THE BOOK OF LIFE by Deborah Harkness

Bringing the magic and suspense of the All Souls Trilogy to a deeply satisfying conclusion, this highly anticipated finale went straight to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. In The Book of Life, Diana and Matthew time-travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present—facing new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. 


Title : The Book of Life
Author : Deborah Harkness
Series : All Souls (book three)
Format : physical
Page Count : 561
Genre : paranormal romance / historical
Publisher : Viking Adult
Release Date : June 15, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Well.. we didn’t end on a high (though to be honest I did not expect to) but this was better than book two. Which, admittedly, was a low bar so it wasn’t really that hard.

Strangely this book was the most unlike the adaptation’s version than any other season. And I don’t know why! The bulk of it didn’t differ but it had the most changes. Having said that, in hindsight I do like some the changes the show made but others.. others I preferred the way they had been done in the book. Vague vagueness ensues.

I don’t have a lot to say about this “finale” (I think Time’s Convert is considered book four but I wonder if it’s more of a companion? I’ll find out shortly!). Some parts felt rather anticlimactic. And, sure, maybe on a whole I’m just feeling a little out of step with the series as a whole but I feel it with this book in particular. After all that time plodding through (hah) time in book two, this instalment hopped and jumped and sped through so much, making the whole experience rather rushed and, ultimately, not as satisfying. 

That said, there was so much history, so much science, that it cannot be denied the series is well researched. It’s really just some particular characters and some of the execution where I don’t quite connect. So I’m very curious to see how I fare with another perspective (or two?) and with a different (I assume! now that the main conflict has wrapped) focus. 

WHAT TIME IS LOVE? by Holly Williams

1947. 1967. 1987.
When Violet and Albert first meet, they are always twenty.

Three decades.

Over the years, Violet and Albert’s lives collide again and again: beneath Oxford’s spires, on the rolling hills around Abergavenny, in stately homes and in feminist squats. And as each decade ends, a new love story begins…

Two people.
Together, they are electric and the world is glittering with possibility. But against the shifting times of each era, Violet and Albert must overcome differences in class, gender, privilege and ambition. Each time their lives entwine, it will change everything.

One moment is all it takes…

As their eyes first meet, for a split-second it’s as if the clocks have stopped. Nothing else matters. Yet whichever decade brings them together, Violet and Albert are soon forced to question: what if they met the right person at the wrong time?


Title : What Time Is Love?
Author : Holly Williams
Format : Physical
Page Count : 320
Genre : Historical-Contemporary Fiction
Publisher : Orion Books
Release Date : May 26, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Contemporary with magical realism
Time jumps
Complex couples

What Time is Love was a rather unusual read and concept that lulled you into the story you thought was the story, then pulled the rug out from under you. This is a book where I really think it helps if you read the synopsis before entering to prempt any confusion.

It was a story told in thirds, three couples or the same couple in different times, you decide. The first story was in one breath my favourite but it was incredibly tragic. The second, explored the makings and breakings of an open relationship. The third, brought Violet and Albert into the most contemporary times and gave them a different start, different challenges and a different end.

I think this was a clever concept and there was much I enjoyed about it. I did have times of frustration over unfinished ends, especially over story one which I was very partial to. I’m not sure what I thought about how these storys did or didn’t weave together, I need to think on it.

This was an absorbing read, it felt like nothing I’d quite read before and I definitely became invested in some of the couples.

Thank you to Orion Books for the review copy.

YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY by Akwaeke Emezi

New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi (they/them) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.

Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again. 

It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career. 

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?

Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.


Title : You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty
Author : Akwaeke Emezi
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : romance
Publisher : Atria Books
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated star review

I’ve sat here, the minutes ticking by since I closed my kindle, waffling on how I feel about this book. Not just rating wise but overall feeling wise. This is going to be a polarizing book, I think.

After having fallen in love with The Death of Vivek Oji last year, I’ve been on a mission to slowly devour everything this author has written. The fact that they flit between genres, and themes, and styles, is so interesting and at the announcement of a romance novel — a romance novel with a Florence + The Machine lyric for a title — I mean, obviously I was sold. I wanted to see what they would do in this particular genre.

And for so much of it.. I was pretty into it. I enjoyed the voice (I make this distinction for a reason, I’ll expand more in a bit) and I enjoyed the friendship between Feyi and Joy. Their conversations were mostly limited to their romantic endeavours with the occasional hype moment from Joy on Feyi’s behalf but.. still, I felt the friendship, I felt the connection. But the romance? The various ones we follow? Welll..

I absolutely appreciate that Feyi, having survived what she did, and feeling like she’s maybe in a place to dip her toe in romance again, would be hesitant for more than something physical. And would shy away from something more. And I do feel like we saw some stepping stones out of her grief in the form of people but.. I don’t know. This is where I get mixed. Because I can see it what the author did (or, rather, I think I see what they were doing), and understand it, but I can also not love it? I guess? In some ways it’s brave and also real but..

Maybe it was the writing that hindered some of this. Because I’ll tell you right now I didn’t enjoy this writing the same way I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous writing. I can’t put my finger on what about it bothered me but something did.

Even without the romance drama, this book is messy. Grief is messy. Processing that, dealing with the concept of moving on, it’s all a mess. Emotional and fraught. And then when combined with romance? Messier. Add in some.. complicated results with how things shake out with said romance? Chaos. There’s a lot going on here. And there are times that Emezi has these beautiful notes, these little pauses of reflection, and they are just lovely. There are moments to be heard but also moments where the characters are listened to, and understood. But it’s still also dramatic and a lot. Which is fine! If that’s what you want.

I definitely see people loving this or.. maybe not hating it but being on the fence of it all. So while I’m taking the easy way out and not rating this.. it’s probably a 3. So just imagine that instead of the nothing and let me remain in a state where I don’t have to commit.

I will definitely continue to pick up titles by this author, as well as catch up on their backlist, but this wasn’t quite the breakthrough hit I thought it would be. At least not for me.

That cover is absolutely stunning though isn’t it? Gorgeous.

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

SHADOW OF NIGHT by Deborah Harkness

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey. 


Title : Shadow of Night
Author : Deborah Harkness
Series : All Souls (book two)
Format : physical
Page Count : 584
Genre : paranormal romance / historical
Publisher : Viking Adult
Release Date : June 10, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

Oof, okay, yes. I remembered this as the turning point for why I threw in the towel — and having just recently struggled through the show’s second season for a very true-to-book recounting of plot meant it was also very fresh — and I completely get why this turned the tide for me. What a slog. I felt like I was reading this for eighty-four years.

But, having said that, there were some parts that did their best (though failed) to make the whole bearable. I’m thinking mostly of the Philippe plotline. And.. oh damn, maybe that’s it. Gallowglass! He was a nice distraction from things. Queen Elizabeth, too, was feisty and rather fun. Matthew’s buddies, the School of Night? Mostly ugh. Particularly Kit (though honestly I doubt anyone likes Kit). I’ll never get over how Matthew let that whole dynamic thrive despite every instinct that should’ve been screaming at him to do otherwise. Considering his behaviour in, oh, I don’t know, every other circumstance when there was even less provocation? Yeah, brutal. 

To keep the romance element interesting, the author decided to augment all of Matthew’s bad behaviours under the guise of having to be more of who he was once before in order to “blend in” but also for the purpose of building up to one particular milestone in their relationship. It definitely felt a bit manufactured but the further away from it I am the more I understand it was a natural growing pain to the development of their connection. They do move quickly, after all, and throwing in the whole vampire possessiveness and Matthew’s own persona.. yeah, I get it. But I didn’t have to like it. Particularly as, on brand for this book, it gets dragged wayyy out. At least it’s over with now though. I think. I hope. Please.

Complaints aside, I do have to say how well the show has adapted these books. There are, of course, changes. Not only are these books just too long to be 100% faithful but where possible the show also combined some elements or cut out those that were similar enough to be represented by only one character instead of two. It also fleshed out scenes that we don’t see happen on page (maybe I said that in my review for book one? but it bears repeating as it’s relevant in this instalment, too). 

I’m definitely looking forward to a) finishing this series but b) finally seeing if this final book deserves all the hype. Knowing how things ends, too, takes some of the pressure off. At this point though I’ll be happy to just end on a higher note than this one. The bar is low!

WITH AND WITHOUT YOU by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

#Wibbroka is back with another swoony YA–this time tackling long-distance relationships, in a novel based on their own romantic history.

If high school seniors Siena and Patrick were a superlative, they’d be the Couple Most Likely to Marry. They’ve been dating for three solid years, and everyone agrees they’re perfect for each other. But with college on the horizon, Siena begins to wonder whether staying together is the best idea. Does she really want to be tied down during possibly the most transformative years of her life? So she makes a decision to break up with Patrick, convincing herself it’s for the best. Before she can say the words, though, he beats her to the punch: his family is moving out of state. Caught off guard by the news, Siena agrees to stay with Patrick, believing their relationship will naturally fizzle out with time and distance. But over a series of visits throughout the school year, Siena begins to see a different side of Patrick–one that has her falling in love with him all over again. 


Title : With and Without You
Author : mily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 19, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

It’s probably not great that my least favourite read by this duo happens to be the one that is based (loosely, I hope?) on their own romance. Whoops.

But what really hurt this story was the lack of a secondary POV. I truly can’t recall anymore if all their books are like this or if some are dual (I really need to start making GR shelves for this but alas I probably will never do it) but this one needed it. Siena’s narrative was not always fun and while the second voice wouldn’t have improved that it would’ve given us something of a break.

I don’t begrudge this story for existing, particularly for all the YAers who are feeling similar things — not just the conflict inspired by leaving for college and whether the relationship will endure, but the added conflict of that looming issue when already dealing with a long-running relationship that you feel you may have outgrown. There needs to be space for these conversations and these dynamics and these circumstances.

But. That doesn’t mean I had to like this one. Siena spent the majority of the book wondering if she still fit with Patrick and honestly, girl, I wonder the same. He may have been unwilling to be open to new things without realizing the importance of them but she was equally rigid and uncompromising. And while you’d think living in her head would make you more sympathetic to her perspective (hah) oh no, it was worse. The book wasn’t all bad but that first 30% was real rough and I just don’t think it ever recovered.

Having said all that, I am hopeful that I won’t continue to reside in the 2.5-3 range for any more of their books because when they are good, they are great. I would maybe just give this one a pass.

ADULT ASSEMBLY REQUIRED by Abbi Waxman

A young woman arrives in Los Angeles determined to start over, and discovers she doesn’t need to leave everything behind after all, from Abbi Waxman, USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

When Laura Costello arrives in downtown Los Angeles, her life has somewhat fallen apart.

Her apartment building has caught fire, her engagement to her high school sweetheart has been broken off, and she’s just been caught in a rare LA downpour and has no dry clothes.

But when she seeks shelter in Nina Hill’s local neighbourhood bookshop, she finds herself introduced to the people who will become her new family. And as Laura becomes friends with Nina, Polly and Impossibly Handsome Bob, things start to look up.

Proving that – even as adults – we all sometimes need a little help assembling and re-assembling our lives…


Title : Adult Assembly Required
Author : Abbi Waxman
Format : Physical
Page Count : 397
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Headline Books
Release Date : May 17, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Found family
Quirky, eclectic characters
Slow-burn

I enjoyed this story from Abbi Waxman that is interconnected to her previous Nina Hill book. That said, this can be read and enjoyed as a standalone. The story centred on a found family of boarders in a LA house owned by the generous Maggie. The house sharers were a strange but mostly lovely bunch, add in some pets, a garden and it made for a warm vibe.

Laura, the protagonist was recovered physically from a serious car accident but not recovered psychologically. This book gave a credible insight into panic disoreder related to PTSD while not detracting from the full characterisation of Laura outside of her mental health problems. Bob (insanely handsome Bob) was a gardener, landscaper who was so incredibly humble and unsure of himself. These two left everything unsaid, they were awkward and yet formed such a firm friendship.

This book took place over nearly a year and so any connections, friendships and more were tangible and not rushed. I really appreciated the bonds in this book, those between Laura and her friends and then Laura and Bob. This was something of a slow burn that almost took me to frustration but brought me back from the edge.

If you like quirky characters, pets and a lack of egos, this is a read I would recommend.

Thank you to Headline books for the review copy.

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness

A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together. 

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. 

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.


Title : A Discovery of Witches
Author : Deborah Harkness
Series : All Souls (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 579
Genre : paranormal romance / historical
Publisher : Viking Penguin
Release Date : February 8, 2011

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

We’re back and it’s time to tackle yet another unfinished series! Yes, once again, as is generally the case, books one and two in the All Souls trilogy (series, whatever) are familiar to me (from many moons ago) but book three (and in this case the companion/book four) are not. Having said that, because I had long ago decided I had given up on this series, I did start watching the show. And, even after deciding on this series completion journey, I continued to watch the show. So everything is jumbled now and there’s likely nothing at all that will be new or a spoiler; except book four. 

Having said all that, this book exists with a five star rating on GR from back when I logged it after creating my account. And it’s definitely not keeping that rating. As you can see. But what’s interesting is while I was constantly forever frustrated by Matthew in the adaptation, and I was sure the book would make me feel better about him.. he might actually be worse in the source material. Hard to believe. They did keep the characters pretty true to form but I’m struggling to remember if they had gentled some of Matthew’s extra aggressive/overprotective tendencies because while book-Diana pushes back a lot, I feel like show-Diana had to push back less. So I suppose there’s a positive to be seen in some upgrades.

Overall though the first season was so true to this instalment. The only changes were actually fleshing out backstories/parallel plots for a few characters we meet along the way; again, an upgrade, in my mind. 

I can definitely see why I did love this in the moment. It was an adult — and far more complex — paranormal offering in the era of Twilight and felt like a logical stepping stone in the vampire resurgence. In hindsight, all these years later, it’s.. fine. Maybe even good.

I do question my sanity in picking up a chonky series when in the midst of a slump but I must’ve been on to something because even though this took a few days to get through I did keep coming back to it. Even as a reread. Even with the show so fresh in my mind. I’ll take that as a win! I’m somewhat dreading book two because this is where it all went wrong for me, and why I chose to throw in the towel. Again, with having seen season two, I think I know why it went wrong but I guess we’ll see if season two was equally faithful to the book. And how it lands on this second go-round.

BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry – double review!

Nora is a cut-throat literary agent at the top of her game. Her whole life is books.

Charlie is an editor with a gift for creating bestsellers. And he’s Nora’s work nemesis.

Nora has been through enough break-ups to know she’s the woman men date before they find their happy-ever-after. That’s why Nora’s sister has persuaded her to swap her desk in the city for a month’s holiday in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. It’s a small town straight out of a romance novel, but instead of meeting sexy lumberjacks, handsome doctors or cute bartenders, Nora keeps bumping into…Charlie.

She’s no heroine. He’s no hero. So can they take a page out of an entirely different book?


Title : Book Lovers
Author : Emily Henry
Format : eARC / paperback
Page Count : 379
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Viking Books / Berkley
Release Date : May 3, 2022

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Diverted and captivated
Why yes, you can read almost a whole book with a smile on your face
Samesies, not opposites

We all need that special book that sings to your heart, that takes you on a journey, that has characters with depth, dialogue to get lost in and banter (because who doesn’t need banter). Book Lovers is that book, with a good dollop of chemistry to add into the mix. For me, this is Henry’s best work to date, it is refined, whip-smart and utterly belieavable. It’s going to be in my top crop of books for the year for sure.

Nora the protagonist, was a fierce, almost frosty at first sight kind of woman but the story lets you see underneath immediately to her soft heart and those who are beloved by her. Nevertheless, Nora found herself typecast as heartless because she was so damn good at her job and was a workaholic. Charlie was the yin to her yin, because they were something of a mirror of one another. Who says it has to be opposites attact? We need a new trope of samesies!

His eyes bore into me until there’s smoke lifting off my skin. I’m an ant beneath his sunlit magnifying glass, and then he looks away.

There was a strong sense of family in this book, the literal adventure Nora finds herself on with her sister Libby was mired in past sadness but also smattered with hope. These two and their sisterhood made for such a rich side story to the books and Charlie.

My highlight game was strong reading this book, so many lines, exchanges jumped off the page. I laughed, I even cried and absolutely loved how this book captured my imagination and took me to the places I wanted. It had feels, humour, great writing and dammit, I want to visit this backwater of a small town.

Thank you to Viking Books for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 5 star review

Surprising no one, I don’t often pick up five star reads (or maybe, rather, I don’t award them, because hey it’s all opinion, right?). Rarer still when I do find those elusive five stars do I know it early on. Because so often it can just be a case of a good-read drought that has you feeling pumped or rounding up. But for Book Lovers? I had that five star feeling well before the final page. And here we are.

Beach Read was one of my top ten faves of 2020 and so naturally I felt the stakes were extra high for Henry’s sophomore adult release. Which I did really like but don’t know if I loved (I need to reread to be sure, I might’ve been in a weird place for that one). So maybe my expectations were more conservative (though still high) for this one. But it’s also just that damn good. 

Book Lovers is witty and sharp and delicious and delightful and just fun (seriously, my highlights are out of control). Once again Henry is letting her characters live and play in a very book-focused sandbox by having them be book editor and book agent, respectively, and the sheer entertainment of all the trope-talk was just.. well, sheer entertainment. But beyond the fun of the topics there were also the characters and I loved them all so damn much. And the romance? Hoo boy. The chemistry was palpable and all the false starts were agonizing — in the best way.

Outside the romance (and even sort’ve within it) we have some good emotional beats, too. The sisterly dynamic was one I both loved and was a little frustrated by but only because it felt so authentic. There were complications and false notes between them, from their history, but how it all unfurled in the end was a surprise not only to our MC but also to me. And I really loved it. And yes, I cried; maybe two or three times. But the third was directly related to our book lovers.

I could hardly tear myself away from this read. I absolutely adored it. I don’t want to say it tops my love for Beach Read but.. maybe it does? Sorta? Possibly? It’s just that good. Cannot recommend enough.

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

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER by Casey McQuiston – double review!

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.


Title : I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Author : Casey McQuiston
Format : ARC / eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Press/MacMillan Kids
Release Date : May 3, 2022/May 12, 2022

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This book is really making me reconsider my rounded up “3.5 star feels” for One Last Stop. Because I Kissed Shara Wheeler gave me the queer ensemble of my dreams whilst also having an electric and fun and unexpected plot without any of the lulls found in the author’s sophomore release. Infact, this made me incredibly nostalgic for their debut because I’m left with that same sparkly feeling — minus the hangover from some of the more intense emotional moments.

God, why is he still here? What is he doing? There’s no way his job is that hard. All he des is cut the arts budget and misinterpret the Bible. How many hours can that possibly take?

Because, yes, I Kissed Shara Wheeler? Fantastic. I knew by the end of chapter one I was going to be a goner for this book and only something absolutely terrible could ruin it. And, spoiler, nothing did.

While she does like boys, she generally finds the traits of a compelling villain — arrogance, malice, an angry backstory — tedious in a man. Like, what do hot guys with long dark hair have to be that upset about? Get a clarifying shampoo and suck it up, Kylo Ren.

As usual my brain is stalling out a little on what to say but like. This has that competitive academic rivals tension. It has a kiss-fuelled scavenger hunt. It has unlikely allies who become true friends. It’s about self-discovery. It’s about quiet rebellions that lead to louder ones. It’s about old friends become new again. It’s about found family. And so much more.

Chloe, we’re gay. We can’t do math.
Okay, well, next time I’ll come and make a spreadsheet.
This is why we need you. Once in a generation, there is born a bisexual who can do math. You’re the chosen one.”

It’s not all easy or fun or just non-stop queer shenanigans, though. With the setting of this book, both in a little town in Alabama and at a Christian school to boot, you know there’s going to be some issues to tackle. But those issues never overwhelmed the story. But neither were they too minor to not play a part. It was the perfect balance.

Your mama and I decided long before you were both that we would let you be whoever you are, no matter who that is.
And if who you are is a snarling little Pomeranian with eyes like fire, than that’s who you are, darling.”

If YA is all McQuiston plans to ever write again (this is not confirmed, I’m just saying), I would honestly only be a tiny bit upset to lose adult content from them. Because it really was that good. I know I will be rereading this and, likely, loving it even more.

Highly recommend.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
YA contemporary comedy mystery
Dramatics
Bigatory

There’s lots to recommend this read, it’s beautifully queer, a fun romp but somehow, it just didn’t hit the notes for me. There’s an eclectic band of friends thrown together in this story and that was the element I became most fond of.

Shara was missing and I struggled with Shara as a character for much of the story, and maybe I was supposed to. She seemed manipulative and they way she had all these peers pitched against one another initially, really wound me up. There was space for redemption but overall I didn’t like her. Shara however, wasn’t really the main character even if the whole story was centred on her, Chloe was the MC and I did like her mostly. Chloe had some epic moms which I appreciated.

The themes were welcome in this book and they included exploring identity, sexuality and rebelling against bigatory. These important themes were well handled but it felt alongside a fair bit of dramarama. I think the drama and manipulative characteristics of Shara were what kept me from connecting with the characters sadly. I didn’t feel any chemistry in the romantic moments either.

I am disappointed I didn’t enjoy this more but I can see that so far from a ratings perspective, I am in the minority.

Thank you MacMillan Kids for the early review copy.

BOOK OF NIGHT by Holly Black – double review!

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and story stitching. Remember while you read, light isn’t playing tricks in Book of Night, the people are.


Title : Book of Night
Author : Holly Black
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : urban fantasy / paranormal
Publisher : Tor Books / DelReyUK
Release Date : May 3, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think even the mightiest of Black stans might lose it over that ending, hoo boy. I loved it but I also kinda hated it.

So here’s the thing. If this is a standalone, I’m a lot less happy than a three star. Okay, fine, maybe it’s just docked half a point. But if this is a series opener.. yeah, maybe I could bump it a half point. As it is, there’s a lot of good in this adult debut from this beloved author but there’s also an equal amount of stuff I could’ve lived without.

I do think most people will come out of this book loving our MC, Charlie. She is unflinchingly herself and herself is messy. She’s a twenty-eight year old ex-con artist and thief who is painfully aware of her baggage cart full of faults, failed relationships, and rather questionable childhood. She’s trying to turn a new leaf, one that is away from the sketchier aspects of her skillset and focus on being somewhat of a law abiding citizen as well as guide her sister towards school and a future (a bit I never quite understood considering her sister’s age and lack of interest and also, side note, did anyone else assume her sister was like sixteen? she did not act her age). Having a boyfriend who, for once, is not a scumbag, though maybe a little weird, helps, too.

In this world, which I’ll admit I still find somewhat hard to grasp, there are people who can work magic through shadows. That’s basically the simplest way to describe it. And while that’s a main event in this world, the story itself focuses more on both mystery and heist and the overlords who rule the underworld. Does that sound dramatic? It kind of is.

While Charlie’s world was dark and violent and gritty, the details didn’t always interest me. Much like how I was invested in about half the characters and the rest could go hang. There was a sweet spot that kept me invested but on the whole there were parts that left much to be desired. Which, again, if this is a series.. I could see myself being swayed if we got more depth or detail. If not, well. It’ll be halfway memorable.

I would absolutely read on and I so hope we continue to get more adult releases from our favourites in the YA genre, particularly when they go dark side. This didn’t quite ease the sting of the long wait for the next Alex Stern novel but I’m not mad at it for distracting me for a few hours, either. You’ll either pick this one up or you won’t and I doubt this review will sway you otherwise. Having said that, I can’t wait to see more reviews and how this works (or doesn’t) for other readers.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Morally dark-grey goodness
Darkness and shady shadows
Corruption

I loved so much about this fantasy offering from Holly Black. There was an absolutely fantastic female MC in Charlie Hall. She was shady, she didn’t give a s***, she took risks like it was a daily snack but she had a big heart for the few she loved. Her childhood was a complete mess of exploitation of her supposed magical abilities and she wasn’t protected as she should have been. Thus was the adult Charlie as a result.

The story brought a couple I really wanted to cheer for, or did it, maybe, I hope. Vince was difficult to fathom but I got a sense of true connection and love, even if it lacked verbal expression. The plot around Vince was deep and led into some places you wanted it not to but truly, it was incredibly clever and delicious to read.

The other characters of the piece outside the sister Posey, were honestly a nasty bunch. None more than Salt, he was heinous but I also loved to hate Adeline. You’ve got to pay attention to this plot, it definitely became exponentially more complex and the use of past/present was both helpful while being a little pacey at times. That ending 100% worked for me, knowing this is going to be a series; I love a messy ending on those terms.

Black has announced her entrance into adult fantasy with a slickness of characterisation and a wholly adult feel to the piece. I am a fan and ball of anticipation for the next book.

Thank you to Delrey UK for the gorgeous proof to review early.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started