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.


THE FABRICATION OF EDEN PRUITT by K.E. Ganshert

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

Headlines:
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.

PRINCESS by Claire Kent

I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.

When the asteroid hits and the world falls apart, I’m seventeen, and my dad buys us a place in an underground bunker. We’re supposed to be safe down there, but we’re not. Gradually, I lose everything until all I have left is a bewildering relationship with a stoic, unknowable man.

As one of the guards in the bunker, Grant has lurked in the background of my life for years, teaching me to defend myself, making sure I’m safe, and infuriating me by treating me like a sheltered princess in a tower. I don’t even know if he likes me, even after we end up in bed together. All I know is that he’s always there beside me–during the bleak half-life of the bunker and the hostile, unfamiliar world we discover when we finally come out of lockdown.

Maybe one day he’ll open up. Let down his walls. And maybe eventually our days can be about more than surviving.. Maybe I am one of the lucky ones, but right now all I have left in the world is him.


Title : Princess
Author : Claire Kent
Series : Kindled #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 222
Genre : Dystopian Romance
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : July 12, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Age-gap (not creepy)
A different take on this Kindled world
Bunker life

I am so taken by this series by Claire Kent and my only complaint is where the asteroid fell (what about Europe?!). What I like about this series is that there isn’t rehashing of the apocalyptic event, this series is all about survival afterwards and the interconnected couples through the series.

Princess gave us a bunker existence perspective for some of the book and that felt really fresh. The couple in Grant and Olivia took a familiar path, somewhat similar to the previous book but I still thoroughly enjoyed reading their journey. It was push and pull, uncertainty and chemistry.

I really enjoyed the grander picture, seeing the previous couples, communities and how that bigger plot is weaving together. The threats from the unsavoury part of humanity put the communities trying to survive at risk and it had the reader absolutely on edge at times.

I cannot wait for the two further books coming in this series and the names I’ve seen that will be in subsequent stories. Princess was the kind of book you can read in a day and feel completely satisfied in the ride.

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

THE GILDED KING by Josie Jaffrey

In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.

Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, who believes in fairytales that her world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.

But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.
Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.

One way or another, the walls of the Blue are going to come down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.


Title : The Gilded King
Author : Josie Jaffrey
Series : Soverign #1
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 285
Genre : Dystopian YA
Publisher : Silver Sun Books
Release Date : June 25, 2018

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s star review

Headlines:
Humans ‘v’ vampires ‘v’ zombies
Parallel stories
Dystopia meets historical

I feel like I’ve possibly done this series starter a disservice on the one hand because this is a story that builds on a previous series. I think I would have understood quite a bit more if I’d read that previous series but with this being a book one of a series, I thought I would be okay. Overall, I found the world building confusing at times and I was jarred by my lack of understanding.

Those aspects said, this was a very character-driven story and some of these characters were ones to get behind. This was a tale with two stories running in parallel where Julia and Lucas were at the fore of the story in the Blue and Cam was at the fore of the story in the Red. It took a long time for these stories to intersect but I wasn’t bothered by that.

While this was a dystopian tale that occasionally harkened back to our contemporary times, life in the Blue felt somewhat historical, ancient Grecian or Roman with nobles, servitude and a basic standard of living. I was most interested in Julia and Lucas in the Blue for these reasons, but still, there was a lot to get your head around.

The story did pull the threads together towards the end but I’m left with many unanswered questions that I’ll have to read on for.

Thank you to the author for the review copy.

THE FOREVERS by Chris Whitaker

What would you do if you knew the world was going to be destroyed by a huge asteroid in one month? The mesmerising YA debut from acclaimed crime writer and New York Times Bestselling author of We Begin at the End.

They knew the end was coming. They saw it ten years back, when it was far enough away in space and time and meaning.
The changes were gradual, and then sudden.

For Mae and her friends, it means navigating a life where action and consequence are no longer related. Where the popular are both trophies and targets. And where petty grudges turn deadlier with each passing day. So, did Abi Manton jump off the cliff or was she pushed? Her death is just the beginning of the end.

With teachers losing control of their students and themselves, and the end rushing toward all of them, it leaves everyone facing the answer to one, simple question…

What would you do if you could get away with anything?


Title : The Forevers
Author : Chris Whitaker
Format : Paperback
Page Count :355
Genre : Dystopian YA
Publisher : HotKey Books
Release Date : July 8, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2 star review

Headlines:
Difficult plot to gel with
Unlikeable characters
Confused writing

I’m sorry that I don’t have better things to say about The Forevers. I love the cover and I definitely found the blurb appealing but as it spun out, the plot was very difficult to like. When the end of the world is definitely coming in 30 days, this small community was pretty wrapped up in the death of Abi, not the big impending asteroid. That seemed a little out of kilter with my expectations.

Mae as a character was likeable but the rest of the characters weren’t. The school, the forevers, the community were a messed up ball of intricate effed-up-ness. Added into this was the fact that the writing was really confusing at times. I was jarred when unnamed characters entered scenes and I never knew who that person was and so the plot point was lost. There were also occasions where I felt like a small chunk of narrative was missing, so again, I was confused. All that said, I was able to string the story together but it was a push to keep going with the aid of some skimming.

I liked the premise but sadly the execution didn’t work for me.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the early review copy.

DARK LULLABY by Polly Ho-Yen

For fans of Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale, in Dark Lullaby a mother desperately tries to keep her family together in a society where parenting standards are strictly monitored.

When Kit decides to have a child, she thinks she’s prepared. She knows how demanding Induction is. She’s seen children Extracted. But in a society where parenting is strictly monitored under the watchful gaze of OSIP (The Office of Standards in Parenting), she is forced to ask herself how far she will go to keep her family together. 


Title : Dark Lullaby
Author : Polly Ho-Yen
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : Dystopian
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : March 23, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 2.5 – 3 star review

Dark Lullaby was a tale centred around infertility dystopia and needless to say, this was a story that was mostly impactful on women. The book plunged the reader immediately into a sad and oppressive world where there seemed to be limited hope and expectations for people. This world was very similar to the world we exist in now. As a reader, you did feel the various stages of desperation that the women in this book experienced. I would have liked more from the male characters in the book.

It was a discomforting read as you would imagine, but it was also an unsatisfying read for me. The story was told in ‘then’ and ‘now’ and this element was executed well but I was left wondering about issues all the way through, some of which were never answered. There were conveniences in the plot that I struggled with; the ending felt rushed.

Overall, I was left somewhat unsatisfied throughout the read and in the culmination. The theme of the story had all the potential, the characters were not necessarily likeable but they were robustly developed. I don’t why this just didn’t hit the spot for me considering my enjoyment of dytopia. I’m a huge fan of The Handmaid’s Tale that also tackles this theme of infertility changing the world but that book was so much more, in my opinion.

Thank you to Titan Books for the early review copy. Dark Lullaby is out now.

BIG BAD WOLF by Suleikha Snyder

In 2016, New York became a Sanctuary City for supernaturals…but things quickly spun out of control. Now, Third Shift is an elite team of operatives tasked with exposing the gritty underbelly of New York’s criminal-supernatural underworld, taking down the worst of the worst and protecting human- and shifter-kind alike.

Joe Peluso has blood on his hands. But lawyer and psychologist Neha Ahluwalia is determined to help him craft a solid defense…even if she can’t defend her own obsession. Because Joe took out those Russian mobsters for good reason–they were responsible for the death of his beloved foster brother. Those six bad guys were part of the ruthless clan of bear shifters who control Brooklyn’s Russian mafia, so his vigilante justice has earned him countless enemies in New York’s supernatural-controlled underworld, and no friends in a government that now bends to Russia at every turn.

Joe knows that creatures like him only deserve the worst. Darkness. Solitude. Punishment. But meeting Neha makes him feel human for the first time in forever. He’s never wanted anything in his life like he wants Neha, and he’ll break almost any rule to spend a minute alone with her. But when the Russian mob attacks the jail for payback, Joe and Neha are forced to escape. Before long they’re on the run–from monsters who want him dead and from their own traitorous hearts.


Title : Big Bad Wolf
Author : Suleikha Snyder
Series : Third Shift (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : urban fantasy/PNR
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ 


Hollis’ 1 star review

Here’s a series I can unequivocably say that I will not be continuing. See? Even I have limits.

Where to even start, gosh, well. If you thought post-2016 was A Lot, buckle in, folks! In Snyder’s world it gets worse. All those awful real-life things plus a big supernatural outing and rarely does the author miss an opportunity to remind you just how shitty things are. Sure, its fiction, but it doesn’t feel like fiction when you’re rehashing 80% of the crap you’ve just lived through in a gritty dystopian paranormal fantasy. No thanks.

If that wasn’t bad enough, one of the (many) POVs you get is from Mister Melodrama Man Pain himself. Like, I don’t want to shit too hard on this guy, not all his boo hoo’ing was without reason but.. well. Most was. Yeah. The constant spirals of “I’m the worst, you deserve better, I’m a killer” were exhausting. Watching the other half of the pairing put up with it, be reduced to hormones, and waiting until it all got rehashed post-bang? I was so over this very early on in the game. Particularly as I found little to no chemistry between them (or anyone) despite the whole relationship hinging on this big dose of epic lust.

Actually even before we discovered the man pain, I was twigging to this not likely being my thing — as early as the first chapter — but what had interested me about this in the first place was my previous experience reading one of the author’s novellas.. which I thoroughly enjoyed. This? No. Zero enjoyment. Only boredom or frustration or pure misery.

This is clearly being set up as a huge series because we had lots of POVs with lots of little offshooting set-ups for coupledom, or drama, or adventures, and while some of those minor dynamics sort’ve interested me at first, I just eventually lost the will to care. The writing isn’t terrible but it does not draw you in; I found it very hard to keep track of events in some of the scenes, particularly action sequences, and had to backtrack to determine what had happened, and yet we were forced to rehash so much dialogue (literally, pulled from previous chapters, as one character or another relived it) and all together it just felt so offbalance.

I somehow dragged my lifeless carcass through this book to the bitter end but hey that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Particularly if you want a gritty pseudo-real world PNR that somehow manages to lean into all the cheese and tropes that call this genre home. As mentioned, though, this is as far as I go.

BENEATH THE KEEP by Erika Johansen

The Tearling has reverted to feudalism, a far cry from the utopia it was founded to be. As the gap between rich and poor widens and famine threatens the land, sparking unrest, rumors of a prophecy begin to spread: a great hope, a True Queen who will rise up and save the kingdom.

But rumors will not help Lazarus, a man raised to kill in the brutal clandestine underworld of the Creche, nor Aislinn, a farm girl who must reckon with her own role in the growing rebellion. In the Keep, the crown princess, Elyssa, finds herself torn between duty to the throne and the lure of the Blue Horizon, a group of fierce idealists who promise radical change . . . but Elyssa must choose quickly, before a nefarious witch and her shadowy master use dark magic to decide for her. It is only a matter of time before all three will be called into the service of something bigger than they have ever imagined: a fight for a better world. 


Title : Beneath the Keep
Author : Erika Johansen
Series : The Queen of the Tearling (book zero/prequel)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 448
Genre : fantasy/dystopian
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Anyone who has read The Queen of the Tearling series probably knew what to expect for this unexpected prequel release. After all, we had mostly learned of all the pre-Kelsea events along the way of the main trilogy. And yet somehow the author still managed to drop a few surprises along the way. And still make this incredibly compelling.

As usual, even though this isn’t a sequel, not a prequel, I can’t say much plot-wise. But if you are new to, or unfamiliar with, this world, you should know it has layers, depths, of darkness. It’s cruel and unjust but glimmers of hope streak through the mire. This was the turning point for these characters, for the world, but there is still much to happen, to endure, before the end.

And some of that might even be an unknown. I don’t know what more is to come, or what time it will fill (likely upto book one? we have quite a few years yet to live through..), but I am keen for it. Completing this series was one of my 2020 successes and I am still riding high on that experience; adding to that delight was, upon finishing, realizing more books were coming (serendipitity!), so I’ll take anything the author is willing to dole out.

THE COVEN by Lizzie Fry

“Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.”

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.


Title : The Coven
Author : Lizzie Fry
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 448
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Sphere, Little Brown UK
Release Date : February 25, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

I’m here for dystopia and I’m here for fantasy, so bring me a pairing of the two and that’s pretty exciting. The Coven was a contemporary envisioning of a dystopian, patriachial future centred around the idea of erradication of witchcraft. In ways, this wasn’t a new topic, indeed the book leaned on the historical past we know of, to underpin the contemporary.

The book had an eclectic mix of characters and some shocking beginnings to grab you in to the story. There were character stories in parallel until they became one and I have to say, that aspect was very well written. I was doubly invested from the start. Chloe was such a hard character to like but her father was incredibly endearing. Adelita and Ethan were likeable from the start.

The story navigated oppression, misogyny, captivity, rebellion and some rather scary powers. After a strong first half, I did find elements of the storyline in the second half chaotic and I had to really concentrate to keep up with power plays and plots.

I have to mention that a racial slur was included in the book without being necessary. It didn’t add to the plot, it wasn’t corrected by another character and the narrative just breezed on by. I do think that this kind of inclusion potentially gives licence to that word’s use and I’m sad it was there. I can only hope it didn’t make it to the final edit.

Overall, The Coven was a clever and engaging concept all wrapped up in a dystopian feminist fantasy standalone.

Thank you to Sphere, Little Brown UK for the review copy.

THE FATE OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…


Title : The Fate of the Tearling
Author : Erika Johansen
Series : The Queen of the Tearling (book three)
Format : physical
Page Count : 500
Genre : fantasy/dystopian
Publisher : Harper
Release Date : November 26, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I’m going to preface this by saying that I knew this ending was polarizing because I had so many people reach out with comments ala “can’t wait to find out how you feel about the ending!” that I knew to expect something.. maybe not bad but obviously divisive. Maybe that warning prepared me? Maybe it gave my brain time to expect the worst? The problem, of course, is that I could predict maybe only like 6% of this whole series. So naturally I had a vague kernel of an idea of what might happen but zero ability to predict what it would look like when the dust settled.

And nope, I’m not even going to hint at it! Read it for yourself and find out.

That said, I do think this book might be the weakest of the three. This series definitely took a turn in book two, in the telling of the story, and in the mechanics of this world, making it far more than just a typical fantasy. And in book three we take yet another turn — in hindsight I think my favourite was book two. It did much to fill in those last remaining gaps, gaps we desperately needed filled to understand what brought us to the point we were at, but I found the way that was done was a little less.. magical. It felt a bit more same-y but less sparkly, if that makes sense? But in a way that also fit because suddenly these people, these figures, that had been so revered? They, too, were a little less sparkly. What Johansen did, over and over again, was give her characters depth, and flaws, and, occasionally, but particularly in the case of Kelsea, have them examine their own internal workings and hypocrisies, what they were willing to sacrifice in order to do the right thing. So really I shouldn’t be surprised that she chipped away at those who were placed on the pedestals of this society, too.

In fact I do believe Johansen deserves a lot of credit for just.. not doing the expected. Like, ever. She took strange twisty dark path and then committed to choices that I think most authors wouldn’t have dared; particularly for their first series. I can see why this third book either perplexed of pissed people off. Me? I just loved the ride. It’s bittersweet, yes, and maybe it’s an easier pill for me to swallow knowing there are still two books to come? Probably not direct sequels to this ending but still.. more. Either way, the romantic in me (and I don’t necessarily mean this in a face value way..) might not have loved the ending, not really, but I respect it. I respect the choice and the commitment to seeing things through this way.

This was — and will likely continue to be — a strange series but nonetheless was fascinating, brutal, compelling, and, enthralling. I had a great time. Would I recommend this to anyone? Probably not. I refuse to be responsible for anyone’s experience with this world. Make of that what you will!

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