I think it fits.

I wanted to crawl in to him, become part of him so he would never feel alone again. But I didn’t know how to tell him that without it sounding like the world’s creepiest Valentine’s card.

Additionally there were so many moments where I thought “well here comes the misunderstanding or lack of communication romance trope” and instead.. nope. I think that might honestly be the only thing that makes this stand apart from your typical romance. A few less frustrating tropes on the checklist.

Brace yourself. I’m going to woo your ass off.

If you want some great banter, some excellent tension, smoldering sweet swoons, and a good emotional backbone for a story set against old timey cosplay and fun, you should definitely pick this one up. I’m pleasantly surprised by yet another debut title and can’t wait to see what DeLuca does next. And if it involves a companion novel featuring a certain kilted not-so-meaty-meathead and a certain sister..? Here for it.

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

HE’S A BRUTE by Chloe Liese

One dark and handsome control-freak sports star meets one smarty pants bioengineer with hair to match her fiery temper. It’s an experiment straight out of sexual thermodynamics.

Every good scientist knows the second law of thermodynamics: the universe’s disorder, entropy, is always increasing. Professionally and personally speaking, Nairne’s familiar with the principle. After a streak of costly fame, now she’s set on saving the world, microscope in hand, and there’s no time for romance. Problem is, when a rude, despicably sexy Adonis shows up to run their board meeting, chemistry and its ensuing chaos become more than a formula—now they’re a burning hot reality.

Mafia prince. Professional footballer. Bad boy demeanor and a reputation for being as talented between the sheets as he is on the pitch. Rumors are the man’s an absolute brute. And he turns out to be just as demanding, controlling and vicious in person as he is on paper. The Law of Attraction’s proven true, as Nairne finds herself accepting Zed’s proposal: rough, wild stress release, more orgasms than she can count, and most importantly—no falling in love.

Agreement in place. End date secured. No attachments. No forever.What could possibly go wrong?


Title : He’s a Brute
Author: Chloe Liese
Series : Tough Love #1
Format : e-ARC
Page Count : 263
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : May 6, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

HE’S A BRUTE was a cover love, blurb appealing arc click. There’s a lot going on in this contemporary romance with a slice of the erotic. It’s a tale of two very strong MC’s who were multi-talented. Zed is a background mafia boss-second, professional footballer (soccer, you American guys!) and lead of an ethically sound organisation; he was something of a contradiction to himself. Nairne was an ex-pro footballer, a scientist and she battling some pretty heavy baggage. I felt like there was almost a bit too much going on with these characters.

The two clashed with strong personalities and there was a tangible attraction between them but despite this, I didn’t always feel their connection. What ensues between these two was a contract, some dominance and submission which really isn’t my bag, but it was fairly mild. I didn’t always buy Nairne’s ability to submit to Zeb. I found Zeb’s desire to care of Nairne controlling despite his arguments to Nairne about this actual issue and so I didn’t feel that attached to them as a couple.

This book has the most amazing disability rep, truly fabulous. I loved the way the sexuality of this character was written with this in mind. Their sexual relationship wasn’t hindered by the disability but it was totally interwoven into what they did and how they did it. Total kudos to the author for this. This aspect of the book is part of why I am still interested in reading more from this series.

I didn’t always love the writing style of this book and I found the intimate scenes weren’t that interesting. HE’S A BRUTE was a debut and the story of Zeb and Nairne will continue across two more books. This isn’t an abrupt end but I do find I want to know more about these two and I will probably read on with these characters. Book two is out now, with book three to come.

Thank you to netgalley and the author this review copy.

THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren


Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.


Title : The Unhoneymooners
Author : Christina Lauren
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Gallery Books
Release Date : May 14, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Sadly, THE UNHONEYMOONERS was not as funny as I had hoped or had heard it was going to be. To put this into perspective : I don’t have a single highlight to quote for you. Not. one.

The first half is definitely the highlight, though, with snarky hate banter between Olive, the twin sister/maid of honour, and Ethan, the groom’s brother and best man. The circumstances surrounding their pretend relationship and forced proximity are OTT and outlandish but also kind of slapstick-funny and I enjoyed their stiff-acting and all the weird improbabilities that occur while they go on their sibling’s honeymoon. But there’s a weird element that gets introduced that I didn’t like, a shitton of gaslighting and, almost, blame for something the heroine should not have been blamed for once something is revealed, and, of course, with the climax comes a whole host of drama that explodes all over the readers’ and Olive’s faces.

That said, I really liked the supportive backbone of family that is woven throughout the story but wish we’d had more of the Torres’ and extended clan because they were fabulous.

I definitely had a good time reading this, at least up until around the midway point, but THE UNHONEYMOONERS won’t be making it onto my list of CLo favourites.

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

THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK by Lucy Parker – double review!


A double review today and we are very in tune over the greatness of this book. In fact, we recommend all of Lucy Parker’s books.

Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.

She can’t take her eyes off him.

Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.


Title : The Austen Playbook
Author
: Lucy Parker
Format : eBook / eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 22, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ ★ .25 / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4.25 star review

The man looked like an assassin in a war film, and would be temperamentally suited to the part. He probably even orgasmed with a frosty stare into the middle distance.

I finished THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK with happy tears in my eyes. This book gave me all the feels. And all the lols, too. As usual I highlighted the crap out of this book.

She wanted to do productions that she wholeheartedly enjoyed, she wanted a passion outside of theatre, and really — she just wanted to be happy. She also wanted other people to be happy, and it often seemed to be an either/or choice.

Parker’s grumpy heroes are some of my favourite, and Griff is no exception, but we need to talk more about her real and charming heroines, too. Freddy was forking fabulous. But the added element of reality to the author’s romances (stretch marks, bad shower sex, just to name a few delightful examples) are what keep this grounded and balanced considering the London West End-style hijinks and drama that tend to ensue.

According to London Celebrity, control freaks are at much greater risk for arthritis, impotence, and pattern baldness. Just so you know.
As long as you have a reliable source.

This couple was so beautifully, wonderfully, honest. Their openness, their communication, the acceptance of their feelings.. it was just gorgeous. It made me happy, and fuzzy, and very swoony.

His tone conjured images of empty chocolate boxes, and the aftermath of a party, and missing the bus by thirty seconds, and all of life’s fleeing moments of gloom.

Set against a live-action whodunit Austen performance, there are reveals and betrayals and all sorts of excitement to be had. There was really nothing I didn’t love about this one but, as always, Parker includes some nastier characters in amongst the lovelier ones.. though I just about died when one of said nasties got a wooden phallus in the eye. Trust me, not only is it on brand for the story, it’s just what she deserves.

For a man who grew up in a house with blowjob carvings on the library mantle, you’re very judgmental of other people’s decor.

With each new addition to the London Celebrities series, it’s getting harder and harder to have a favourite couple because they are all so wonderful. Freddy and Griff are a great addition to this world and I hope to see them in some of Parker’s famous extras and, maybe, even in the background of book five? Hmm? Maybe?

Calls me a contagious joy fairy when we’re alone in a dusty backroom. Compares me to a stagnant pond in a London newspaper. Timing, my friend. It’s a beautiful thing.

Highly recommend.


Micky’s 4 star review

Delightful and witty with a great story to keep the reader fully engaged, THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK continued the series with the same quality of writing and development of characters that I have come to expect from Lucy Parker.

Book four took the setting outside of London to Grumpy Griff’s (Ford-Griffen) country seat. Griff was a TV/stage critic whilst managing the failing finances of his family’s home. Griff had thrown a few review punches at Freddy, the quirky heroine, in the past. Freddy was a breath of positive fresh air with some vulnerabilities hidden behind the ‘everything will be okay’ facade. I took to her immediately.

“He was frequently rude, definitely a Slytherin, and clearly viewed her as a sort of irritating insect who kept buzzing around his space, but there was something very reassuring about his solid warmth when she hurt.”

There was an interwoven backstory behind the main story of a play in the country. Freddy and Griff were thrown into each other’s paths and there was a persistent, bubbling chemistry between them. I had all the feelings when they were interacting, either with looks or banter.

“It was more than physical; it was a building and layering of a bond that went much deeper than that.”

As well as the clever backstory (which Parker conveys with ease), there were a literal cast of side characters, brothers, mean girls, fathers, colleagues and sisters. There is something about the acting world on stage that Lucy Parker translates so well to the reader. The English setting was spot on as always with dialogue, colloquialisms and contexts. The banter and dialogue were engaging. My only little niggle was the unstated dual POV, I loved the dual POV but had ‘who is this’ moments, however I did settle into it.

I can’t recommend this series enough and the best thing is they standalone, you can dip your toe into any of them and read out of order if that’s how you roll. Go discover Lucy Parker and you won’t regret it.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book. Thank you Carina Press and Netgalley.