THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


Title : The Fever King
Author : Victoria Lee
Series : Feverwake (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 376
Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Skyscape
Release Date : March 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This is a book that my mind is shying away from being too critical about because it’s doing a lot of great things. And yet..

Beyond the representation offered in Lee’s characters (one lead is bisexual and Jewish/Latinx, the other is black, I believe), this is a sci-fi/dystopian story that heavily deals with how society treats refugees. For all that this is set, like, a hundred years (or something?) in the future, this is a very timely narrative and I felt the author did a good job of making this less of just a conveniently relevant backdrop and, instead, you really feel the struggle, the disparity between the social classes, which is made more dramatic by the haves, and the locals, being magical while the have-nots, those who have fled their home, are not.

But I found the worldbuilding somehow overly complex, or confusing, and I’m not entirely sure why. It centers around this big event that tore apart the US and left the remaining habitual areas into their own countries, the wars and tragedies that ensue, and along the way we’re given glimpses into that history, and particularly the figureheads of that time; one of which happens to still be around, now that he’s not only all powerful but also immortal. Somehow Carolinia is the only place in the world where it’s okay to be witching, someone who survives the fever brought on by a magical surge (or something.. notice a trend?) and Britain and Canada had tried bombing them, because to hell with magical people, but now.. they don’t? But, instead of Carolinia being a refuge for people, they close their borders? And, specifically relevant to the current plot, there’s the Carolianians vs the Atlantians conflict, because in Atlantia apparently it’s really terrible and toxic and you die, but somehow they make it to Carolinia anyway, but Carolinians want nothing to do with them, and.. I don’t know, like, I get what was happening but I also feel like I have no idea what was happening. Even in writing that summary (ish) I confused and doubted myself. I have no idea what’s just happened, I think I blacked out.

This paragraph is where I had a bunch more words written that I’ve since deleted. I mention this to honour their memory. You tried. You tried to make this review work. But it just didn’t.

Suffice it to say, this book is doing a lot. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters we don’t know if we are supposed to like, and a hate-to-love romance I wanted to get behind.. but only sometimes did. This book should’ve been a new favourite because of all that, plus a lot of darker and adult themes which made this YA the least YA-feeling YA book I’ve read in a long time (take a shot for every time I said “YA”) but I found it easy to put down, either because I was bored or my brain was just processing white noise. This should’ve been action packed and thrilling (and I guess it sort’ve was in a muted kind of way) and I should’ve been speculating and making theories (some of which I did, shoutout to my buddy Amanda who loves this book and got some of my reactions), and while I was clearly invested and following along enough to guess some things correctly, to see things coming, I’m still not sure what to do with any of it. Particularly after that ending. I think half the problem is there’s so much still not being revealed, or left unknown, and that is why I have one foot out the door on this one.

I can only hope book two has me diving into the feels, and the love, with both feet.

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

MONTHLY WRAP UP – FEBRUARY 2020

To close out each month, we’ll be posting a break down of everything we reviewed, beginning with the reads we loved.. and ending with the reads we didn’t. Not only does this compile all our reviews in one handy summary for you to peruse, or catch up on, it also gives us an interesting birds eye view of the month and our reads. And maybe, even, our moods.


☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

BOOK OF ORLANDO by Laura Lascarso — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

AN EVERYDAY HERO by Laura Trentham — see Micky’s review here
WHAT KIND OF GIRL by Alyssa B Sheinmel — see Micky’s review here
DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor — see Micky’s review here
THE STARS WE STEAL by Alexa Donne — see Micky’s review here
PROGNOSIS by Sarah Vallance — see Micky’s review here
THE MERCIES by Kiran Millwood Hargrave — see Micky’s review here
DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor — see Micky’s review here
SILVER IN THE WOOD by Emily Tesh — see Hollis’ review here
KOGITSUNE by Xia Xia Lake — see Hollis’ review here
DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS — see Micky’s review here
ONE WORD KILL by Mark Lawrence — see Micky’s review here
SHINIGAMI by Xia Xia Lake — see Hollis’ review here

☆ ☆ ☆ star reads

ALONE IN THE WILD by Kelley Armstrong — see Hollis’ review here
THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US by Trisha Levenseller — see Hollis’ review here
YES NO MAYBE SO by Becky Albertali & Aisha Saaed — see Micky’s review here
ROAM by C.H. Armstrong — see Micky’s review here

☆ ☆ star reads

THE GRAVITY OF US by Phil Stamper — see Hollis’ review here
RED HOOD by Elana K. Arnold — see Hollis’ review here
GROWN UPS by Marian Keyes — see Micky’s review here

star reads

THE WORST BEST MAN by Mia Sosa — see Hollis’ review here


additional reads not reviewed for blog : four
total reads by Micky : twelve
favourite read of the month : THE MERCIES by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
least favourite read of the month : GROWN UPS by Marian Keyes
most read genre : SFF/contemporary equally

total reviews by Hollis : nine
favourite read of the month : BOOK OF ORLANDO by Laura Lascarso
least favourite read of the month : THE WORST BEST MAN by Mia Sosa
most read genre : fantasy

THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US by Tricia Levenseller – double review!

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen? 


Title : The Shadows Between Us
Author : Tricia Levenseller
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends
Release Date : February 25, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I requested this one because, I mean, did you read that synopsis? Girl wants the King because she plans to kill him and rule in his stead? The song Cold As Ice was echoing through my head. It sounded delicious and different and I was keen to dive in.

And this is delicious and different but I never quite fell in love with it. Though I love that this not only features dialogue around empowering women and giving them agency over their bodies, but that it’s also centered around two not-so-easy to pin down leads. They aren’t quite antiheroes but they are far from pure snowflakes. These are definitely shades of grey characters that aren’t out to convince you that their way is better, or that it’s wrong for them to do what they do. They just exist.

Also this is a fantasy standalone, can I get a whoop whoop?

I do think this’ll appeal to many readers who want something different out of their fantasy, particularly YA, and there are a lot of topics dealt with that keep everything from feeling too one note. Additionally we aren’t bogged down with any world building, the setting has a mix of a lot of elements, though I’ll admit the shadow element of the Shadow King’s backstory was.. I don’t want to say weak, but it did stick out a bit. Which might be why we don’t spend much time on it.

But, again, I just never quite hit “I love this” levels of enjoyment. Definite moments of intrigue and interest but I’m not sure it’ll be a memorable experience in a few months time. Not that every book has to be! So here we are.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

I’ve been eager to read this book since it released over six month ago, I loved the cover and premise (from what I can remember, I don’t re-read blurbs). So colour me surprised with that start of the story and finding myself faced with a villain-protagonist of shady ethics.

The story had a great start, a duller middle and a more exciting finale. I liked it, I think but I was definitely disappointed in my own hype I’d built up. The characters in general were not my cuppa, The Shadow King was all intrigue for a while and then he was just so run-of-the-mill. Alessandra herself was a bit of a despicable character, not much to endear herself to the reader but you had to admire her cheek and courage.

The story was a little predictable, I guessed the twist but I did find this easy reading and paced fairly well. There was a feminist thread throughout the story and I liked that but found the issues a little too easily resolved. I didn’t always enjoy the peppy-quippy tone of narrative.

This was my first Tricia Levenseller and I liked her idea of writing something different, I just didn’t particuarly like these characters. I have her other books and I’m hoping to like those more.

RED HOOD by Elana K. Arnold

You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked.

And the wolf is angry.

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

Elana K. Arnold, National Book Award finalist and author of the Printz Honor book Damsel, returns with a dark, engrossing, blood-drenched tale of the familiar threats to female power—and one girl’s journey to regain it. 


Title : Red Hood
Author : Elana K. Arnold
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : February 25, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I requested this book for one reason only : because of DAMSEL. It’s a book a lot of people hate, or dislike, or just feel uncomfortable about. And I don’t begrudge anyone their feelings. But somehow it just worked for me. So when I saw yet another feminist sorta-retelling by the same author? I wanted it.

While this saying a lot of things, and unpacking all the societal gender issues, it just didn’t quite work as a story. It felt very literal, the good girls killed by the wolves aren’t good girls at all, it’s whispered, and yet no one questions the motives of the wolf. And this leaned very heavily on menstruation and dealing with those changes, all of which is great, and not often touched on. We also had a very strong female friendship that develops, between girls who wouldn’t normally have found each other, or maybe given each other a chance to be friends, in addition to a very sweet, very genuine, romance, but.

But.

I don’t know, it was a push to get through this, I wasn’t feeling motivated to read it, despite all the good in the story and what it was saying.

I think people who disliked DAMSEL will enjoy this because it’s a little less wild, a little less out there, and again, the dialogue is relevant and strong. So if you were put off by the author’s other works, but want to explore this kind of story, I would suggest giving this a try.

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

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – FEBRUARY 25, 2020

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 SHADOWS BETWEEN US by Tricia Levenseller’s summary starts with, “Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power: 1) Woo the Shadow King. 2) Marry him. 3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.” If that doesn’t intrigue you, what would? Look out for Hollis’ review later this week.


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

SHINIGAMI by Xia Xia Lake

A coming-of-age love story between an orphan and the heir of the richest family in the Land of Yamato. The human world meets the yōkai in a power struggle for the fate of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu. 

While he battles to find his own path, Hirotsugu finds solace in a boy who will become his secret friend, then his salvation, and then as they become adults together, the love of his life.


Title : Shinigami
Author : Xia Xia Lake
Series : Takamagahara Monogatari (book two)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 352
Genre : LGBTQIA+ historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : indie
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 (rounded up) star review

I’m going to be honest. I have very different feelings for the first half of this book vs the latter half. The first half details the life and experiences of Hirotsugu as he grows up as the heir to one of the wealthiest, and respected, families. In contrast to those around him, particularly his family, he’s very aware, and almost ashamed, of the divide that separates him from the poor, and this is reinforced by a chance encounter with a young beggar. A chance encounter that happens not just a second time, but a third, thus sparking a friendship that would turn into a great love.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first half of this journey is very heavy on the historical elements, the traditions, the myths; if you love world-building, if you love losing yourself in cultural descriptions, you will be overjoyed with the author’s research and attention to detail. I’ll admit that while I did follow along (and had a handy glossary, along with chapter header definitions to help out), I wasn’t as engrossed by the history as I was the characters. So while I wasn’t bored, I wasn’t fully immersed or on the edge of my seat in the early chapters. It was easy to put down, even with the magical elements and the mystery surrounding this presence that ran parallel to the narrative.

Also I made the mistake of speculating a theory or two to a friend who had read this already and boy was I wrong. But hey, I’m owning up to it. I recommend you try and throw some guesses around, too! Ahem, anyway..

And then the second half of the story happened and it was sweet and lovely and all of a sudden I was punched in the gut with feels and this time I was putting down the book so I could finish crying. Which I did.. twice. I definitely felt the strength of these characters near the end, the events felt more high stakes, with the added element of some melodrama to really get those emotions flowing. As a bonus, much is revealed that is only teased throughout, and while some subsequent actions felt rushed or maybe a little unrealistic, you still feel it. It still hurts. And you’re still blown away.

Readers who pick up the book one, KOGITSUNE, might be surprised, and confused, when they follow it up with SHINIGAMI only to realize it isn’t a direct continuation. And does, in fact, happen long after the events of book two. But by the time you get to the end of this book, you’ll understand why it’s important, and necessary, to read first. So go do that now.

Overall, this is an experience unlike one I’ve read before. It’s detailed, rich in history, magic and myth and folklore, it’s about a forever love between two young men, and so much more. And it’s not over! There’s more to come. I cannot wait to see how these stories progress in book three.

KOGITSUNE by Xia Xia Lake

A coming of age story set in medieval Japan. A friendship between a young fox god and his human childhood friend is built on deception, but grows stronger and purer as it’s driven by common purpose. However, the vast differences of the worlds they live in can’t be ignored, as their relationship is frowned upon by both humans and spirits.

As Kogitsune’s feelings for his human friend turn from friendship to something deeper, he will learn that love can be all consuming and heartbreaking. 

‘Kogitsune’ is a retelling of the famous Noh theater play ‘Kokaji’, a story about a swordsmith who requests the help of the Inari god to build a sword for emperor Ichijo (980-1011).


Title : Kogitsune
Author : Xia Xia Lake
Series : Takamagahara Monogatari (book 1)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 62
Genre : LGBTQIA+ historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : indie
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

This is such a sweet, magical, little story of the birth, and early years, of a kitsune; a fox god. As he discovers the world around him, he also meets a human boy, and they develop a sweet friendship that, over time and after reuniting after a separation where they each grow into their own, becomes a romance.

Despite how short this story is, Lake nonetheless manages to perfectly set the scene, delving into Japanese folklore and myth, all through the eyes of a curious and adorable protagonist, who is both naive and wise and, like mortals, just as susceptible to heartbreak, remorse, and love.

This is the first in a series and I can’t wait to read on.

HOUSE OF EARTH AND BLOOD by Sarah J. Maas — excerpt review!

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.


Title : House of Blood and Earth
Author : Sarah J. Maas
Series : Crescent City (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : five chapter excerpt
Genre : NA fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I’ll be honest, I don’t know why I clicked on this excerpt. I’m certainly not shy about not being much of a fan of this author and her work. But it seemed like a low-investment peek into what this book, the first of Maas’ new adult series, would be like. And overwhelmingly, I feel mostly ambivalence with a side of confusion. There’s a lot of world-building, which is helped a bit by a glossary of terms near the beginning so, thank you for that, and a set-up which I won’t say completely lost me but I definitely know I was just kind of reading along even if I wasn’t 100% sure of references or meaning to things.

As for the characters, there was a lot of time spent setting up an existing friend group and dynamic, even a possible romance, before things go sideways right at the end of this teaser. Having not refamiliarized myself with the synopsis before diving in, I’m not sure where things might go after this point (beyond the obvious vengeance questing), but I also find myself curious enough to.. maybe.. pick this up and read on. Which I guess means the tease was a success. My expectations are pretty low, and certain things felt very in line with the Maas-elements I don’t normally like (specifically in her characters), and I actually felt the writing of this far less pretty and compulsive than her other works, but.. I guess we’ll see.

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

DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor 🎧

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.


Title : Days of Blood and Starlight
Author : Laini Taylor
Narrator : Khristine Hvam
Series : Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2
Format : Audio
Length : 16 hours
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : November 8, 2012

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

This is going to be a shorter review than normal because I’ve been ill and I’m writing this much later than I normally would. However, it means I’ve had time to reflect and really think about this instalment.

This was a book steeped in sadness and regret. The way that DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE ended was a blow and so I picked up the next book desperate to know things but also feeling Karou’s sadness as my own. I felt her grief both from the loss of loved ones but also the betrayal and rift between her and Akiva.

Most of this book was told from the separate sides of Karou and Akiva, I missed them together BUT there were bright spots. Karou got to know and live in her heritage and I loved finding out about all of that. Zuzana and Mik were the brightest spots and their place in this story was everything to me. Ziri was a newer character and he really grew on me.

There are a few bad guys in this series but the one that had my focus was Thiago, I hated him. He was vile and never had me fooled but equally he was a great character to hate and fear. Ten, his sidekick was something of a tool too. What a pair.

There was a fair bit of world building in this book as new layers were added mostly in form of life in Eretz. It wasn’t too complicated and brought a richness to the story. The narration continued in excellence from Khristine Hvam.

I can feel it in my bones that this series is going to be beloved by me and I’m straight into book three.

SILVER IN THE WOOD by Emily Tesh

There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.


Title : Silver in the Wood
Author : Emily Tesh
Series : The Greenhollow Duology (book one)
Format : physical (library)
Page Count : 112
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : June 18, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 (rounded up) review

Thank goodness for the cover reveal of book two or I don’t know when I would’ve prioritized picking this one up.

SILVER IN THE WOOD is a slow-unfurling novella about the bargains made with old gods, the darkness of the wood, and new beginnings at the end of things. This wasn’t at all what I expected — I fully thought this would be darker, edgier, and instead it was more melancholy, charming, and sweet. Nonetheless I’m still rounding up, even if my expectations weren’t quite met, because I still enjoyed this so much.

We know there’s more to this Wild Man in the woods than just a caretaker and Tesh cleverly tells us the story of how things came to be as the curious new-owner of Greenhollow Hall is researching local legends and myth. And it’s when things go sideways, and a new character is introduced, that we somehow get a whole lot more worldbuilding that neither feels crammed down your throat or, considering the word count, too big for the story. But it’s the backstory that really feels rich, twisty, and also a little sad.

This novella was perfectly paced to leave you satisfied and yet wanting to read on and my only complaint is there isn’t more.. yet.