HERO AT THE FALL by Alwyn Hamilton

When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.


Title : Hero at the Fall
Author : Alwyn Hamilton
Series : Rebel of the Sands (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 471
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : March 6, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Initially, as I sat down to write this review, I found myself a bit at a loss as to what to say about this finale except that.. I am satisfied.

I don’t know why it took until book three for me to realize this but Hamilton did not pull punches. Your favourite characters took beatings, bullets, and may even have been buried (well, burned, because they don’t bury bodies in this world due to spooky night crawlies, but you get the idea). No one was safe.

And yeah, I cried. Twice. Because no one was safe.

I loved how the author would sneak in little snippets, little stories outside of (but part of) the story, and how that helped to end it, too. I think it helped to make this a little less perfectly wrapped up, no further problems, and instead gave their future more depth, more realism, because winning the war doesn’t prevent future battles.

That might not make much sense unless you’re read it, so I’ll move on.

As for the romance, which had dogged me a little in the sense that it was the least substantial-feeling of the plot points, well. I don’t know. I think I still stand by that. It wasn’t the strongest element, by far. But there were a few really good moments, one that made me cry, that proved Hamilton could’ve convince me. Not always but there was.. something.. there. I’ll take it.

The worldbuilding, the mythologies, the stories, none of it ever stopped growing. This world, the magic, the genesis of the Djinnis, it was so interesting, felt so effortlessly woven together, but the detail to do so was complex. I have no idea what Hamilton will be doing next (GR and amazon say 2025, bookdepository says 2022, it’s a mystery), but I will be reading more from her, whatever it might be, for sure.

Suffice it to say I had a really enjoyable time with this world and I’m so glad I slapped this one onto my Five Series to Finish in 2021 list. I’m very happy to not only have completed this but have had such a good time with it, too. Unrelated to this review, but for those keeping track (spoiler : I don’t expect any one to be keeping track, elle oh elle), this leaves me with just one more series from said post to chew through. And naturally I’ve left the most intimidating for last because why wouldn’t I. But seeing as the Diviners series always felt like a fall-time read.. well. It’s also perfect timing.

As for this series, though? I would definitely recommend.

WHO’S THAT GIRL by Mhairi McFarlane

What’s the one thing you DON’T do at a wedding?

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, her boss suggests an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgey, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.


Title : Who’s That Girl
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 544
Genre : women’s fiction / contemporary romance
Publisher : HarperCollins
Release Date : November 19, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

Even though I can probably admit to myself that this isn’t my usual five-star feeling, I can’t help but award it top marks anyway. Because McFarlane, as she so often does, does so many things right with this book, with her characters, with the situations, life lessons, and emotions she explores; and add to it that this might be the more romance-forward of her books..? It was so great. Though, having said that, it might be one of the less outright funny ones, too. Definitely clever, lots of banter and some great one-liners, but this author often makes me laugh as hard as she makes me cry and this had a softer hand with both of those things.

She didn’t want to be That Girl. The girl with the sad story attached. She wanted to define herself, not be defined by an event over which she had no control [..]. That’s what people with comfortable lives who were only playing the victim didn’t understand, how they gave themselves away – if you’d actually been one, you were desperate to shed the label. You craved the normality that had been taken from you.

As usual, McFarlane sets up a circumstance in such an everyday person way, with a character who is not perfect and has to work through what has gone wrong. In this case, having a friendship with an affianced coworker that crossed some emotional boundaries; which then leads to a complication when, on said coworker’s wedding day, he kisses her. And she’s caught reacting too slowly and is then, well, caught by the bride. The blame game then goes full force and because of being emotionally compromised by the man, and the friendship, she is caught between some real guilt and some real betrayal when he is forgiven and she isn’t and, of course, has to recalibrate while she hopes things blow over.

You built him up to be something he wasn’t. We women are prone to it, I think. No matter how grown up and independent we think we are, I swear we have a brain illness from childhood where we think a man on a white horse is going to turn up at some point and fix everything. And when he doesn’t turn up, and he can’t fix anything even when he does, we think we did something wrong.”

I think, hands down, one of my favourite things about every single McFarlane is the friend group. And this one is no exception. And through those friends, and even some strangers, Edie faces some very different conversations and perspectives not only on the messy situation but also how the treatment that lead her to it is something she allows to happen to her over and over. The real talk was real. But seriously, the friend group? A+. Made even better when pitted up against those she thought were her friends but turn out not to be.

What happens now, do we all go on dating sites and start Veet-ing our privates? If there’s one thing to be said for long-term relationships, it’s the freedom to have un-groomed genitals. Pubic fashions can come and go and you care not a jot.
Hairy’s back in anyway. Hairy’s the new bald.”
I’m not Veet-ing my balls for any woman. And I’m pretty sure demand for my bare ballsack is nil. When did people start liking this macabre stuff?

Sidenote, while it is always very satisfying and romantic when a love interest stands up for their person, it’s even more satisfying when the main character does it for themselves. And Edie’s moment? Beautiful. It would’ve been better had she not had to, of course, but still.

Look. That isn’t real life. That person they’re talking about isn’t you. There’s another version of you, multiple versions of you, walking around out there. You have to let it go, or you’ll go mad. Trust me on this. Keep these words in your head : those who know me better, know better.

What necessitated that beautiful moment was the relentless bullying and smear campaign against her. McFarlane tackles online bullying and how social media makes it easy to be vile others because people are turned into targets, symbols, or abstract archetypes, not.. well, human beings. And it was hard to read. Because we’ve all seen it happen to others or been impacted by it ourselves. This does, however, work as an interesting contrast as there is a character dealing with fame and the media on a larger scale and how, even when mostly positive, being talked about, with everyone assuming things about you or spinning a narrative, is difficult.

Find the man who appreciates you at your best, not the one who confirms your worst suspicions about yourself.”

As for the romance, it was so easy to root for it because the reader, unlike Edie, is far from oblivious to the love interest’s intentions. And we had lots of page time to really know him, too, even without his POV. There was something that worried me about how it would pan out but.. I can’t say more for spoilers. I can see why the ending is a bit polarizing but honestly I think that’s part of why this gets a five. It made me so happy because I thought for sure we’d end with something else.

The way I see it, you get people who are important to you, for as long as you get them. You never know how long it will be. You have to accept it and make use of the time you have.”

I mentioned the humour was a little toned down and so were the emotions. But this does also deal with grief, two kinds, and you will very likely get choked up a few times. I know I did. There’s even a sticky family dynamic that got to me, too.

Who’s That Girl is funny without being a comedy, is emotional without being devastating, sweet without any sugary cringe, and full of those good warm fuzzies when a character comes out stronger and knowing themselves better, especially when surrounded by a great support group.

Definitely recommend.


CHILD OF THE PROPHECY by Juliet Marillier – double review!

Magic is fading… and the ways of Man are driving the Old Ones to the West, beyond the ken of humankind. The ancient groves are being destroyed, and if nothing is done, Ireland will lose its essential mystic core. 

The prophecies of long ago have foretold a way to prevent this horror, and it is the Sevenwaters clan that the Spirits of Eire look to for salvation. They are a family bound into the lifeblood of the land, and their promise to preserve the magic has been the cause of great joy to them… as well as great sorrow.

It is up to Fainne, daughter of Niamh, the lost sister of Sevenwaters, to solve the riddles of power. She is the shy child of a reclusive sorcerer, and her way is hard, for her father is the son of the wicked sorceress Oonagh, who has emerged from the shadows and seeks to destroy all that Sevenwaters has striven for. Oonagh will use her granddaughter Fainne most cruelly to accomplish her ends, and stops at nothing to see her will done.

Will Fainne be strong enough to battle this evil and save those she has come to love?


Title : Child of the Prophecy
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book three)
Format : physical
Page Count : 596
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : TorBooks
Release Date : March 20, 2002

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

Well, we did it. The original trilogy complete. What a ride.

I cannot be part of this. The forest, the family, the — the brotherhood. You must realize that.”

What makes Child of the Prophecy so interesting, but also easily unlikeable, is the shift. After two books featuring brilliant, self-sacrificing, and purely good, heroines, we are faced with something different in Fainne. She’s not the hero. She’s not purely good. She is, simply, an antagonist. A reluctant one but nonetheless it’s true. She is brilliant, she is powerful, she shares her mother’s temperament (making her difficult), and she’s making choices that don’t have good results. Because she’s fighting for those she loves.. even at the cost of others. This disconnect, this unfortunate situation, is made worse because of her otherness. We, as a reader, have a connection to the Sevenwaters clan, the history, the losses and triumphs they have endured. But Fainne is outside of that while at the same time able to trace her own losses back to the choices (well meaning though they were) of those characters we love. We know their struggle, their guilt, and their enduring love. But Fainne doesn’t. And even worse, her otherness, her disconnect, is compounded by her own gifts and her parentage (doubly so); neither of which are acceptable.

Perhaps my own spirit was damaged, my heart cracked into pieces, so that I could never be fine and good.

It makes her journey difficult in so many ways.

You have the power to make us or break us, I think, and it will not be until the last that you will choose which way to go.”

And honestly I totally understand why my buddy readers had a hard time connecting with this story and the lead. I’m sure, a hundred years ago when I first read this, I had the same issue. It’s always been my least favourite of the trilogy, though still undoubtedly a Marillier and thus excellent (previously rated a four to the otherwise outstanding fives), but now, in hindsight, I can respect and appreciate this a little more — the experience of reading it was also, likely, helped by the benefit of hindsight and knowing where the story would end up. Every character’s journey in this saga has had pitfalls and struggles; Fainne’s are just different and, unfortunately, come with collateral damage. 

The days where the children of Sevenwaters could roam the forest freely, without fear, are gone.

Then again, I’m so biased it’s beyond comprehension, so there’s that.

What likely also chips away some of the lustre with this final (ish) instalment is the lower romance content. Or, rather, the fact that we don’t get enough time seeing it to really believe in it, maybe. But I think this ties into the fact that, considering the ending, their story isn’t really for us. They are part of the whole but set apart from it. For reasons. Either way, though, I can admit it’s the weakest part of the story but there were still moments I found lovely and moving.

There will come a time, soon enough, when even that ancient wood will fall to the axe, to grant man his grazing land, his settlements, his towers and his walls. He thinks, in his ignorance, to tame the very earth, to force the very ocean to his will. And so he will lay waste the body of the mother who gave him birth; and will not know what he does. The old ways will be forgotten.”

Equally this might be the least emotionally devastating of the stories. I definitely cried for a few reasons during the big conflict during the end but there were only one or two brief moments during the telling that actually got me choked up. Fainne’s disconnect makes this less of an emotional journey and considering the books that came before that, too, is a change.

But.

This is my favourite series for so many reasons; for the emotions, the folklore, the magic, the heartbreak, the challenges, the strength, the wisdom, the losses, and the whole of it. These three books make up a generational story that, in my mind, is truly untouchable. But, again, biased.

The companions that follow the main Sevenwaters trilogy are the ones I don’t know well at all, having only read them each once upon publication. Though I remember which characters they follow, and have vague memories of the plot, I don’t have any real emotional attachment to them beyond the fact that they exist in this beloved world. I hope, with age and my enduring delight and respect for this saga, and the main trilogy fresh in my mind (though it never truly fades), I come out with some newfound love for them. I can’t wait to read on.

Thank you to the Sevenwaters Squad — Micky, Steph, Amanda, and Cat — for coming on this journey with me. I know it wasn’t always what you expected (in good and bad ways) but I had a great time nonetheless.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Pesky protagonist
Oh the sevenwaters family
Magic – dark versus light

Child of the Prophecy did not live up to my expectations but lets just frame that with how high the bar has been set by books one and two. The biggest difficulty with this story was Fainne, a protagonist that was hard to like. On the one hand, I admire Juliet Marillier for taking the difficult road on this but we’ve been spoilt with the family of Sevenwaters in the previous books and so it was tough to be away from them at first.

The Sevenwaters family do become a big part of this story but Marillier put readers through the mill somewhat. I am saying nothing of the plot but it had me in knots of loyalty, allegiance and despair.

There was a smattering of romance but nothing as deeply affecting or connecting in this installment, I definitely missed that heart yearning love. There were a bunch of fav characters in this read, hello Liadan (I’m looking at you), Bran, Johnny (give the man his own book) and Ciaran.

How Marillier brought a fitting end about, I don’t know but thank goodness, she did. This was a very up and down read but I feel it was left in a suitable place and I hope for even more from book 4. I remain 100% invested in the series.

Thank you sevenwaters squad for the heated debate along the way.

THE HOLLOW HEART by Marie Rutkoski – double review!

there are now double the happy thoughts live for this review!

A Take from Two Cities

Intrigue, romance, and magic abound in the heart-stopping conclusion to Marie Rutkoski’s Forgotten Gods duology.

At the end ofThe Midnight Lie, Nirrim offered up her heart to the God of Thieves in order to restore her people’s memories of their city’s history. The Half Kith who once lived imprisoned behind the city’s wall now realize that many among them are powerful. Meanwhile, the person Nirrim once loved most, Sid, has returned to her home country of Herran, where she must navigate the politics of being a rogue princess who has finally agreed to do her duty.

In the Herrani court, rumors begin to grow of a new threat rising across the sea, of magic unleashed on the world, and of a cruel, black-haired queen who can push false memories into your mind, so that you believe your dearest friends to be your enemies.

Sid doesn’t know that this…

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WHITE SMOKE by Tiffany D. Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out in this chilling YA psychological thriller and modern take on the classic haunted house story from New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson!

Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.

The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its . . . secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.

But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?

As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.


Title : White Smoke
Author : Tiffany D. Jackson
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA psychological thriller
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : September 14, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 review

Throughout this read, I was definitely in the ‘like’ camp more than the ‘love’ and had it been the opposite I would’ve been far more disappointed by the ending than I was. But it was still a huge, abrupt, bummer.

This story is half horror and half psychological anxiety fuelled discomfort. It also has a less than fun new blended family dynamic which was grating in a whole different way, too. I enjoyed this was it was a horror, I was equally horrified by the circumstances that had plagued this town, the violent gentrification that had occurred (and was still occurring) at the expense of others; but at the same time this particular plot sort’ve went off the rails in an unbelievable way (not the criminalizations, that, unfortunately is very believable, but the shady corporate conspiracy and the specifics of what they had set up..? yeah, no) — which, considering I was reading about ghosts and hauntings and potential possession, says a lot.

As a haunted house story, this was great. For someone with an anxiety, reading about Mari’s phobias, it was just as unsettling. Everything else, and the ending.. I don’t know. Equally in the ‘I don’t know’ pile of things is the reluctance for Mari to jump to the very obvious conclusions about what was happening around her. Why she was so slow to pick up on this, to resist it when others were more convinced, I have no clue.

This one gets a cautious recommend out of me, I think. I absolutely don’t want to dissuade you from picking it up but at the same time it isn’t going to encourage anyone to read it.. just incase it’s even less a hit for you than it was for me.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 14, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski is the finale to the story started with The Midnight Lie and after that ending.. oh yeah, this is a need.

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson was pitched as The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out and, I mean, what more do you want. Also, that cover is stunning.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff is “the first illustrated (!) volume of an astonishing new dark fantasy saga.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood is a fake dating romance between two scientists and is getting a lot of hype!



Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

FRECKLES by Cecelia Ahern 🎧

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

When a stranger utters these words to Allegra Bird, nicknamed Freckles, it turns her highly ordered life upside down. In her current life as a parking warden, she has left her eccentric father and unconventional childhood behind for a bold new life in the city.

But a single encounter leads her to ask the question she’s been avoiding for so long: who are the people who made her the way she is? And who are the five people who can shape and determine her future? Just as she once joined the freckles on her skin to mirror the constellations in the night sky, she must once again look for connections.

Told in Allegra’s vivid, original voice, moving from Dublin to the fierce Atlantic coast, this is an unforgettable story of human connection, of friendship, and growing into your own skin.

Five people. Five stars. Freckle to freckle. Star to star.


Title : Freckles
Author : Cecelia Ahern
Narrator : Amy McAllister
Format : Audiobook
Length : 10 hours, 40 minutes
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Harper Collins Audio
Release Date : September 2, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

Headlines:
Quirky
Small town
Eclectic cast

I’m always up for reading a book by Cecelia Ahern, she always brings the unexpected with her women’s fiction and contemporary tales. This one however, didn’t hit the spot for me although the format of audio was pretty great and kept me going.

The protagonist, Allegra (Freckles) was an incredibly quirky character with some neurodivergent characteristics (it seemed). She was endearing in lots of ways and as a character I was drawn in. Add in Tristan, Pops, Spanner and others, there were lots of pluses. There were also a bunch of characters I couldn’t stand like Becky and Carmencita, the latter being horrendous and she was supposed to be. I felt rather mixed about the characters by the end.

I struggled with the plot most of the way through. At first, I felt engaged with this small town, her life as a traffic warden and the strict routine of the day, but it lost its shine with repetitiveness. By half way, the pace was slow and I’d lost interest. I didn’t feel much by the culmination.

The narration was excellent and it truly kept me going throughout the book. So this was the right format for me. Sadly, overall Freckles didn’t work its way into my heart and I do feel a little disappointed.

Thank you to Harper Collins for the review copies.

Thank you to netgalley and Harper Collins Audio for the early review copy.

THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN by Tess Sharpe

A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…


Title : The Girls I’ve Been
Author : Tess Sharpe
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary thriller
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was.. wow.

I don’t know what I expected when I picked this up (#NoBlurbers) but this was an off the cuff recommendation from a friend of mine (hi Sam!) and I saw my library had it so thought, hey, why not. And wow.

[..] she kissed me like I was prickly, like I was already understood, like I was worth it.

I really don’t even know where to begin. Within these pages you’ll find con artists, queer humans, trauma, clever girls, one of the absolute best representations of found family I’ve ever read, sharp edges, devoted sisters, dangerous situations, and the absolute will to survive.

I hate the whole “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” saying. It’s bullshit. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you is worse. Sometimes what kills you is preferable. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you messes you up so bad it’s always a fight to make it through what you’re left with.

Some books inspire paragraphs upon paragraphs of words and sometimes you’re just just staring at a blinking cursor. This is obviously the latter.

Netflix has apparently snatched this up to be adapted, with Millie Bobby Brown to star, and that is incredibly exciting. If they capture even half the magic of Sharpe’s words, pacing, and general vibe, it’ll be amazing. More amazing? It might get more people wanting to read the source material. Which you absolutely should. And, yes, I will be chewing through the author’s backlist between now and then.

Highly recommend.

TRAITOR TO THE THRONE by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel by chance. Traitor by choice.

Gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. 

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about Djinn and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.


Title : Traitor to the Throne
Author : Alwyn Hamilton
Series : Rebel of the Sands (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 523
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : March 7, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Fittingly for a book with the word ‘traitor’ in the title, I think the subheading should be : trust no one. Because wow, just when you think you know a body..

This book did so many things differently than book one did but what was very apparent is that Rebel of the Sands was just the tip of the iceberg for this world, this story, and there’s really no way to tell how it’s going to end.

Confusingly, we start this book with a bit of a time jump, brushing over events that have happened off page, and then only get some explanation quite a few chapters later. It definitely puts the reader on the back foot for a bit, and I don’t know why, but I guess we had to get to a certain place by a certain time and considering this page count was already significantly higher than book one.. maybe there was little choice in the manner? But it does brace you for the plot to take a turn and the merry little band of rebels we’ve been so used to being around, well.. we lose them for most of this book. It’s just a whole lot of different.

We also, as a result, lost the focus on the romance, which, hey, I mean, they have bigger things to worry about, so it’s realistic, but it’s also because our lovebirds are separated (see aforementioned loss o’rebels); however as a result it didn’t quite solidify my feelings about it. I had actually, conversely, wanted more time spent on it to make it feel more real. I like it but I don’t feel it, y’know?

Everything else though was pretty solid. The action, though lulled for a bit due to Reasons, really kicks off in the last 30%, and in the build up to that we get different sides to characters we had only ever heard about, people from Amani’s past, and all sorts of shifted dynamics. It was very interesting. I won’t say it was always very interesting, this book is long and some bits didn’t hold my attention like others did, but I still had a good time.

Can’t wait to see how this ends.

BLACKOUT by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon

Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Beloved authors—Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon—celebrate the beauty of six couples and the unforgettable magic that can be found on a sweltering starry night in the city.


Title : Blackout
Author : Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 256
Genre : contemporary / diverse reads
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : June 22, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I’m leaving this unrated and instead rating the stories separately with mini reviews.

Tiffany D Jackson’s story, The Long Walk, is the main driving force of these interconnected stories of Black kids during a city-wide blackout, with four parts that break up the anthology. This story focuses on a couple who have since broken up and both happen to arrive an internship there’s only one spot for. Before it can be resolved, the blackout hits. With nothing else to do, they agree to walk home together and, along the way, hash out their issues. This definitely got a bit overwrought at times, I’m mostly thinking of Act Three, and maybe I’m just used to Jackson’s more mature stories but this felt very.. young, on the childish end of YA, despite the fact that the characters were eighteen. And it’s such a bummer as I’ve loved so many stories from this author. But this one just didn’t do it. Two stars.

Mask Off by Nic Stone : a coming out/coming of age short between two boys who weren’t ever quite friends but were in each other’s orbit throughout the years. Until a queer masquerade party brings them together.. in a way. But it isn’t until they are stuck on the train together when the blackout hits that the masks (not literally!) come off. Honestly, this one was just.. fine. Nothing really remarkable. Two stars.

Made to Fit by Ashley Woodfolk : this short was set in an senior’s living facility, where two girls, one the granddaughter of a resident and the other, who visits the seniors with her therapy dog, meet. When a photo goes missing, the two girls search the home and, as they spend time together, sparks fly. This was a little too insta for me but it tied in with the theme of all the epic love stories being told around them. It was also a tiny bit repetitive RE the granddaughter’s sorta ex but it was cute. Three stars.

All the Great Love Stories.. and Dust by Dhonielle Clayton : hmm, sorta mixed feelings about this one. I love the idea of these two best friends with their history of bets combing through a library to find the greatest book of all time. She’s working up the courage to tell him how she feels and we get pieces of their history together; he’s got a revolving door of girlfriends, she never bothers. Does he feel for her what she feels for him? Again, love the concept, but some of this, despite being a novella, dragged out a bit. The pacing was a little off. But, still, it was cute. Three stars.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn by Angie Thomas : this short features a girl on a tour bus, on a school trip from Mississippi, struggling with feelings for her crush.. when she already has a boyfriend. I’m not going to say much more about this and risk spoiling it, because it didn’t end the way I expected, but the tie-in is that the driver is another character’s father and he may have accidentally gone off-route to drive them towards the block party happening in Brooklyn, where all the other characters we’ve met so far are also planning to attend. Four stars. And, in hindsight, though I loved Yoon’s writing best, this was my favourite story.

Seymour & Grace by Nicola Yoon : easily the best written of the bunch! And I enjoyed the story, too, even if it felt extra short. A girl is trying to find her way to the block party all the characters have made it to where she plans to confront her ex who dumped her because she’d “changed”. She ends up in a Ryde with someone listening to a philosophy podcast and they strike up a conversation; but it’s a rocky meeting. Things go wrong on the way to their destination but, eventually, they get there. And then.. well. Spoilers. I would’ve loved an extra chapter of this, instead of the extended Jackson story, and I’m sad it was so short. It’s a softer story but felt very Yoon-like. Which is a good thing. Four stars.

But while the little throw away tie-ins in Yoon’s story to bring everyone into the story, into the party, was nice, it still boggles my mind we didn’t get a concluding chapter that made it feel, after all this build up, that we were actually at this party?.That’s still confusing. It just kind of ends. Even though the Jackson wasn’t my favourite story, it held the anthology together, working as the glue. So couldn’t we have had a proper ending?

Overall, this wasn’t bad, but I expected to love a lot more from this bind-up than I did. So that’s a bit of a bummer. But I’ve not read anything by Woodfolk or Clayton before, though I’ve definitely had the latter on my radar, and I will definitely be picking up their solo offerings in the future.