BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore – double review!

Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.

But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.

Whatever that past holds.

Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . .


Title : Bitterblue
Author : Kristin Cashore
Narrator : Emma Powell
Series : Graceling Realm (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)/audiobook
Page Count : 572/17 hours, 58 minutes
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : May 1, 2012

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Oof, now I understand why I had weird rememberings of not quite enjoying this on the same level as the other Graceling Realm books. Because this one is a lot. Not just in page length, either (ba dum boom hiss..).

I feel like Cashore has done a really great job up until this point introducing unsavoury characters who have done terrible deeds and that lead-in is what makes Bitterblue especially tough in the aftermath. And the way Cashore handled this, the slow, twisting, winding path in getting us to the end..? Well, I can definitey see that maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset to take that journey the first time I read it. Maybe I was distracted, maybe I put it down too many times to keep all the threads clear in my mind, who knows. But wow I could not pull myself away this time. Sure, there are some parts that are better than others, maybe sometimes it gets a bit bogged down or meandering, but it’s not without purpose. These things play an important role, and the confusion and frustration is real, in trying to pick apart lies and secrets. As well as the lost moments, lost people, lost items.

“.. that’s how memory works. Things disappear without your permission, then come back again without your permission.”

In a post-Leck world, after surviving the reign of a man who could crawl into your mind and convince you to do things — and generally his inclination was for awful things — how do you live with yourself? How do you deal with the trauma you’ve survived or the trauma you’ve forced upon others? When your mind has been so twisted and torn apart that you can’t even remember some parts of your life.. while other events, other deeds, that you would wish to forget have been tattooed into your memory.

[the] challenge, she thought, is to balance knowing with healing.

This was a hard read, it was. There is still some excitement, some romance, a little bit of levity and loveliness from reuniting with characters from previous books, and a whole ton of mystery, but Cashore has set up this devastating situation and she works her characters through it. She works her reader through it. And yeah, fine, no one is surprised by this anymore, but there were like three or four instances near the end that just had me in and out of tears. Feels, emotions, I had so many.

The characters in this world, particularly this book, are.. something else. Not perfect, no, and complicated, stubborn and bratty and self-sacrificing, so many things. But they are so much themselves, in their choices, their mistakes, their tragedies, in their missteps even with one another, that you (I) cannot help but love them.

I am so so incredibly glad I reread these going into book four (out January nineteenth!) and it is incredibly relieving, in my current “get rid of and downsize books you don’t love!” mode that these are not going anywhere. They are staying pretty on my shelves.



Micky’s 3 star review

I ended up listening to Bitterblue on audio as the library wasn’t being helpful with a copy at the ready. Although I enjoyed the read, I think audio may have affected my experience a little and I’ll explain why later (it has nothing to do with the narration).

I loved Bitterblue’s character and the depth of her experiences in Graceling, so I was looking forward to her book. When we met Bitterblue in this book, years had passed (about eight) and she was frustratedly ruling her kingdom. Bitterblue still had that wild streak and much of this story stemmed from her rebellious high jinks, just attempting to get a bit of real life experience outside of queening.

You can imagine that Monsea was a mess post-Leck and story rotated around that history, atrocities and its legacy. Bitterblue found herself embroiled with a character called Saf, a thief with integrity. This connection was meant to partly be the crux of the story but I didn’t feel their bond and I actually wanted Bitterblue with Giddon. Giddon seemed much changed since Graceling and I liked him so much more.

Major bonus points for all the Po time there was in this instalment and the bit of Katsa we got. Also the reappearance of an character (now elderly) from Fire. I love the interweaving of these seperate lands, time frames and characters Cashore has brought to the series overall. The last 20% of this read was the best part for me and pulled me back into love with the series after feeling a bit uninspired for the majority of the listen.

The narration was excellent, so it wasn’t this element that made me enjoy this book less. I think my issues were more about the many different characters and keeping track on audio can be more difficult (and you can’t flick back through the book to remind yourself). Also the Saf/Bitterblue connection reduced my feels on this.

But…I am primed and ready for Winterkeep and I’m really looking forward to it.

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.

FIRE by Kristin Cashore – double review!

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men.

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own.

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there’s more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom.

If only she weren’t afraid of becoming the monster her father was.


Title : Fire
Author : Kristin Cashore
Series : Graceling Realm (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 480
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : October 5, 2009

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was quite a different experience for me for this reread. Initially I had a really hard time connecting to this story, the worldbuilding, the characters even a little (though they were easier to lose myself in), and I don’t really know why. True, this is part of the Graceling Realm but it’s a totally different part of that world and while we do have a character from book one present, though in a very different state and from a different time, it’s night and day compared to what we knew of this world from reading book one. So just bear that in mind. Likely you won’t have my issues, and I still don’t truly understand them, but I was definitely worried for a while this would be a total miss for me.

It wasn’t.

This book, even some of the themes, and certainly the events, differ so much it’s definitely it’s own animal. I have no sense of memory as to whether anything from this book will be relevant in book three (my memory, she bad), so it’s almost better to treat this as less of a prequel and more of a companion. Which most people likely do anyway. But enough rambling.

I really did come to love this story, and especially the characters, once I’d regained my footing. In fact this made me cry, or tear and choke up, at least a few times. Hormones could be blamed but I think it was just also the writing, the moment, and how I’d come to appreciate this complicated layered personalities.

While Graceling featured a protagonist who had done things that made her feel monstrous, this time we really do have a monster of a protagonist. And if that doesn’t hook you into picking this book up, what will!

Cashore’s writing was vivid and lovely, descriptive and occasionally devastating, and layered with all sorts of interesting.. well, layers. Also, once again, full on repping the normalize talk of periods and what a body undergoes. It had a pretty relevant reason for being talked about to the extent it did, too, and I loved how she worked that in.

But anyway. Read this series. So far this revisit is going really really well and I’m excited to read the third book which I do remember not liking as much, or very much at all, but honestly.. that’s all I remember. So we shall see.


Micky’s 4.5 star review

4.5 stars

Fire swept me up immediately in this Graceling Realm tale. I had stupidly thought this would be a continuation of Katsa and Po but this was a totally different land and cast of characters from the world. Gracelings were a minor but important feature.

The story was set in the time of Leck’s childhood (nausea brewing) and you need a steally stomach for elements of this especially pertaining to animals. Talking of which, I adored Small in no small way. Fire and Small’s connection was just lovely. Fire’s character was a slow revealing throughout the story, she became more as she revealed more of herself to others. I had a really vivid picture of her in my head. The whole premise to Fire’s attraction was fascinating and difficult for her to live with; I enjoyed that whole story arc.

There was a delicious slow burn romance in the background that was founded on hate. Fire and Brigan had such a believable connection spurned on tragedy, trust and mistrust and family. There were side characters for days that made this read as colourful as Fire’s hair. I found Nash annoying then hilarous, Hanna was sweet, Clara forthright and Fire’s guard were fantastic.

This really was an addictive read, I wanted to devour it and thought of it when I wasn’t reading. If you’ve not read this series, put it on your planning for this year.

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.

GRACELING by Kristin Cashore – double review!

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. 

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po. 

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. 

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.


Title : Graceling
Author : Kristin Cashore
Series : Graceling Realm (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 481
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Dial Books
Release Date : October 1, 2008

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was another reread for me, and another that I haven’t read in aaages, and honestly I’m not mad at all about ending a crap year with some old favourites which are all turning out to still be favourites. Is there anything better?

When you’re a monster, she thought, you are thanked and praised for not behaving like a monster. She would like to restrain from cruelty and receive no admiration for it.

That said, nostalgia wasn’t the only reason for revisiting this world after so long. As has been the trend for a few older and beloved trilogies, we have a new release coming very shortly for book four in the Graceling Realm world, and I definitely couldn’t pick that up without a solid refresh. Most of the plot points I had remembered but the details, the emotions, some of the characters? All hazy.

Mercy was more frightening than murder, because it was harder.

But oh man was this good. I love when YA stands the test of time. And, in hindsight, Cashore did so many great things with her characters, things we expect now but didn’t always get then, and that’s why it will continue to do well even ten years from now.

The basic premise of GRACELING follows a king’s killer, a Graced individual with the gift for killing, and how she breaks away from his control to be her own person, in control of her own actions, and along the way helps to save another nation, and even find love. Yes, I’m being vague, but a lot of people have read this so why rehash and for those who haven’t? I want to tempt you, tease you, tantalize you into picking this up and learning more.

This is such a fabulous fantasy and I am excited to continue this reread journey; not only to get to the new content but revisit all the things from books two and three that I’ve forgotten — which is pretty much everything!


Micky’s 4 star review

Another late entry to the party on this beloved-by-many series. It took me a little while to get into it but I really enjoyed the characters and world that Kristen Cashore created. The graces that certain chosen ones were bestowed with at birth were varied, interesting and not always for the good.

Katsa swept me away in this book. She wasn’t easy to get to know initially but when she cracked her facade a little, her whole self was so likeable. Po brought out the best in Katsa as did Bitterblue (I can’t wait for Bitterblue’s book). This story had the most vile villain and I loved everything about how that played out.

For me, this was a subtly feminist tale. Katsa was wholly feminist but there were themes that really sold this to me – the haircut and marriage views. I loved this element to the story and that it underpinned Katsa as a strong woman but still a woman with a heart.

This was a story told over time, time for character building and development, for friendships and relationships to really feel solid and for there to be a strong history to how the tale played out. This all makes me think this is so well written, I can’t find fault with any of that. I’m so looking forward to reading on with this and the plan is to get completely up to date with the series this month – wish me luck!

I read and listened to this on an audio/ebook combo and despite this being a full cast audio, I really didn’t gel with it. For me, the ebook was preferable.

HEARTSTOPPER VOLUME 2 by Alice Oseman

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. An LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the second volume of HEARTSTOPPER, for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon. 

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t. 

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself. 

Heartstopper is about friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us. 


Title : Heartstopper Volume 2
Author : Alice Oseman
Series : Heartstopper
Format : online via webtoon / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Hodder Children’s Books
Release Date : July 11, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was rude. I teared up like three times.

This was everything pure and lovely and cute from book one but more, better, fabulous. This is one of the softest things I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing whilst still, again, tackling issues like homophobia and bullying. Nonetheless the enduring sweetness and joy, and delight, is just so powerful.

If I thought I had steamrolled through volume one it was nothing compared to how I clicked through this one. Compulsive. Addictive. Yes, more. Also, shoutout to my buddy who hooked me up with the webtoon version so I wouldn’t have to wait on my library. Though I haven’t given up my hold as I will absolutely want to reread this when it pops up and experience it all over again.

Also, once again this review is not quite the greatest thing ever but you know what is? Micky’s. You can find her thoughts here for volumes one AND two.

Editing to add, after having read the official eBook version via my library, I maybe loved it a tiny bit less (I’m dropping down a tiny .5), but there were a few flourishes I don’t remember from the online version and I thought they were lovely. This is still the cutest thing ever.

HEARTSTOPPER VOLUME 1 by Alice Oseman

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…? 

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…




Title : Heartstopper Volume 1
Author : Alice Oseman
Series : Heartstopper
Format : graphic novel eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 288
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Hodder Children’s Books
Release Date : February 7, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

This has been a long overdue read for me, mostly because I put it off thinking I would not enjoy (I don’t know where I got this idea..), and also because of sudden demand through my library, and luckily this popped up on my holds just when I needed a distraction.

This glosses over a host of topics in a fairly easy flip, but when I say gloss I don’t mean to imply anything is taken or handled lightly, and I think that’s because you get a double impact via the dialogue and the expressions and actions of the illustrations. It packs a punch whilst still distracting you with sweetness or pretty things and works to balance it all really well.

I flew through this so quickly as is fairly typical for a graphic novel. This might have been a series that would be better to binge, and I definitely wish I had the rest on hand, too, but alas.. we must continue to wait.

If you’re looking for a sweet YA graphic novel to lift your spirits, or if you need something to bump that GR reading goal up, you can’t go wrong with this.

Also, this review is not quite the greatest thing ever but you know what is? Micky’s. You can find her thoughts here but just be mindful she’s also reviewed volume two on the same post. Watch out for any potential spoilers incase you’re averse.

CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys, described by Entertainment Weekly as “groundbreaking.”

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.



Title : Cemetery Boys
Author : Aiden Thomas
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 350
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Swoon Reads
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

Man, I am so bummed right now. I really thought this was going to be a read that lived up to all the extraordinary hype and became a new favourite. But..

Okay, good stuff out of the way? The first half was pretty excellent (more reason for being bummed). The descriptions of both family and culture? So vivid. I could see the colours, I could smell the food, I could hear the overlapping chatter of families. Everything was written with such ease, such flow, that I couldn’t believe this was a debut. There were a few instances of repetition but it seemed to happen as new chapters started, almost like a reset, so.. I kinda forgave it. Also, I was a pretty big fan of Yadriel, our main protagonist, and thought his struggle to make a place for himself in the Brujx culture to be heartwrenching; he refused to give in, to compromise who he was even as every rejection, every time he was misgendered, or dead named, was a stab to his heart. That said, I didn’t love the love interest all the time. He had some extremes I wasn’t down with and while the protagonist didn’t always let him get away with it, it wasn’t fun to live through the tantrums. And some of the exchanges were just.. chaotic.

I would like to note that this isn’t a story with a big shocking mystery. You know who the villain is almost from the beginning. Or at least I did. But it’s fine. Just don’t be surprised if you are expecting a spooky dark mystery. This is actually fairly lighthearteded in the overall vibe.

Remember why we’re doing this.”
So they’ll see that I’m a brujo.”
Well, yeah, but other than that.
Spite?
Spite!

Where this went hella sideways was the big confrontation. I said things were chaotic at times? Wow, it got worse. Things happened at break-kneck speed and then my eyeballs were being assaulted by capslock and !? exclamations over and over again.. at which point events happen in such a way that a certain character is, like, doing something that amounts to crouching over another and snapping like a dog because they are worried or being protective, or both, and it was just. I had to put the book down because suddenly I didn’t know what I was reading or what was happening. Things just really went off the rails. It was all those moments I disliked about the character from before but magnified to a hellish extreme. Even the bestie of our main protagonist, who up until this point was a solid favourite, was just so.. over dramatic for literally no reason. It went full on soap opera/CW moment and I was just left baffled.

In conclusion. The first half? Very good. The second half? Actually, it’s not even a full half, it’s like.. maybe three chapters? It doesn’t drag out but it really slaps you in the face. Or at least it did for me. So that bit? A lot less good. But we had a sweet ending and there was something that did happen that I didn’t expect, possibly because I’m dumb, and said thing is a good thing. So while this wasn’t an overall win for me there is lots of enjoyment to be had, along with knowing you’re reading an #OwnVoices story with solid representation, and I will absolutely read this author again.

THE TOWER OF NERO by Rick Riordan

At last, the breathtaking, action-packed finale of the #1 bestselling Trials of Apollo series is here! Will the Greek god Apollo, cast down to earth in the pathetic moral form of a teenager named Lester Papadopoulos, finally regain his place on Mount Olympus? Lester’s demigod friends at Camp Jupiter just helped him survive attacks from bloodthirsty ghouls, an evil Roman king and his army of the undead, and the lethal emperors Caligula and Commodus. Now the former god and his demigod master Meg must follow a prophecy uncovered by Ella the harpy. Lester’s final challenge will be at the Tower of Nero, back in New York. Will Meg have a last showdown with her father? Will this helpless form of Apollo have to face his arch nemesis, Python? Who will be on hand at Camp Half-Blood to assist? These questions and more will be answered in this book that all demigods are eagerly awaiting. 



Title : The Tower of Nero
Author : Rick Riordan
Series : The Trials of Apollo (book five)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 419
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : October 6, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

Maybe I should’ve started with this as my slump buster.

Like my last read, Riordan is a comfort author and diving back into his Percy Jackson Universe is just.. fun. This final book in this particular series, which I think is also supposed to close the door on the whole world (?), was nostalgic and entertaining and just a great time all around. Though if it is the end it does feel a little.. well, not like an end? I think I would’ve expected more of a definitive and drawn out farewell tour. Which is why I think the door has been left open.. just a bit. Plus, I mean, did we get teased with the Nico stuff? There has to be more.

The only thing more unsettling than not understanding a prophecy was beginning to understand it.

Anyway. Not much I can say about a wrap up installment so suffice it to say you’ll just have to read it yourself! But this was exactly the kind of warm hug in book form that I needed.

I wanted to write a haiku in honour of Apollo but I’ve got nothing.

THE SUGARED GAME by KJ Charles

It’s been two months since Will Darling saw Kim Secretan, and he doesn’t expect to see him again. What do a rough and ready soldier-turned-bookseller and a disgraced shady aristocrat have to do with each other anyway?

But when Will encounters a face from the past in a disreputable nightclub, Kim turns up, as shifty, unreliable, and irresistible as ever. And before Will knows it, he’s been dragged back into Kim’s shadowy world of secrets, criminal conspiracies, and underhand dealings.

This time, though, things are underhanded even by Kim standards. This time, the danger is too close to home. And if Will and Kim can’t find common ground against unseen enemies, they risk losing everything.



Title : The Sugared Game
Author : KJ Charles
Series : The Will Darling Adventures (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 288
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance/historical fiction
Publisher : KJC Books
Release Date : August 26, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m not sure my feelings about this book are entirely fair as I’ve come out of quite a bit of a lull/slump and I knew the first book I picked up might suffer for it. But I thought a KJC might help battle that prediction and also I mean she’s kind of a guaranteed pick me up. And yet..

I don’t know about you, but the position of hand puppet to [spoiler] does not appeal to me.”
Nor me. If I want someone sticking their hand up my arse–
Oh, do go on.”
I’m not going to be [spoiler]’s hand puppet either, was what I meant.

Certainly not a bad book, not that I think she even has one, and a three star is far from a dislike but I didn’t quite enjoy this installment as much as book one. We did have some good reveals and how this plays out into book three will be interesting but to be honest I found myself less enamoured by the MC and the love interest and instead was just rooting for the ladies of the story. They had felt like full and realized characters in book one and yet they definitely stole the show for me in this one. And I love that it went that way because they are certainly deserving of a spotlight.

That said, if you are not yet on the KJC train you absolutely have to. If not this series, another, find a standalone, whatever. If you’re into queer fiction or historical fiction or where the two meet and you aren’t reading this author? What even are you doing!

Hoping that book three goes out with a bang but also hoping to not be battling anymore slumps between now and then. Fingers crossed!