CROSSED by Eliza Crewe

War is here.

Full-scale war has erupted between the Crusaders and demons and even Chi has to admit isn’t going well. Like any sensible rat, Meda’s eager to abandon the sinking ship but, unfortunately, her friends aren’t nearly as pragmatic. Instead, Meda’s forced to try to keep them all alive until the dust settles.

As the Crusaders take more and more drastic measures, the tables turn and Meda suddenly finds herself in the role of voice of sanity. No one is more horrified than she is. When old enemies reappear as new allies and old friends become new enemies Meda has to decide—again—whose side she’s really on.

And then the Crusaders decide that Meda should go to Hell. Literally.

Can’t a monster ever catch a break?


Title : Crossed
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : August 13, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

I definitely expected this ending to be unexpected but the fact that it was also delightful and delicious? So good.

I have seen too much good in my enemies, too much evil in my allies.

Obviously there’s even less I can say about this finale than the books that came before because I in no way want to spoil the surprises that await you. But just know.. they await. Patiently.

It’s this, my own depravity, that makes me unable to condemn others for theirs, that makes me want to believe that no matter what mistakes I make, that there is forgiveness. There is hope.

This series has a snarky hilarious narrative built around our not-at-all innocent soul eater, a half demon, Meda. It has strong female friendships that are complicated by differences and realness but endure nonetheless. It has an interesting and complex romantic element that constantly surprised me. It has darkness and violence but also hope and light. And so much more.

Just as the Crusaders are plagued with hate, demons are afflicted with hope. The equal opposite nature of the cosmic game board means no one is above reproach, and no one is below it.

If you’re looking to beef up your backlist reading, you love YA, and you enjoy a twist on the usual formula; if you love to revel in some excellent dialogue around good and evil, the truths we avoid and the lies we tell ourselves, no matter what side we’re on, this would be a high recommend from me.



KINGDOM OF GODS by N.K. Jemisin

For two thousand years the Arameri family has ruled the world by enslaving the very gods that created mortalkind. Now the gods are free, and the Arameris’ ruthless grip is slipping. Yet they are all that stands between peace and world-spanning, unending war. 


Title : Kingdom of Gods
Author : N.K. Jemisin
Series : Inheritance Trilogy (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 613
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : October 11, 2011

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m trying not to be bummed because three stars is still a good rating (and I think I’m an outlier, on a brief scan of ratings on GR) but this just didn’t satisfy me the way books one and two did.

I’ve mentioned in my other review that the way book two fit into book one was different but still connected. Well that trend continues with book three but this one steps even further away from the major themes that connected those earlier instalments. This one also shifts gears in the particular perspective we follow.

Regardless of my liking of it, though, it’s impossible to argue against the fact that Jemisin did really interesting things with this. We really delved into the meat of her world, her characters, and the division between her mortals and her gods and all from the perspective of a character we’ve grown to love up until this point. But while I appreciated some new facets to him, and again a better understanding of the way it all worked, I think the problem was I just wasn’t as compelled by him; or the new characters we met along the way.

But again, it was all interesting.

It can’t be said Jemisin isn’t creative as hell and what she does with her concepts, the narratives and explorations, not to mention her late stage reveals, are just brilliant. And while I dragged my feet a bit, and didn’t love the (long) journey of this one every step of the way, I did actually like the ending. It’s such a change from where we started and I love that.

And it’s not over! I actually have two novellas still to complete but I don’t think I’ll do much reviewing of them unless they blow me away. So thus concludes the last series on my latest Five On Our TBRs list. Super glad I gave myself the push to get through this and don’t regret a single moment of it. If you’ve read to read Jemisin, if you’ve yet to read this debut series of hers, don’t delay. I highly recommend.

FATED BLADES by Ilona Andrews

An uneasy alliance between warring families gets heated in this otherworldly novella from bestselling author Ilona Andrews.

At first glance, the planet Rada seems like a lush paradise. But the ruling families, all boasting genetically enhanced abilities, are in constant competition for power―and none more so than the Adlers and the Baenas. For generations, the powerful families have pushed and pulled each other in a dance for dominance.

Until a catastrophic betrayal from within changes everything.

Now, deadly, disciplined, and solitary leaders Ramona Adler and Matias Baena must put aside their enmity and work together in secret to prevent sinister forces from exploiting universe-altering technology. Expecting to suffer through their uneasy alliance, Ramona and Matias instead discover that they understand each other as no one in their families can―and that their combined skills may eclipse the risks of their forbidden alliance.

As the two warriors risk their lives to save their families, they must decide whether to resist or embrace the passion simmering between them. For now, the dance between their families continues―but just one misstep could spell the end of them both. 


Title : Fated Blades
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Kinsmen (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 222
Genre : fantasy sci-fi romance
Publisher : Montlake
Release Date : November 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, listen, this might not measure up to other books by these authors that I’ve given four stars to but it feels like it’s been a hundred years since they published a book (time has no meaning anymore) and I started having a good time almost immediately after starting it, and said good times pretty much didn’t stop, so. It gets a four.

He felt a sudden urge to do something dramatic and impressive. He needed to get ahold of himself.

I probably should’ve reread the preceding novellas to see if there was, in fact, any carry-over or easter eggs in this one because as far as I can remember the first two were completely unconnected, beyond being set in the same universe, and this one feels the same. I’ll leave it to my blog buddy to confirm this, though, as she’s read them more recently than me.

All you really need to know is this is Andrews but sci-fi. The world, the hierarchies, it’s all pretty much explained in this novella so if you choose to start here, you aren’t going in with a loss of context. Everything relevant you need is here.

Am I seeing things? Clearly this is just a weirdly specific bad dream, one where two people who hate each other team up to bust into my office and destroy my prized furniture.

Oh, and also? It’s an enemies-to-lovers romance but more in the sense that the enmity is inherited, not personal, and they have to come together in an extreme situation when they are both, similarly, betrayed. The journey takes them through a reluctant teaming up, to respect, to.. well, more. Obviously.

If you like action scenes, if you like family politics, if you like snark and banter, if you like my-enemy-is-my-enemy-but-I’m-making-them-my-friend dynamics, and also if you can’t infer the other trope I won’t list by the title..? Well, just give it a think.

This is a very biased review because there are so few books by this duo I don’t enjoy and I would honestly read their grocery list and probably have a good time. And I make no apologies for it. If you haven’t yet joined the Andrews bandwagon, what are you waiting for?

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

CRUSHED by Eliza Crewe

Meda Melange has officially hung up her monstrous mantle and planted her feet firmly on the holy and righteous path of a Crusader-in-training. Or, at least, she’s willing to give it a shot. It helps that the Crusaders are the only thing standing between her and the demon hordes who want her dead.

The problem is, the only people less convinced than Meda of her new-found role as Good Girl are the very Crusaders she’s trying to join. So when a devilishly handsome half-demon boy offers escape, how’s a girl supposed to say “no?”

After all, everyone knows a good girl’s greatest weakness is a bad boy.

uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.


Title : Crushed
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 271
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : August 5, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

So, yes, I’ll admit the rating on this one may be a bit confusing but I’ll explain. This one is not quite as satisfyingly all around excellent as book one but nonetheless it’s still really good. Which is why it’s rounding up. But within the ranking of the series it’s worth noting this is not quite on par.

Having said that, Crewe had already shown she was willing to do things differently with this series and she continues that trend and then some. While things in this world are pretty black and white, despite some book one teasing about the good guys willing to lie, cheat, and steal, as long as their intentions were honourable or purposeful to the cause, this one really leans into the extremes for which both sides will go to win. And for Meda, who is half demon and half good, with a third important element within her at play, this is a dangerous place to be; especially when she’s chosen the side she’s chosen.

Contrary to what you might expect, I don’t go on a murderous rampage. A real monster is too clever for that. A real monster shakes the hands of elderly couples as he invests their life’s savings in his Ponzi scheme; she kisses babies and runs for political office; he waits until she’s in love. A real monster knows that an attack huts; but a betrayal scars.

It’s not easy being caught up amongst the stirrings of a war and she learns she doesn’t fit anywhere. Worse, her best friend, doesn’t seem to be standing with her, either. And that’s the final straw. Something’s got to give.

I can’t be good, but apparently I can’t be mad, either. I’m a wasted half of everything.

Honestly, I’ll admit, the first half of this book was hard. It was hard seeing Meda stuck where she was and at the mercy of those around her. Specifically there was a possession scene that had me crawling out of my skin. It was just.. wow. Huge kudos. This series, for all its darkness and violence and death, has never felt truly dark or horror-ish but that moment was it for me. Hoo boy.

But, don’t worry, the humour was still here too. Meda’s voice is a little less cheeky, mostly because of her circumstances, but it’s still there. And there’s heartbreak, too, that was so beautifully done. Again, this author is really challenging our expectations for the usual plotlines and expectations of how things go, particularly with YA.

Super excited to see how Crewe wraps this in book three because I have a feeling more unexpected excellence is awaiting me but I won’t have to wait long because yes I’m diving right in.

THE BROKEN KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a homeless man who glows like a living sun to her strange sight. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. 

Oree’s peculiar guest is at the heart of it, his presence putting her in mortal danger — but is it him the killers want, or Oree? And is the earthly power of the Arameri king their ultimate goal, or have they set their sights on the Lord of Night himself?


Title : The Broken Kingdoms
Author : N.K. Jemisin
Series : Inheritance Trilogy (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : November 3, 2010

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

And here I was just saying how book one hadn’t been as devastating as other Jemisin works. Welp, eating my words a little here. Nom.

I had a weird time with this book because while it was so different from book one, it was also great. Yet I had a hard time focusing on it despite that. Probably a me thing. Though there could’ve also been a bit of a middle lull. But I’m not shaving off any points because overall I’m so enjoying this story. And also because the last 15%? I devoured. And I was aforementioned devastated by.

I definitely shouldn’t have doubted this author because how the hell did we end book one with a very clear horrible villain and here I am in book two.. feeling bad for them?

While I couldn’t have predicted how this series tied together after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, it makes so much sense now. I may have been overthinking it because, haha, in hindsight it’s obvious. Also not quite as mind-bendy as the narrative in her other series, which is fine, because again, I think this is a more palatable and easier fantasy to follow and process. But that doesn’t make it any less interesting or special or challenging or thought provoking.

It’s all very well to say the world values reason and compassion and justice, but if nothing in reality reflects those words, they’re meaningless.

It’s been ten years since the end of the big shake-up, the end of book one, and in The Broken Kingdoms we follow Oree, who is blind but able to navigate to some degree due to her ability to see the echoes and presence of magic. She lives in the shadow of the World Tree, under the city where book one took place, which is city now populated by godlings. Some are her friends, another was a lover, and so when godlings start dying, Oree is caught in the middle of it. Made worse by the presence of a stranger she rescues who won’t speak, isn’t a godling, but is something.. else.

Watching the way things played out in the aftermath of book one was, in some ways, somewhat predictable, based on the geas, but in other ways? Not at all.

Even now, with a better understanding of the way this series is piecing itself together, I can’t predict what might await us in book three. Mostly because I’m sure Jemisin has some surprises along the way. And hopefully some more devastations. Because what can I say, she does them well, and I like the pain.

CRACKED by Eliza Crewe

Meet Meda. She eats people.

Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She’s special. It’s not her fault she enjoys it. She can’t help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it’s not like there are any other “soul-eaters” around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up.

They can do what she can do. They’re like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda’s kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her ‘kind’ is.

Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her.

The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.


Title : Cracked
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 327
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : November 5, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

This unexpected gem has been sitting on my TBR since.. (checks notes) 2015. We hate to see it. But love that I finally had a reason to pick it up.

While in some ways this follows a lot of typical storytelling beats — girl is on her own, gets caught between two warring sides or factions, has unique or dangerous origins that are discovered, discovers she’s a bit of a snowflake, etc — this story instead comes at it from a different angle.

Her voice is calm but now I see her eyes blaze in a holy hazel fire. She doesn’t want to die, but she will, for what she believes in. I need new friends.

Meda, instead of a young innocent, is actually the soul-eating demon. She obfuscates and manipulates her rescue for the purpose of gaining intel on not just her own heritage but also those who would hunt her down. Discovers the truth of how she came to be and some of her history. Becomes said snowflake. And chooses a side you might not expect.

I guess [they] figured their kids were the good guys, so how much supervision did they really need? Idiots. A good teenager is like a good demon — a contradiction in terms.

Despite those unique choices, not to mention the snarky and often silly tongue-in-cheek and very different inner voice from her outer voice, this didn’t remake the wheel but.. it was a lot of fun? And I’m honestly baffled that this seems to be such a dark horse in the YA world. It is old, yes, but released during a time when I would’ve expected this to be a smash hit. But maybe it was just dark enough and snarky enough — not to mention the fact that Meda is one slip away from being an all out villain and even without said slip she’s definitely not on Team Good — to be too ahead of it’s time?

It’s all horrifyingly healthy fare, omelettes heavy on the veggies, mixed fruit, and Canadian “bacon”. Ha, it is as much bacon as I am human. We are both liars, but I feel it committed the greater offence.

I could muse over my befuddlement for the lack of success it seems this series had but perhaps the next books don’t do as well? I don’t know. Time to find out.

THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.


Title : The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Author : N.K. Jemisin
Series : Inheritance Trilogy (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 417
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : February 25, 2010

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

So this was a reread for me but only in the loosest of terms because I didn’t remember a thing about it. But not only did tackling this series satisfy my completionism, even though I hadn’t added this to my Series to Finish list, it was also recently pushed high on my TBR after having read her Broken Earth trilogy last year. I had previously slapped this instalment with a three on GR but not reviewed it; past-me’s thoughts? Who knows.

And hoo boy. I think I actually loved this more than the opening of her other series? And to discover it was actually her debut? Mind blown.

It is blasphemy to separate oneself from the earth and look down on it like a god. It is more than blasphemy; it is dangerous. We can never be gods, after all — but we can become something less than human with frightening ease.

This is definitely a series that, so far, is much more accessible than the Broken Earth trilogy; for all that I love and respected that series, I do think the more it went on, the more I lost the thread. It was just too big, maybe (probably) too smart for me. This one is great but it is, in some ways, more typically what we expect from fantasy. And this is not an insult.

This library must hold all the knowledge of the world.”
A few millennia worth, from a few pockets of humanity, nothing more. And that picked and sorted, trimmed and twisted to suit the tastes of those in power.
There’s truth even in tainted knowledge, if one reads carefully.”
Only if one knows the knowledge is tainted in the first place.”

The story itself isn’t unlike the narration of Jemisin’s other series wherein there is something telling us a story, or reliving it themselves, and so there is some jumping around, little hints, warnings, to come. And then also conversations outside the story itself. I love this kind of storytelling because it compels and cajoles and, at least in my case, causes me to devour the book. Case in point, this was a two sitting read for me.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms deals with loss, betrayals, and traumas; in this world there was once Three, only for one to commit murder and then — for simplicity’s sake — punish the other by confining him, and their offspring, into mortal bodies, leaving only One. We meet Yeine, who is mourning her mother’s death, enroute to the main city, the seat of the ruling class of people; of which she is directly descended and now one of three heirs to the throne. Of course, nothing is easy, and as she’s from what is referred to as a barbarian country, she is unprepared to be thrown into a political minefield she might not survive.

On the surface, it sounds more or less the standard fantasy format, right? Yes. Sure. But still.. what Jemisin does, what we experience, what her characters are put through, and the secrets they are hiding, are just.. so well done. This is definitely less emotionally devastating than her other series but this was so well paced, so well told, and I fell in love with these gods, monstrous and otherwise, and also Yeine.

With the story having ended the way it did, it makes me very more curious to see how the next books tie into the series on the whole, but having seen what Jemisin’s done in the past (though, technically, her writing future) I have no doubt it’ll all make sense in the end.

Highly recommend, and yes, diving right into book two.

SEER OF SEVENWATERS by Juliet Marillier – double review!

The young seer Sibeal is visiting an island of elite warriors, prior to making her final pledge as a druid. It’s there she finds Felix, a survivor of a Viking shipwreck, who’s lost his memory. The scholarly Felix and Sibeal form a natural bond. He could even be her soul mate, but Sibeal’s vocation is her true calling, and her heart must answer. 

As Felix fully regains his memory, Sibeal has a runic divination showing her that Felix must go on a perilous mission-and that she will join him. The rough waters and the sea creatures they will face are no match for Sibeal’s own inner turmoil. She must choose between the two things that tug at her soul-her spirituality and a chance at love… 


Title : Seer of Sevenwaters
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Sevenwaters (book five)
Format : physical
Page Count : 432
Genre : fantasy / historical fiction / retellings
Publisher : Roc
Release Date : December 7, 2010

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Couple connection
Sea monsters
Slow pacing

Overall Seer of Sevenwaters was a solid installment in the series but there are a bunch of reasons why I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of the others. Sibeal was a likeable and intriguing main character but I didn’t love her. She did have great character growth later on, though. The strongest thing about this book was the connection between this ‘couple’, Sibeal and Felix but oh, I needed more expression/communication of the strong feelings they had. It was all inner feeling.

“…we’re like wind and rain, like leaf and flower..”

I enjoyed the context of sea monsters even if I found that plotline somewhat predictable from the off. However, the execution of the culmination of that plot was so slow moving and detailed in execution, I wanted to press the 1.5 speed button.

Getting to see life on Inis Eala after hearing much about it on previous books was a welcome insight. I liked spending time with Gull and Johnny again. Fans of the previous book will be glad to hear we got plenty of Clodagh and Cathal too.

While this wasn’t my favourite of the series, it was likeable and at least I didn’t hate any characters as per book three. I’m hoping for a strong finish when we tackle the final book next month.


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Let’s face it. Nothing can surpass the excellence of the main Sevenwaters trilogy. I knew that I had liked, but not loved, these follow-up companions but I was also so far removed from them, having only read through them one time, plus being so in love with the world, the family, and Marillier’s magic and writing, I was biased to like them regardless. But while there’s still a lot of greatness to be found in these additions, they don’t quite measure up.

That said, there were two parts to Seer of the Sevenwaters; one, the romance. And two, the mystery of the week, as it were. This one takes something of a break from the over-arcing concern introduced in book four, though it’s mentioned in dialogue and worried over, and instead there’s a wrong to be set right, a memory to recover, and lies to be revealed. And despite there being a really unlikeable character twisted up in the plot, it might’ve been my favourite part of this book.

Is this reserve something they teach you, your Ciarán and his fellows? Always to hold back, always to keep control, never to show the world your true self, a living, breathing woman? Is this what your gods require of you?

Having said that, though, Marillier did a great job of offering us a romance that was believable from an emotional and intellectual aspect. This is one of the first she’s provided that didn’t rely on an opposites-attract or hate-to-love or even just reluctant-allies-to-more dynamic. And it’s perfectly fitting for Sibeal; nothing else would’ve worked. So I definitely appreciated it, and the journey that she goes on, as her happily ever after is true to every part of her, without too much compromise. Additionally, the ending of this one gives us a bit of a break in the formula and offers an interesting circumstance to the romance; no spoilers. But did I love them as a pair? Not really. I did, however, love the dual POV; which, due to the nature of Felix’s situation, was necessary for the story.

If my life had taken a different path, and I’d wanted a sweetheart, I wouldn’t be choosing a warrior, no matter how impressive his fighting skills.

What adds extra delight to this instalment was that it takes place away from Sevenwaters and we get to see, live, and breathe amongst all sorts of colourful characters who have been sprinkled into the last two books. And I love this whole cast and crew with my whole heart.

I’ll admit, though, there were two brief moments that Marillier did get me, she caught me in my feels. They weren’t the usual devastations and I was spared any sobbing sessions but even in a story that I didn’t love, this author still has the power to get to the heart of me.

I’m really looking forward to the final book which, though I’m a broken record at this point, I also don’t remember much of — having only read it, like both previous spinoffs, once before. As we’ve seen with the finale of her original trilogy, I’m sure there are some twists and turns to endure on the way to the resolution. And I’m really looking forward to some potential heartbreak. Also the Marillier magic. Can’t wait.

Thanks go to, as always, the Sevenwaters Squad for another great buddy read.

THE BRONZED BEASTS by Roshani Chokshi

In love they breathed. In destiny they believed. In the end, will divinity be their demise?

After Séverin’s seeming betrayal, the crew is fractured. Armed with only a handful of hints, Enrique, Laila, Hypnos and Zofia must find their way through the snarled, haunted waterways of Venice, Italy to locate Séverin. 

Meanwhile, Séverin must balance the deranged whims of the Patriarch of the Fallen House and discover the location of a temple beneath a plague island where the Divine Lyre can be played and all that he desires will come to pass. 

With only ten days until Laila expires, the crew will face plague pits and deadly masquerades, unearthly songs and the shining steps of a temple whose powers might offer divinity itself… but at a price they may not be willing to pay.


Title : The Silvered Serpents
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Series : The Gilded Wolves (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA historical fiction / fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 21, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

So the end of this series is here and maybe, after loving book two so much, I should’ve tempered my expectations — after all, book one just wasn’t quite it for me — but honestly I’ve come out the end of this one just.. not knowing really how to feel.

This National Treasure-esque fantasy historical series has always leaned into “too smart for me” territory but I’ve enjoyed, even if I struggled to comprehend, the historical tie-ins, the history, the nuance, and thankfully this one maybe feel less stupid. But my intelligence or lack thereof aside, the series has always been balanced out by the delightful dynamic of the cast of characters (we love an ensemble, she continues to say, ad nauseum!) and after the events of book two, the dynamic sours and takes a turn. I wasn’t mad about it, and it was still enjoyable in its new configuration, but.. I don’t know, something was missing.

Likewise, the big conflict, the thing we’ve been leading towards, the main event if you will.. did I even really understand it? Nope. Could I visualize it? A little. Is that partially my problem? Probably! I plan to read some reviews and see if this just went wrong for everyone or, more likely, it was just me.

Additionally, the ending. How to describe it. Unexpected? Bittersweet? Lovely? It definitely went in a direction I didn’t see coming (hence the unexpectedness) and was a nice resolution to one of the other romances (hence the loveliness), but.. for how it finally did end, that last line, after all the time, all the loss..? Well, yeah, hence the bittersweetness. I also just wonder why. I don’t quite understand. Another thing I’ll be looking for clarity on in some reviews.

So, overall, this was a strange reading experience. But I’m not mad about pushing on to keep reading because the richness of this world, the diversity of the characters, the mystery of it all, the delightful ensemble banter.. there was a lot to enjoy. Would that I had ended up a higher note with it all but at least it’s not a low note! I’ll take the win.

THE EX HEX by Erin Sterling

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late. 


Title : The Ex Hex
Author : Erin Sterling
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 320
Genre : paranormal romance
Publisher : Avon
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

As we all know, the problem with a popular book is that sometimes you don’t expect to like it. Hype, expectations, being a contrarian.. all those things. And sometimes, well, sometimes you’re find yourself hopping on that bandwagon. Because this? This was a lot of fun.

It’s my favourite story. I want it played at both my wedding and my funeral. I want to do it as a dramatic monologue at an open mic night. I want–
I get it. But seriously, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
You almost ran your ex-boyfriend over with a car, and then left him lying in the literal dirt on the side of the road. It is such a big deal, you absolute queen.”

This is a light (and quick! one sitting for me) read that feels almost Practical Magic-y with the small town setting but flipped on its head; instead of just the Owens being witches, the town is populated with many, including it’s own witch college. Adding to those vibes, though, is the focus on the family (an aunt and a cousin, and there’s a great relationship with both) as well as one of them being.. not reluctant or resistant to use magic but just tending to not.

I think that if you keep calling him ‘the Dickbag’, you can’t also act like you’re a matchmaking tween in a Disney movie.”
I contain multitudes.

I realize I’m saying a lot but also saying very little but honestly this is a bit of a surface level read plot-wise. We have a second chance romance — they start off nineteen-ish and oh man the weird panic I felt thinking this was actually NA.. so glad for the time jump! — and a curse that is maybe more than it appears, even when it wasn’t meant to be real, and.. that’s kind of it, really? The romance takes up a lot of space, even though it’s mostly them being together again instead of agonizing why they shouldn’t be (surface level, see), and the big conflict is fixed remarkably quick with little fuss. And then there’s this whole element about the true history of the town, and the founders, but that all just kinda seems to get swept under the rug to make way for the HEA.

In general there are a few things that get mentioned and swept aside, used as a touchstone but never returned to, and I won’t spoil them, as I’ve talked about the plot enough already, but.. they exist. Again, it’s not perfect, but if you go along with it, and don’t think to hard, you can still enjoy it.

Seriously, dude, don’t care whose dad you are or how fancy a witch you are, keeping talking shit about my cat, and I will personally kick you down this mountain.

So, no, it won’t stand-out, it won’t probably win over many romance fans, and likely even less PNR fans, but somehow I still had a good time. This had some quippy lines, some funny situations, just brushes up against spooky without ever really getting dim (much less dark) at all, and also had some steamy times. Plus, after having just spent a week with a complex fantasy series.. I enjoyed, nay, delighted, in the lighthearted vibe.

Oh, also? Talking cat.

ps, I won’t be rounding up for a few of the reasons listed above but a l s o because of the presence of at least two, possibly three, references to A Certain Wizarding World which, come on, everyone, I thought we were done with this?

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