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THE RAGE OF DRAGONS by Evan Winter

Game of Thrones meets Gladiator in this debut epic fantasy about a world caught in an eternal war, and the young man who will become his people’s only hope for survival.

The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable fight for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.

Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance. Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger. Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him.


Title : The Rage of Dragons
Author : Evan Winter
Series : The Burning (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 544
Genre : adult fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : July 16, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

If the pitch of Gladiator meets GAME OF THRONES drew you in, you’ll probably be very happy with THE RAGE OF DRAGONS. Because in addition to those things, it’s also as not-white as you can possibly be. This is a world that I guess would be the fantasy version of Africa, or fantasy-inspired version, and the “savage” people are no less dark than the “Chosen” people.

This is a pretty long book, clocking in at almost five hundred and fifty pages, but if you love battle scenes, or long arduous periods of training, you probably won’t notice the passing of time. There’s a whole lot of worldbuilding that we don’t really get at the beginning, though we definitely get some, and that Winter actually sprinkles in along the way and, surprisingly, this worked really well for me. It’s not overly complicated but there are complexities to this world and I found easing us into it made it much easier to digest.

You won’t help your people if you don’t know your place.”
I don’t think I like the place they’ve set for me.”
It’s based on what you are.”
They don’t know what I am.”

Think RED RISING, if you’re familiar with that series, as far as this caste system goes. There are Lessers, and Nobles, full bloods and not, and then Gifted. Crammed in there are also various rankings of military people, too. Also similar to RED RISING, Tau, our lead character and the main POV (we do get brief chapter interludes with three other characters, I believe, but they are single-shot snapshots), is very much like Darrow, like all lower-born men who rise to become more, or to represent more. There’s also shades of The Princess Bride as he does get a little Inigo Montoya along the way.. (+10 points if you understood that reference). But don’t get it twisted, this isn’t an African RED RISING, there’s so much of this world that stands alone. There’s a spirit world at play, demons, and, of course, the dragons.

Despite how long this book is, I won’t say that it felt long until.. the sixty percent mark. By this point it was all Revenge Time, all the time. And the training and battle scenes (though maybe more the training than the battle) were, well, proving a point. The time was definitely taken to show Tau becoming better, stronger, faster. I think this is a hard balance to maintain; too short and it’s not believable, too long and it can get boring. I wouldn’t have minded a few time jumps with convenient flashback or summary paragraphs though..

That said, when I was reading it, I was invested. But if I put it down, I never thought about it or felt any burning desire to pick it up. It’s good but I would say the weakness, beyond the drawn out moments, was definitely the dialogue. It felt either kind of cheese or just weak. The storytelling, though, felt pretty solid which, thankfully, helped to bolster some of those moments where I side-eyed the words coming out of the characters’ mouths.

Overall I was surprised by one or two characters along the way, grew to enjoy some of the others (not Tau but that’s mostly because I think he’s the driving force, the change, not so much a personality) but the plot itself didn’t wow me or blow my mind. I will still read on in the series because I think there’s a lot of backstory and worldbuilding to explore, and I have questions about what happened prior to the opening chapter of the book that started everything that lead to this particular place and time. I think, ultimately, I’m hoping for more GAME OF THRONES plot twists and less playing-with-swords or ruminating-on-my-revenge montages. Fingers crossed for that!

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

PAN’S LABYRINTH : THE LABYRINTH OF THE FAUN by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke

Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke come together to transform del Toro’s hit movie Pan’s Labyrinth into an epic and dark fantasy novel for readers of all ages, complete with gorgeous and haunting illustrations.

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It’s not for skeptics who don’t believe in fairy tales and the powerful forces of good. It’s only for brave and intrepid souls like you, who will stare down evil in all its forms.

Inspired by the critically acclaimed film written and directed by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and reimagined by New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke, this haunting tale takes readers to a darkly magical and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous men, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.

Perfect for fans of the movie and readers who are new to del Toro’s visionary work, this atmospheric and absorbing novel is a portal to another universe where there is no wall between the real and the imagined. A daring, unforgettable collaboration between two brilliant storytellers.


Title : Pan’s Labyrinth : The Labyrinth of the Faun
Author : Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke
Format : ARC
Page Count : 262
Genre : YA fantasy horror / retelling
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : July 2, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, I totally thought this was an MG story and hahahaha no.

I don’t know about the rest of you but when I think Pan’s Labyrinth I think [insert creepy dude with eyes in the palms of his hands here]. I only saw the movie once, a million years ago, and I thought this was an extension of the story or just inspired by it. But from what I understand (because I sure don’t remember enough to say for certain) is that this is an expanded, additionally layered, version of the movie itself.

Which should tell you who should or should not be reading this.

This is classified as YA I think but it is quite dark, if not considered outright horror, but it’s not just the fantastical elements that are dark. It’s the human elements, too. The brutalities done not only by bad men during times of war but bad men, period, who need no excuse.

There is melancholy and bitterness and grief and loneliness and yet the enduring belief in magic, in fairytales, in hope, too. The story is both bleak and yet also whimsical, captivatingly creative and cringey creepy, and the illustrations were just gorgeous.

This book consumed me and I loved every moment.

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

RAZE by Roan Parrish

Sometimes the walls we build to save ourselves have to come tumbling down.

For the last ten years, Huey has built his life around his sobriety. If that means he doesn’t give a damn about finding love or companionship for himself, well, it’s probably better that way. After all, the last thing he wants is to hurt anyone else. Until Felix Rainey walks into his bar, fresh-faced, unbearably sweet–and, for some reason Huey can’t fathom, interested in him.

As the eldest of five kids, Felix Rainey spent his childhood cooking dinner, checking homework, and working after-school jobs. Now in his twenties, he’s still scrambling to make ends meet and wondering what the hell he’s doing with his life. When he meets Huey, he’s intimidated . . . and enamored. Huey’s strong and confident, he owns his own business–hell, he’s friends with rock stars. What could he ever see in Felix?

As Huey and Felix get closer, the spark catches and soon they can’t get enough of each other. But Huey’s worked hard to avoid intimacy, and Felix threatens his carefully constructed defenses. Huey realizes he needs to change if he wants to truly put his past behind him–and build a future with Felix.


Title : Raze
Author: Roan Parrish
Series : Riven (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 316
Genre : contemporary romance, LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Loveswept
Release Date : July 2, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I forgot you’re not supposed to bring up masturbation at the dinner table on the first date.
Yeah, that’s strictly second-date dinner convo.

Right off the bat, I have to say, this cover does not do Felix justice. I wasn’t really a fan of it to begin with but after seeing how the character was not only described but acted? There’s no match-up here whatsoever. But, having said that, at the end of the day it’s about the content, not the window dressing.

Felix seemed like a map folded up small and perfect that would sprawl when unfurled, and show you everything. And I..fuck, I wanted to see it.

This is easily my favourite series by Parrish and while RAZE didn’t match my love for RIVEN, and nor did REND, each book has been emotional, lovely, heart wrenching, beautiful, tough, real, all the things. Oh and swoony and sexy af. The author devastates with the simplest of things, like a hug, and exposes very real insecurities in her characters that I think everyone can immediately connect with. No matter their size or strength, no matter their fame or success, no matter what they’ve overcome or shouldered, each individual is struggling or hiding or avoiding something. Just like every day humans. And it’s this connection that makes these books, even set as they are around rockstars and the music industry, even only peripherally (at least since book one), so so easy to love. Just as it’s impossible not to love these imminently precious characters who, in some form or another, feel they aren’t worthy or deserving of love; or are just overlooked, maybe even just held back.. by outside forces or themselves. Never seen or pursued by the right person.

The problem with feeling so much pleasure, so much joy, so much contentment — with feeling so much, period — after so long spent feeling very little, was that I instantly craved more of it.

If you’re looking for sweetness and sexiness, with a solid foundation of grit and realness, I would definitely recommend this series.

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

LIMITED WISH by Mark Lawrence

One choice. Two possible timelines. And a world hanging in the balance.

It’s the summer of 1986 and reluctant prodigy Nick Hayes is a student at Cambridge University, working with world-renowned mathematician Professor Halligan. He just wants to be a regular student, but regular isn’t really an option for a boy-genius cancer survivor who’s already dabbled in time travel.

When he crosses paths with a mysterious yet curiously familiar girl, Nick discovers that creases have appeared in the fabric of time, and that he is at the centre of the disruption. Only Nick can resolve this time paradox before the damage becomes catastrophic for both him and the future of the world. Time is running out—literally.

Wrapped up with him in this potentially apocalyptic scenario are his ex-girlfriend, Mia, and fellow student Helen. Facing the world-ending chaos of a split in time, Nick must act fast and make the choice of a lifetime—or lifetimes.

Game on.


Title : Limited Wish
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Impossible Times (book two)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 222
Genre : YA sci-fi / historical fiction
Publisher : 47North
Release Date : May 28, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

LIMITED WISH was both a little bit deja vue, though slightly out of alignment from the first book, and also.. way more timey wimey wibbly wobbly than book one. We have converging timelines, paradoxes, choices, divergences.. honestly I didn’t understand half of it. At least half of it.

But everything that intrigued me from book one was still present, there was even more D&D, and things fell into place that allowed for some events from book one to come about. Yes, it’s confusing, I think that’s sorta the deal when you have time travel on the board.

There was a bit of a Sliding Doors-esque choice for our main protagonist to make in this installment. Each book has been named for a key piece of the plot and in this case it’s a wish. You won’t get everything you want and you might not get it for long, because the wish is limited. And that’s kind of where we are at the end of this one. I’m curious to see where we end up in the final book. Shockingly this whole trilogy is being released in one calendar year so I only have to wait until November to find out!

Meanwhile, these books have definitely solidified my interest in reading Lawrence’s other series, the Book of the Ancestor. So maybe I’ll get going on that while I wait.

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

WICKED FOX by Kat Cho

A fresh and addictive fantasy-romance set in modern-day Seoul.

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway.

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.


Title : Wicked Fox
Author Kat Cho
Series : Gumiho (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : YA paranormal/fantasy
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : June 25, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is a paranormal fantasy, with a heavy focus on Korean mythology, set in present day Seol. And boy did it hook me right away.

My mother says gumiho are always women because we gain our power from the moon.”
And what is a man?
Dinner.”

Honesty, the first 1/3rd of this book was nonstop delight. It was interesting, refreshing, funny, thrilling.. I loved both our heroine, a half-human half-nine-tailed fox — who chooses to siphon the life force from evil men to survive (unlike her mother, a full gumiho, who prefers to go straight for the liver) — and our plucky, clumsy, devil-may-care hero, who has the good (or bad, depending on your point of view) fortune to be rescued by her. 

[his grandmother] used to tell Jihoon stories about [goblins] tricking humans and nine-tailed foxes eating the livers of men. Horror stories camouflaged as fables to teach lessons. But those types of stories were supposed to stay in books, not come to life and almost choke him to death.

Both characters have endured the loss of parents and are variations of isolated or alone : Miyoung because she doesn’t fit in, and her mother has taught her to not stand out so as to never give herself away, and Jihoon who, despite having two good friends, just tends to keep things light, and on the surface, so he can’t be hurt by further loss. 

And your father is a gumiho, too?
He was human.”
Was? Is he dead?
How should I know? I’ve never met the guy.”
How dysfunctionally ordinary.”

I loved that, without feeling heavy handed about it, these characters also put the more typical fantasy gender stereotypes somewhat on their head. Miyoung is the one with the power, the strength, and she’s the one recusing the hero. But she’s also the monster.

When you’re constantly treated as a pariah, and labeled bad, you might begin living up to the expectation.”

Things get — extra — complicated when Miyoung’s bead, her soul, is separated from her body, and there are shamans, secrets, and betrayals galore. I especially enjoyed events right around this time, when Miyoung is trying to solve her problem without crossing her stern mother, when she’s trying to fend off Jihoon’s attempts at friendship, and all the funny little exchanges they have. But this book did kind of falter shortly after most of that early action and things felt pretty dragged out. This is also a pretty long book (over four hundred pages) so a long book was made to feel longer because stuff just.. isn’t happening?

If I die, it’s not for you. I’m dying for me.”

That said, I found the world effortless to lose myself in. The writing, the mythology, the worldbuilding, the chapters that showcased and told us of past Gumihos, it was all fascinating. The characters, too, I really liked and it was, at times, really funny. And while the middle did drag, I thought the ending captured some of that early magic for me, so I’ll definitely read on (not sure if this is a duology or a trilogy at this point).

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

ONE WORD KILL by Mark Lawrence – double review!

Ready Player One meets Stranger Things in this thrilling new novel by bestselling author Mark Lawrence.

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.


Title : One Word Kill
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Impossible Times (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 204
Genre : YA sci-fi / historical fiction
Publisher : 47North

Release Date : May 1, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ /★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

ONE WORD KILL is a story I was absolutely, 100%, reading for the characters.. and maybe not so much for the plot. But at the same time, parts of the plot compelled me, even as they confounded me because.. science.

This is pitched as READY PLAYER ONE meets Stranger Things and I can definitely see why. It’s set in the eighties, features a group of D&D playing nerds (which, by the way, were some of my favourite scenes! and I say that as a non-D&D’er), and has fantastical sci-fi elements. But despite those elements this felt pretty grounded in reality : our lead character, and sole POV, is fifteen and dying of cancer and up until now the biggest hurdle some of these teens have had to face is the local bully, work up the courage to talk to a girl, or survive with a somewhat less-than-stellar parental figure. It gave the story a lot of gravitas, and sadness, without feeling melodramatic.

That said, I was more onboard with the wibbly wobbly timey wimey travel and paradox than I was the local psychopath who stalks the group and makes their lives scary and violent. Strangely enough I found that the least believable of everything I read.

With where this installment has ended, though, I’m left wondering : what’s next? I’m surprised there’s no cliffhanger but that doesn’t mean I’m not diving right in to book two.

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


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

Hold onto your hats, people. This was a fast-paced crazy ride that I found myself pretty interested in despite not always understanding the quantum mechanics (think Martian-level science and the way you get through that). ONE WORD KILL was about parallel universes, time travel and a great set of teenagers.

What made this tale palatable were the group of friends that were central to the story; Nick, Mia, Elton and the rest. The somewhat creepy Demus also grew on me. These friends were dungeon and dragons geeks and although I know nothing about the game or geekdom, it was kind of fun to read and it didn’t take up too large chunks of the narrative.

Nick’s personal story is what captivated me from the first page, his situation was sad and compelling but the exciting story that unfolded drew my attention away from his illness leaving me to get to know Nick just as he was. I really liked him and I kept reading for him. The British setting felt completely authentic for the 1980s that it was set in and I really appreciated that context.

However…there were periods of what the heck-dom in this book as the story got a little crazy and a little over science-y. All that said, the characters kept me grounded and reading. I’m really looking forward to the next two in this series and I’m hoping that the time travel aspect will come full circle. This book is definitely worth a try if you like sci-fi, science-based fiction and time travel.

FIX HER UP by Tessa Bailey – double review!

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)
Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)
Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)
Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her..


Title : Fix Her Up
Author : Tessa Bailey
Series : Hot and Hammered (book one)
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 397
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : June 11, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’ve not had the greatest luck with past Bailey reads but this cover was super cute and I was seeing mostly positive buzz so, when my blogging buddy expressed interest in reading it, I thought, why the hell not. I’ll give it a go, too.

Where this story succeeded? Georgie. She’s one hell of a great heroine. Passed over by her family, overlooked in both her social and love life, and a clown. Literally, professionally, a clown. She’s got your trademark quirky girl thing down but it works. It really really does because she’s sweet, she’s genuine, and she eventually starts to stand up for herself. But she doesn’t change a single iota of who she is.

You turned my perfectly innocent backyard into construction worker porn. All we need is some light jazz.”
Yikes. What kind of porn are you watching?
The respectable-lady kind.”

Also a success? The lady friends. Or, as they call themselves, The Just Us League. Cue all the lols. Sure it’s an obvious ploy to write more books, featuring these other two friends, but whatever, it worked, I’m here for it. Based on the characters, I think one will be super angsty and the other could be super hate to love? Just a guess.

Where this book failed? The hero. And, actually, almost all the male characters? Georgie’s brother eventually redeems himself in a way but I was mostly just confused by some of the instances he popped up and when I wasn’t confused I was incredibly annoyed by him. But he served a purpose. Most spectacularly, though, I just.. I don’t get Travis. Sure he’s bruised, he’s battered, he’s got baggage. But other than a few pings of sympathy, I just didn’t care about him. Which made the romance not always my favourite and compounded with how much I did not get on with the sexytimes? Made for a weird mood. But I’ll give him credit (Bailey credit?) because the moments he stood up and supported Georgie? Particularly the early moments when he saw things amiss and wanted to put a stop to it, even if he sometimes resisted the urge For Reasons, those moments were lovely. Because he saw her.

So, yeah, this is a weird one for me. It’s incredibly funny at times, very heartwarming and empowered with female solidarity, but the underlying purpose of the romance just didn’t work for me. Would I read on in the series? Absolutely. So I guess that’s a win.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

FIX HER UP is a fun and sometimes delightful romance, not exactly rom-com but definitely served with a slice of quips and clever banter. The couple in this story are reunited in adulthood where before they were arrogant brother’s friend and annoying little sister. In the now, Travis was a washed-up baseball star with a less than stellar reputation and Georgie was a clown (yes, really).

Georgie was actually rather endearing from the start and I appreciated her individual journey in this book from innocence to empowerment. However, I also really appreciated the feminist undertones and message of the threesome friendship of women who Georgie was part of.

Travis I have to say, was pretty unlikeable initially. I wanted him to be less uncertain, have more balls generally and eventually he came through. BUT and there’s a bit but…I wanted to choke him on his constant use of the phrase ‘baby girl’. That phrase just goes through me and I don’t think I am alone in this. I seriously had to reduce half a star for this aspect because it was so overused and it plucked me out of the story everytime.

These two together had quite a lovely story, kind of fakey dating but not. I loved their chemistry together even if I didn’t always appreciate how the intimacy played out.

I am really excited about the next couple. They’re married and it’s not working and I am all grabby hands.

HITHER, PAGE by Cat Sebastian


A jaded spy and a shell shocked country doctor team up to solve a murder in postwar England.

James Sommers returned from the war with his nerves in tatters. All he wants is to retreat to the quiet village of his childhood and enjoy the boring, predictable life of a country doctor. The last thing in the world he needs is a handsome stranger who seems to be mixed up with the first violent death the village has seen in years. It certainly doesn’t help that this stranger is the first person James has wanted to touch since before the war.

The war may be over for the rest of the world, but Leo Page is still busy doing the dirty work for one of the more disreputable branches of the intelligence service. When his boss orders him to cover up a murder, Leo isn’t expecting to be sent to a sleepy village. After a week of helping old ladies wind balls of yarn and flirting with a handsome doctor, Leo is in danger of forgetting what he really is and why he’s there. He’s in danger of feeling things he has no business feeling. A person who burns his identity after every job can’t set down roots.

As he starts to untangle the mess of secrets and lies that lurk behind the lace curtains of even the most peaceful-seeming of villages, Leo realizes that the truths he’s about to uncover will affect his future and those of the man he’s growing to care about.


Title : Hither, Page
Author Cat Sebastian
Series : Page and Sommers (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 200
Genre : historical romance, LGBTQ+
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : June 18, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating
: ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

It feels like it’s been some time since I read something by Sebastian and I quite enjoyed this little reunion. But I’ll admit that of the plot, the characters, and the romance.. I think I only liked the characters.

He was so accustomed to playing a role, acting a part, completing a mission, that sometimes he found it convenient to ignore that beneath the mission there was a man.

The plot for HITHER, PAGE was an almost Clue-like whodunnit, set in a small English town after the war, and there was spycraft and secrets afoot. But I wasn’t really too bothered by the who or the why. I mostly just wanted to spend more time with the characters. This town had a whole host of interesting personalities and, to be honest, I’m not sure I disliked a single one. Some were just.. darling. Others clever and mischievous and precious af. And even more were all of the above plus suffering from mental trauma and PTSD and longing for quiet from the horror the world had just survived. Side note : all signs point to this being a series and oh I hope so. I want more of this little place and these people.

You’ve got what half the village seems to have. Half has a streptococcus infection and the other half is murdered. Quite the lovely place.

As for the romance. Because this wasn’t quite novel length, yet not quite novella (?), there was only so much time dedicated to the romance what with all the murder-yness murder going on. It definitely had moments of cute but, I think, if it is actually going to be a series.. I wouldn’t have minded waiting on them to cement things until the next instalment. Things moved a little quickly considering they knew one another for only the span of a week and I know it happens all the time in romance books but.. sometimes you just aren’t sold. Like I said, cute, but.

I wasn’t sure you’d want to see me.”
Then you’re not as clever as you look. I’m losing all faith in the intelligence services.”

I’ll definitely read on because I love the idea of a mystery series set in a small town and I’m looking forward to getting to know the other characters a little better each time. Plus I want a chance to be sold on the romance. So, yes, consider me invested.

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

IF I’M BEING HONEST by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.

In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…

But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.


Title : If I’m Being Honest
Author : Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : OverDrive (eBook)
Page Count : 370
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 23, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

IF I’M BEING HONEST is something of a love letter to the archetype of the mean girl. The girl who is pretty, blonde, popular and always there with a harsh barb. What these authors do with that character, however, is somewhat different from what we’ve come to expect.

If every glare I earned, or didn’t earn but received nonetheless, bothered me, I’d drown in the judgment.

Cameron is beautiful, blonde, popular.. but she’s not rich. She doesn’t have a string of broken hearts in her past — infact, she’s been very purposefully single for two years. She has plans for her life and she executes them accordingly, each task an item on her list to be crossed off. She’s methodical because it’s something she can control. Because her home life is complicated, fraught with emotional minefields, and her honesty — her drive — is a direct result of the neglect and belittling from her father, and the disdain she has for her mother’s string of failed jobs, failed motivation, failed ability to parent. Cameron feels driven to prove to her successful, and absent, father that she can be worthy of his attention, worthy of his love, that she is unlike her mother who earns only his scorn. She puts in the work because she can see, with her own two eyes, that work gets results.

Which is why she spends a year planning out her perfect relationship. She meets the guy, likes the guy, and waits. She wants to see that he has drive, has ambition. And when she finally makes her move.. it, unfortunately, backfires. And the boy in question no longer wants her, much less likes her, as a result.

I didn’t understand it at first. Wouldn’t a person be a better friend if they told the truth? [..] I’ve always thought of honesty as helpful even if it’s hurtful.

It’s in studying THE TAMING OF THE SHREW that Cameron sees so much of herself in the main character and decides to reinvent herself, to prove herself worthy of being liked, to soften her edges; to self-tame. And so begins her road of apologies, of amends, to reinvent herself.

I would have to be pretty desperate to put my fate in the hands of Cameron Bright, the girl who wrecked my life in the first place.”
Grant, you passed desperate when you were modelling lingerie for the innocent bystanders in a bookstore.”

IF I’M BEING HONEST is a retelling/reimagining of the aforementioned Shakespeare play, as well as Ten Things I Hate About You, and honestly? By about ten percent I wanted to shout my love of this book from the rooftops. It was funny, it was unflinching, it was heartfelt, it was raw. The evolution, not only of Cameron but the relationships — platonic and romantic — was so.. organic? Genuine? Real? Sure, it occasionally journeyed a somewhat expected path as far as plot progression, and emotional speed bumps, but it was the strong writing, and the solid characters, that carried it. That, infact, made it soar.

The ending doesn’t wrap everything in a bow; not every broken or bruised relationship is mended, not everyone is perfect and pleasant. The characters don’t change, they evolve. They don’t just apologize, they forgive.

Nobody’s ever bothered to figure out what would be the exact right thing to say to me. What I need to hear.

This book made me laugh (a lot), tear up (a few times), and even had a few less-than-subtle ‘these characters are from our first book’ cameos shoehorned in at near the end. I didn’t even really mind, even if it felt a little clunky, and I have no problem taking the hint and have, in fact, already put a hold on that first book. But other than that little tease, this is a true standalone, so don’t worry about missing anything.

It’s like there’s this horrible thing eating me from the inside, and the only way to let it out is to fall apart — or to lash out. To leave someone else with hurt and doubt and insecurity just to know they know how it feels.

If you appreciate characters being unfiltered and far from perfect, as well as a story that has plenty of grand gestures, fandom, and real issues that never cross the line into overwrought drama, you should definitely pick this one up. Sure it doesn’t get full marks from me but it’s really close. All the greatness is great and even the stuff I didn’t super love.. it’s still so good. This is a perfect summer-y kind of read, because it’ll make you feel good, but don’t expect too much fluff (not used in a derogatory way). This definitely has substance, and weight, and will be well worth your time.

STORM AND FURY by Jennifer L Armentrout

Enter a world of gargoyle protectors, rising demons and one girl with an explosive secret.

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…


Title : Storm and Fury
Author : Jennifer L Armentrout
Series : The Harbinger (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 512
Genre : YA paranormal romance
Publisher : Inkyard Press
Release Date : June 11, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I need to get one thing off my chest before delving into this review. Some readers don’t mind picking up a spinoff if there’s little to no character overlap (though, honestly, how can you really know beyond the fact that the leads are different?) but I am not that kind of reader. I like context. I thrive off it. I like references that harken back to previous events, I love cameos, etc, particularly when it’s a world that relies on context or worldbuilding; so sometimes I can roll with it if it’s, say, a contemporary but for a fantasy or PNR-style universe? Less ability to roll. So when I started STORM AND FURY only to realize this was a spinoff of one of the author’s previous series..? I was annoyed. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, because, for some reason, some publishers don’t like mentioning these kinds of details in blurbs when books go up for request. I find this does a real disservice to reviewers. Or, specifically, me. Because that said, I saw many reviews mentioning that you didn’t need to have read those other books to enjoy this one. But as I didn’t actually enjoy this book.. I guess I’m just all-around an outlier.

Anyway, rant over.

Or different rant begins?

This book is very.. stereotypical early 2000s YA. I don’t really know how else to describe it. But it was such a shocking regression for me, as I do read a lot of really great, superbly written, and characterized, YA that I actually almost DNF’d. Instead I set it down around the 15% mark and took a break to read other things — something I almost never do. I did bring myself back to it though (obviously) just incase it was a mood thing. It wasn’t. But I finished anyway. Grudgingly.

STORM AND FURY has a typical fantasy plot, unfolding in a fairly typical way — — special ish snowflake girl meets special ish snowflake boy and sorta hate-dislike banter ensues along with unprecedented connection, in addition to girl generally just not conforming with restrictions placed on her for her safety and always getting into trouble but.. also just being totally unphased and letting everything roll off her back with some snappy reply? ugh — with fairly typical dialogue, secrets, and surprises. Also lots of pauses for inconveniently timed attraction due to proximity and high stakes moments. It made it all feel very young (even juvenile), very over done, heavily sprinkled with cheese, and as a result I just didn’t enjoy it. Sure the specifics of the plot or the world or the whatever might not have been cookie cutter but everything else made it feel that way.

Now, I want to pause to say : all these typical elements can be enjoyed. And I have, in fact, loved books that basically read exactly like this (rather) cutting summary. But the writing, or the characters, have helped me to overlook it.. or love it. As we all know, writing truly makes a difference. And, in the case of STORM AND FURY, we just didn’t have that.

I foresee a few comparisons to Cassandra Clare’s books, particularly her most recent trilogy, as there’s a particular element to both the dynamic and the relationship that mirrors something we’ve seen in that series. It’s not unique to Clare but combined with everything else it just feels like a sticking point for future books and future angst. And considering I was already annoyed at the direction of the romance.. welp.

There was an attempt made for some representation as the lead protagonist is losing her sight, in a specific way the author herself is (read the note at the end), but I was often confused by the consistency and convenience of it being fine and then not. I suppose some of it is factual and maybe the rest is made appropriate for the fantasy and excitement of the moment. I shouldn’t be critical of this as it’s #ownvoices in that sense and I am neither expert nor do I share this experience. Something that confused me a bit, though, was that it took until almost 75% for us to be told how she felt about her condition. Up until that point it had always seemed to be couched in context of how it affected her ability to fight which, sure, that’s her priority vs mine, but it was nice to get some dialogue about it all. Even if she was fairly laisser-faire about everything. She just rolled with the eventuality of being blind. Which, again, okay. I can appreciate some of that. Out of one’s control and all. But also. You’re eighteen and you’re just going to be blasé about losing a main sense? If I had a degenerative condition, I’d be pretty angry or sad or.. something. Frustrated. Not just focused on practicing more knife throws. Or at least not ONLY focused on practicing knife throws. And certainly not throwing myself off rooftops during the dark of night to prove points.

Would I have enjoyed this more had I read the companion series? I guess we’ll never know. But if you need a new drinking game, take a shot for every time the word ‘Hell’ is used. It’ll make for a short game but by the time you’re buzzing.. I’m not sure you’ll mind.

Because this is a series and not a collection of interconnecteds, with different leads, I seriously doubt I will read on.

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