The Word Nerd Reviews Team's February Top Picks!
Updated: Mar 14, 2022
OK, we accept defeat!
There is no way we were ever going to be able to choose just ONE book for the best read of the month. So we have now chosen to embrace our inability to choose a single favourite and instead, we're going top four ... That's still a 'Top Pick' list though ... right?
February was ARC month for me, and I was honoured to be able to read some fantastic new releases. If you haven't had a chance yet, now is the perfect time to try: Felice Stevens' Fall Guy, Charlie Novak's Finding Finn, N.R. Walker's Code Blue, Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood's Nice Catching You, and Jackie North's The Cook and the Gangster.
With it being such a packed ARC month, I didn't get a chance to reduce my TBR by much, but what I did manage to read, I enjoyed. In a month so full of good reads it was tricky to pick my favourites, but there were a few standouts that for various reasons stuck with me through the month.
Moth (Monstrous #5) ~ Lily Mayne
Moth has been one of the most highly anticipated titles in this series so far, and I think it's safe to say it was a success!
From his introduction in the Ryke, Moth has been a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Until now, all that was known about him was that he was a nomad that visited and helped out the raider camp, that he was in love with Gage, oh, and that he was a half monster!
I think most of the curiosity around Moth was trying to work out which monster was his mother or father. Up until now, it's been pretty safe to assume the monsters we've met were not biologically compatible with humans, well now we know at least one species is, but which one? Finding out about Moth's monster parent is half the fun of this book, and there is no way I'm going to spoil it. But it's a doozy!
By now, readers of this series know what to expect from a Monstrous story: heartbreaking histories either monster, human, or both; an interesting and continually developing post-apocalyptic world; and the constant battle for survival against monsters and humans alike. Lily Mayne doesn't hesitate in giving us monsters that are truly monstrous. Although the monsters that form relationships with humans are humanoid, there is no escaping that they are certainly not even close to being human. In this world, it's not necessarily a bad thing, where in many instances humans are shown to be capable of much more unprovoked cruelty than those termed the monsters. This aspect of humanity was showcased in Moth where he was shunned at every turn, and in some cases, even by those he was helping.
I ran the full gamut of emotion reading Moth. My heart broke for him, especially as we learn more of his history. In this respect, Charlie with his unbroken enthusiasm and happiness, tempered with a broad protective streak was exactly what Moth needed. Both Moth and Charlie were fighters, but also vulnerable in different ways, and together they complemented each other and were stronger together.
Lily Mayne's writing style, characters, worldbuilding, humour, and the emotions her writing evokes all work for me. I eagerly look forward to each new book in this series, and Moth is now one of my favourites in this series so far.
Moth is available in ebook
By Fairy Means or Foul (Starfig Investigations #1)
~ Meghan Maslow; Narration ~ Greg Boudreaux
Who would ever have thought that unicorns could be narcissistic jerks?
Although I'd really like to use much stronger language to describe Brandsome (the unicorn), he truly was a cruel and ugly creature below the surface.
I'm definitely on a Meghan Maslow kick right now, I haven't yet read anything of hers that I haven't enjoyed, and when she teams up with Greg Boudreaux you know it's a sure fire winner!
I've been a fan of the fantasy genre in its many forms since I was a teen, and the style used in this series bridges the gap between high/epic and urban fantasy, combining elements of both. The result is a true escapist read that like high fantasy transports you completely to a world that is nothing like our reality, but has the lighter elements of snarky humour and romance that is common in urban styles. Regardless of any literary analysis, By Fairy Means or Foul is just plain fun to read/listen.
I didn't recognise many of the problems with Twig's character that have been identified elsewhere. Instead, I found him to be a complex character that as a result of his own experiences made a lot of incorrect assumptions about those he encountered. His own relationships made him quite cynical and it almost seemed like he had switched off, to a large degree, his capacity for empathy, and even his emotions as a whole. As the story progressed, Twig's emotional capacity grew as he started experiencing the world from another perspective, largely due to Quinn's persistence and innate goodness. That doesn't mean he didn't act like a total jerk at times, that was almost his default, but the fact that he recognised (even if after the fact) that he was acting that way was certainly emotional growth.
It's no secret that I'm a fan of Greg Boudreaux's narration work, and his voices and inflections gave an extra emotive element to the story, as well as an extra snap to the witty repartee between the characters, Plus there aren't many out there that could credibly voice a pirate parrot ghost!
By Fairy Means or Foul was an amazing experience to read and listen to (via Kindle's Whispersync); it ticked all my boxes, and I loved every moment.
Moonstruck (Necessary Evils #3) ~ Onley James
Who would have thought that psychopaths could be the good guys?
This is the first time I've read work by Onley James. The Necessary Evils series has always been in my TBR and on the periphery of my awareness, but for no real reason I just never got around to picking it up. Well, after reading Florence's review of Headcase, and chatting with her quite a bit about the series, I decided to give it a go. Now, I'm wondering why I waited so long! Although, on the plus side, a good part of the series is complete, so I can binge at least half of it, and I'm crossing my fingers I don't have long to wait for the rest of the stories.
Honestly, this recommendation is not so much for a single book, but the series as a whole. Still, out of the four books I've read so far (Unhinged to Damaged), Atticus' story stands out.
Moonstruck is unique in that if the Mulvaney boys played a game of one of these things is not like the other, then Atticus would definitely be that thing. Although he has psychopathic traits, he's not quite the same level of psychopath that his brothers seem to embody. The book states there is a sliding scale of psychopathy, and this makes sense, but with no professional psychological knowledge, I'm prepared to take this at face value! I definitely don't want to spoil anything for anyone, but I'm leaning towards Jericho's insights as being more right than wrong. In any case, Atticus and Jericho's story is quite different from the first two books in the series. What is the same though is the passionate love story that very much straddles the line of obsession, and the horrific 'bad guy' that the boys need to investigate.
In creating this family of psychopaths led by a psychiatrist that loves his boys, Onley James has developed a truly addictive series. It's part Dexter, part Criminal Minds, with all the dark situations that you associate with those series. What sets these books apart though is the humour, yes it is dark, but it will still make you laugh, and all the possessive, obsessive romance you could possibly want, where the men are willing to kill or more impressively die, for their partners. Not to mention heat levels that are simply off the charts!
I am really enjoying Onley James' writing style and story development, not to mention her ability to create characters who on the surface should be the bad guys, but who are not morally grey (even if they think they are), but are actually quite pure in their actions; primarily due to the their father's love and influence throughout their lives. I'm eagerly awaiting the last half of this series, and in the meantime I'm going to be following up with Onley's backlist.
Moonstruck is available in ebook (audio coming mid- late March)
Must Love Demons (Much Ado About Demons #1) ~ Meghan Maslow
I think it's safe to say that Meghan Maslow's writing style and story telling simply appeals to me. Nico was a character that intrigued me from the start - the Incubus that inspires love instead of lust - I mean that's a story in itself!
Must Love Demons is pure grumpy/sunshine, with lashings of humour, swoonworthy romance, and a good dash of heat. Nico is a gorgeous cinnamon roll character, pure of heart, he just wants to be accepted and loved. Sir Flame perfectly fits the grumpy part of this equation, but he is standoffish and often unfriendly for a reason, not wanting to risk actually caring for anyone. His desire for isolation can't compete with Nico's sunshine, and combined with a unique forced proximity situation that leads to some often embarrassing intimate situations, and Sir Flame, honestly didn't stand a chance!
I'd highly recommend that you read the novella, Demon for the Win, to get a fuller backstory on Nico. This novella is currently free in the Ybbb Prolific Works Giveaway (links to the Giveaway are in the review) and you get the full story on Nico's abilities and why Nico suddenly finds himself destitute, plus it's such a gorgeous story of its own.
This story flowed so well, I was addicted from the first page, and once the mystery started I was captivated! Must Love Demons was a beautiful blend of fantasy romance and mystery, with the mystery having quite a few red herrings and twists that I never saw coming!! I can't wait for the next book in this series to be released. This series is so much fun and I can only see it getting better!
Book 1 ~ Soul Eater is available in ebook
Book 2 ~ Edin is available in ebook
Book 3 ~ Ryke is available in ebook
Book 3.5 ~ Wyn is available in ebook
Book 4 ~ Gloam is available in ebook
Book 5 ~ Moth is available in ebook
Starfig Investigations Series:
Necessary Evils Series:
Book 3 ~ Moonstruck is available in ebook (audio coming mid-late March)
Book 4 ~ Damaged is available in ebook (Prolific Works Giveaway)
Book 5 ~ Headcase is available in ebook
Book 6 ~ Mad Men is available in ebook (preorder)
Much Ado About Demons:
Prequel ~ Demon for the Win is available in ebook
February was a really strange reading month for me, I read a book at the start of the month that I loved so much that it put me in a reading slump for most of the month. I just couldn’t get into most books that I tried to read because nothing seemed to work for me after that one reading experience. Which makes the other books I enjoyed even more special because they are most of the only books I have been able to get into this month. So I wanna say a big thank you to those books for breaking through my reading slump, it was really appreciated.
In Step (Painted Bay #3) ~ Jay Hogan
In Step is book 3 in a series and I think it would be better read in order, it really makes the reading experience that much better. It’s not a secret that I think that Jay Hogan can do no wrong, I have read most of her books and I have loved each and every one of them, but this book was perfect to me. This book was everything I have ever wanted in a book and I adored every second of this book. This book is one of those that I think will always stay with me, I just cannot stop thinking about this one. In Step is about Kane, who wasn’t a very nice character in the previous books in the series and the book is all about his redemption and him finding love. I love reading books about characters being redeemed and I just loved how the redemption was done in this book. I liked how the book showed Kane and his feelings and his life story, and what brought him where he is in life and why he did what he did. But mostly, I loved how the book showed how much Kane has changed and how he is a good human being now, that is everything I want in a redemption story and I was so glad that this one provided it to me.
Also, In Step might be the most sensual and romantic book I have ever read. I just adored the couple in this book. They had a chemistry that I could feel through the pages, and I couldn’t think of a couple that would better suited for each other. The romance was out of this world to me, it was the kind of romance that I can only hope I will be able to experience for myself one day, it really was the kind of romance you only see in a fantasy and I adored every second of it. This book had so many swoony moments and so many moments full of possessiveness and I adored each and every one of them, they were just the best thing in the world to me.
In Step is available in ebook
The Magnolia Murders (Sawyer and Royce: Matrimony and Mayhem # 1)
~ Aimee Nicole Walker
The Magnolia Murders should be read after having read the Zero Hour series, as it is the follow up of the stories of the same couple. This book is a look at the lives of Royce and Sawyer 3 years after they got their HEA in Zero Hour and I just loved every second of it.
Royce and Sawyer were already one of my favourite couples, but this book just cemented their top spot on my favourite book couples of all time list. I just loved how this book was so full of sweet couple moments between Royce and Sawyer and murder investigations. It was a perfect mix of both things and all of it just really worked for me. I love follow up books about already established couples when they are about how happy the couple is together and it's just a peek into their relationship, and this book was exactly that. Royce and Sawyer are such a power couple and as strong as ever, and I was so happy to read more of their adventures. I’m so invested in these guys’ lives by now and I was so happy to catch up with them and to see what they are up to.
The Magnolia Murders is available in ebook
The Changeling (Outcast Mates #2) ~ Lee Colgin
The Changeling was such a surprise to me, but in the best of ways. I like paranormal books, but I don’t read them often and I decided to pick up this book in order to try and get out of my previously mentioned reading slump and reading books out of my comfort zone always helps me with reading slumps. But this book ended up hitting me like a ton of bricks and I just adored every second of it.
This book is lower angst and just a really sweet romance, but it made me cry so much because I was so invested in the characters and their lives, and I didn’t want bad things to happen to them. I connected with this book and the characters so much and I just spent the entire book cheering them on. Plus this book was so hot, in a really enjoyable to read way. And the romance was absolutely lovely to me, I adored every second of it. The couple started out as enemies, and it is one of those enemies to lovers book where they don’t want to want each other but they cannot stop being attracted to each other and I just love those books so much. The Changeling did a fantastic job at taking on this trope.
Changeling is available in ebook
Sink or Swim (Shore Leave #2) ~ Annabeth Albert;
Narration ~ Greg Boudreaux and Joel Leslie
I listened to the audiobook of this one at a very key point of my life, aka one night when I stayed up all night to do a really important paper for university, and this book was the perfect company to me, it really made the experience better. First, I wanna mention the audiobook because I just adored it so much. This audiobook is just so much fun and Greg Boudreaux and Joel Leslie did an amazing job with it, it was just the perfect narration for this book.
Now on to the book. Sink or Swim is about two guys meeting, one of them an uncle to two young girls, and it’s a romance between the two guys, but it’s also a story of family and I just loved how many family moments there were in this one. I loved how the two main characters were such an unit and how well they took care of the kids. I adored the romance in this book, but it’s the family vibes that really sold me on the book. I loved how this described their family life, it just was such a unique and good reading experience for me. Also, this book is so romantic. I loved how many little moments the two main characters shared and how important physical touch was in this book. I just kept swooning at so many moments in this book and I really enjoyed every second I spent listening to it.
The Painted Bay Series:
Book 1 ~ Off Balance is available in ebook
Book 2 ~ On Board is available in ebook
Book 3 ~ In Step is available in ebook
Royce and Sawyer: Matrimony and Mayhem Series
Book 1 ~ The Magnolia Murders is available in ebook
Book 2 ~ Marriage is Murder is available in ebook (preorder)
Book 3 ~ Killer Honeymoon is available in ebook (preorder)
Outcast Mates Series:
Book 1 ~ Mongrel is available in ebook
Book 2 ~ Changeling is available in ebook
Book 3 ~ Stray is available in ebook (preorder)
Shore Leave Series