THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON by Ryan Douglass

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

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

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

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

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

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

BIG BAD WOLF by Suleikha Snyder

In 2016, New York became a Sanctuary City for supernaturals…but things quickly spun out of control. Now, Third Shift is an elite team of operatives tasked with exposing the gritty underbelly of New York’s criminal-supernatural underworld, taking down the worst of the worst and protecting human- and shifter-kind alike.

Joe Peluso has blood on his hands. But lawyer and psychologist Neha Ahluwalia is determined to help him craft a solid defense…even if she can’t defend her own obsession. Because Joe took out those Russian mobsters for good reason–they were responsible for the death of his beloved foster brother. Those six bad guys were part of the ruthless clan of bear shifters who control Brooklyn’s Russian mafia, so his vigilante justice has earned him countless enemies in New York’s supernatural-controlled underworld, and no friends in a government that now bends to Russia at every turn.

Joe knows that creatures like him only deserve the worst. Darkness. Solitude. Punishment. But meeting Neha makes him feel human for the first time in forever. He’s never wanted anything in his life like he wants Neha, and he’ll break almost any rule to spend a minute alone with her. But when the Russian mob attacks the jail for payback, Joe and Neha are forced to escape. Before long they’re on the run–from monsters who want him dead and from their own traitorous hearts.


Title : Big Bad Wolf
Author : Suleikha Snyder
Series : Third Shift (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : urban fantasy/PNR
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ 


Hollis’ 1 star review

Here’s a series I can unequivocably say that I will not be continuing. See? Even I have limits.

Where to even start, gosh, well. If you thought post-2016 was A Lot, buckle in, folks! In Snyder’s world it gets worse. All those awful real-life things plus a big supernatural outing and rarely does the author miss an opportunity to remind you just how shitty things are. Sure, its fiction, but it doesn’t feel like fiction when you’re rehashing 80% of the crap you’ve just lived through in a gritty dystopian paranormal fantasy. No thanks.

If that wasn’t bad enough, one of the (many) POVs you get is from Mister Melodrama Man Pain himself. Like, I don’t want to shit too hard on this guy, not all his boo hoo’ing was without reason but.. well. Most was. Yeah. The constant spirals of “I’m the worst, you deserve better, I’m a killer” were exhausting. Watching the other half of the pairing put up with it, be reduced to hormones, and waiting until it all got rehashed post-bang? I was so over this very early on in the game. Particularly as I found little to no chemistry between them (or anyone) despite the whole relationship hinging on this big dose of epic lust.

Actually even before we discovered the man pain, I was twigging to this not likely being my thing — as early as the first chapter — but what had interested me about this in the first place was my previous experience reading one of the author’s novellas.. which I thoroughly enjoyed. This? No. Zero enjoyment. Only boredom or frustration or pure misery.

This is clearly being set up as a huge series because we had lots of POVs with lots of little offshooting set-ups for coupledom, or drama, or adventures, and while some of those minor dynamics sort’ve interested me at first, I just eventually lost the will to care. The writing isn’t terrible but it does not draw you in; I found it very hard to keep track of events in some of the scenes, particularly action sequences, and had to backtrack to determine what had happened, and yet we were forced to rehash so much dialogue (literally, pulled from previous chapters, as one character or another relived it) and all together it just felt so offbalance.

I somehow dragged my lifeless carcass through this book to the bitter end but hey that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Particularly if you want a gritty pseudo-real world PNR that somehow manages to lean into all the cheese and tropes that call this genre home. As mentioned, though, this is as far as I go.

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.

CRY WOLF by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton never thought anything could be harder than solving murders. Until he had to plan a wedding.

After taking down an old adversary, Agent Cooper Dayton of the Bureau of Special Investigations has earned a break. Not that planning a wedding to his sexy shifter partner, Oliver Park, is necessarily stress free, but it’s better than worrying about the ominous warning, delivered months ago, that Cooper’s life is in danger.

When he’s dragged to an event by his family, Cooper braces for an awkward evening, but instead finds himself in the middle of an ugly feud between Park’s ex and a rebel pack leader. What was supposed to be a quick outing turns into a full-blown murder investigation after the pack leader ends up dead, Park’s ex goes missing, and Cooper and Park are sent a series of disturbing wedding gifts that are somehow connected to it all.

The list of potential suspects is long, and with the bodies piling up, Cooper must turn to the one person he trusts the least: the villain he’s already put behind bars once and who has nothing to lose by lying and everything to gain if Cooper is out of the picture—for good. 


Title : Cry Wolf
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Big Bad Wolf (book five)
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ urban fantasy/romance
Publisher : CarinaPress
Release Date : January 18, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, wait, is this not the finale of the series? Because that did not feel like one. And if it is.. how rUDE. I have so many questions. So, yeah, no, it’s not over. Nope.

Is everyone you’ve ever dated an asshole?
Maybe I have a type.

Coming back to the Big Bad Wolf world was such a delight. I was entertained pretty much from page one and this particular mystery was a strange doozy. I had no idea where anything was going until we were all finally looped in. But that was fine because all along the way we had plenty of Cooper and Park banter, hijinks, and steeeeam. Hoo boy, hi. I’ve definitely been away from romance for a while and now read two steamers back to back. Delicious.

You know, it’s never too late to call off this engagement. You’re a catch, you’ll find someone.
I was cursed by an old witch to find him charming.”
That’s some dark magic.”

What I constantly enjoy, and seem to mention in all my reviews, is how every book evolves this world. Not in that “oh look suddenly this is happening” feeling where something comes out of left field for a purely convenient reason but in this organic unspooling of a culture, a world, a people. And it actually gets called out in this installment in the best of ways, as if to acknowledge it for the readers, but in a perfectly fitting way for the characters, too. It keeps you wanting to read more, not just for more of the characters, but in order to discover more and what might be awaiting both readers and characters alike.

Yes, we’ve met.
A technically true statement, if characteristically lacking in flair. Antony and Cleopatra met. Romeo and Juliet met. It’s what happened after that’s become the stuff of legends.
This day is certainly shaping up to be a tragedy, so maybe you’re on to someting.”

There’s really not much to say about a book this far into a series, even if it isn’t the finale, so suffice it to say if you’re needing paranormal romance/urban fantasy in your life and particularly a queer series? You absolutely need to give this one a go. It’s funny, it’s fresh, and the characters are complex and yet self-aware, or self-improving, and these two leads are made of wonky edges that fit together so beautifully.

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

DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS by Laini Taylor

What power can bruise the sky?

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited — not in love, but in tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as — from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond — humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. 



Title : Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Author : Laini Taylor
Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book three)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 640
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : April 17, 2014 (original) / December 1, 2020 (new editions!)

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

I have so many feelings.

Also it’s nice to have memories because wow did I have very few of those for this installment! I definitely clung to very few recollections of any events post-book one and honestly it made the whole experience feel like the first time. I kind of love that this is how it went down.

In the legends, chimaera were sprung from tears and seraphim from blood, but in this moment they are, all of them, children of regret.

I can definitely see why this ending made many readers mad and I think I’m somewhere in the middle. There was definitely A Lot jammed in right at the end but it also didn’t feel too rushed. It was just a hard left when you think you’re going right. But also, I kind of love it? Like another series I read recently which took a lot of unexpected and not-so-popular and very risky choices, I feel this was one of those. And I guess in my old age I’m appreciating the unconventional a little more.

It was a new idea for him, that happiness wasn’t a mystical place to be reached or won — some bright terrain beyond the boundary of misery, a paradise waiting for them to find it — but something to carry doggedly with you through everything.

Plus, having read her more recent series, I think I finally understand the tie-in. It’s nothing to the extent that you need to read one to read the other but. Something. I’m not spoiling anything but I had a moment and then my brain tried to remember the ending of MUSE OF NIGHTMARES and I sprained something, so that was a bust, but. I feel another Taylor reread coming on.

Anyway, I just had such a good time, truly. There’s not going to be any kind of insightful breakdown or poetical word weaving in this review. Taylor’s writing is gorgeous. She loves to torment her characters (and us). There is plenty of darkness but always hope. And there are moments of such silliness, such every-day-ness by having certain “normal” persons woven in amongst all the monsters and magic, gods and other worlds, that it just grounds everything. It all just works.

You are a conniving, deceitful hussy. I stand in awe.”
You’re sitting.
I sit in awe.

I do think, in hindsight of this reread, I might love the Strange the Dreamer duology more. But I would need to reread that one to confirm my five stars are still five stars. Because this series did lose a star from each book during this experience. I still love them, and will likely revisit again in a couple years, but sometimes the bowled over and devastated or delirious feeling doesn’t quite come back. Nonetheless, I had so much fun rereading these, and it was absolutely everything I needed right now.

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

CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys, described by Entertainment Weekly as “groundbreaking.”

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.



Title : Cemetery Boys
Author : Aiden Thomas
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 350
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ fantasy
Publisher : Swoon Reads
Release Date : September 1, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 3 star review

Man, I am so bummed right now. I really thought this was going to be a read that lived up to all the extraordinary hype and became a new favourite. But..

Okay, good stuff out of the way? The first half was pretty excellent (more reason for being bummed). The descriptions of both family and culture? So vivid. I could see the colours, I could smell the food, I could hear the overlapping chatter of families. Everything was written with such ease, such flow, that I couldn’t believe this was a debut. There were a few instances of repetition but it seemed to happen as new chapters started, almost like a reset, so.. I kinda forgave it. Also, I was a pretty big fan of Yadriel, our main protagonist, and thought his struggle to make a place for himself in the Brujx culture to be heartwrenching; he refused to give in, to compromise who he was even as every rejection, every time he was misgendered, or dead named, was a stab to his heart. That said, I didn’t love the love interest all the time. He had some extremes I wasn’t down with and while the protagonist didn’t always let him get away with it, it wasn’t fun to live through the tantrums. And some of the exchanges were just.. chaotic.

I would like to note that this isn’t a story with a big shocking mystery. You know who the villain is almost from the beginning. Or at least I did. But it’s fine. Just don’t be surprised if you are expecting a spooky dark mystery. This is actually fairly lighthearteded in the overall vibe.

Remember why we’re doing this.”
So they’ll see that I’m a brujo.”
Well, yeah, but other than that.
Spite?
Spite!

Where this went hella sideways was the big confrontation. I said things were chaotic at times? Wow, it got worse. Things happened at break-kneck speed and then my eyeballs were being assaulted by capslock and !? exclamations over and over again.. at which point events happen in such a way that a certain character is, like, doing something that amounts to crouching over another and snapping like a dog because they are worried or being protective, or both, and it was just. I had to put the book down because suddenly I didn’t know what I was reading or what was happening. Things just really went off the rails. It was all those moments I disliked about the character from before but magnified to a hellish extreme. Even the bestie of our main protagonist, who up until this point was a solid favourite, was just so.. over dramatic for literally no reason. It went full on soap opera/CW moment and I was just left baffled.

In conclusion. The first half? Very good. The second half? Actually, it’s not even a full half, it’s like.. maybe three chapters? It doesn’t drag out but it really slaps you in the face. Or at least it did for me. So that bit? A lot less good. But we had a sweet ending and there was something that did happen that I didn’t expect, possibly because I’m dumb, and said thing is a good thing. So while this wasn’t an overall win for me there is lots of enjoyment to be had, along with knowing you’re reading an #OwnVoices story with solid representation, and I will absolutely read this author again.

NIGHT OF CAKE & PUPPETS by Laini Taylor

In this stand-alone companion to the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone series comes the story of Mik and Zuzana’s fantastical first date—as a gorgeously illustrated gift edition with bonus content included.

Petite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her “rabid fairy,” her “voodoo eyes” are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or “Violin Boy,” her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to make the first move, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It’s a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy is not going to know what hit him.

New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Originally published as an ebook, this new print edition will include breathtaking black and white illustrations, plus bonus content in a gorgeous package perfect for new and current fans of the series.



Title : Night of Cake & Puppets
Author : Laini Taylor (illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo)
Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book 2.5)
Format : hardback
Page Count : 256
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Release Date : November 26, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 5 star review

Once you know magic is real, it’s really hard to remember what it was like not to know.

To me, this little book is magic. The story, the art, the way it breaks up the action in the main series to dazzle you.. everything about it is just perfection.

Zuzana in particular always felt like such a force as a supporting character but the brilliance of this novella is that she feels no different in the spotlight. Taylor had this character pegged from page one and she doesn’t feel any more real but instead feels just like herself.

The friendship moments between Zuzana and Karou, even just through text, are so authentic and silly and heartfelt that it felt like rereading my own texts to friends.

As for Mik, well. He’s definitely a sweet thing but doesn’t leave as much as an impression as either Zuz or even Karou. But it was how he thought about Zuzana, how he was instantly a believer in magic, and how self-aware he was, that make him worthy of our rabid fairy.

Reading this after my series reread makes me instantly crave more from this world and these characters — even though I only left them a week or two ago — and if that isn’t proof of magic, what is?

If you are a fan of this series but haven’t yet picked up this novella? You must.

DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?



Title : Days of Blood & Starlight
Author : Laini Taylor
Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book two)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 528
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : November 6, 2012 (original) / December 1, 2020 (new editions!)

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 4.5 star review

“.. absolutely preparing myself to be destroyed and devastated all over again,” was how I wrapped my review of book one. Because I remembered the vibe of this story more than the events themselves. Infact, only a few scenes stood out to me, so it was almost like reading this for the first time. I think maybe I had forgotten most of what happened in this series outside of book one and a few broadstrokes. I have a feeling book three will be the one I recall the least.

What can a soldier do when mercy is treason, and he is alone in it?

I actually don’t think this book was quite the devastation or destruction I remembered it to be, vibe or no. But it’s definitely relentless. Hit after hit is taken, not all of them all-encompassing, but enough that it wears you down. Just like Karou is worn down, worn thin, believing she has no path but the one she’s on. And I think it was that atmosphere that allowed for those few (very few) moments of sweetness, of levity, to feel both out of place but impossible not to cling to. Like the image of Zuzana and Mik, fragile humans, playing amongst creatures of nightmare and imagination and death. Your brain questions it but you can’t look away.

Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy; a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate.

There was a lot of hurt in this book; in the sense of loss, of betrayal, of grief, of a dream that will never be realized, of hope. Because hope, too, hurts.

As always, Taylor’s writing was impeccable, the way she toyed with us every time, making us believe one thing, only to reveal the opposite, was both breathtaking and left the heart pounding and also something of a trap. Because just when you come to rely on that, to expect it to happen each time, it won’t. Sometimes the bad, the sad, is the reality and there’s no surprise waiting to tell you otherwise. But it’s a compelling way to force one’s readers to devour page after page, chapter after chapter. Which is what I did. Not just out of hope but also because I just could not tear myself away.

For all that this was grim, and at times hopeless, I think it’s probably my favourite of the two. The questions posed, the wrong for the right reasons, the push for vengeance which only propels more violence to answer the call, the conflict our characters felt, made me feel so much.

I also feel helpless to do anything other than jump into book three.. right.. now.

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

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE by Laini Taylor

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?



Title : Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Author : Laini Taylor
Series : Daughter of Smoke & Bone (book one)
Format : paperback
Page Count : 433
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 27, 2011 (original) / December 1, 2020 (new editions!)

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

Don’t worry, I’m not late to the party when it comes to this series. This is a reread inspired by the upcoming release of the tenth anniversary paperback editions featuring new covers that, to be quite honest, I didn’t love at first sight. But in person? Wow do they grow on a body. And lets be real, as much as I love a cover, it’s the insides that really matter. And was I afraid this might not live up to my memories? A tiny bit. It’s 2020 after all. Much stranger things have happened.

Despite owning two different editions of this series, this was my first reread. I don’t know how that’s possible, either, but thankfully reliving the magic and wonder and heartbreak was only slightly less pow, bam, boom, amazing than the first time.

Loneliness is worse when you return to it after a reprieve — like a soul’s version of putting on a wet bathing suit, clammy and miserable.

Taylor’s writing is.. well, I mean, you either love it or you hate it. But I love it. I love how vividly and perfectly I can picture everything she describes. I love how I can sense the emotion she’s trying to convey. I love how her characters can make you laugh just as quickly as they can make you bleed. It’s really the whole package for me.

To take from the universe, you must give.
But.. why pain? Couldn’t you give something else? Like.. joy?
It’s a balance. If it were something easy to give, it would be meaningless.
You really think joy is easier to come by than pain? Which have you had more of?
That’s a good point.

If, after all these years, you’re still on the fence about this series, you should definitely.. get off that fence. There is such wonder and magic in this story and, yes, darkness but also humour, with strong characters, hints of destiny, and.. inevitability, I guess. In a good way.

Surprising no one, I’m diving face first right into book two and absolutely preparing myself to be destroyed and devastated all over again. Bring it.

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

THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.


Title : The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author : Holly Black
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 433
Genre : YA paranormal/urban fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 3, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I picked up this book for a spooky readathon prompt (shoutout to the #ScreamQueensReadathon hosts!) even though it would be a reread for me but considering it had been a few years — five, at least — it seemed timely to give it another go anyway.

That said, I did want to go back and peruse my thoughts before writing a new review and wouldn’t you know it this predates my GR reviewing. Fail. But it got me scrolling through some reviews from those on my flist and I got to say.. I laughed at how few people actually like this book. But I did! I feel like those who didn’t like this book are maybe the same readers who enjoyed The Folk of the Air series more than I did. No shade! It’s just amusing. And also interesting.

But back to this book. I probably won’t be able to properly explain why I liked it because I can definitely acknowledge there are bits that weren’t my favourite — the ending, for one; not the open endedness of it all but I felt it was a bit rushed to tie things up to the extent they did. I mean, some readers DNF’d this and others said it was too filled with bits they didn’t care for but I could’ve read another hundred pages no sweat!

Sure, there are some conveniences for our leading lady, some things she achieves in what could be the manner of a special snowflake but it all felt pretty reasonable to me, all things considered? And when pitted up against the exboyfriend who came along for the ride AND the people they ended up carpooling with who also came along for the more literal ride? She was certainly not at the top of my list of irritating or stupid characters.

If you didn’t believe in monsters, then how were you going to be able to keep safe from them?

This story leans into all the dark and gruesome of vampire legends (and in fact I loved the bloating detail after their feed, it’s gross and awesome!) and all the stangeness that comes with revering celebrities and the pedestal we put so many people on just for the circumstance of their existence. Because oh yeah, I didn’t mention, vampires live in lockdowned cities (the side eye) where the infected, those who have been bit or fed from, are also quarantined (quiet hysterical laughter), and these locations, called Coldtowns, are also filmed in Big Brother fashion and posted online. Though, much like an Instagram filter, the content is only one side of a coin and the reality isn’t all glamorous blood drinking parties.

This might not be for everyone (clearly isn’t if you look at GR!) but it worked for me!