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What if marriage was the law? Dare you disobey?

Britain. The near-future. A right-wing government believes it has the answer to society’s ills — the Sanctity of Marriage Act, which actively encourages marriage as the norm, punishing those who choose to remain single.

But four couples are about to discover just how impossible relationships can be when the government is monitoring every aspect of our personal lives — monitoring every word, every minor disagreement — and will use every tool in its arsenal to ensure everyone will love, honor and obey.

Title : The Marriage Act
Author : John Marrs
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : dystopian / sci-fi / thriller
Publisher : Hanover Square Press
Release Date : May 2, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★

Hollis’ 2 star review

This might very well be a “it’s not you, it’s me” thing because I was so hooked by this premise but so little of it satisfied. Infact, I found the whole thing to be bleak and un-fun. And yes, I mean, if you read the plot you might think of course it’s bleak, of course it won’t be fun, but I think there could’ve been a way to have all these themes, these events, and not come away feeling as I do.

Naturally, we aren’t about to root for the system that’s been set-up in this near-future world. But you’d think we would have some characters, or some situations, to root for. Except the only one who was really deserving.. well. He has the most heartbreaking plotline. Everyone else, even those who weren’t sociopaths or narcissists, they were all somehow complicit or hypocritical and while there’s something to be said for shades of grey, complicated personas, well.. yeah. I guess there’s something to be said. But not here.

Because much of what is found in his society, the Smart devices, the Smart homes, etc, already exists in ours, it’s not hard to make the leap that the rest could one day be true, too. Already we see the push to control others, to dictate what’s acceptable, so why wouldn’t this be the next step? It does make you think. But I guess I expected to feel something, too. And I didn’t.

I think if you like an Orwellian dystopian world, especially one that feels just a half-step away, with various POVs that slowly overlap in subtle ways, you might enjoy this. And while I can’t count myself among them, I try this author again.

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

HOW HIGH WE GO IN THE DARK by Sequoia Nagamatsu

For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, a spellbinding and profoundly prescient debut that follows a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague—a daring and deeply heartfelt work of mind-bending imagination from a singular new voice.

Beginning in 2030, a grieving archeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to continue the work of his recently deceased daughter at the Batagaika crater, where researchers are studying long-buried secrets now revealed in melting permafrost, including the perfectly preserved remains of a girl who appears to have died of an ancient virus.

Once unleashed, the Arctic Plague will reshape life on earth for generations to come, quickly traversing the globe, forcing humanity to devise a myriad of moving and inventive ways to embrace possibility in the face of tragedy. In a theme park designed for terminally ill children, a cynical employee falls in love with a mother desperate to hold on to her infected son. A heartbroken scientist searching for a cure finds a second chance at fatherhood when one of his test subjects—a pig—develops the capacity for human speech. A widowed painter and her teenaged granddaughter embark on a cosmic quest to locate a new home planet.

From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resiliency of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.

Title : How High We Go In The Dark
Author : Sequoia Nagamatsu
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 304
Genre : sci-fi / dystopian
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : January 18, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★

Hollis’ 4 star review

The moment you check-in your hold before remembering you were supposed to go back and write down all your favourites parts of the collection..

Because even though these are more like companion pieces, vignettes, of a whole story, they still do feel like their own separate entities. They connect in more than just the overall plot, as a character referenced in one might have their own story next, and again, and again. Each tackled something a little different for this world, and these people, going through a pandemic. Unlike ours, theirs seemed almost supernatural, science-fiction, and eventually they do progress to leaving Earth and traveling amongst the stars. 

So, yeah, big red flag here : this is a pandemic novel so if you aren’t ready for that, stay far away.

But as initially mentioned, some of these stories were so so great. In fact, the first handful of them were absolute standouts. A few along the way were fine, interesting, but it was the early ones that really hit me emotionally. And near the end things got really unexpected and I enjoyed that, too.

I will absolutely be reading this author again and I’m so glad this somehow ended up on my radar.

THE ARCANA CHRONICLES series by Kresley Cole

Oh hi friends! Today we’re bringing you some mini (or, at least, I thought they’d be mini..) reviews for The Arcana Chronicles series as Hollis decided to reread the first few in advance of the big finale.

She could save the world–or destroy it.
Sixteen year old Evangeline”Evie” Greene leads a charmed life–until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, killing everyone she loves, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future–and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.
With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally trust Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?
As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…

Title Poison Princess
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 369
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 1, 2012

Hollis’ 2 star review

Welp, for some reason I thought my first go at this book was a lot more successful than it was so I was kind of sad knowing the drop in rating that was to come. But apparently I wasn’t all that sold on book one after all and it’s only dipping one star. It was the next two books that I think really had solidified this series for me (I guess? this was before I was reviewing but both got four stars!) — hopefully that still holds true.

But anyway, wow. This was.. rough. In some ways. Definitely Cole hooks you with the concept; a big apocalyptic event has occurred and things go the usual way, especially with women becoming something of a rare breed due to the events of the end of the world. But it’s compounded by the fact that a group of kids have been.. reincarnated isn’t the world but imbued with powers aligned with the Major Arcana of the Tarot and as a result the games have begun. There can be only one winner and Death reigns as champion.

Evie, our POV, is the Empress but because she’s our POV she naturally knows the least about, well, everything. Her allies, as of the close of book one, are almost mostly unhelpful as they are either keeping things to themselves on purpose or just meant to be vague per plot.

But that isn’t the worst of it. I could grit my teeth and bear Matthew’s vagueries. But Jack, Jackson, Cajun-boy.. oh my god. I don’t remember if I enjoyed him the first time around but I literally want to murder him. He made getting through this book such a slog; he is the worst kind of love interest. Mash up all your least favourite characteristics and cram him into an eighteen year old body and voila, The Worst™. But what really makes it The Worst™ is we, and Evie, get toyed with his soft side, his protective nature, just enough to tempt us into believing oh maybe he’s a viable option, maybe he’s okay, and then he trips and falls into assholery and it all starts up again. I think maybe that’s why I rated the next book higher, I think we get less Jack time. And honestly, I can’t wait.

I’m also looking forward to getting further into the plot because book one is mostly trekking out into the unknown and dealing with the breakdown of civilization with a few nasty supernatural bits to content with as far as zombie creatures, and instead I want more of the various players and the history and, obviously, the big showdown. As Shania Twain says, let’s go, girls!

In this second book thrilling book of The Arcana Chronicles from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole, Evie struggles to accept her place in the prophecy that will either save the world—or destroy it.

Evie has fully come into her powers as the tarot Empress, and Jack was there to see it all. As one of twenty-two teens given powers following the apocalypse, she now knows a war is brewing, and it’s kill or be killed.

When Evie meets Death, the gorgeous and dangerous Endless Knight, things get even more complicated. Though falling for Jack, she’s drawn to Death as well. Somehow the Empress and Death share a romantic history, one that Evie can’t remember—but Death can’t forget…

Title Endless Knight
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 1, 2013

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

You won’t be surprised to know I spent a good chunk of the first half of this annoyed. Why? Because Jack didn’t disappear from the pages soon enough for me. He lingered like a bad smell.

As if the events of book one weren’t scary and unsettling enough, Cole ups the ante by finally having us face the cannibal crew. And they are as nasty as you would imagine. There’s also a showdown or two and we get to see that alliances or no, some people are gonna die. And they did. I’ll be real happy when Jack’s added to that pile.

But finally, finally, we get to the moment where Evie is confronted, and captured, by Death and after some excruciatingly mundane and Ground Hog-esque day scenes (which the character feels, too), we get some backstory. We understand why everything is so personal to Death, that this isn’t just another Major Arcana showdown but something more (not to mention some of the differences in the games that came before). And I liked it. Having said that, Death doesn’t get off scot free for his own problematic attitude. He’s as bad as Jack but in different ways. And it’s a little more insidious because he’s a far more palatable character, with airs of gentility and restraint. But by the same token, Evie is not really doing herself a lot of favours, either. She was all over the map emotionally and, I hate to say it, even if she claimed she wasn’t trying to mess with Death.. she was. And she did. She had finally seemed to turn a corner but then whoops, we need a big conflict of a cliffhanger at the end, so now she’s back on her old bullshit. Which I mean, is it Evie or is it author-for-plot-reasons? Kind of the same thing.

I wish these characters had been aged up a bit because all this talk of pairing up and such when characters are spanning fourteen to sixteen just.. doesn’t feel right. It would make the whole thing a bit more believable in a New Adult lens, especially for some of the darker content. But Jack behaving the way he did at his age? Everyone else just kind of going along with it, Evie even thinking it’s romantic? Not to mention the Death angle? It just kind of beggars belief.

So this wasn’t quite the homerun I remembered it being but maybe we’ll knock it out of the park in book three.

Heartbreaking decisions
Evie was almost seduced by the life of comfort that Death offered her—until Jack was threatened by two of the most horrific Arcana, the Lovers. She will do anything to save him, even escape Death’s uncanny prison, full of beautiful objects, material comforts…and stolen glances from a former love.

Uncertain victory
Despite leaving a part of her heart behind with Death, Evie sets out into a perilous post-apocalyptic wasteland to meet up with her allies and launch an attack on the Lovers. Such formidable enemies require a battle plan, and the only way to kill them may mean Evie, Jack, and Death allying. Evie doesn’t know what will prove more impossible: surviving slavers, plague, Bagmen and other Arcana—or convincing Jack and Death to work together.

Two heroes returned
There’s a thin line between love and hate, and Evie just doesn’t know where she stands with either Jack or Death. Will this unlikely trio be able to defeat The Lovers without killing one another first…?

Title Dead of Winter
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 6, 2015

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Holy drama queens, Batman. And by that I mean, almost everyone.

This book was really just a travel adventure where Evie is trapped with both love interests as they duke it out to earn her love. Because she can’t make a decision. And rightly so! It’s the end of the world as she knows it, she’s sixteen, with little to no romantic experience, and her options are an eighteen year old drunken hypocritical alphamale and an immortal bulldozer who up until recently wanted her dead. So you know, options are limited..

Except, this time, Cole has made them both so absurdly palatable, smoothing away all their rough edges, that it does actually make it hard to choose. And this time it’s Evie who is the problem child because she spends three hundred plus pages hemming and hawing over her feelings and it sort’ve makes you wonder : why in the hell are these guys so hard up? I mean, Death I can kinda figure, but Jack? Nah. Because unfortunately, murdery urges aside, Evie is lacking in personality. She’s a classic main character in that sense. Other than being conventionally attractive, she’s just a bit of string caught in a breeze, being pulled in one direction or another. Having said that, again, those murdery urges? That’s when she get fun.

But speaking of murder, I’m a little bummed the big showdown with this instalment’s conflict wasn’t more.. intense? Drawn out? I suppose, considering all the travel time, and the time spent on Evie being sorta wooed, there just wasn’t space left for it. Though I’m glad some of the word count was devoted to finally closing the door on the player that made the love triangle into a square. Maybe.

Even though the romance was way too central, and often annoying because hello we have bigger things to worry about, this was the easiest read yet. We had some pretty interesting interactions, there was some clever alliance work when folks needed rescuing, and though I absolutely do not endorse certain choices made before the horrible cliffhanger, I completely understand why they were made — even though, like, seriously, forgiveness was given way too soon. This was also the least Matthew-heavy book and I was glad to have a reprieve from the cryptic jabber and having Evie condescend to him constantly. But yeah, once again, that cliffhanger? Brutal (even if I’m giving it a lot of side-eye and doubt). No wonder I didn’t want to continue this series until it was complete. But with that said.. onwards!

Ashes to ashes . . .
Evie Greene’s story of the Flash is just one of many. All over the world, those connected in some way to the lethal Arcana game—like Death, Jack, and Fortune—must first survive a horrifying night of blood and screams.

We all fall down.
Some will have to grapple with new powers; all will be damned to a hellish new existence of plague, brutality, desolation, and cannibalism. Find out who they lost, why they endure, and what they sacrificed in order to live past Day Zero. . . .

Title Day Zero
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book 3.5)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 174
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Valkyrie Press
Release Date : August 1, 2016

Hollis’ 1.5 star review

From the outside, this looked a lot like potential filler. But I was given some hope in the promise of finding out what the day one (or, rather, day zero) of the apocalypse would be like for the characters we knew, but also the characters we hadn’t yet met — with an added bonus of, well, basically flipping through pseudo-character cards to finds out info about said characters.

Except, well.. it was filler; for me, at lest. And it wasn’t interesting; not to me, at least. I’m frustrated that a few days’ break from this world, and trying something a little different within that world, didn’t spark any excitement. So I may drag my heels for a few more days before jumping back in. Even though for you.. well. You won’t even notice!

When the battle is done . . .
The Emperor unleashes hell and annihilates an army, jeopardizing the future of mankind–but Circe strikes back. The epic clash between them devastates the Arcana world and nearly kills Evie, separating her from her allies.

And all hope is lost . . .
With Aric missing and no sign that Jack and Selena escaped Richter’s reach, Evie turns more and more to the darkness lurking inside her. Two Arcana emerge as game changers: one who could be her salvation, the other her worst nightmare.

Vengeance becomes everything.
To take on Richter, Evie must reunite with Death and mend their broken bond. But as she learns more about her role in the future–and her chilling past–will she become a monster like the Emperor? Or can Evie and her allies rise up from Richter’s ashes, stronger than ever before?

Title Arcana Rising
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book four)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 280
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Valkyrie Press
Release Date : August 15, 2016

Hollis’ 3 star review

I didn’t expect to be coming in with the highest rating of this series (so far) right after the lowest rated of this series (so far) so that’s a fun twist!

Surprising no one, however, the big cliffhanger at the end of book three is revealed to be, well, not as devastating as imagined, making that twist less fun but, again, no less expected. The bonus to that is that bit of plot was very lowkey and by partnering them up with another character’s return, another who had historically annoyed me, I was happy to have the reduced page time for them both. Except the little bit we saw of the second character was so far removed from who they had been before and with everything we learned about them.. I am intrigued.

Basically, this book pissed me off the least because everyone who annoyed me was basically an afterthought. Except Evie. There was no escaping her, as she’s the main character, and boy was she a pain in this one. Riiight up until the end when she got a little interesting; but it’s more just that I’m interested in the ramifications of what might have been happening to her. Everything else, the exhausting weird repetition of her buried guilt, the weird contradictoriness of her feelings towards a love interest, it was all just tedious.

The more I write this review the more I question the three stars but honestly it did give me that kind of feeling! Plot-wise, I was interested. We saw some new faces and I liked them. We have some intrigue. We had some real consequences to all the big end-of-the-world stakes. And we finally closed a loop on a few bits that had been dragged through the previous books. Plus, the end is in sight.

In a world teetering on the edge . . .
When Evie receives life-changing—and possibly game-changing—news, she has trouble believing it. Why doesn’t she feel any different? Is it possible someone she trusts might be lying?

With enemies at every turn . . .
Tensions seethe inside the castle of lost time as Evie starts to doubt her own sanity. Answers can be found outside their stronghold, but will Death help her find them—or prevent her from learning the truth about her future and Jack’s possible survival?

Darkness beckons.
A mysterious, sinister power begins to affect the Arcana in its path. Forced out into the wasteland alone, Evie must depend on unexpected allies. But as a battle with Richter looms, can her new alliance defeat the Dark Calling before hell reigns on earth?

Title The Dark Calling
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book five)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 318
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Valkyrie Press
Release Date : February 13, 2018

Hollis’ 2 star review

So much for those good vibes from book four!

Unfortunately what I thought was being set-up with Evie was, in fact, not the thing being set-up with Evie. And instead there’s a reveal that basically has us right back to square one-ish both with the interpersonal dynamics but also some romance dynamics. Which was all incredibly annoying. Especially considering how this book wrapped and like.. honestly, what was the point. The tiniest bit of non-closure closure but wow it was not worth it.

Having said that, the twist with the Chariot? That blew my mind a little. That was another thing I had no ability to predict but truthfully it was masterful. Well played.

And we finally got to see some Minor Arcana in the mix! That was kind of fun. I had a hard time picturing the whole ships thing but if it’s even half of what I conjured up in my mind? Pretty cool. Plus, it was nice to get that little bit of extra worldbuilding into play.. yes, even in the second to last book there’s still more being added and tossed around. Wild.

Sadly, Evie just continues to disappoint as a character. Not only did she spend most of the book — and will likely spend most of the next — complaining about something that was out of another person’s control, something she herself has experienced, and blaming them for it, she’s also a walking question mark; both in regards to her feelings, what she wants, and just in general. She’s like a three year old, lobbing questions at everyone in her general vicinity as if they are her own personal google, and it bothers me every book, but I guess this is the first time it’s tipped me over the edge to complain. In summation, she sucks.

So here we are, right before the end, and I have no idea what’s going to happen. My investment is hella low. But I am hoping, even if I can’t love it (and honestly, who is even expecting that at this stage), that Cole surprises the hell out of me in at least one way. Guess we’ll see!

When even the gods hold their breath . . .

To defeat the Emperor and Fortune, Evie, the great Empress of Arcana, must repair her bond with Death, despite the earth-shattering developments between them.

And danger lurks in every shadow . . .

Their allies—a sea witch, a band of roving warriors, and more than a couple of rogues—overcome terrifying obstacles to help them. But when Jack makes a shocking discovery, the fallout threatens to tear their alliance apart.

One girl could deliver salvation—or doom.

If the Empress and her friends can remain united, will their powers be enough to defeat a catastrophic curse on the world, or will hellfire reign forever? The end looms for us all until the best hand wins. . . .

Title From The Grave
Author : Kresley Cole
Series : The Arcana Chronicles (book six)
Format : eBook
Page Count :
Genre : YA paranormal romance / dystopian
Publisher : Valkyrie Press
Release Date : April 18, 2023

Hollis’ 1.5 star review

Welp, it’s over. That’s the important thing.

Listen, I don’t know what I was expecting (I think, in fact, I had no expectations as I had no predictions) but it wasn’t this. Mainly because this was incredibly underwhelming.

So much of this just felt like waiting. Time passing, rehashing conversations and worries, blah blah. Obviously events do occur, though nothing surprising; we get a few deaths, only one of which hurt a tiny bit. And then.. well, the end.

Except the end takes a very long time. And as happy as I’m sure it makes a lot of actually invested readers, it was a yawn for me. And I’m sorry but you can’t actually expect me to believe those were age-appropriate behaviours after all that. Not believable. But then again I felt that to be true from book one in the opposite sense, too. So clearly it’s just a Cole thing.

As for whether or not the game ends, and what it means for them all, all that, I won’t hint at anything. Except to say someone redeemed themselves for me, and I thought it was well played, but for the end-end? I don’t know why because in theory I’m on board but it just feels like a cop-out. Again, underwhelming. But we made it. It’s over. And I never have to think about this series, or these characters, ever again.

Is this a series you’ve come across before or is this the first you’re hearing of it? Have I convinced you that you need to run far far away or are you interested despite the car crash that was this experience? Would love to know!

And as always thank you for clicking in and reading; especially for this one which wasn’t just a lengthy but also contained semi-lengthy reviews.

THE WORLD GIVES WAY by Marissa Levien

In a near-future world on the brink of collapse, a young woman born into servitude must seize her own freedom in this glittering debut with a brilliant twist; perfect for fans of Station Eleven, Karen Thompson Walker, and Naomi Alderman.

In fifty years, Myrra will be free.

Until then, she’s a contract worker. Ever since she was five, her life and labor have belonged to the highest bidder on her contract–butchers, laundries, and now the powerful, secretive Carlyles.

But when one night finds the Carlyles dead, Myrra is suddenly free a lot sooner than she anticipated–and at a cost she never could have imagined. Burdened with the Carlyles’ orphaned daughter and the terrible secret they died to escape, she runs. With time running out, Myrra must come face to face with the truth about her world–and embrace what’s left before it’s too late.

A sweeping novel with a darkly glimmering heart, The World Gives Way is an unforgettable portrait of a world in freefall, and the fierce drive to live even at the end of it all.

Title : The World Gives Way
Author : Marissa Levien
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 380
Genre : sci-fi / mystery / dystopian
Publisher : Redhook
Release Date : May 1, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5

Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This probably won’t be a long review because I’m still kind of absorbing this read but.. wow. This surprised me in so many ways and I’m definitely feeling some aftershocks about the impact of the whole experience.

A lot of moving parts go into making a world work. It is a monstrous, exquisite machine.

I went into this expecting a cat-and-mouse mystery thriller set in space but while that’s not a wrong description, it’s very much only one small part. And not the best way to indicate the vibe of this book, either, which is less of a thriller and more of a slow moving collision of characters and themes. Because in so many ways this is haunting, introspective, enraging, stunning, and sad. Levien’s writing was so compelling, so lovely, and somehow she put all these different things into this book (which is a d e b u t, by the way) and made it work. And then gave us that ending. Which, I mean, yeah, of course I cried. Pretty sure I was getting the weepies by 91% and that was before I even knew the final line of the book.

The world owes me nothing, he thought, certainly not a perfect ending.

Even though this isn’t getting a five star, it has some of those qualities. Again, the writing? Wow. The little interludes? Devastating in their matter of factness. And the world? It reminded me of something from Interstellar, helped by the fact that this is sci-fi, but the mythology around it, what they had forgotten, or lost the context for, it was all just so clever, so seamless, and I could envision it so well. Not the least because of the dystopian societal structure was so familiar and, well, sadly typical. But the feel of it all? Still felt new, and fresh, and.. yeah, I might be jumping the gun here after only one book but Levien might be jumping right onto my auto-read author list.

Highly recommend.


A brand-new novella from the New York Times bestseller of Divergent

A thrilling, profoundly moving science fiction retelling of the Greek tragedy Antigone filled with inevitable doom, heart-break and one final act of courage.

Outside the last city on Earth, the planet is a wasteland. Without the Archive, where the genes of the dead are stored, humanity will end.

Passing into the Archive should be cause for celebration, but Antigone’s parents were murdered, leaving her father’s throne vacant. As her militant uncle Kreon rises to claim it, all Antigone feels is rage. When he welcomes her and her siblings into his mansion, Antigone sees it for what it really is: a gilded cage, where she is a captive as well as a guest.

But her uncle will soon learn that no cage is unbreakable. And neither is he.

Title : Arch-Conspirator
Author : Veronica Roth
Format : eARC
Page Count : 128
Genre : Dystopian Retelling
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : February 22, 2023

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5

Micky’s 4.5 star review

Greek tragedy retelling
Dytopian patriarchy
Female power

I ate this novella up in an evening and my thoughts are still on it afterwards. This was a completely full and satisfying story for its 128 pages. I really enjoyed the way Roth told this story in a pass-the-parcel POV keeping a totally coherent narrative voice and perspective of the story. Antigone was the central character, but those around her, good and bad were utterly compelling.

The story of Antigone, her siblings and her parents’ legacy was told in a dystopian earth, an earth that had many shades of familiarity but with a patriarchal dictator at its head. Females were precious for their uterus and therefore disempowered. There was a lot to unpack ethically interwoven into the fast pace of the story.

These characters were mostly shades of grey but with one much darker than the others. I liked seeing Antigone trembling with a sense of anarchy. Some characters really surprised me and the plot was tightly constructed.

I couldn’t put this novella down and I can see the tale staying with me; it’s memorable. I love a shorter story that packs all the punches.

“Sometimes I just stare into the future and don’t like anything I see.”

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.

ARE YOU HAPPY NOW by Hanna Jameson

At a New York City wedding, on a sweltering summer night, four people are trying to be happy.

Yun has everything he ever wanted, but somehow it’s never enough.
Emory is finally making her mark, but feels the shame more than the success.
Andrew is trying to be honest, but has lied to himself his whole life.
Fin can’t resist falling in love, but can’t help wrecking it all either.

And then the world begins to end. The four of them watch as one of the wedding guests sits down and refuses to get back up. Soon it’s happening across the world. Is it a choice or an illness?

Because how can anyone be happy in a world where the only choice is to feel everything – or nothing at all?

An intensely compulsive novel for anyone who has ever felt hopeful and helpless in one breath, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW is about how you keep living when the world is on fire. Perfect for fans of Emily John St. Mandel’s Station Eleven, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Patricia Lockwood’s Nobody is Talking About This and Naomi Alderman’s The Power.

Title : Are You Happy Now
Author : Hanna Jameson
Format : Physical ARC
Page Count : 360
Genre : Contemporary/Dystopian
Publisher : Penguin Books
Release Date : February 2, 2023

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5

Micky’s 3.5 star review

A different kind of pandemic
Relationship reactions to impending risk
Melancholy, sometimes sad and definitely not happy

Firstly, I just want to say that I do not read pandemic books, it’s too early for me but this isn’t like anything we experienced in recent years, apart from how humans behave. Most people will feel safe reading this in my opinion. I’m not going to spoil the events this book is built around, but suffice it to say, it’s a clever concept.

This book was full of quirk and weirdness while being rather engrossing. The characters were completely eclectic and apart from Andrew who I liked, the rest I just observed with popcorn. Yun who I initally liked, didn’t cope with what the world was offering and that ending was strangely surprising. Emory I liked more early on but her characterisation lost a bit of shading as it went on. Fin was an interesting addition later on.

This book’s strengths lie in the telling of human reaction to fear, risk and the sometimes resulting resilience. It’s fascinating how life rolls on and how relationships form and crash along the way. Societal reactions to what happened were very in the background and I thought that was missing a bit from the narrative.

I’m aware this review is somewhat vague but I think this is a read best served without prior knowledge.

Thank you to Viking Books for the review copy.

GLEANINGS by Neal Shusterman et al

The New York Times bestselling Arc of a Scythe series continues with thrilling stories that span the timeline. Storylines continue. Origin stories are revealed. And new Scythes emerge…

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman – along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman – returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

Gleanings shows just how expansive, terrifying, and thrilling the world that began with the Printz Honor-winning Scythe truly is.

Title : Gleanings
Author : Neal Shusterman
Series : Arc of a Scythe #3.5
Format : Physical
Page Count : 432
Genre : Dystopian
Publisher : Walker Books
Release Date : November 10, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★

Micky’s 4 star review

Gleanings offers:
Thunderhead insights
Characters connected to beloved and infamous scythes we know
Goddard’s beginnings
Trixie the dog (hilarious)
Insights into the Cirrus ships future

I absolutely ate up this collection of short stories which is a dream for any fan of the series. The stories were of sufficient length and depth that I felt satisfied with each. They were easy to get into and many of them were unexpected insights with wit, drama and deadish happenings.

The Thunderhead is a favourite character for me, so all things that being fascinated me and I think I’d have liked a full story about them. Trixie the dog had me in agog stitches. Other stories were more serious and I appreciated that too.

These stories were mostly Neal Shusterman but a few were collaborations with other authors but they all felt to have the same narrative voice. I do hope this isn’t the end of this world and that we’ll get future bits and pieces.

Thank you to Walker Books for the review copy.

POSTER GIRL by Veronica Roth

For fans of Anthony Marra and Lauren Beukes, #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth tells the story of a woman’s desperate search for a missing girl after the collapse of the oppressive dystopian regime–and the dark secrets about her family and community she uncovers along the way


Sonya Kantor knows this slogan–she lived by it for most of her life. For decades, everyone in the Seattle-Portland megalopolis lived under it, as well as constant surveillance in the form of the Insight, an ocular implant that tracked every word and every action, rewarding or punishing by a rigid moral code set forth by the Delegation.

Then there was a revolution. The Delegation fell. Its most valuable members were locked in the Aperture, a prison on the outskirts of the city. And everyone else, now free from the Insight’s monitoring, went on with their lives.

Sonya, former poster girl for the Delegation, has been imprisoned for ten years when an old enemy comes to her with a deal: find a missing girl who was stolen from her parents by the old regime, and earn her freedom. The path Sonya takes to find the child will lead her through an unfamiliar, crooked post-Delegation world where she finds herself digging deeper into the past–and her family’s dark secrets–than she ever wanted to.

With razor sharp prose, Poster Girl is a haunting dystopian mystery that explores the expanding role of surveillance on society–an inescapable reality that we welcome all too easily.

Title : Poster Girl
Author : Veronica Roth
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : sci-fi / dystopia
Publisher : William Morrow & Company
Release Date : October 18, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★.5

Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Ever wondered what The Hunger Games might’ve been like if Katniss was from District two instead of twelve? Something maybe a little like this; minus the actual Hunger Games event.

Instead, it’s more like Best Manners Royale because under the Delegation’s regime — which utilized eyeball implanted computers ala GoogleGlass (because people got too lazy to carry phones) that also tallied up infractions/awarded you points for good and bad behaviour — they wanted you molded into a compliant citizen. But after the Delegation fell, those who had enforced the rules, even the children of those families, they were all locked away.

Sonya Kantor is one of those children. Worse, she was actually the literal poster girl for the institution that had ruined so many lives. Now an adult, years after having lost her family, and most of the people she loved, she’s offered a chance to leave the prison she and other Delegation members/sympathizers, etc, have been locked away in; even though she’s deemed just too old to qualify for the new law that has passed. But she’s given a chance anyway — help track down a young girl, a second child (illegal for most people to have) who had been “re-homed” to another family, and she will earn her freedom. Along the way, though, she has to confront a figure from her past and realities she hadn’t known.

The concept of this story, which I’m actually loathe to call dystopian because some days it feels like we’re on the cusp of something this scary (whereas ten years ago it wouldn’t have felt that way!), was interesting.

There is some thought provoking discussion and allegory to be found in these pages but, let’s break it down into elements, as a mystery I would’ve liked more tension. As a dystopian some extra worldbuilding would’ve been nice. And for the little bit of romance we get I would’ve liked more chemistry — though to be honest the whole thing could’ve been ditched altogether.

While there is no overall satisfaction from the story, or at least I didn’t feel that way, Poster Girl is a quick read and might just be worth your time anyway.

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

EMBERS by Claire Kent

I never thought I’d live through an apocalypse, but I guess no one ever does. Now my family’s gone, and the only person who can keep me safe in a violent, chaotic world is my dead boyfriend’s rough, uncivilized father. I don’t like him. At all. Cal’s the last person I want to rely on, but for now he’s all I’ve got.

Eventually we become unconventional partners as we try to stay alive, but then my feelings for him start to change. I want more from Cal but maybe I shouldn’t. I can’t risk losing what matters most.

One thing I do know. In a world as broken as ours, everything gradually gets burned away. Everything but him.

Title : Embers
Author : Claire Kent
Series : Kindled #3
Format : eARC
Page Count : 241
Genre : Dystopian Romance
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : August 9, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 

Micky’s 3 star review

The third installment in this Kindled world felt again a little different to each previous story. Rachel and Cal were the couple in this story and we had caught sight of them in a previous book. I knew this age gap romance might be a little more tricky to gel with and for me it was.

Rachel was the girlfriend of Cal’s son who died early into the post-disaster world. These two rubbed along as reluctant companions for a good few years. I liked both Cal and Rachel as characters but I struggled with them somewhat as a couple. To be fair, Cal also struggled with that a lot. I think it was the whole factor she was his son’s girlfriend.

The plot was good in general. I enjoyed seeing Rachel in the previous communities we’ve seen in Kindled. I didn’t buy into the couple or chemistry as much as I’d hoped.

Thank you to the author for the review copy through netgalley.


Studious and principled Eden Pruitt stepped out of line just once. Unfortunately, that reckless decision ended with an arrest, a mug shot, and two very concerned parents. Now they’re starting over. In Iowa, of all places. On the cusp of her senior year, of all times. The situation is less than ideal but she’ll just have to manage, and without complaint. The change of address was her fault after all, and she isn’t going to make anything harder on her parents, who have already been through enough.

But life in Iowa turns strange fast. Odd things are happening, and Eden has no idea what any of it means. Then she comes home from her first day of school to a ransacked house and the nightmare officially begins. Her parents are missing. She’s convinced something terrible has happened to them. But nobody believes her. Except for a hardened, mysterious stranger who is as dangerous as he is enticing.

Title : The Fabrication of Eden Pruitt
Author : K.E. Ganshert
Series : Eden Pruitt #1
Format : Physical
Page Count : 440
Genre : YA Dystopian Thriller
Publisher : Self-published
Release Date : June 14, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★

Micky’s 4 star review

Don’t accept events at first glance
A dystopian US
Who is Eden Pruitt?

This was such a ride of a read that started in normality but quickly spiralled into Eden finding her life was not as she knew it. The story was set in a contemporary dystopian US with events in the past that haven’t happened to us that shaped their future. Eden found herself separated from her parents and in the company of a possible ally Cass.

For much of the story I was second guessing who was friend or foe. There were some amazing plot twists that really pulled the rug out from Eden and the reader. This was a fairly fast-paced read where Eden was on the run, fighting an unnamed enemy and second guessing her existence. I don’t want to give away any of the plot but it was unpredictable, it had sci-fi elements and it read like a thriller. I thought this melding of dystopian ya thriller with sci-fi worked well.

There was a light romance in this story and that connection was belieavable, on the periphery but it fit well with the overall plot. There’s a second installment to come in this series (duology?) and I’ll definitely be reading on.