MONTHLY WRAP UP – JUNE 2021

To close out each month, we’ll be posting a break down of everything we reviewed, beginning with the reads we loved.. and ending with the reads we didn’t. Not only does this compile all our reviews in one handy summary for you to peruse, or catch up on, it also gives us an interesting birds eye view of the month and our reads. And maybe, even, our moods.


☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

Seven Days In June by Tia Williams — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir — see Hollis’ review here
Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly deVos — see Hollis’ review here
Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin — see Micky’s review here
For the Wolf by Hanna Whitten — see Micky’s review here (!)
I Walk Alone by Wren Handman — see Hollis’ review here
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

For the Wolf by Hanna Whitten — see Hollis’ review here (!)
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri — see Hollis’ review here
Fable by Adrienne Young — see Hollis’ review here
We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman — see Micky’s review here
Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon — see Micky’s review here
Don’t Breathe a Word by Jordyn Taylor — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ star reads

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir — see Hollis’ review here
A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir — see Hollis’ review here
A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir — see Hollis’ review here
Namesake by Adrienne Young — see Hollis’ review here
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid — see Micky’s review here
The Ippos King by Grace Draven — see Hollis’ review here
Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June — see Hollis’ review here

star reads

u n r a t e d

Hot Copy by Ruby Barrett — see Hollis’ review here

DNF


additional reads not reviewed for blog : a handful
total reads by Micky : seven for June plus all the books I’ve been reading for July
favourite read of the month : Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
least favourite read of the month : Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
most read genre : contemporary

total reviews by Hollis : fourteen
favourite read of the month : I Walk Alone by Wren Handman
least favourite read of the month : Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June
most read genre : fantasy

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JUNE 29, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


I Walk Alone by Wren Handman is the sequel to In Restless Dreams which is a YA fantasy featuring a girl torn between the fae world and her own world.

Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly DeVos is basically Shaun of the Dead meets Dumplin‘. Yeah, we didn’t need to know more than that, either.


Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

I WALK ALONE by Wren Handman

As the Phantasmer, Sylvia brought order to the Fairy courts. Now if only she could do the same to her own life…

It’s been three months since Sylvia used her powers to rewrite the ruling structure of Fairy, dismantling the Seelie and Unseelie courts. Recovered from her injuries, she’s back at school and struggling to balance her “real” life against the much more immediate (and exciting) world that magic has to offer. Not to mention the distraction of her utterly hot and completely fish-out-of-water boyfriend. 

But in Fairy, there are rumblings that an ancient prophecy is about to come to pass. “Beware the coming of the one who should not have been, for he shall bring with him the end of days. Take back the mantle, or all will be lost.” Will Sylvia be able to uncover the truth behind the prophecy, learn how to use her ever-growing powers without risking her relationship, and convince her best friend Fiona that it’s not weird that her boyfriend is a thousand years old? It won’t be easy. 


Title : I Walk Alone
Author : Wren Handman
Series : Phantasmer (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 226
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Parliament House Press
Release Date : June 29, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Sequels and finales, especially in the YA genre, often seem like a mixed bag. Either events are rushed through or made too convenient. Not so in I Walk Alone.

The story picks up a few months after the big confrontation, and shake-up, in In Restless Dreams and Sylvia is not only trying to re-integrate into her life, balancing the two sides — the fairy world and her human world — but also shouldering both the decisions she’s made for a whole people and also the damage that she, herself, was dealt.

I can’t remember if I had mentioned this in my review for book one but I really appreciated that Handman took pains to not neglect Sylvia’s every day life. Yes, she finds school to be dull and a chore, especially when compared to her adventures and her magical boyfriend, but those doldrums, her responsibilities, aren’t glossed over. We see the struggle to fit in, to balance home work, the repercussions for her slacking off, her lies, and it keeps not only her but the reader grounded. I can barely handle multitasking facetiming and cooking at the same time and yet she’s submitting homework, being a good friend and sister, a caring daughter, nurturing a new relationship, and going on adventures. She doesn’t do it all successfully, which.. I mean, good, because that wouldn’t be realistic!; but we see her try.

Just as she tries to navigate a world, and a people, who are both terrified and resentful of her choices, her power, and how that spills over into her relationship with her boyfriend who is very much part of that same world. All while a prophecy hangs over their heads.

The conclusion to this series, and the resolutions, unraveled so well. As with book one, the story is layered with the themes that come full circle at the end, so you see the slow unfurling of what is to come and how it isn’t just an impulse decision or a convenient epiphany at the moment it’s needed. I thought it was brilliantly done.

If you’re looking for a fresh take on a fae-based YA fantasy, look no further.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JUNE 22, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


My Contrary Mary by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows kicks off a new series from this group of authors.. this time featuring Marys!

Darling by K. Ancrum is a YA thriller reimagining of Peter Pan.

Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon is an anthology with stories by all these incredible authors about featuring “charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

Subtle Blood by KJ Charles is the third novel in The Will Darling Adventures series which is a m/m romance set in the 1920s.


Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

JAY’S GAY AGENDA by Jason June

There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all this friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.

Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs, where he can flirt with Very Sexy Boys and search for love. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones…because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.

From debut novelist Jason June comes a moving and hilarious sex-positive story about the complexities of first loves, first hookups, and first heartbreaks—and how to stay true to yourself while embracing what you never saw coming.


Title : Jay’s Gay Agenda
Author : Jason June
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So this wasn’t quite the lovely, hilarious, quirky, queer, YA love story I expected it to be. It was, however, very sex positive (though in only one specific way.. more on that later) and I think that should definitely be celebrated. Mostly because it’s the only positive thing I can attribute to this read. Sorry, no, that’s a lie. I liked Jay’s parents. Who were also very sex positive. There we go.

The problem really starts, and ends, with the main character. Not only was he a bit OTT in some ways he was just completely.. well, dick-crazed? To put it nicely, I guess (it would’ve been nice if the focus on virginity hadn’t been so prevalent but also why did no single person address the fact that sex comes in lots of forms, not just penetrative? for a queer novel, this was a very heteronormative view). And he was totally oblivious to literally so much, including his own hypocrisies. I’m not saying he was the only one to be guilty of such, and hey, this is a bunch of eighteen year olds we’re talking about here, but.. still.

I wish I could’ve loved this but I barely liked it. I hope people can enjoy this, because I absolutely think queer readers need messy romcoms they can see themselves in, and there’s definitely a plethora of messy romcoms for those of us who are straight, I just.. I hated the lying, yes, and I hated the cheating, but more than that (and this is big because I really hate cheating) was how easily he was forgiven. By literally everyone. Yes, yes, it’s a YA, we need to wrap up everything nicely, but.. nope. Teens deserve to see consequences play out. We all do. It’s part of life.

Also, COVID/quarantine was mentioned offhand like twice and a) that was really jarring and b) no, stop, I don’t want this in my fiction.

I have no idea if there’s more to come because GR indicates this is the first in a series but I don’t think I’ll be reading on. Especially not if book two is from Jay’s POV.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JUNE 15, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


The Maidens by Alex Michaelides is “a spellbinding tale of psychological suspense, weaving together Greek mythology, murder, and obsession.”

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury is “a rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.”


Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JUNE 8, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian is a “historical romance about a reluctantly reformed highwayman and the aristocrat who threatens to steal his heart.” Also we hear it’s a grumpy/bratty mix.. if you’re into that sort of thing (we are).

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid is a dark tale with woods, woodsman, monsters, cities and families. Go read this clever story.

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams is described as seven days to fall in love, fifteen years to forget and seven days to get it back again. I’m here for this angsty ride!


Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

THE JASMINE THRONE by Tasha Suri – double review

A new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.


Title : The Jasmine Throne
Author : Tasha Suri
Series : Burning Kingdoms
Format : eARC
Page Count : 480
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : June 8, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m pretty tempted to round up on this one but, despite how much I enjoyed the second half, this definitely starts off.. slow, maybe even a little strange. But it’s some of that same strangeness that kept me from putting it down and wanting to know more.

What I think Suri does so well, beyond some incredibly lush and descriptive but not overly purple writing, is how they offers up very complex and fascinating, multilayered, female characters. They aren’t a stagnant kind of grey or fit easily and snugly into one archetype or mold, either. These women are ever evolving based on their surroundings, twisting themselves into new shapes to suit, while glimmers of their true selves are revealed only to a precious few. We see them battle with themselves, with others, and it’s not always nice. But it felt so real and, as mentioned, it was fascinating.

This story started out very politics heavy and then shifted gears into very magical and weird and then ended with lots more politics spliced through with magic. I wish this had been balanced a little differently but I think I understand why it went the way it did. I just hope it weaves in and out a little better in book two, more in line with how it ended, instead of cut into sections. That said, the nameless and the destinies and that whole concept? Wow. I loved it. I was getting a tiny bit annoyed with the big build up near the end and how we kept getting bashed over the head with the tease but when it finally happened it? I won’t say it was worth it, because you kind of see it coming — not the exact thing, but the shape of it — but I still loved it. And, again, the concept is just fabulous.

There is so much great in here (again why I consider rounding up!) and it’s made up of magic, destinies, betrayal, yearning, and love. And some of that just within the dynamics of one pair of siblings. Suri doesn’t shy away from some uncomfortable dialogue about the pain endured by those who are supposed to love us, while at the same time tackling religious fanaticism, as well as the inherent poison of a nation conquered, oppressed, by others. There’s a lot to unpack.

Where I struggled was the pacing, a lot of extra POVs (sometimes only one offs, which always kind of bugs me), a bit of back and forth repetition with a certain build up, and with one particular character and their motivations and how that spilled over onto others and tugged the plot around, only to.. I don’t know. I can’t say for spoilers but I was left feeling something about it. And how some of that conflict ultimately just felt like filler and a time waster in the end.

But. I still definitely recommend this. Not just for the diversity in this India-inspired fantasy, not just for the romance (sapphic, by the way!), or the creeping eerieness of a conflict we’ve only just barely glimpsed and that is still to reveal itself, or for the political manouevering and cleverness heralded by a fierce, uncompromising, woman. But all that and more.

I am really excited for book two.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

This book started on a truly interesting premise, a temple, mysterious magic and equally mysterious and magical disease, societies with class differences and two leading female MCs. I was on board with all that promise but overall, The Jasmine Throne turned out to be just an okay read for me.

Priya and Malini were the MCs and I favoured the story telling from Priya’s POV; she was by far the most interesting and dynamic character. The surrounding characters were full of doubt in terms of trust and there were many side characters of prominence. This brings me to my biggest problem with this book: the number of POVs was astounding and confusing, as the book continued into the second half, even more POVs were added and they were definitely in double figures. Complex fantasy does not need this added confusion in my opinion and my inner reading self groaned at many of the POVs.

I have seen a number of reviews cite the second half of this book as being stronger and that was Hollis’ experience, but for me, I was far more engaged in the first half. I enjoyed reading about the Hirani most and when the story moved away from that, I liked it less. I didn’t really bond with Malini as a character and as a result I didn’t feel the sapphic connection.

I am left with a sense of dissatisfaction on finishing and this is definitely a rounded-up rating. I don’t think I’ll be continuing with the series.

Thank you to Orbit Books for the finished review copy.

FOR THE WOLF by Hannah Whitten – double review!

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.


Title : For the Wolf
Author : Hannah Whitten
Series : Wilderwood (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : June 1, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This is not the first time I’ve had a reading experience with this, where I start strong, get waylaid in the middle, and then have no opportunity to pick it up and finish even though I’m so close to the end. This kind of pattern always screws me up (I’m a one or two session reader, often just one!) and leaves me uncertain how I feel about a story. Enter, For the Wolf.

I liked so much of this but was equally confused by just as much. This is a story that I definitely need to reread because I think it’s possible this would be an easy four star if I had read it normally.

People created stories to fill the gaps they didn’t understand, and religion grew up around it like rot on a fallen tree.

There are shades of familiar fairytales woven into the roots of this spooky forest magic story. But these parts are made equally their own thing. This is not YA but is written with similar YA beats, yet manages to be dark without crossing any ‘can’t turn back now’ lines.

All of them loved like burning, no thought for the ashes.

While this had some absolutely lovely turns of phrase, a slowburn romance, and tons of forest aesthetic, I definitely lost track of some scenes or events as they played out, and I did find myself losing the thread of the worldbuiling (probably explained in the beginning and then just forgotten, because I’m dumb and was too slow to read this; though I also think the mythology is supposed to be uncertain and skewed and that doesn’t help?), but I am definitely going to be keen for the follow up.

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


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

Headlines:
Retelling hybrid
Oh for the love of great MCs
Confused world building

I’ve had to really think about my rating on For The Wolf because I’ve come out of it in a good place but the journey was sometimes confused by difficult world building layered in a way that wasn’t intuitive. However, what this book brings in terms of characterisation is pretty great, with Eammon a large, gentle man battling to keep the wood in some kind of equilibrium and Redarys, an immediately likeable young woman who knew her own mind and her path.

This book felt like a fresh blend of traits from a number of well known fairytales in a hybrid that totally worked. It definitely felt like it’s own story but I enjoyed the elements of familiarity when they popped up. The wood itself was a wild, powerful ‘being’ and there were moments of body horror (fleeting but present) but I felt all that really added to the wilderwood presence. The description opened up such imagery when reading that I had a really clear picture of how I felt this wild place looked.

There were important side characters, a few I liked and some I couldn’t stand, nor was I meant to. I’ve come away from the story unsure how I feel about Neve but 100% invested in reading more in the next book.

I do just want to embelish a little on my world building problems and say that by the last quarter of the book, I was clear on what was what. I don’t mind having to work for answers with a fantasy book but I did feel a lack of clarity at times that was irritating. This was a case of having to just go with the flow of side confusion to keep traction with the story until things were clearer and they did become clearer.

Overall, this is a good debut. If you start this book and feel some confusion, keep going, the story and the characters are worth it.

Thank you to Orbit Books for the early review copy.

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – JUNE 1, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the story of one unforgettable night for a family and it all started with a party. Totally intrigued. Also, not just out in the UK now!

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston is the highly hyped and highly anticipated sophomore release from the author behind Red, White & Royal Blue.. but we don’t need to tell you that!

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten is a dark adult fantasy romance with shades of some familiar fairytales, and a whole lot more. Fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale, you should have this on your radar!

We Are Inevitable by Gayle Forman is a contemporary YA we know this author for with a failing bookshop. Sign us up!


Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon has a male MC called X, I’m here for that and the dancing.

An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi takes another contemporary YA look at life for a young person immediately post 9/11. If you loved A Very Large Expanse of Sea, this sounds like the ideal companion.

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin has two competing halal restaurant, three sisters and a You’ve Got Mail feel. This one is out June 3, 2021, in the UK.

The Start Up Wife by Tahmima Anam is another that isn’t out until June 3, 2021, in the UK and the blurb suggests we ‘come for the radical vision of human connection, stay for the wickedly funny feminist look’.



Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

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