FUGITIVE TELEMETRY by Martha Wells

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


Title : Fugitive Telemetry
Author : Martha Wells
Series : The Murderbot Diaries (book six)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 176
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : April 27, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was [..] a construct made of cloned human tissue, augments, anxiety, depression, and unforcused rage, a killing machine for whichever humans rented me, until I made a mistake and got my brain destroyed.

So let’s get the mild bits that bummed me out.. out of the way. First of all, this is a novella length installment again, after book five was full length. Not too bad, really, as we’re mostly used to this. However the major thing that bummed me out? No ART.

Don’t look at me like that’s my fault. I’m just telling you shit I know.

But otherwise? This was another Murderbot adventure that made me laugh, snicker, and entertained me. After all the excitement of book five it maybe was a little lacking in tension and edginess but it was still really great. I likely have more quotes I want to insert than I actually have material for a review because I mean.. at this point we all kind of know what to expect. Murderbot rescues people despite a lack of trust. Murderbot wishes they are just watching Sanctuary Moon. Hijinks ensue.

I would have either disposed of the body so it was never found, or made it look like an accident.
How would you dispose of a body so it wouldn’t be found?
If I told you, then you might find all the bodies I’ve already disposed of.

If you aren’t already into this series you totally should be.

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

EVERGREEN by Cari Z.

Soldiers. Explorers. Lovers.

Broken apart.

Cy Konstantin and Scottie Andrews are supposed to make Project Evergreen’s one-way trip to Mars together. A near-fatal accident during training knocks Cy into a coma for half a year, and out of Project Evergreen. He works his way back to Scottie’s side, but he can’t rejoin the mission. Once Scottie leaves, they’re destined to live millions of miles apart for the rest of their lives.

A deadly accident on Mars might spell the end of their distant romance, though—or be the thing that saves it.


Title : Evergreen
Author : Cari Z.
Format : eBook
Page Count : 59
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : January 13, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I wanted something short and possibly sweet as I’m between reads right now and figured why not give this a try! Having arduously compiled all my unreads books on a spreadsheet, including all my eBooks, all that hard work paid off as my eyes immediately gravitated to it (after having long since forgotten about it), and boy am I glad I did.

Right off the hop I was enjoying the story and the narrative but wasn’t sure about the characters. We had members of a crew brought together to man a mission to Mars as a one-way trip and within said crew was the charming and gregarious American astronaut and the rather reserved Russian one and I though okay sure, here we go. But. But.

While we don’t see every moment of their evolving friendship into a romance, as this is a novella and we do skip around a bit, I was definitely sold before the end. And this goes in different directions than you might expect!

This might not be a new favourite but I’m pretty pleased I one-clicked this and was glad to have been entertained by it for a little while on this saturday evening. Additionally? Also very happy to knock it off the tbr and into the read pile.

MEMENTO by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – double review!

From New York Times bestselling authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff comes an Illuminae prequel digital novella that gives readers a hair-raising glimpse into the calamity that befell the invincible AI system known as AIDAN–and the daring young programmer who would risk her life to keep it from crashing.

AIDAN is the AI you’ll love to hate.

The advanced AI system was supposed to protect a fleet of survivors who’d escaped the deadly attack on Kerenza IV. AIDAN was supposed to be infallible. But in the chaotic weeks and months that followed, it became clear that something was terribly, terribly wrong with AIDAN…


Title : Memento
Author : Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series : The Illuminae Files (book .5)
Format : audiobook (overdrive)
Page Count : 59 (hour and a half via audio)
Genre : YA sci-fi
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 20, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I had intended to read this in true Illuminae Files form by listening to the audiobook and following along with the physical but, as I was doing chores while listening along, the physical follow along kind of crashed and burned before it could even take off. That said, shockingly, this was so easy to follow along with anyway; a big miracle for me considering I only do audio for rereads. But I think between my familiarity with the world, and the short novella length, this wiggled its way into a sweet spot for me.

I absolutely loved returning to this world, and to this fantastic production and full cast audio, and it shed some light on the events leading into the events of book one in this world. The problem I have is now wanting to just continue on and reread the rest..

This whole premise is basically a spoiler to the main series so there isn’t much I can say but if you like space, like snark, and want to have a mini movie playing out between your ears? Give this a go. And then do what I am now resisting : read the rest. This series is just perfection. Highly recommend.


Micky’s 4 star review

Fantastic short story but how I wanted more. How dare Kristoff and Kaufman drag you into new characters, get you invested and then it be over within a brief time. I love this world, this series and I miss it. This story took you to the prior to of Illuminae, AIDAN was at the centre of this and all I can say is …sneaky, sinister AIDAN who I can’t help but like. He’s the darkest of heroes.

I don’t want to spoiler, I won’t spoiler, but AIDAN what the f***. I did really love Olivia and her story arc was definitely a roller coaster. What all this tells me is that my favouritie author duo could definitely write more in this world…pretty please?

I do feel like the narrator for this AIDAN was different to rest of the series and I preferred the original cast member.

FOREVER WILD by K.A. Tucker – double review!

From the international bestselling author of The Simple Wild comes Forever Wild, a novella that continues the story of Calla’s journey to the Alaskan wild and a life she never imagined for herself. 

The holiday season is upon Calla and Jonah, and with the mistletoe and gingerbread comes plenty of family drama. Jonah is bracing himself for two weeks with a stepfather he loathes, and while Calla is looking forward to her mother and Simon’s arrival, she dreads the continued pressure to set a date for their wedding … in Toronto. Add in one bullheaded neighbor’s unintentional meddling and another cantankerous neighbor’s own family strife, and Christmas in Trapper’s Crossing will be anything but simple. 


Title : Forever Wild
Author : K.A. Tucker
Series : Simple Wild (book 2.5)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 156
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : December 1, 2020

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

So somehow this novella did what the previous full length installment didn’t do for me. It made me happy, it made me sad, it made me cry, and it also made me excited about a companion book featuring the same cast and crew but with a different protagonist. It was also all that and very festive and lovely for the holiday season, too.

My one gripe would be that there was a dynamic introduced between Jonah and another character that definitely worked as a way to give this short read some angst and tension.. but I’m not entirely sure it wrapped in a satisfying way. Or, like, at all? It also had another suspense/tension element that ties into this and also maybe wasn’t necessary, particularly as the thing that ties it all together was.. again, not quite a resolution. So if I think too hard on that I might be tempted to round down but.. honestly, carrying over from the major positive in book two? Roy. Roy broke me in this one. I had so many feels. I enjoyed the Calla and Jonah romance dynamic too, don’t get me wrong, but was more periphery for me. I was more invested in the whole town/group dynamic. And yeah mostly Roy. My heart..

So if you want something sweet and cozy and maybe also a little sad but still lovely, and you’re already a fan of this series, you absolutely need to fit this in before the end of the year; or at least while still in the throes of winter.

Micky’s 3 star review

A short and bland review from me I’m afraid. As with all the books in this series, Forever Wild was easy reading and mildly entertaining but it didn’t give me much on the feels front. It’s definitely an added extra and not required reading in the series. In fact, I felt short-changed a bit by the end section, it was very rushed.

I do have an vague affinity for Calla and Jonah but even more for the setting of Alaska and romance in that context. I liked Calla in this but Jonah fell flat for me on this one. There wasn’t much of his personality on the page unless you count the grounching at parents. The storyline was sweet and enjoyable. Roy was a highlight, his grumpy self was so endearing.

One of the best things was the promise of a book for Marie, I’m definitely here for that.

NIGHT OF CAKE & PUPPETS by Laini Taylor

In this stand-alone companion to the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone series comes the story of Mik and Zuzana’s fantastical first date—as a gorgeously illustrated gift edition with bonus content included.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to make the first move, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy is not going to know what hit him.

New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Originally published as an ebook, this new print edition will include breathtaking black and white illustrations, plus bonus content in a gorgeous package perfect for new and current fans of the series.



Title : Night of Cake & Puppets
Author : Laini Taylor (illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo)
Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book 2.5)
Format : hardback
Page Count : 256
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Release Date : November 26, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 5 star review

Once you know magic is real, it’s really hard to remember what it was like not to know.

To me, this little book is magic. The story, the art, the way it breaks up the action in the main series to dazzle you.. everything about it is just perfection.

Zuzana in particular always felt like such a force as a supporting character but the brilliance of this novella is that she feels no different in the spotlight. Taylor had this character pegged from page one and she doesn’t feel any more real but instead feels just like herself.

The friendship moments between Zuzana and Karou, even just through text, are so authentic and silly and heartfelt that it felt like rereading my own texts to friends.

As for Mik, well. He’s definitely a sweet thing but doesn’t leave as much as an impression as either Zuz or even Karou. But it was how he thought about Zuzana, how he was instantly a believer in magic, and how self-aware he was, that make him worthy of our rabid fairy.

Reading this after my series reread makes me instantly crave more from this world and these characters — even though I only left them a week or two ago — and if that isn’t proof of magic, what is?

If you are a fan of this series but haven’t yet picked up this novella? You must.

BRAMBLES by Intisar Khanani

In the kingdom of Adania, everyone knows what Princess Alyrra did to earn the court’s contempt, her mother’s disdain, and her brother’s hatred.

She betrayed her own.

Yet, the truth hides another story, one of honor and honesty, of a princess gambling her own life for another’s. It’s a tale of courage and consequences, and a choice that can never be undone.

A short story prequel to her multi-starred fantasy, Thorn, Intisar Khanani’s “Brambles” gives Alyrra’s account of what really happened all those years ago, and how a few critical days turned her life into a daily fight for survival.


Title : Brambles
Author : Initisar Khanani
Series : Dauntless Path #0.5
Format : e-ARC
Page Count : 40
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hot Key Books
Release Date : December 7, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Brambles is a prequel novella to the full length and wonderful Thorn (you can see my review here). This story finds Alyrra quite a bit younger and back in time in her original lands. This really is a brief origin story about why Alyrra found herself on the end of Valka’s wrath and how the plot for Thorn eventually unravels.

I hated Alyrra’s brother and Valka in Thorn so this wasn’t the nicest company to be keeping in this novella. These two were bullies in Alyrra’s life, manipulating and controlling. Alyrra’s mother wasn’t much better either. I always hated that Alyrra didn’t have any allies at the beginning of Thorn and this is what we see in Brambles. BUT this was still a very engaging world to be in. Reading about villians can still be fulfilling!

The world created in this series is intruiging, pretty fresh and as a collective, I’ll alwaysbe happy to read in this world. If you aren’t aware, the second book in the series The Theft of Sunlight is coming in March 2021 and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Whilst Brambles is not essential reading to the series, it’s a welcome snippet and insight into the grand story.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

NICK AND CHARLIE by Alice Oseman

A short novella based on the beloved characters from the graphic novel Heartstopper and Alice Oseman’s debut novel Solitaire, which was praised as ‘The Catcher in the Rye for the digital age’ by The Times.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

CHARLIE: “I have been going out with Nick Nelson for two years. He likes rugby, Formula 1, dogs, the Marvel universe, the sound felt-tips make on paper, rain and drawing on shoes. He also likes me.”

NICK: “Things me and Charlie Spring do together include: Watch films. Sit in the same room on different laptops. Text each other from different rooms. Make out. Make food. Make drinks. Get drunk. Talk. Argue. Laugh. Maybe we’re kind of boring. But that’s fine with us.”

Everyone knows that Nick and Charlie are the perfect couple – that they’re inseparable. But now Nick is leaving for university, and Charlie will be left behind at Sixth Form. Everyone’s asking if they’re staying together, which is a stupid question – they’re ‘Nick and Charlie’ for God’s sake!

But as the time to say goodbye gets inevitably closer, both Nick and Charlie question whether their love is strong enough to survive being apart. Or are they delaying the inevitable? Because everyone knows that first loves rarely last forever …


Title : Nick and Charlie
Author : Alice Oseman
Series : Solitaire #1.5
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 176
Genre : Contemporary YA
Publisher : Harper Collins Childrens UK
Release Date : August 6, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Being back with these guys a little older, was a delight. Nick was 18 and Charlie 17; with University and long distances afoot, their relationship moved to a position of insecurity for the first time in a while. Their journey in this novella was a bit painful to read for fans, seeing them go through couple stuff was hard. It all felt super realistic to that age group.

That said, I loved reading about later teen life. Their routines, their coupledom and how they were perceived by others as a couple. The changes in their future unsettled Charlie the most and his anxiety seemed to become overwhelming. I appreciated the bits of insight we got into where Heartstopper 3 had left Charlie and his problems. I’m wondering if we’ll get more of this in focus in Heartstopper 4.

I don’t want to visit the plot too much and its a short novella so a shortish review is inevitable. This novella, these characters made me feel everything (not unexpected) and even though this wasn’t a graphic novel, I enjoyed it just as much. There were pages with some Alice Oseman classic illustrations though, which I really brought these guys to life, like always.

My fandom for Nick and Charlie continues and will probably never abate. This novella adds something special to the Heartstopper world. Seeing them older was everything.

Thank you to Harper Collins UK for the gifted copy.

KOGITSUNE by Xia Xia Lake

A coming of age story set in medieval Japan. A friendship between a young fox god and his human childhood friend is built on deception, but grows stronger and purer as it’s driven by common purpose. However, the vast differences of the worlds they live in can’t be ignored, as their relationship is frowned upon by both humans and spirits.

As Kogitsune’s feelings for his human friend turn from friendship to something deeper, he will learn that love can be all consuming and heartbreaking. 

‘Kogitsune’ is a retelling of the famous Noh theater play ‘Kokaji’, a story about a swordsmith who requests the help of the Inari god to build a sword for emperor Ichijo (980-1011).


Title : Kogitsune
Author : Xia Xia Lake
Series : Takamagahara Monogatari (book 1)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 62
Genre : LGBTQIA+ historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : indie
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

This is such a sweet, magical, little story of the birth, and early years, of a kitsune; a fox god. As he discovers the world around him, he also meets a human boy, and they develop a sweet friendship that, over time and after reuniting after a separation where they each grow into their own, becomes a romance.

Despite how short this story is, Lake nonetheless manages to perfectly set the scene, delving into Japanese folklore and myth, all through the eyes of a curious and adorable protagonist, who is both naive and wise and, like mortals, just as susceptible to heartbreak, remorse, and love.

This is the first in a series and I can’t wait to read on.

SILVER IN THE WOOD by Emily Tesh

There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.


Title : Silver in the Wood
Author : Emily Tesh
Series : The Greenhollow Duology (book one)
Format : physical (library)
Page Count : 112
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : June 18, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 (rounded up) review

Thank goodness for the cover reveal of book two or I don’t know when I would’ve prioritized picking this one up.

SILVER IN THE WOOD is a slow-unfurling novella about the bargains made with old gods, the darkness of the wood, and new beginnings at the end of things. This wasn’t at all what I expected — I fully thought this would be darker, edgier, and instead it was more melancholy, charming, and sweet. Nonetheless I’m still rounding up, even if my expectations weren’t quite met, because I still enjoyed this so much.

We know there’s more to this Wild Man in the woods than just a caretaker and Tesh cleverly tells us the story of how things came to be as the curious new-owner of Greenhollow Hall is researching local legends and myth. And it’s when things go sideways, and a new character is introduced, that we somehow get a whole lot more worldbuilding that neither feels crammed down your throat or, considering the word count, too big for the story. But it’s the backstory that really feels rich, twisty, and also a little sad.

This novella was perfectly paced to leave you satisfied and yet wanting to read on and my only complaint is there isn’t more.. yet.

REINDEER FALLS SERIES by Jana Aston

The Boss Who Stole Christmas (Reindeer Falls #1)

Dear Santa,

Please bring me a new boss for Christmas. Mine is the worst. The worst, hidden in a six foot tall package of male perfection. It’d be easier if he looked like an old Scrooge, wouldn’t it?

Nick Saint-Croix doesn’t look like an old scrooge. He’s hot as-

Um, never mind. Just bring me a new boss. Please.

Sincerely,
Holly Winter


If You Give a Jerk a Gingerbread (Reindeer Falls #2)

Dear Santa,

I do not want Keller James for Christmas.

I will not fall for him, no matter how charming or irresistible or famous he is. I will not be swayed by his skills in the kitchen or by his British accent. I’m going to win the Great Gingerbread Bake Off and no one is going to stand in my way. Not even Keller.

All kisses are off. I mean all bets. All bets are off. And his clothes, those are off too.

Grr, never mind. I’ll figure this out myself.

XOXO,
Ginger Winter


The One Night Stand Before Christmas (Reindeer Falls #3)

Dear Santa,

Please stop by my house and pick up your suit. If you thought I was going to run it to the dry cleaners for you after you left it on my bedroom floor, you’ve got another think coming.

Best,
Noel Winter


Author : Jana Aston
Series : Reindeer Falls
Format : ebook
Page Count : 100/99/100
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Rutherford Press
Release Date : November, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
#1 Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5
#2 Rating : ★ ★ ★ 
#3 Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Well, I can only say that these were fun and quick to read, just what the doctor ordered for a few days sickness and a desire for Christmassy reads. The author describes these as ‘over-the-top’ and ‘merrily-ever-afters guarenteed’, so I knew what I was getting into. They took minimal concentration and commitment which was perfect for my needs. Each book follows a different sister in the small town on Reindeer Falls…

Book one, THE BOSS WHO STOLE Christmas (3.5 stars), initially lined me up for a real grump-jerk but honestly, that was just the skewed perspective of the heroine. She was actually the jerk and her attitutde annoyed me but I enjoyed the story, the steam and the redemption. The hero, Nick was something of a sweetie and despite the short nature of the story, I bought into the chemistry. It did take a while to get going, so lost a bit on rating there for me.

The second book, IF YOU GIVE A JERK A GINGERBREAD (3 stars), was a meet cute with instant connection to more. This is one where you’d really have to take the author at her word of over-the-top feelings. I actually liked a lot of this story more than book one but the chemistry fell flat for me. It was a quick read and entertaining but the instalove was too insta-xmas for me.

The final novella, THE ONE NIGHT STAND BEFORE CHRISTMAS (3.5 stars) was a mistaken identity fun read. This one was pure fun as this one night stand turned into a who the hell was that? The hero, Teddy sure was unrealistically committed and instantly into Noel but whatever, I bought into the fun. This final instalment also cleverly tied up the what is happening now with the three sisters so we got a great update on a year later.

I found this three novellas generally entertaining. I enjoyed them, they weren’t realistic or forever memorable but they did what they promised on the tin. They’re also in Kindle Unlimited if you have a subscription.