DISPEL ILLUSION by Mark Lawrence

Sometimes being wrong is the right answer.

Nick Hayes’s genius is in wringing out the universe’s secrets. It’s a talent that’s allowed him to carve paths through time. But the worst part is that he knows how his story will end. He’s seen it with his own eyes. And every year that passes, every breakthrough he makes, brings him a step closer. Mia’s accident is waiting for them both in 2011. If it happens then he’s out of choices.

Then a chance 1992 discovery reveals that this seeker of truth has been lying to himself. But why? It’s a question that haunts him for years. A straw he clings to as his long-awaited fate draws near.

Time travel turns out not to be the biggest problem Nick has to work on. He needs to find out how he can stay on his path but change the destination. Failure has never been an option, and neither has survival. But Nick’s hoping to roll the dice one more time. And this new truth begins with a lie. 


Title : Dispel Illusion
Author : Mark Lawrence
Series : Impossible Times (book three)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 234
Genre : sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : 47North
Release Date : November 14, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Well well welllllll.

This series has been a wild ride of weirdness, geekiness, violence, and wtf’ery. That last mostly in the sense of “I have no idea what’s happening, I’m so dumb, this book is hella smart, why am I reading this.” But this final installment?

W o w.

Not only is this my favourite of the set, it also wraps everything so.. perfectly. The cleverness of the author, of bringing all these convoluted strands of time, events, people, and more, together, is just unreal. Again, I stumbled my way through the first two, but this one — even though, again, my brain couldn’t keep up sometimes — actually made sense. It worked. And it worked because of everything that came before.

This is definitely a series I recommend that you binge but, if not, Lawrence was kind enough to include a “previously, on..” at the beginning of this third novella. I won’t say it helped to make things any clearer than it felt to actually read said previous books but it got me upto speed on some of the finer details I’ve forgotten since finishing book two. Which, again, meant I was still the tortoise in this hare race. But this time it was way more enjoyable overall.

But, yeah, this isn’t a series I would necessarily recommend because, again, complicated, and weird, and nerdy, but if you like time travel, if you like characters that play D&D, if you enjoy twisty turny, timey wimey, and aren’t afraid of being confused (or maybe you’re smarter than the average duck), you should give these a try. For all that your brain needs to invest a bit in the details, you aren’t really investing your time (hahahah I didn’t do that on purpose) because these novellas aren’t long. But a lot does happen. So, figure that one out.

Once again, this has cemented my need to read more from this author — something I haven’t done since finishing the last installment of this book, whoops — and I can’t wait to explore his epic fantasy series’.

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

THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.


Title : The Fever King
Author : Victoria Lee
Series : Feverwake (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 376
Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Skyscape
Release Date : March 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This is a book that my mind is shying away from being too critical about because it’s doing a lot of great things. And yet..

Beyond the representation offered in Lee’s characters (one lead is bisexual and Jewish/Latinx, the other is black, I believe), this is a sci-fi/dystopian story that heavily deals with how society treats refugees. For all that this is set, like, a hundred years (or something?) in the future, this is a very timely narrative and I felt the author did a good job of making this less of just a conveniently relevant backdrop and, instead, you really feel the struggle, the disparity between the social classes, which is made more dramatic by the haves, and the locals, being magical while the have-nots, those who have fled their home, are not.

But I found the worldbuilding somehow overly complex, or confusing, and I’m not entirely sure why. It centers around this big event that tore apart the US and left the remaining habitual areas into their own countries, the wars and tragedies that ensue, and along the way we’re given glimpses into that history, and particularly the figureheads of that time; one of which happens to still be around, now that he’s not only all powerful but also immortal. Somehow Carolinia is the only place in the world where it’s okay to be witching, someone who survives the fever brought on by a magical surge (or something.. notice a trend?) and Britain and Canada had tried bombing them, because to hell with magical people, but now.. they don’t? But, instead of Carolinia being a refuge for people, they close their borders? And, specifically relevant to the current plot, there’s the Carolianians vs the Atlantians conflict, because in Atlantia apparently it’s really terrible and toxic and you die, but somehow they make it to Carolinia anyway, but Carolinians want nothing to do with them, and.. I don’t know, like, I get what was happening but I also feel like I have no idea what was happening. Even in writing that summary (ish) I confused and doubted myself. I have no idea what’s just happened, I think I blacked out.

This paragraph is where I had a bunch more words written that I’ve since deleted. I mention this to honour their memory. You tried. You tried to make this review work. But it just didn’t.

Suffice it to say, this book is doing a lot. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters we don’t know if we are supposed to like, and a hate-to-love romance I wanted to get behind.. but only sometimes did. This book should’ve been a new favourite because of all that, plus a lot of darker and adult themes which made this YA the least YA-feeling YA book I’ve read in a long time (take a shot for every time I said “YA”) but I found it easy to put down, either because I was bored or my brain was just processing white noise. This should’ve been action packed and thrilling (and I guess it sort’ve was in a muted kind of way) and I should’ve been speculating and making theories (some of which I did, shoutout to my buddy Amanda who loves this book and got some of my reactions), and while I was clearly invested and following along enough to guess some things correctly, to see things coming, I’m still not sure what to do with any of it. Particularly after that ending. I think half the problem is there’s so much still not being revealed, or left unknown, and that is why I have one foot out the door on this one.

I can only hope book two has me diving into the feels, and the love, with both feet.

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

DOCILE by K.M. Szpara

There is no consent under capitalism 

Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles.

To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future.

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.


Title : Docile
Author : K.M. Szpara
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : science fiction / LGBTQIA+
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : March 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Hello darkness, aka I don’t know what to rate what I read, my old friend..

So my biggest problem with this book had nothing to do with this book. I got stuck at 30% for almost two weeks after being beat-up by the flu and then I went into a slump. I felt no motivation to pick this back up (or anything else, really, though I felt honour bound to finish what I had started) because the beginning of this book is the most uncomfortable part.

In the beginning we are neck deep in watching Alex, our rich entitled ‘thinks he’s a do-gooder’ protagonist train our Docile protagonist, Elisha, into being the best little slave he can be — all so his family’s debt can be paid and they can be afforded a stipend so they can try not to incur any more debt. Yes, Elisha’s signed away all but his most basic rights, though some apparently still exist and yet everyone is shocked when they are called into play, but he exists inside a system where a drug was created so that you can be treated more or less like furniture. Worse than furniture, even. Anything can be done that does not do harm. That’s a.. broad range, particularly when you’re the Docile of a trillionaire and feel you are afforded the right to do anything.

But outside of the framework itself, and beyond the knee-jerk sympathy felt towards Elisha, I didn’t feel much for either of these characters. Elisha is in the unenviable position of having to sign over his life to clear his family’s debt, sure, and Alex is trying to do the best he can for his Docile who he has to actually consider a real person because he’s not on-meds, and the whole thing is just uncomfortable because until this moment, Alex never did. Consider them real people, I mean; not that anyone but the poor seem to, either, but still. The drug is his family’s legacy but, more than like, like all of the haves vs the have-nots, there’s just no consideration, no awareness, and this ends up being a thirty-year-delayed wake-up call for him — and, maybe, for society?

I’m not saying this isn’t supposed to be uncomfortable. It definitely is. And I suppose it’s no different than comparing District Twelve to District One in THE HUNGER GAMES but, like, add sex instead of violence? It was definitely good at spotlighting at decadence and depravity of this society’s culture in stark contrast to the fact that people are literally signing over years of their lives so that they, and future generations, can avoid prison or worse. But halfway through this took a sharp turn into a sorta conspiracy and then courtroom drama, all while one character is trying to recover from trauma and rediscover their agency, and it’s just a lot of things.

This was a story that I requested because I wanted to be shocked, made angry, even heartbroken, but I think I wanted to feel those emotions from the complexity of the story and less uneasy over the spoiled antics of the rich. But I think therein lies the problem. Even today, the rich are just so rich, while so many people have so much less, and it’s a tough pill to swallow to think that one day they might own people, too.

Ultimately, DOCILE seems to follow the standard (from what I know which, is, admittedly not much..) tropes of slavefic stories and I think if you go in knowing that, you’ll appreciate what Szpara does. I just wish there’d been more explored for how this had started, whether or not the rest of the world followed along (this deals primarily with only one State and while it’s mentioned vaguely that Maryland isn’t the only one, I have to wonder..) and.. I don’t know, I think I just wanted this to feel bigger than it did. But maybe I would’ve minded less if not for the slump? Which is why, well, there’s no rating.

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

SILVER IN THE WOOD by Emily Tesh

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3.75 (rounded up) review

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

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

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

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

THE STARS WE STEAL by Alexa Donne

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.


Title : The Stars We Steal
Author : Alexa Donne
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA Sci-fi/Retelling
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

THE STARS WE STEAL had the ingredients for Micky kryptonite with space, sci-fi and YA…that was before I even heard it was a retelling of Persuasion, so I was truly sold at that point. The execution didn’t let me down and won’t let fans of the original down if they have an open mind about the age of the characters and an in-the-future interpretation.

Leo was a likeable heroine from early on. She was a feisty, curvy feminist with a little more confidence than the original ‘Ann’. The premise for this world, included an ice-age on Earth, a huge fleet of ships and a royalty system. There was a context of haves and have-nots. I enjoyed the politics, corrupt as they were and nepotism was the flavour of the month. Leo navigated this world, the fleet of ships with quiet insight, courage and snark.

I was a commodity in a pretty dress, on display for all to see.

Captain-to-be Elliot Wentworth returned to Leo’s life in unexpected way and they were not fast friends. Old hurts, jealousies and feelings were a roller coaster for these two. I struggled to really like Elliot, there was nothing essentially wrong with him but he didn’t give me the feels that the character he’s based upon demanded. However, when they were together, the chemistry was catchy.

Great side characters, both good and downright nasty, aiding this book along. There were family, friends and acquaintences that offered a rich tapestry. I liked Daniel and Evgenia a lot but Leo’s close family were hard to fathom until they weren’t.

The fast-paced story that ensued had me glued to my book, I found it difficult to put down and there were some mysteries along the way. This was truly a cast of YA characters, so lovers of Persuasion have to be ready accept this different age range and some of the decisions and behaviours that come with that age. I loved the conceptualisation in space and in YA, I appreciated the fun that they had on their ships and I enjoyed the ‘vlag’ season.

I highly recommend this fun, dynamic retelling of a classic in space. I think readers will engage with the fun characters and setting.

Thank you to Titan books for the gorgeous finished copy for review.

AURORA RISING by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – double review!

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic. 


Title : Aurora Rising
Author : Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Series : Aurora Cycle (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 472
Genre : YA scifi
Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers/Rock The Boat
Release Date : May 7, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

AURORA RISING, to me, feels like what would happen if the coupling of Firefly and The Expanse had a baby with the child of Star Trek and The Losers. That’s a lot of movie references, I know. But this felt like so many things, a total mashup of weird and snarky and creepy, and it just seems to.. fit.

That doesn’t mean it was a perfect or totally solid book. So many elements made it seem that way but I’ll admit this wasn’t as smooth as the author duo’s previous series and some things.. well, I mean, some disbelief has to be suspended, of course it does, but this was a fun read, a bit of a wild whacky ride, and it’ll make absolutely great tv (guess that’s why it’s been optioned!).

There was a lot of build-up, a lot of mystery, in this series opener and I have a feeling (and hope) that as a result of having some of the reveals out in the open, on the table, book two will feel tighter. Much I think of what dragged this down for me was just trying to make sense of things while also bouncing between a lot of POVs.

And speaking of POVs. With a less savvy writer team, these characters might’ve been nothing more than walking talking archetypes. And thankfully that wasn’t the case. They weren’t my favourite ensemble, I didn’t fall in love with the dynamic right away, but when they broke off into pairs, or smaller groups, it worked. Being in their heads, each time the shift felt unique, not same-y, and if I had favourites, welllll. Can you blame me? There’s definitely lots to explore and I’m curious as to their dynamic going into book two as a result of.. certain.. events.. #spoilerz.

But though I hate to compare.. it really doesn’t match the greatness of ILLUMINAE. At all. But that’s fine. This is it’s own animal and I’m not here to argue apples and oranges. Because that’s what it is. This is an orange to the aforementioned’s apple but, I guess, I feel obligated (defensive?) to explain why I didn’t love it quite like I expected to.

But I am definitely looking forward to more.


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Double review and some mirroring of feelings over here. Hollis and I started this book together, same day…but I finished it two weeks later because I struggled with feeling engaged and investment in the plot. The good news is, by the end of the book, I had regained some investment.

The 312 squad was a great concept and their coming together as a team was pretty hilarious. All the quippy banter was to be had when they were together. I basically liked the team dynamic and most of the characters individually but there’s a whole lot of different species, physical characterstics and cultural values to process as you get to know them. I found myself confused a number of times. The world building felt unwieldy at times but I gradually got to grips. All that said, I still didn’t know Finian and Zila by the end of the book and I think I should have been more knowledgeable by then. The differing POVs didn’t always help reader cohesion with characters and the plot.

Aurora was a superb main character because there was so much to fathom and her initial appearance was just the surface of what was to come. I liked Tyler and Scarlett but Tyler seemed to lack depth, however I suspect this was about the walls he put up as he led the squad. My other favourite was Kal, again a mysterious character with depth and complexity, I kind of wanted to get my teeth into him…snigger. I am here for the pairing potential in its infancy in this book and that element gave me the feels and interest.

So, what didn’t I gel with? The pacing was up and down and I lost interest a few times so that I felt that I had to push through. I felt disengaged with the plot at times and the middle section of the book was a bit like walking through mud. I have to say though, the last 20% reignited my interest with fast-paced and exciting developments.

I am definitely invested in the bigger picture that this series offers with a slight trepidation about the bigger plot that was revealed in the end of the book; at the moment that doesn’t float my boat. I hope to go into AURORA BURNING with my love for some of the characters, carrying me through.

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – double review!

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right? 


Title : This Is How You Lose The Time War
Author : Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 209
Genre : sci-fi
Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press
Release Date : July 19, 2019

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

This is a book that was recommended to me by every friend who read it. The hype was real, the library wait was long, and the book itself was short. My feelings, however, are hard to pin down.

Like Chamber’s TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE this is a short sci-fi novella, that I would describe as a thought provoking slowburn. This one is far more romantic than the aforementioned story, but the telling of it feels similar, even if the subject differs hugely.

This was at turns way over my head complex, hauntingly heartbreaking, and clever af. This a love story between time travelers who work for competing purposes, who flit in and out of points in the universe, in history and the future, and who communicate first through taunts and later through understanding, connection, desire.

I’ll admit I did see a few things coming, which felt like a feat considering how dumb this made me feel sometimes. But overall it was a fascinating and thrilling and strange and sweet experience. I just don’t know how one rates something like this. A four? Let’s say it’s a four. I think if you stripped away some of the strange, hard to imagine, unbelievably complicated elements, held up the bare bones of a story that is still strange and complicated, but without the white noise that may have distracted you.. yeah. This feels right. But the story itself needs those elements, it does; though I can see others, maybe, not liking it because of them. Which might be where I got stuck, too.

If you like sci-fi, if you don’t mind when a plot leans heavy on a romantic connection, I would recommend.


Micky’s 1 star review

This was metaphor hell. A love story (eventually) between robot-horse-wolf-seeds in shades of red and blue through letters. It is about time travel, a vaguely recognisable earth and espionage with lots of killing.

I hated it.

I imagine you reaching over my shoulder to correct my hand on a victim’s throatNice.

The world falls into place like rain. Blue licks her bloodied snout, her paws, her gouged shoulder.Not sure what creature Blue was at this point.

You ask if we eat.
It’s a hard question to answer. There is no mono-we; there are many usses. The usses change and interleave.
 Welcome to my perpetual confusion.

Towards the end we got some comprehensible connection and sense of love but I was too far gone down the wtf road.

I’m not dissing anyone else’s experience, I have a bunch of friends who loved it but my PhD didn’t help me through the confusion of this one.

TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE by Becky Chambers – double review!

In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of galaxy transform themselves.

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in sub-zero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to explore neighbouring exoplanets long suspected to harbour life.

Ariadne is one such explorer. On a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds fifteen light-years from Earth, she and her fellow crewmates sleep while in transit, and wake each time with different features. But as they shift through both form and time, life back on Earth has also changed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the wonders and dangers of her journey, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

A new standalone novella from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.In the future, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of galaxy transform themselves.


Title : To Be Taught, If Fortunate
Author : Becky Chambers
Format : Paperback arc / hardback
Page Count : 176
Genre : Sci-fi
Publisher : Hodderscape (Hodder & Stoughton)
Release Date : 8 August 2019

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


Micky’s 5 star review

I didn’t know what to expect from this as a sci-fi novella, unconnected to any story and yet, it blew my expectations out of the water. This is a full-bodied story, detailed and captivating. It was told from the perspective of Ariadne. She was one of four intrepid astronauts who were willing to say goodbye to earth for a long time and to their families forever to explore four different planetary bodies.

The science in this read was complex and yet easy to follow, I grasped the developments that underpinned space exploration in this era. The science first few planetary bodies lulled me in, transfixed me with the descriptions and made me invested in Ariadne, Jack, Chikondi and Elena. Their separate and joined-up intellect was colourful reading and their problem-solving made me want to get closer. The dynamic between the four was fascinating and the glossing around the intimate relationships was fitting and represented a natural diversity. This team were to all intents and purposes, a family.

The status quo did not continue however, and watching the team navigate problems, their isolation and getting the measure of their psychological status was fascinating. The unraveling of various characters felt tangible. This story examines humanity on a small scale and yet humanity on a grand scale became a poignant issue.

Becky Chambers writes complex sci-fi in a palatable, engaging way. This is a novella you are going to want to read and then think about afterwards.

Thank you Hodderscape for this gorgeous early copy of the book.

Hollis’ 4 star review

I really don’t know what to say about this book. I’m coming to it months after Micky’s original review, and the reviews of so many others, all of whom are far more eloquent than me. I just know that this story lulled me into loving it. It was a slow, smart, heartwrenching, and thoughtful, seduction.

I’m an observer, not a conqueror. I have no interest in changing other worlds to suit me. I choose the lighter touch : changing myself to suit them.

I’ve read Chambers before and knew to expect something intelligent and diverse and this novella is no exception to that. I found the narrow, but so wide, scope of this story to be so intimate, so enthralling, and this quartet of explorers, all human and so different, but all with the same goal, to be a group I could have happily read about for a hundred pages more. How this ends really got me and that makes me want so much more, too.

Read this book.

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

THE END AND OTHER BEGINNINGS by Veronica Roth

Bestselling Divergent and Carve the Mark author Veronica Roth delivers a stunning collection of novella-length stories set in the future, illustrated with startling black-and-white artwork.

No world is like the other. Within this masterful collection, each setting is more strange and wonderful than the last, brimming with new technologies and beings. And yet, for all the advances in these futuristic lands, the people still must confront deeply human problems.

In these six stories, Veronica Roth reaches into the unknown and draws forth something startlingly familiar and profoundly beautiful.

With tales of friendship and revenge, plus two new stories from the Carve the Mark universe, this collection has something for new and old fans alike. Each story begins with a hope for a better end, but always end with a better understanding of the beginning.

With beautifully intricate black-and-white interior illustrations and a uniquely designed package, this is the perfect gift for book lovers.


Title : The end and other beginnings
Author : Veronica Roth
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : SFF
Publisher : Harper Collins UK Children’s
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3. 5 star review

This whole book of short stories has a futuristic feel, sometimes a little dystopian and sometimes a little Sci-fi. One story I loved, some I liked and some I didn’t. What is special about this book of shorts is that it is illustrated. The illustrations are gorgeous, so much so that I bookmarked most of them so that I could go back and look at them again. They add a lot to the story and definitely help with visualisation. Here is a flavour of three of the stories.

Inertia was a story steeped in some mental health issues, grief, loss and things unsaid. This story gripped me immediately as two friends were confronted with mortality. It was both hopeless and hopeful. This story of firsts and friendships in a backdrop of futuristic death rituals was my favourite.

The Spinners had a feel of the THE HOST but executing the world in a short story was a tall order. So this one crashed and burned a bit for me. I found it a little boring and I didn’t feel the connection between the siblings or other character.

Harken was a super interesting concept but it felt a bit unfinished. I wanted to know so much more about the world, the bio bombs and the giftings. A longer story would have done this more justice.

Overall this was a book that you could dip in and out of. Not all the stories appealed to me but they might to some. Considering how stunning the illustrations are in the ebook, I am only imagine how they will translate even better into a physical book.

Thank you to Harper Collins for this early review copy.

THE INFINITE NOISE by Lauren Shippen

Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise is a stunning, original debut novel based on her wildly popular and award-winning podcast The Bright Sessions.

Caleb Michaels is a sixteen-year-old champion running back. Other than that his life is pretty normal. But when Caleb starts experiencing mood swings that are out of the ordinary for even a teenager, his life moves beyond “typical.”

Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Caleb’s therapist, Dr. Bright, encourages Caleb to explore this connection by befriending Adam. As he and Adam grow closer, Caleb learns more about his ability, himself, his therapist—who seems to know a lot more than she lets on—and just how dangerous being an Atypical can be.

“What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?” (Vox on The Bright Sessions)


Title : The Infinite Noise
Author : Lauren Shippen
Series : The Bright Sessions (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA sci-fi/fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen
Release Date : September 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

There’s a lot to love in THE INFINITE NOISE. Representation-wise, we have a protagonist who is Jewish and gay and plagued by depressive episodes, another who is.. well, we’re never given his orientation on page, and also an empath who struggles with the overflow of emotions and lashes out in rage. There’s also a ton of therapy. Positive therapy.

This world is based on a podcast where, as the book’s blurb says, “What if the X-Men, instead of becoming superheroes, decided to spend some time in therapy?” In this world, though, the people with powers, or extraordinary abilities, are Atypicals. And we learn of their existence through Caleb discovering his own abilities, that he’s an empath, with the help of Dr Bright.

The majority of this book is spent with Caleb trying to sort through and also keep from being overwhelmed by the emotions of his classmates and family. His mood swings, culminating in a fight, are a result from processing things he didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, and the aftermath is learning to deal. There’s a lot of talking through of emotions, as represented by colours, and trying to block out the infinite noise of it all. Which only seems to work when he’s alone or with Adam.

I get a moment of enjoying the silence before something inside of me tries to make itself known. Oh. Right. I have my own feelings. I sort of forgot about those.

Adam, who is lonely, alone, and depressed. Who has a hopeless crush on the big jock in his class. Who knows, as a tentative friendship begins, that Caleb is hiding something. But then again.. so is he.

Thinking about Adam makes me feel a little less like a sponge that doesn’t get a say in what it soaks up.

While I did like both characters, I’m not sure I liked either one all the time. They both make questionable decisions, both hide things for too long (and as of the end of this book, one is still hiding things), and.. I don’t know. I loved so much of them, but. Maybe I loved the idea of them a bit more than the reality of them sometimes.

Knowing someone’s feelings doesn’t give me a guidebook on how to respond to them. That I have to make up as I go along.

The back and forth between these two was tough. On the one hand, there’s a lot of baggage, uncertainty, and angst involved. On the other, I’m not even sure how Caleb identifies but while it took quite some time before he blinked and realized he wanted to kiss Adam, date Adam, there wasn’t much issue coming to terms with that. Nor for his family, either. With exception to a few slurs, there wasn’t really any conflict surrounding their characters’ sexualities. The real angst, beyond being sixteen and struggling with depression, with school, with the future, was surrounding an organization who targets Atypicals and who might be working for them; and how keeping Caleb’s secret was paramount.

I think, for all the good, what keeps this book from being great is the pacing. The latter half of the book changes a lot in both tone and scope and after all the big build-up of who is hiding what, I’m not really sure where we are in the end of it all. I know more books are to come (three, it looks like) but the summaries indicate they are to focus on other characters, so. If that’s true, I’m even less satisfied by this ending. At least for how it wraps for this pair.

I love the concept, therapy for superheroes, and it’s a very creative way to ease into the transition of adapting to new powers, but I guess I wanted a tighter focus on these two soft boys.. but also less time spent getting them together, if future books weren’t going to focus on them, and also an ending that was.. more. I don’t know that I’m explaining this well, but. That said, I would read on. I like this world. I love the unique perspective. I just hope book two, and subsequent books, are stronger.

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

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