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?

KING OF CROWS by Libba Bray


After the horrifying explosion that claimed one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government, and on the brink of war with the King of Crows.

While Memphis and Isaiah run for their lives from the mysterious Shadow Men, Isaiah receives a startling vision of a girl, Sarah Beth Olson, who could shift the balance in their struggle for peace. Sarah Beth says she knows how to stop the King of Crows-but, she will need the Diviners’ help to do it.

Elsewhere, Jericho has returned after his escape from Jake Marlowe’s estate, where he has learned the shocking truth behind the King of Crow’s plans. Now, the Diviners must travel to Bountiful, Nebraska, in hopes of joining forces with Sarah Beth and to stop the King of Crows and his army of the dead forever.

But as rumors of towns becoming ghost towns and the dead developing unprecedented powers begin to surface, all hope seems to be lost.

In this sweeping finale, The Diviners will be forced to confront their greatest fears and learn to rely on one another if they hope to save the nation, and world from catastrophe..


Title : King of Crows
Author : Libba Bray
Series : The Diviners (book four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 561
Genre : YA fantasy / historical fiction / paranormal
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating :  ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

If not for my respect for the author’s research and unflinching honesty about the history (and horrors) that exist in America (and so many other countries), this would be a one star. She called this a ghost story, and it’s true, because so much of what made up this series was a haunting; a haunting of the forgotten, of what it took to “make” the country; those who were erased in the process, those who continue to be deemed less worthy or overlooked.. there are so many ghosts in that. Many sad, lots of them mad. And Bray never let us forget it.

It was exhausting, sure, but what made it worse were these characters. I’m sorry, I could never find the love, I only ever had brief glimmers of like. What kept me going was the plot. And bizarrely, in this big epic finale, there was almost.. no plot? You would think there would be a big rush to band together, figure out strategy, and confront the Big Bad but.. no. This was some side quest/travel/journey novel from one end of the country to another. With a lot of time just.. passin’ on by. But before we even got to that? We had to survive some stupidity.

“[character x] is killing people for power and has been for years! they are the reason for everything that’s happened! we have to stop them to defeat [big bad villain]!”
“I know! we, a bunch of seventeen year olds, should TALK to this grown adult! I’m sure they don’t know what they are doing!”

[insert “sure Jan” gif here]

This is just one example of the stupid in the early very stages of this book. And maybe it’s naive but after all the stupid in the three books previous (sometimes just the characters being dumb, other times the author making them be stupid for plot reasons) I just.. hoped we wouldn’t still be doing something like this. After everything they’ve been through, everything they now know, and how much character x has done to them personally and others, their first instinct is to drop all other avenues of investigation or planning.. and confront someone for a conversation.

I’m so irritated. Infact that whole scene, and at least one after it, bothered me to no end. And knowing I was only at 14% did not inspire me to continue. But I did. Obviously.

What came after was much slogging, our heroes separated, trying to survive and reunite, only to then just.. hang around on a farm. For some semi-valid reasons, sure, but mostly not. And throughout that time, they were often just so clueless.

So much of the added word count, dare I say filler, never actually feels satisfactorily resolved, either. I’m not even going to touch on how easy the climax/confrontation was to be resolved, after everything, but so many characters who we had been forced to endure, or who had been part of things along the way, are ultimately just.. brushed aside?

Everything about this experience was so strange. So unsatisfying. Which is a strange mix when butted up against my respect for all the elements Bray included and made a point to beat us over the head with.

I cannot recommend the series, part of me even wishes I had my time back (especially for books two and four), but it’s done. And I’ll hopefully never see or hear the words Baby Vamp, Lamb Chop, copacetic, or pos-i-tutely ever again.

This was a pretty disappointing note to end on as I wrap my Five Series to Finish in 2021 goal but. But! I did it. I already have a whole new selection for 2022 (blog post to come!) and I can’t wait to continue to close out more started-but-yet-to-finish-reading series in the new year.

BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU by Libba Bray

New York City.
1927.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming…


After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves. 


Title : Before the Devil Breaks You
Author : Libba Bray
Series : The Diviners (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 561
Genre : YA fantasy / historical fiction / paranormal
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 3, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating :  ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

You know those books that have very clear peaks and valleys in enjoyment where you can point out “see that? that’s where I started to hate this” or “this, this was where I felt the story redeemed itself”. Well.. yeah, this is one of those.

What started off slow, quickly (well.. not quickly, this is almost six hundred pages after all) started to prove itself better than its predecessor; and I don’t just mean plot-wise. Because for some of this I was having fun with the characters, too. But of course we can’t have nice things so that took a serious dive (or two!), and we ended things back where we started with me being checked out on character and only here for over arcing plot.

I don’t know if it’s really just me (likely, based on ratings) that can’t connect to these characters or what but like.. it’s not even that they just aren’t likeable. They just have do some questionable, sometimes outright stupid, things. Some can be blamed on the author who has thrown at least one under the bus for the sake of resolving a romance (which.. I’ll get to this in a mo) but the rest just seem to be their personality and, welp, I’m not here for it.

Much like how I wasn’t getting on with the characters, I also wasn’t getting on with the majority of the romances. In fact.. the only ones I liked where the queer pairings? And they didn’t even get much page time. Maybe that’s what saved them. As for what wasn’t saved, aforementioned character and the bus, like.. wow. Harsh. I guess that’s one way to solve a love triangle? Just kidding, no it is not. Curious to see that fall to shit in book four.

And having that said, I don’t understand how in a book with so much happening, much action, much filler, many characters, there were so many scenes that were just.. rushed over? Seemed to have been skimmed? It made the pacing so strange and it made the whole experience frustrating as, again, I was actually liking this more than I wasn’t. Until the last 20%.

Very glad there’s only one more book to go because even though this series hasn’t been a total fail (though it obviously hasn’t been a total win, either) it’s rather exhausting to be trapped in this dreary racist past (as opposed to our dreary racist present) and I find my skin crawls more from the terrible non-magical human characters than it does from the spooky ghosts or horror elements. Imma need something fluffy after this for sure.

THE KEEPER OF NIGHT by Kylie Lee Baker

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side. 


Title : The Keeper of Night
Author : Kylie Lee Baker
Series : The Keeper of Night (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 401
Genre : YA historical fiction fantasy
Publisher : Inkyard Press
Release Date : October 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I don’t know about you but I hadn’t heard much about The Keeper of Night. So if, like me, you were oblivious to its existence.. you may want to pay attention.

Ren’s entire existence is defined by being on the outside. The daughter of an English Reaper and a Japanese Shinigami, she resides in London and is bullied, disrespected, and ignored for her heritage — something that, I’ll admit, was really getting my back up because I thought her father, the obvious culprit for her dual heritage, had been let off the hook and all the hate and distrust was focused solely on his daughter. And well.. he is demoted for his transgressions but Ren still bears the brunt of it as he gets to, mostly, wash his hands of it all. I got to say, I’m hella tired of that particular narrative. Next time I want the kid to be welcomed and the parents to be ostracized please and thank you. Also, I hope more of this backstory is explained in book two as, currently, I’m not quite satisfied by how things stand.

But anyway, stuff happens and Ren is forced on the run and her brother, who has always loved her despite having been also tarred with some of the same brush as his sister, even though he is not biracial, flees to Japan with her. And basically this whole relationship, this whole bond? The best. They didn’t always get on, they could never full understand each other, but they were still there for each other.. though this bond definitely does get tested along the way. Especially when Neven admits to feeling like a fish out of water in Japan and expresses those feelings to Ren, even though it was only a glimpse of what Ren had endured in London for centuries — and I really loved that Baker explored this.

While so much of this story ends up being about Japanese mythology and legends, the author leans close to, if not outright, grimdarkness with some of the violence and demons they encounter. Maybe it’s not quite grim but it is dark. Being that the whole premise is set around death and soul collecting, I like that this wasn’t glossed over considering the target audience.

Also not glossed over is Ren’s anger, which we see explode out of her a few times once she’s away from London and is able to both articulate and let herself rage, about all the years of being told who she is, what she isn’t, and how she’s not accepted. Because unlike what she thought.. she is not immediately welcomed in Japan. She’s seen, once again, as a foreigner. This disappointment felt so raw and real and I honestly have no words to describe it.

Where things sorta fell apart for me was near the end. I knew this wasn’t a standalone (yay it’s only a duology!) so maybe that explains why the big climax came upon us in a bit of a quick and dramatic fashion — well, there’s two, really. I loved the first, which I sorta saw coming (but one reveal was still a surprise) but it was what followed that.. I don’t know. I really enjoyed where things ended, though, and I’m so keen to see how it all resolves — or if it even does — in book two.

If you’re looking for a dark YA fantasy, set in the past, with a compelling setting, rich in atmosphere and setting, with a main character who isn’t remotely the hero, though not quite a villain, but definitely grey in hue.. you should give this a go.

** I received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher (thank you!) and this in no way influenced my review. **

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