A LESSON IN VENGEANCE by Victoria Lee

For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself. 


Title : A Lesson in Vengeance
Author : Victoria Lee
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ paranormal/thriller
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : August 3, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I think this would’ve worked so much better if, like one of the comp titles, this had been an adult (or at least new adult) novel. I think so much of what I struggled with, or found hard to believe, could have been easier to swallow if this had been aged up.

That said, I really enjoyed the first half of the story. We open up with our main character returning to this elite/exclusive/preppy highschool, almost like a pre-college collegiate style school, after time away in recovery from her girlfriend’s death. She soon finds being back on campus is damaging to her ability to discern reality from the belief that she’s being haunted; not by her girlfriend (or not only..) but by the ghosts of girls long dead who are built into the history, the mythology, of the school. Felicity sees things, feels things, and it makes the reader question her reliability as a narrator; is she delusional, is her grief causing her prior obsession with witchcraft, with the dead girls, making her see things that aren’t there or are these manifestations actually real?

.. grief would tie itself to the small things, that I’d be living my life as normal and then a bit of music or the cut of a girl’s smile would remind me of her and it would all flood back in.

Felicity’s journey, her obsession, her grief, her hauntings, they were all compelling. Where I started to side-eye things was with.. well, almost everything else. Certain characters, with certain influences and motivations, and how transparent it all seemed. And also, my biggest problem really, was just.. why? Maybe there wasn’t supposed to be a why. Maybe I just didn’t get it.

There was one big exception to the transparent bit, though. Something I definitely didn’t see coming. And I loved it? I don’t think many will. Infact, I think the ending in general will be polarizing. You’ve been warned!

I was definitely a bit hesitant going into this, no matter how pumped I was over the concept, because I had a rough go with Lee’s debut series. This? I loved the writing, I loved the dip in and out of spooky paranormal horror, the uncertainty of it all. I started this late at night and I won’t say it scared me but oh did it do a good job with the eerie vibes.

This might not have been a solid win but parts of it worked so so well for me. I’m definitely looking forward to more from this author, especially if they write more in this darker vein, but I think Lee would absolutely excel at an adult story. I hope one day it happens.

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

TOTALLY FOLKED by Penny Reid – double review!

One unforgettable night leads to an unlikely shared connection, and unlikely connections never go unnoticed by the good folks in Green Valley, Tennessee…

Jackson James follows the rules. He has to. He’s a sheriff’s deputy in a super small town with a super big personality. However, strict adherence to the law during the day has been enjoyably balanced by rakish rules at night. Jackson, typically happy to protect and serve (and serve, and serve), starts questioning the value of wayward evenings when getting laid starts to feel more like being waylaid. Could it be that Green Valley’s most eligible—and notorious—bachelor longs for something (and someone) real?

Mega movie star Raquel Ezra follows only one rule: always leave them wanting more. Studio execs, reporters, audiences, fans, lovers—no one can get enough of the smart, savvy, and sexy bombshell. But when “generous offers” begin to feel more like excessive demands, years of always leaving has the elusive starlet longing for something (and perhaps someone) lasting.

When Raquel abruptly returns to the quirky Tennessee hamlet, her path crosses with the delectable deputy with whom she spent one unforgettable night. Unfortunately, scandal and intrigue soon follow. Raquel and Jackson must decide which is more important: following their rules? Or, at long last, finding something real.


Title : Totally Folked
Author : Penny Reid
Series : Good Folk – Modern Folktales (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : July 20, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

First of all, I just want to say, how nice it was to have no real big drama in this one. No motorcycle gang stuff or kidnapping or shoot outs or blackmail or betrayals.. just small down romance. I think Reid is shaking off the themes of her Winston Brothers series, even though this is the same world and same characters, and going for something a little more every day, more wholesome. I mean, this is only book one, but that’s the vibe I’m getting. I appreciated it and appreciated the break in the over the top action, too.

Surprisingly — and I say that because inevitably after a long wait for a certain character’s book, it doesn’t always live up to what you wished or wanted — I really liked Jackson in this one. It’s been so long since the first time he showed up on the page, where we only knew so much about him, that I didn’t quite expect this to be where he ended up. I mean, sure, and over time his character was fleshed out a bit, we saw he wasn’t quite the douche canoe he first appeared to be, but I liked finally getting his side of things.

Having said that, his romantic interest, was.. fine? Okay? Honestly I’m not left with much. Rae had personality and hangups, sure, she was a fully drawn and even coloured in character but honestly all I’ll probably remember about her, after time, is that she was an actress, like Sienna. The particulars won’t hold space in my memory. She didn’t stand out.

Which also kind of applies to every other character, too, except maybe newcomer (at least I don’t recall her in the other series..) Charlotte. I liked Charlotte. Beyond, ultimately, being bestie to both Jackson and Rae she doesn’t do a whole lot but she does her role well.

I realize I’m probably not singing a lot of praises for this one but alongside the lack of drama the overall feelings are perhaps a bit muted as a result. But not in a bad way. I enjoyed my time back in Green Valley. I do think I’ve said this before and that I’ve maybe outgrown this world, if not the author, and I’m more interested to see new things from her, but I’ll probably keep reading these until said new things show up.

If you’re a fan of this author, and this world, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by this one at all.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Endearing characters
Gentle and steady hero
Found Green Valley family

You get the prequel novella as part of this series starter for the Modern Folktales and you need that splash of electric chemisty before you launch into Totally Folked. You can find my review for the prequel novella Just Folking Around here.

The reconnection of Jackson and Raquel (Rae) was a gradual process with moments of I can’t help myself. The chemistry between these two was ever present, but the foundation for more for any kind of relationship needed time and work.

Rae’s life was a hot mess of intrusion. Her time in Green Valley was a sweet interlude, whereas Jackson lived the steady, good guy life. I really enjoyed Jackson’s character, his imposed slow burn with occasional thoughts of pushing him along. Rae and Jackson were totally suited.

The found family alongside natual family was an eclectic mix but it worked. I enjoyed seeing Rae drawn into a community of genuine people. Jackson’s dad gave some beautiful advice.

“Admitting a vulnerability to someone you love and who loves you in return usually brings you closer, it doesn’t push you apart.”

This was a good series starter and I will be reading on. Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON by Ryan Douglass

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA social thriller where survival is not a guarantee.

Jake Livingston is one of the only black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed sixteen kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win. 


Title : The Taking of Jake Livingston
Author : Ryan Douglass
Format : eARC
Page Count : 256
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ fantasy/thriller
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : July 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Hm. I’m leaving this unrated for now (for good?) because my thoughts are kind of all over the place.

I think, when you’re neck deep in the spooky thrilling creepiness of this story, you’re in it. You’re having a good scary time. The problem is when you pause, put the book down, and start wondering.. why. Why are these things happening, what is this world, what is the history.. and, the biggest most perplexing thing, why did the author choose to go in this direction with the villain.

I honestly think this would make a great movie because the atmosphere and the ambience, though hella confusing, still did a great job at creeping me out. Some of the visuals were, again, sometimes confusing but somehow still managed to be translated into my brain. But so much of this needs more. Yes, the story is short, so I guess a lot of this surface level non-explanation could be blamed on that but.. why was it short? Why wasn’t this longer, more fleshed out, given context? So much could’ve been improved, including the romance.

If you want a short spooky dose of a novel that brushes up against topics of racism and homophobia, without making them the central theme, and that will likely keep you on the edge of your seat, you could probably do worse. I just wish it could’ve done.. not better, maybe, but more.

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

A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT by Becky Chambers – double review!

It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools. Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers’ new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?


Title : A Psalm for the Wild-Built
Author : Becky Chambers
Series : Monk & Robot (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 160
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ scifi/fantasy
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : July 13, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’ll admit that I didn’t look too hard into what this was about (though that’s not too much of a surprise as I’m #TeamNoBlurb) but I was definitely hoping this would be more in line with To Be Taught, If Fortunate, than the author’s Wayfarers series. Alas it wasn’t; but it wasn’t bad, either.

I figured you’d be all numbers and logic. Structured. Strict, y’know?
What a curious notion.”
Is it? Like you said, you’re a machine.[..] And machines only work because of numbers and logic.”
That’s how we function, not how we perceive.

I think this was a little more philosophical and cerebral, definitely existential, than I expected it to be. But in hindsight, a series about a robot and a monk? How didn’t I see this coming. That’s on me.

I made made of metal and numbers; you are made of water and genes. But we are each something more than that. And we can’t define what that something more is simply by our raw components.”

This is definitely a gentle, wholesome, thoughtful, novella, not unlike we are to expect from this author, that simultaneously makes you think while also taking you out of your head a bit — as the dedication goes, this is for all of us who need a break (boy do we ever). Much like the art of choosing a tea and savouring it, there was something meditative about this, and, as a side effect, made me a little sleepy.

This won’t be a favourite but I’m definitely curious as to where this series is going.

Side note? I’m so in love with that cover.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

A Psalm for the Wild-Built was conceptually clever (when is Becky Chambers ever not?) and in many aspects, it was quite a beautiful tale. It started off curiously, then built and built into a connection between a monk and a robot. Yes I did just say that and if that doesn’t draw you in, I don’t know what will.

This sci-fi offering comes with Chambers unique perspective on the genre, it carries a ecological tone along with sense of searching. Robot and humans were estranged for centuries in this book until the monk and robot happen upon one another.

The story was engaging the most from the point of those two meeting and exploring each other’s species. There was banter, misunderstandings and poignant moments. There were also some slower moments, where I had to push on, thus my rating.

“So, that’s…sorry, I’m slow at math.”
Dex frowned. “What?” How was the robot slow at math?
“Hush, I can’t multiply and talk at the same time.”

I’m definitely pleased that this is going to be a series. I have questions and a desire to see this journey through. A gorgeous cover and clever concept from Chambers.

Thank you to Tor for the early review copy.

SIX CRIMSON CRANES by Elizabeth Lim

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.


Title : Six Crimson Cranes
Author : Elizabeth Lim
Series : Six Crimson Cranes (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 464
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date : July 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I make no bones about the fact that Daughter of the Forest is probably my favourite book, from my favourite series, of all time. Six Crimson Cranes is loosely based around the same fairytale, The Six Swans. Marillier puts her own spin on the former and Lim does the same in her story. Comparing the two would be like comparing two different Beauty and the Beast retellings.. except for the fact that I am far more invested in this one!

I liked so much of this particular reimagining, from transporting the tale into an Asian-inspired setting, to the extra fantastical elements the author infused into it, the different direction she took with the main character, and, specifically, one thing I can’t mention due the spoilers.

I did, however, find it was a struggle to imagine certain scenes, either because it was hazily described or there were just too many bodies and things bouncing around at once, and it got muddied, which would bounce me right out of the story. I’ve not read the author before so I’m not familiar with her writing in this way but this is also an ARC so maybe it’s just one of those ARC things. That said, the big conflict flies by so quickly, particularly the one I’m familiar with from the story, and some of the impact is lost as a result. Which is unfortunate as I had really become invested up until that point and it was then that I lost steam and pretty much immediately knew I’d not be rounding up the rating.

Also, there’s a certain condition of the curse that befalls our main character and the way it’s described? I hope some character art gets made to give me a better idea of what that’s supposed to look like as my brain struggled to picture something that wasn’t.. silly. And even still I’m not entirely sure there’s any way to salvage it.

Speaking of picture, though, that cover? S t u n n i n g.

So, yes, there’s a lot of good here, and I’m probably biased, but it’s not going to be a favourite. I am, however, very interested in reading on and seeing where the story goes as the retelling portion has concluded and it’s all new territory from this point on (at least I assume! maybe there’s a new fairytale inspiration for book two, who knows, not me). If you need more diverse fantasy for your TBR, I would definitely encourage this as an option.

Side note, to all my Daughter of the Forest fans? Reading this will only make you want to immediately pick up the Sevenwaters series for a reread, so. If you don’t have room in your schedule for that kind of thing, beware (or be resigned, and excited, to have an excuse for such a thing).

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

JUST FOLKING AROUND by Penny Reid – double review!

One night? No strings? A sexy game of chess? No problem.

If you’ve never read a Penny Reid book before, this is the place to start! An all new series starter snack from the author of the WINSTON BROTHERS and KNITTING IN THE CITY series. . .

Raquel Ezra loves to fish. With so many fish in the sea, she’s never had a problem baiting the hook or reeling them in. Raquel is a good actress, she can be anyone’s fantasy for a single night as long as they agree to be hers. Which is why she doesn’t think twice about spending an evening in nowhere Tennessee with a smokin’ hot, well-mannered, and intriguing sheriff’s deputy by the name of Jackson James.

Except, when the time comes, Raquel discovers that reality might just be better than any fantasy, and maybe she’s not ready to release this catch.

JUST FOLKING AROUND is a 16k words, contemporary romance, a complete standalone, and is the prequel to TOTALLY FOLKED, book #1 in the Good Folk: Modern Folktales series.


Title : Just Folking Around
Author : Penny Reid
Series : Good Folk : Modern Folktales (book .5)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 68
Genre : romance
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : June 20, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

I was completely surprised when this ARC landed on my kindle — and for good reason! This little novella introduces the couple for book one; the male love interest of course we know well, Mister Deputy Jackson James, but who was he to be paired up with?

Well now we know.

This novella opens up on the day of Sierra’s wedding and we meet Raquel, one of Sierra’s Hollywood friends, in town for the event, who ends up crossing paths, and more (but also maybe less!), with Jackson.

It took me a moment to warm up to her, I’ll be honest, but her Vegas Chess idea? Genius.

This is a sweet little taste test of what’s to come but knowing Reid we have no idea what’s actually coming.

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Well, that was both delicious and cruel. I am left needing more even if it took me a hot minute to work out what was going on, who was what and why. Once I’d done that working out, I was on board.

This was a hawt little novella, naughty but nice. I loved the chess game and the unravelling that it caused in both these characters. I feel like I know Raquel a little now but I need a lot more knowledge on Jackson, stat.

This short piece of goodness will be the starter that fans didn’t know they needed to get going with this new series. I am all anticipation.

Thank you to the author for the early review copy.

EAT YOUR HEART OUT by Kelly deVos

Shaun of the Dead meets Dumplin’ in this bitingly funny YA thriller about a kickass group of teens battling a ravenous group of zombies.

In the next few hours, one of three things will happen.

1–We’ll be rescued (unlikely)

2–We’ll freeze to death (maybe)

3–We’ll be eaten by thin and athletic zombies (odds: excellent) 

Vivian Ellenshaw is fat, but she knows she doesn’t need to lose weight, so she’s none too happy to find herself forced into a weight-loss camp’s van with her ex-best friend, Allie, a meathead jock who can barely drive, and the camp owner’s snobby son. And when they arrive at Camp Featherlite at the start of the worst blizzard in the history of Flagstaff, Arizona, it’s clear that something isn’t right.

Vee barely has a chance to meet the other members of her pod, all who seem as unhappy to be at Featherlite as she does, when a camper goes missing down by the lake. Then she spots something horrifying outside in the snow. Something…that isn’t human. Plus, the camp’s supposed “miracle cure” for obesity just seems fishy, and Vee and her fellow campers know they don’t need to be cured. Of anything.

Even worse, it’s not long before Camp Featherlite’s luxurious bungalows are totally overrun with zombies. What starts out as a mission to unravel the camp’s secrets turns into a desperate fight for survival–and not all of the Featherlite campers will make it out alive. 

A satirical blend of horror, body positivity, and humor, Kelly deVos’s witty, biting novel proves that everyone deserves to feel validated, and taking down the evil enterprise determined to dehumanize you is a good place to start.


Title : Eat Your Heart Out
Author : Kelly deVos
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA horror/sci-fi
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : June 29, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This YA horror is pitched so perfectly. It really is like Shaun of the Dead meets Dumplin‘. This mashup has both the conversations surrounding fatphobia and diet culture alongside the unlikely group of individuals, each fitting a specific movie archetype, having to battle zombies.

How are fat camps still even a thing? Don’t they belong in a museum with inflatable dart boards, Flowbeers, and Thigh Masters?

I loved how the conversation around weight was done, I loved how much acceptance was in this story, and how despite being set at a fat-camp, and how this particular zombie apocalypse unfolds, it doesn’t feel like a story about being fat. Even though it is. Hard to explain!

Between the gorgeously colourful cover with a fat girl, unapologetically front and centre, and the satirical content that sadly doesn’t feel far off from how fatness is dealt with in our own world, this is a read that we all need. Sure, we’re sorta in out own apocalypse but this particular set-up is lightyears away from our own. I promise it won’t stress you out!

I’m not sure I would reread this, which is usually why I award four stars to books, but I just appreciate this so much. Was it perfect? No. While we get to know the characters enough to be invested, it is still a bit surface level, as we’re thrown pretty much right into disaster mode. Think of the way Cloverfield unfolds. We sorta get to know our protagonists as they navigate their new reality but it’s more about surviving than anything else. But this book did exactly what it set out to do and it still managed to have a few surprises along the way, too. Would recommend!

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

I WALK ALONE by Wren Handman

As the Phantasmer, Sylvia brought order to the Fairy courts. Now if only she could do the same to her own life…

It’s been three months since Sylvia used her powers to rewrite the ruling structure of Fairy, dismantling the Seelie and Unseelie courts. Recovered from her injuries, she’s back at school and struggling to balance her “real” life against the much more immediate (and exciting) world that magic has to offer. Not to mention the distraction of her utterly hot and completely fish-out-of-water boyfriend. 

But in Fairy, there are rumblings that an ancient prophecy is about to come to pass. “Beware the coming of the one who should not have been, for he shall bring with him the end of days. Take back the mantle, or all will be lost.” Will Sylvia be able to uncover the truth behind the prophecy, learn how to use her ever-growing powers without risking her relationship, and convince her best friend Fiona that it’s not weird that her boyfriend is a thousand years old? It won’t be easy. 


Title : I Walk Alone
Author : Wren Handman
Series : Phantasmer (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 226
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Parliament House Press
Release Date : June 29, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Sequels and finales, especially in the YA genre, often seem like a mixed bag. Either events are rushed through or made too convenient. Not so in I Walk Alone.

The story picks up a few months after the big confrontation, and shake-up, in In Restless Dreams and Sylvia is not only trying to re-integrate into her life, balancing the two sides — the fairy world and her human world — but also shouldering both the decisions she’s made for a whole people and also the damage that she, herself, was dealt.

I can’t remember if I had mentioned this in my review for book one but I really appreciated that Handman took pains to not neglect Sylvia’s every day life. Yes, she finds school to be dull and a chore, especially when compared to her adventures and her magical boyfriend, but those doldrums, her responsibilities, aren’t glossed over. We see the struggle to fit in, to balance home work, the repercussions for her slacking off, her lies, and it keeps not only her but the reader grounded. I can barely handle multitasking facetiming and cooking at the same time and yet she’s submitting homework, being a good friend and sister, a caring daughter, nurturing a new relationship, and going on adventures. She doesn’t do it all successfully, which.. I mean, good, because that wouldn’t be realistic!; but we see her try.

Just as she tries to navigate a world, and a people, who are both terrified and resentful of her choices, her power, and how that spills over into her relationship with her boyfriend who is very much part of that same world. All while a prophecy hangs over their heads.

The conclusion to this series, and the resolutions, unraveled so well. As with book one, the story is layered with the themes that come full circle at the end, so you see the slow unfurling of what is to come and how it isn’t just an impulse decision or a convenient epiphany at the moment it’s needed. I thought it was brilliantly done.

If you’re looking for a fresh take on a fae-based YA fantasy, look no further.

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

FOR THE WOLF by Hannah Whitten – double review!

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.


Title : For the Wolf
Author : Hannah Whitten
Series : Wilderwood (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : June 1, 2021

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This is not the first time I’ve had a reading experience with this, where I start strong, get waylaid in the middle, and then have no opportunity to pick it up and finish even though I’m so close to the end. This kind of pattern always screws me up (I’m a one or two session reader, often just one!) and leaves me uncertain how I feel about a story. Enter, For the Wolf.

I liked so much of this but was equally confused by just as much. This is a story that I definitely need to reread because I think it’s possible this would be an easy four star if I had read it normally.

People created stories to fill the gaps they didn’t understand, and religion grew up around it like rot on a fallen tree.

There are shades of familiar fairytales woven into the roots of this spooky forest magic story. But these parts are made equally their own thing. This is not YA but is written with similar YA beats, yet manages to be dark without crossing any ‘can’t turn back now’ lines.

All of them loved like burning, no thought for the ashes.

While this had some absolutely lovely turns of phrase, a slowburn romance, and tons of forest aesthetic, I definitely lost track of some scenes or events as they played out, and I did find myself losing the thread of the worldbuiling (probably explained in the beginning and then just forgotten, because I’m dumb and was too slow to read this; though I also think the mythology is supposed to be uncertain and skewed and that doesn’t help?), but I am definitely going to be keen for the follow up.

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


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

Headlines:
Retelling hybrid
Oh for the love of great MCs
Confused world building

I’ve had to really think about my rating on For The Wolf because I’ve come out of it in a good place but the journey was sometimes confused by difficult world building layered in a way that wasn’t intuitive. However, what this book brings in terms of characterisation is pretty great, with Eammon a large, gentle man battling to keep the wood in some kind of equilibrium and Redarys, an immediately likeable young woman who knew her own mind and her path.

This book felt like a fresh blend of traits from a number of well known fairytales in a hybrid that totally worked. It definitely felt like it’s own story but I enjoyed the elements of familiarity when they popped up. The wood itself was a wild, powerful ‘being’ and there were moments of body horror (fleeting but present) but I felt all that really added to the wilderwood presence. The description opened up such imagery when reading that I had a really clear picture of how I felt this wild place looked.

There were important side characters, a few I liked and some I couldn’t stand, nor was I meant to. I’ve come away from the story unsure how I feel about Neve but 100% invested in reading more in the next book.

I do just want to embelish a little on my world building problems and say that by the last quarter of the book, I was clear on what was what. I don’t mind having to work for answers with a fantasy book but I did feel a lack of clarity at times that was irritating. This was a case of having to just go with the flow of side confusion to keep traction with the story until things were clearer and they did become clearer.

Overall, this is a good debut. If you start this book and feel some confusion, keep going, the story and the characters are worth it.

Thank you to Orbit Books for the early review copy.

THE IVIES by Alexa Donne

Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions…among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it’s deadly.

Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn’t an extracurricular.


Title : The Ivies
Author : Alexa Donne
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA thriller
Publisher : Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : May 25, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This is exactly the kind of thing that would make a great mini series. Mostly because it felt not unlike a Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars mashup (I say this without ever having watched or read PLL, so I could be off base, but from random ads I’ve seen it has the thriller vibes needed). Except throw in the Gilmore Girls education focus that Rory and Paris had in their final year at Chilton.

There were ruthless students before us — they just weren’t as well organized.

All that to say, this was a hot twisty priviledged backstabby underhanded mess and boy was I enthralled. I think what worked against it, though, and why I’m not rating higher, is I felt our protagonist was just a little too inconsistent in both her feelings and her reactions. I don’t know if maybe that was on purpose, particularly with how this ended, but.. it made for strange reading sometimes. But the cliquey Ivies, the school itself, it was all so messed up but so fascinating.

Equally, I think, had this been done (or when it’s done? who knows!) in a television format I think we could’ve had some extra nuance or layers that maybe would’ve rounded this out a bit. The mystery itself wasn’t too straight forward, despite the red herrings or supposed red herrings, but there were a few other twists I found rather easy to see coming. But, again, maybe that was on purpose so we didn’t guess the other? Hard to say.

Do you know how hard it is to be a rich, above-average white guy in college admissions?
Oh, wait, you’re being serious? Sorry.

I also found it interesting how much this actually said about the whole college admissions mania. Not being American I’ve only ever really seen this portrayed in fiction and this definitely took it up a notch or twelve but I think there’s a lot of reality buried into this fictional narrative, too.

I probably could’ve done without the two or three throwaway references to the pandemic but as this is an ARC who knows if that feedback will make it up the chain or not.

I had a fun time with this, though, and it was the perfect twisty ride to pass a gloomy afternoon.

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