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SHIP WRECKED by Olivia Dade – double review!

After All the Feels and Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade once again delivers a warm and wonderful romantic comedy about two co-stars who once had an incredible one-night stand—and after years of filming on the same remote island, are finally ready to yield to temptation again…

Maria’s one-night-stand—the thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man she left without a word or a note—just reappeared. Apparently, Peter’s her surly Gods of the Gates co-star, and they’re about to spend the next six years filming on a desolate Irish island together. She still wants him…but he now wants nothing to do with her.

Peter knows this role could finally transform him from a forgettable character actor into a leading man. He also knows a failed relationship with Maria could poison the set, and he won’t sabotage his career for a woman who’s already walked away from him once. Given time, maybe they can be cooperative colleagues or friends—possibly even best friends—but not lovers again. No matter how much he aches for her.

For years, they don’t touch off-camera. But on their last night of filming, their mutual restraint finally shatters, and all their pent-up desire explodes into renewed passion. Too bad they still don’t have a future together, since Peter’s going back to Hollywood, while Maria’s returning to her native Sweden. She thinks she needs more than he can give her, but he’s determined to change her mind, and he’s spent the last six years waiting. Watching. Wanting.

His shipwrecked Swede doesn’t stand a chance.


Title : Ship Wrecked
Author : Olivia Dade
Series : Spoiler Alert (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 413
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : November 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★  / ★  


Hollis’ 3 star review

This series has been a wild ride for me. We started strong, took a hard left into mostly nope, but then we are ending (right? it felt like the end!) on a mostly better note.. which I’m happy about.

I’ll admit, though, this started off rough. But not literally. Chapter one? Hoo boy hot. Chapter two? My reaction to the Peter’s behaviour was the buzziest of buzzkills. Eventually we get the reasons why but his defrosting was tough. Meanwhile Maria was delightful always. My only real issue was her quick pivot on her feelings for Peter out of nowhere offpage.

Naturally I hated the third act conflict but that’s mostly because it felt a miscommunication-adjacent and I hate that trope.

I’m definitely here (again, always!) for all the positive rep. But the highlight, as always, was the snarky commentary around this not-GoT but definitely GoT show at the centre of the plot. It’s incredibly satisfying. It’s also a little fanfic-y in of itself for all the people who were real-life shipping two characters who were mostly, sorta, embodied by Peter and Maria. Basically all the homages to everything around the show and actors were (chefs kiss) the best.

Having said that, once again, I’m hear to warn you away from playing drinking games; this time the keywords had to go with goats, herring, and other over-used bits used for increasingly lackluster and tired banter the longer it all went on.

But when the romance was in the transition from pining to confessions and then actually together? Delightful. The pre and post bits? I could leave them. The group chat threads? Hysterical. So, yes, equal parts fun and not fun. All that to say, I will definitely make an effort to dive into Dade’s backlist and continue to pick up whatever she does next.


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
On set complications
A love told over years
Scandi humour

The GOT/Gods of the Gates has never worked so well in this series as this book. The characters that Peter and Maria were inhabiting were fantastic but IRL, they were a blast to read. I went from like to serious Peter side-eye to warm to heart eyes.

I appreciated that this was a slow-burn romance told over years without it feeling too long to wait to see things reach a conclusion. The build-up was everything and the time the characters spent on set was my favourite part of the book. That meant that the second half of the book was a little less exciting to me.

I enjoyed Maria as a character immensely, she was sunny but realistic. Her body positivity was infectious and inspiring. Peter was a introverted grump at times but her sunshine made him eventually sunny(ish).

For me, this was a welcome addition to the series and I enjoyed the cameos of the previous characters.

THE ATLAS PARADOX by Olivie Blake

Six magicians. Two rivalries. One researcher. And a man who can walk through dreams. All must pick a side: do they wish to preserve the world—or destroy it? In this electric sequel to the viral sensation, The Atlas Six, the society of Alexandrians is revealed for what it is: a secret society with raw, world-changing power, headed by a man whose plans to change life as we know it are already under way. But the cost of knowledge is steep, and as the price of power demands each character choose a side, which alliances will hold and which will see their enmity deepen?


Title : The Atlas Paradox
Author : Olivie Blake
Series : The Atlas (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : October 25, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating :


Hollis’ 2 star review

Boy did this drag.

Look, I know I wasn’t out on the rooftops shouting about book one to begin with but I saw the potential, saw how many directions were open for intrigue and secrets and manoeuvrings, etc, for the books to come but I feel like this one both went off in a bunch of directions but also spun it’s wheels. Where things went, for the most part, felt tedious. Any potential spark? Fizzled. Dead.

Also maybe it’s just me and how I don’t really love mess but there were a few times I just felt tired from all the shifting dynamics and convoluted feelings everyone was having about this person, that person, and on. Maybe it’s supposed to muddle up the end games and keep you guessing but honestly it just headbutts me out of the story. Which is also how I felt every time we had a Reina POV. Talk about a buzzkill character.

Also, I’m now convinced when I reread The Atlas Six I must’ve not actually read the changed up/traditionally published version (and would track considering I was skeptical there had been any changes when I did that reread) because some things were just outright stated in this one, early on, and I felt it came totally out of left field. So either that was done on purpose, for some bizarre reason, or I legitimately missed something (example, Callum and the pain).

With so much tedium, hardly any stakes, and the characters now halfway scattered in various directions, I have no clue what is to actually be expected from book three. I will read it but I have a feeling this instalment may turn out to have been rather unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. That or it’s just typical book two syndrome. Womp.

THE WITCHES OF MOONSHYNE MANOR by Bianca Marais

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.

Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby–one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years–will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.


Title : The Witches of Moonshyne Manor
Author : Bianca Marais
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : paranormal / fantasy
Publisher : Mira Books
Release Date : August 23, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’ll admit, I picked this up purely for the title. I had no idea what to expect — except that I hoped for some spoopy vibes! — and was surprised that this witchy tale was to be comprised of a coven of eighty year olds. Not only battling age and aches but also trying to keep from being run out of their homes by the local townspeople after they’ve a) fallen behind on mortgage payments and b) are widely known to be witches.

Sounds like a hoot, right? And it mostly is.

I didn’t always love the writing/narrative tone and actually found that it felt a little too removed for me to really sink my teeth into things as a reader. I enjoyed how the plot and the events that happened in the past informed the present but it was hard to connect to any real emotional resonance with the characters. I found them interesting, occasionally funny, and in one case my heart wanted to break over and over, but again, I just felt a bit too distanced from it all. But there were multiple times I paused to reflect on a passage or observation, I absolutely loved that these old biddies had a colourful past and had successfully done a heist in their fifties, and I also enjoyed how everything resolves at the end — even if it’s almost a little too perfectly wrapped up.

She thinks of how sometimes the most sacred conversations we’ll ever have are the ones that require no words, and how there are very few people in our lives who we’ll ever speak that silent language with.

At it’s core, this is a story about family and sisterhood and the ties that bind, come hell or high water or an angry mob. If you’re looking for a wholesome kind of spoopy tale, with some incredibly insightful lines, and some pretty unique characters, this is definitely one to pick up.

ANGELIKA FRANKENSTEIN MAKES HER MATCH by Sally Thorne – double review!

From USA Today bestselling author of The Hating Game Sally Thorne comes something a little unexpected… a historical rom-com that imagines Victor Frankenstein’s sheltered younger sister, and her attempts to create the perfect man. 

For generations, every Frankenstein has found their true love and equal, unlocking lifetimes of blissful wedded adventure. Clever, pretty (and odd) Angelika Frankenstein has run out of suitors and fears she may become the exception to this family rule. When assisting in her brother Victor’s ground-breaking experiment to bring a reassembled man back to life, she realizes that having an agreeable gentleman convalescing in the guest suite might be a chance to let a man get to know the real her. For the first time, Angelika embarks upon a project that is all her own.

When her handsome scientific miracle sits up on the lab table, her hopes for an instant romantic connection are thrown into disarray. Her resurrected beau (named Will for the moment) has total amnesia and is solely focused on uncovering his true identity. Trying to ignore their heart-pounding chemistry, Angelika reluctantly joins the investigation into his past, hoping it will bring them closer. But when a second suitor emerges to aid their quest, Angelika wonders if she was too hasty inventing a solution. Perhaps fate is not something that can be influenced in a laboratory? Or is Will (or whatever his name is!) her dream man, tailored for her in every way? And can he survive what was done to him in the name of science, and love?

Filled with carriages, candlesticks, and corpses, Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match is the spooky-season reimagining of the well-known classic that reminds us to never judge a man by his cadaver! 


Title : Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match
Author : Sally Thorne
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : historical romance / gothic / retelling
Publisher : Avon Books
Release Date : September 6 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated/****


Hollis’ unrated review

I don’t quite know what to do with this one.

Like, on the one hand, we open with these characters basically shopping for parts so they can reanimate a man that fits Angelika’s specifications for what she hopes will be her husband because she’s given up on, and has been given up on by, the living. And when, of course, he is brought back to life, you have to kind of side-eye the whole “was dead and now mostly alive-ish” element being sold to you as sexy and romantic when it’s really not. But.. vampires are corpses too, you know? It’s just the fundamentals of it make it extra icky. So you suspend some disbelief. You lean into the camp and outrageousness of it all and you have a good time.

But unlike vampires, where the power imbalance is age gap between a hundred+ year old dude and a highschooler (predominantly!), this time the power imbalance — wealthy spoiled woman, undead nobody with no memory, heavily reliant on said wealthy woman — is also layered with consent issues because he literally had no say with a) coming back to life and b) the parts of his body she kept or replaced. Plus his body continues to betray him in ways he doesn’t understand.

But if you suspend some disbelief and lean into the camp.. yeah, I don’t know. See aforementioned mixed feelings.

Some of this was so good. Spoiler alert, I cried twice near the end. We get some good character development out of said wealthy spoiled woman. There’s a mystery at the heart of who Will, the man Angelika has brought back to life, is. And there’s a good sibling dynamic that is complex and does evolve.

Except there are things near the end I did not love, and won’t mention due to spoilers, but are tied up in both what the Frankenstein’s believe to be part of their foundation and, as it turns out, Will’s, and how that all comes together.. I don’t know, felt a little strange. But then again the whole book is strange. I’ll also admit that Will was occasionally a struggle when it came to his behaviour towards Angelika and not always in the way he should’ve been. It’s hard to explain but him being hot and cold was fine, I just thought there were some inconsistencies mixed in, too.

However, I think you do have to let this book just be what it is and not think too hard about the weird bits that don’t quite work. But I didn’t get on that until too late in the game, even though I tried to go in with an open mind knowing it had been not very well received with many mixed reviews. But instead I’m just adding to them.

All that to say! Well, nothing really. You’ll either read this book, or you’ve already read it, or you won’t.

I’m definitely glad I gave it a chance because I do think Thorne has shown she can do more than just contemporary, and she can be weird, poke around into different spaces, and that’s all good. This either works for you or it doesn’t or, like me, you’re somewhere in the middle. But this is not remotely the nail in the coffin that I expected it to be (everything post-The Hating Game has been unpredictable) and I look forward to seeing what she does, and where she goes, next.


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
A pleasant surprise
Historical-fantasy-retelling mash-up
Leave reality at the door

I like Sally Thorne’s writing but I wasn’t sure about this romantic take on Frankenstein themes from the blurb, but you know, you’ve got to give it a go. I’m really glad I did because this really worked for me.

This brother and sister duo in Angelika and Victor were utterly irreverant to the sensibilities of the era. The people in the surrounding areas were suspicious of them supposedly but in actuality, everyone who came across them seemed to be won over (as was I). Angelika was a funny in both ways, haha and odd but this story was safely in rom-com territory, encouraging the reader to not take things too seriously.

The plot was strange and yet hugely interesting, I read this book pretty quickly, always looking forward to getting back to it. The love interest Will was fascinating as he adjusted to his new life. At first, I had worries about consent related to Will and yes, you could definitely say he didn’t consent to revival but my other worries regarding potential consent weren’t realised. This was actually a bit of a slow-burn story with a building chemistry and romance.

One of my favourite elements was the set of side characters, all endearing in their own way. Those side characters became found family and I warmed to them all.

As I said in my headlines, if you want a plot that replicates historical life in this era, you will struggle but if you leave your preconceptions at the door and fun with this, it might end up surprising you in a good way, like it did for me.

Thank you to Piatkus for the review copy.

HOUSE OF HUNGER by Alexis Henderson

WANTED – Bloodmaid of exceptional tasteMust have a keen proclivity for life’s finer pleasures. Girls of weak will need not apply.

A young woman is drawn into the upper echelons of a society where blood is power, in this dark and enthralling gothic novel from the author of The Year of the Witching.

Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation is all she knows. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a peculiar listing in the newspaper, seeking a bloodmaid.

Though she knows little about the far north–where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service–Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself the newest bloodmaid at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery–and at the center of it all is her.

Countess Lisavet, who presides over this hedonistic court, is loved and feared in equal measure. She takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when her fellow bloodmaids begin to go missing in the night, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She’ll need to learn the rules of her new home–and fast–or its halls will soon become her grave. 


Title : House of Hunger
Author : Alexis Henderson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 304
Genre : historical fiction / horror / LGBTQIAP+ / fantasy
Publisher : Ace Books
Release Date : September 27, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

When the need for a spoopy vampire book to fit a spoopy-themed readathon prompt was required, this was (maybe oddly) the first to come to mind.

I had heard good things about the author’s witchy debut, which I have yet to read, and this cover really caught the eye. And while it did start off well, I will admit that the characterization of the lead character took too sharp a turn at a certain point and I felt the emotional impact and motivation just didn’t measure up. In fact, in general, I just didn’t find her convincing at all. Too forthright, too pushy, all from the get-go; and considering her position in life, before and after being a bloodmaid, it just didn’t really fit. I would’ve liked to see her come into that as a result of her change in circumstances instead of already possess it. Much like I would’ve liked to see more of what drove her to feel devotion, desire, and more, instead of it just seeming to happen. And likewise, her unique blood aside, she didn’t seem to inspire it in others, despite what we were told.

This wasn’t a long book and we had time for so much more. Not just Marion’s character development but more of the other Houses, the history, the politics. So much of this felt too much like set dressing; interesting at first glance but too static and without depth. Even Lisavet, for all her hunger, felt a little too two dimensional.

Having said all that, though this wasn’t a win, I may try to pick up The Year of the Witching during this autumnal spoopy time, after a few other changes in pace, to see if maybe that’ll be more my vibe.

THE GOLDEN ENCLAVES by Naomi Novik – double review!

Saving the world is a test no school of magic can prepare you for in the triumphant conclusion to the Sunday Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.

The one thing you never talk about while you’re in the Scholomance is what you’ll do when you get out – not even the richest enclaver would tempt fate that way.

But that impossible dream has somehow come true for El and her classmates. And what’s more, she didn’t even have to become the monstrous dark witch she’s prophesised to become to make it happen. Instead of killing enclavers, she saved them, and now the world is safe for all wizards. Peace and harmony have enveloped all the enclaves of the world.

Just kidding.

Instead, someone else has picked up the project of destroying enclaves in El’s stead, and everyone she saved is at risk again with a full-scale enclave war on the horizon. And so, the first thing El needs to do after miraculously escaping the Scholomance, is to turn straight around and find a way back in.


Title : The Golden Enclaves
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : The Scholomance #3
Format : Hardback / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : DelRey UK / Del Rey Books
Release Date : September 27, 2022

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
It hurts
The reveals are huge
Clever, clever world; clever, clever author

What an utterly rich series and concept of a world The Scholomance has been. I did not expect to reset my perceptions of this world so much through the final lens of this book, but I did. The reveals Novik brought through The Golden Enclaves were pretty huge and reconceptualised the foundations for the good and bad constructs of this magical world. I was not unhappy about this, simply impressed.

The way things at the end of The Last Graduate had El in depths of despair and I was there with her. I thought the grief was well written the actions that ensued understandable (I have a spoiler tag for more info on this in my GR review). That early part of the book was captivating but a more gentle pace, then we got a blast of speed and the book took off.

I appreciated seeing life in the world outside The Scholomance. How the enclaves worked but more than that, the often priviledged people inside the enclaves with no thought to those less priviledged. That said, the story did have short periods of lull for me where I pushed through a bit and things picked up in a satisfying way. I was a little un satisfied by the wrap up on the New York mother (being vague here).

Overall, this was a great conclusion to the series and it’ll hold a happy place in my reading heart.

Thank you to DelReyUK for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

When I closed the chapter on this book, I was admittedly flying a little high. I thought I’d be smacking this with a four and calling it a day. But the longer it took me to sit down and write this.. the more I doubted, the more I remembered the few bits I struggled with, and so here we are.

First of all, full disclosure, I cried at two different parts. So are there emotions and do they hit? Yes and yes.

Second of all, are there some good character and plot choices along the way that make this a bit less straight forward than we’ve been told to expect (even if we doubted it would be that straight forward)? Also yes and yes.

And did the romance satisfy? Wellll.

Due to s p o i l e r s there are complications with my answer to that last one. But I’m both satisfied and not. Because Novik had El interact with another character in a way I didn’t expect but.. initially, I was fine with it. When it happened again, when circumstances had changed, though? I was not fine with it. I have a feeling, if I filter some low-rated reviews, this might be the number one complaint; outside of people being real tired and bored by the non-dialogue monologues, which, fair! It does get a lot. But honestly you have to sorta be expecting that after two whole books.. (yes, I am a hypocrite because I make the same complaints in series I don’t like but keep reading, so, pfft, it is what it is).

Obviously I can’t talk about anything else, or anything plot-related, so, was this a satisfying end? Yes and no. I was emotional, I was delighted, I was a little sad, I was surprised and also maybe disappointed, I was a lot of things. And ultimately I’m not quite sure I loved this ending enough to put this series on a favourites list — but I do think I would be up for recommending it.. and I definitely want to reread it at some point. Do with that what you will!

NONA THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir

Her city is under siege.

The zombies are coming back.

And all Nona wants is a birthday party.

In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back.

The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.

And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…


Title : Nona the Ninth
Author : Tamsyn Muir
Series : The Locked Tomb (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 480
Genre : LGBTQIA+ fantasy/sci-fi
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : September 13, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So, listen. The transition from Gideon the Ninth to Harrow the Ninth was rough, right? We ended on such a heartwrenching note, after running around amok for hundreds of pages, only to be dropped into pure chaotic confusion with the sequel. Meaning I wasn’t really worried when Nona the Ninth also switched gears and we ended up in a whole new setting, facing familiar faces but new dynamics, and trying to understand things all over again. But knowing that Nona wasn’t supposed to exist but just got a little out of hand in the writing of the original third book, Alecto the Ninth, well.. it does sort of feel and read like that.

But maybe it’ll all fit together in hindsight, once the series is done, and on a reread. But as of now? There were some really delightful moments in the first half, and I was really into the interludes (so! much! explained! so! much! worldbuilding! wow), but on the whole? It really doesn’t feel like the series-part of the story starts until like.. 60%, if not more, into the book.

While book two had an adjustment in tone and voice, there still maintained some Locked Tomb-ness of the vibe and I don’t think we had that until right before the end in this third instalment. And yeah, it makes sense, but it also makes this book feel very much other from the rest.. and we already had an other book to content with. But at least that bore some similarity to the first. Equally, I didn’t find the writing as captivating, certainly not as funny, because everything was once again so different.

Yet, having said that, those delightful bits? The familial dynamic that we get to explore? Camilla fucking Hect? Chefs kiss. Really lovely. But, ultimately, this seems (at this stage) like a lot of filler and distraction and build-up; only to kick us in the pants for that big cliffhanger ending.

So, yes, I’m having f e e l i n g s about my most anticipated read of the last two years not being a standout but.. I have to trust the system, I have to trust Muir, and maybe next time I read this I’ll be slapping it with five stars because I will understand how much of this was needed for the end. But that day is not today, I’m afraid.

Please note, though, that none of this, none of it!, dims my excitement for the final instalment though. I need Alecto even more than I did before.

BE THE SERPENT by Seanan McGuire

October Daye is finally something she never expected to be: married. All the trials and turmoils and terrors of a hero’s life have done very little to prepare her for the expectation that she will actually share her life with someone else, the good parts and the bad ones alike, not just allow them to dabble around the edges in the things she wants to share. But with an official break from hero duties from the Queen in the Mists, and her family wholly on board with this new version of “normal,” she’s doing her best to adjust.

It isn’t always easy, but she’s a hero, right? She’s done harder.
Until an old friend and ally turns out to have been an enemy in disguise for this entire time, and October’s brief respite turns into a battle for her life, her community, and everything she has ever believed to be true. 

The debts of the Broken Ride are coming due, and whether she incurred them or not, she’s going to be the one who has to pay.


Title : Be The Serpent
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : October Daye (book sixteen)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : DAW
Release Date : August 30, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

No, you aren’t hallucinating. This is the highest rating I’ve given a book in this series since book eleven — and before that, the only other three? Book one. Which in hindsight might’ve been an error in “hoping for the best/that things get better”. So, yeah, the bar for this series, which I’ve complained about ad nauseam, is low. But this one, almost start to finish, had elements that kept me interested and unwilling to put the book down.

That isn’t to say it didn’t start off poorly though because we open up with Luna and Sylvester bullshit and to say I am tired of these two characters would be an understatement. What makes me somewhat angry, though, is McGuire gave an exceptional explanation for why the former is now the way she is and.. yeah, I’m mad. Because it makes sense. Why it took so long to get this explanation, I’ll never know. But it doesn’t excuse the latter’s lack of backbone, loyalty, trust, etc etc. October better not have forgiven him that easy, too. I’m offended.

And, honestly, other than that.. other than a few little moments where people gave October shit for things I don’t think she deserved (and trust me, I would mentioned when it was deserved), there were so few blips in this one. Truly, again, I am astonished.

My one real complaint is the constant rehashing of things to various characters as the plot pushed things along because it gets so tired, going over the same things endlessly; whereas certain other characters spent too much time standing around blinking and marvelling over how things don’t make sense (cough Sylvester cough, glad October called him out on this, more please) and, mostly, being useless. But that’s it. Complaint session over.

Oh wait, Tybalt was mostly useless in this one, not going to lie. He’s sort’ve turned into arm candy now that he’s got the girl. Though I suppose when you’re as skilled and surprising as October is.. there isn’t a whole lot to complete with there. Not a complaint so much as an observation.

The big reveal of this instalment, the way it went down, and then the end? Constant shocker. I’m both surprised and not surprised that the most powerful among this crew is also a different kind of useless and, for once, am not mad about October putting them in their place with little regard to niceties. She is all of us in this particular situation. Surprising no one, the sea witch was once again great, no notes, ten out of ten.

I don’t think I’ve ever said this for this series but : I cannot wait for book seventeen. But don’t get me wrong, I’m still hoping the end is in sight because obviously this is not a sustainable read for me (despite evidence to the contrary) and I fully expect the success of this instalment to peter out but hey, low expectations never hurt anyone.

Oh, and ps, the novella at the end of this one? Horrible. In the sense that seeing exactly what the sea witch was cursed with, live in HD4K, was horrible. Brutal. Awful. Lots of Big Bads need to go before the end of this series or there is truly no justice in this world (which is likely the case because faerie).

RUBY FEVER by Ilona Andrews – double review!

#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews is back with the newest book in the exciting Hidden Legacy series—the thrilling conclusion to her trilogy featuring fierce and beautiful Prime magic user Catalina Baylor.

An escaped spider, the unexpected arrival of an Imperial Russian Prince, the senseless assassination of a powerful figure, a shocking attack on the supposedly invincible Warden of Texas, Catalina’s boss… And it’s only Monday. 

Within hours, the fate of Houston—not to mention the House of Baylor—now rests on Catalina, who will have to harness her powers as never before. But even with her fellow Prime and fiancé Alessandro Sagredo by her side, she may not be able to expose who’s responsible before all hell really breaks loose.


Title : Ruby Fever
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Hidden Legacy (book six)
Format : eBook (overdrive) / eBook Edelweiss
Page Count : 320
Genre : paranormal romance / urban fantasy
Publisher : Avon/Harper 360
Release Date : August 23, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

As always, I never envy the task that is required by authors to wrap up a series. Especially one like this that is the continuation of the five books that came before.. and also sets up the (likely, eventually, p l e a s e n o w) books to come. That’s a lot of loose ends and a lot of new, tantalizing, threads to keep track of. And I think overall, IA did a good job. But.. it’s also a lot of stuff.

This book felt overwhelming in a lot of ways but mostly in terms of action sequences and throwbacks to the main trilogy (which, had I been smart, I would’ve reread all books not just Catalina’s, my bad) and sometimes it was just overload. I didn’t find that this had any emotional or feelsy moments, much less any swoons, and I’m really surprised by that.

In a lot of ways this is a very Catalina-centric story; she has the man she loves, they are committed, so there was less focus on them as a couple — barring a few specific interactions — instead it’s Catalina learning more about her powers (so cool!) and also some familial connections and surprises. Which, hey, I will never complain about Baylor Fam page time but I definitely expected to get socked in the feels along the way and there was only one tiny close call and even that didn’t cause a lump in the throat.

All that to say, as a romance? This was a little lacking. Alessandro ends up as a bit player, especially in light of a newcomer character who takes much of the spotlight because he is shiny and new and rather devious. This is much more plot and Big Bad confrontation plus wrap up than anything else. But with a secured love interest, I can see why; and at least they didn’t have any manufactured drama to deal with. Just something to keep in mind.

Despite some of the dynamic shifts from some of the well-earned reveals, which I really enjoyed, I don’t think this’ll go down as my favourite of the series. I think it’s book two, one, and three for me. But this is still solid, written by some of the GOATs, and featuring one of my absolutely favourite fictional families. I’m also so excited by the tease for Arabella’s book(s) and in reading this transcript (huge spoilers, mind you, you’ve been warned) I’m excited about the possibility of it being an self-published release so as to break out of the more restrictive trad-published formula.

But let’s be real I would be excited either way (also, not me losing my mind to see them reference book two of Iron and Magic because yesss, fiiiiiinally, 2018 was so many moons ago..) because even in a review sprinkled through with nitpicks, I have very little ability to remain unbiased in my love for these authors and their worlds. Having that said that, while I did initially round up on this, further thought (as in, I haven’t thought about this since finishing) has me deciding that.. well, this really was the weakest of the lot. Thus the rating should reflect that.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Grandparent hell
Spider warnings
Slow start

This was an pleasant but perhaps weakish installment in this UF series. I think my investment in this fandom, the sisters and the current couple kept me in the enjoyment sector but this book definitely had a slow start. The second half was a stronger read for me with more action and plot.

I always think with this family that the current couple I’m reading is my favourite, I loved Nevada and Connor, then Catalina and Alessandro came along…but now I find myself looking rather intently at Arabella and the indications we got in this book. Talking of couples, I felt a bit left wanting with Catalina and Alessandro, especially towards the end. Although these two are firmly in coupledom, I think we needed a bit more.

This was a strong plot, the best element being the grandparent storyline. I enjoyed how this part of the story came together. I did want more from the spider however…okay, maybe not.

I don’t know if this is the last Catalina story and Arabella is next but if so, I’m ready.

Thank you to Harper 360 for the eARC.

MAD ABOUT YOU by Mhairi McFarlane

International bestseller Mhairi McFarlane delivers a sharp, emotional new novel about a woman who calls off her engagement to “the perfect man” and moves in with a charming stranger who makes her question everything about her life, her past, and the secrets she’s kept for far too long…

Harriet Hatley is the most in-demand wedding photographer in town, but she doesn’t believe in romance, loathes the idea of marriage, and thinks chocolate fountains are an abomination. Which is why, when her long-time partner proposes, she panics. Suddenly Harriet is single… and living down the hall from her ex. She needs a new apartment, like, yesterday.

Enter Cal Clarke, a hopeless romantic who just experienced his own wedding-related disaster. Harriet and Cal are like chalk and cheese, but as they go from strangers to roommates to friends, it becomes clear they’re both running from something. When Harriet’s most heavily guarded secret comes to light, her world implodes. And Cal, with his witty humor and gentle advice, is a surprising source of calm at the center of the storm. 

With her career, friendships, and reputation on the line, Harriet must finally face her past in order to take control of her future. Because if she’s willing to stop playing it safe and risk everything to share her truth, real love and happiness may be waiting on the other side…


Title : Mad About Your
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 432
Genre : contemporary romance / women’s fiction
Publisher : Avon Books
Release Date : August 9, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

I finally got to read one of my most anticipated reads of the year. Did it live up to my expectations? Well, it may not have crossed the five-star threshold but I dove into this right after work and barely moved until I finished it, neglecting meals and more. So that definitely says a lot.

I’ll admit, this does in some ways read a little differently from McFarlane’s other works. It still has the MC going through a complicated life change. It still has a core group of besties (though this, too, has something a little different going on.. shh, no spoilers). It still has a creep-up-on-you kind of romance in the aftermath of the end of a longterm relationship (though this one was an interesting change of pace, too). And it has a challenging set of emotional circumstances to navigate. Infact, I think Harriet might’ve had The Most to go through of any recent McFarlane MC.. and yet she never acted like it. This could’ve been a depressing read, fraught with angst and an overdose of emotional turmoil, and yet it was so well balanced to avoid this but also Harriet, for all her self-proclaimed bad luck, isn’t mopey. Isn’t dwelling. Even if she deserves to do and be both because hoo boy, it’s a lot.

But all that to say.. this is, for this author, an almost flashy kind of story. There’s a bit of a girl gang, Avengers-style, with a Big Bad and the mission to defeat them and the subsequent takedown. In a public way. And it’s all centered around a very timely plot point about a narrative shift, and subsequent support, for an abuser. It’s a bigger scope than most of McFarlane’s stories, which tend to be loud in quiet subtle ways. But it was incredibly important and there was a lot of good dialogue, and perspective, and shifting loyalties to see play out and that was compelling, if occasionally tough, reading.

And, meanwhile, we had some good laughs, some self-discovery, and a slow-burn awakening of something delicious, all in true McFarlane style, as the MC slogs through the mire to earn herself a lovely ending (or beginning, depending on perspective).

I cannot recommend this author enough. I will never get sick of reading her books and every time I chew through a new one it makes me want to go back and reread all the ones that came before.