Audiobook Review: Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones

Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones

Genre: Romance, Comedy

Publishing Info: Audiobook by Hodder & Stoughton, narrated by Helen Keeley

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

It’s the golden rule of pretending to be someone’s girlfriend: don’t fall for their sister.

After a year from hell, Haf is ready to blow off steam at a Christmas party: a kind stranger, a few too many drinks and suddenly she’s kissing Christopher under the mistletoe—in front of his ex-girlfriend.

The next day the news is out that they’re apparently a couple, madly in love and coming to Oxlea to spend the festive season with Christopher’s family. But Haf doesn’t have better holiday plans and to save her new friend from embarrassment, she agrees to pretend to be Christopher’s girlfriend for Christmas.

It has the makings of a hilarious anecdote they’ll be telling for years. Until Haf meets Christopher’s sister: the mysterious, magnetic and utterly irresistible Kit. Maybe love was waiting for Haf in this quiet little town all along….

Perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Laura Kay and Carol—this is sheer festive joy as you’ve always wanted to see it.

As soon as I heard about Make You Mine This Christmas earlier this year – a romance with queer, neurodivergent and disabled characters in the main cast – I knew this had to be my festive read in December. This book made me laugh and cry, and I had such a fun time listening to the audiobook, which had great narration by Helen Keeley.  

Some parts of this book are ridiculously cheesy, and some parts are just bonkers, but you know what, I loved that. I loved seeing queer and disabled people fall in love and experience all the tropes and Christmassy romance. The main trope here is fake dating, so if you aren’t a fan, this might not be the book for you. I really enjoyed the author’s spin on this trope, and it provided plenty of opportunities for humour and Christmas chaos. I felt the spark and connection between Haf and Kit, and enjoyed the slow burn and romantic tension. They only actually get a few days together, but the chemistry was definitely there right from their meet cute.

Although the romance is, of course, the beating heart of this book, I wouldn’t have enjoyed Make You Mine This Christmas nearly as much without the equally important platonic relationships. Just as much care and attention is given to the friendships in the book as the romance. Seeing Haf’s existing friendship with Ambrose and her new friendships grow was heart-warming.

Make You Mine This Christmas is a cosy and festive read with fantastic rep so if you are looking for a holiday romcom then this should be going to the top of your list!

Audiobook Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: Audiobook by Audible Studios, narrated by Lauren Fortgang

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war – and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army. 

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried – and some wounds aren’t meant to heal. 

Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse is one of my favourite series, and I just knew King of Scars would be a great choice to get me out of a reading slump. This is the first book in a duology, but it follows the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. I would definitely recommend reading the previous books as the protagonists in King of Scars are returning characters from both of the previous series. It was interesting to follow characters beyond their original stories, see how the traumas of the previous books have impacted them, and explore how their characters develop further, which made me feel an even stronger connection to them than I did before.

In King of Scars, we follow multiple POV characters like in the Six of Crows series, and I really enjoyed getting to see the different perspectives. I’m intrigued to see how Nina’s story ties in more with the main plot in the sequel, as her plotline did feel quite separate from Nikolai’s in this book. Both plotlines were engaging and the character development was very strong. Having seen how their characters started out in previous books, it was great to follow their progression in King of Scars, and Leigh Bardugo did a fantastic job of developing each of the three protagonists. I especially liked getting Zoya’s perspective, she’s a really interesting character with a lot of depth and it was great getting more insight into her past and her inner thoughts and feelings.

Read More »

Audiobook ARC Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Genre: Contemporary fantasy, romance

Publishing Info: Audiobook by Hodder & Stoughton Audio, ARC, narrated by Samara MacLaren

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos “pretending” to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing an audio ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is a very sweet and charming read that drew me in from the start and enveloped me in warmth and magic. Add to your cauldron a house by the sea, found family, a grumpy librarian, some romance, three children in need of a witch to teach them, an adorable dog, a dash of humour, and a sprinkle of magic, and you have the perfect potion for a heart-warming story.

There are quite a few characters but the author paints each of them so vividly that I felt like I was seeing old friends, and instantly fell in love with the charm of Nowhere House and its inhabitants. Of course, with three young witches unable to control their powers, disaster is sure to follow and there were plenty of opportunities for humour which Sangu Mandanna delivered spot on, and I found myself smiling and laughing at many points as I listened.

Read More »

Audiobook Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Dark Academia

Publishing Info: Audiobook, March 2022, Tor, narrated by Steve West, Siho Ellsmore, Munirih Grace, James Patrick Cronin, David Monteith, Damian Lynch, Caitlin Kelly, Andy Ingalls

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

When the world’s best magicians are offered an extraordinary opportunity, saying yes is easy. Each could join the secretive Alexandrian Society, whose custodians guard lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Their members enjoy a lifetime of power and prestige. Yet each decade, only six practitioners are invited – to fill five places.

Contenders Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona are inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds. Parisa Kamali is a telepath, who sees the mind’s deepest secrets. Reina Mori is a naturalist who can perceive and understand the flow of life itself. And Callum Nova is an empath, who can manipulate the desires of others. Finally there’s Tristan Caine, whose powers mystify even himself.

Following recruitment by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they travel to the Society’s London headquarters. Here, each must study and innovate within esoteric subject areas. And if they can prove themselves, over the course of a year, they’ll survive. Most of them.

The Atlas Six is one of 2022’s most talked about releases. Originally self-published, the novel was picked up by Tor Books and rereleased. With the intense amount of hype around this book, I felt a little wary going in as I didn’t want to be left disappointed. Dark academia is also not my usual genre of choice, but I was intrigued by the premise and decided to take a chance on something outside my comfort zone.

The opening intrigued me and the smooth writing style drew me in. It did, however, take a while to introduce all six point of view characters, and the formula of Atlas approaching each of them to make offers to join the Alexandrian Society felt a little repetitive after the first couple.

Having multiple POVs worked really well in this novel. It was fascinating seeing everything from different perspectives and getting to see how all the characters viewed each other, building tension very nicely. They are basically all morally grey in some way and each have an interesting backstory. There was a different narrator for each POV which was really effective, making it easier to distinguish the characters and feel immersed in each viewpoint.

Read More »

Audiobook Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: Audiobook, March 2021, Bloomsbury Publishing, narrated by Alana Kerr Collins

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

For the past two hundred years the Scion government has led an oppressive campaign against unnaturalness in London.

Clairvoyance in all its forms has been decreed a criminal offence, and those who practise it viciously punished. Forced underground, a clairvoyant underworld has developed, combating persecution and evading capture.

Paige Mahoney, a powerful dreamwalker operating in the Seven Dials district of London, leads a double life, using her unnaturalness illegally while hiding her gift from her father, who works for the Scion regime…

Having enjoyed Samantha Shannon’s epic fantasy novel, The Priory of the Orange Tree, I decided to delve into her backlist and try her debut novel, The Bone Season. While The Bone Season is vastly different from Priory, being set in future London rather than a secondary world fantasy, the pages were still filled with Samantha Shannon’s rich, detailed worldbuilding and readable, engaging prose. The audiobook narration by Alana Kerr Collins was also excellent and drew me into the story.  

After an intriguing opening, The Bone Season very quickly went in a direction I was not expecting, giving me a kind of book whiplash. It left me feeling a little baffled at first, wondering what, exactly, it was I was reading. However, once I adjusted my expectations and got used to this complex and strange future world, I found myself becoming more and more invested in Paige’s story. I won’t talk about plot specifics, because I think this is one of those books where it’s best going in not knowing much at all. Many of the plot elements are familiar, but Samantha Shannon’s immersive world building makes it feel fresh.

Read More »

Audiobook Review: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance  

Publishing Info: Audiobook, June 2021, narrated by Elizabeth Knoweldon

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A prim and proper lady thief must save her aunt from a crazed pirate and his dangerously charming henchman in this fantastical historical romance.

Cecilia Bassingwaite is the ideal Victorian lady. She’s also a thief. Like the other members of the Wisteria Society crime sorority, she flies around England drinking tea, blackmailing friends, and acquiring treasure by interesting means. Sure, she has a dark and traumatic past and an overbearing aunt, but all things considered, it’s a pleasant existence. Until the men show up.

Ned Lightbourne is a sometimes assassin who is smitten with Cecilia from the moment they meet. Unfortunately, that happens to be while he’s under direct orders to kill her. His employer, Captain Morvath, who possesses a gothic abbey bristling with cannons and an unbridled hate for the world, intends to rid England of all its presumptuous women, starting with the Wisteria Society. Ned has plans of his own. But both men have made one grave mistake. Never underestimate a woman.

When Morvath imperils the Wisteria Society, Cecilia is forced to team up with her handsome would-be assassin to save the women who raised her–hopefully proving, once and for all, that she’s as much of a scoundrel as the rest of them.

Fancying a change of pace, I decided to pick up The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, expecting a historical romance with a dash of adventure. That is what I got, but with a tad more of the fantastical than I had anticipated.

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels is bizarre yet brilliant, with Victorian ladies flying pirate houses using incantations, regularly attempting to assassinate each other, capably wielding guns and knives, and drinking tea. The juxtaposition between the well-mannered ladies and their piratical behaviour provided some excellent humour. The magical element is only a small part of the world as aside from the flying pirate houses, there wasn’t any other magic. After my initial bafflement at the concept, the idea was so well integrated into the Victorian world that it quickly seemed normal. Why wouldn’t women fly pirate houses around England?

Read More »

Audiobook Review: Knot My Type by Evie Mitchell

Knot My Type by Evie Mitchell

Genre: Romance  

Publishing Info: Audiobook, November 2021

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

He doesn’t do relationships.

She doesn’t do flings.

Everything they thought is about to unravel…

Frankie

When you say you’re a sexologist, people imagine Marilyn Monroe. They don’t expect a woman who uses a wheelchair. As the host of the All Access Podcast, I’m breaking barriers, crushing stigmas, and creating sexual connections that are fulfilling for my fans. I’m like cupid, but with pink hair and fewer diapers.

Only, I’ve hit a snag. A lovely listener wants some advice about accessible rope play and I’m drawing a big fat blank. Which leaves me with no option but to get out there and give it a go.

Which is how I meet Jay Wood—rigger, carpenter, and all-round hottie.

I’d be open to letting him wine and dine me—only Jay isn’t my type. He’s not a one-girl kind of guy. Monogamy isn’t even in his vocab, and I’m not a woman who’ll settle for being second choice.

But the closer we get, the more Jay has me tied up in knots.

And it’s making me think, maybe I could compromise and accept a little Wood in my life. Even if it’s only temporary.

Jay

Frankie’s funny, intelligent, and ridiculously sexy. This should be a no-brainer. A little fun in the sheets, and a little romp with some ropes—simple.

Only the infuriating woman is asking for more. I’m not that kind of guy. I wouldn’t even know how to be that kind of guy. I’m the definition of easy.

It’ll be fine. We’ll be friends. Just friends.

So, why does my heart feel frayed? And why is it I can’t help but consider taking the ultimate leap of faith—tying myself to Frankie. Permanently.

I’m not usually a romance reader but I’m always on the lookout for books with disability rep, and this cover caught my eye. It honestly made me really emotional reading this one. I don’t use a wheelchair, but I’ve been chronically ill for most of my life and seeing this kind of rep just fills me with so much emotion. Never underestimate the value good rep for underrepresented groups can have. There is a scene in Knot My Type where Frankie secretly leaves a party to find an accessible toilet in another building because the bathroom is too small in her partner’s house, and although this isn’t something I’ve experienced, I really related to having to adapt your life as a disabled person and the feelings Frankie went through during this scene. 

This is just the kind of disability rep I want to see in fiction. It appeared to be well researched (I can’t comment on accuracy) and it wasn’t a book about disability, it showed a disabled person living and enjoying life, going through all the highs and lows that everyone goes through, experiencing love and passion. Frankie is intelligent, bold, funny and sexy – she is a fully fleshed out character, and her disability is part of who she is.

Read More »

Book Review: Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction  

Publishing Info: September 2020 by Harper Teen   

Pages: 375

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A deadly competition for the throne will determine more than just the fate of the empire in this duology opener.

Alyssa Farshot has spent her whole life trying to outrun her family legacy. Her mother sacrificed everything to bring peace to the quadrant, and her uncle has successfully ruled as emperor for decades. But the last thing Alyssa wants is to follow in their footsteps as the next in line for the throne. Why would she choose to be trapped in a palace when she could be having wild adventures exploring a thousand-and-one planets in her own ship?

But when Alyssa’s uncle becomes gravely ill, his dying wish surprises the entire galaxy. Instead of naming her as his successor, he calls for a crownchase, the first in seven centuries. Representatives from each of the empire’s prime families—including Alyssa—are thrown into a race to find the royal seal, which has been hidden somewhere in the empire. The first to find the seal wins the throne.

Alyssa’s experience as an explorer makes her the favorite to win the crown she never wanted. And though she doesn’t want to be empress, her duty to her uncle compels her to participate in this one last epic adventure. But when the chase turns deadly, it’s clear that more than just the fate of the empire is at stake. Alyssa is on her most important quest yet—and only time will tell if she’ll survive it.

This book reminded me why I’m such a sucker for space opera, and why I want to see more of it in YA. Crownchasers is a planet-hopping adventure and I had so much fun reading it. At just 375 pages, it was a pretty quick read, and I was on my edge of my seat for every single one of those pages.

The plot revolves around the crownchase, a competition between the prime families of the empire to determine who will be the next emperor. This involves a lot of space travel, discovering new planets, and working out mysterious clues. There is also a media element as well, as the whole galaxy seems to be watching the crownchase to see who will be victorious, which reminded me of The Hunger Games.

Alyssa Farshot is a reluctant participant in the crownchase. She loves exploring, and has never had any desire to sit on the empire’s throne. Alyssa brings a whole lot of snarky humour to this book and I loved how daring and reckless she is. Her voice is one of the best parts of this book, I felt like I was on this wild ride right along with her, and it was great to see how her character developed over the course of the story. As well as the pressures of the crownchase, she also has to deal with her grief over the loss of her uncle, and I thought Coffindaffer did an excellent job of weaving Alyssa’s character growth into such a fast-paced and action-packed book.

Read More »

Book Review: Malice by Heather Walter (eARC)

Malice by Heather Walter

Genre: Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Del Ray  

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

Thank you so much to Del Ray and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The word ‘retelling’ is sure to get me interested in a book, and when I saw Malice was a Sapphic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villain, I just knew I had to read it. Malice includes many key elements of Sleeping Beauty (as well as a dash of other fairy tales, like Cinderalla), but weaves these into a new world and story in a refreshing way.

From the start, I really enjoyed the world building, and how the society of Briar is depicted. The upper classes are selfish and vain, obsessed with beauty and luxury, and how they can use the Graces to obtain those things. In return for their services, Graces receive payment and invitations to parties, but then when their magic Fades, they also fade out of the spotlight. Graces have little control over their lives due to the Grace Laws, and although their lives seem glamorous on the outside, there is an insidious undercurrent to the way this society functions. Good and evil isn’t so simple here, as almost every character falls somewhere in between.

Read More »

Book Review: Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance  

Publishing Info: September 2020, Harper Teen

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

Serpent & Dove was a surprise read for me last year. There was so much hype around it that I was curious to read it and ended up loving it more than I expected. The sequel, Blood & Honey, has not been received quite so well, so I was a little cautious going into reading it as I didn’t want to set my expectations too high and be disappointed. 

It took me a while to orientate myself at the beginning of the book, and I had to search for a recap online in the end because there were some important points from the end of Serpent & Dove which I just couldn’t remember. So I would definitely recommend rereading Serpent & Dove or looking for a recap if it’s been a while since you read the first book.

Read More »