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 ATLAS SIX by Olivie Blake

The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation. 

Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person’s inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications. 

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society’s archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will. 

Most of them.


Title : The Atlas Six
Author : Olivie Blake
Series : The Atlas (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : TorBooks
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

I don’t think it’s hype that shot me in the foot for this one, necessarily, but I definitely think my expectations, or preconceived notions, about what this was were.. not on the mark. Even if I had some of the elements right.

If you’re anticipating this to be a little bit dark, a lot magical, academic for sure, and featuring an ensemble of personas that run the gamut of archetypes, well. You’ll find all of it. This book is also very smart? Or at least too smart for me. Blake did a good job of presenting theories and discussion with words I could follow, and mostly with concepts I could parse, but occasionally I would just find myself going along with it.

I think for all the hugeness of the scope there is also a very small window into said world. Both in setting and in some of the potential for the characters that sometimes we glimpsed — whereas other times they just spun their wheels or went through the usual motions — but there’s lots of room here for more, I think. And with some very key, and some unexpected, reveals and directions this has shifted into near the end.. maybe we’ll get that in book two. There may also be more value in these beginnings in hindsight, who knows.

So while I was far from blown away, I’m definitely interested in more. If you’re looking for a helpful review, this will not be it! Sorry.

WHEN SORROWS COME by Seanan McGuire

When October is informed that Simon Torquill—legally her father, due to Faerie’s archaic marriage traditions—must be invited to her wedding or risk the

It’s hard to be a hero. There’s always something needing October “Toby” Daye’s attention, and her own desires tend to fall by the wayside in favor of solving the Kingdom’s problems. That includes the desire to marry her long-time suitor and current fiancé, Tybalt, San Francisco’s King of Cats. She doesn’t mean to keep delaying the wedding, it just sort of…happens. And that’s why her closest friends have taken the choice out of her hands, ambushing her with a court wedding at the High Court in Toronto. Once the High King gets involved, there’s not much even Toby can do to delay things…

…except for getting involved in stopping a plot to overthrow the High Throne itself, destabilizing the Westlands entirely, and keeping her from getting married through nothing more than the sheer volume of chaos it would cause. Can Toby save the Westlands and make it to her own wedding on time? Or is she going to have to choose one over the other?


Title : When Sorrows Come
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : October Daye (book fifteen)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : urban fantasy
Publisher : DAW
Release Date : September 14, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Yep, it’s me. I’m still reading this (in my opinion) lacklustre series. 

Overall I’m rather underwhelmed about this instalment which makes a nice departure from previous instalments which have often annoyed me. Toby is up to her usual cavalier shenanigans, her narration is full of lighthearted dramatics, she’s delightfully (not) hypocritical about others who crack jokes in tense situations right after she’s done the same, she spews meaningful backstory to strangers for no reason except exposition as well as redundantly trying to convince us things are meaningful..

.. oh but she finally got married. To Tybalt. Eventually.

Before it can happen, though, we have coups and assassinations and all sorts of the usual-in-this-world hijinks. And, again, as usual, the High King of Everything (whatever) felt pretty incompetent and, at times, needed fae-specific things explained to him. Him. The High King. Was it to make Toby look better or what? Not sure. I didn’t understand this. But it certainly didn’t stop him, or the Queen, from throwing the occasional jabs and blame her way.. even though she hadn’t even wanted to be there and everything would’ve been worse had she not been there to save the day and be the hero. I know I complain about this series, and this character, all the time but there are times that the bigger injustice is how other characters treat this character I don’t even like. Not always. But sometimes. In this case it was milder than it’s been in the past but still a recurring and perplexing phenomenon. 

I did kind of love (this wasn’t a surprise, we’ve known since book one) that the High Kingdom or whatever is situated in Toronto but this time we were actually there, visiting, and there were some Canadian and maple flavoured jokes sprinkled around. That gave me the occasional tickle. And I clung to said amusement like Jack clung to the door.

Of note, it was rather disheartening to see a few typos sprinkled in amongst this traditionally published and edited novel. Almost as disheartening as having to sift through passages where someone says something and Toby reiterates it mostly the same way.. just because she’s the MC. Filler, got to love it.

Thankfully my massive binge has dissipated enough from my mind that I was okay riding this book out and got through it pretty quickly. Maybe because I felt removed from it all, though unfortunately had no issue remembering all the little details — helped by all the rehashing spread through the story — but overall this wasn’t as frustrating as I’ve come to expect. That said, as always, I’m still hoping the end of this series is nigh (there’s three more already announced but unclear how long the series is anticipated to last). 

SUBTLE BLOOD by KJ Charles

Will Darling is all right. His business is doing well, and so is his illicit relationship with Kim Secretan–disgraced aristocrat, ex-spy, amateur book-dealer. It’s starting to feel like he’s got his life under control.

And then a brutal murder in a gentleman’s club plunges them back into the shadow world of crime, deception, and the power of privilege. Worse, it brings them up against Kim’s noble, hostile family, and his upper-class life where Will can never belong. 

With old and new enemies against them, and secrets on every side, Will and Kim have to fight for each other harder than ever—or be torn apart for good.


Title : Subtle Blood
Author : KJ Charles
Series : Will Darling Adventures
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 290
Genre : historical fiction / LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : KJC Books
Release Date : June 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

It’s strange to feel less than effusive over a Charles read but honestly since book one this series just hasn’t filled me with the usual love I come to expect from this author. But looking back I think I was slumping during book two and honestly I think I’m doing the same now. So maybe it’s just me. And in fact the only reason I’m even bothering with a review is because I’ve reviewed the first two. So maybe I’m also feeling a bit blah from having to force myself to sum up my thoughts.

An easy positive from this? Is my love for the couple. In book two I think I was more taken with the ladies who were secondary to the action — and they were still great, with a few very important key reveals in this third book — but I found my love for this couple again in this finale. I think it was the mystery and big conspiracy, woven through the series but coming to a head here, I didn’t much care for.

Ultimately, though, a lack lustre Charles is still a great read. My expectations from this author are just pretty huge after all these years. But again, it could just be me. As always, I look forward to what is to come from Charles next. If you have still yet to discover her? What are you even waiting for.

ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS by Rainbow Rowell

In Carry On, Simon Snow and his friends realized that everything they thought they understood about the world might be wrong. And in Wayward Son, they wondered whether everything they understood about themselves might be wrong.

In Any Way the Wind Blows, Simon and Baz and Penelope and Agatha have to decide how to move forward.

For Simon, that means deciding whether he still wants to be part of the World of Mages — and if he doesn’t, what does that mean for his relationship with Baz? Meanwhile Baz is bouncing between two family crises and not finding any time to talk to anyone about his newfound vampire knowledge. Penelope would love to help, but she’s smuggled an American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.

Any Way the Wind Blows takes the gang back to England, back to Watford, and back to their families for their longest and most emotionally wrenching adventure yet.

This book is a finale. It tells secrets and answers questions and lays ghosts to rest.

Carry On was conceived as a book about Chosen One stories; Any Way the Wind Blows is an ending about endings. About catharsis and closure, and how we choose to move on from the traumas and triumphs that try to define us. 


Title : Any Way the Wind Blows
Author : Rainbow Rowell
Series : Simon Snow (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 579
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : July 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

After book two, I didn’t think this series could actually come back from where it had (and hadn’t) gone. I thought the magic was quite literally gone from both characters (some literally) and this world and my heart.

And then this one happened. Sure, my expectations were in the ground and maybe that helped but this did so many things right and in ways I’m actually finding hard to articulate. Which is one thing that wasn’t missing from this book : communication.

Overall, though, everything just felt.. more fun. Not lighthearted by any means but there were moments of joy and sweetness, absolutely. There’s no real baddie to battle but instead these characters are fighting for each other and for themselves and for a future, and a love, and that was really well done. There are still some reveals, still something of a villain, so there’s definitely some plot driving this and all of it is just really well balanced.

My one complaint might be the ending. Because it doesn’t feel like one, it feels a bit abrupt, but I don’t know how it could’ve made better, either. So there’s that.

Now that we have this finale I would like to one day reread, even if it means slogging through book two, only to see if, in hindsight, something about that middle instalment works. But also because now that it’s over.. I want to live it, again.

If, like me, book two put you off or made you hesitant to complete this.. give it a go. Pick it up. I do not think you’ll regret coming back to this world.

HERO AT THE FALL by Alwyn Hamilton

When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.


Title : Hero at the Fall
Author : Alwyn Hamilton
Series : Rebel of the Sands (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 471
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : March 6, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Initially, as I sat down to write this review, I found myself a bit at a loss as to what to say about this finale except that.. I am satisfied.

I don’t know why it took until book three for me to realize this but Hamilton did not pull punches. Your favourite characters took beatings, bullets, and may even have been buried (well, burned, because they don’t bury bodies in this world due to spooky night crawlies, but you get the idea). No one was safe.

And yeah, I cried. Twice. Because no one was safe.

I loved how the author would sneak in little snippets, little stories outside of (but part of) the story, and how that helped to end it, too. I think it helped to make this a little less perfectly wrapped up, no further problems, and instead gave their future more depth, more realism, because winning the war doesn’t prevent future battles.

That might not make much sense unless you’re read it, so I’ll move on.

As for the romance, which had dogged me a little in the sense that it was the least substantial-feeling of the plot points, well. I don’t know. I think I still stand by that. It wasn’t the strongest element, by far. But there were a few really good moments, one that made me cry, that proved Hamilton could’ve convince me. Not always but there was.. something.. there. I’ll take it.

The worldbuilding, the mythologies, the stories, none of it ever stopped growing. This world, the magic, the genesis of the Djinnis, it was so interesting, felt so effortlessly woven together, but the detail to do so was complex. I have no idea what Hamilton will be doing next (GR and amazon say 2025, bookdepository says 2022, it’s a mystery), but I will be reading more from her, whatever it might be, for sure.

Suffice it to say I had a really enjoyable time with this world and I’m so glad I slapped this one onto my Five Series to Finish in 2021 list. I’m very happy to not only have completed this but have had such a good time with it, too. Unrelated to this review, but for those keeping track (spoiler : I don’t expect any one to be keeping track, elle oh elle), this leaves me with just one more series from said post to chew through. And naturally I’ve left the most intimidating for last because why wouldn’t I. But seeing as the Diviners series always felt like a fall-time read.. well. It’s also perfect timing.

As for this series, though? I would definitely recommend.

WHO’S THAT GIRL by Mhairi McFarlane

What’s the one thing you DON’T do at a wedding?

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, her boss suggests an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgey, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.


Title : Who’s That Girl
Author : Mhairi McFarlane
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 544
Genre : women’s fiction / contemporary romance
Publisher : HarperCollins
Release Date : November 19, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 5 star review

Even though I can probably admit to myself that this isn’t my usual five-star feeling, I can’t help but award it top marks anyway. Because McFarlane, as she so often does, does so many things right with this book, with her characters, with the situations, life lessons, and emotions she explores; and add to it that this might be the more romance-forward of her books..? It was so great. Though, having said that, it might be one of the less outright funny ones, too. Definitely clever, lots of banter and some great one-liners, but this author often makes me laugh as hard as she makes me cry and this had a softer hand with both of those things.

She didn’t want to be That Girl. The girl with the sad story attached. She wanted to define herself, not be defined by an event over which she had no control [..]. That’s what people with comfortable lives who were only playing the victim didn’t understand, how they gave themselves away – if you’d actually been one, you were desperate to shed the label. You craved the normality that had been taken from you.

As usual, McFarlane sets up a circumstance in such an everyday person way, with a character who is not perfect and has to work through what has gone wrong. In this case, having a friendship with an affianced coworker that crossed some emotional boundaries; which then leads to a complication when, on said coworker’s wedding day, he kisses her. And she’s caught reacting too slowly and is then, well, caught by the bride. The blame game then goes full force and because of being emotionally compromised by the man, and the friendship, she is caught between some real guilt and some real betrayal when he is forgiven and she isn’t and, of course, has to recalibrate while she hopes things blow over.

You built him up to be something he wasn’t. We women are prone to it, I think. No matter how grown up and independent we think we are, I swear we have a brain illness from childhood where we think a man on a white horse is going to turn up at some point and fix everything. And when he doesn’t turn up, and he can’t fix anything even when he does, we think we did something wrong.”

I think, hands down, one of my favourite things about every single McFarlane is the friend group. And this one is no exception. And through those friends, and even some strangers, Edie faces some very different conversations and perspectives not only on the messy situation but also how the treatment that lead her to it is something she allows to happen to her over and over. The real talk was real. But seriously, the friend group? A+. Made even better when pitted up against those she thought were her friends but turn out not to be.

What happens now, do we all go on dating sites and start Veet-ing our privates? If there’s one thing to be said for long-term relationships, it’s the freedom to have un-groomed genitals. Pubic fashions can come and go and you care not a jot.
Hairy’s back in anyway. Hairy’s the new bald.”
I’m not Veet-ing my balls for any woman. And I’m pretty sure demand for my bare ballsack is nil. When did people start liking this macabre stuff?

Sidenote, while it is always very satisfying and romantic when a love interest stands up for their person, it’s even more satisfying when the main character does it for themselves. And Edie’s moment? Beautiful. It would’ve been better had she not had to, of course, but still.

Look. That isn’t real life. That person they’re talking about isn’t you. There’s another version of you, multiple versions of you, walking around out there. You have to let it go, or you’ll go mad. Trust me on this. Keep these words in your head : those who know me better, know better.

What necessitated that beautiful moment was the relentless bullying and smear campaign against her. McFarlane tackles online bullying and how social media makes it easy to be vile others because people are turned into targets, symbols, or abstract archetypes, not.. well, human beings. And it was hard to read. Because we’ve all seen it happen to others or been impacted by it ourselves. This does, however, work as an interesting contrast as there is a character dealing with fame and the media on a larger scale and how, even when mostly positive, being talked about, with everyone assuming things about you or spinning a narrative, is difficult.

Find the man who appreciates you at your best, not the one who confirms your worst suspicions about yourself.”

As for the romance, it was so easy to root for it because the reader, unlike Edie, is far from oblivious to the love interest’s intentions. And we had lots of page time to really know him, too, even without his POV. There was something that worried me about how it would pan out but.. I can’t say more for spoilers. I can see why the ending is a bit polarizing but honestly I think that’s part of why this gets a five. It made me so happy because I thought for sure we’d end with something else.

The way I see it, you get people who are important to you, for as long as you get them. You never know how long it will be. You have to accept it and make use of the time you have.”

I mentioned the humour was a little toned down and so were the emotions. But this does also deal with grief, two kinds, and you will very likely get choked up a few times. I know I did. There’s even a sticky family dynamic that got to me, too.

Who’s That Girl is funny without being a comedy, is emotional without being devastating, sweet without any sugary cringe, and full of those good warm fuzzies when a character comes out stronger and knowing themselves better, especially when surrounded by a great support group.

Definitely recommend.


THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN by Tess Sharpe

A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…


Title : The Girls I’ve Been
Author : Tess Sharpe
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary thriller
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was.. wow.

I don’t know what I expected when I picked this up (#NoBlurbers) but this was an off the cuff recommendation from a friend of mine (hi Sam!) and I saw my library had it so thought, hey, why not. And wow.

[..] she kissed me like I was prickly, like I was already understood, like I was worth it.

I really don’t even know where to begin. Within these pages you’ll find con artists, queer humans, trauma, clever girls, one of the absolute best representations of found family I’ve ever read, sharp edges, devoted sisters, dangerous situations, and the absolute will to survive.

I hate the whole “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” saying. It’s bullshit. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you is worse. Sometimes what kills you is preferable. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you messes you up so bad it’s always a fight to make it through what you’re left with.

Some books inspire paragraphs upon paragraphs of words and sometimes you’re just just staring at a blinking cursor. This is obviously the latter.

Netflix has apparently snatched this up to be adapted, with Millie Bobby Brown to star, and that is incredibly exciting. If they capture even half the magic of Sharpe’s words, pacing, and general vibe, it’ll be amazing. More amazing? It might get more people wanting to read the source material. Which you absolutely should. And, yes, I will be chewing through the author’s backlist between now and then.

Highly recommend.

TRAITOR TO THE THRONE by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel by chance. Traitor by choice.

Gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. 

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about Djinn and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.


Title : Traitor to the Throne
Author : Alwyn Hamilton
Series : Rebel of the Sands (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 523
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : March 7, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Fittingly for a book with the word ‘traitor’ in the title, I think the subheading should be : trust no one. Because wow, just when you think you know a body..

This book did so many things differently than book one did but what was very apparent is that Rebel of the Sands was just the tip of the iceberg for this world, this story, and there’s really no way to tell how it’s going to end.

Confusingly, we start this book with a bit of a time jump, brushing over events that have happened off page, and then only get some explanation quite a few chapters later. It definitely puts the reader on the back foot for a bit, and I don’t know why, but I guess we had to get to a certain place by a certain time and considering this page count was already significantly higher than book one.. maybe there was little choice in the manner? But it does brace you for the plot to take a turn and the merry little band of rebels we’ve been so used to being around, well.. we lose them for most of this book. It’s just a whole lot of different.

We also, as a result, lost the focus on the romance, which, hey, I mean, they have bigger things to worry about, so it’s realistic, but it’s also because our lovebirds are separated (see aforementioned loss o’rebels); however as a result it didn’t quite solidify my feelings about it. I had actually, conversely, wanted more time spent on it to make it feel more real. I like it but I don’t feel it, y’know?

Everything else though was pretty solid. The action, though lulled for a bit due to Reasons, really kicks off in the last 30%, and in the build up to that we get different sides to characters we had only ever heard about, people from Amani’s past, and all sorts of shifted dynamics. It was very interesting. I won’t say it was always very interesting, this book is long and some bits didn’t hold my attention like others did, but I still had a good time.

Can’t wait to see how this ends.

BLACKOUT by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon

Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teen love to this interlinked novel of charming, hilarious, and heartwarming stories that shine a bright light through the dark.

A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Beloved authors—Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon—celebrate the beauty of six couples and the unforgettable magic that can be found on a sweltering starry night in the city.


Title : Blackout
Author : Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 256
Genre : contemporary / diverse reads
Publisher : Quill Tree Books
Release Date : June 22, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

I’m leaving this unrated and instead rating the stories separately with mini reviews.

Tiffany D Jackson’s story, The Long Walk, is the main driving force of these interconnected stories of Black kids during a city-wide blackout, with four parts that break up the anthology. This story focuses on a couple who have since broken up and both happen to arrive an internship there’s only one spot for. Before it can be resolved, the blackout hits. With nothing else to do, they agree to walk home together and, along the way, hash out their issues. This definitely got a bit overwrought at times, I’m mostly thinking of Act Three, and maybe I’m just used to Jackson’s more mature stories but this felt very.. young, on the childish end of YA, despite the fact that the characters were eighteen. And it’s such a bummer as I’ve loved so many stories from this author. But this one just didn’t do it. Two stars.

Mask Off by Nic Stone : a coming out/coming of age short between two boys who weren’t ever quite friends but were in each other’s orbit throughout the years. Until a queer masquerade party brings them together.. in a way. But it isn’t until they are stuck on the train together when the blackout hits that the masks (not literally!) come off. Honestly, this one was just.. fine. Nothing really remarkable. Two stars.

Made to Fit by Ashley Woodfolk : this short was set in an senior’s living facility, where two girls, one the granddaughter of a resident and the other, who visits the seniors with her therapy dog, meet. When a photo goes missing, the two girls search the home and, as they spend time together, sparks fly. This was a little too insta for me but it tied in with the theme of all the epic love stories being told around them. It was also a tiny bit repetitive RE the granddaughter’s sorta ex but it was cute. Three stars.

All the Great Love Stories.. and Dust by Dhonielle Clayton : hmm, sorta mixed feelings about this one. I love the idea of these two best friends with their history of bets combing through a library to find the greatest book of all time. She’s working up the courage to tell him how she feels and we get pieces of their history together; he’s got a revolving door of girlfriends, she never bothers. Does he feel for her what she feels for him? Again, love the concept, but some of this, despite being a novella, dragged out a bit. The pacing was a little off. But, still, it was cute. Three stars.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn by Angie Thomas : this short features a girl on a tour bus, on a school trip from Mississippi, struggling with feelings for her crush.. when she already has a boyfriend. I’m not going to say much more about this and risk spoiling it, because it didn’t end the way I expected, but the tie-in is that the driver is another character’s father and he may have accidentally gone off-route to drive them towards the block party happening in Brooklyn, where all the other characters we’ve met so far are also planning to attend. Four stars. And, in hindsight, though I loved Yoon’s writing best, this was my favourite story.

Seymour & Grace by Nicola Yoon : easily the best written of the bunch! And I enjoyed the story, too, even if it felt extra short. A girl is trying to find her way to the block party all the characters have made it to where she plans to confront her ex who dumped her because she’d “changed”. She ends up in a Ryde with someone listening to a philosophy podcast and they strike up a conversation; but it’s a rocky meeting. Things go wrong on the way to their destination but, eventually, they get there. And then.. well. Spoilers. I would’ve loved an extra chapter of this, instead of the extended Jackson story, and I’m sad it was so short. It’s a softer story but felt very Yoon-like. Which is a good thing. Four stars.

But while the little throw away tie-ins in Yoon’s story to bring everyone into the story, into the party, was nice, it still boggles my mind we didn’t get a concluding chapter that made it feel, after all this build up, that we were actually at this party?.That’s still confusing. It just kind of ends. Even though the Jackson wasn’t my favourite story, it held the anthology together, working as the glue. So couldn’t we have had a proper ending?

Overall, this wasn’t bad, but I expected to love a lot more from this bind-up than I did. So that’s a bit of a bummer. But I’ve not read anything by Woodfolk or Clayton before, though I’ve definitely had the latter on my radar, and I will definitely be picking up their solo offerings in the future.