THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray

SOMETHING DARK AND EVIL HAS AWAKENED…

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries her uncle will discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho is hiding a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…


Title : The Diviners
Author : Libba Bray
Series : The Diviners (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 578
Genre : YA fantasy / historical fiction / paranormal
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 18, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating :  ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

Well, here we are. The start of my last undertaking to complete my Five Series to Finish in 2021 challenge. And of course I saved the chonkiest instalments for last.. poor (maybe!) planning on my part but I always intended to save these for spoopy season. And I don’t regret that choice — so far.

This was a reread for me, as I gave up on this series due to extended gaps between releases, but everything on from here will be new. Having said that, I remembered the broad strokes of the plot, and most of the main character’s persona, but not much else. So a lot of this was still surprising. But other than the atmosphere, the vibe, and the setting which lends itself to both very gloomy and also very glittery (1920s), I didn’t.. love it.

This is a long book and hoo boy does it feel long at times. I could more or less lose myself in the anticipation of the reveal and the mystery and the lead-up to the big confrontation but if I paused to take breaks, I didn’t feel inspired to come back to this. Also, at this point, there isn’t a single character who has stolen my heart. Most are fine, or interesting, or tolerable, but perhaps some of my ambivalence is because I just don’t have a favourite. Right now this is definitely a read I’m looking forward to continuing for plot reasons only.

For those of you who don’t know what this series is about, here’s some broad strokes : prohibition, the occult, America, racism, grief, murder, paranormal, spooky vibes, flappers.. and more!

I’ve yet to decide if I’m diving right into book two (I know, shocking! but again.. these are long) or if I’ll divert myself with a palate cleanser. Either way, looking forward to seeing how the rest of this unfolds.

WHITE SMOKE by Tiffany D. Jackson

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

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

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

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 review

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

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

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

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

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

THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON by Ryan Douglass

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

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

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

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

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

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

EAT YOUR HEART OUT by Kelly deVos

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

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

1–We’ll be rescued (unlikely)

2–We’ll freeze to death (maybe)

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

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

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

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?



Title : This is Not a Test
Author : Courney Summers
Series : This is Not a Test (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 337
Genre : YA horror/post-apocalyptic thriller
Publisher : St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date : June 19, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5



Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I wish I could say my problem with this book was the fact that I was reading about the downfall of society in the face of a zombie apolcalypse whilst enduring a global pandemic but sadly this just sucked because of the characters. However the scary part is it is very likely to be a realistic portrayal of a group of dysfunctional teens and the drama and chaos as they try to survive.. but it still just sucked to experience.

The arguments, the antagonizing, the petty BS.. it was just never ending. This clocks in at just over three hundred pages but it felt so much longer and I dreaded picking this up every time I put it down. Which is why I powered through it this afternoon just to be done with it. The zombie aspect was fine and I actually liked those action sequences. I would’ve been happier with more of those, maybe? It was the humans I hated. I definitely wanted them to die off quicker. Too harsh? Sorry.

That said, I did pick up the novella that follows this, from a different POV, and that was better. Not good or great but readable. Also, short! It was more action packed but with an ending that was pretty sad, awful, sawful and yet also somewhat open ended so I don’t think if there’s eventual plans for more or not. But.

There are plenty of similar themed stories out there. I would give this a miss.

THE TENTH GIRL by Sara Faring

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.


Title : The Tenth Girl
Author : Sara Faring
Format : ARC
Page Count : 460
Genre : YA historical horror/thriller
Publisher : Imprint
Release Date : September 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So here’s my problem with THE TENTH GIRL. If this was a more straight-forward, yet twisty, gothic horror, I think it would’ve been amazing. Parts of this were really good. The atmosphere, the creepy factor, the isolated strangeness of the setting, the eerie encroaching darkness of it all.. it was great.

But instead this book is a lot more than meets the eye. Infact in hindsight you see a lot of the clues, or at least I do, but even had I noticed, even if they had got me wondering, nothing could have prepared me for that this book actually is. It’s a very.. risky choice. Bold, even. Particularly for a debut.

The good thing is you get a sense early on that things aren’t quite as the appear. But the problem is just how not as the appear things really are. It didn’t work for me. My mind is trying to make it work but I had certain expectations about this book and the story as a whole didn’t meet them. So maybe that’s on me.

This is a spoiler free zone. This is the only kind of review you will, get the vaguest of vague, which will either intrigue or scare you off. Either choice is valid.

I might read this author again but unfortunately I can’t say this book gave me what I wanted.

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

DEAD VOICES by Katherine Arden

Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces.

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

With Mr. Voland’s help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.

Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.


Title : Dead Voices
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Small Spaces (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 256
Genre : MG fantasy/paranormal mystery/horror
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : August 27, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Well hello, I’m delightfully creeped out right now.

DEAD VOICES reunites us with the trio from SMALL SPACES, Arden’s first in this middle grade fantasy and paranormal horror mystery series. They survived the creepy scarecrows and fall-themed maze, they survived the Smiling Man, and now they are off to vacation at a ski resort during the holidays. But the vacation ends up being less hot chocolates and fun in the snow and more snowstorms and failing heat, hauntings and danger.

Since October, none of them had liked being alone in the dark. It wasn’t that they were afraid, exactly. But they had learned that bad things could happen to you. At night. Alone. In the dark.

Arden is no stranger to weaving magic with her words and creating a biting, brutal, and unforgiving atmosphere. The Winternight Trilogy still makes me cold to think of it (amongst other things!) and she brings that same talent to this instalment. What I think is actually the coolest (hah) part of this series is each book is set during a season; fall for SMALL SPACES and now winter for DEAD VOICES. It’s wonderfully creative. But onto this story itself.

The Ouija board was like the worst text messenger ever, Coco thought in annoyance.

If your imagination is overactive during the night, seeing shapes move in shadow and darkness, if you hear voices in the whisper of the wind, feel someone move behind you as your skin breaks into goosebumps, but there’s no one there.. you’ll probably hate this story. In the best way! Because this book really was eerie, really was creepy, and the ghoulish fear of spirits and the unforgiving violence of the cold is right in your face. Sometimes literally.

Beyond the characters and the seasons, there is connection between book one and two and I was not totally expecting it. But we also see some non-fantastical growth, too, and it was lovely to be back with this trio — and Ollie’s dad, too. Shoutout to awesome parents in fiction!

I am definitely hoping that Brian will be getting some time front and centre with the upcoming instalment and, based on how this one went, giving Coco some of the focus in addition to Ollie, I would be surprised if that wasn’t the plan anyway.

Can’t wait for more from this world and this author.

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

PAN’S LABYRINTH : THE LABYRINTH OF THE FAUN by Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke

Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke come together to transform del Toro’s hit movie Pan’s Labyrinth into an epic and dark fantasy novel for readers of all ages, complete with gorgeous and haunting illustrations.

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It’s not for skeptics who don’t believe in fairy tales and the powerful forces of good. It’s only for brave and intrepid souls like you, who will stare down evil in all its forms.

Inspired by the critically acclaimed film written and directed by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and reimagined by New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke, this haunting tale takes readers to a darkly magical and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous men, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.

Perfect for fans of the movie and readers who are new to del Toro’s visionary work, this atmospheric and absorbing novel is a portal to another universe where there is no wall between the real and the imagined. A daring, unforgettable collaboration between two brilliant storytellers.


Title : Pan’s Labyrinth : The Labyrinth of the Faun
Author : Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke
Format : ARC
Page Count : 262
Genre : YA fantasy horror / retelling
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : July 2, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, I totally thought this was an MG story and hahahaha no.

I don’t know about the rest of you but when I think Pan’s Labyrinth I think [insert creepy dude with eyes in the palms of his hands here]. I only saw the movie once, a million years ago, and I thought this was an extension of the story or just inspired by it. But from what I understand (because I sure don’t remember enough to say for certain) is that this is an expanded, additionally layered, version of the movie itself.

Which should tell you who should or should not be reading this.

This is classified as YA I think but it is quite dark, if not considered outright horror, but it’s not just the fantastical elements that are dark. It’s the human elements, too. The brutalities done not only by bad men during times of war but bad men, period, who need no excuse.

There is melancholy and bitterness and grief and loneliness and yet the enduring belief in magic, in fairytales, in hope, too. The story is both bleak and yet also whimsical, captivatingly creative and cringey creepy, and the illustrations were just gorgeous.

This book consumed me and I loved every moment.

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

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