BENEATH THE KEEP by Erika Johansen

The Tearling has reverted to feudalism, a far cry from the utopia it was founded to be. As the gap between rich and poor widens and famine threatens the land, sparking unrest, rumors of a prophecy begin to spread: a great hope, a True Queen who will rise up and save the kingdom.

But rumors will not help Lazarus, a man raised to kill in the brutal clandestine underworld of the Creche, nor Aislinn, a farm girl who must reckon with her own role in the growing rebellion. In the Keep, the crown princess, Elyssa, finds herself torn between duty to the throne and the lure of the Blue Horizon, a group of fierce idealists who promise radical change . . . but Elyssa must choose quickly, before a nefarious witch and her shadowy master use dark magic to decide for her. It is only a matter of time before all three will be called into the service of something bigger than they have ever imagined: a fight for a better world. 


Title : Beneath the Keep
Author : Erika Johansen
Series : The Queen of the Tearling (book zero/prequel)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 448
Genre : fantasy/dystopian
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Anyone who has read The Queen of the Tearling series probably knew what to expect for this unexpected prequel release. After all, we had mostly learned of all the pre-Kelsea events along the way of the main trilogy. And yet somehow the author still managed to drop a few surprises along the way. And still make this incredibly compelling.

As usual, even though this isn’t a sequel, not a prequel, I can’t say much plot-wise. But if you are new to, or unfamiliar with, this world, you should know it has layers, depths, of darkness. It’s cruel and unjust but glimmers of hope streak through the mire. This was the turning point for these characters, for the world, but there is still much to happen, to endure, before the end.

And some of that might even be an unknown. I don’t know what more is to come, or what time it will fill (likely upto book one? we have quite a few years yet to live through..), but I am keen for it. Completing this series was one of my 2020 successes and I am still riding high on that experience; adding to that delight was, upon finishing, realizing more books were coming (serendipitity!), so I’ll take anything the author is willing to dole out.

A TOUCH OF STONE AND SNOW by Milla Vane

Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.

When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile. 

Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess’s demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms…


Title : A Touch of Stone and Snow
Author : Milla Vane
Series : A Gathering of Dragons (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 398
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : July 21, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I definitely liked this more than book one but not more than the prequel (which you should read after book one, by the way). But there are definitely still parts I had to slog through. Thankfully this installment is significantly shorter than book one (almost six hundred pages vs just shy of four) but.. it still felt very long, particularly in the beginning.

I’m not sure I really liked either of the main characters, which is sad as I really liked book one’s heroine, but unlike the hero in book one, at least no one annoyed me in this one. I think I struggled, mostly in the beginning, because there was just so much time bouncing between past events and current that it was hard to hold onto who they were now. And also likely not helped by just feeling a little lost and without any certain footing in said beginning. The middle to almost climax was definitely the highlight for me, both fast paced and interesting, but the actual big conflict seemed.. well, dumb. And over before I even realized. It resolved so quickly it actually took me a few pages to realize it was over and they hadn’t just paused for an interlude.

That said, what helped me feel better about this one was, while I acknowledged and appreciated the worldbuilding Vane put in, from day on, this was the first time I felt proper understanding of some of the mythology. I don’t know if it was poorly explained or we just weren’t meant to know the whole picture up until now (or I’m dumb) but.. I’m diggin’ it. I’m on board. And I like what has been set up for book three, too. Of course, now that I’m caught up I have to wait like everyone else but.. oh well.

Not quite sure this is going to be a series I would go out of my way to recommend but I definitely wouldn’t talk you out of it if you’re already interested in diving in.

POISONED by Jennifer Donnelly

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.


Title : Poisoned
Author : Jennifer Donnelly
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 331
Genre : YA fantasy retelling
Publisher : Scholastic Press
Release Date : October 20, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I was keen for this retelling because of how much I had loved Stepsister, the author’s previous fantasy reimagining, and yet almost from the get-go I knew this wouldn’t have the same kind of magic as the Cinderella-inspired story did.

While there was a lot of creative elements at work within Donnelly’s version of Snow White, I was, sadly, bored and uninspired by much of it. I missed the hard feminist edge that we’ve had in the author’s aforementioned work. It wasn’t totally missed here, there were some interesting points about the stepmother and her role, and I loved how that was spun, but.. that was really the only highlight.

If you have yet to read this author, I would definitely start with this one if you want a dark fairytale reimagining, but I think starting with Stepsister will leave you as disappointed by this one as I was. That same spark just isn’t here.

If the author has more dark reworkings in her future I will still pick them up. But my expectations will be quite a bit lower.

A WISH UPON THE STARS by TJ Klune

Nearly a year ago, blinded by grief and betrayal, Sam of Wilds made a desperate decision to follow the Great White into the Dark Woods. Now, he emerges to a world changed.

The City of Lockes is a prison. The King has been locked away in the dungeons. The Kingdom of Verania has fallen, and the Dark wizard Myrin sits on the throne. 

But soon after his return, Sam learns of a resistance fighting in his name led by a courageous knight, a defiant prince, a pissed-off unicorn, and a half-giant who wants to smash everything in sight. If he has any hope of defeating the villains who have taken their home, Sam must face the consequences of his choices—and the friends he left behind.


Title : A Wish Upon the Stars
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 450
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Welp, it’s done. We made it.

Sorta. Almost. <– because the short story/fairytale collection is out in April and also the series will continue with a different MC in 2022, I think. But for n o w. It’s done.

I’m not really going to have anything new to say about this series, not even for the finale. I joked with my buddies that if the author had cut out all the repetition and rehashing we’d only have had two books to read through instead of four. I stand by that statement. Pretty much nothing happened until 60% (and these are not short books so that was a long 60%), or at least not much we hadn’t already gone over or lived through or had some variation of before, so.. yeah. Says a lot, I think.

There were moments that made me snort. Maybe one particular scene almost had me welling up. But overall? These books are just A Lot. The characters are Too Much. And everything that happens is What The Fuck. So if that sounds like your jam, read on! Dive in! Enjoy!

I definitely did not get out of this what I thought I would, back when I first started, but that’s okay. I am happy to have completed a series (for now) and for the buddy read adventure with said buddies.

THE CONSUMPTION OF MAGIC by TJ Klune

Sam of Wilds faced the Dark wizard Myrin and lived to tell the tale. Granted, the battle left him scarred, but things could be a hell of a lot worse.

It’s not until he reunites with Morgan of Shadows and Randall that he realizes just how much worse things could be.

Because the scars have meaning and hint at Myrin’s true plans for Sam and the Kingdom of Verania.

With time running out, Sam and his band of merry misfits—the unicorn Gary, the half-giant Tiggy, Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart, and the dragon known as Kevin—must travel to the snowy mountains in the North and the heart of the Dark Woods to convince the remaining dragons to stand against Myrin. Along the way, Sam learns secrets of the past that will forever change the course of the future.

A reckoning is coming for Sam of Wilds, and there is nothing he can do to stop it.


Title : The Consumption of Magic
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 397
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I realize I have been far from effusive over my feelings about this series but this might’ve been the first one in the series I actively disliked. I can’t even blame it on the “too much, too soon” binge situation because this is not a series we’re bingeing. It’s been a few weeks since I read book two. And yet..

As mentioned in one of my previous reviews, though it bears repeating, everything from the first two books is back again, from the oversharing and crude ridiculousness, to the almost parody-like fantasy plot, and if things were thought to be dramatic before? It gets better/worse/more (pick your preference).

There might’ve been a moment or two that seemed sweet or funny or even sad and heartbreaking. But overwhelmingly I just.. can’t. I’m frustrated or annoyed or bored by so much of this; but only to a mild extent. I don’t really feel any kind of extreme about this world. I might’ve considered actually ditching this one if not for my buddies; I was definitely kind of wishing I wouldn’t need to continue after this installment. But the ending did things and I admit my perverse curiosity wouldn’t let me stop either way, buddies or no.

Weirdly I think the only character I actually got on with this time was Justin. Because he is just so over everything and everyone; he is all of us (me). I seriously appreciated him in this book. More page time in the next books, please! Also, do we know how much further there is to go in this world? Just.. curious. No reason why.

Despite the fact that I already reused part of a review for this one, I am going to reiterate the following : I am definitely not recommending these books. They just exist; and I’m spending time with them. Nothing more. But if it sounds like your thing, I hope you have the best time. I can definitely see the appeal but it’s just not my jam.

BLOOD HEIR by Ilona Andrews – double review!

Atlanta was always a dangerous city. Now, as waves of magic and technology compete for supremacy, it’s a place caught in a slow apocalypse, where monsters spawn among the crumbling skyscrapers and supernatural factions struggle for power and survival.

Eight years ago, Julie Lennart left Atlanta to find out who she was. Now she’s back with a new face, a new magic, and a new name—Aurelia Ryder—drawn by the urgent need to protect the family she left behind. An ancient power is stalking her adopted mother, Kate Daniels, an enemy unlike any other, and a string of horrifying murders is its opening gambit.

If Aurelia’s true identity is discovered, those closest to her will die. So her plan is simple: get in, solve the murders, prevent the prophecy from being fulfilled, and get out without being recognized. She expected danger, but she never anticipated that the only man she’d ever loved could threaten everything.

One small misstep could lead to disaster. But for Aurelia, facing disaster is easy; it’s relationships that are hard.


Title : Blood Heir
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Aurelia Ryder (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 359
Genre : urban fantasy / paranormal romance
Publisher : NYLA
Release Date : January 12, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

It happened. It really happened. We are back in the Kate Daniels universe. What a time to be alive.

However, so saying, I don’t even know where to begin writing this review. Everything kind of feels like a spoiler? Even though the synopsis reveals the score it still feels like it could be a surprise to those who are even more blurb and spoiler averse than myself. So suffice it to say.. you are in for so much fun.

My patience is an infinite lake. Feel free to drown yourself.

I feel like that quote, however, is a direct callout to the readers. Because these authors now know (always knew..) we are going to be clamouring for more and thankfully have quickly set expectations for their schedule. This series is not being traditionally published so it comes last in current commitments but from what I recall they said they would be starting to draft this year (incase you didn’t know they did confirm two more for this series) and maybe spending next year dealing with a bunch more self-published works? I think that even (finally) might mean more Hugh.. dreams do come true! But the fact that this even became a book at all is just.. I’m so happy.

I realize this review is mostly a discussion about the authors and book release, so, ahem. Here you go. I loved being back in this world, I loved the new direction, and I loved how things have shifted (hah.. sorry, shifter joke) for some of the familiar faces. Snark, banter, kickass battle sequences, weird ass monsters, nostalgia (for me AND our lead), complex magic, prophecies and destinies and predictions of death, and aaaaaangst. It is all here. Good times.

Also don’t forget to check out the little extras at the end! Even more good times.


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Happy sighs, favourite world
Slow burn
Secrets
Potential couple goals

I am all smiles that I got to read another book in this world when I thought re-reads would be the only balm on Kate Daniels need. I loved that even though there was much familiarity, there was also freshness to revel in.

Aurelia was unexpected and fierce. I really enjoyed the details of her character, her powers, her missing history was slowly revealed and I was always guessing about her. I know for sure there is more revealing to come as this series plays out.

Aurelia wasn’t the only familiar face to spring through the pages and some I knew would be coming and others bowled me over with a bit of a shock wave. This one wasn’t to gory for my delicate nature (I often had to grit my teeth through Kate Daniels gore). I felt like there was some nuture coming into play with Aurelia and the street kids. That was something that really drew me to Aurelia.

There’s a slow burn of something in this first installment and it oh so reminded me of Kate and Curran but again with a fresh feel. No details here but I found it pretty thrilling. Also banter, this world brings all the banter and I lap it up

“Stabby.” She claimed it wasn’t a proper name for a weapon, so after the first Dakkan broke, I offered to name the new one Sharpy McStabbison, the Son of Stabby.

Ilona Andrews fans will not be disappointed.

A DESTINY OF DRAGONS by TJ Klune

Once upon a time, the wizard’s apprentice, Sam of Wilds, got his happily ever after in the arms of his cornerstone, Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart. A year has passed, and while Sam’s been captured five or six more times since then, things are pretty great. His parents are happy, Gary and Tiggy still eat sass for breakfast, Randall is somehow alive despite being older than the gods, the King rules with a gentle hand, Kevin the dragon is as gross as ever, Morgan sighs a lot, Ryan continues to be dashing and immaculate, and Sam is close to convincing Prince Justin they will be best friends forever. Life is good. 

Until it’s not. 

Because Vadoma, the leader of the gypsy clan and Sam’s grandmother, has come to the City of Lockes with a dire prophecy written in the stars: a man of shadows is rising and will consume the world unless Sam faces his destiny and gathers the five dragons of Verania at his side. 

And she brings along her second-in-command, a man named Ruv. Ruv, who Vadoma says is Sam’s true cornerstone


Title : A Destiny of Dragons
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 377
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

If I thought this series would get any less like a bizarro trippy experience? I was dumb. Because why would it do that if we’d made it this far. If anything this series just gets weirder, and more absurd, in this second installment but it’s still compulsively readable. Likely I would not be prioritizing this series if not for my buddy reading buddies (hi!).. otherwise, well. I don’t think I would drop it but, yeah, suffice it to say it would not be topping my read pile right now. But whatever.

You really don’t understand boundaries, do you?
Only that they were meant to be broken.

Everything from book one is back again, from the oversharing and crude ridiculousness, to the almost parody-like fantasy plot, and if things were thought to be dramatic before? It gets better/worse/more (pick your preference).

You don’t see the way he stares at me sometimes.
I’ll bite. How does he stare at you?
Like I’m an idiot.
Sam. You are an idiot.”
Oh. Things suddenly make much more sense right now.”

As far as the romance, things are also better/worse/more (pick your preference) as book one’s conflict is replaced with something new but also different. It definitely got one of my buddies to switch shipping teams (literally the highlight of the whole read). But I also like how it resolved; though I’m not sure we’ve seen the last of it.

Sam, we’re born from magic. We don’t have parents. We are created when the world needs us most. There’s magic everywhere, in the smallest of things. Once there’s enough concentration of it, and once the world wills it so, a dragon is born.
But.. but, that’s so stupid. What the fuck is that esoteric bullshit?”

For all that this is still whacky and weird and I’m obviously continuing on with the series (hi again buddies), I still don’t really think I actually like this. There are moments, sure, that I might laugh or be entertained by something. And it’s certainly high on the hot scale compared to my other experiences with Klune. But for all that, and I realize it’s not much so this will come as no surprise, I am definitely not recommending it. It just exists; and I’m spending time with it. Nothing more.

CONCRETE ROSE by Angie Thomas

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man. 


Title : Concrete Rose
Author : Angie Thomas
Series : The Hate You Give (prequel/companion)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Balzer + Bray
Release Date : January 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I think what surprised me most about this was how.. quiet this book felt.

It isn’t without impactful moments, and is certainly peppered with painful observations about what it means to be a young Black man (both as an individual and within society), but still somehow it was quiet. Tender. There is an ache to this story, to the losses, and the struggle to open one’s self up to a dream for more. But it’s also so full of love.

This is such an important story not because it spoke of one important thing really loudly but because it spoke of a lot of things rather quietly.

This will definitely sit with me for a while — and is likely why I’m struggling a bit on what to say — but I highly recommend. Even if you haven’t read The Hate U Give, I think you should absolutely pick this up.

THE LIGHTNING-STRUCK HEART by TJ Klune

Once upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City of Lockes, a young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.

Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam’s pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the King’s Wizard, Morgan of Shadows.

When Sam is fourteen, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-giant named Tiggy, earning the moniker Sam of Wilds.

At fifteen, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at the castle. Sir Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed.

Naturally, it all goes to hell through the years when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can’t control his magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the King sends them on an epic quest to save Ryan’s boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.

Or so he thinks.


Title : The Lightning-Struck Heart
Author : TJ Klune
Series : Tales from Verania (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 480
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ fantasy romance
Publisher : BOATK Books
Release Date : November 12, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated



Hollis’ unrated review

If ever a book made you feel a little like you were on drugs, it would probably be this one. What a trip.

This was such a weird experience. I knew going into this to expect some extreme or absurb fantasy, with Klune himself leaning into the absurb slapsticky kind of humour, and yet somehow I was still not prepared. This is weird and wild and I would probably not recommend this to most readers. Particularly if you haven’t at least had a taste of what Klune can do.

I’m trying to be subtle here.”
You’re a talking unicorn. Sometimes when you poop, it comes out as rainbows and smells like cookies. There is nothing subtle about you.”

This story features a hornless gay unicorn, a half giant, an aggressively horny dragon, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The good thing is that most of those specific characters, along with our protagonist, Sam the apprentice wizard with the great power and great responsibility, were some of my favourites. They were ridiculous and their antics were outright lunacy but the friendship bonds were just so wholesome (even when they weren’t) and sweet and discounting the fact that Sam sometimes had two page run-on monologues (despite the fact that a running joke is how the Dark Wizards are monologue fiends and they hate it) I really did love them.

I would ask you to dance, but I don’t know how to dance, so maybe we can just stand near each other and talk awkwardly.”

I do just wish there was more, like, distinction between some of the other characters. The main cast came through pretty clear (with the love interest maybe being the one exception because he was all other the place For Reasons) but some of the secondary/tertiary characters felt a little lumped in together/silly and same-y, and considering some of their roles I don’t think it made sense. But that’s a fairly picky thing to pick at considering, like, this whole book was just.. strange compulsively funny readable strange nonsense.

Everything is a life lesson. Like these invitations from potential suitors.”
Your segue was clunky and I am embarassed for you.”

Which is why I’m not rating it because where would I even begin.

I’ve just had the most wonderful idea.”
Uh oh. Hold on to it. I have a feeling those are a rarity.

It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s pervy AF, it’s bizarre, crude, hella queer, occasionally annoying or frustrating, but also fun. This somehow manages to be a light fantasy, and also sort’ve a parody, while still being fantastical and questy and destiny.. -y. If that sounds like your cup of acid trip, definitely pick this up. For all that there’s a significant page count, I don’t think this’ll bore you, just bewilder you, but you’ll probably still find yourself laughing along. And if you come out of this story not loving Gary? We need to talk.

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins – double review!

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie­ Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?


Title : The Wife Upstairs
Author : Rachel Hawkins
Narrators : Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Fortgant
Format : Audiobook / eBook (overdrive)
Length : 8 hours 39 minutes / 277 pages
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : MacMillan Audio / St. Martin’s Press
Release Date : January 5, 2021

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


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Morally grey characters in every direction
Unreliable narrators
Twists in unexpected ways
A side order of Big Little Lies feeling

I heard the words Jane Eyre re-telling and I ran pretty fast to this audiobook. The Wife Upstairs mostly had the atmosphere I was seeking and I totally enjoyed seeing a contemporary envisoning of the familiar characters of Jane Eyre, especially Eddie, Jane, Blanche and B. Adele was a treat too.

As you would imagine, the focus started on Jane and I liked that Jane was not the angel she was in the original book, this made me feel more invested because I knew this was going to be different. Jane was a plotter, a climber and she had goals, so much so that I thought I knew where this would lead; I was wrong.

Blanche and B ‘Bertha’ were like the ugly sisters or mean girls all rolled into one. Blanche being a more fleshed out character was a very welcome element to the story. Eddie was never really likeable and that crushed my Rochester-loving heart a little but then this wasn’t a romance.

The storyline was pretty clever and this audiobook kept me guessing and invested. I did sometimes get confused with Bee (or B) and Blanche and the two female narrators didn’t sound that different to me, even with their different accents, so I had to really concentrate at times.

The culmination was good, if quick wrap up. The Wife Upstairs was an addictive and enjoyable listen. I would love to see some more classic re-envisioning as thrillers. Such a great idea.

Thank you to LibroFM and MacMillan Audio for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything Rachel Hawkins has released (notably mostly YA stuff but hey!) so this was on my radar even before I knew it was a Jane Eyre-inspired retelling; and not only that but a thriller/mystery to boot. Lots of boxes were being checked here.

I’ll admit this was kind of a slowburn for me that never really built the blazing inferno I might’ve expected.. or at least wanted. But at the same time it dragged me away from other distractions throughout the day and I chewed through it pretty quick. So maybe it was less of a build and more just a steady solitary flame?

Either way, if you’re a fan of the original classic or just know the bare bones this’ll definitely appeal to both kind of reader. There’s enough that sticks true to the story but so much, too, that differs; and I was particularly interested in which characters Hawkins decided to flesh out, and how.

If you’re looking for a Southern Gothic vibe kind of mystery, with twists and homages, you should give this one a try.