CROSSED by Eliza Crewe

War is here.

Full-scale war has erupted between the Crusaders and demons and even Chi has to admit isn’t going well. Like any sensible rat, Meda’s eager to abandon the sinking ship but, unfortunately, her friends aren’t nearly as pragmatic. Instead, Meda’s forced to try to keep them all alive until the dust settles.

As the Crusaders take more and more drastic measures, the tables turn and Meda suddenly finds herself in the role of voice of sanity. No one is more horrified than she is. When old enemies reappear as new allies and old friends become new enemies Meda has to decide—again—whose side she’s really on.

And then the Crusaders decide that Meda should go to Hell. Literally.

Can’t a monster ever catch a break?


Title : Crossed
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : August 13, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

I definitely expected this ending to be unexpected but the fact that it was also delightful and delicious? So good.

I have seen too much good in my enemies, too much evil in my allies.

Obviously there’s even less I can say about this finale than the books that came before because I in no way want to spoil the surprises that await you. But just know.. they await. Patiently.

It’s this, my own depravity, that makes me unable to condemn others for theirs, that makes me want to believe that no matter what mistakes I make, that there is forgiveness. There is hope.

This series has a snarky hilarious narrative built around our not-at-all innocent soul eater, a half demon, Meda. It has strong female friendships that are complicated by differences and realness but endure nonetheless. It has an interesting and complex romantic element that constantly surprised me. It has darkness and violence but also hope and light. And so much more.

Just as the Crusaders are plagued with hate, demons are afflicted with hope. The equal opposite nature of the cosmic game board means no one is above reproach, and no one is below it.

If you’re looking to beef up your backlist reading, you love YA, and you enjoy a twist on the usual formula; if you love to revel in some excellent dialogue around good and evil, the truths we avoid and the lies we tell ourselves, no matter what side we’re on, this would be a high recommend from me.



CRUSHED by Eliza Crewe

Meda Melange has officially hung up her monstrous mantle and planted her feet firmly on the holy and righteous path of a Crusader-in-training. Or, at least, she’s willing to give it a shot. It helps that the Crusaders are the only thing standing between her and the demon hordes who want her dead.

The problem is, the only people less convinced than Meda of her new-found role as Good Girl are the very Crusaders she’s trying to join. So when a devilishly handsome half-demon boy offers escape, how’s a girl supposed to say “no?”

After all, everyone knows a good girl’s greatest weakness is a bad boy.

uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.


Title : Crushed
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 271
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : August 5, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

So, yes, I’ll admit the rating on this one may be a bit confusing but I’ll explain. This one is not quite as satisfyingly all around excellent as book one but nonetheless it’s still really good. Which is why it’s rounding up. But within the ranking of the series it’s worth noting this is not quite on par.

Having said that, Crewe had already shown she was willing to do things differently with this series and she continues that trend and then some. While things in this world are pretty black and white, despite some book one teasing about the good guys willing to lie, cheat, and steal, as long as their intentions were honourable or purposeful to the cause, this one really leans into the extremes for which both sides will go to win. And for Meda, who is half demon and half good, with a third important element within her at play, this is a dangerous place to be; especially when she’s chosen the side she’s chosen.

Contrary to what you might expect, I don’t go on a murderous rampage. A real monster is too clever for that. A real monster shakes the hands of elderly couples as he invests their life’s savings in his Ponzi scheme; she kisses babies and runs for political office; he waits until she’s in love. A real monster knows that an attack huts; but a betrayal scars.

It’s not easy being caught up amongst the stirrings of a war and she learns she doesn’t fit anywhere. Worse, her best friend, doesn’t seem to be standing with her, either. And that’s the final straw. Something’s got to give.

I can’t be good, but apparently I can’t be mad, either. I’m a wasted half of everything.

Honestly, I’ll admit, the first half of this book was hard. It was hard seeing Meda stuck where she was and at the mercy of those around her. Specifically there was a possession scene that had me crawling out of my skin. It was just.. wow. Huge kudos. This series, for all its darkness and violence and death, has never felt truly dark or horror-ish but that moment was it for me. Hoo boy.

But, don’t worry, the humour was still here too. Meda’s voice is a little less cheeky, mostly because of her circumstances, but it’s still there. And there’s heartbreak, too, that was so beautifully done. Again, this author is really challenging our expectations for the usual plotlines and expectations of how things go, particularly with YA.

Super excited to see how Crewe wraps this in book three because I have a feeling more unexpected excellence is awaiting me but I won’t have to wait long because yes I’m diving right in.

CRACKED by Eliza Crewe

Meet Meda. She eats people.

Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She’s special. It’s not her fault she enjoys it. She can’t help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it’s not like there are any other “soul-eaters” around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up.

They can do what she can do. They’re like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda’s kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her ‘kind’ is.

Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her.

The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.


Title : Cracked
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 327
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : November 5, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

This unexpected gem has been sitting on my TBR since.. (checks notes) 2015. We hate to see it. But love that I finally had a reason to pick it up.

While in some ways this follows a lot of typical storytelling beats — girl is on her own, gets caught between two warring sides or factions, has unique or dangerous origins that are discovered, discovers she’s a bit of a snowflake, etc — this story instead comes at it from a different angle.

Her voice is calm but now I see her eyes blaze in a holy hazel fire. She doesn’t want to die, but she will, for what she believes in. I need new friends.

Meda, instead of a young innocent, is actually the soul-eating demon. She obfuscates and manipulates her rescue for the purpose of gaining intel on not just her own heritage but also those who would hunt her down. Discovers the truth of how she came to be and some of her history. Becomes said snowflake. And chooses a side you might not expect.

I guess [they] figured their kids were the good guys, so how much supervision did they really need? Idiots. A good teenager is like a good demon — a contradiction in terms.

Despite those unique choices, not to mention the snarky and often silly tongue-in-cheek and very different inner voice from her outer voice, this didn’t remake the wheel but.. it was a lot of fun? And I’m honestly baffled that this seems to be such a dark horse in the YA world. It is old, yes, but released during a time when I would’ve expected this to be a smash hit. But maybe it was just dark enough and snarky enough — not to mention the fact that Meda is one slip away from being an all out villain and even without said slip she’s definitely not on Team Good — to be too ahead of it’s time?

It’s all horrifyingly healthy fare, omelettes heavy on the veggies, mixed fruit, and Canadian “bacon”. Ha, it is as much bacon as I am human. We are both liars, but I feel it committed the greater offence.

I could muse over my befuddlement for the lack of success it seems this series had but perhaps the next books don’t do as well? I don’t know. Time to find out.

THE BRONZED BEASTS by Roshani Chokshi

In love they breathed. In destiny they believed. In the end, will divinity be their demise?

After Séverin’s seeming betrayal, the crew is fractured. Armed with only a handful of hints, Enrique, Laila, Hypnos and Zofia must find their way through the snarled, haunted waterways of Venice, Italy to locate Séverin. 

Meanwhile, Séverin must balance the deranged whims of the Patriarch of the Fallen House and discover the location of a temple beneath a plague island where the Divine Lyre can be played and all that he desires will come to pass. 

With only ten days until Laila expires, the crew will face plague pits and deadly masquerades, unearthly songs and the shining steps of a temple whose powers might offer divinity itself… but at a price they may not be willing to pay.


Title : The Silvered Serpents
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Series : The Gilded Wolves (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA historical fiction / fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 21, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

So the end of this series is here and maybe, after loving book two so much, I should’ve tempered my expectations — after all, book one just wasn’t quite it for me — but honestly I’ve come out the end of this one just.. not knowing really how to feel.

This National Treasure-esque fantasy historical series has always leaned into “too smart for me” territory but I’ve enjoyed, even if I struggled to comprehend, the historical tie-ins, the history, the nuance, and thankfully this one maybe feel less stupid. But my intelligence or lack thereof aside, the series has always been balanced out by the delightful dynamic of the cast of characters (we love an ensemble, she continues to say, ad nauseum!) and after the events of book two, the dynamic sours and takes a turn. I wasn’t mad about it, and it was still enjoyable in its new configuration, but.. I don’t know, something was missing.

Likewise, the big conflict, the thing we’ve been leading towards, the main event if you will.. did I even really understand it? Nope. Could I visualize it? A little. Is that partially my problem? Probably! I plan to read some reviews and see if this just went wrong for everyone or, more likely, it was just me.

Additionally, the ending. How to describe it. Unexpected? Bittersweet? Lovely? It definitely went in a direction I didn’t see coming (hence the unexpectedness) and was a nice resolution to one of the other romances (hence the loveliness), but.. for how it finally did end, that last line, after all the time, all the loss..? Well, yeah, hence the bittersweetness. I also just wonder why. I don’t quite understand. Another thing I’ll be looking for clarity on in some reviews.

So, overall, this was a strange reading experience. But I’m not mad about pushing on to keep reading because the richness of this world, the diversity of the characters, the mystery of it all, the delightful ensemble banter.. there was a lot to enjoy. Would that I had ended up a higher note with it all but at least it’s not a low note! I’ll take the win.

YOU’VE REACHED SAM by Dustin Thao

If I Stay meets Your Name in this heartfelt novel about love, loss, and what it means to say goodbye.

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend, Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cell phone to listen to his voicemail. And Sam picks up the phone.

What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?

Filled with a diverse cast of characters, the heartache of first love and loss, and the kind of friends that can get you through anything, plus a touch of magic, You’ve Reached Sam will make an instant connection with anyone looking for a big emotional romance of a read.


Title : You’ve Reached Sam
Author : Dustin Thao
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : YA romance
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : November 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I am totally shocked that a book I expected to love, or at least like, barely rates the latter. Once again, the concept is better than the execution.

It’s really hard to be invested in a tragedy, and in grief, when the main character is just.. unlikeable. Not because she’s meant to be. But she just fails to be charming, sympathetic, consistent, or.. well.. likeable. I couldn’t understand why this poor dead boy had loved her for so long or why people were so inclined to be so nice for her. I know, it sounds harsh, but I’m not being mean for fun. I’m truly baffled. I kid you not, there’s a line in the book that says ‘the empathy from being a writer’ is what makes her connect to another person’s pain. Pain she had been happy to ignore twice before; not to mention.. you don’t need to be a writer to feel for other people? And she routinely would forget to do this all the time in light of her own feelings? So.. make it make sense?

Listen, everyone’s grief journey is valid. I’m not saying she isn’t allowed to throw away her boyfriend’s things, delete any and all texts, voicemails, and photos, and literally purge his existence from her life.. all of which she does in the opening chapters. But she would also act surprised every time someone else was sad, or mentioned him, or was processing their own grief, and in between those bizarre realizations, she could be unfeeling, rude, oblivious, and just self-absorbed, all while being sad and processing her own grief. Eye twitch.

Despite this enduring connection to Sam after his death — I mean this literally, he picks up the phone when she calls him, after he’s died — I never once understood the connection (I said it twice in one sentence on purpose because it was used something like sixty times in this book and I swear I’ll see the word “connection” on the back of my eyelids when I sleep tonight). We had numerous flashbacks to their early days, some bits in the middle, and honestly they were both pretty much bland potatoes. No character, really, had much of a personality which I mean sometimes does happen with the window dressing second characters but I didn’t quite expect it from the romantic force driving the book, too.

Also, can we talk about the fact that this special connection.. wasn’t so special after all? Like, I don’t want to say more because spoilers but that.. I mean, why? How? Why? So many little things just don’t line up or seem to make sense, really.

We’ll just call this what it was : a flop. Between the uninspiring writing combined with the lack of emotional resonance, this is a story that has a mishmash of the most basic YA tropes, though not even done well, with the unique hook of having a magical phone that connects to a lost loved one to reel you in. Nothing more. Would not recommend.

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

KING OF CROWS by Libba Bray


After the horrifying explosion that claimed one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government, and on the brink of war with the King of Crows.

While Memphis and Isaiah run for their lives from the mysterious Shadow Men, Isaiah receives a startling vision of a girl, Sarah Beth Olson, who could shift the balance in their struggle for peace. Sarah Beth says she knows how to stop the King of Crows-but, she will need the Diviners’ help to do it.

Elsewhere, Jericho has returned after his escape from Jake Marlowe’s estate, where he has learned the shocking truth behind the King of Crow’s plans. Now, the Diviners must travel to Bountiful, Nebraska, in hopes of joining forces with Sarah Beth and to stop the King of Crows and his army of the dead forever.

But as rumors of towns becoming ghost towns and the dead developing unprecedented powers begin to surface, all hope seems to be lost.

In this sweeping finale, The Diviners will be forced to confront their greatest fears and learn to rely on one another if they hope to save the nation, and world from catastrophe..


Title : King of Crows
Author : Libba Bray
Series : The Diviners (book four)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 561
Genre : YA fantasy / historical fiction / paranormal
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating :  ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

If not for my respect for the author’s research and unflinching honesty about the history (and horrors) that exist in America (and so many other countries), this would be a one star. She called this a ghost story, and it’s true, because so much of what made up this series was a haunting; a haunting of the forgotten, of what it took to “make” the country; those who were erased in the process, those who continue to be deemed less worthy or overlooked.. there are so many ghosts in that. Many sad, lots of them mad. And Bray never let us forget it.

It was exhausting, sure, but what made it worse were these characters. I’m sorry, I could never find the love, I only ever had brief glimmers of like. What kept me going was the plot. And bizarrely, in this big epic finale, there was almost.. no plot? You would think there would be a big rush to band together, figure out strategy, and confront the Big Bad but.. no. This was some side quest/travel/journey novel from one end of the country to another. With a lot of time just.. passin’ on by. But before we even got to that? We had to survive some stupidity.

“[character x] is killing people for power and has been for years! they are the reason for everything that’s happened! we have to stop them to defeat [big bad villain]!”
“I know! we, a bunch of seventeen year olds, should TALK to this grown adult! I’m sure they don’t know what they are doing!”

[insert “sure Jan” gif here]

This is just one example of the stupid in the early very stages of this book. And maybe it’s naive but after all the stupid in the three books previous (sometimes just the characters being dumb, other times the author making them be stupid for plot reasons) I just.. hoped we wouldn’t still be doing something like this. After everything they’ve been through, everything they now know, and how much character x has done to them personally and others, their first instinct is to drop all other avenues of investigation or planning.. and confront someone for a conversation.

I’m so irritated. Infact that whole scene, and at least one after it, bothered me to no end. And knowing I was only at 14% did not inspire me to continue. But I did. Obviously.

What came after was much slogging, our heroes separated, trying to survive and reunite, only to then just.. hang around on a farm. For some semi-valid reasons, sure, but mostly not. And throughout that time, they were often just so clueless.

So much of the added word count, dare I say filler, never actually feels satisfactorily resolved, either. I’m not even going to touch on how easy the climax/confrontation was to be resolved, after everything, but so many characters who we had been forced to endure, or who had been part of things along the way, are ultimately just.. brushed aside?

Everything about this experience was so strange. So unsatisfying. Which is a strange mix when butted up against my respect for all the elements Bray included and made a point to beat us over the head with.

I cannot recommend the series, part of me even wishes I had my time back (especially for books two and four), but it’s done. And I’ll hopefully never see or hear the words Baby Vamp, Lamb Chop, copacetic, or pos-i-tutely ever again.

This was a pretty disappointing note to end on as I wrap my Five Series to Finish in 2021 goal but. But! I did it. I already have a whole new selection for 2022 (blog post to come!) and I can’t wait to continue to close out more started-but-yet-to-finish-reading series in the new year.

ACT COOL by Tobly Smith – double review!

A trans teen walks the fine line between doing whatever it takes for his acting dream and staying true to himself in this moving, thought-provoking YA novel from the acclaimed author of Stay Gold.

Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept that he’s transgender. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must promise them he won’t transition.

August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while acting cool and confident in the company of his talented new friends.

But who is August when the lights go down? And where will he turn when the roles start hitting a little too close to home?


Title : Act Cool
Author : Tobly Smith
Format : ARC/Hardback
Page Count : 352
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ contemporary YA romance
Publisher : Quill Tree Books/Harper 360YA
Release Date : September 7, 2021

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


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I said this in another queer YA contemporary review recently that it’s important for queer and trans characters to have messy love lives, or messy stories, or just be messy, because so many of those stories already exist for straight and cis-gendered content.

However, queer or not, messy doesn’t always make it easy to love.

August is a trans boy who has recently run away from tinytown, Pennsylvania to not only avoid conversion therapy as a result of his religious parents rejecting his identity but also to attend a prestigious acting school in New York courtesy of his aunt’s connections. Suffice it to say August is going through it. He has baggage. He’s recently transitioned, come out, and he’s dealing with a new city, new school, and finally being his authentic self. Sorta. But because of all that, because he’s new to almost every aspect of his life, he’s also changing personas the way most people change shirts. This makes August a difficult character to get a read on. 

Now, listen, I get it, I’m old now but I was hip and young once. I understand the concept of having a different angle with different groups; hell, most of us still have elements of that to our personality : it’s called work and home life. However.. this isn’t just August at Home vs August at School. This is too many Augusts; funny guy, serious guy, acting guy, flirting guy, humble guy.. again, how am I supposed to know who I’m reading about if he’s just a mask?

Eventually this does phase out when he addresses it, or rather when he gets called out of it multiple times and then addresses it, and again, so much of it is understandable. But it’s also hard.

August gets caught up in the buzz and high of being well liked and successful, focusing on followers and curating his social media presence, lying about not reading the articles and posts about him, because he happens to land a starring role in his school’s play and then another opportunity shortly thereafter. Naturally.. things go to his head and he becomes outright unlikeable. 

Which phases into the next thing I disliked. All the lies. Again, tied into his shifting in and out of being who he thought he had to be in the moment.
Probably it’s just that, as much as I could empathize for August’s struggle and what he had endured, and what he was going through in general, I never liked him. Infact, the only characters I loved (yes, I did love some!) were August’s aunt and his trans fairy-godmother, Juliet. A+, five stars, for both of them. Everyone else.. meh? They were just too much drama for me, not going to lie, and that probably tied into why I wasn’t down for any of the various romances. Besides the fact that none of them were particularly well developed.

I have also found with previous stories that focus this much on theatre or acting just don’t interest me. And there was a lot of that in this one. Not helped, too, by August assuming his way was the right way to do things despite the advice of his teachers or discussion with peers — you know, at the prestigious school he probably didn’t deserve to be at and clearly didn’t respect enough — which also does get addressed, in a rather heartbreaking way, but it was one more thing that added to the arrogance and frustration around his character.

Much of the narrative in Act Cool is about getting transpeople other narratives that aren’t necessarily defined by their being transgender, telling different and happier stories, in addition to representation in general. And then there’s also the emphasis on found family and finding those who will accept you no matter what.There’s a lot of great in here. I just had to sift through a lot of less great to appreciate it.

That said, if you’re looking for a diverse YA contemporary, with drama and romance that does get a wee bit messy and soap opera-y, but with some heavier themes to keep it from being too frothy, you could definitely do worse than picking this one up. But if you hate theatre or Broadway.. maybe avoid.

** I received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher (thank you!) and this in no way influenced my review. **


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
Drama on and off the stage
Tough but still uplifting
Shitty parents

Call me enchanted by Tobly McSmith’s writing and stories, because this is the second book of his that has drawn me in, made me love all the things and left me thinking. Act Cool was the kind of story that had tough themes (and I expected it this time) but it is also a hugely uplifting and empowering read. It transports you into the world of August and for me, I became his cheer team.

August was a character that jumped off the page with his raw feeling, his ability to trust, his naivety as a trans character and his desire to be accepted. August was the unfortunate owner of some top-form shitty parents. I hated them, as I should, but these kind of ignorant folks exist, they’re not an illusion and they are harmful. Hooray for Aunt Lil to offset some of that.

August’s journey through a performing arts school, fresh opportunities and finding his feet with being a man was just 100% absorbing. The crew around August were a dramatic bunch and he spent time sussing out who was friend, foe or both. I really warmed to the side characters and even Mr Daniels. The performing arts backdrop, Broadway and how those themes intersected with August facing his gender dysphoria was emotional; I was gripped.

There were a number of quotes I tabbed, probably all a bit spoilery to share but amongst the witty banter, the fun of school life were deep thoughts, the odd profound inner monologue and interaction with others.

I simply loved this book, it made my Saturday and I avidly await Tobly McSmith’s next book.

Please do check out some trans reviewers for this book.

Thank you to Pride Book Tours and Harper 360YA for the review copy.

BEFORE THE DEVIL BREAKS YOU by Libba Bray

New York City.
1927.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming…


After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them face-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves. 


Title : Before the Devil Breaks You
Author : Libba Bray
Series : The Diviners (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 561
Genre : YA fantasy / historical fiction / paranormal
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 3, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating :  ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

You know those books that have very clear peaks and valleys in enjoyment where you can point out “see that? that’s where I started to hate this” or “this, this was where I felt the story redeemed itself”. Well.. yeah, this is one of those.

What started off slow, quickly (well.. not quickly, this is almost six hundred pages after all) started to prove itself better than its predecessor; and I don’t just mean plot-wise. Because for some of this I was having fun with the characters, too. But of course we can’t have nice things so that took a serious dive (or two!), and we ended things back where we started with me being checked out on character and only here for over arcing plot.

I don’t know if it’s really just me (likely, based on ratings) that can’t connect to these characters or what but like.. it’s not even that they just aren’t likeable. They just have do some questionable, sometimes outright stupid, things. Some can be blamed on the author who has thrown at least one under the bus for the sake of resolving a romance (which.. I’ll get to this in a mo) but the rest just seem to be their personality and, welp, I’m not here for it.

Much like how I wasn’t getting on with the characters, I also wasn’t getting on with the majority of the romances. In fact.. the only ones I liked where the queer pairings? And they didn’t even get much page time. Maybe that’s what saved them. As for what wasn’t saved, aforementioned character and the bus, like.. wow. Harsh. I guess that’s one way to solve a love triangle? Just kidding, no it is not. Curious to see that fall to shit in book four.

And having that said, I don’t understand how in a book with so much happening, much action, much filler, many characters, there were so many scenes that were just.. rushed over? Seemed to have been skimmed? It made the pacing so strange and it made the whole experience frustrating as, again, I was actually liking this more than I wasn’t. Until the last 20%.

Very glad there’s only one more book to go because even though this series hasn’t been a total fail (though it obviously hasn’t been a total win, either) it’s rather exhausting to be trapped in this dreary racist past (as opposed to our dreary racist present) and I find my skin crawls more from the terrible non-magical human characters than it does from the spooky ghosts or horror elements. Imma need something fluffy after this for sure.

THE KEEPER OF NIGHT by Kylie Lee Baker

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side. 


Title : The Keeper of Night
Author : Kylie Lee Baker
Series : The Keeper of Night (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 401
Genre : YA historical fiction fantasy
Publisher : Inkyard Press
Release Date : October 12, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I don’t know about you but I hadn’t heard much about The Keeper of Night. So if, like me, you were oblivious to its existence.. you may want to pay attention.

Ren’s entire existence is defined by being on the outside. The daughter of an English Reaper and a Japanese Shinigami, she resides in London and is bullied, disrespected, and ignored for her heritage — something that, I’ll admit, was really getting my back up because I thought her father, the obvious culprit for her dual heritage, had been let off the hook and all the hate and distrust was focused solely on his daughter. And well.. he is demoted for his transgressions but Ren still bears the brunt of it as he gets to, mostly, wash his hands of it all. I got to say, I’m hella tired of that particular narrative. Next time I want the kid to be welcomed and the parents to be ostracized please and thank you. Also, I hope more of this backstory is explained in book two as, currently, I’m not quite satisfied by how things stand.

But anyway, stuff happens and Ren is forced on the run and her brother, who has always loved her despite having been also tarred with some of the same brush as his sister, even though he is not biracial, flees to Japan with her. And basically this whole relationship, this whole bond? The best. They didn’t always get on, they could never full understand each other, but they were still there for each other.. though this bond definitely does get tested along the way. Especially when Neven admits to feeling like a fish out of water in Japan and expresses those feelings to Ren, even though it was only a glimpse of what Ren had endured in London for centuries — and I really loved that Baker explored this.

While so much of this story ends up being about Japanese mythology and legends, the author leans close to, if not outright, grimdarkness with some of the violence and demons they encounter. Maybe it’s not quite grim but it is dark. Being that the whole premise is set around death and soul collecting, I like that this wasn’t glossed over considering the target audience.

Also not glossed over is Ren’s anger, which we see explode out of her a few times once she’s away from London and is able to both articulate and let herself rage, about all the years of being told who she is, what she isn’t, and how she’s not accepted. Because unlike what she thought.. she is not immediately welcomed in Japan. She’s seen, once again, as a foreigner. This disappointment felt so raw and real and I honestly have no words to describe it.

Where things sorta fell apart for me was near the end. I knew this wasn’t a standalone (yay it’s only a duology!) so maybe that explains why the big climax came upon us in a bit of a quick and dramatic fashion — well, there’s two, really. I loved the first, which I sorta saw coming (but one reveal was still a surprise) but it was what followed that.. I don’t know. I really enjoyed where things ended, though, and I’m so keen to see how it all resolves — or if it even does — in book two.

If you’re looking for a dark YA fantasy, set in the past, with a compelling setting, rich in atmosphere and setting, with a main character who isn’t remotely the hero, though not quite a villain, but definitely grey in hue.. you should give this a go.

** I received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher (thank you!) and this in no way influenced my review. **

THAT DARK INFINITY by Kate Pentecost

By night, the Ankou is a legendary, permanently young mercenary. By day, a witch’s curse leaves him no more than bones. Caught in an unending cycle of death and resurrection, the Ankou wants only to find the death that has been prophesied for him, especially once he begins to rot while he’s still alive….

After the kingdom of Kaer-Ise is sacked, Flora, loyal handmaiden to the princess, is assaulted and left for dead. As the sole survivor of the massacre, Flora wants desperately to find the princess she served. When the Ankou agrees to help her find the princess, and to train her in exchange for her help in breaking his curse, she accepts. But how can she kill an immortal? Especially one whom she is slowly growing to understand—and maybe even to love?

Together, they will solve mysteries, battle monsters, break curses, and race not only against time, but against fate itself.


Title : That Dark Infinity
Author : Kate Pentecost
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : October 19, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ 


Hollis’ 1.5 (rounded up) star review

Unfortunately That Dark Infinity is a great example of a very exciting premise that is let down by execution. 

This dark romantic premise is hamstrung by very young-leaning YA dialogue, which is frustrating considering the darker content, and an immortal being that, after living three centuries as a nineteen year old instead reads like he’s sixteen. For someone who carried all these tales and mystique around him, I enjoyed that almost none of them were remotely true, which was a funny twist, but at the same time.. some mystique would’ve been good. How this was set up, how it played out, and how he actually should’ve been treated based on how he interacted with others.. I don’t know, it didn’t quite line up.

Another thing that didn’t quite work was this starts off with an off-page assault on our other main character, Flora, which is not only traumatic but carries extra shame due to her peoples’ value on virtue, but what was perplexing is that she was mistaken for the princess when she was grabbed and her attackers made a comment she was meant for the invading prince but “what he wouldn’t know wouldn’t hurt him” and yet.. they subsequently leave her for dead? Because the prince also said to “leave no one alive”. So.. she wasn’t going to the prince after all? We never end up seeing this prince, this whole plotline kind of becomes background noise to a certain extent, so it doesn’t have any real relevance I’m just irritated because I don’t understand the point of the comment or why things end up the way they do.

Over the course of the book, the aforementioned weird dialogue persisted, which was frustrating as some of the description was decent. But overall there was just no tension. These big action or suspenseful moments were, theoretically, taking place but you could feel none of it. Especially as the characters reacted as if, really, nothing had happened. At one point, during a scene I can’t describe due to spoilers, Flora is calling out constantly for Lazarus to help her, save her, and then he does, and when he asks after her, she says “oh don’t worry about me”.. insert side eye here. At another point, Flora gets her period (yay! and cramps! love to see it, hate to live it) and it’s a big issue because it attracts spirit thingies and this whole scene is set up where we see her surrounded and barely protected by their super special fence thing, except.. she’s found sleeping outdoors infront of said fence. Why? There’s no explanation for it. It’s just for this tension-less tense scene. It just.. doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, I’ll end the complaining, mostly because I don’t even want to get started on the “romance”, but this just wasn’t it. And I’m sad. It’s got a good looking cover (which, granted, looks better from a distance than it does close up) and has what sounded like a great, intriguing, romantic premise but.. alas.

Wouldn’t recommend and, unfortunately, I wouldn’t pick up this author again.

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

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started