Reviews

  • Reviews

    Daughter of Darkness – Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

    Greek mythology? YA? Wonderful, immersive writing? Yes please. Add a gorgeous Micaela Alcaino cover to the mix and I’m well and truly suckered in. And Daughter of Darkness doesn’t disappoint. It’s less a retelling than a story rooted in the world of Greek mythology, doing its own thing, which is pretty cool – I’m really looking forward to seeing more reactions as I can see this being really popular, hitting on a lot of current YA trends.

    Many thanks to Hot Key Books for sending me an ARC, as always, all opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 04/08/2022

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Deina is trapped. As one of the Soul Severers serving the god Hades on Earth, her future is tied to the task of shepherding the dying on from the mortal world – unless she can earn or steal enough to buy her way out.

    Then the tyrant ruler Orpheus offers both fortune and freedom to whoever can retrieve his dead wife, Eurydice, from the Underworld. Deina jumps at the change. But to win, she must enter and uneasy alliance with a group of fellow Severers she neither likes nor trusts.

    So begins their perilious journey into the realm of Hades… The prize of freedom is before her – but what will it take to reach it?

    OPINIONS: This was a really fun read – it hit my mythology obsession perfectly, and the Corr sisters know how to write a story that grips the reader and compels you to finish the book in a single sitting. In short, the story is as tempting as that beautiful cover is. While this is deeply grounded in Greek mythology, this is entirely a new story, using the known stories as a foundation, but creating a new narrative rather than retelling something familiar. In some ways, this reminded me a bit of some of the books I read during the 2010s YA boom, but in a good way.

    I don’t think this is going to go onto my favourites shelf, but I did really enjoy reading it, and I am very much looking forward to the second book in the series. The Corr sisters clearly know how to tell a story and how to get their readers invested in their characters. Because I’m me, I obviously kept wishing this was queer, because that would have made me love it just that bit more, but really, it’s very solid as it is. Deina is an interesting main character, and I enjoyed reading her story. It’s not a super deep book, but a good read, and I’ll likely reread it soon.

    Add Daughter of Darkness to your Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Reviews

    Mia and the Lightcasters – Janelle McCurdy

    I have a complete soft spot for middle grade! On a sad day, there’s nothing better than devouring a book written for kids – they are usually incredibly immersive and captivating, and provide great escapism, so are wonderful for taking a mini-break from our own problems. And Mia and the Lightcasters is an exciting debut from a new voice that I’m sure we’ll hear much more from – I loved the world of the Umbra and I can’t wait for you all to read this wonderful book too.

    Many thanks to Bethany at Faber for sending me an ARC. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 04/08/2022

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Mia always dreamed of being an umbra tamer until she met the wild creature on the Nightmare Plains. Since that day, she prefers to stay safe within the walls of Nubis. Safe, that is, until a surprise attack. With her parents captured, Mia’s only hope is to travel to the City of Light to find help. But with only her little brother, two friends and one solitary tamed umbra, the journey feels impossible. Mia not only has to overcome her fears, she also has to learn to harness her umbra taming abilities if they are to complete the quest in time. (from Faber)

    OPINIONS: This was such a fun read! Maybe it’s because I’m currently immersed in kids books all day, but I’m on such a children’s fiction roll. And a promising new middle grade series that doesn’t only come with cute creatures, but also interior illustrations? Count me in. Yes, I’m a sucker for pictures in books. For all ages. For the record, if it were up to me, every single book would have at least one piece of interior black and white art. Anyway. Mia and the Lightcasters. Janelle McCurdy has given us an impeccable debut, one that wouldn’t go amiss among the likes of Rick Riordan Presents. It is compelling, fast paced, and full of great characters and a world that the reader just wants to get stuck into.

    The stars of the show in Mia and the Lightcasters are the Umbra. Beasts that can be tamed, but which can evolve between different forms – reminiscent of Pokémon in that respect – but very, very real to Mia and her world. Mia’s always dreamed of being a real-life Umbra tamer, but her first encounter one was quite different from what she imagined. And then Mia doesn’t have too much of a choice in facing her fears…

    I loved seeing not just Mia, but also Jada, the older tamer, as Black girls who just did their thing and weren’t used as a narrative device, which unfortunately is something that isn’t too common in UK kidlit yet. This makes Mia and the Lightcasters an especially important book for the UK industry – it shows Faber’s commitment to diversity in actions, rather than just words, and I am thrilled for the kids for whom this is a milestone in representation – though I wish it was standard rather than something to single out… Initially I was sad that there wouldn’t be a pretty hardcover of the book, but the more I think about it, the happier I am that it is indeed a paperback original – making it all the more accessible to the children who need this book. More books like this please, publishing industry, put your money where your mouth is.

    Add Mia and the Lightcasters to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy via Bookshop here.

  • Reviews

    How to Kill Your Best Friend – Lexie Elliot

    There seems to be an upswing in casual crime novels about killing people you’re supposed to care about – last year brought us Bella Mackie’s awesome How to Kill Your Family, and now Lexie Elliot comes in with How to Kill Your Best Friend. Fitting that I was reading this while visiting one of my best friends… Though, unfortunately, not on a lovely beach, but in a city heatwave.

    Many thanks to Amber and Hannah at Midas PR for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 02/09/2022

    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Georgie, Lissa and Bronwyn have been best friends since they met on their college swimming team. Now Lissa is dead – drowned off the coast of the remote island where her second husband owns a luxury resort. But could a star open-water swimmer really have drowned? Or is something more sinister going on?

    Brought together for Lissa’s memorial, Georgie, Bron, Lissa’s grieving husband and their friends find themselves questioning the circumstances around Lissa’s death – and each other. As the weather turns ominous, trapping the guests on the island, it slowly dawns on them that Lissa’s death was only the beginning. Nobody knows who they can trust. Or if they’ll make it off the island alive… (from Corvus)

    OPINIONS: I was drawn into this by the title and cover, to be entirely honest. I have been on a bit of a mystery binge for comfort reading, and it intrigued me – especially as someone who adores water and would like nothing more than to be able to go for a daily open-water swim. But I found this an odd read. The most jarring element, to me, was that not a single one of the characters, of this supposed friend group, seemed to actually like each other. And yes, it may have been one of those situations where you become friends, and then stay friends out of habit, but it was still strange. There just wasn’t any true affection between any of them, and at various points of the story I thought any one of them had reason to commit the inciting murder.

    I did really like the atmosphere, the backdrop of an isolated island together with a crumbling world of luxury. And I do have to give this one to Lexie Elliot, despite the characters frustrating me to no end, they were all complex and multi-layered, interesting people. But ultimately the pacing of the story felt off, with too much happening at once, and then not for a long time, and then pivoting in a completely different direction. It was a fun read, and I breezed through it rather quickly. But in the end, it didn’t feel as satisfying as I was hoping it would, and I was left slightly disappointed with the book as a whole.

    If you’re intrigued, you can add How to Kill Your Best Friend to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here.

  • Reviews

    The Peacekeeper – B.L. Blanchard

    The world-building shines as the star of B.L. Blanchard’s debut novel, The Peacekeeper, a murder mystery set in an alt-history version of the Great Lakes region of North America. By far the most compelling aspect of the book, the world-building centers around the premise that North America was never colonized and that Native American society has solidified into the Ojibwe nation around the Great Lakes. It asks the question, what does that look like? How would cities like Chicago have evolved? How would the police and judicial system operate? What about economics? Blanchard answers these questions and more throughout the course of unwinding the mystery, which in many ways fades to the back as this intriguing world-building concept takes the front seat. I received an ARC of this book from 47North. All opinions are my own.


    RELEASE DATE: 01/06/2022

    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶


    SUMMARY:

    Against the backdrop of a never-colonized North America, a broken Ojibwe detective embarks on an emotional and twisting journey toward solving two murders, rediscovering family, and finding himself.

    North America was never colonized. The United States and Canada don’t exist. The Great Lakes are surrounded by an independent Ojibwe nation. And in the village of Baawitigong, a Peacekeeper confronts his devastating past.

    Twenty years ago to the day, Chibenashi’s mother was murdered and his father confessed. Ever since, caring for his still-traumatized younger sister has been Chibenashi’s privilege and penance. Now, on the same night of the Manoomin harvest, another woman is slain. His mother’s best friend. This leads to a seemingly impossible connection that takes Chibenashi far from the only world he’s ever known.

    The major city of Shikaakwa is home to the victim’s cruelly estranged family—and to two people Chibenashi never wanted to see again: his imprisoned father and the lover who broke his heart. As the questions mount, the answers will change his and his sister’s lives forever. Because Chibenashi is about to discover that everything about their lives has been a lie. 

    OPINIONS:

    The earth is sacred and “the Good Life” – sharing what you have with others, a close equivalent to the concept of karma, the author explains in the glossary – are two of the guiding principles that form the foundation of world-building in The Peacekeeper. Buildings are living, trees and plants literally grow out of the skyscrapers, bringing the earth into their towering structures to meet the people that live and work there. Nature is omnipresent. Justice focuses on making victims whole, guided by “the Good Life” rather than punitive approaches to restitution. In smaller towns, like Baawitigong, money is rarely used, everyone in the village ensures that the needs of the townspeople are met through shared resources and redistribution of possessions. These are just a few of examples of how the author paints a very different picture of what the world might look like had Native Americans held on to the land and the nation grew under their precepts instead of the colonists. 

    However, human nature cannot be escaped, and to me this was probably the most powerful message of the book. Poverty and inequality still exist as shown by the state of Sakima’s housing and the homelessness in the streets of Shikaakwa. Cheating, murder, and drugs are still present, and their evils have dire consequences. The justice system, although fundamentally different, still fails people. This book tells us that no matter how benevolent the society, how good its intentions, human nature is constant.

    The language and the prose structure complimented the world-building nicely by using Native American terms and names as well as providing a Native American voice. Note to readers: there is a glossary in the back of the book that is extremely helpful!

    Unfortunately, the characters and mystery fell flat for me, which is why I rated the book merely average. Chibenashi is not a sympathetic character. He is frustrating at best and annoying at worst. The trouble is that we are only given his viewpoint. There are limited forays into other viewpoints, but not enough to let us know that Chibenashi is in fact an unreliable narrator. Had we known that earlier in the book through others’ viewpoints, I think his character would have been more sympathetic, and that tactic would also have added dimension to the murder mystery. We do find out why he is an unreliable narrator at the end of the book as part of the mystery reveal, but knowing that in hindsight doesn’t make his character easier to read for the first 80% of the book.

    The book intends there to be an awakening for Chibenashi. He is meant to experience and drive toward re-creation in the endless cycle of life. And although his character arc ends with him starting completely fresh and anew – literally the last two pages of the book – the revelations and transformation that led to those final pages felt rushed, especially considering the amount of time the reader spends with the unlikeable character.

    There were problems with continuity in action versus reaction. The consequences and emotional implications of Chibenashi stealing the file, for example, were completely disproportionate when compared to the consequences and impacts of “sins” committed by other characters, e.g. Sakima lying about his whereabouts or Peezhickee withholding key information or, most notably, botching the initial investigation. The lack of continuity pulled me out of the story as I was unable to reconcile this hitch in the world-building and characterization.

    The mystery is straight-forward, but again, this book’s world-building is the draw, not the mystery itself. The Scooby Doo ending, where everyone arrives at the same time for the big reveal, coupled with the Bond-villain-esque pages of monologue from the antagonist revealing the entire how and why was over-the-top. This type of reveal didn’t match the methodical pacing of the rest of the story and I think the mystery would have been better served had it been resolved more organically.

    Overall, I’m glad I read this book. It came at a time when I was desperately seeking something different, and it most definitely delivered on that front. I’d recommend it to someone who enjoys inventive, alt-history world-building and a light mystery. I doubt I will read on in the series, though. This first book did not grip me enough such that I feel compelled to return for the next installment.

     

  • Reviews

    Dark Court Rising – Bec McMaster

    The Dark Court Rising trilogy is Epic High Fantasy rooted in the lore of the Fae Courts. Iskvien is a princess in one of the Seelie Courts, bargained by her ruthless and evil mother to spend three months with her mortal enemy Thiago, the dark prince of Evernight in exchange for peace. But all is not what it seems, and the first book shows Iskvien uncovering truths about herself, Thiago, and her mother’s treachery. The first installment ends with an HFN, Happy For Now, but it is clear that the stakes are much higher than originally thought, and this isn’t the end of the story for Thiago and Iskvien.

    This review was originally written as part of a personal project to complete an all Fantasy Romance card for r/fantasy’s 2022 Book Bingo. You can read an introduction to my project here. All opinions are my own.


    Promise of Darkness
    RELEASE DATE: 17/09/2019
    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
    Crown of Darkness
    RELEASE DATE: 15/09/2020
    STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
    Curse of Darkness
    RELEASE DATE: 22/03/2022
    STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

    Ultimately, this series is about unconditional love. It’s about dealing with the trauma of an abusive parent and learning to truly love yourself in spite of that trauma. Thiago shows Iskvien that she can be loved, but its up to Iskvien to set aside the self-doubt instilled in her by a horribly evil parent and learn to love herself. It is fitting that Iskvien comes into her full power not when she recognizes that Thiago loves her, but when she casts aside her mother’s absuses and accepts herself for who she is. To amplify this theme, Thiago’s own character arc involves self-loathing due to the Darkness inside of him, bestowed by his evil father. Until Thiago accepts that part of himself, he is never truly whole. At the heart of this trilogy are poignant messages about finding your personal power through accepting and loving yourself.

    One of the things I appreciated most about these books is that the characterization and themes are mature despite being rooted in the Fae. So often, Fae-based books are YA or NA (not always, but often) and so I was pleased to find this adult, epic fantasy series with the Fae courts as their foundation. In some respects, McMaster hit the nail on the head with Fae lore. You can see the threads of classic Fae stories shaped to serve this particular world and plot. Her spin was different enough that it made me smile as opposed to thinking it “the same old” or this is “not quite right.” (Grimsby the grimalkin is an absolute delight!) This series is rife with magic, bargains, curses, and treachery, and she leans heavily into the concept of the precise wording that often leads to unexpected outcomes. But, at the same time, I did struggle to track the concept of Death, Darkness, and Darkyn (were these distinct or related in some way and how) and how these creatures fit in with the Seelie, Unseelie, the Old Ones, and the Otherkin. Maybe it was just me, but there were times when I had to just set aside my confusion with the world-building and keep going.

    The interplay between the courts and side characters is what makes this series truly shine. The politicking, intrigue, treachery, and back stories of the various players make these books come to life in true epic fantasy fashion. The sub-plots were compelling and well-developed despite the majority of that happening from Iskvien’s POV. There are limited forays into alternate POVs and I wish there would have been more!

    McMaster ended book three with wrap-ups for each sub-plot, many of which contained major open questions. It is abundantly clear that these fairy-tale-esque threads are being set up to become follow-on books in this world. She has already announced that the next book will be Andraste’s story (Iskvien’s sister), and it will be interesting to see how that pans out given her marriage to the Goblin King, Edain’s love for her, and the (I’ll say it – weirdly unexpected) erotic fight between Edain and Lysander at the end. And that’s just one thread! This trilogy definitely provided the foundation for an expansive, on-going series.

    Throughout the first two books, I kept thinking, “Wow, her pacing is perfect!” The balance between character development and introspection and plot was on point! By the end of book two, I found myself furiously turning pages, and the ending was a complete kick in the teeth. It’s a cliffhanger, make no mistake, and I’m glad that I waited until all three books were out before reading through, because I immediately started book three.

    That being said, the pacing slows considerably with book three, which in my opinion is the weakest of the trilogy. I liked it. It was a good book. But it could have been about 100 (or more, to be honest) pages shorter. It became repetitive at times, which made the declarations of love, instrospections about not deserving love, and the sex scenes start to fall flat, and I ended up skimming those after a time. Thiago and Iskvien’s HEA was hard-won and satisfying. It is the ending that they deserved, and I was pleased at how their story wrapped up.

    Overall, I would recommend these books, especially for someone looking for an adult series rooted in Fae lore. Despite some of my critique, I think McMaster did a great job of blending world-building, romance, and deep theming into a satsifying and noteworthy epic fantasy series. I am intrigued enough that I would like to revisit this world and read Andraste’s story, set to come out in 2023.

  • Reviews

    Scoundrel – Zoe Archer

    Lately, one of the ways I’ve been finding new Fantasy Romance books is by mining the literary awards database for all the past winners of the RITA for Paranormal Romance. I came across the book Rebel, book 3 in The Blades of the Rose series, and was intrigued so I added it to my TBR, not really sure which square I’d use it for. I was about to dig into the series, when unexpectedly a Historical Romance writer (Eva Leigh) who I’ve read in the past and follow on Twitter posted about this exact series and that she had written it under the penname Zoe Archer. I had no idea! It seemed as though the fates aligned to encourage me to read this series, and so I decided to dive in.

    This review was originally written as part of a personal project to complete an all Fantasy Romance card for r/fantasy’s 2022 Book Bingo. You can read an introduction to my project here. All opinions are my own.


    RELEASE DATE: 01/01/2010

    STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶


    It didn’t take me long to figure out which square was best for this series – Historical Fantasy. Why? Because this series reads and feels like a Historical Romance. The writing, the structure, the tone – you can tell it is written by a prominent Historical Romance author. I think one of the things I found unique about this series was the fact that it’s an accurate Historial Romance first and Fantasy second – the magic system and world-building were layered atop of the accurate historical setting. In some respects, the Fantasy plot is suppoting!

    The series takes during the late Victorian era. The main characters are all British and are fighting a war for the posession of magical Sources. The Blades of the Rose are a secret society of English men and women who are protecting ancient artifacts – Sources – from falling into the wrong hands. The Heirs of Albion are another secret society in opposition to the Blades; the Heirs are Imperialists, their goal is to acquire as many Sources as possible with the intent of using their powerful magic to promote the expansion of the British Empire and establish England as the center of the world. These books have a strong anti-colonialism theme.

    This world is our world – it is an accurate historical representation. Magic is simply layered on top. Magical Sources are artifacts pulled from various traditions and myths. In other words, the magic is that these myths are real and are sources of incredible power. For example, in the first book we learn that many historical battles were actually won due to an army in possession of one of the Sources.

    What’s great about this series is that although the main characters are all English, they are traveling around the world to find and protect the Sources. The first book takes place in Mongolia and the second in Greece. This really ups the ante in terms of history, because not only is English history being referenced, but the reader also becomes immersed in some of the culture and history of the location where the Blades and the Heirs are hunting for the Source.

    I picked the second book in this series to review – Scoundrel – because it blew me away. I’d been in a reading slump, and this book pulled me right out of it. It had so many of the romance tropes I love all tied together nicely in a neat little package. For me, this one was all about the character and relationship arc and how beautifully Archer developed both.

    I absolutely loved the dynamic between Bennett and London. This is a true enemies-to-lovers story, because London is the daughter of one of the Heirs and Bennett is a Blade. They are sworn enemies, and the path they take to become allies is so well-constructed and natural, it was a pleasure to read. London’s character arc as Bennett encourages and supports her to grow into her personal power after being sheltered and held back by her father is magnificent.

    One of my pet peeves in HR is when the rake really isn’t a rake. When the title of the book and characters referring to him as a rake are the only things that tell me that the MMC is a scoundrel, I take issue. But that is not the case here and I absolutely loved it. Bennett is set up as the quintessential rake, the opening scene showing him being chased through the streets by an angry husband. Heck! He even slept with the other woman in their group of allies! Even after he and London come together, he admits to her he can’t bind himself to one woman or love her the way she wants. The transformation of Bennett’s character given his love for London is perfection. This is one of the best “reformed rake” stories I’ve ever read.

    And the steam – whew! The tension between these two characters is palpable and their encounters absolutely delicious. In particular, the scene between them on the ruins was incredibly erotic. I knew Archer could write wonderfully explicit and erotic sex scenes from her HR novels, and she does not disappoint here!

    The adventure was just as compelling as the romance. This book has strong Indiana Jones / The Mummy vibes – a true treasure hunt filled with riddles, hidden maps, traps, all to uncover the location of the hidden magical treasure. They were truly a team working together to find the lost artifact and defeat their enemies. Archer also really stepped up the magic in this second installment. Unlike the first, this book also had powerful sorcery, wielding both by a powerful witch Blade named Athena and an evil Heir Chernock as well as magical creatures. The pacing and balance between the fantastical and historical was perfectly achieved.

    Leigh/Archer’s prose is delicious without being overwrought. She’s such an amazing writer, and her prose is consistent across the various genres in which she writes.

    You don’t have to read the first book in order to enjoy the second. There is some backstory presented in the first, but the majority of it is covered in the second book, so the only thing you’d miss out on is references to the plot of the first. That being said, the first book is still an enjoyable read. I will read on in this series. It’s a total of four books and the last two take us to the wilds of northern Canada and then to Chicago. I hope you enjoy this series as much as I’m enjoying it!

  • Reviews

    Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure – Lewis Hancox

    Welcome to St. Hell: A Trans Teen Misadventure by Lewis Hancox is part autobiography, part memoir and part guide to figuring out gender as a trans teen. It is an invaluable resource, and I hope one that many questioning teens get their hands on.

    Huge thanks to Scholastic for sending me a review copy, all opinions my own as always.

    RELEASE DATE: 02/06/2022

    SUMMARY: Lewis has a few things to say to his younger teen self. He knows she hates her body. He knows she’s confused about who to snog. He knows she’s really a he and will ultimately realize this… But she’s going to go through a whole lot of mess (some of it funny, some of it not funny at all) to get to that point. Lewis is trying to tell her this … but she’s refusing to listen. In Welcome to St Hell, author-illustrator Lewis Hancox takes readers on the hilarious, heartbreaking and healing path he took to make it past trauma, confusion, hurt and dubious fashion choices in order to become the man he was meant to be. (from Scholastic)

    OPINIONS: Telling creator Lewis Hancox’s own story of discovering his trans identity, this touching graphic novel is a great resource for teens questioning their own gender identity. It isn’t a straightforward or easy story, and shows that being queer is not a sudden choice for most. It is a slow process, and one that often includes a lot of denial and internalised prejudice and fear.


    Autobiographical and benefitting from the perspective of adult Lewis, the author self-inserts his adult persona into the story throughout, interacting with his younger self and the people around him, both to give reassurance and to have sometimes uncomfortable conversations about how especially his initial coming out went and how it affected their feelings. And that is something I found interesting to see – the acceptance of others struggling with the change, not because they struggled with Lewis being a guy but because it is a major change and comes with fears of their relationship changing and insecurity. Lewis comes across as wise, and it is great to see his insight into people’s thoughts and behaviour, even if it is clear that the journey to get there wasn’t easy.


    I think this graphic novel is a valuable resource and I am incredibly glad it exists. It is nuanced and informative, and I think it will help many teens. While the specific humour didn’t always fully click with me, I think ultimately, the messages and content are far more important. This is an essential book to have in every school library and I hope one that is made accessible to the teens that need it. Add Welcome to St. Hell to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Reviews

    The Luminaries – Susan Dennard

    A very long time ago, in a different world, Susan Dennard spent nearly six months entertaining Book Twitter with a create-your-own-adventure story based on an idea she never sold. We got invested in the daily polls about our chaotic heroine Winnie Wednesday, love interest Ugh Jay and best friend Erica, and regularly killed off our characters because we had no sense as a hivemind. And now, Susan wrote the book, edited it and sold it. And it’s coming out in November. Welcome to The Luminaries.

    Huge thanks to Tor Teen for sending me an eARC via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 08/11/2022

    STAR RATING: 4.5/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you.

    Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night.

    Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

    But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

    Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark. (from Tor Teen)

    OPINIONS: This book was everything I hoped for and more. While it is a very different story than what I remember from the #TheLuminaries Twitter thread, it carries the same energy forward into a compelling YA fantasy. We still have our favourite stubborn but charming Winnie, Ugh Jay and Erica, though in this version, Winnie and Erica aren’t currently as close anymore because reasons. But we also meet so many new characters who round out the story. Where the create-your-own-adventure was fairly basic, this is a true novel, complex and full of nuanced backstory. 

    There is plenty of fan service – such as the iconic boop moment straight from the Twitter thread. And believe me when I say I squeed out loud when I got to it. We also get answers to a lot of things that remained open questions, especially around the locket, so central to the story. I did wish there was more Diana action, as I found the organisation fascinating and I was disappointed that the shed didn’t find its way into this version. But then I think about the fact that this is billed as book one and gleefully think about how Susan will go on to torture us next and get VERY excited. 

    The Luminaries is both an exciting, action-packed YA fantasy for those new to the universe and a lovely comfort read for those who have been following the story’s journey since Summer 2019. Susan has done it again, and I for one am a fan – I’ve already ordered my copy from the US because I can’t wait for the UK edition.

    Add The Luminaries to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy via Book Depository here.

  • Reviews

    Return to Blackwater House – Vikki Patis

    I’ve been on a bit of an escapist thriller binge recently, so when Ollie from Hodder emailed about this psychological thriller with gothic elements, I was all ears. It’s a compelling story where things are not as they first seem – a great book to take along on holiday this summer!

    Many thanks to Ollie at Hodder for sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.

    RELEASE DATE: 26/05/2022

    STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶

    SUMMARY: You can run from your past, but you can’t hide forever…

    Rebecca Bray has moved on from a childhood she desperately wants to forget.

    She has everything she’s ever wanted – the perfect fiancé, a loving stepdaughter, a career she’s proud of, and now the house of her dreams.

    But when the family move to the Cornish village where Rebecca grew up, everything she wanted to bury from those years starts to claw at the surface.

    Then, when her stepdaughter goes missing at a New Year’s Eve party, Rebecca must finally face the ghosts of her past – or Ava might never come home safely… (from Hodder)

    OPINIONS: I’m not sure why, but when my brain is tired these days, crime and thriller novels work great as quick reads that help me relax and regain energy. I spent a long time not really reading much in the genre, and have only really gotten back into it in the last year or so, and I’m really happy that I’m getting the opportunity to read a bunch for review at the moment. Return to Blackwater House by Vicki Patis is an atmospheric psychological thriller that keeps the reader guessing for a very long time. It is dark, even messed up at times, and it is most definitely twisty. But most of all, it is a fun and compelling read.

    And it has interesting characters. Every single character has depth and a backstory that comes through in layers, from Rebecca, the stepmother, to Ava, the missing daughter, to the dad, the detective, and everyone else involved. Nothing is as it seems in those first few chapters of exposition and the story slowly unravels to show past and present, weaving in strands of mental illness struggles blending hallucinations with reality to keep the reader on their toes.

    Vicki Patis is an author to look out for, and I’m curious to see what she comes up with next. I’m hoping more delightfully psychological thrillers with gothic elements like this!

    Add Return to Blackwater House to your Goodreads here, and order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

  • Reviews

    Olivia Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales

    I’ve heard great things about Olivia Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales for years, which means I was thrilled when I found out that her self-published work was so successful that the lovely folks over at Orbit decided to pick them up for re-release. I’ve never read them before – and reading them now, I’m finding them magical and lovely and am kicking myself for missing out for so long. And now my flatmate is stealing them as soon as I finish…

    Huge thanks to Nazia at Orbit for sending me review copies of both these books. All opinions are my own.

    Half a Soul

    RELEASE DATE: 30/06/2022

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    Half a Soul tells the story of Theodora, a young woman in dire need of a husband to settle her family’s finances. But as it is wont to do, life has other ideas. And she gets pulled into a world of fae and magic. A lovely romance with wonderful characters that introduces the world of Olivia Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales. Dora finds out that she was part of a bargain her late mother had made with the faerie Lord Hollowvale – and has to contend with a copy of herself, retaining her autonomy and ensuring her and her family’s future. And of course there’s also a good dash of romance. I devoured this book and immediately went on to read the second in the series of standalones – I highly recommend these wonderful stories as light, comforting reads, especially for vacations and times when you want to relax. Order a copy of the Orbit edition via Bookshop here. (affiliate link)

    Ten Thousand Stitches

    RELEASE DATE: 21/07/2022

    STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶

    Ten Thousand Stitches is the second book in this series of standalones in a shared world. This one is loosely based on the story of Cinderella, taking elements from the fairy tale but making it its own story. I adored this one even more than Half a Soul. I loved the chaos of maid Effie trying to muddle through life, to achieve dreams that were outside of the social boundaries, and I loved Lord Blackthorn’s attempt at being a fairy godfather. While the trope of the fairy godmother is an ubiquitous one, I’ve never seen a male twist on it before, and this one really worked well – in D&D terms, he’d have a chaotic good alignment, trying his best, but outside the codex of laws and regulations of society and therefore causing havoc. There is romance, there are shenanigans and there is a socialist revolt and proto-unionising. An absolute delight of a comfort read. Order a copy of the Orbit edition via Bookshop here. (affiliate link).