INTO THE CROOKED PLACE by Alexandra Christo – double review!

The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.

Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.

Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.

Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.

And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.


Title : Into the Crooked Place
Author : Alexandra Christo
Series : Into the Crooked Place (book one)
Format : eARC / ARC
Page Count : 380
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends/Hot Key Books
Release Date : October 8, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★  / DNF


Hollis’ 2 star review

Here’s a big reason why I think the current GR rating is what it is (which, as of the writing of this review, is 3.73) : it very much feels, and reads, like another book. Which, as my buddy said, doesn’t mean a certain author holds the copyright to heist ensemble gangster anti-hero/amoral stories. It’s just.. like, wow, a little effort to be different, when so much of today’s culture is comparisons, would’ve been nice?

But here’s where I get a little less snarky. After bemoaning the comparisons, and the utter boredom, for almost 50%.. this book did shift gears. A little. I won’t say I liked it after the first half but while I predicted a lot of what was coming.. some things I didn’t. I felt good about the ending — particularly the last 20% — which, I mean, I guess didn’t take much considering how not-good I was feeling about the book in general, so that’s definitely a low-ish bar. Also, the shift in plot doesn’t quite take away from how much this book is like other things. I’m talking vibe, tone, names.. yeah, it’s a lot.

But. Again, I say, but.

I might pick up book two (thank goodness it’s not a trilogy). Hell, I probably will. I’m a bit of a masochist but I did feel this ended on a good — well, no, not good, but you get what I mean — note. Also there is a lot of diversity in this story, which is one of the few uncomplicated things to celebrate.

So, yes, this is kind of a hash, for a book I wanted to DNF and yet now find myself intending to read even more of now that I’ve finished it, and yet here we are.

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


Micky sadly DNF’d at 30% – unrated

I’m sorry to say that this was a full day’s struggle of picking it up and putting it down repeatedly because I did not like this world that felt pretty familiar and I did not buy into the characters or story. I found the names of people and phrasing too similar to the Grisha world to discount and it was told without the finesse of that one.

I strongly believe there is no copyright on this kind of story (heisty-gangster fantasy) because the whole book world is built on a jenga pyramid of similar stories. That said, its hugely important to find your slice of uniqueness and according to my bud Hollis, that issue settled a bit from half way in. I didn’t get that far because I just didn’t engage with the story and I was consistently bored.

I feel disappointed in myself on the one hand because I loved Christo’s previous book but I think this review would look a whole lot worse if I had.

Thank you to Hot Key books for the review copy and I’m sorry I couldn’t see this through to the end. Gratitude for the chance to read early.

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS by Charlotte Nicole Davis – double review!

Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.


Title : The Good Luck Girls
Author : Charlotte Nicole Davis
Series : The Good Luck Girls (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Tor Teen/Hot Key Books
Release Date : October 1, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

This is a YA fantasy unlike almost anything I’ve read. This also feels both dystopian and historical and yet is set in a fantasy world, so is truly neither of those things.

It’s about strong women and daring stakes. It’s about learning to trust when no one has ever given you reason to. It’s about sacrificing your own chance at a happily every after for the benefit of others. It’s a whole lot of things. It’s also diverse, a little queer, and is all sorts of magical; though not in ways I expected.

Despite my obvious enjoyment, there is still something holding me back a bit on this one. And I don’t even know really know why. This was unique and brutal with characters both tough as nails and hella vulnerable with plenty of issues mirrored in this unusual world that are also present in our own. It’s a scary possible reality that makes you, as a reader, and a human, and, in my case a woman, want to fight back.

And yet again, I don’t know why I just didn’t love it. I wasn’t bored by anything, necessarily, though I did find sometimes that I would skim a passage or two. I didn’t always love Aster, our main POV, and yet could also totally understand why she wasn’t always likeable. And.. yeah, I don’t know. This one is just a bit of a mystery for me, I think.

But I would definitely recommend it if anyone was already interested in picking it up!

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


Micky’s 3 star review

I am very close to Hollis in my experience of reading this book. It’s a curious context that has a fresh feel, slicing dystopia with an old time world, almost like a western. The start of the book was super strong for me with a compelling narrative that brought all my compassion to the surface. That strong start waned at times but this was a series starter that I will definitely finish.

What worked for me were the sisters (Aster and Clementine) and the group of young women, sometimes very polarised against one another, but with a common goal of escapism and freedom. There were analogies to contemporary themes such as traficking and oppression that were appealing. What I found less appealing were the fantastical developments such as raveners and vengeants. I didn’t bond with that aspect of the world.

I moved between reading avidly to feeling a slowing of the pace of the story that left me wanting to feel more involved. Despite the fleeing, chases and general tension, I wanted a bit more attachment to the book than I felt and I can’t quite explain why I didn’t feel this. Maybe I wasn’t connected to Aster and Clementine enough, but I do still want to know where this goes after book one.

Thank you to Readers First and Hot Key Books for this finished review copy.

THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA by Julia Drake

The Larkin family isn’t just lucky—they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.

But wrecks seem to run in the family: Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.

Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece-the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.

She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.

Epic, funny, and sweepingly romantic, The Last True Poets of the Sea is an astonishing debut about the strength it takes to swim up from a wreck.


Title : The Last True Poets of the Sea 
Author : Julia Drake
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : October 1, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating: ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This is such a lovely, and rather hard-hitting, story (and from a debut no less!) that it feels a little strange to not rave about it and slap it with a high rating. But while there was so much good, so much of it moving, some of it also left me a little unmoved, too.

I became a bad sister and a bad daughter in an hour; an exile in just under two. By comparison, the Titanic sunk in two hours, forty minutes. Pretty impressive, to have sunk to the bottom even faster than the twentieth century’s greatest shipwreck.

Tackling issues of depression, anxiety, self-harm, grief, and self-destructive behaviour, the story takes place against the backdrop of a small seaside town in Maine, featuring the mystery of a shipwreck, a romance that bloomed after, and focusing on the ancestors of the sole survivor of that long-ago tragedy.

I didn’t think it was possible to be blindsided by a truth you’ve always suspected, but there you have it. As it turns out, it’s devastating.

The story is queer, and lyrical, and funny, with quirky weirdness and awkwardness and charm. All from the perspective of a tall girl — woo! It’s got a lot of things going for it and I really did love the writing, too. So while this one maybe, for whatever reason, didn’t quite hit the mark, I will totally be keeping an eye on this new author and definitely picking up her next book.

There wasn’t going to be magic healing; there’d be only a string of ands on which we’d thread our survival.

This is definitely going to be a hit for a lot of people, I think. I just wish I could count myself among them.

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

THE TENTH GIRL by Sara Faring

Simmering in Patagonian myth, The Tenth Girl is a gothic psychological thriller with a haunting twist.

At the very southern tip of South America looms an isolated finishing school. Legend has it that the land will curse those who settle there. But for Mavi—a bold Buenos Aires native fleeing the military regime that took her mother—it offers an escape to a new life as a young teacher to Argentina’s elite girls.

Mavi tries to embrace the strangeness of the imposing house—despite warnings not to roam at night, threats from an enigmatic young man, and rumors of mysterious Others. But one of Mavi’s ten students is missing, and when students and teachers alike begin to behave as if possessed, the forces haunting this unholy cliff will no longer be ignored.

One of these spirits holds a secret that could unravel Mavi’s existence. In order to survive she must solve a cosmic mystery—and then fight for her life.


Title : The Tenth Girl
Author : Sara Faring
Format : ARC
Page Count : 460
Genre : YA historical horror/thriller
Publisher : Imprint
Release Date : September 24, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

So here’s my problem with THE TENTH GIRL. If this was a more straight-forward, yet twisty, gothic horror, I think it would’ve been amazing. Parts of this were really good. The atmosphere, the creepy factor, the isolated strangeness of the setting, the eerie encroaching darkness of it all.. it was great.

But instead this book is a lot more than meets the eye. Infact in hindsight you see a lot of the clues, or at least I do, but even had I noticed, even if they had got me wondering, nothing could have prepared me for that this book actually is. It’s a very.. risky choice. Bold, even. Particularly for a debut.

The good thing is you get a sense early on that things aren’t quite as the appear. But the problem is just how not as the appear things really are. It didn’t work for me. My mind is trying to make it work but I had certain expectations about this book and the story as a whole didn’t meet them. So maybe that’s on me.

This is a spoiler free zone. This is the only kind of review you will, get the vaguest of vague, which will either intrigue or scare you off. Either choice is valid.

I might read this author again but unfortunately I can’t say this book gave me what I wanted.

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

THE INFINITE NOISE by Lauren Shippen

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

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

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

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE by Beth Revis

When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s life–and the lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens–on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous corners–and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness. 


Title : Give The Dark My Love
Author : Beth Revis
Series : Give The Dark My Love (book one)
Format : physical book
Page Count : 368
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : September 25, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’ve had this book literally sitting on my nightstand for almost a year. I guess it’s better late than never but wow. I feel pretty accomplished and satisfied right now — calm down, Hollis, you tackled one book on your backlist. One.

Anyway.

This book was so good. I didn’t know what to expect beyond necromancy and a girl crossing over into darkness. I didn’t know why or how or what. What are those details, you ask? Plague. The desire of one small-town girl wanting to help. And then heartbreak and desperation pushing her to the brink.

“.. your path has always been longer than this little road. You were meant for the city streets, for ships across the sea, for places where there are no roads. I don’t want you to take my book cart. [..] I’d never fold you up into books sold to strangers. You’re going to live your own story.

This isn’t quite the anti-heroine story I thought it would be but that might very well change in book two; particularly considering how this ended.

Everything I’d done since arriving in Northface Harbour had been just a little off. I longed to fit seamlessly into a world with no openings.

The only thing that really knocked this down for me, which will explain my rating considering all the above buzz, is the romance. I saw book two pitched in a way that it was about the boy who loved the MC trying to bring her back from the darkness. I guess I expected a strong romance in here to be that backbone for what was to come. And I didn’t really get it. Sure, he’s a nice, kind, soft boy.. but he is really only those words. There wasn’t really any meat or substance to him. There was some connection, a good reason for them to have drawn to each other, pushed together, but I wish instead it had just been a case of strong, beautiful, friendship. I think we need more of those in YA. And it would’ve made this book pretty damn close to perfect for me if it had been present in this one.

I wondered if it were possible to remove myself from politics, or if my silence had been its own choice.

Alas, I still enjoyed it. This book is.. not depressing, but hard, maybe? For the characters. There is a bleak kind of desperation in this world’s conflict. There is a tirelessness to fighting something that can’t be stopped. And then the tragedy of losing one’s whole world. Before the rage that steps in to take its place, to do what shouldn’t be done, to fight back.

I guess sometimes it’s just easier to keep things they way that they are.”
I think that depends on what your now looks like.”

I loved the last minute twists, the turns, and I’m so keen to read on and see where Nedra goes next — and boy am I glad that I have an ARC of book two, I don’t need to wait to find out.

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

A TREASON OF THORNS by Laura E Weymouth

Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.


Title : A Treason of Thorns
Author : Laura E Weymouth
Format : ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : alt-history YA fantasy
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

My issue with A TREASON OF THORNS is that I found the best parts of it to be in the synopsis.

The tightly framed concept sounds fantastic in short form but loses itself in drawn out translation. The characters are underdeveloped, the romance is.. a stretch, and the plot itself feels like it’s just spinning its wheels until it reaches a certain word count. It’s repetitive both in tone and vocabulary and, ultimately, just stuck in one gear. 

This is such a fascinating idea, and the author made it complex enough to be believable, but then dropped the ball by explaining very little. It still had the potential to be outstanding, though, and while I did like some the imagery, and the resonance of emotion Violet felt through her connection to the House, again, it just.. didn’t really work. It might make a great movie, though, if you had visuals to focus on and an actress who could pull of the range of emotions that I don’t think felt at all believable, or fully formed, from the MC.

I’ve now had two very perplexing reactions to Weymouth’s first and second novels and I’m realizing that she just might not be for me. 

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

THE LADY ROGUE by Jenn Bennett

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.


Title : The Lady Rogue
Author : Jenn Bennett
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA historical fantasy
Publisher : Simon Pulse
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I requested this book for one reason, really, and one reason only : the name next to “author”. I’m a big fan of Bennett’s contemporaries and I’ve dabbled in her adult PNR series (which I still have to finish!) so seeing her switch from YA contemporary to YA historical/fantasy didn’t concern me. I was excited. I might not have loved SERIOUS MOONLIGHT but I love her writing, her previous books, and had every reason to expect the same of this one.

But nope.

This book was a chore to read. I pushed through it quickly because the last thing I needed was another slump, and it wasn’t too long, and I just kept waiting for the spark. Or any spark, really. I felt nothing for the characters who were, respectfully, spoiled and or sulky as well as overdoing the charm to the point of not being charming. I felt nothing for the angst over the romance which we were beat over the head with to a ridiculous degree. And honestly the Vlad the Impaler plot/mystery that sent these two gallivanting all over Eastern Europe just.. didn’t really hook me and, like, did it ultimately even matter? I’m so confused.

I also want to say the pitch comparison to THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE definitely had me thinking this was queer. And it is not.

I didn’t love the characters, the angst, the romance, the plot. Even Bennett’s writing, which I normally love, felt different and failed to entice. If this hadn’t been an ARC, I would’ve DNF’d. If this was any other author, I would probably one star. But I just can’t bear to. And I do think maybe this is a me problem? Despite everything?

Anyway, I don’t think this is a series, so I’m relieved about that, but even if it was.. I wouldn’t be reading on.

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

GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE by Natasha Ngan

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.


Title : Girls of Paper and Fire
Author : Natasha Ngan
Series : Girls of Paper and Fire (book one)
Format : eBook (OverDrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA LGBTQIA+ fantasy
Publisher : jimmy patterson
Release Date : November 6, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

Though the current GR rating indicates I’m not the only one to not love this, I do think there are many who do, so please take this review (as one always should) with a sprinkle of salt.

Not that I’m salty about not loving this. To be honest, I don’t feel much of anything; not disappointment or frustration. Just pretty much nothing. 

I’ll admit that my understanding of this book was totally off base. I didn’t realize it was a fantasy, or at least not the particulars of the fantasy — with human, Paper Castes, and Demons, and the imbalance of power between them (lolz, I thought Demon King was an affectation, not, like, literal) — and all I really knew to expect was diversity and some darker subject matter. Both of which exist. But so does a lot of.. I don’t know, filler?

I’ll stop beating around the bush. I was bored. I didn’t particularly like any single character. I was traumatized by an early death within the first chapter or two and don’t think I ever recovered (how could you!). I did think the evolution of the romance was well done and like the whole long-awaited revenge plot/conspiracy but I just wish I could’ve cared about the characters themselves as opposed to just the general concept of their existence.

I’m.. not excited to read on but I do have an ARC of book two, which I will still be reading, and I hope that the change of pace, and setting, is more my speed than this one was. 

GODSGRAVE by Jay Kristoff – double review!

**Reviews edited April 2021. Micky & Hollis have left their original ratings and reviews but we would like to state that we hadn’t realised the harmful elements of the books in this series until now. For that, we are really sorry – we are referring to Asian stereotyping, antisemitic and albinism elements that have hurt readers. If our original reviews were conveyed as an endorsement of these issues, we want to apologise for that. We are learning and will continue to do so.**

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.


Title : Godsgrave
Author : Jay Kristoff
Series : The Nevernight Chronicle
Format : eBook/audio
Page Count : 448
Genre : NA fantasy
Publisher : St Martin’s Press
Release Date : September 5, 2017

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

Hahahahaha.. hahahha.. hahaha.. haha.. hah.. a..

The problem with being a librarian is there’s some lessons you just can’t learn from a book. And the problem with being an assassin is there’s some mysteries you just can’t solve by stabbing fuck out of them.”

If you, too, have read GODSGRAVE, I have no doubt this is one of probably only two reactions you had to that ending. Because hahahahah.. etc.

You’re not helping.”
“.. I am offering moral support..
You’re being an annoying little shit.”
“.. that too..”

But the sound of my mania aside, this was heads and bloody tails above book one. I had seen potential in NEVERNIGHT but there was just something missing, some depth, or some.. thing. I don’t even know. But GODSGRAVE? It had all the blood, violence, and sex of book one but somehow didn’t feel like a YA book trying not to be a YA book. This one seemed to find its own niche, revel in its unique existence, and just thrive in its adultness; instead of trying to find the balance between the YA and the dark.

He was a hero.”
We all think that of our parents. They give us life, after all. It’s easy to mistake them for gods.

The whole setting for book two is so different, and I loved it, even if the drive is still the same. The goal, the end game, nothing has changed. Mia is out for revenge and she has to get very creative in how she goes about that. And oh are the twists glorious. O glory!

How do you endure the unendurable?
We have a saying in Vaan : in every breath, hope abides. Just keeping breathing, little Crow.

And then there’s that ending. Big reveals, big surprises, big climax. If I didn’t have an ARC of book three at my fingertips I would be s h r i e k i n g right now. Or just laugh myself silly. As above. 

You don’t find any irony in earning your place in a cult of assassins by saving half a dozen lives?
I killed almost a hundred men in the process.”

If you gave NEVERNIGHT a chance and just didn’t love it, for whatever reason, I would highly recommend pushing on. This was a rewarding, riveting, raucous experience, even if it took me forever to read, and I don’t regret a single moment spent with this thicc monster.


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

3.5 – 4 stars

GODSGRAVE didn’t blow me away in the same way that NEVERNIGHT did. I missed T, I don’t like Ashlin so that was a struggle throughout and most of all I missed the Red Church. In NEVERNIGHT, the book really took off for me when Mia got to the Red Church, so that was a hole in my story heart.

The first third of the book had me confused, there seemed to be three different timelines and situations at play and I just couldn’t put them together, even though each was engaging on its own. I think some of this was to do with the disconnect audio sometimes brings where you can’t go back over a passage easily, or flick through previous pages. When those storylines finally wove together, I felt more involved in the story.

Mia remains one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever read, getting into her head (it’s damn sketchy in there) is like running the gauntlet but still I continue. Mia and Ash, I mean some of that was a little hot blushy, but I overall don’t buy into their relationship. And again, I miss T.

Jay Kristoff knows how to leave you with boom, boom and boom at the end. The reveals just came like a run of bullets and I sat there with my jaw open. He has guarenteed my continuing investment in this series and I look forward to DARKDAWN even while I shield my heart a little.

Holter Graham’s narration remained spectacular.

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