THAT DARK INFINITY by Kate Pentecost

By night, the Ankou is a legendary, permanently young mercenary. By day, a witch’s curse leaves him no more than bones. Caught in an unending cycle of death and resurrection, the Ankou wants only to find the death that has been prophesied for him, especially once he begins to rot while he’s still alive….

After the kingdom of Kaer-Ise is sacked, Flora, loyal handmaiden to the princess, is assaulted and left for dead. As the sole survivor of the massacre, Flora wants desperately to find the princess she served. When the Ankou agrees to help her find the princess, and to train her in exchange for her help in breaking his curse, she accepts. But how can she kill an immortal? Especially one whom she is slowly growing to understand—and maybe even to love?

Together, they will solve mysteries, battle monsters, break curses, and race not only against time, but against fate itself.


Title : That Dark Infinity
Author : Kate Pentecost
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 19, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ 


Hollis’ 1.5 (rounded up) star review

Unfortunately That Dark Infinity is a great example of a very exciting premise that is let down by execution. 

This dark romantic premise is hamstrung by very young-leaning YA dialogue, which is frustrating considering the darker content, and an immortal being that, after living three centuries as a nineteen year old instead reads like he’s sixteen. For someone who carried all these tales and mystique around him, I enjoyed that almost none of them were remotely true, which was a funny twist, but at the same time.. some mystique would’ve been good. How this was set up, how it played out, and how he actually should’ve been treated based on how he interacted with others.. I don’t know, it didn’t quite line up.

Another thing that didn’t quite work was this starts off with an off-page assault on our other main character, Flora, which is not only traumatic but carries extra shame due to her peoples’ value on virtue, but what was perplexing is that she was mistaken for the princess when she was grabbed and her attackers made a comment she was meant for the invading prince but “what he wouldn’t know wouldn’t hurt him” and yet.. they subsequently leave her for dead? Because the prince also said to “leave no one alive”. So.. she wasn’t going to the prince after all? We never end up seeing this prince, this whole plotline kind of becomes background noise to a certain extent, so it doesn’t have any real relevance I’m just irritated because I don’t understand the point of the comment or why things end up the way they do.

Over the course of the book, the aforementioned weird dialogue persisted, which was frustrating as some of the description was decent. But overall there was just no tension. These big action or suspenseful moments were, theoretically, taking place but you could feel none of it. Especially as the characters reacted as if, really, nothing had happened. At one point, during a scene I can’t describe due to spoilers, Flora is calling out constantly for Lazarus to help her, save her, and then he does, and when he asks after her, she says “oh don’t worry about me”.. insert side eye here. At another point, Flora gets her period (yay! and cramps! love to see it, hate to live it) and it’s a big issue because it attracts spirit thingies and this whole scene is set up where we see her surrounded and barely protected by their super special fence thing, except.. she’s found sleeping outdoors infront of said fence. Why? There’s no explanation for it. It’s just for this tension-less tense scene. It just.. doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, I’ll end the complaining, mostly because I don’t even want to get started on the “romance”, but this just wasn’t it. And I’m sad. It’s got a good looking cover (which, granted, looks better from a distance than it does close up) and has what sounded like a great, intriguing, romantic premise but.. alas.

Wouldn’t recommend and, unfortunately, I wouldn’t pick up this author again.

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

WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS by Lauren Blackwood

What the heart desires, the house destroys… 

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire.


Title : Within These Wicked Walls
Author : Lauren Blackwood
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA fantasy retelling
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : October 19, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Almost any Jane Eyre retelling gets me excited but an Ethiopian-inspired one made me look not once, not twice, but thrice. Having said that, other than some very basic bones of said original, this deviates a lot from the majority of the story — and honestly I think it succeeded because of that.

Andromeda is this version’s Jane who comes to Thornfield, to Rochester — Magnus, in this case — not to be a governess but to exorcise the Manifestations that are haunting the castle, and it’s master, from an inherited curse. I don’t know that I ever fully understood how she was capable of doing this, it involved goggles and a welding pen (steampunky, almost, I guess) to make amulets that were suited to each element of the curse, and then.. voila. She takes this job, what she learns is an impossible job, to guarantee her patronage and recognition as a debtera aka exorcist. But, much like the original, Magnus is often distracting Andi from her job, longing for attention, lonely and entitled, and fascinated by this person who resists him, speaks truths to his face, and is also fiercely capable.

From then on I won’t say which parts are new or true or how it all plays out but honestly other than a few scenes that I think tried too hard to force themselves into the original story.. this was totally captivating. I maybe would’ve liked to see more build up to their relationship, maybe because I enjoyed their earlier prickly interactions so much and didn’t feel as much chemistry after a certain point, but the rest of the story, the world, kept it strong. There was a secondary relationship that I thought was both adorable and also maybe took some focus away from other dynamics I would’ve liked to be stronger but.. it helped humanize, and soften, a character that definitely needed it. And made some later moments perhaps a little more believable.

Vague vagueries, oooh, spooky.

If you want a somewhat dark, atmospheric, yet also occasionally playful, diverse fantasy, that happens to harken back to a well known classic tale, you should absolutely have this not only on your radar but on your TBR. Considering this is Blackwood’s debut, I can’t wait to see what she cooks up next.

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

ONCE MORE UPON A TIME by Roshani Chokshi

Once upon a dream, there was a prince named Ambrose
and a princess named Imelda who loved each other…
But alas, no more.
“What a witch takes, a witch does not give back!”
their friends and family warn.
They resign themselves to this loveless fate…
A year and a day pass.
And then their story truly begins…

Embark on a perilous journey with Imelda and Ambrose as they brave magical landscapes and enchanted creatures on their quest to reclaim their heart’s desire…But first they must remember what that is… Immerse yourself in the beauty of a highly unusual fairy tale by New York Times bestselling author Roshani Chokshi.


Title : Once More Upon a Time
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Format : eARC
Page Count : 144
Genre : fantasy / fairytale retellings
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : October 5, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

So, silly me, I requested this thinking it was a full length adult romance novel and not a novella (though it is adult, I guess). That said, I have nothing against novellas at all and was happy to have something short to sneak in between reads.

This was a pretty standard unconventional fairytale in the sense that how they come together is standard but, unlike how most go, they are then broken up — while still being together. They go on a journey, with a few side quests, and along the way discover more about each other than they ever did before.

I think what I loved most about this, though, was their backstories. I would’ve read a whole book about their lives before this or, even, a full length that included said backstories and expanded on their adventures from this one.

It was cute, sometimes funny, a little silly, and sweet. If this had been longer, and more adult in the vein of the romance, I think I would’ve really loved it. That said, I would not discourage you from picking this up.

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

VESPERTINE by Margaret Rogerson

From the New York Times bestselling author of Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens comes a thrilling new YA fantasy about a teen girl with mythic abilities who must defend her world against restless spirits of the dead.

The dead of Loraille do not rest.

Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.

When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.


Title : Vespertine
Author : Margaret Rogerson
Series : Vespertine (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date : October 5, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I was pretty close to rounding up on this one but I’ll admit that, just around the time of the big climax and showdown, I sorta lost the plot. But so much of this was so good.

I’ll admit I definitely expected to like this considering how much I enjoyed Sorcery of Thorns. I definitely saw some shades of that same brilliance in this book, too, and particularly enjoyed this offering’s snarky otherworldly companion — having not read the author’s debut I can’t say for sure this is a trend in all her books but two out of three is definitely worth noting!

I enjoyed so much of this world with its restless dead, this character with her rather horrible backstory and subsequent current-day struggles, and one minor-ish secondary character, too, who had not a single line of dialogue but totally stole my heart.

I’ll admit I did see one twist (if you could call it that) coming along the way, so that wasn’t a surprise, but one or two things post-reveal definitely were. Again, I don’t quite know where things went wrong for me but.. something didn’t quite work near the end which explains why I can’t round up. That said, I was super pleased that not only does this seem to be yet another fantasy standalone but this one has no romance.. and does not suffer at all for it.

While this won’t end up a favourite, I still had a really good time with it. And having seen a post on GR indicating she’s made a lot of revisions since the ARC, I may even give this a reread in a few months and see if that can push this up a few points. Either way, though, Rogerson is definitely an author I will continue to pick up and, very likely, enjoy.

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

WHEN NIGHT BREAKS by Janella Angeles

The competition has come to a disastrous end, and Daron Demarco’s fall from grace is now front page news. But little matters to him beyond Kallia, the contestant he fell for who is now lost to this world and in the hands of a dangerous magician. Daron is willing to do whatever it takes to find her. Even if it means embarking on a dark and treacherous journey, risking more than just his life, with no promise of return.

After awaking in darkness, Kallia has never felt more lost. Especially with Jack by her side, the magician with who has the answers but cannot be trusted. Together, they must navigate a dazzling world where mirrors show memories and illusions shadow every corner, one ruled by a powerful game master who could all too easily destroy the world she left behind — and the boy she can’t seem to forget. With time running out, Kallia must embrace her role in a darker destiny, or lose everyone she loves, forever. 


Title : When Night Breaks
Author : Janella Angeles
Series : Kingdom of Cards (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 480
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : October 5, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

This reading experience could easily be swept under the slumpy and miserable rug — so, as always, take this with a grain of salt — but equally I know a really good engaging book, which I fully expected this to be, could’ve pulled me out of that. And instead..

This is a long book. And it felt like a long book because it didn’t feel like anything was happening; there’s so much uncertainty in light of how book one ended and we get even more things teased and tantalized and held just out of reach for so much of this book that by the time things actually started being explained, or started to happen, I just didn’t care. And this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year because I had enjoyed book one so much. Was that the fluke? Apparently I was in a slump during that read, too, but I persevered and managed to enjoy it nonetheless. Therefore, should any of this current disappointment be blamed on yet another slump? Who knows. What even is enjoyment.

What made so much of this harder to bear, too, was Kallia, our main protagonist, was just so.. unlikeable? Insufferable? I did not remember her to be this way at all in book one. And yes, her circumstances have changed, but.. yikes. I couldn’t even lose myself in her, or any, character when the plot was bogging me down. Overall this just didn’t win for me and I’m bummed.

That said, if you enjoyed book one, the magic, the competition, the romance, you’ll get most of that again in this follow up, but in a different way. I hope, if you are likewise holding your breath for this instalment, it works better for you than it did for me.

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

THE LAST GRADUATE by Naomi Novik – double review!

A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . . 


Title : The Last Graduate
Author : Naomi Novik
Series : The Scholomance (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : September 28, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

That ending.. I just.. the only two options are stupefied silence or hysterical laughter and right now I’m alternating between the two.

Weirdly enough, with nine minutes left on the kindle countdown, I put the book down. I could almost sense something. But that bit of warning was not enough to prepare me for t h a t.

“[..] you’re the only person I’ve ever met who’d come up with the idea of being wildly rude and hostile to the guy who saved your life twenty times.
Thirteen times! And I’ve saved his life at least twice.”
Catch up already, girl.

Goodness, wow, so. Yeah, lots of my feelings about this book have been eclipsed by all the nonsense above but I will say this. I was delighted to return to this world for one main reason : I had forgotten how delightfully prickly El was. Being back in her space, watching her interact with people, it was often hilarious because she is constantly battling the general feeling of “not putting up with this shit” which, I mean, same. But she’s also in a much better place than she was in the beginning of book one so she’s also struggling to remember she has friends and how that’s changed her life, yes, but also changed her odds of surviving the Scholomance. And those opposing forces are just as funny as she is.

I was unenthusiastic about the prospect of being found attractive because I seem like a terrifying creation of dark sorcery instead of despite it.

Also there was maybe a very short, tiny, little scene that ambushed some tears out of me. Unexpected.

My one.. not complaint, really, but observation, is that there is a lot going on in this world, in the day to day, and Novik strings together some long-ass sentences sometimes — and as a result I completely lose the original thought or point and have to reread or, occasionally, just give up and keep going. It doesn’t always feel like dense fantasy when there’s action or bickering or brainstorming but there are huge swaths of this that is actually quite wordy or complicated. Sometimes I gobbled it up, other times, well, like I said, I just cruised on by. That said, maybe I sabotaged myself a bit because I didn’t adjust my pace to actually take time to process it all, so, maybe it’s my own fault. But unlike most magical schools or learning sequences, this author doesn’t gloss over anything. We are with them as they learn, as they do homework, as they team up and help each other, because not doing the work is sometimes just as dangerous as the monsters crawling through the vents.

I had such a good time with this one. The banter, the action, the romance, the snark, the cut-throat ruthlessness, and, yeah, even that e n d i n g.. I can’t wait for book three (and this isn’t even out yet, arg!).

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Whaaaattttt? Who else had that reaction on finishing?

Well, I thought I knew a bit about the Scholomance from A Deadly Education but The Last Graduate took my expectations and threw them out into the void. This installment took many an unexpected turn but continued to deliver on a great story, snarkastic wit and characters to cheer for.

El showed a new level of maturity in this book, a little more measured and I think that had a lot to do with the fact that she had friends, that she wasn’t alone. These platonic friendships, the potential alliances were rich in trust issues and fun to read. El and Orion were an interesting grumpy and grumpy/sometimes sunshine.

Plotting and planning was a big part of this year’s graduating class and I did not see that final plan coming. The magic complexity went up a notch and I was able to follow but also I was agog at the skills need to set things in motion.

Naomi Novik made these characters elevate from sophomore to senior and I’m still rather enamoured by this world. Bring me book three on a plate, please!

Thank you to Del Rey UK for the gorgeous review copy.

SAILOR PROOF by Annabeth Albert

The sexy Navy chief and his best friend’s adorkable little brother… 

It’s petty, but Naval Chief Derrick Fox wishes he could exact a little revenge on his ex by showing off a rebound fling. His submarine is due to return to its Bremerton, Washington, home base soon and Derrick knows all too well there won’t be anyone waiting with a big, showy welcome.

Enter one ill-advised plan…

Arthur Euler is the guy you go to in a pinch—he’s excellent at out-of-the-box solutions. It’s what the genius music-slash-computer nerd is known for. So when he finds out Derrick needs a favor, he’s happy to help. He can muster the sort of welcome a Naval Chief deserves, no problem at all.

Except it is a problem. A very big problem.

When Arthur’s homecoming welcome is a little too convincing, when a video of their gangplank smooch goes enormously viral, they’re caught between a dock and a hard place. Neither of them ever expected a temporary fake relationship to look—or feel—so real. And Arthur certainly never considered he’d be fighting for a very much not-fake forever with a military man. 


Title : Sailor Proof
Author : Annabeth Albert
Series : Shore Leave (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve read or requested anything by Albert but in truth it hasn’t been that long — she’s just put out so many books I’ve lost any and all sense of time. But the ones I have picked up have been few and far between and the results have been more fine or just okay than anything that really got me excited. I had sorta suspected I had outgrown the author. Or at least the books she was putting out after a certain point. But with this new series, and a return to her military-theme, I thought to give it a go.

But I was right.

There is nothing wrong or bad about this story. Nothing annoyed me, nothing was unforgivable, but I just wasn’t interested or moved. I was ambivalent or bored. This didn’t really do anything new, which is fine, but neither was I entertained by the content.

So I’m calling it. I think Albert and I are done. We had a great ride, though, I not only enjoyed but flat out loved so many of the author’s books and series. I’ve just clearly moved on.

But if you’re interested to give this a go, here are some fun tropes to expect: best friend’s younger brother. Fake dating. And “oh no there’s only one bed”. This’ll definitely hit the right notes for many readers. So take this review with the usual grain o’salt.

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

DARK RISE by C.S. Pacat

The ancient world of magic is no more. Its heroes are dead, its halls are ruins, and its great battles between Light and Dark are forgotten. Only the Stewards remember, and they keep their centuries-long vigil, sworn to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns.

Sixteen-year-old dock boy Will is on the run, pursued by the men who killed his mother. When an old servant tells him of his destiny to fight beside the Stewards, Will is ushered into a world of magic, where he must train to play a vital role in the oncoming battle against the Dark.

As London is threatened by the Dark King’s return, the reborn heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war begin to draw battle lines. But as the young descendants of Light and Dark step into their destined roles, old allegiances, old enmities and old flames are awakened. Will must stand with the last heroes of the Light to prevent the fate that destroyed their world from returning to destroy his own.


Title : Dark Rise
Author : C.S. Pacat
Series : Dark Rise (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 464
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 review

Hmm. Hmm. Hmmmm.

Honestly, I don’t know about this one. Let’s get this out of the way first : I did not hate my time with this one. But did it grip me, surprise me, pull me in? I have to say.. no.

In some ways this book is pretty predictable. And by some I mean.. almost all of it? Add to that fact that the pitch of this set up an expectation of a big dark queer enemies romance and we get none of it in Dark Rise. The story ends in a way that implies it could still happen in book two but I obviously had prepared myself for something that I did not see pan out. So that’s kind of a bummer. So between the predictability, the lack of romantic tension, and then..

Well, I’ve kind of lost track of some of the POVs but most of them are new to this fantasy world. Only two really matter in the point I’ve trying to make though which is : the outsiders seem to have become bigger players than those who had been in this world, living this fantasy life, the whole time. And eventually there is a reason for this (a spoilery one) but at the same time I felt like there was just little to no shock value? No reluctance to believe? I feel there often should be a balance between struggling to come to terms and also settling in all nonchalant like and yet not being too much one or the other. I’m not sure I can properly explain this without you experiencing it but hopefully you know what I mean.

I’m also not sure I ever really felt any stakes after the first few chapters. Those had some good tension, a lot of uncertainty, but the deeper we went into the story, into understanding some of the world, which is when you would think the stakes get higher — and I definitely should’ve felt this because they are basically end of the world as we know it stakes — but.. I honestly felt nothing. Maybe because I wasn’t invested in the world? Or the characters? I was never quite pulled away from this story or distracted by other things but I definitely was very conscious of reading things, not living things. If that makes sense.

Ultimately, now that certain events have played out, I think this is very much a first book in a trilogy/series (whatever it’s going to be) issue. It’s very possible, now that we have our footing and our reveals, and we stand on the precipice of the romance I wanted, that book two will give me something to sink my teeth into. I sure hope, at least.

But in the meantime.. lower your expectations a smidge. And it’s possible you might enjoy this more than I did.

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

IRON WIDOW by Xiran Jay Zhao

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. 

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ 

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.


Title : Iron Widow
Author : Xiran Jay Zhao
Series : Iron Widow (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : PenguinTeen
Release Date : September 21, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

I’ve gone from one debut to another, had huge expectations for both, and yet wow what a different experience has been had. I’m actually | | close to rounding up and giving this the full five star treatment, to be honest. It’s so close to that feeling. And wow has it been a long time since I’ve felt that.

How do you take the fight out of half the population and render them willing slaves? You tell them they are meant to do nothing but serve from the minute they are born. You tell them they’re weak. You tell them they’re prey. You tell them over and over, until it’s the only truth they’re capable of living.

You’ve probably seen the pitch by now : The Handmaid’s Tale meets Pacific Rim and I think that’s actually a great vibe to have going into this because it lives upto it so well. But there’s also a lot more going on than just that so don’t worry. Much awaits you.

Men want us so badly for our bodies, yet hate us so much for our minds.

But before you even get to the story the author has a fabulous note to explain their inspiration, their themes, and more. It did such a great job setting the tone for this story and even though I’m very spoiler averse (not that there were any) I really appreciated the insight.

[..] nothing in this world has been created, built, or set up in our favour. If we want something, we have to push back against everything around us and take it by force.”

Maybe I should actually talk about the book though? As with many favourites, though, sometimes that’s hard to do. Because even though this book isn’t subtle about its themes, there is still nuance to explore, evolutions to witness, and a few little surprises that didn’t exactly surprise me but I was delighted to see play out.. only to then be actually surprised by something. Which maybe happened once or twice. I was digging it.

Love cannot save me. I choose vengeance.

As for the romance, well. I don’t know if it counts as a spoiler but for those who haven’t yet seen the reveal, and want to experience that on page, I won’t say anything. It isn’t hard to search out if you’re curious though! That said, I would’ve liked some of it to be a little better developed but.. well, again, saying more would be a spoiler.

Rarely, no matter how much I love a book, do I feel the desire to flip back to the beginning and immediately reread. But Iron Widow makes me want to do so. I’m sure there were things I missed because I d e v o u r e d this in one sitting but I will save my reread until book two comes out. Which, like.. can that be now? Please?

[..] he’s trying to worm into my mind and shackle me down with morals, so he can feel more comfortable about my existence. Too bad. I am exactly the kind of ice-blooded, rotten-hearted girl he fears I am. And I am fine with that.

If you want to read a down-with-the-patriarchy story that is less “girl power!” and more “I am sick of this shit”; about a character who streaks right past shades of grey and fully embraces the dark; who claws her way out of the pain, literal and figurative, of existence to fight, every day, and challenge everything she’s been brought up to believe; in a world where pilots are both celebrity and saviour as they battle aliens.. and I mean, I could go on. I haven’t even touched on Li Shimin who, besides Zetian, stole my heart.

Preorder this book, request this book, beg you library to buy it. Do whatever you can to read this book.

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

WHITE SMOKE by Tiffany D. Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out in this chilling YA psychological thriller and modern take on the classic haunted house story from New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson!

Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.

The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its . . . secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.

But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?

As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.


Title : White Smoke
Author : Tiffany D. Jackson
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA psychological thriller
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : September 14, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 review

Throughout this read, I was definitely in the ‘like’ camp more than the ‘love’ and had it been the opposite I would’ve been far more disappointed by the ending than I was. But it was still a huge, abrupt, bummer.

This story is half horror and half psychological anxiety fuelled discomfort. It also has a less than fun new blended family dynamic which was grating in a whole different way, too. I enjoyed this was it was a horror, I was equally horrified by the circumstances that had plagued this town, the violent gentrification that had occurred (and was still occurring) at the expense of others; but at the same time this particular plot sort’ve went off the rails in an unbelievable way (not the criminalizations, that, unfortunately is very believable, but the shady corporate conspiracy and the specifics of what they had set up..? yeah, no) — which, considering I was reading about ghosts and hauntings and potential possession, says a lot.

As a haunted house story, this was great. For someone with an anxiety, reading about Mari’s phobias, it was just as unsettling. Everything else, and the ending.. I don’t know. Equally in the ‘I don’t know’ pile of things is the reluctance for Mari to jump to the very obvious conclusions about what was happening around her. Why she was so slow to pick up on this, to resist it when others were more convinced, I have no clue.

This one gets a cautious recommend out of me, I think. I absolutely don’t want to dissuade you from picking it up but at the same time it isn’t going to encourage anyone to read it.. just incase it’s even less a hit for you than it was for me.

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