ANY SIGN OF LIFE by Rae Carson

When a teenage girl thinks she may be the only person left alive in her town—maybe in the whole world—she must rely on hope, trust, and her own resilience.

Paige Miller is determined to take her basketball team to the state championship, maybe even beyond. But as March Madness heats up, Paige falls deathly ill. Days later, she wakes up attached to an IV and learns that the whole world has perished. Everyone she loves, and all of her dreams for the future—they’re gone.

But Paige is a warrior, so she pushes through her fear and her grief. And as she gets through each day—scrounging for food, for shelter, for safety—Paige encounters a few more young survivors. Together, they might stand a chance. But as they struggle to endure their new reality, they learn that the apocalypse did not happen by accident. And that there are worse things than being alone.


Title : Any Sign of Life
Author : Rae Carson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : post-apocalyptic / sci-fi / YA
Publisher : Greenwillow Books
Release Date : October 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

So, I’ll admit this was only on my radar because I’m a fan of the author and I went into this knowing not even the bare bones of the summary. Which, for anyone who wants to avoid plague/pandemic/world ending events..? I would not recommend doing. Take this as your warning.

While this is not COVID (though it is mentioned that the main character did live through it during her childhood) there is another reason why she wakes up after an almost week-long coma to discover everyone around her has died. It definitely unfolds in a pandemic-life way but quickly becomes something else. Mostly.

This clearly wasn’t a favourite but I was loving the beginning. It’s gruesome, eerie, and strange, and I was really digging it. Later, as things are explained, it was still somewhat interesting but this definitely isn’t a unique premise, even if the details aren’t an exact copy from anything that I can think of.

Be warned, though, that I’m really not overusing the word gruesome.

Sadly this didn’t seem to have any of the author’s particular brand of excellence but it’s also not something I’ve seen from her before, either, as she generally sticks to fantasy, not contemporary. There were definitely some really good bits, though, and it definitely didn’t stand out as a flop by any means. But it won’t be one I can recommend, either, purely because I’m not sure everyone is ready to dive into this kind of content yet — or ever again.

NEAR THE BONE by Christina Henry

A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.

Mattie can’t remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they’re not alone after all.

There’s something in the woods that wasn’t there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.

When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.


Title : Near the Bone
Author : Christina Henry
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : horror / paranormal?
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I picked this up thinking it would satisfy the part of me that wanted something wintry with the part of me that was still wanting spookier or thriller-y type reads. And it gave me both of those things for sure. But did I like it? Eh.

In addition to a horror, with possibly some kind of paranormal aspect, Near the Bone is about.. other things. That may actually be very spoilery, now that I’ve read the synopsis. Ahem. Anyway, it’s a very isolated and claustrophobic kind of story, for all that it’s set in the woods, and there is a horrific reason why Mattie is there in the first place. Which, again, I won’t spoil. I just wish.. well, I kept waiting for a “why” for the whole thing and I’m left unsatisfied because there wasn’t a good why. But maybe that’s realistic. Maybe that’s the whole point. And yet, still, unsatisfied.

This is unsettling and disturbing for a whole host of reasons and in hindsight both of the main conflicts and reasons for disturbance are kind of just things that happen, or have happened, and we go along with them without ever getting true explanations. Again, maybe that’s the whole point, maybe that’s supposed to make it all scarier. I definitely needed more, though.

This isn’t my first read by this author and I think to some degree I’m always left feeling a bit like this after reading her books (though the ones I’ve read before were some of her dark retellings) so I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

Definitely wouldn’t recommend but due to the thrilling nature, and how everything comes to light for Mattie, it does make it a fast read, so. There’s that.

SEA OF RUIN by Pam Godwin

Bennett Sharp is on the run. 
Wanted for piracy, she fears neither God nor death nor man. Except Priest Farrell. 

The unfaithful, stormy-eyed libertine hunts her with terrifying possessiveness. Nothing will stop him from coming for her. Not his unforgivable betrayal. Not when she’s captured by the ice-cold pirate hunter, Lord Ashley Cutler.  She must escape Ashley’s prison and Priest’s deceit. But can she walk away from their twisted desires? 

Two gorgeous captains stand on opposite sides of the law. When they collide in a battle to protect her, the lines blur between enemies and lovers. Passion heats, secrets unravel, and hearts entangle until they break. 

Can love prevail in the sea of ruin?


Title : Sea of Ruin
Author : Pam Godwin
Series : Sea of Ruin (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 482
Genre : dark historical romance
Publisher : Heartbound Media, Inc.
Release Date : April 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

You know how we don’t call books guilty pleasures anymore? Or try not to, at least? If we still did, I think this would be one of them. There are so many reasons to feel guilty about enjoying Sea of Ruin. Starting with the ship-full of triggers and dubious content within the pages.

However.

This somehow still managed to be a lot of fun? Compelling as fuck? Delicious? Whilst also constantly making me question myself because of aforementioned dubiousness. Truly. At one point this skirts (if not outright crossed into) torture porn because Bennett, the protagonist, goes through pretty much every kind of awful and pain imaginable. The entire spectrum of bad. And once or twice it even happens with a love interest. Sometimes bits are glossed over in a way that.. well, doesn’t make you forget what’s happening but is less of a play by play. Other times not so much. So, you know, when they say dark romance.. (jazz hands) they mean it.

The vibe here is basically Pirates of the Caribbean minus the campy fun meets all the grittiness of Black Sails. Dark bites aside, I didn’t expect to enjoy a pirate book this much as I’ve been pretty meh about every one I’ve read thus far (not many). But maybe that’s because they were YA. This isn’t remotely in that category. Insert big flashing sign saying tHisS iS aDuLt here, please.

I can’t say I was surprised about some of the unraveling of plot but to be honest I don’t think we’re supposed to be. And when I say plot, I mean that in the vaguest sense of the definition of the word. This is mostly a lot of adult content (both sexy and side eye-y) wrapped around a few pivotal scenes that have information related to backstories and motivations but otherwise.. yeah, not a lot of actual plot. But to be honest I didn’t even really notice until after I’d finished it and realized it was more character driven and, also, character-tossed -about-in-and-out-of-harm-or-sexy-times.

And still.. it worked.

For readers of dark romance I don’t know how this measures up to other reads as I don’t tend to dip into this subgenre so I don’t know if this is technically tame or just par for the course; but, regardless of your tastes, if you are worried about triggers, I definitely encourage you read other reviews and especially any content warnings to see if you’re up to braving these turbulent seas. It’s not hard to find the specifics.

I think it very likely I’ll read this author again — I’m sure I have a few of her books on my kindle from various sales over the years — because if she can make me like a book this much despite all the dodgy bits? What can’t she do.

If you want something gritty, sexy, historical, piratey, dark, romantic, and more, Sea of Ruin might just fit the bill. Also, it’s recommended you read the prequel after this book to avoid any spoilery bits that are revealed within the main book. Just a heads up. I’m off to read that now.

THE KEEPER OF NIGHT by Kylie Lee Baker

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side. 


Title : The Keeper of Night
Author : Kylie Lee Baker
Series : The Keeper of Night (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 401
Genre : YA historical fiction fantasy
Publisher : Inkyard Press
Release Date : October 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I don’t know about you but I hadn’t heard much about The Keeper of Night. So if, like me, you were oblivious to its existence.. you may want to pay attention.

Ren’s entire existence is defined by being on the outside. The daughter of an English Reaper and a Japanese Shinigami, she resides in London and is bullied, disrespected, and ignored for her heritage — something that, I’ll admit, was really getting my back up because I thought her father, the obvious culprit for her dual heritage, had been let off the hook and all the hate and distrust was focused solely on his daughter. And well.. he is demoted for his transgressions but Ren still bears the brunt of it as he gets to, mostly, wash his hands of it all. I got to say, I’m hella tired of that particular narrative. Next time I want the kid to be welcomed and the parents to be ostracized please and thank you. Also, I hope more of this backstory is explained in book two as, currently, I’m not quite satisfied by how things stand.

But anyway, stuff happens and Ren is forced on the run and her brother, who has always loved her despite having been also tarred with some of the same brush as his sister, even though he is not biracial, flees to Japan with her. And basically this whole relationship, this whole bond? The best. They didn’t always get on, they could never full understand each other, but they were still there for each other.. though this bond definitely does get tested along the way. Especially when Neven admits to feeling like a fish out of water in Japan and expresses those feelings to Ren, even though it was only a glimpse of what Ren had endured in London for centuries — and I really loved that Baker explored this.

While so much of this story ends up being about Japanese mythology and legends, the author leans close to, if not outright, grimdarkness with some of the violence and demons they encounter. Maybe it’s not quite grim but it is dark. Being that the whole premise is set around death and soul collecting, I like that this wasn’t glossed over considering the target audience.

Also not glossed over is Ren’s anger, which we see explode out of her a few times once she’s away from London and is able to both articulate and let herself rage, about all the years of being told who she is, what she isn’t, and how she’s not accepted. Because unlike what she thought.. she is not immediately welcomed in Japan. She’s seen, once again, as a foreigner. This disappointment felt so raw and real and I honestly have no words to describe it.

Where things sorta fell apart for me was near the end. I knew this wasn’t a standalone (yay it’s only a duology!) so maybe that explains why the big climax came upon us in a bit of a quick and dramatic fashion — well, there’s two, really. I loved the first, which I sorta saw coming (but one reveal was still a surprise) but it was what followed that.. I don’t know. I really enjoyed where things ended, though, and I’m so keen to see how it all resolves — or if it even does — in book two.

If you’re looking for a dark YA fantasy, set in the past, with a compelling setting, rich in atmosphere and setting, with a main character who isn’t remotely the hero, though not quite a villain, but definitely grey in hue.. you should give this a go.

** I received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher (thank you!) and this in no way influenced my review. **

FALSE WITNESS by Karin Slaughter

AN ORDINARY LIFE

Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.

HIDES A DEVASTATING PAST

But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.

BUT NOW THE PAST IS CATCHING UP

Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT

If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Callie, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…


Title : False Witness
Author : Karin Slaughter
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 512
Genre : contemporary / crime-thriller
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : July 20, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

Even though she writes some of the most disturbingly dark and twisty stories, there’s really nothing like sinking into a Slaughter. And this was no different.

Due to the subject matter, I couldn’t possibly recommend this (check for triggers or, you know, just don’t read from this author..), but the way this story unfolded was so well done. And that started right from the beginning.

I don’t read many summaries in general but I never do for this author and so I had no idea where we were starting or where we were going. Unlike her usual procedurals, there’s no real investigation to be done in False Witness because the crimes have already been committed and there’s no question who has done it. We watch as Leigh Collier, a defence attorney, is faced with an unexpected criminal trial where the accused happens to feature a face from her past. But this isn’t a nostalgic reunion but instead someone who, it seems, knows Leigh’s darkest secret. Worse, this connection to her past is now trying to use that secret against her in order to get away with horrible acts.

This was uncomfortable, I’ll be honest, and not just because of what happened in the past, or what the present-day villain was doing, but because Slaughter is so good at writing horrible horrifying terrifying characters. The subtle menace in how she describes their behaviour, their expressions, it’s palpable.

That said, for all this wasn’t a mystery to solve, there were quite a few surprises along the way. One of them being how the beginning narrative makes you think one thing, only to realize another. But in other ways, too.

Also? For all the darkness, this was heartbreaking, lovely, and so sad. The connection between these sisters, the struggle Leigh’s sister, Callie, faced every day. Everything that had been stacked against her. And yet she was so.. kind. Sweet. Caring. And their relationship, and what these two sisters were willing to do for each other.. I definitely got choked up.

Unexpectedly, COVID has a very real presence in this story. I wasn’t sure I liked that at first but actually it worked. It was taken seriously, with everything still happening in real time, not just as a flippant or off the cuff reference, or used as a plot device. That said, if you don’t want to deal with that in your fiction, this is your warning.

If Slaughter wants to churn out some more standalones like this between now and the next Will Trent? I wouldn’t be mad at all.

TALES FROM THE HINTERLAND by Melissa Albert

A gorgeously illustrated collection of twelve original stories by the New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood and The Night Country

Before The Hazel Wood, there was Althea Proserpine’s Tales from the Hinterland…

Journey into the Hinterland, a brutal and beautiful world where a young woman spends a night with Death, brides are wed to a mysterious house in the trees, and an enchantress is killed twice—and still lives.


Title : Tales from the Hinterland
Author : Melissa Albert
Series : The Hazel Wood (book 2.5)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 240
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : January 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

I feel like this did for me what neither The Night Country and The Hazel Wood was quite able to achieve. I loved the backbone of the author’s series, all set around this fictional book of stories, but I think somehow things just never quite connected for me. I liked some bits, others would fall flat; almost like in the telling of point A to point B I would find myself lost and tangled up. But this volume? I couldn’t look away.

This author truly shines in short stories. But more than that, she shines because this places the focus on what I loved most of all : her dark fairytales. Stories that are less morality and more magic, more monstruous, more real, rarely featuring happy endings or anything happy at all. Some of these are definitely better than others but overall the whole vibe, the whole concept, just works for me.

I understand from the blurb that this book is supposed to be illustrated (I’m imagining something like The Language of Thorns but who knows!) and I’m sad to say my ARC did not have any hint of what those additions might look like. So I’ll likely be picking up a finished copy of this in order to re-experience it all with said visuals.

This is a must for fans of The Hazel Wood series but honestly? You could have disliked, or even not read, those books and still enjoy this.

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

RUTHLESS GODS by Emily A Duncan

April 6, 2021 : Though it would be easy enough to just quietly delete this review or rating in light of everything, I won’t (nor would I ever). I’m holding myself accountable for this ignorance instead of burying it. However, I want to now preface this review to say that I apologize if anyone picked this book/series up because of my more or less favourable review and was then harmed or disappointed by the antisemitic content and my “approval”/enjoyment of it. I’m sorry to say I did not see it and no one is to blame for that but me.

I’m not going to link to everything, because there’s so much (and more with each passing day!), but the twitter or instagram threads that go into more detail — not only about the content of this series but the author themselves and the additional harm they have done — are easy to find. I don’t say all this to prevent anyone from choosing to read anything by this author but more for the chance to go in fully aware of what you might encounter.

———–

Darkness never works alone…

Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become. 

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer. 


Title : Ruthless Gods
Author : Emily A Duncan
Series : Something Dark and Holy (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 544
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : April 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I feel like I’m in exactly the same place with RUTHLESS GODS as I was with WICKED SAINTS. This series, the content in these books, the twisty story of betrayal and blood and more betrayal, is both worthy of love and full of frustration for me. The worldbuilding, the pantheon of gods, of monsters, of heretics and holy people, it’s all very complex and fascinating, but equally confusing and repetitive.

I feel this one did hold together better than book one, where we know so little and even less is made clear (which is apparently how the author wanted it), whereas things took a turn here that revealed both more and, in some ways, well.. not less but definitely not everything.

Another aspect that I both loved and didn’t was the romantic element(s). One couple I was hugely there for (yes, please, more), and the other? I felt smitten by it at times and over it for others. It’s a very push, pull, and then throw the other off a cliff kind of dynamic and it makes it fascinating and fun and also agonizing (not in a good way) as you struggle to keep up and, also, parse it all. Also like in book one, I’m pretty sure I would die for Serefin, and, I mean, I would at least call 911 for the others. If they asked me to.

So, yes, hardly a glowing review, but I think book three has the potential to knock this out of the park. We’re on stronger footing at the end of this installment — it definitely didn’t feel like book two syndrome — and if this trend continues it’ll be bigger and bloodier and probably even more betrayalier (it’s a word). I’ll read on. I’m two books in, after all; can’t stop me now.

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

NEVER TELL by Lisa Gardner

A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun. 

D.D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman–Evie Carter–from a case many years back. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many. 

Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim–a hostage–and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad’s murder. 

But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?


Title : Never Tell
Author : Lisa Gardner
Series : Detective D.D. Warren (book ten)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 414
Genre : mystery/thriller
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : February 19, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’ll be the first to admit that while it was Gardner, and her three cross-over series, that kicked off my renewed fascination with the thriller/mystery/detective genre back in 2016, the last few installments of this main series (correction, sorry, it’s been one book and one novella) just haven’t wowed me. For various reasons. But NEVER TELL? Hi hello, we’re back again.

This story slots in under the main Detective D.D. Warren series but, like most of Gardner’s books, there’s crossover. Recently, since book eight, the survivor of that story has become a supporting character as she transitioned into a vigilante slash confidential informant, aka CI, for DD. And she’s not the only familiar face.

I really couldn’t recommend this book to people who hadn’t read at least the last three, starting from FIND HER, but honestly this whole series is worth investing in. Are they all great? No. But there’s been such an evolution, including the books in the companion/spin-offs, and those are even relevant for a certain guest-star in this book, both in character and how some of the stories weave together, that even the stories that don’t rate as high still feel worth the effort (also, for some perspective, I’ve only rated one book below three stars and while that was the first book.. let’s just say the opening books were a different vibe). Basically what I’m saying is block out some reading time over the holidays, put the whole backlist on hold at your local library, and get ready to rock and roll. And by rock and roll I mean experience some dark twisty additive af procedurals.

This review has become less about the book and more about the series as a whole but honestly there’s not much you can put in a review for a thriller that the summary doesn’t already.. summarize. There are twists, death, and surprises. Rinse and repeat. This mystery definitely had a tighter pacing than the last, unfurled in a great way, and also had me tearing up. So I guess we can throw ’emotions’ into that list, too.

I can’t wait for the next one.

NINTH HOUSE by Leigh Bardugo

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.


Title : Ninth House
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Series : Ninth House Series/Alex Stern (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 480
Genre : adult fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : October 8, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Like so many people, NINTH HOUSE was one of my top top anticipated titles of 2019 (in fact, I had added it to my GR tbr back in 2016.. yikes, fangirl, calm down). Opening the envelope that contained a copy of this ARC was just.. my brain was instant-white noise. And then I sat on it for, like, three weeks because I was terrified of jumping in. What if it didn’t live up? What it is was too dark? What if I only liked Bardugo as a YA writer?

Look, you seem like a nice girl–
No, I don’t.

Well, I don’t know what to tell you or how to reassure you. Because my experience with this one was strange.

Darlington liked to say that dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway : do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.

I (admittedly, stupidly) started reading this book mid-week when I knew I didn’t have time. I chipped away at sixty pages a day here, twenty the next day, and then found no real drive to push through or pick it up during my week-day exhaustion. The size of the book, the complexity of these secret society houses, the hop-skipping timeline, it was all setting me up to fail. But then the weekend came and I c r u s h e d 80% of this book in one sitting. So if nothing else.. there’s that.

I thought salt kept [ghosts] out.
Did you see that on television?
Would it make you happier if I say I learned it from an ancient book?
Actually, yes.”
Too bad.

Did I love this book? As a whole, I couldn’t say. Am I desperate for book two? Yes. Where I am, and how I feel, about Alex Stern and this world at the end vs the beginning is/are vastly different. Maybe I went in expecting one thing, maybe the set-up even has us set up to have certain expectations, but the way things unravel..? Not remotely what or where I would’ve thought. I also can’t say if there’s a pacing issue at the beginning or if it was because I was stuck there for a few days due to life. So I’m not quite willing to punish the experience, or the book, by rounding down.

That was what magic did. It revealed the heart of who you’d been before life took away your belief in the possible.

This is dark, it’s occasionally violent, there are moments where Bardugo pushes the envelope.. but maybe that’s coming at things from the “I loved The Grisha Trilogy!” side of things. Had this been a debut, from an unknown author, there’d be no comparison to make, no preconceived notions to have. Nonetheless this is complex and rich and bizarre and fascinating and I didn’t predict anything. Or at least not correctly.

You couldn’t keep sidling up to death and dipping your toe in. Eventually it grabbed your ankle and tried to pull you under.

NINTH HOUSE is a tough book to review because I want to reveal, well, nothing. I want you to have an open mind. I do want you to be mindful, as I’m sure you are, that there is subject matter you may want to research trigger warnings for if you have any triggers you’re worried might go off.

We all have spaces we keep blank.

I think what makes this tough to pin down, too, is it might be a book that requires multiple readings. Not only because of how this read started for me but because of how this story is told. The complexities, the bits that went over my head or were too much to process in the early unfoldings of the chapters.. it might flow differently a second time around. Or maybe not. But I’ll be able to tell you before book two comes out because you know I’m going to break out a reread for that honour! Also I’m writing this review in July, this book isn’t out until October, so, y’know. It’s going to be a while..

I’m pretty sure when my mother was talking about the devil, she had you in mind.”
I’m a delight.”

Would I recommend? Cautiously. I think if you’re interested to begin with, you should go for it. For the rest who are put off by the occult and the explicitly-warned-of darker themes, wait for more reviews to roll out. Find your trusted buddies and pick their brains. Then grab an excerpt and dive in to test the waters. The book opens with a bang and it’s only (hah) getting started. And I think book two will be even bigger, badder, and better (stronger).

I class profanity with declarations of love. Best used sparingly and only when wholeheartedly meant.

Also, just want to say, having not really read much of the blurb — or if I did, it was a long long time ago — I might actually suggest not refreshing your memory before going in (or making sure to do so, depending on your reading preference). The summary gives a structure to the plot that you sorta have to earn the further you read (infact, I found myself kind of comforted by reading it after finishing the book because it’s like.. oh, it was all right there, at my fingertips, if I was only that sort of reader). But if you find yourself liable to DNF because of plot and timelines that jump around, it might ground you. So. Something to consider.

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

BID MY SOUL FAREWELL by Beth Revis

The stunning finale of the epic fantasy duology from New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis. 

Alchemy student turned necromancer Nedra Brysstain has made a life-changing decision to embrace the darkness–but can the boy who loves her bring her back to the light before she pays the ultimate price?

Lunar Island is trying to heal. The necromantic plague that ravaged the land has been eradicated, and Emperor Auguste, the young and charming leader of the Allyrian Empire, has a plan: rid the island of necromancy once and for all. Though Greggori “Grey” Astor wants what’s best for his people, he knows that allying himself with Auguste threatens the one person he loves most: necromancer Nedra Brysstain. Feeling like he already failed to save Nedra once, Grey becomes determined to help the Emperor rebuild Lunar Island while still keeping Nedra safe from harm.

Back at the quarantine hospital, Nedra’s army of revenants are growing increasingly inhuman by the day. Wracked with guilt for imprisoning their souls, Nedra vows to discover a way to free the dead while still keeping her sister by her side.

But, still reeling from the trauma of the plague, the people of Lunar Island are looking for someone to blame, and Grey can only protect Nedra for so long. And when Nedra and Grey are thrust into a battle with an even more terrifying adversary, Nedra will be pushed to the darkest depths of her necromantic powers. But can Grey let her go that far? 


Title : Bid My Soul Farewell
Author : Beth Revis
Series : Give The Dark My Love (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : September 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

Once again, I’m left feeling like I wish I loved this more than I did.

After the events of book one, Nedra has become a necromancer, has crossed the line into darkness and treason, because of the devastation wrought by the plague and the necromancer who set it in motion, who had conspired to rule over all. She might have ended the plague but she still lost everything; which means she’ll do anything she can to hold on to what little remains.. or do whatever it takes to bring it back.

What does it take for a girl to choose to be a monster?
I don’t think it’s a choice.”
Of course it is.”

What I liked most about this finale was that Revis did a very good job of showing how, just because the danger has passed, it doesn’t mean everything goes back to normal. The politics took centre stage in this instalment, the unhappiness of the people, the manipulations of the Emperor, the murmurings of rebellion. We see this mostly through Grey’s eyes as he tries to navigate his strange new favour with the Emperor as he’s sent around the island to try and negotiate a trade deal to better the island’s economy, to help right the wrongs done to the northerners, so long ignored by the colony’s seat of power. Nedra goes with him, hoping to find more books, more information, on necromancy and how she might truly save a soul.

But Grey is just a puppet. What’s less obvious, though, is so is Nedra.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the point of this travel really was. Ultimately throughout the whole time, we get only two moments where things really feel relevant to the bigger picture. And instead it’s mostly a way to reconnect these two characters, try and reinforce the romance, as they navigate whether they can be in love while still having extremely opposing beliefs that dictate their choices. Despite the fact that this romance never worked for me, not even in this book, I appreciated these kinds of conversations as well as the acknowledgement of how love isn’t blind.

Was that all it took to make a monster? A label and the accusations of others?

That said, I’ll admit I had my suspicions about how things would come to a head.. and I wasn’t wrong. Infact I figured out the twist to the climax in book one, too. And even with my theory proven right, I enjoyed the last 20% probably the most. Not quite sure how I felt about the epilogue, though I know it’s deserved, but I did like the final showdown. There was definitely less of an emotional kick to this one and I don’t know if that was because Grey had more or a role or what, but, unfortunately he was the weak link that was made weaker because of how little his impact actually was. He was just kinda there or in the way.

Revis’ writing is smooth, her narrative tackling many things that echo in our own world, regarding politics and belief, religion and grief. I do wonder if things got a little too big, too busy, and that’s where some of this didn’t land for me. At least beyond the failure of the romance. But there was a lot of good here.

I was already a fan of the author because of her Across the Universe series and while I didn’t rate these very high, and won’t reread them, I’ll definitely continue to pick up whatever the author puts out.

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

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