THE GILDED WOLVES by Roshani Chokshi

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive. 


Title : The Gilded Wolves
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Series : The Gilded Wolves (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 386
Genre : YA historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : January 15, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

You know when you’re reading something that has bits of everything you love, and you’re mostly following along with plot or worldbuilding or mythology (mostly might be generous..), so you think you’re having a good time? That’s what my experience with THE GILDED WOLVES was like.

I’ve avoided this for ages because of my weird struggles with Chokshi’s writing and all the comparisons to the other big YA heist story/series but finally decided to give it a try. And.. yeah, I think I liked this? I think? Maybe?

Honestly. Who looks at a vase covered in bull testicles and says, ‘You. I must have you.’?
The bored, the rich, and the enigmatic.

The middle is easily the best part of this book. I found it slow going to settle into the setting, and all the complicated clues and problem solving with esoteric history lessons or references we were made to follow along with, and I found the ending was both rushed and hard to picture (which I find a common problem with this author, I just can’t picture what she’s describing), and that was before we jumped around with short chapters, and the passage of time, from all the POVs before a little nugget of a game changer to end the installment. But the middle? The middle was a good time. I felt I was starting to know the characters, even if for the most part we rehashed a lot of the same things we had learned in the beginning, but I love me an ensemble, so, it’s cool, it’s good. But the problem in hindsight is now I don’t really think I know any of them. Everything feels very surface level and I’m left feeling like spent a few hours watching actors perform a play instead of eavesdropping on real lives. Does that make sense?

Additionally, there was kind of a dead giveaway to a particularly element/event with how this story unfolded. I won’t say what it was (I deleted it, actually) because maybe some readers won’t pick up on it. I only noticed because I’ve been tricked this way before. I see you, authors. I see you.

Also why was the poison issue never addressed? I was 98% convinced there was a time travel element at play (sorry, is this a spoiler?) and then, nope, but then.. why?

So, yes. I think there was some greatness in here, particularly in the diverse cast and the representation, and overall the author is clearly very smart to piece all these historical tricksy bits together. I’m too dumb for it, obviously, but it felt well researched. I just wish I had been able to picture things. I wish the big climax had been a little less extreme, or easier to follow. And I wish the ending had flowed instead of feeling so chopped together to close or unpick some loops for book two.

I’m curious to read on, though, so I guess we’re coming out of this one with a win. Though I tend to read on more than I should so.. is it? I’ll stop now.

SLIPPERY CREATURES by KJ Charles

Will Darling came back from the Great War with a few scars, a lot of medals, and no idea what to do next. Inheriting his uncle’s chaotic second-hand bookshop is a blessing…until strange visitors start making threats. First a criminal gang, then the War Office, both telling Will to give them the information they want, or else. 

Will has no idea what that information is, and nobody to turn to, until Kim Secretan—charming, cultured, oddly attractive—steps in to offer help. As Kim and Will try to find answers and outrun trouble, mutual desire grows along with the danger. 

And then Will discovers the truth about Kim. His identity, his past, his real intentions. Enraged and betrayed, Will never wants to see him again. 

But Will possesses knowledge that could cost thousands of lives. Enemies are closing in on him from all sides—and Kim is the only man who can help.


Title : Slippery Creatures
Author : KJ Charles
Series : The Will Darling Adventures (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 215
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance/historical fiction
Publisher : KJC Books
Release Date : May 13, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Oh look Hollis loves a KJC book. No one is surprised! But seriously, I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the amount of this authors’ works that didn’t rate a four or higher. And this author isn’t short on books.

Will had gone to the War at eighteen, and come back five years later to find himself useless and unwanted. In Flanders he’d been a grizzled veteran, a fount of professional expertise who knew the ropes and had seen it all. Back in Blighty he’d become a young man again, one with little training and no expertise. [..] All he was good at now was killing people, which was discouraged.

This new series is set in the twenties and features a ex-soldier finding his place as a bookseller after inheriting his late uncle’s shop and then, unexpectedly, his rather expected life takes a turn when he’s caught between War Office agents and a gang both looking for information his uncle possessed. And then in walks a man who offers to help, seems to have no skin in the game, and.. off it goes.

He had no idea what civilians, or civilized people, would say in these circumstances. Thanks for that, old chap, much obliged, perhaps? Ought he apologize for coming in his mouth? [..] Thank God they were British. He took a deep breath.Cup of tea?

Considering the length of this book, the author somehow manages to not skimp on anything. Not the plot, not the characters, not the ability to infuse depth or weave backstory with only a glance, a word, and that just shows how talented she is. That said, I was sad to say goodbye to this world, even though it’s only temporary until book two. I loved how things resolved without solving everything and yet left on a good note.

What do you want to talk about?
I don’t know. The football results? Politics. The pictures. Why the blazes you’re called Kim when your name is Arthur.
My name, since you raise the topic, is Arthur Aloysius Kimberley de Brabazon Secretan. What would you do in my place?
Leave the country.

If you’re a KJC fan, I think you’ll be absolutely delighted by this new series (if you haven’t already read it, I’m a wee bit late to this one) and if you’ve yet to try Charles, this might be a great place to start. But honestly there’s not really a wrong choice no matter where you start in the backlist.

What a great way to end a weekend.

MONDAY’S NOT COMING by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone? 


Title : Monday’s Not Coming
Author : Tiffany D. Jackson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA mystery/contemporary
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : May 22, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

Oof, man, oof. Jackson does not pull punches with her stories.

Whereas ALLEGEDLY gripped me, sometimes terrified me, twisted me up in knots, MONDAY’S NOT COMING, by contrast, was an equally important story — this time about the children, particularly those of colour, (and in this case, a young Black girl) who go missing — but failed to maintain that same intensity, of suspense. There was definitely some dread to be felt, as a reader, knowing that this would not have a happy ending, but getting to that moment, and wading through all the scenes leading upto it, felt a bit.. arduous. This wasn’t helped by the fact that our protagonist, Claudia, read very young. I mean, she is, I believe she’s fourteen or fifteen at the onset, but her voice felt even younger. Particularly when set against some of the subject matter. But maybe that was a deliberate choice.

This story was heartbreaking to read because for so long only Claudia notices something is wrong. Only Claudia cares. And watching how others were so slow to action, how reluctant people were to pay attention, was just excruciating. The circumstances that Monday (and her siblings) endured? Horrific. That’s where the aforementioned dread came in. You could see it happening, unfurling in slow-mo, as we live through the “before” moments; all the clues that Claudia was just too young to understand, too quick to believe otherwise, it was awful.

Where this particular read failed to land, however, was in the timeline shifting back and forth; yet another unexpected element that definitely makes me think I should be wary of getting the rug pulled out from under me for all of Jackson’s books; and there was a little too much meandering around in-between all the Monday-centric stuff. That said, of the meandering, I did like that we had some focus on Claudia’s struggle with dyslexia and some very positive and helpful moments with teachers towards coping with that.

So, yes, I had some pretty high expectations coming off of reading this author’s debut and this didn’t quite measure up. But it’s still a read touching on some very real and important issues and would recommend you give it a go.

KINGS OF THE WYLD by Nicholas Eames

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. 

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld. 


Title : Kings of the Wyld
Author : Nicholas Eames
Series : The Band (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 544
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : February 21, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This book was so much damn fun.

If the idea of a bunch of past-their-prime warriors getting back together to help save the daughter of one of their buddies doesn’t appeal to you..? Well, I mean, fine. But you’re missing out.

How do I look?
Old.”
Tired.”
Fuck you guys.”

This story is hilarious, both in concept and execution, as well as dialogue, but it’s also poignant, moving, nostalgic, and bittersweet. Their glory days are behind them, they’ve grown old, and fat, and worn down by life and circumstances, but they still band together (as a band, elle oh elle), they still have each other’s backs, even when the odds are great none of them will survive. Which is no different from the odds they faced back in the day but see aforementioned old, fat, worn down.

How many hopeless battles have we fought?
A few..
And how many did we win?
All of them?
All of them. And yeah, sure, we’ve just been robbed by a gang of girls–
Twice.”
Twice, yes, well.. we’re a bit rusty.

The cast of characters are delightful, the circumstances bizarre, and the world is even weirder. But it’s also vivid and fascinating and unbelievably tongue in cheek and/or witty and sometimes both. There’s a very modern appeal to this story — not unlike the reason we have movies like The Expendables, I guess, and delight in seeing old favourites reunite and flex their atrophied muscles for the greater good — and beyond the fantastical creatures, the heart of this story is friendship, family, love. 

I honestly don’t know what else to say. I had such a great time, and was so invested not only in the events of the book but the way the story would pause, give a moment or observation space, and then slap you in the face with something hilarious. I have so many highlights and so few original words to prop them up against, so : to sum up? Read this book. Meanwhile I’ll just be over here counting down the seconds until I can dive into the sequel.

ASHES OF HONOR by Seanan McGuire

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea. 


Title : Ashes of Honor
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : October Daye (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 363
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : DAW
Release Date : September 4, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I highly doubt anyone will be reading these reviews anymore because I’m becoming somewhat predictable. I’m saying nothing new and living through the same disappointments and clinging to the same small, itty bitty, hopes. It’s like a weird Groundhog Day.

Though there are some differences in details, I might as well just say “see previous reviews” but I mean.. there are differences. Like, the ship I was shipping? It has sailed. And I want to be happy but lolz, I’m not? I won’t say I wasn’t moved a bit by some of the confessions and big reveal moments but I’m going to reserve judgment until we get a whole book of them being coupley. There was too much of the maiming, running around, “we’ll talk later”s, etc, to revel in the moment. Also for all that I had settled into a slowburn for this.. things kinda went two time speed on busting out a certain phrase. At least on Toby’s part.

I’ve stood by and watched you throw yourself against the walls of the world, because I hoped the impact might shake the sense back into you.” <– this was a nice moment but the quote makes me laugh out of context because the second part of this. what a mood.

As for the mystery of the week? Snooze. Toby takes a case, Toby goes up against a strident terrible person being terrible even as Toby tries to help, Toby drinks a lot of coffee (always and forever), Toby talks about wanting coffee, Toby hates her own blood, Toby drinks her own blood, Toby loses lots of blood, Toby lets go of a breath she didn’t know she was holding (second time in six books.. not bad overall but my brain, it bleeds).. over and over. It’s the worst procedural ever. There is no sense of stake in anything because Toby nearly dies multiple times in each book and the only thing that seems to change is who is being unreasonably rude to her, what new information is revealed that Toby will just go on to ignore, who she’s into, and.. well, that’s it.

That said, I would die for Raj and the Sea Witch. Protect them at all costs. 

I don’t know how McGuire can occasionally write amazing characters like the Sea Witch (so far Raj is just adorable, not complex) and then have so many others that are either one dimensional or inconsistent or both. Some of the shine has even come off the King of Cats for me as I found him way more interesting before his motivations were revealed. It made him more interesting, gave him an edge. I want that back. Additionally, the flip between all the formal talk and then the modern slangs for almost every character who bothers with the formal stuff (I’m not counting the regular modern speakers who dip into formality when the occasion calls for it) drives me nuts. It was particularly bad in this one. Also there were some missed moments on continuity in editing in this one that made me cringe in sympathy because yikes that’s never fun.

So, yes, for those playing the home game : yet another October Daye read. Yet another two star rating. Yet another “maybe next time..” I’ll like/love/enjoy, etc. 

INSTACRUSH by Kate Meader

Theo Kershaw is the luckiest guy alive.

Roaring back from a life-threatening injury, he has the world at his skates as defenseman for his new team, the Chicago Rebels. Everyone adores his big personality, his on-ice talent, and his killer smile. Everyone but his prickly neighbor – or so he thinks. One chilly Christmas Eve, Theo will learn that maybe the girl next door isn’t such a hater after all …

Elle Butler is the most embarrassing person on the planet. 

How else can the ex-military-now-bartender explain her crush on the hot jock who lives across the hall? True, he has gorgeous green eyes and perfect cheekbones, but the filter between his brain and too-sexy mouth is permanently malfunctioning. Yet she can’t stop checking out his Instagram antics or sneaking looks at him when he’s in her bar. So. Mortifying. Running from a past filled with damning secrets, Elle’s determined that this guilty pleasure remains buried in her deepest fantasies.

Because she couldn’t possibly indulge with the Theo Kershaw or make a mistake that draws attention to her under-the-radar life. And she especially couldn’t be a mom to a pro-athlete’s baby … could she?


Title : Instacrush
Author : Kate Meader
Series : Rookie Rebels (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 319
Genre : sports contemporary romance
Publisher : Kate Meader LLC
Release Date : December 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

So, I wasn’t planning to review this officially because it’s sunday, almost Christmas (as I write this, it’s the twenty-second), and because we don’t really need blog content (gasp, yes, I said it). But then my mini GR review started to turn into, like, thoughts and so I just went with it.

This is book two in the Rookie Rebels series, a spin-off from the Chicago Rebels series, and reunites us with two obviously-going-to-start-something non-couple from the background of book one’s story, Elle Butler, army buddy of Levi Hunt’s, and now bartender at the local team’s bar, and Theo Kershaw, chatty sunshine defenseman with the bubble butt. And let me tell you, both of their backstories took me kinda by surprise.

This would’ve been an easy story to keep light and focus on the I-want-you-but-won’t-admit-to-it element that Elle had in regards to dealing with Theo. Instead we get a rockier history to Theo’s life, both with his upbringing and then with a major health scare, plus Elle’s got a lot of reasons for her toughness and walls; and they aren’t limited to just being in the army. I’ll admit her backstory was interesting because it was different, particularly for a sports contemporary romance, but there were also elements that felt a little unbelievable, much more in line with the soap opera storylines that a few of the players enjoy so much, and in general I felt Elle’s character arc to be less consistent. Whereas Theo was a joy and his ups and downs felt very true to form and appropriate to some of his growth.

Additionally there’s a plot element to this romance that is not my favourite, nor in how they were made to approach it, but. It didn’t piss me off, either, so, win?

What might have been my favourite part, beyond Theo and his Thirsty Instagram Stories, was catching up with all the familiar faces. I loved where some of their lives had gone, what they were doing, and I’m hella keen for Gunnar’s story as that’s clearly being set up for book three. I expect tons of angst and I want it. Particularly after this rather sugary book. Give me angst and feels.

This isn’t quite the awesome, dying seconds of overtime goal kind of winning story, but it was a fun way to pass a sunday afternoon. And I am keen to read on, so, another win.

NEVER TELL by Lisa Gardner

A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun. 

D.D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman–Evie Carter–from a case many years back. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many. 

Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim–a hostage–and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad’s murder. 

But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?


Title : Never Tell
Author : Lisa Gardner
Series : Detective D.D. Warren (book ten)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 414
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : February 19, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’ll be the first to admit that while it was Gardner, and her three cross-over series, that kicked off my renewed fascination with the thriller/mystery/detective genre back in 2016, the last few installments of this main series (correction, sorry, it’s been one book and one novella) just haven’t wowed me. For various reasons. But NEVER TELL? Hi hello, we’re back again.

This story slots in under the main Detective D.D. Warren series but, like most of Gardner’s books, there’s crossover. Recently, since book eight, the survivor of that story has become a supporting character as she transitioned into a vigilante slash confidential informant, aka CI, for DD. And she’s not the only familiar face.

I really couldn’t recommend this book to people who hadn’t read at least the last three, starting from FIND HER, but honestly this whole series is worth investing in. Are they all great? No. But there’s been such an evolution, including the books in the companion/spin-offs, and those are even relevant for a certain guest-star in this book, both in character and how some of the stories weave together, that even the stories that don’t rate as high still feel worth the effort (also, for some perspective, I’ve only rated one book below three stars and while that was the first book.. let’s just say the opening books were a different vibe). Basically what I’m saying is block out some reading time over the holidays, put the whole backlist on hold at your local library, and get ready to rock and roll. And by rock and roll I mean experience some dark twisty additive af procedurals.

This review has become less about the book and more about the series as a whole but honestly there’s not much you can put in a review for a thriller that the summary doesn’t already.. summarize. There are twists, death, and surprises. Rinse and repeat. This mystery definitely had a tighter pacing than the last, unfurled in a great way, and also had me tearing up. So I guess we can throw ’emotions’ into that list, too.

I can’t wait for the next one.

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – double review!

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right? 


Title : This Is How You Lose The Time War
Author : Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 209
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : July 19, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This is a book that was recommended to me by every friend who read it. The hype was real, the library wait was long, and the book itself was short. My feelings, however, are hard to pin down.

Like Chamber’s TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE this is a short sci-fi novella, that I would describe as a thought provoking slowburn. This one is far more romantic than the aforementioned story, but the telling of it feels similar, even if the subject differs hugely.

This was at turns way over my head complex, hauntingly heartbreaking, and clever af. This a love story between time travelers who work for competing purposes, who flit in and out of points in the universe, in history and the future, and who communicate first through taunts and later through understanding, connection, desire.

I’ll admit I did see a few things coming, which felt like a feat considering how dumb this made me feel sometimes. But overall it was a fascinating and thrilling and strange and sweet experience. I just don’t know how one rates something like this. A four? Let’s say it’s a four. I think if you stripped away some of the strange, hard to imagine, unbelievably complicated elements, held up the bare bones of a story that is still strange and complicated, but without the white noise that may have distracted you.. yeah. This feels right. But the story itself needs those elements, it does; though I can see others, maybe, not liking it because of them. Which might be where I got stuck, too.

If you like sci-fi, if you don’t mind when a plot leans heavy on a romantic connection, I would recommend.


Micky’s 1 star review

This was metaphor hell. A love story (eventually) between robot-horse-wolf-seeds in shades of red and blue through letters. It is about time travel, a vaguely recognisable earth and espionage with lots of killing.

I hated it.

I imagine you reaching over my shoulder to correct my hand on a victim’s throatNice.

The world falls into place like rain. Blue licks her bloodied snout, her paws, her gouged shoulder.Not sure what creature Blue was at this point.

You ask if we eat.
It’s a hard question to answer. There is no mono-we; there are many usses. The usses change and interleave.
 Welcome to my perpetual confusion.

Towards the end we got some comprehensible connection and sense of love but I was too far gone down the wtf road.

I’m not dissing anyone else’s experience, I have a bunch of friends who loved it but my PhD didn’t help me through the confusion of this one.

MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS by Carrie S Allen

When a determined girl is confronted with the culture of toxic masculinity, it’s time to even the score.

Michigan Manning lives for hockey, and this is her year to shine. That is, until she gets some crushing news: budget cuts will keep the girls’ hockey team off the ice this year.

If she wants colleges to notice her, Michigan has to find a way to play. Luckily, there’s still one team left in town …

The boys’ team isn’t exactly welcoming, but Michigan’s prepared to prove herself. She plays some of the best hockey of her life, in fact, all while putting up with changing in the broom closet, constant trash talk and “harmless” pranks that always seem to target her.

But once hazing crosses the line into assault, Michigan must weigh the consequences of speaking up – even if it means putting her future on the line.


Title : Michigan vs The Boys
Author : Carrie S Allen
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 308
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : KCP Loft
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I would like it noted for the record that this is my do-over review after accidentally losing the first (much superior) draft. I am sad. But here we go; take two.

Wow, so. I knew going into this read that it would deal with some tough situations concerning bullying and hazing, but still. This was hard.

MICHIGAN VS THE BOYS feels like the second cousin to BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman. Like that other story, this one also focuses on the mob mentality so often found in men, particularly in competitive sports. But that’s mostly where the similarities end.

Michigan loves hockey. So when her girls’ team is disbanded due to budget cuts, she makes the bold choice to try out for the boys’ team. Except no one wants her there. Not her coach and certainly not her teammates. But she wants to play, she is talented, and so she makes the cut.

Reading what the boys put her through, how she is ignored by the staff, and only trotted out when she out-plays, and out-scores, the boys, is so hard. Watching every hard-earned win, every success, be immediately torn down by those who are supposed to lift her up, cheer her on? Brutal. But watching her continue to push herself, to continue to succeed despite so much adversity, is remarkable. Though, ultimately, tragic because it’s so unnecessary and awful.

But for all that awful, there’s a balance of greatness, too. It’s also a story about friendship, first love, loyalty, and family. And, in some ways, so much of this is necessary. Because, as one character says, about a certain situation, which I will paraphrase, this story, the telling of it, is so important. For the girls who will see themselves in these moments; if not now, maybe in the future. For the boys who might realize that what they witness being done to others, what they don’t stop even if they don’t participate in, is wrong.

If you love hockey, if you love stories with great friendships or sibling relationships, hell, if you loved (or hated!) BEARTOWN, I would definitely recommend.

A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY by Brigid Kemmerer – double review!

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.


Title : A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Author : Brigid Kemmerer
Series : Cursebreakers (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 489
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA
Release Date : January 29, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

The only thing I knew to expect from this BEAUTY AND THE BEAST retelling/homage, was that there was going to be a girl from ‘our’ universe transplanted into another. That alone seemed unique and interesting and, hey, I’m a sucker for this trope in general so I knew I was going to get to it eventually. Particularly as I’ve read the author before been quite impressed, and/or moved, by her writing.

And, big picture-wise, I did enjoy this. But. There are some glaring missteps regarding, like, the structure of the curse and the reason for the curse in the first place (dumb? yes). Also, like, not a misstep but there was some obvious writing on the wall regarding one or two little twists. I’ll also point out that a few characters, most notably the ones from ‘our’ world, were annoying af, and the whole sideplot there.. I wasn’t a fan.

You’re probably now asking yourself what I did like. Valid.

I liked the idea of the framework for this particular set-up. It was different, it was interesting, and I liked that for the most part all the cards are on the table. With one exception, there’s no mystery to unravel, no real secrets, and yet that doesn’t make things any easier on our heroine.. or the hero. There’s an added element that spices things up, too, that I was really liking until a certain twist made it kind of like.. every other YA fantasy with two guys and a girl (and a pizza place?). The story is given even more of a spin by making the “beauty” be the one with a physical quality that makes her seem less desirable while the prince himself is everything you could want in a fantasy.

Like I said, there is a lot to love. There’s representation, some of which I haven’t ever seen in fiction or fantasy, be it YA or not (cerebral palsy), it’s a little queer, it’s a bit dark, and it’s got a core cast of characters that I did enjoy, each with layers and angst and sweetness. So while it did flounder at times and lack depth in some areas, it nonetheless kept me glued to my iPad all night, and I am keen to read on.


Micky’s 3 star review

I have to admit, the self hype of this Beauty & the Beast retelling was intense, I wanted to love this book so much and it was only okay-ish for me. It was a read of parts, a strong start, fantastic disability rep and a strong final quarter. The bit in the middle however, was dull intermittently, slow-paced and lacked the kind of connection between characters that I sought.

Firstly I want to say how much I loved Harper having mild cerebral palsy and showing the range that this condition has. I appreciated how this was woven into the story, navigating her limitations but actually focusing how she could smash physical boundaries. Her tenacity, strength and fierce loyalty made her a likable heroine.

Rhen was vaguely likeable but he didn’t move beyond that really. I felt like I got to know Grey much better and came to enjoy his character. My suspicion is that this was just one long book setting up a cluster of a love triangle…anyone join me in this hunch? There was a lack of connection between Rhen and Harper (I get that this is some of the plot but still) and there was definitely more spark between Harper and Grey. I think I wanted to feel more connection in the platonics as well as the romantics of this tale too.

The story had ebb and flow with a lack of consistent pacing but it did really pick up towards the final third and I felt more involved and read more avidly. It was a strong ending, ensuring that I will return for more from this series, even with the triangular-shaped plot.

I have enjoyed Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary reads but this delve into fantasy wasn’t my favourite. Beauty & the Beast is a beloved fairy tale and I have enjoyed it being retold but something was missing here and I will have to stand out from the mass love a little on this one.