KOGITSUNE by Xia Xia Lake

A coming of age story set in medieval Japan. A friendship between a young fox god and his human childhood friend is built on deception, but grows stronger and purer as it’s driven by common purpose. However, the vast differences of the worlds they live in can’t be ignored, as their relationship is frowned upon by both humans and spirits.

As Kogitsune’s feelings for his human friend turn from friendship to something deeper, he will learn that love can be all consuming and heartbreaking. 

‘Kogitsune’ is a retelling of the famous Noh theater play ‘Kokaji’, a story about a swordsmith who requests the help of the Inari god to build a sword for emperor Ichijo (980-1011).


Title : Kogitsune
Author : Xia Xia Lake
Series : Takamagahara Monogatari (book 1)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 62
Genre : LGBTQIA+ historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : indie
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

This is such a sweet, magical, little story of the birth, and early years, of a kitsune; a fox god. As he discovers the world around him, he also meets a human boy, and they develop a sweet friendship that, over time and after reuniting after a separation where they each grow into their own, becomes a romance.

Despite how short this story is, Lake nonetheless manages to perfectly set the scene, delving into Japanese folklore and myth, all through the eyes of a curious and adorable protagonist, who is both naive and wise and, like mortals, just as susceptible to heartbreak, remorse, and love.

This is the first in a series and I can’t wait to read on.

HOUSE OF EARTH AND BLOOD by Sarah J. Maas — excerpt review!

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.


Title : House of Blood and Earth
Author : Sarah J. Maas
Series : Crescent City (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : five chapter excerpt
Genre : NA fantasy
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I’ll be honest, I don’t know why I clicked on this excerpt. I’m certainly not shy about not being much of a fan of this author and her work. But it seemed like a low-investment peek into what this book, the first of Maas’ new adult series, would be like. And overwhelmingly, I feel mostly ambivalence with a side of confusion. There’s a lot of world-building, which is helped a bit by a glossary of terms near the beginning so, thank you for that, and a set-up which I won’t say completely lost me but I definitely know I was just kind of reading along even if I wasn’t 100% sure of references or meaning to things.

As for the characters, there was a lot of time spent setting up an existing friend group and dynamic, even a possible romance, before things go sideways right at the end of this teaser. Having not refamiliarized myself with the synopsis before diving in, I’m not sure where things might go after this point (beyond the obvious vengeance questing), but I also find myself curious enough to.. maybe.. pick this up and read on. Which I guess means the tease was a success. My expectations are pretty low, and certain things felt very in line with the Maas-elements I don’t normally like (specifically in her characters), and I actually felt the writing of this far less pretty and compulsive than her other works, but.. I guess we’ll see.

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

SILVER IN THE WOOD by Emily Tesh

There is a Wild Man who lives in the deep quiet of Greenhollow, and he listens to the wood. Tobias, tethered to the forest, does not dwell on his past life, but he lives a perfectly unremarkable existence with his cottage, his cat, and his dryads.

When Greenhollow Hall acquires a handsome, intensely curious new owner in Henry Silver, everything changes. Old secrets better left buried are dug up, and Tobias is forced to reckon with his troubled past—both the green magic of the woods, and the dark things that rest in its heart.


Title : Silver in the Wood
Author : Emily Tesh
Series : The Greenhollow Duology (book one)
Format : physical (library)
Page Count : 112
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : June 18, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 (rounded up) review

Thank goodness for the cover reveal of book two or I don’t know when I would’ve prioritized picking this one up.

SILVER IN THE WOOD is a slow-unfurling novella about the bargains made with old gods, the darkness of the wood, and new beginnings at the end of things. This wasn’t at all what I expected — I fully thought this would be darker, edgier, and instead it was more melancholy, charming, and sweet. Nonetheless I’m still rounding up, even if my expectations weren’t quite met, because I still enjoyed this so much.

We know there’s more to this Wild Man in the woods than just a caretaker and Tesh cleverly tells us the story of how things came to be as the curious new-owner of Greenhollow Hall is researching local legends and myth. And it’s when things go sideways, and a new character is introduced, that we somehow get a whole lot more worldbuilding that neither feels crammed down your throat or, considering the word count, too big for the story. But it’s the backstory that really feels rich, twisty, and also a little sad.

This novella was perfectly paced to leave you satisfied and yet wanting to read on and my only complaint is there isn’t more.. yet.

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor 🎧

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?


Title : Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author : Laini Taylor
Series : Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Format : Audiobook
Narrator : Khristine Hvam
Time : 12 hours 32 minutes
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Audible Studios
Release Date : September 29, 2011

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

Starting this much-loved series that has been on my tbr forever was my main reading aim for the beginning of the year. You do know that Hollis and I are of the ‘no-blurbers’ club, don’t you? What this means is that we read a synopsis when we first put something on our tbr, then we don’t go back to it before we read it. What this also means is that you fall foul sometimes of not knowing what a book is about and for DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE this was nearly a derailment. I will explain…

I do not like angel stories, I avoid them at all costs. There’s only one thing worse than this and that’s angel and demon stories. An hour into this listen and it was beginning to become apparent that there were creatures and then there were angels. Fast forward to a hilarous ‘there there, Micky’ convo of encouragement from Hollis and what I found was that this wasn’t a Christian depiction of those beings but otherworldy, yet set in our world. I was able to get into this aspect.

I loved lots about this book but primarily, I loved Karou. She was a character of quirks and giftings that was fascinating. She was also a character full of heart and passion and that was catching. There was an amazing friendship between her and Zuzana that was funny, loyal and heartbreaking too. I was unsure about Brimstone, he creeped me out whilst I found him endearing in moments.

Akiva was a late entry to the proceedings, certainly in the background for much of the first half of the book but when he came face to face with Karou, oh boy, I just sat back and listened. There was something deep and mesmerising when these two were together and they convinced me of their pull pretty quickly. They made me think of Romeo and Juliet, in fact their whole tale did. When all was said and done, the story of Madrigle gave that perspective that slotted everything into place, but it was not a comfortable tale within a tale.

The narration was exceptional for this book. Khristine Hvam narrates with emotion and a wide range of impressive accents. She helped me truly sink into the story.

So, am I fan? Yes I am. Can I deal with these angels and creatures? In this situation, yes I can. There’s maybe a lesson to be learnt for me not to toss certain tropes and contexts out of hand immediately. The proof of this story is really in the fact that I’ve already started book two, mere hours after finishing book one. Thank you to everyone who’s ever recommended this book to me over the years, I got there in the end.

IN RESTLESS DREAMS by Wren Handman

Sylvia is a normal girl with huge, normal problems–her mother’s attempted suicide; trying to make friends in a rich prep school where she doesn’t belong; whether or not to trust the cute boy with the dangerous eyes. She thinks that’s more than she can handle, but she tests the limits of her endurance when she learns that she is the long-awaited Phantasmer, a human who can change the fabric of Fairy simply by believing in a new story. Sylvia’s life is thrown off course as two warring Courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, both attempt to co-opt her gift to attack the other Court. All while she’s trying not to get kicked out of school for fighting. And it doesn’t help matters that the fairies begging for her help are both attractive young men–with their own agendas.


Title : In Restless Dreams
Author : Wren Handman
Series : The Phantasmer Cycle (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 293
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : The Parliament House
Release Date : January 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

If you read A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES and wanted the same magical discovery of Fae, not to mention the exploration of a fantasy world that abuts our own, but wanted content that actually stayed YA? This might just be the book for you — or the book you should buy for your teens and/or young people.

This book opens up with very traditional YA elements, like starting at a new highschool, navigating rocky social waters, and all that drama that ensues with both, then some not-so-traditional (and a might heavier) elements, like how to process your mother’s mental health issues and connecting with an absent father. And then, halfway through, tosses you into a whole new ocean; a purple one!

Sylvia isn’t perfect; she struggles like all sixteen year olds do, like all humans do, and that’s compounded by discovering she has a magical heritage that is dangerous and seems impossible, and meeting a boy (or two!) from that magical world — a boy (or two!) she isn’t sure she can trust. Because that dashing knight might not be the hero, and maybe that stranger made of shadows and darkness is as kind as his eyes; maybe they are trapped in archetypes that should mean one thing, but are in fact something else. Or maybe not. But aside from the romance, there’s also wonder and magic and Handman’s unique and brilliant way of describing.. well, magic and wonder and emotion.

The high point of this story, for me, is just experiencing said magic, the unusual, the very interesting take on a Chosen One trope (in every generation a Phantasmer is born.. or, in this case, every few centuries..) and, more than that, what this Chosen One can do and how they are woven into the very fabric of something so much bigger than them. And what it means to choose for others and what it means to make decisions with the best of intentions. Where she starts out, lashing out at bullies, arguing with her younger brother, is not quite where she ends up, burdened not only with power and responsibility, and coming out the other side intact. Mostly.

IN RESTLESS DREAMS will give you a new perspective on imagination, creativity, emotion, fear and loneliness, the burden of memory, and of the longing to change who you are. This is a solid series opener and I think it’s only going to get better from here.

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

SMAILHOLM by C.L. Williams

Shh! Can you keep a secret?

In wild medieval Britain thirteen-year-old Wynn Hoppringle has a big secret of the smallest kind. She has discovered a miniature village hidden close to her family home of Smailholm Tower. When tales of merciless Border raiders reach the small folk, they realise they are in danger and must seek a cure to their strange predicament. Can Wynn help her tiny friends or will the scheming King quog have other ideas? Heroes, it seems, come in all sizes.


Title : Smailholm
Author : C.L. Williams
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 248
Genre : Middle-grade Fantasy
Publisher : Matador
Release Date : January 28, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

Smailholm was an engaging middle-grade fantasy that was easy to read and fun to enjoy. It is a historical fantasy with olde-worlde language in small parts. I enjoyed the setting of Scotland, the differences between the haves and the have-nots and of course the Lilliput/Borrowers context of little people in a little land.

There were two protagonists in this story, a 13-year old girl called Wynn who was noblewomen-to-be living in Smailholm Tower and then short chapter interludes from Deablin. Who or what Deablin is, is revealed during the story but it was a clever connection, even though her short interjections were sometimes a little confusing. That said, the confusion was part of the story and it did build up to answers eventually.

Wynn had found the little village, hidden under the brambles, where she was a giant and they were very small. Wynn had been getting to know these folks for a few years and they had become trusted friends. At the fore of the village people were Jimmy and Jenny. Vargo, Wynn’s dog was also a key character and a sweet addition to the story.

What starts off as an interesting story becomes one of adventure, fantastical beings and unsavoury creatures. It all made for a rather fast-paced story. There were moments of reading confusion with some of the fantasy elements but the world building came and caught me up on most questions. I found the eventual Deablin answers a bit confusing and some of the beings or spirits connected to that difficult to get into. The rest of the story kept me engaged, however.

The story finished rather openly and with some elements I want to know more about and some characters I need to know about. This was a solid debut from CL Williams and I would definitely read her work again.

I need to mention what a glorious physical creation this book is. It is a small hardback clothbound book with gorgeous illustrations that really helped with the visualisation of beings in this world. The book itself is beautiful to read and own and it stands out amongst other books.

Thank you to the author for a review copy in return for an honest review.

SPELLHACKER by M.K. England

From the author of The Disasters, this genre-bending YA fantasy heist story is perfect for fans of Marie Lu and Amie Kaufman.

In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure.


Title : Spellhacker
Author : M. K. England
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : January 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

I’ve not really had the best luck with queer fantasy lately and that is such a shame. Here is another story that has a great concept that just didn’t quite win in execution. But unlike another recent read, at least I didn’t hate this one? And also, unlike that same book, at least this author prefaced the novel with definitions for the magic system?

And speaking of the magic system, it felt.. new. The fact that not everyone could use it, and there were different levels of ability, but there didn’t seem to be any classism or jealousy between those who could and couldn’t was an interesting mix. The world, too, had a unique feel. I just didn’t love the characters? The plot, and the Big Bad, seemed a little.. thin? I don’t know. Potential was there, and I enjoyed England’s debut, so I kept pushing on. But this just wasn’t a win.

This does seem to be a standalone, however — just like their debut — so it might be worth checking out if you like fantasy and queer representation and heists.

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

DARK AND DEEPEST RED by Anna-Marie McLemore

Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

With McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal. 


Title : Dark and Deepest Red
Author : Anna-Marie McLemore
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends
Release Date : January 14, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I’ve had a few reasons to not rate books over the years. But sometimes the reason is simply because I honestly don’t know what the book deserves. This here is one of those times.

This is my first McLemore despite hearing nothing but wonderful magical things about their writing for.. years. And I can admit, this was magical and at times wonderful. But did I enjoy the experience? I’m not sure. There is so much to be gained by this story, the message within, the truths, the history.. some moments really did wow me. But, again, was this ever actually enjoyable? Not really? So I’m not rating it.

Would I recommend? Maybe. If you’ve read and loved this author before, I think this is going to be another winner for your shelf. With the added bonus of it being a queer retelling. For someone new to this author? I don’t know if this is one to rush out and read. But if you’re curious, feed the beast. Borrow it from your library.

I still have every intention on working through some of McLemore’s backlist.. so maybe that, right there, says it all. Or at least enough.

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

INFINITY SON by Adam Silvera – double review!

Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.


Title : Infinity Son
Author : Adam Silvera
Series : Infinity Cycle (book one)
Format : ARC/eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen/Simon & Schuster UK
Release Date : January 14, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★/DNF


Hollis’ 1 star review

Here’s the thing. I didn’t really want to be here, posting a review for a much hyped book that I clearly didn’t like, but up until the 60% mark I was at least hoping to have one or two good things to say to warrant a two star “hey man, you tried, good on you” rating.

But no. I can’t round up on this.

A combination of mostly annoying (oh god I wanted Brighton to go DIAF times infinity) and or doing-nothing-for-me characters, so little world building that I honestly only understood maybe like 15% of the structure of this universe (and literally, after everything, still don’t know the difference between some of the classification/terms), and the weirdest prophecy or, like, Three Step Apocalypse plan ever? I just can’t. 

I pushed on just to finish this because I was sorta hoping there’d be something worth looking forward to in book two and, again, because for the most part it was mostly meh with just a little frustrating.. until we got near the end and it became mostly frustrating, with lots of meh, and two handfuls of added what-the-fuck-ery.

We flip from action scene to action scene and half the time these kids are bouncing back like they just didn’t get their asses handed to them, while spouting the weirdest cheesey action drama dialogue, and.. yeah, I can’t. Sorry. I don’t even want to be writing this review anymore.

There’s lots of rep in here, which is great, and I’m glad Silvera was able to realize his dreams to write a fantasy with the representation that not only all books deserve but also where he can see himself, and others in, but. But. This just wasn’t a win for me in any way shape or form.

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


Micky’s DNF thoughts (can’t really call it a review)

I tried and tried and tried again but the world felt impossible without adequate world building and I could only stay confused for so long. The language for different beings was constantly thrown around without explanation. The writing style was what I can only describe as awkward. I didn’t once lose myself in the story but I was constantly jarred by the narrative style.

Excuse me while I weep as I wanted so much from this, having enjoyed Adam Silvera’s books previously.

THE NIGHT COUNTRY by Melissa Albert

The highly anticipated sequel to Melissa Albert’s beloved, New York Times bestselling debut The Hazel Wood!

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Woodwas just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home…


Title : The Night Country
Author : Melissa Albert
Series : The Hazel Wood (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : January 7, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

This series has definitely been one of the darker, and bloodier, stories surrounding fairytales that I’ve ever read. And it feels very true, reads so much more honestly, than the versions our generation grew up with. I think it’s that darkness, that depth, that I love most of all. The creativity of twisting these tales, or letting them be their truth, is fantastic. I love it. But there’s also another side of these books that just doesn’t quite line up for me.

In book one, it was Alice’s unlikeable self, the strangeness of the set up, before it finally settled and things were explained. Once again, in book two, it’s the same early chapters where I’m just.. waiting. But this time, I’m waiting it out to understand and see where things are going.. and just how far we’re going to backslide.

This installment does reunite us with a character I didn’t think I missed as much as I did and yet I’m also a little confused about how his presence, and his role, jives with a throwaway line near end of book one? Curious. But anyway I enjoyed his chapters, I enjoyed all the fairytale/Hinterland characters and their backstory woven into their page-time, and I think the eerie disturbing concept around the whole big purpose of THE NIGHT COUNTRY was really interesting and weird, but like, getting there? I don’t know.

Also, I mean, how was it not obvious to an extent? I’m conflicted.

I honestly finished this book with no idea what to rate this. But as I sit here, typing these words, I know : it’s not a four, it’s more than a two, so I guess we’re going with the old faithful three. These are incredibly fascinating and creative books, written so well, but I guess my problem is not always enjoying where it goes? Or how we get from one point to the next? I don’t know, it’s weird. But I’ll definitely keep picking up this author’s books and hoping for a slam dunk win. I think there’s one out there for me.

If you read and enjoyed THE HAZEL WOOD, you absolutely need to pick this up.

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

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