DEAL WITH THE DEVIL by Kit Rocha

Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers in the vein of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha

The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost.

Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is.

Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities.

The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years…

If they live that long.


Title : Deal with the Devil
Author : Kit Rocha
Series : Mercenary Librarians (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : sci-fi/dystopian romance
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : July 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I have so many mixed feelings about this one! I mean, like, what a surprise, though, right? No one is shocked.

But seriously. This read was so strange for me. I was totally sucked in to this world and Rocha’s words, was consumed by it for the majority of a sunday afternoon, but nothing about the book had a wow factor, no character was particularly compelling or amazing, the plot itself didn’t feel too different from any other post-apocalyptic-esque-dystopian (obviously some elements differ but the familiarity is there) and I was still, somehow, almost tempted to give this four stars. Why? Because the writing was solid, it did consume me, and the ensemble cast and banter was just great (I’m such a sucker for this). 

But as I sat down to write this, as I considered the lack of wow, the as-of-right-now (but maybe not in future books considering the final chapter) rather misleading series name, and that overall lack of stand-out from the characters (don’t get me wrong, some were better than others, all were pretty good, but none really moved to me think “favourites shelf!!”)? I knew I couldn’t give this more than what I’m giving it.

This world is a mash-up of survivors after solar flares have basically reduced human contact to those within your local area. And in Atlanta, where this is set, that leaves society to be mostly enforced by a military outfit who uses enhancements on their soldiers, and also an organization who dabbles in genetics, and both are basically no good. The story features a group of ex-military operatives who are trying to survive the ticking time bomb that is their degrading implants and a trio of women who have been enhanced in various ways. Romance, secrets, betrayals, and surprises — naturally — ensue.

This story is full of action, full of sci-fi elements, gritty and dark but not bleak or hopeless. The romance wasn’t my favourite part but I didn’t hate it. I just liked the “we don’t trust each other, we know betrayal is likely” edge better. At least in the beginning. The reluctant friendships, the thawing of the tension, and all the banter, as the story went on, I liked even more. There was a lot of like.

Additionally, I liked that this wasn’t a story with just one, or two, POVs, and we’d get little tastes of each character, either to give us some backstory or some perspective. OR to whet our appetites for future books. Either way, I liked it.

I will definitely read on! 

Also, of note, after finishing my review and glancing through early feedback, apparently this is supposed to be set in the same world as the duo’s other series, though standing apart from it and also with less of an erotic categorization, so, that’s worth noting. I think I’ve read maybe two of the Beyond books so can’t really say that’s where I felt this was familiar. In all honesty it made me think of Kennedy’s Outlaws series but, again, without the erotica. Though, don’t get me wrong, there are some steamy scenes! That said, maybe in the wait for book two, I should go back and read more of this duo’s other works just so I can feel caught up on this universe. It probably won’t happen, though. I’m crap at follow through.

Ultimately, this is one that gets a cautious recommend from me. If you are into the genre, if you like lots of action, and a pretty stable attraction/romance thread between two opposing forces, you’ll definitely be into this. It is fairly long, though, clocking in at over four hundred pages, so if you’re more into wham bam thank you done, and don’t want this much plot with your sexy action times, maybe try the Kennedy series. Or, obviously, Rocha’s other books.

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

Q by Christina Dalcher

Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s new elite schools. Her daughters are exactly like her: beautiful, ambitious, and perfect. A good thing, since the recent mandate that’s swept the country is all about perfection.
 
Now everyone must undergo routine tests for their quotient, Q, and any children who don’t measure up are placed into new government schools. Instead, teachers can focus on the gifted.
 
Elena tells herself it’s not about eugenics, not really, but when one of her daughters scores lower than expected and is taken away, she intentionally fails her own test to go with her.
 
But what Elena discovers is far more terrifying than she ever imagined…


Title : Q
Author : Christina Dalcher
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : Dystopian
Publisher : HQ
Release Date : April 30, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2 star review

It is truly crushing when a book you have anticipated ends up being a disappointment. I really enjoyed Vox, the previous release from this author and I liked her brand of contemporary dystopia; close to current society.

Q started off well, with a family situation, two successful parents and two high-achieving children. However, the mask fell off and a hideous under layer was revealed. This was a story about IQ above every other facet of a person and it drilled down to emotive and polarising topics of elitism, abortion and someone’s personal worth.

The protagonist, Elena, mother of two and wife was an interesting character and I liked her. She taught in an elite school, her children were intelligent and passing their monthly tests until one didn’t. The husband was 100% a b*****d. The first half of the book was strong and I liked where it was going but then it went downhill for me, I’m afraid. I felt like I was pushing through with the narrative. The plot was intangible at times, even considering that it was dystopian. I hated the final direction and found the culmination so unsatisfying.

I’m hugely disappointed but I am grateful to have had an early review copy. Considering how much I liked Vox, I will definitely read Christina Dalcher again.

Thank you to Headline for the review copy.

CHOSEN ONES by Veronica Roth – double review!

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended. 


Title : Chosen Ones
Author : Veronica Roth
Series : Chosen Ones (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : sci-fi/dystopian
Publisher : John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date : April 7, 2020

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m going to start by saying I like the Chosen One trope. I do. And I also really like the post-Chosen-One-now-what-the-fuck-happens trope. I find the former is done a lot better than the latter (though we haven’t had that many) but this might’ve been the best post-Chosen story I’ve read so far. I think.

There is a lot of really interesting, and quality, content in Roth’s tale. The plot definitely keeps you guessing, too, as while the tone doesn’t really change, the context and angle does. And also, like, the setting? Things went to a strange place around the halfway mark (maybe earlier, can’t remember) and at first I really wasn’t a fan.. and then it clicked. What didn’t quite work for me was the motivation or, I guess, reason for a certain character and/or plot, but the concept of it, the bare bones structure, was pretty great.

I definitely think this is going to be book that either works or doesn’t work for readers. The characters aren’t easy to love (or like) and the plot shifts gears — sideways, upside down, backwards — but there are definitely shining moments in both the telling of the story as well as the processing of the grief and trauma and uncertainty of surviving something so beyond comprehension. It feels very true for a lot of us; we survive life to a certain point and then hit that wall of, “now what?”. The only difference is the average body doesn’t hit that wall after defeating a dark magical being. But there are glimpses of hope, of being known, of being understood, despite it all.

I will say that, for an adult story, I don’t feel the characters read their supposed age (thirty). Early twenties I would’ve believed, definitely. But, honestly, had you redacted the on-page stating of how old they were supposed to be and handed me this book? I would’ve guessed YA.

So, there you have it. Roth’s first adult novel is interesting, creative, and not hard to put down, but not easy, either. But despite it all, not as close to great as I hoped it might be. I have no idea what to expect from book two, particularly as I felt this wrapped really well, but I will pick it up for sure.

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


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

This was a tale of complexity, the creation of a world(s) that really captured my imagination but no way could I have predicted this wild story direction and culmintion. Veronica Roth once again has proven she has a great imagination and ability to commit this to the page.

I do like a chosen one trope but this really was a reimagining of that idea with a washed up, traumatised and arrogant crew. Sloane was the protagonist that was just treading water after her great input in saving the world ten years ago. I really liked how the world unfurled its laws and history through her flashbacks but also her reading of past documents. The magic of that earth was pretty creepy at times, with the fight to save the world having been somewhat gory and violent. I didn’t like many of the other crew apart from Albie and maybe Innes but she was in the background. I liked the second part much better.

When the world and story twisted life got much more exciting and I got more invested in the story. I loved the elements and mysteriousness of the needle, Sloane’s connection to deep dives and Mox. This story really was a case of not knowing who were the good guys and who were the bad guys; my ideas got flipped on their heads.

There is a concentration investment needed for this story, the world building comes in layers and pieces but nevertheless it is intricate and you need your brain switched on. The culmination did not let me down and I am a little unsure where another story will spring from for this series but I am here to read more. On a side note, I can see this making a pretty good film.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

THE ELECTRIC HEIR by Victoria Lee

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.


Title : The Electric Heir
Author : Victoria Lee
Series : Feverwake (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 469
Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Skyscape
Release Date : March 17, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

After coming out of THE FEVER KING with much less love than I thought I would, I was pretty pleased by how strong I felt this follow up was. At least, initially.

My main problem was where this story went in regards to a certain relationship and the direction it took. There are so many complicated emotions, so many traumas, so much grief, wrapped up in the why or maybe the how of it. And Lee does (I think, at least) a good job of trying to explain the messiness of it all, the conflicting perceptions and means to which one might convince themselves of something, through her characters. But I still didn’t like it, and every time it came up I wanted to put the book down and walk away. One particular exchange, between the two POVs and leads, made me oh so very angry. And hurt. So, I mean, kudos for that. But that didn’t make me like the story anymore.

And the story itself, well, there’s not much I can say regarding the plot for a sequel/finale, but mostly I’m just confused. I have no idea how we got to the ending we did, and how it’s going to stick, considering.. everything. Additionally I guess I just don’t understand why the story, the series, happened in the first place? Why these kids, why couldn’t Lehrer just.. I don’t know. I feel like I understood what I read, what happened, but I’m missing the point, I guess.

For all that I clearly have no idea how to feel, despite knowing I didn’t love this, I have to say that Lee’s writing is strong. She doesn’t shy away from darker topics (there’s a warning at the front, and content/triggers listed at the back) and I feel she handles a lot of it with dignity and care. These characters, all of them, have been through so much, are still dealing with so much, and while sometimes it felt like too much, it’s all rather tied up in one catalyst. It’s heartbreaking and awful and while I didn’t hate Noam, one of our POVs, I absolutely adored Dara. Full stop.

Anyway, I don’t know. I feel like this is a series I should’ve loved and, when pitched to me, I knew I wanted to read it. Something about this just didn’t connect. And I’m sad about it. But I’m also an outlier, so, please read the glowy reviews and, if this sounds like your thing, definitely give it a try.

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

THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee

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

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE TOLL by Neal Shusterman

It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this pulse-pounding conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.


Title : The Toll
Author : Neal Shusterman
Series : Arc of a Scythe
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 631
Genre : YA Dystopian
Publisher : Walker Books
Release Date : November 7, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

This trilogy has overshadowed my other reads in the last couple of months, I’ve thought about the books, talked about the books and I’m so glad to say that the final installment did not let me down. THE TOLL demanded to be read straight after THUNDERHEAD and the grip this series had on my reading pleasure, did not relent it’s twisty hold.

The ending of THUNDERHEAD left readers aghast and believe me, the start didn’t do much to appease all the five million thoughts and hypotheses I had running through my mind. For all those hypotheses I had, not one was correct and no way could I have predicted what the Thunderhead had in store for the post-mortal age.

Greyson TOLLiver was even more in the fore of this book, another reimagining of himself but he became a character I was strangely more comfortable with. There are other characters, so important, that I am choosing not to mention by name because that is a spoiler in itself but their stories and characters meant so much to me. I have become so attached to the ongoing and eventual outcomes of some of these folks.

As for Goddard, brace yourself people, you cannot imagine him worse, but guess what, he’s pure evil. Aside from the old characters, there were some new characters, two of which I loved. Jeri and his gender identities were everything lovely, solid and loyal. I admired their character and I enjoyed the growth of connections between them and others. Cirrus was a fabulous and interesting development. The Thunderhead also went through some transformation which I still feel unsettled about.

The ending was BOOM!

Go read this trilogy, you won’t regret it. If you were put off by the covers like I have been for a few years, don’t let that stop you. I am now a fan of the covers thanks to the reading and how the covers have sparked with the story and my imagination. This is one of the best dystopian stories I have ever read. Please Mr Shusterman, give us some more stories from this universe.

THUNDERHEAD by Neal Shusterman 🎧

The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the Scythedom. All it can do is observe—it does not like what it sees.

A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?


Title : Thunderhead
Author : Neal Shusterman
Narrator : Greg Tremblay
Series : Arc of a Scythe
Format : Audiobook
Page Count : 13 hours, 2 minutes
Genre : YA Dystopian
Publisher : Audible Studios
Release Date : January 9, 2018

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I am blown away (again by this series and how it ended). This was the kind of second book that we don’t see as readers very often, the kind of book that exceeds the first book in expectation and enjoyment. THUNDERHEAD took all of my preconceptions from book one and set a bomb in the middle of them, leaving me jaw-dropped to the floor.

THUNDERHEAD itself had much more characterisation in this book and I loved every reveal, every moment of narration from the Thunderhead. I learnt so much more about the workings, ethics and even affection that the Thunderhead had and used to operationalise the world in this age. The scythes, however were an unhinged s**t show. Oh how they unraveled in this story and how I loved reading it all. The usual suspects were there, Scythe Curie, Scythe Anastasia (Citra) and Scythe Lucifer (Rowan). But oh my word, there were some scythe surprises too. I was shook.

This installment introduced the concept of unsavouries which was an interesting depth to this age and Grayson’s character made for interesting reading. We also learnt a bit more about the tonists too.

So who stole the show in this book? Two characters, firstly the THUNDERHEAD themselves and then Scythe Anastasia. I am now left in total suspense for what will happen in the final installment of this excellent series.

If my body is the Earth, then I am nothing more than a spec of dust in the vastness of space. I wonder what it would be like, then, if my consciousness were to someday span the distance between the stars. – THE THUNDERHEAD

The narration was excellent. One narrator, multiple POVS conveyed very well with tonation and mood. If you’ve not started Arc of a Scythe, then what have you been doing with your life?

SCYTHE by Neal Schusterman

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. 


Title : Scythe
Author : Neal Schusterman
Series : Arc of a Scythe
Format : ebook
Page Count : 435
Genre : YA Dystopian
Publisher : Walker Books
Release Date : November 22, 2016

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Get ready to switch your brain on to full engagement if you are reading Scythe because there are levels in this book and if you want to experience it all, you need to jump in on full throttle.

What was unique about this read was the need to engage your emotional intelligence. I can only describe my experience of reading as being in an ‘ethical think’tank’. I felt challenged, doubtful, shocked and pondered a lot over the philosophy and corruption of this dystopian world. I absolutely loved the concept of the ‘thunderhead’ even though it was in the background. There were some great thunderhead twists and I am here for a book two with that same title.

SCYTHE was YA dystopia like I have never read before. It was eerie, engaging, morbid and quite frankly, it was very gory. It felt almost a bit too gory for YA, but I am sensitive to graphic description of violence and death. Two teens, Citra and Rowan, were taken on as apprentice scythes – those that end life in this world without natural death. However, these two caused ripples in the scythedom and that was the premise for the whole book.

“And it occurred to her that being a scythe was like being the living dead. In the world, but apart from it. Just a witness to the comings and goings of others.”

There was amazing character development to read in this book and side characters that engaged me hugely such as Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie. The story line was full and detailed with occasional lulls that soon powered into explosions and fast-pacing.

I didn’t really know where the end of the book would take the reader but the ending blew me away, it was that good. Also, I love a book in a series that ties up some ends without leaving you frustrated, this delivered in that way. I am pretty excited now to where the rest of the series will take me and this being a book club read, I get to pick the details apart and I think that’s pretty perfect.

THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett – double review!

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between. 


Title : The Grace Year
Author : Kim Liggett
Format : eARC / ARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : Dystopian/Fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : October 8, 2019

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


Micky’s 2 star review

Two little black sheep, all in a row, baa baa, this didn’t work us.

I got on board with THE GRACE YEAR for the first 15-20%, I was intrigued with village life, the dystopia and the female oppression themes. I also wanted to know what the heck this grace year was, oh so mysteriously referred to as it was.

I stick by my early status on Goodreads from that point where I said ‘hello, Lady of the Flies’. THE GRACE YEAR was just that, a descent into craziness, madness and destruction. I found it incredibly discomforting to read, which is not to say that discomfort is unwelcome, I enjoy that in a well written book. However, this was an unpleasant experience with a storyline that was unwieldy and didn’t hang together.

Things that I could not buy into included Tierney, the protagonist as she reached the heights of grand integrity whilst all around her crumbled. Ryker and Tierney…just no. What even was that, Stockholm syndrome? Michael after the grace year felt totally out of character and too convenient. I did like Kiersten’s character for the general evil and nastiness. You can see that I wasn’t enamoured by a lot.

The plot line felt to be general chaos, disconnection and what the hell moments, but not in a good way. There were a bunch of disconnected parts, with a narrative that did not coherently mesh together. I did not highlight a thing in this book as the writing did not jump out at me. I felt like I just had to power through to the end and I did.

I realise that many have enjoyed this book already and I would say maybe it is just me but I do think the writing, characters and story development are weak. I will stand by that.

Thank you to St Martin’s Press and Wednesday Books for the early review copy.


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

So this wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. This is more LORD OF THE FLIES than THE HANDMAID’S TALE, though there’s definitely shades of the latter, and the main problem is I didn’t like LORD OF THE FLIES. And neither did I like the all-female version of it, either.

There’s also a weird sorta-THE HUNGER GAMES element that I couldn’t unsee, once I kind of picked up on it, but maybe that’s because I just wanted to see some good in this. Something that didn’t feel like a strange altered-state fever dream of random and nothing and awful.

So much of this world, this societal structure, feels.. not fleshed out or vague for the sake of suspense and uncertainty. At least up until a certain point. And afterwards, it’s just, like.. that’s it? That’s all we get?

The backbone of the story, the theme or message that we earn by making it through the hazy plot, which you don’t see until almost the very end, is worth celebrating. There are elements that feel important, because they are, but they are mired in.. everything else. Honestly, I’m just baffled. I’m disappointed. And I’m not sorry to say there was some skimming because this wasn’t exactly how I wanted my Friday night of reading to go : both bored and confused. But at this point, I’m definitely an outlier, because so many people are buzzing about this (heck, we were buzzing about this in our anticipated list!), so, this might be worth picking up if only to give it a try.

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

AFTER THE FLOOD by Kassandra Montag

The world is mostly water when Pearl is born. The floods have left America a cluster of small islands with roving trade ships and raiders.

Pearl knows little of her father Jacob and elder sister Row, who left her mother Myra when she was pregnant with her. Between them they make do, with Myra fishing and trading to make ends meet, travelling from island to island on Bird, the boat Myra’s grandfather made before he died.

Whilst their life is a tranquil one, Myra still aches for the daughter she once lost. When a chance encounter reveals that Row might still be alive, Myra packs up six-year-old Pearl and together they begin a dangerous voyage to The Valley, where rumours of violence and breeding ships run rampant.

Along the way they encounter death and strangers, finally finding solace on board Sedna – full to the brim with supplies and an able crew – where Myra feels like she might be closer to finding Row than she has ever been. But to get to Row she will have to deceive everyone around her, betraying the trust of those she’s come to love, and ask herself if she’s willing to sacrifice everything and everyone for what might be nothing at all.


Title : After the Flood
Author : Kassandra Montag
Format : Paperback ARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : YA dystopian
Publisher : Borough Press
Release Date : September 19, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

There couldn’t be a more relevant reflection into the environmental future than AFTER THE FLOOD. It’s written in a time and place where the world is flooded. The worst had happened and this was about life through the lens of a mother and daughter.

Myra was the main character, a mother of two, a reluctant spouse and a survivor. Myra was one of the most quietly strong women I have ever read about. She was single-minded in her need to survive, protect and search, so much so that she often feared she had lost her humanity.

I feared that my heart had shrunk as the water rose around me – panic filling me as water covered the earth – panic pushing out anything else, whittling my heart to a hard, small shape I couldn’t recognise.

The story has a grand picture, of humanity drowning and then surviving but more importantly it is about Myra and Pearl and it is about trust and suspicion, loyalty and betrayal. The story followed these two on their own and then as they came together with others. There was a truly coherent storyline despite the consistently fast-pace of the narrative. I loved the pacing of the book, never knowing what was around the corner, guessing what was foreshadowing and what was just detail. There were some almighty twists that were just excellent.

As a reader, I wanted Myra to have some kind of good outcome but in a dystopian read, is this a realistic goal? Whatever my thoughts on that, Myra also needed to hope and though she rarely did, an odd chink did shine through.

I hadn’t allowed myself to have a dream in so long it felt foreign, uncomfortable, like a muscle gone weak. I pressed deeper into it, saw us on a bed reading a book, a quilt heavy and warm over our legs.

I’ve come away from this book still feeling unsettled, how could I read about this kind of story where earth is mainly water not seeing the relevance? However, Kassandra Montag told this tale impressively through her characters and I am impressed by her debut. AFTER THE FLOOD isn’t a preachy read, it has heart, soul and a challenging story to tell. You will feel discomforted, a little anxious possibly but on the edge of your seat. This is a good dystopian standalone that I would recommend to all.

Thank you Harper Insider and Borough Press for this early copy.