THE FASTEST WAY TO FALL by Denise Williams

True love never did run smooth . . .

Britta is excited for the chance to finally prove herself at work when she’s asked to write about a hot new body-positive fitness app that includes personal training.

When her training sessions with Wes begin, the pair click immediately. He may be the app’s CEO but despite his professional success, his personal life is in disarray and he’s enjoying his return to what he really loves – coaching.

As the weeks pass, Britta can’t believe how much she’s enjoying trying new things and finding her strength . . . and perhaps her perfect match?

The longer she spends with Wes the harder it is to deny their chemistry and maintain a professional distance. Walking away from each other may be the smart choice. but for Wes and Britta, falling never felt so good . . .


Title : The Fastest Way to Fall
Author : Denise Williams
Format : eARC
Page Count : 431
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : November 2, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

Headlines:
Health, eating, fitness
Body positivity and negativity
Misunderstandings

This contemporary romance offered a serious slice of themes to digest alongside the connection and romance between these two main characters. Britta was a bit of a hero to me, she mostly demonstrated a true love of her own body even though she fell off the wagon on occasion. We see some disordered eating alongside the positive in this story. Wes was her online fitness coach through an app but he crossed some lines.

I enjoyed the storyline for the first three quarters, it was easy to slip into and provided a couple to cheer for. I found the overall tone of the plot to be very body positive in all the ways and I appreciated how the author pitched this without any preach. It was about real, flawed and wonderful humans. I did struggle with the misunderstandings and miscommunications that came a bit later on but I pushed through for a great ending, which I got.

If you enjoyed this author’s previous book (like me), we do some some of those characters in the background which was a bonus.

Overall, this was enjoyable with a great depth to the plot.

Thank you to Piatkus for the eARC.

NO PLACE FOR PEACE by Tom Dumbrell

As Cyrus rides away from the safety of his family in Highcastle to face his destiny in cunning King Simeon’s kingdom, Augustus braces himself for the arrival of a new threat: an invading army is coming for the capital.

Easthaven’s young king will need the support of those closest to him if there is any hope of saving not just the city but their kingdom. Will Thaddeus and Adaline be able to guide Augustus toward victory, or will a magnetic new influence cloud his judgement?

What fate awaits Cyrus in Auldhaven, and is there more to Simeon than meets the eye? As Cyrus’s journey takes him farther from home than ever before, his future will become more unpredictable. The outcome seems destined to be explosive.

War is coming, but the fiercest battles are often fought within.


Title : No Place For Peace
Author : Tom Dumbrell
Series : The Look of a King #2
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 336
Genre : Historical Fantasy
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : October 18, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Fast-paced ease
Twisty plot
Cyrus is so darn likeable

No Place for Peace kept that light historical fantasy world feel that drew me into book one. It’s not easy to bring lightness to a world beset by war, strategy and nefarious characters but I think the age and perspective of the main character Cyrus keeps hope woven throughout the story.

This installment got going quickly with Cyrus on a quest of honour arising out of book one. Farley was a hilariously dark character and that whole early plotline really grabbed and surprised me. Cyrus is like the cat with nine lives, he has a tendency to get into pretty serious scrapes but also the uncanny ability to talk or plot his way out of them. You can’t help but be endeared to him.

We got family and found family in this book, a little romance, plenty of power-hungry characters and twists a-plenty. I was here for Cyrus, Francine, Adaline but I was also here to side-eye Wendell, Augustus and the other double-crossers. There was a lot going on plot-wise from one end of the land and back to Highcastle but I kept up.

I enjoyed this second serving of these characters and world and I look forward to reading the closing culmination. This series is ideal for when you are in the fantasy mood but you don’t want a really heavy read. Tom Dumbrell has created a world that captures the imagination easily.

MEDUSA by Jessie Burton

A dazzling, feminist retelling of Greek myth from the internationally bestselling author of The Miniaturist, stunningly illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill.

Exiled to a far-flung island by the whims of the gods, Medusa has little company except the snakes that adorn her head instead of hair. But when a charmed, beautiful boy called Perseus arrives on the island, her lonely existence is disrupted with the force of a supernova, unleashing desire, love and betrayal…

Filled with glorious full-colour illustrations by award-winning Olivia Lomenech Gill, this astonishing retelling of Greek myth is perfect for readers of Circe and The Silence of the Girls. Illuminating the girl behind the legend, it brings alive Medusa for a new generation.


Title : Medusa
Author : Jessie Burton
Illustrator : Olivia Lomenech Gill
Format : eARC
Page Count : 224
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA
Release Date : October 28, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Feminist retelling
Underlying relevance for today
Illustrations that will blow your mind with their beauty

My first thought on finishing is that I need this in a hard copy, so I would say that if possible, savour this in the flesh rather than ebook. The illustrations are utterly eye-catching, inspired and beautiful.

This retelling was YA but it’s not without dark and difficult themes. I have placed some trigger warnings at the bottom of this review. While this was a Medusa tale with some familiarity, it really portrayed her perspective, what life was like for her. I particularly thought for the first time what life would be like with snakes on your head, the loss of her hair and how that affected her with the same hopes and desires as any young woman. Her narrative alongside Perseus’ was bittersweet and yet still something to delight in.

There were so many moments in this historical retelling that will resonate with women in the now, be they young and older. Here’s a flavour of what hit me: power and powerlessness, victim shaming, body image, empowerment and finding your identity. Medusa sure had a lot to tell us.

People think your beauty is their possession. As if it’s there for their pleasure, as if they’ve got something invested in it. They think you owe them for their admiration.

I think it’s obvious I adored this book and that it would be a lovely gift for yourself or others.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for the early review copy.

TW: rape, sexual assault, victim shaming, stalking, body image

FAR FROM THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN by Tade Thompson

A tense and thrilling vision of humanity’s future in the chilling emptiness of space from rising giant in science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Tade Thompson

The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years to bring one thousand sleeping souls to a new home among the stars. But when first mate Michelle Campion rouses, she discovers some of the sleepers will never wake.

Answering Campion’s distress call, investigator Rasheed Fin is tasked with finding out who is responsible for these deaths. Soon a sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel, one that will have repercussions for the entire system—from the scheming politicians of Lagos station, to the colony planet Bloodroot, to other far-flung systems, and indeed to Earth itself.


Title : Far From The Light Of Heaven
Author : Tade Thompson
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : Sci-Fi
Publisher : Orbit Books
Release Date : October 26, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Murder on board
AI…
Clever, intricate plot

Far From The Light of Heaven was a superb sci-fi thriller. It had early sinister feels and that sense pervaded the whole book. I was on tenterhooks throughout and I was so glad this was encapsuated in a standalone.

The story revolves around a locked room murder and takes some inspiration from Poe (read the very informative afterword when you’re done). Shell Campion, the captain in name only, had to really step up to the plate in this story. She was a formidable character, one I respected and admired. This becomes a small cast of characters over time and I particularly loved Francis, Salvo and Larry. Dare I say, I spent a lot of time pinning hopes on Ragtime.

The plot was complex but not too complex, with clever intricacies that I really appreciated. My friend and I buddy read this and we agreed that if there were moments of confusion, it did get ironed out. This perspective of a further earth and future human race alongside other species and synthetic beings was engaging, belieavable and entertaining. I appreciated Thompson’s ability to represent an Afro-culture space-side; it was tangible.

How the plot culminated, the person behind the events was mind-blowing, unexpected and excellent. Again, I’m going to say that I loved Francis, the cover and that element however side plot it was. Here, I also want to mention a little TW for bugs, if like me you are particularly grossed out by bugs (it was one section and not prolonged).

I need to now retreat and try Tade Thompson’s other series as I’m fascinated by his writing and any world he can create.

Do not come to heaven, mortals, says God, and trieds without success to kick them back to the surface of the planet.

Thank you to Orbit Books for the early review copy.

ALL THE FEELS by Olivia Dade

Following Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade returns with another utterly charming romantic comedy about a devil-may-care actor—who actually cares more than anyone knows—and the no-nonsense woman hired to keep him in line.

Alexander Woodroe has it all. Charm. Sex appeal. Wealth. Fame. A starring role as Cupid on TV’s biggest show, God of the Gates. But the showrunners have wrecked his character, he’s dogged by old demons, and his post-show future remains uncertain. When all that reckless emotion explodes into a bar fight, the tabloids and public agree: his star is falling.

Enter Lauren Clegg, the former ER therapist hired to keep him in line. Compared to her previous work, watching over handsome but impulsive Alex shouldn’t be especially difficult. But the more time they spend together, the harder it gets to keep her professional remove and her heart intact, especially when she discovers the reasons behind his recklessness…not to mention his Cupid fanfiction habit.

When another scandal lands Alex in major hot water and costs Lauren her job, she’ll have to choose between protecting him and offering him what he really wants—her. But he’s determined to keep his improbably short, impossibly stubborn, and extremely endearing minder in his life any way he can. And on a road trip up the California coast together, he intends to show her exactly what a falling star will do to catch the woman he loves: anything at all.


Title : All The Feels
Author : Olivia Dade
Series : Spoiler Alert #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Piatkus
Release Date : October 26, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Body-positivity
Judgement
Friends to witty more

The start and ongoing premise to All The Feels starts with a judging a person by their appearance, judging Lauren the plus-sized heroine. This story is the journey back from that initial judgement and this man really was good guy, not one to go solely by supposed ideal appearances at all. I appreciated so much how this story navigated these issues while packing a great plot around it.

All The Feels picked up the batton where Spoiler Alert left off, with Alex an actor from the same series as the previous book and there was a fan fic element too. Alex for me, was such an adorable character, he had ADHD and he was a walking, self-depricating, guilt-ball. Lauren with her therapist background and babysitter role was able to inject some positivity to his sense of self over time.

This story was something of a slow burn. I appreciated the time passing, the friendship evolving and the chemistry building. Then everything was pretty much unleashed and much fun to read.

I didn’t always find the fan fic excerpts (which were few and far between) easy to read, they jarred me a bit with the flow. In this story, I didn’t feel like it added much but then when I remember the soulmate one, that was pretty special.

This series is shaping up so well and I’m excited to own some special editions of these two books when book two releases.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the early review copy.

THE DEATHLESS GIRLS by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…


Title : The Deathless Girls
Author : Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Format : Hardcover
Page Count : 304
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Orion Children’s Books
Release Date : October 28, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★.5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

Headlines:
Sombre retelling
Marginalised voices
Didn’t work for me

I’m gutted that The Deathless Girls didn’t work for me. It’s such an exciting concept but I found the execution somewhat boring. There are some real positives to this story and characters but I found they weren’t enough to lift the story into ‘like’ territory. All the beautiful formatting in the world can’t make a book you don’t like into more.

The story revolved around twin sisters Kizzy and Lili, both quite different characters. Their story started with tragedy and I can’t say that the plot really lifted from that theme at all. I was excited about the idea of a retelling giving perspective of the ‘brides of dracula’ but honestly all that comes so late in the story, that I’d lost my interest and commitment completely.

The positives of this story lie in the portrayal of a travelling community and the prejudices and abuse they experienced; I guess things haven’t changed that much. This is a historical setting, so it was a travelling community of the past. There was LGBTQIAP+ representation too. I also appreciated zero romanticising of vampire characteristics and behaviour.

Sadly, this didn’t float my boat and it was a real push to keep reading through the slow.

THE DARKNESS OUTSIDE US by Eliot Schrefer

They Both Die at the End meets The Loneliest Girl in the Universe in this mind-bending sci-fi mystery and tender love story about two boys aboard a spaceship sent on a rescue mission, from two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer.

Two boys, alone in space. Sworn enemies sent on the same rescue mission.

Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor with no memory of a launch. There’s more that doesn’t add up: evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the ship’s operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded himself away. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making his mission succeed—not when he’s rescuing his own sister.

In order to survive the ship’s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust each other . . . especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive.


Title : The Darkness Outisde Us
Author : Eliot Schrefer
Format : Hardcover
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA Sci-fi/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Katherine Tegan Books
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Expect the unexpected
Whispers into the future
Connections

I didn’t expect the story I got going into The Darkness Outside Us but I’m exceedingly happy with how that turned out. This was scifi, LGBTQIAP+ style but that’s where my non-spoilers end. This story conveys future possibilities and carries a bucket load of existential questions and ethical dilemmas.

Now, that might sound heavy, but really it isn’t. That’s because Ambrose and Kodiak, the two spaceboy-extraordinaires of this piece, carry a witty and sometimes emotional narrative, dialogue and more. Ambrose was all sunshine, hope and flirt, while Kodiak was grump-reluctance and pragmatism. I really loved their dynamic together and how they problem-solved and connected.

There were some moments in this story that really took my breath away with the emotionality and my eyes were brimming. How is that possible with two spaceboys on an intergallactic mission? Please, read and find out!

Thank you to Pride Book Tours and Katherine Tegan Books for the review copy.

LAKESEDGE by Lyndall Clipstone

A lush gothic fantasy about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake. Perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Brigid Kemmerer.

There are monsters in the world.

When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.

There are monsters in the woods.

As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…

There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.

Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.


Title : Lakesedge
Author : Lyndall Clipstone
Series : World at the Lakesedge #1
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : October 12, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Shadows & smoke
Chilling & creepy
Secrets & hope

Lakesedge hit the top level of my creepy tolerance but I just could not not carry on. This spook wuss enjoyed everything about this evocative story, from the smoky shadows, to the dark characters and even Lord Under.

This was a story with a real gothic feel, complete with a large creepy house. Violetta (Leta) was all about selflessly protecting those around her…at any cost. That was the whole premise of the story but woven into the Monster of the Lake. Everything felt dark, foreboding and almost hopeless.

The plot was unexpected all along, especially with an ending that definitely locks you into needing the next installment. Rowan and Clover as characters really grew on me; they turned into so much more than they seemed at first glance. There was a satisfying level of romance too.

My power is a thread, tied to Rowan.

If you’re a fan of creepy woods, cloaked figures, dark horizons and family, found and blood, I’m certain that Lakesedge will appeal to you. Also, just admire that glorious UK cover.

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.

HEIR TO SEVENWATERS by Juliet Marillier – double review!

The chieftains of Sevenwaters have long been custodians of a vast and mysterious forest. Human and Otherworld dwellers have existed there side by side, sharing a wary trust. Until the spring when Lady Aisling of Sevenwaters finds herself expecting another child—a new heir to Sevenwaters.

Then the family’s joy turns to despair when the baby is taken from his room and something…unnatural is left in his place. To reclaim her newborn brother, Clodagh must enter the shadowy Otherworld and confront the powerful prince who rules there.


Title : Heir to Sevenwaters
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book four)
Format : physical
Page Count : 398
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : Roc
Release Date : November 4, 2008

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Otherworldly
Roller coaster-y on steroids
Nefarious side of magic

I couldn’t be happier that the Sevenwaters ‘dip’ was fleeting and is over (Child of the Prophecy). The struggles of book three are but a memory and the band of buddy readers gobbled Heir of Sevenwaters up.

In Clodagh we found a worthy heroine, made of true Sevenwaters heritage. She thought herself lacking in some worth, masterful with running the house and little else. BUT Clodagh was much more, she had a steely determination and she was caring to a fault.

We got some true Marillier hurt in this book, I wont say anything further but just remember the saying that no one is safe. That said, in this installment, she soothed and healed the reader too. We also got some real connection between Clodagh and Cathal. I believed their tether and that proved so vital in times apart.

I have to mention Becan without elaboration, but oh, my heart. That wee one stole my affection immediately and I adored him. His personality, who Clodagh became through him and all that came after. For me, the biggest moments in this book were focused on him.

The story really took us more into the Otherworld and it really was a scary place, not visually but in terms of a total lack of sense of safety for the characters. I was tense every moment of being in that place.

As ever, Marillier’s writing was complex in part but with enchanting prose (quite literally). She has caught me in her net with this series.

I met a young woman with hair like a flame,
She laid my heart open,
She banished my shame.


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

This rating might change as we continue on through the remaining two Sevenwaters instalments but. If you’ve made it this far, you know you are getting a very Marillier-experience which means heartbreak, love that conquers all, and stories. Stories that come with lessons, and clues, in how to survive what is to come and what is expected of our main character.

For Clodagh, she herself is a bit of a departure from our original trilogy heroines, particularly the first two. She’s not adventurous, or a gifted healer, or seems to have any particular strength beyond the maintaining and running of a household. And it’s really as far as her ambitions have pushed her. So when she is underestimated (by others and herself) when she initially finds herself on a particular quest that only she can take.. well, no one is surprised. But for this journey, it takes that kind of selfless love, from a person always putting others before herself, to triumph.

This particular instalment introduces us to a different kind of Fair Folk than we’re used to seeing in this world. Not just meddlesome and cagey, trying to steer these to the tune they like, but this time outright devious, destructive, and dangerous. Nor have we seen the last of this particular character. That said, this may have been the most Otherworldly focused story so far and the character we met along the way, the atmosphere, the dangers.. it was all so vibrant, full of tension, and made for great storytelling.

While I don’t think I loved this one, I liked so much of it. Again, my rating might change by the time we finish book six, and I can rank these companions back to back (to back), but.. it was still a lovely time. And I enjoyed my buddy read immensely with the Sevenwaters Squad (though our final day to discuss was foiled by the All Apps Are Down annoyance). Can’t wait for book five and beyond.

THE GILDED CAGE by Lynette Noni

Kiva Meridan is a survivor.

She survived not only Zalindov prison, but also the deadly Trial by Ordeal. Now Kiva’s purpose goes beyond survival to vengeance. For the past ten years, her only goal has been to reunite with her family and destroy the people responsible for ruining their lives. But now that she has escaped Zalindov, her mission has become more complicated than ever.

As Kiva settles into her new life in the capital, she discovers she wasn’t the only one who suffered while she was in Zalindov-her siblings and their beliefs have changed too. Soon it’s not just her enemies she’s keeping secrets from, but her own family as well.

Outside the city walls, tensions are brewing from the rebels, along with whispers of a growing threat from the northern kingdoms. Kiva’s allegiances are more important than ever, but she’s beginning to question where they truly lie. To survive this time, she’ll have to navigate a complicated web of lies before both sides of the battle turn against her and she loses everything.


Title : The Gilded Cage
Author : Lynette Noni
Series : The Prison Healer #2
Format : e-ARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Hodderscape
Release Date : October 7, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Messed up families
Slow burn persists
Secrets, lies and reveals

Having spent all of book one in the prison and loving that context, I didn’t know how it would be out of captivity for these characters. I did take some adjusting and it took me a little while to get into this installment but boy, I really did get into it.

The Gilded Cage was very much a time of Kiva living a double life, it was uncomfortable for her but it did bring about a clarity in her thinking and allegiances; I loved witnessing that. Jaren remained the uncomplicated human he is, genuine with integrity and totally sold on Kiva. Jaren’s family was a freaky s**t show and Kiva’s was worse. As we got to know these other members of both families, it was pretty double-crossing, mind-blowing and totally gripping.

“You say you became the darkness, that it consumed you, but I call bull on that. I’ve never met anyone who shines as brightly as you do.”

I did not know which way the dice was going to roll in this story, there were plenty of twists and so many were unexpected. That didn’t stop me speculating and messaging friends who had read with my nonsensical speculations. It ended just as I expected, with jaw on the floor and feeling a little hopeless. Reading these books is like an addiction, a good one…like chocolate.

Bring on the conclusion, Lynette Noni; I am ready!

Thank you Hodder Books for the early review copy.