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.

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.

REBEL OF THE SANDS by Alwyn Hamilton

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic.  For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.

Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.


Title : Rebel in the Sands
Author : Alwyn Hamilton
Series : Rebel of the Sands (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 321
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date : March 8, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Here’s another reread of book one in a series that I never finished. I read this over five years ago and sadly books two and three fell by the wayside and, despite how much I enjoyed this all those years ago, I never chased after them. But I tapped this series as part of my Five Series to Finish in 2021 pledge and so here we are.

Spoiler : I’m stealing a bit of this re-review from my original bit on GR. Because it sums my feelings, to this day, too well not to.

I wasn’t expecting Rebel of the Sands to work. The whole western theme crossed with a fantasy setting inspired by the myths and tales ala Arabian Nights? In theory you might think it could work, that the bare bones of it all could fit together, but there were so many ways it could go wrong. But this was a fast paced exciting adventure with enough magic to make it mystical but not detract from the very real and human conflict and struggle with identity. 

Whereas the first time I read this I apparently didn’t connect to the main characters, and I might still kind of agree on that, this time it didn’t bother me. I was too swept up in the action (I read this very quickly in one sitting) to be bothered. Could the romance be more fleshed out? Absolutely. But, again, because I like them, I’m not too fussed. I’m feeling really easy going about the whole experience, to be honest. I did not expect to be as satisfied by this on a second go around, especially all these years later, but here we are.

That said, now that we’ve established a lot of elements to this world, as well as some key players, I would definitely hope that they get more page time, and everything, including said romance, feels a little more.. well, more.

Diving right into book two.

VOW OF THIEVES by Mary E. Pearson

Kazi and Jase have survived, stronger and more in love than ever. Their new life now lies before them―the Ballengers will be outlaws no longer, Tor’s Watch will be a kingdom, and the two of them will meet all challenges side by side, together at last.

But an ominous warning mars their journey back, and in their rush to return to Tor’s Watch, just outside the fortress walls, they are violently attacked and torn apart―and each is thrust into their own new hell.

Unsure whether the other is alive or dead, Kazi and Jase must keep their wits among their greatest enemies and unlikeliest allies. And all the while, Death watches and waits.


Title : Dance of Thieves
Author : Mary E. Pearson
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : August 6, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .75


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

So, my theories were crap. But only because at least one thing I expected to be revealed.. wasn’t. Which is perplexing. Are there more books to come for this world to explain? Is it something that just won’t be? I have fewer theories but more questions.

I truly don’t know how to rate these books. More and more I hate having a star system and wish I didn’t have to assign a value to anything. Anyone else? Anyway.

What Pearson does so well, and this book/series is no exception, is how messy and complex and crafted the plots are. Some characters (usually the villains) are eight steps ahead of the rest of the players; not in an outlandish, it’s not possible, kind of way but legit villainy. Obsession. Carefully considered moves and steps and feints. Which makes sense because the heroes, those fighting back, are so good, so clever, themselves that they need a true opposition to make the stakes feel high. And they always do feel high; especially in this instalment. 

For all that the action was dialled up in this one, letting the romance take a bit of a backseat, I did find myself pulled away from the story more than book one. I don’t know why. Might’ve just been my distractible brain.

But for all that I’m fretting over the rating, for all that I wasn’t as absorbed, I did still devour this book and am actually kind of sad I’m now all caught up. I guess I’ll be joining the queue of fans to see if there’s more to come from this world which is such a strange mix of fantasy, dystopia, and science fiction. Am I still the only one who doesn’t quite know how the original world fell apart, though? Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.

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

CAZADORA by Romina Garber

In Cazadora, the follow-up to Lobizona, Romina Garber continues to weave Argentine folklore and real-world issues into a haunting, fantastical, and romantic story that will reunite readers with Manu and her friends as they continue to fight for a better future.


Title : Cazadora
Author : Romina Garber
Series : Lobizona
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : August 17, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2.75 star review

Did I think this was a duology? Yes. Am I disappointed? A bit. Because even though my feelings about this instalment were kind of lukewarm, the ending hooked me. I kind of expect to be in the same spot again with book three, where I end this review thinking the next book might inspire some love and probably being a little let down again.. but oh well, we’re going to do it anyway.

Bruja. Lobizón. There’s no accompanying symbol, but there’s no need. The gendered language makes it clear which one is for girls and which one is for boys. There’s no breaking out the binary, no room for anything in between.

Some of what I struggled with in book one wasn’t here in book two, which was great, but overall I’m not 100% what actually happened in this book to differentiate it from book one. I mean, yes, we had the big capture, the big confrontation, but the majority of this book was just going through similar motions except the world expanded a bit more from the binary structure introduced in Lobizona. Until those misfits, much like their strict counterparts, weren’t willing to unbend quite as much as expected. Part of me appreciated it, because going with the flow would’ve been a little too easy, but it did reinforce the whole ‘what was the point of this’ feeling. I imagine where we go next will be to lean back into a lot of the themes of book one — isolation, illegal, unwanted — with a few key differences.. such as the truth being out in the open. I can’t picture how this ends, though; so that’s something.

They’ve been making up stories about independent girls in every tradition since forever. And I think it’s time we take back our narrative.

As creative and visual as this world is (don’t ask me why but my brain conjures Avatar-like colours and scenery), I do think it is a bit of a distraction from the dragged out plot. The themes, the dialogue, are all just as important and great as they were in book one, but.. I don’t know. There’s just a but for me.

Again, the ending was good, I will be back for more, but am I still sad I’m not loving this world? So much. Because of that, please disregard this review. I won’t recommend you pick it up but I think this is important enough that you should anyway.

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

LIVING BEYOND BORDERS edited by Margarita Longoria – double review!

Twenty stand-alone short stories, essays, poems, and more from celebrated and award-winning authors make up this YA anthology that explores the Mexican American experience. With works by Francisco X. Stork, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, David Bowles, Rubén Degollado, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Diana López, Xavier Garza, Trinidad Gonzales, Alex Temblador, Aida Salazar, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Sylvia Sanchez Garza, Dominic Carrillo, Angela Cervantes, Carolyn Dee Flores, René Saldaña Jr., Laura Perez, Justine Narro, Daniel García Ordáz, and Anna Meriano.

In this mixed-media collection of short stories, personal essays, poetry, and comics, this celebrated group of authors share the borders they have crossed, the struggles they have pushed through, and the two cultures they continue to navigate as Mexican American. Living Beyond Borders is at once an eye-opening, heart-wrenching, and hopeful love letter from the Mexican American community to today’s young readers. 


Title : Living Beyond Borders : Stories About Growing Up Mexican in America
Author : edited by Margarita Longoria
Format : eARC
Page Count : 224
Genre : YA contemporary/mixed media anthology/short stories
Publisher : Philomel Books
Release Date : August 17, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Who made the rules on what being Mexican was or wasn’t? I’d always been told to check a box — to fit in one category or the other. But it wasn’t ever that easy. And why did it matter?

I wasn’t sure I was going to rate this, as I don’t tend to award stars to non-fiction (not that I read much of it, to be fair, despite my best intentions!), but as I think most of what is comprised of this anthology is fiction (though I could of course be wrong..), I felt it deserved to be rated. Particularly in the hopes that people see the stars and feel inspired to look a little closer at this and maybe, even, hopefully, pick it up.

Mom and Dad used to love taking me to all the Mexican and Chicanx pride events, and I used to like it too until I got older and couldn’t wrap my head around how it’s possible to dance with such fierce colourful joy while shouldering a legacy of so much pain.

Though there are twenty different offerings within this collection this is not a long read and, in the case of some of the specific ones I’ll shoutout below, I wish it had been longer. I can’t possibly know the impact of what this collection will do for readers who see themselves, or their parents, or their loved ones, in these stories but I have a feeling this’ll mean a lot for a lot of people.

I understand that for many Americans — including my own parents — being seen as American is a struggle that can be tiring and long.

As for those standouts? These were mine.

Coco Chamoy y Chango by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo was the first one to make me wish there had been more to it. I wanted to keep reading, I wanted to learn more about these characters, and where they were going. It was such a casual little snapshot in time but it made an impression.

Next was My Name is Dolores by Guadalupe Ruiz-Flores and, to quickly sum up, it broke my heart. The image of that little girl.. well, I won’t spoil. But it was one of those little big moments that leaves quiet devastation in its wake.

An Ode to My Papi by Guadalupe García McCall might have been the shortest of the bunch but.. I don’t want to call it lovely, because it was also so sad, but it was a bittersweet, heartwarming, heartaching little tribute. Though there’s nothing little about the message.

Finally, there was La Princesa Mileidy Dominguez by Rubén Degollado which snuck up on me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t invested in the story as it unfolded but it wasn’t until the final paragraph or two when I realized how much I had softened as the story went on until I found myself brushing away tears. Partially it was the importance of the celebration described, the moment of transition from child to young adult, but it was more how this group of strangers, this community, came together without hesitation. It was incredibly moving.

There was one more quote I really wanted to share so I’ll use it to sign off this review but suffice it to say yes, I had some favourites, but most of the quotes I’ve pulled didn’t even come from those stories I’ve mentioned. There was something different, something important, something moving, in everything offered in this collection. And also something for everyone.

I’m so tired of these trying political times, and I’m tired of trying to care about the newest protests and the hashtags and the kids who die or almost die and get fifteen minutes of fame from the adults who have all the money and the clout and the thoughts and prayers but don’t actually do anything.

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


Micky’s 5 star review

Here’s a collection of short stories to push you right into your emotions and some of them are going to be discomforting ones. From the first story of this anthology of stories/poems/letters from people who have straddled the Mexican/American borders, I was absorbed. These stories made me angry and hopeful, sad and in awe.

While I appreciated them all, here’s a flavour of some of the ones that either hit me in the gut, educated me or transported me to someone else’s experience (sometimes all of these things).

Ghetto Is Not An Adjective by Dominic Carrillo took a chance encounter and made an impact through poetry, ignorance felt like it was the theme for this story.

“There Are Mexicans In Texas?” by Trinidad Gonzales really conveyed the importance of family history to how he’s navigated peoples’ ignorance and racism at various junctures. These familial stories seemed to ground the author’s sense of self. I could have read his experiences and anecdotes for much longer. This quote really hit home and has relevance to other countries too:

The struggle to belong is found not only in the politics of the street, but in official institutions that are supposed to be inclusive of all Americans.

Ode to My Papi by Guadalupe García McCall squeezed my heart in a mere moment on the paper. So much was conveyed in a short space.

There were so many others to mention, but I wanted to give a dynamic snapshot of what’s on offer here.

I live overseas but I read and watch these issues, wanting to know more, especially when tensions were heightened under the 45th POTUS’ control. This book afforded me a deeper dive into individual experiences both fictionalised and non-fiction. I recommend this to all and it is definitely suitable from teenage upwards.

The editor/author provided me with a early copy through netgalley but this has not influenced by review.

DANCE OF THIEVES by Mary E. Pearson

When the patriarch of the Ballenger empire dies, his son, Jase, becomes its new leader. Even nearby kingdoms bow to the strength of this outlaw family, who have always governed by their own rules. But a new era looms on the horizon, set in motion by a young queen, which makes her the target of the dynasty’s resentment and anger.

At the same time, Kazi, a legendary former street thief, is sent by the queen to investigate transgressions against the new settlements. When Kazi arrives in the forbidding land of the Ballengers, she learns that there is more to Jase than she thought. As unexpected events spiral out of their control, bringing them intimately together, they continue to play a cat and mouse game of false moves and motives in order to fulfill their own secret missions.

Mary E. Pearson’s Dance of Thieves is a new YA novel in the New York Times bestselling Remnant Chronicles universe, in which a reformed thief and the young leader of an outlaw dynasty lock wits in a battle that may cost them their lives—and their hearts. 


Title : Dance of Thieves
Author : Mary E. Pearson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 521
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date : August 7, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .75


Hollis’ 3.75 star review

So, in hindsight, I should’ve read these much sooner after finishing The Remnant Chronicles. Especially the novella, Morrigan. Most of the mythology/worldbuilding did come back to me but it was slowish going and I’m sure some bits flew over my head because I’d forgotten some nuance. This does follow new characters, and mostly new conflict (with familiar faces all around, including a villain or two), but it’s still tied into the main series enough that I grumbled about my poor sieve of a memory.

That said, like with Pearson’s original series, I loved Kazi. How this author makes me fall in love with her female protagonists is just pure magic. Jace wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the women who shine. Kazi is very different from Lia, with a background that is the literal opposite to the other, but she is just as clever, just as cunning, and likely even craftier. Not to mention skilled. 

I like how once again this series is challenging the theory of an assumed-upon history of a world and how what is known maybe isn’t true. While that wasn’t the main issue of the plot it definitely plays a big part. I’m curious to see how it plays out in book two. Because for all that we definitely wrapped up some loose ends, you know there’s more to unravel in the coming book; particularly after that epilogue. And I have t h e o r i e s.

I’m diving right into book two and oh boy am I hoping this series has a stronger end than the last one.

A LESSON IN VENGEANCE by Victoria Lee

For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself. 


Title : A Lesson in Vengeance
Author : Victoria Lee
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ paranormal/thriller
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : August 3, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I think this would’ve worked so much better if, like one of the comp titles, this had been an adult (or at least new adult) novel. I think so much of what I struggled with, or found hard to believe, could have been easier to swallow if this had been aged up.

That said, I really enjoyed the first half of the story. We open up with our main character returning to this elite/exclusive/preppy highschool, almost like a pre-college collegiate style school, after time away in recovery from her girlfriend’s death. She soon finds being back on campus is damaging to her ability to discern reality from the belief that she’s being haunted; not by her girlfriend (or not only..) but by the ghosts of girls long dead who are built into the history, the mythology, of the school. Felicity sees things, feels things, and it makes the reader question her reliability as a narrator; is she delusional, is her grief causing her prior obsession with witchcraft, with the dead girls, making her see things that aren’t there or are these manifestations actually real?

.. grief would tie itself to the small things, that I’d be living my life as normal and then a bit of music or the cut of a girl’s smile would remind me of her and it would all flood back in.

Felicity’s journey, her obsession, her grief, her hauntings, they were all compelling. Where I started to side-eye things was with.. well, almost everything else. Certain characters, with certain influences and motivations, and how transparent it all seemed. And also, my biggest problem really, was just.. why? Maybe there wasn’t supposed to be a why. Maybe I just didn’t get it.

There was one big exception to the transparent bit, though. Something I definitely didn’t see coming. And I loved it? I don’t think many will. Infact, I think the ending in general will be polarizing. You’ve been warned!

I was definitely a bit hesitant going into this, no matter how pumped I was over the concept, because I had a rough go with Lee’s debut series. This? I loved the writing, I loved the dip in and out of spooky paranormal horror, the uncertainty of it all. I started this late at night and I won’t say it scared me but oh did it do a good job with the eerie vibes.

This might not have been a solid win but parts of it worked so so well for me. I’m definitely looking forward to more from this author, especially if they write more in this darker vein, but I think Lee would absolutely excel at an adult story. I hope one day it happens.

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