I KISSED SHARA WHEELER by Casey McQuiston – double review!

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.


Title : I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Author : Casey McQuiston
Format : ARC / eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Press/MacMillan Kids
Release Date : May 3, 2022/May 12, 2022

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This book is really making me reconsider my rounded up “3.5 star feels” for One Last Stop. Because I Kissed Shara Wheeler gave me the queer ensemble of my dreams whilst also having an electric and fun and unexpected plot without any of the lulls found in the author’s sophomore release. Infact, this made me incredibly nostalgic for their debut because I’m left with that same sparkly feeling — minus the hangover from some of the more intense emotional moments.

God, why is he still here? What is he doing? There’s no way his job is that hard. All he des is cut the arts budget and misinterpret the Bible. How many hours can that possibly take?

Because, yes, I Kissed Shara Wheeler? Fantastic. I knew by the end of chapter one I was going to be a goner for this book and only something absolutely terrible could ruin it. And, spoiler, nothing did.

While she does like boys, she generally finds the traits of a compelling villain — arrogance, malice, an angry backstory — tedious in a man. Like, what do hot guys with long dark hair have to be that upset about? Get a clarifying shampoo and suck it up, Kylo Ren.

As usual my brain is stalling out a little on what to say but like. This has that competitive academic rivals tension. It has a kiss-fuelled scavenger hunt. It has unlikely allies who become true friends. It’s about self-discovery. It’s about quiet rebellions that lead to louder ones. It’s about old friends become new again. It’s about found family. And so much more.

Chloe, we’re gay. We can’t do math.
Okay, well, next time I’ll come and make a spreadsheet.
This is why we need you. Once in a generation, there is born a bisexual who can do math. You’re the chosen one.”

It’s not all easy or fun or just non-stop queer shenanigans, though. With the setting of this book, both in a little town in Alabama and at a Christian school to boot, you know there’s going to be some issues to tackle. But those issues never overwhelmed the story. But neither were they too minor to not play a part. It was the perfect balance.

Your mama and I decided long before you were both that we would let you be whoever you are, no matter who that is.
And if who you are is a snarling little Pomeranian with eyes like fire, than that’s who you are, darling.”

If YA is all McQuiston plans to ever write again (this is not confirmed, I’m just saying), I would honestly only be a tiny bit upset to lose adult content from them. Because it really was that good. I know I will be rereading this and, likely, loving it even more.

Highly recommend.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
YA contemporary comedy mystery
Dramatics
Bigatory

There’s lots to recommend this read, it’s beautifully queer, a fun romp but somehow, it just didn’t hit the notes for me. There’s an eclectic band of friends thrown together in this story and that was the element I became most fond of.

Shara was missing and I struggled with Shara as a character for much of the story, and maybe I was supposed to. She seemed manipulative and they way she had all these peers pitched against one another initially, really wound me up. There was space for redemption but overall I didn’t like her. Shara however, wasn’t really the main character even if the whole story was centred on her, Chloe was the MC and I did like her mostly. Chloe had some epic moms which I appreciated.

The themes were welcome in this book and they included exploring identity, sexuality and rebelling against bigatory. These important themes were well handled but it felt alongside a fair bit of dramarama. I think the drama and manipulative characteristics of Shara were what kept me from connecting with the characters sadly. I didn’t feel any chemistry in the romantic moments either.

I am disappointed I didn’t enjoy this more but I can see that so far from a ratings perspective, I am in the minority.

Thank you MacMillan Kids for the early review copy.

THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Emily St. John Mandel

The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core. 

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him. 

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.


Title : Sea of Tranquility
Author : Emily St. John Mandel
Format : ARC
Page Count : 255
Genre : historical fiction / sci-fi
Publisher : Knopf
Release Date : April 5, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

So, spoiler alert, this has a lot more pandemic-content than I think I expected. For some reason I thought the discussion was more centered in the older of the timelines but instead it seemed to span most of them; and we see COVID make a cameo, too. Having said that, readers now expecting a lot of page time dedicated to this might think there’s less than I claim; I suppose it depends on one’s perspective. But regardless, if you aren’t ready for that kind of content, maybe avoid this one.

As for the story itself, I have some mixed feelings about it all. I feel like this is one of those reads that you might not appreciate until the very end — because that was definitely the case with me. I wasn’t bored or disliking anything up until that point but neither was I particularly engaged with or by the characters we were spending time with. But the ending, the why of it all.. I liked that. Doubly so because I didn’t see it coming.

This also felt a little.. I don’t want to see autobiographical but it almost felt there were parts of the author’s own experience, in a few different ways, that she may have included via the book’s author’s perspective or experience. It took me out of the story a little but for the other bits I actually enjoyed wondering if Mandel had been asked these same questions, had the same experience of doing press for a pandemic novel during a pandemic, etc.

Overall this was definitely mixed for me but it won’t stop me from picking up her titles again. And, on the topic, upon skimming through the top bit of the GR page, it turns out this connects a bit to her previous release, The Glass Hotel. I never got around to reading it so I’m keen to step back and see where the bits overlap. I always love those little easter eggs. Here’s hoping that one, at least, is a win.

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

THE MAID by Nita Prose

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.


Title : The Maid
Author : Nita Prose
Format : ARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : contemporary mystery / thriller
Publisher : Ballantine Books
Release Date : January 4, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I think readers are going to be a bit split on The Maid. For die-hard crime/mystery enthusiasts this might be a bit of a letdown because when it comes down to it.. this is very simplistic. And a bit slow. But it’s both of those things because of our perspective and narrator.

Molly Gray is different. It’s never stated outright but I would maybe judge she’s somewhere on the spectrum? She’s needed her grandmother to guide her through many exchanges or situations throughout her life and now, with her grandmother recently dead, she’s a bit at loose ends. Which makes the fact that she gets caught up in murder rather poor timing, what with the fact that no one has her best interests in mind and she’s seemingly friendless.

What was most interesting, besides Molly herself, was how what we thought to be true of some of the people and dynamics around her was decidedly the opposite. As a reader, some moments were painful, others were just sad, but the way it was done through the use of only one POV was really great. I won’t say more because I enjoyed the reveal but maybe everything I’ve said up until now will give you an idea.

I don’t know if I would classify this as a cozy mystery but it might be somewhere in the same realm. Molly herself inspires both some heartbreak and some warm and fuzzies and there does come to be something of an ensemble in the end and that, too, was warm and fuzzy inducing.

Everything unique about this story was a definite highlight, and the writing was easy to churn through, but for all the unique elements I don’t think this will be particularly memorable. I would pick up the author again, though; and despite the lower rating than I expected to dole out, if this kind of vibe seems like your thing, I would encourage you to pick it up.

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

UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR by TJ Klune – double review!

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy with TJ Klune’s signature “quirk and charm” (PW) about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.


Title : Under the Whispering Door
Author : TJ Klune
Format : ARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : September 21, 2021/October 28, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Anyone else find they go back to the cover of a book they’ve just read and notice things they didn’t before? Because it me.

Here, at the end, he’d found a friend.

Surprising no one, this book made me cry. A lot.

I can’t grieve for myself.”
Of course you can. We do it all the time, regardless of if we’re alive or not, over the small things and the big things. Everyone is a little bit sad all the time.”

If you’ve read the synopsis for this one, there honestly isn’t a whole lot more I can say without ruining everything. But this story deals with grief, death, and the unfortunate reality of hindsight and perspective; and how often it occurs to us too late. But it’s also about being a better person, or trying to be, even if — especially if — there’s no benefit to you. Just doing the right thing because it’s what should be done.

What if across the top, written in bold letters (and in Comic Sans!) was a summation of Wallace Price’s life that was less than flattering? HE DIDN’T DO A WHOLE LOT, BUT HE HAD NICE SUITS! or, worse, NOT THAT GREAT, IF I’M BEING HONEST.

For all the tears, and for all the story is saying something lovely, though not particularly profound — though maybe the simplicity makes it profound? you decide — I’ll admit that, some fun antics with the characters who live in this bizarre tea house side, there was only so much that could happen, that we could see play out. The journey is mostly internal for Wallace, our lead, to relive moments of his life, to relearn things he had forgotten, to be better. We do sort’ve go through some motions, which makes sense because, I mean, he’s dead, all he has is motions to go through, but this story is almost all character-driven. There is more action, more excitement, near the end, though. Both related to, but also not, to all my tears. There’s one character, Cameron, well.. yeah, lots of tears for that one.

Honesty was a weapon. It could be used to stab and tear and spill blood upon the earth. Wallace knew that; he had his fair share of blood on his hands because of it. But it was different now. He was using it upon himself, and he was flayed open because of it, nerve endings exposed.

You’ll definitely find some Klune-esque humour, though not quite to the extremes he can often get, and some of his characters — Mei, Nelson — all but leap off the page in your face. As much as I enjoyed Wallace, and Hugo, they weren’t my favourites; and seeing as the story focuses the most of them, that might be why this isn’t a full five stars. Their parts were sometimes lovely, moving, and often sweet. But when I think back on this story, which I’m sure I will, they won’t be the first ones to come to mind.

We don’t murder people.
Maim, then.”
We don’t do that either.
Nothing’s stopping us. You told me that we should always try and achieve our dreams.
I didn’t have murder in mind when I told you that.”
That’s because you think too small.”

Full of thoughtful exploration and devastating observations, tea, and equal parts cozy and sad and strange, as long as you don’t go thinking this is another The House in the Cerulean Sea — though you may see a little blink and you miss it throwaway reference to it, and another of Klune series or two — I think you’ll really appreciate this story. But don’t forget to pack the tissues.

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Bruised but full heart
Whimsical beauty within
For tea-lovers

I’m sitting staring at my screen trying to find the words, after reading all the beautiful words in Under the Whispering Door. This story of Wallace’s journey from life and to the beyond captured my mind and my heart completely; I did not want to let go.

This story is about loneliness, finding a famiy and purpose while also finding out about the secrets beyond life, at least a fantastical representation of that. I thought what Klune has created here was poignant, whimsical, emotional and incredibly funny at times. Considering the themes of death and grief, the wit balanced out all the things, as did the characters.

This world was a surprise around every corner, from Mei to the tea plants and the manager to the door. The story of the husks was especially gut wrenching. The connection between Wallace and Hugo was something special, hearts pounded, love abounded and that was just me…

I cried, I laughed and I treasured. Just do yourself a favour and pick this book up.

Thank you to Tor and Black Crow PR for the precious review copy.

DON’T BREATHE A WORD by Jordyn Taylor

Present Day:
Eva has never felt like she belonged… not in her own family or with her friends in New York City, and certainly not at a fancy boarding school like Hardwick Preparatory Academy. So when she is invited to join the Fives, an elite secret society, she jumps at the opportunity to finally be a part of something.

But what if the Fives are about more than just having the best parties and receiving special privileges from the school? What if they are also responsible for keeping some of Hardwick’s biggest secrets buried?

1962:
There is only one reason why Connie would volunteer to be one of the six students to participate in testing Hardwick’s nuclear fallout shelter: Craig Allenby. While the thought of nuclear war sends her into a panic, she can’t pass up the opportunity to spend four days locked in with the school’s golden boy. However, Connie and the other students quickly discover that there is more to this “test” than they previously thought. As they are forced to follow an escalating series of commands, Connie realizes that one wrong move could have dangerous consequences.

Separated by sixty years , Eva’s and Connie’s stories become inextricably intertwined as Eva unravels the mystery of how six students went into the fallout shelter all those years ago . . . but only five came out. 


Title : Don’t Breathe a Word
Author : Jordyn Taylor
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA mystery contemporary/historical
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : May 18, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

This was an interesting dual-timeline story, that later connects, of an event in the past that is the catalyst for the creation of a secret society at a boarding school. It mashes up Cold War paranoia with present day priviledge and the new girl at said school who is brought into the society and uncovers the crime at the heart of the organization.

I found this an easy read and enjoyed it when I didn’t think too hard about the unlikeliness of the whole thing enduring through the decades. Also the fact that no one had uncovered anything in the decades since? Like with most stories, suspend some disbelief and you’ll have a good time.

At it’s heart, however, is a good message for teens — and those of us non-teens who sometimes forget — that people worth your time, be them friends or family or peers, won’t demand sacrifice or secrets or for you to bury your discomfort just to be in their presence. Friendship, love, respect.. these are not conditional.

While this wasn’t perhaps all that surprising or original, except for the circumstances taking place during the historical timeline, if you like secret societies, boarding school settings, and mysteries for YA protagonists to unravel, you should give this one a go.

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

JAY’S GAY AGENDA by Jason June

There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all this friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.

Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs, where he can flirt with Very Sexy Boys and search for love. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones…because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.

From debut novelist Jason June comes a moving and hilarious sex-positive story about the complexities of first loves, first hookups, and first heartbreaks—and how to stay true to yourself while embracing what you never saw coming.


Title : Jay’s Gay Agenda
Author : Jason June
Format : ARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So this wasn’t quite the lovely, hilarious, quirky, queer, YA love story I expected it to be. It was, however, very sex positive (though in only one specific way.. more on that later) and I think that should definitely be celebrated. Mostly because it’s the only positive thing I can attribute to this read. Sorry, no, that’s a lie. I liked Jay’s parents. Who were also very sex positive. There we go.

The problem really starts, and ends, with the main character. Not only was he a bit OTT in some ways he was just completely.. well, dick-crazed? To put it nicely, I guess (it would’ve been nice if the focus on virginity hadn’t been so prevalent but also why did no single person address the fact that sex comes in lots of forms, not just penetrative? for a queer novel, this was a very heteronormative view). And he was totally oblivious to literally so much, including his own hypocrisies. I’m not saying he was the only one to be guilty of such, and hey, this is a bunch of eighteen year olds we’re talking about here, but.. still.

I wish I could’ve loved this but I barely liked it. I hope people can enjoy this, because I absolutely think queer readers need messy romcoms they can see themselves in, and there’s definitely a plethora of messy romcoms for those of us who are straight, I just.. I hated the lying, yes, and I hated the cheating, but more than that (and this is big because I really hate cheating) was how easily he was forgiven. By literally everyone. Yes, yes, it’s a YA, we need to wrap up everything nicely, but.. nope. Teens deserve to see consequences play out. We all do. It’s part of life.

Also, COVID/quarantine was mentioned offhand like twice and a) that was really jarring and b) no, stop, I don’t want this in my fiction.

I have no idea if there’s more to come because GR indicates this is the first in a series but I don’t think I’ll be reading on. Especially not if book two is from Jay’s POV.

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

FUGITIVE TELEMETRY by Martha Wells

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!


Title : Fugitive Telemetry
Author : Martha Wells
Series : The Murderbot Diaries (book six)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 176
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : April 27, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was [..] a construct made of cloned human tissue, augments, anxiety, depression, and unforcused rage, a killing machine for whichever humans rented me, until I made a mistake and got my brain destroyed.

So let’s get the mild bits that bummed me out.. out of the way. First of all, this is a novella length installment again, after book five was full length. Not too bad, really, as we’re mostly used to this. However the major thing that bummed me out? No ART.

Don’t look at me like that’s my fault. I’m just telling you shit I know.

But otherwise? This was another Murderbot adventure that made me laugh, snicker, and entertained me. After all the excitement of book five it maybe was a little lacking in tension and edginess but it was still really great. I likely have more quotes I want to insert than I actually have material for a review because I mean.. at this point we all kind of know what to expect. Murderbot rescues people despite a lack of trust. Murderbot wishes they are just watching Sanctuary Moon. Hijinks ensue.

I would have either disposed of the body so it was never found, or made it look like an accident.
How would you dispose of a body so it wouldn’t be found?
If I told you, then you might find all the bodies I’ve already disposed of.

If you aren’t already into this series you totally should be.

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

ONE OF THE GOOD ONES by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?

When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.


Title : One of the Good Ones
Author : Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite
Format : ARC
Page Count : 318
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Inkyard Press
Release Date : January 5, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I had glimpsed a mention of a “twist” on the back of this book but had no idea what to expect for said twist. In fact I thought it was supposed to be something we learned fairly early on in the story, but just revealed on a bigger scale to other characters, but.. wow. I was so so wrong. I was so unprepared.

Right off the bat I’m going to recommend you check out any #ownvoices reviews for this one before reading mine because those opinions should definitely be ampified over my own. But also I think you should absolutely make an effort to pick up this book.

While most of the plot of One of the Good Ones is painfully familiar to anyone who watches the news these days (an especially to those who have been living through it for years), the discussion surrounding what it means to be “one of the good ones” is equally heartbreaking. And brutally real. How the value of one’s loss is based on how they behaved or carried themselves or what they had overcome, what they might have been or gone on to do. How one has to be deemed worthy instead of just having the very basic right to exist; how not everyone is deserving of that much. This touches on all of that and more. It will anger you, frustrated you, and hurt you. As it should.

While I did enjoy (well.. you know what I mean..) so much of this, I’ll admit I did think maybe we had a POV or two too many. Some we only saw once, maybe twice, and ultimately they either didn’t add much to the story or were just a “real time” moment of an event or history we had already been somewhat aware of via the main characters. It seems an odd criticism but it did make the pacing a little strange as we had such a slowburn build and the end felt like a race to the finish line. But what made those added bits just felt really out of place was because of how strong and captivating the main three POVs were. And, having finished, and seeing where all the pieces fit, I don’t think they did much to add to the whole picture.

This was not an easy read but it’s definitely an important one. Filled with history, tragedy, twists, and a shock or two. That said, the reason I’ve not said much about any specifics about the plot is because half the journey is watching how it unfolds. I can only, again, encourage you to put this on your tbr and, more importantly, read it.

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

PIRANESI by Susanna Clarke

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.


Title : Piranesi
Author : Susanna Clarke
Format : ARC
Page Count : 272
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : September 15, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Spoiler alert : this is an unpopular opinion so you might as well just ignore it and find another to read because..

Well I can 100% say I don’t know what I just read. But it was a book, I think.

This is a strange story that is weird all the way through. Though you do sort’ve at least begin to settle into it as it goes. Eventually the weirdness makes way for explanation and context but it’s still weird and I don’t know how I feel about any of it.

Think HOUSE OF LEAVES with maybe a dash of THE STARLESS SEA mixed in with something strange. Not uncomfortable, though, as this felt almost wholesome despite some of the things we’ve learned have happened along the way but still. It’s kind of.. innocent? I don’t know how to describe it. Probably because I don’t know what I just went through.

This isn’t very long so if the premise sounds like your thing or you like strange things, give it a try! It might just work perfectly for you.

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

THE FAITHLESS HAWK by Margaret Owen

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.

With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against Crows—and add numbers to her monstrous army—Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.

A desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace, the only difference between a conqueror and a thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows—secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze. 


Title : The Faithless Hawk
Author : Margaret Owen
Series : The Merciful Crow (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : August 18, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .25


Hollis’ 4.25 star review

I’m going to start out by saying that unless you remember the events of THE MERCIFUL CROW really really well, you might want to reread it before diving into this one. Or at least the last few chapters. Because despite how much I thought I remembered, because it’s stuck with me as I loved it so much, it took me way way too long to get back into this world. And that definitely did a disservice to the overall reading experience because I dragged my feet through the first hundred pages, putting it down, going on twitter, playing with the cat, until I hit a turning point and then demolished the rest.

I have standards. It’ll take more than a moon apart for me to roll a lad in a pile of guts. Besides, you’d be dead in a week.”
Worth it. It’s been a long moon.”

This book is fantastic. Which is why I’m sad I did it kind of dirty.

There won’t be much I will, or can, say about the second, and final, in a series. So suffice it to say, if you haven’t yet picked up THE MERCIFUL CROW? What even, man. Help to redeem the year 2020 and do yourself this favour. Bonus because you can binge without waiting, like I had to, and be satisfied beyond belief.

There’s thousands of people like that [guy], all across Sabor. They talk and look like anyone else, but they’ll take any excuse to get rid fo Crows for good. And all they were waiting for was permission.

I remember complaining about the plague element and the explanation of why and I feel like all the stumbling I did with some of the world building, whether because I wasn’t getting it or it wasn’t explained, everything and more is explained in this follow up. So if you were like me and wanted a clearer picture, be prepared for some satisfaction.

Every time I think we’ve hit the bottom of how bad it is, we just peel off another layer, don’t we?

But also, like, satisfication in so many areas. Also a lot more cats.

Owen is definitely an author I will be keeping an eagle (hahah bird jokes) eye on because I can’t wait to see where she goes next. But I’m also really looking forward to rereading these books, catching everything I missed, and also just reliving all the moving moments, brutal betrayals, sassy snark, realistic representation, and eerie echoes to our own reality.

We made a society where the monarchs could ignore the suffering of their people because it was nothing but an inconvenience, and we punished those who used their position to speak out.

Don’t let this series pass you by. Pick up these books.

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

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