THE TOWER OF NERO by Rick Riordan

At last, the breathtaking, action-packed finale of the #1 bestselling Trials of Apollo series is here! Will the Greek god Apollo, cast down to earth in the pathetic moral form of a teenager named Lester Papadopoulos, finally regain his place on Mount Olympus? Lester’s demigod friends at Camp Jupiter just helped him survive attacks from bloodthirsty ghouls, an evil Roman king and his army of the undead, and the lethal emperors Caligula and Commodus. Now the former god and his demigod master Meg must follow a prophecy uncovered by Ella the harpy. Lester’s final challenge will be at the Tower of Nero, back in New York. Will Meg have a last showdown with her father? Will this helpless form of Apollo have to face his arch nemesis, Python? Who will be on hand at Camp Half-Blood to assist? These questions and more will be answered in this book that all demigods are eagerly awaiting. 



Title : The Tower of Nero
Author : Rick Riordan
Series : The Trials of Apollo (book five)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 419
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Disney Hyperion
Release Date : October 6, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

Maybe I should’ve started with this as my slump buster.

Like my last read, Riordan is a comfort author and diving back into his Percy Jackson Universe is just.. fun. This final book in this particular series, which I think is also supposed to close the door on the whole world (?), was nostalgic and entertaining and just a great time all around. Though if it is the end it does feel a little.. well, not like an end? I think I would’ve expected more of a definitive and drawn out farewell tour. Which is why I think the door has been left open.. just a bit. Plus, I mean, did we get teased with the Nico stuff? There has to be more.

The only thing more unsettling than not understanding a prophecy was beginning to understand it.

Anyway. Not much I can say about a wrap up installment so suffice it to say you’ll just have to read it yourself! But this was exactly the kind of warm hug in book form that I needed.

I wanted to write a haiku in honour of Apollo but I’ve got nothing.

THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 

There are no strangers in the town of Near. 

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. 

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. 

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. 

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.



Title : The Near Witch
Author : Victoria Schwab
Series : The Near Witch (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 279
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : March 12, 2019 (reprint)

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 2 star review

This was Schwab’s debut and it certainly reads like one.

While I like the concept of this story and enjoyed how it unfolded in the beginning, it did start to lose me because of the insta-quick romance and the various antagonists, particularly the one who was our main character’s age. Almost every character felt rather flimsy, to be honest, almost as insubstantial as the witch. The few exceptions were a few female characters; the lead wasn’t bad but I preferred the old crones of the town and the sense of sisterhood both in the family and that permeated the general atmosphere. It was a nice counterbalance to the fact that 98% of the male characters were terrible — I don’t mean terribly written but just terrible people.

What added an extra heaping of disappointment was the fact that the love interest was one of the the only male characters that didn’t quite suck and in the added bonus short story? Well. I had felt something for him in THE NEAR WITCH but in THE ASH-BORN BOY it sort’ve all faded away. Wasn’t a fan of that short.

I get the point was likely to just preserve the original and reprint, as opposed to revise something that once existed, but I think this could’ve been made so much better. And it’s a shame it wasn’t. This could’ve been great.

The setting and sordid history of it all gave me some Hocus Pocus meets Practical Magic vibes, but YA, and I was very into it. Schwab does well with imagery and description. But thankfully her characters have come a long way since these early days. I’m glad I read it, particularly having just revisited another early series of hers (which thankfully was just as good on reread), but this wasn’t quite it.

THE UNBOUND by Victoria Schwab

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy, not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real. When her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s truly safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She’s sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. Unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she’ll lose everything: not only her role as Keeper, but her memories – and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?



Title : The Unbound
Author : Victoria Schwab
Series : The Archived (book two)
Format : physical/hardback
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 28, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

THE UNBOUND picks up a few weeks after the end of book one and things are both better, for having survived and having come out ontop of the villain from the previous book, and also worse because surviving, and winning, doesn’t mean you come out unscathed. Family dynamics take an even messier turn over the course of this installment because of near misses and secrets and oh boy. I get the difficulties but these particular parentals were something. Additionally, Mackenzie is haunted both literally and figuratively by what happened to her but this time she doesn’t have the freedom of movement or time because summer break is over and school’s in session. It’s a new school, too, which means new routines and new faces but maybe one familiar one.

“I’m not ready for this.
You hunt down the animated records of the dead in your spare time. I’m pretty sure you can handle private school.

I’m always a sucker for an ensemble and while Mackenzie’s new social group doesn’t take up too much page time they are still very present and very fun — and not without complicated histories (little h!) to navigate.

The walls between worlds used to feel like they were made of stone — heavy and impenetrable. These days, they feel too thin. The secrets, lies, and monsters bleed through, ruining the clean lines.

And it’s not the only thing to navigate. The Archive is coming down hard on her, in new ways, and while in some ways the villain from before is still present in this book, there’s also a new baddie : one of the top members of the Archive is out to discover what Mackenzie is hiding, by any means necessary, but all for the good of the Archive. I did kind of question this insane zeal but it does kind of fit with the the mixed bag of feelings about the Archive itself; it has an important role but not everyone involved is on the level.

And speaking of important role? Wesley. That’s all.

I don’t remember this feeling as open ended as it clearly is but in the years since I’ve read this at least we know (?) there are plans to continue this series. Eventually. Maybe. That’s reassuring. Plus I’d love to see where Schwab goes with these characters after all these years. I am definitely here for it. I’m not sure I liked this one as much as book one but as an overall arc? It works so well. Plus this just brought with it so much more Wesley and, as established, that’s all I need.

One more thing? Don’t forget to read this after you finish.

THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?



Title : This is Not a Test
Author : Courney Summers
Series : This is Not a Test (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 337
Genre : YA horror/post-apocalyptic thriller
Publisher : St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date : June 19, 2012

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5



Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I wish I could say my problem with this book was the fact that I was reading about the downfall of society in the face of a zombie apolcalypse whilst enduring a global pandemic but sadly this just sucked because of the characters. However the scary part is it is very likely to be a realistic portrayal of a group of dysfunctional teens and the drama and chaos as they try to survive.. but it still just sucked to experience.

The arguments, the antagonizing, the petty BS.. it was just never ending. This clocks in at just over three hundred pages but it felt so much longer and I dreaded picking this up every time I put it down. Which is why I powered through it this afternoon just to be done with it. The zombie aspect was fine and I actually liked those action sequences. I would’ve been happier with more of those, maybe? It was the humans I hated. I definitely wanted them to die off quicker. Too harsh? Sorry.

That said, I did pick up the novella that follows this, from a different POV, and that was better. Not good or great but readable. Also, short! It was more action packed but with an ending that was pretty sad, awful, sawful and yet also somewhat open ended so I don’t think if there’s eventual plans for more or not. But.

There are plenty of similar themed stories out there. I would give this a miss.

YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true? 



Title : You Should See Me In A Crown
Author : Leah Johnson
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Scholastic Inc.
Release Date : June 2, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This isn’t quite the rating I had hoped to give this read but alas here we are. Don’t let the stars, or this lackluster intro sway you though; if you haven’t yet picked this one up, you totally should.

There’s a reason this book was all over the place a few months ago and that’s because this debut? Adorable. Truly. I honestly can’t say there was anything about the scope of this book that frustrated or upset me. It was just that I found little things within that chipped away at the overall enjoyment, or flow, and that’s why I can’t quite round up on this.

When you already feel like everything about you makes you stand out, it just makes more sense to find as many ways to blend in as you can.

Liz Lighty really goes through it. Over the past four years she’s taken on a certain role because of a fateful event in freshman year that lost her a friend. But, through her need for scholarship money which is the reason she tosses in her hat for prom queen, she ends up reuniting with said friend. At the same time her actual bestie is testing her by trying to over-control Liz’s campaigning. She’s also crushing on the new girl, but keeping it on the downlow because she’s not out, which is made even more complicated by the other girl also running for prom queen, and the rules being set out that the whole prom establishment allows for only male/female matchups. There’s also a sick brother, grief from losing a parent, and probably other things I’ve already forgotten. It’s a lot.

But, at the same time, it doesn’t feel like too much? It definitely has that Netflix/’90s teen movie treatment but there’s nothing really wrong with that. My minor frustrations mostly came about because I felt certain things got a lot of page time, others less than they should, and the pacing felt a little compromised in the lead up to the big climax when everything just gets a big convenient. But overall everything that Johnson put within the pages? Great. And actually, up until the inevitable break up (it’s not even a spoiler, people, we know this happens), the romance was probably my favourite part. The adorable sweetness was unreal. Even the villains of the piece and the ridiculous homophobic rhetoric within the school wasn’t too grating to be unpalatable. Everything really did work.

So basically what this means, or what I think it means, is that if Johnson can do this for a first book? Her sophomore release will likely be a smash.

Definitely recommend.

MASTER OF ONE by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett

Sinister sorcery. Gallows humor. A queer romance so glorious it could be right out of fae legend itself. Master of One is a fantasy unlike any other.

Rags is a thief—an excellent one. He’s stolen into noble’s coffers, picked soldier’s pockets, and even liberated a ring or two off the fingers of passersby. Until he’s caught by the Queensguard and forced to find an ancient fae relic for a sadistic royal sorcerer.

But Rags could never have guessed this “relic” would actually be a fae himself—a distractingly handsome, annoyingly perfect, ancient fae prince called Shining Talon. Good thing Rags can think on his toes, because things just get stranger from there…

With the heist and intrigue of Six of Crows and the dark fairy tale feel of The Cruel Prince, this young adult fantasy debut will have readers rooting for a pair of reluctant heroes as they take on a world-ending fae prophecy, a malicious royal plot, and, most dangerously of all, their feelings for each other.  


Title : Master of One
Author : Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett
Format : eARC
Page Count : 544
Genre : YA fantasy / LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : HarperTeen
Release Date : November 10, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

This might be a read I could actually round up on but for now I’m going to linger just under a three. I definitely didn’t hate this and, despite the length (so long!), it was a pretty easy read — I swear, my eyes only skimmed the tiniest bit. Also the concept is definitely different and I appreciate that. But I do rather feel the pitch of this book as being a big ol’ heist adventure is patently false.

Instead, this book is about the ever lasting reign of a queen who has committed, or at least contributed to, genocide against the fae that used to live alongside them. And a resistance that has spawned in the wake of not only her un-ending reign but also the secrets that lie beneath the surface.

Said resistance is led in part by unsuspecting characters who are pulled together by some kind of fae destiny as the discovery of one leads to another, who leads to the next, etc. This is not the standalone I thought it to be (again, see aforementioned length) so nothing is quite resolved and players are still to be discovered (hope you like multiple POVs!). Along with, you know, taking down the queen and her various sorcerers and unmasking her along the way.

What kept me from enjoying this to the extent I thought I could was how removed I felt from so much of it. I mostly felt this in the characters but I also kind of feel it of the world, too. Like, I can mostly visualize it but it’s very.. rough. Not fleshed out. The authors have set the stage but forgotten the props. You understand the motions that are playing out but there’s nothing to draw the eye. Anyway, enough of that.

I will pick up the next book because I’ll admit I’m curious at the motivations behind the big ruse. But that’s mostly it. Plus, I do have one character that kind of was a favourite, even though he’s the love interest for one of the more annoying main characters. Poor guy.

If you like fae, if you want a fantasy that has queer rep, and are keen to dive into a pretty substantial series (duology, trilogy, who can say!) opener, this might just be the book for you.

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

THE ARCHIVED by Victoria Schwab

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da’s death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.



Title : The Archived
Author : Victoria Schwab
Series : The Archived (book one)
Format : physical/hardback
Page Count : 337
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 22, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

This was another reread I chose to do for a spooky readathon and yet another world I’m really happy to have revisited. Similarly, it’s been about five years since I first read this series but this one has stood out in my mind pretty vividly. Up until Schwab’s most recent release, I considered this duology my favourite by this author. And while it’s easy to see how much progress she’s made as a writer, which sort’ve implies this is inferior.. it isn’t quite that. It’s a different target audience, for one, but yeah it does read a little younger — which is fitting for the characters. But my biggest issue with this on reread is perhaps the pacing. Everything else was still great. Also side note, I guess I just love all of Schwab’s writing when she’s in dark moods or leaning in melancholy and grief?

I flew through in a few short hours (yes I’m one of those one or two sitting binge readers!) and while that clearly implies it sucked me in — which it did! — I think this could’ve done with about a hundred more pages. Some places to flesh out events and characters but also even out some of that change in pace. To a certain degree it makes sense that the latter half is faster because events have escalated and are happening at breakneck speed, and you do get a sense of that slow building with the increase in Histories, so.. maybe it’s not quite so unbalanced. But I still think it would’ve been improved by more. Particularly in the case of a certain romantic element; had it been built up a little slower, giving it more strength, it might have felt less out of character. I got the why of the appeal but it did feel unlike our lead character.

Ultimately, if you didn’t already know, this story deals with a group of people who work for the Archive. Which is where, for all intents and purposes, a copy of those who die are kept. The visual is a big library, everyone a book on the shelf, but a backed up copy of a person’s life and/or upload into the metaphysical Cloud works, too. Within that Archive are levels of people from the Keepers, tasked with returning Histories (what amounts to our ghosts), all the way up to Librarians who monitor the Histories who are sleeping or have been returned to sleep after their escape. There are other players, too, but that’s the gist. It’s not dissimilar to THE STARLESS SEA in that sense but the story itself is vastly different.

After a loss, Mackenzie’s family uproots into a new town, into a new home, and there her responsibilities take an uptick as the hotel-turned-apartment building seems to have a high traffic of Histories to manage. In doing so she meets another Keeper, the first outside of her grandfather, and increasingly things change and also begin to spiral out of control. She’s balancing a new home, a discordant family dynamic as they all try to adjust to the new normal, grief, and suspicions that something within the Archive isn’t right.

There’s feels, and danger, and secrets. And also Wesley. Boy did I ever love him just as much the second time around.

And yes, surprising no one, even though I’ve just completed my required readathon reading by finishing this, I’m diving right into the second book.

THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black

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

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

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


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

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INSTANT KARMA by Marissa Meyer

In this young adult contemporary romance, a girl is suddenly gifted with the ability to cast instant karma on those around her—both good and bad.

Chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate. 



Title : Instant Karma
Author : Marissa Meyer
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA contemporary / magical realism
Publisher : Feiwel & Friends
Release Date : November 3, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 



Hollis’ 2 stars review

It’s not like I asked for this gift, so I figure I must’ve done something to deserve it.

So, full disclosure, I didn’t remember requesting this and when it popped up for download I did experience some minor trepidation. I’m not sure why. I just wasn’t sure about this one, even knowing as little about it as I did, so again, why on earth did I click? I blame quarantine brain.

I can punish and I can reward. It makes perfect sense. I’d just been so eager to right wrongs before that I hadn’t considered how karma flows in two directions.

And ultimately I guess my gut instinct was right. But not quite to the extent I expected. Because Prudence? Completely and utterly insufferable — even before she’s given the power to award and punish those around her for situations she infers at a glance. No context, no understandings, just snap judgments and bam, a bird shits on your car, bam you fall and break a leg, bam a baby pukes on your feet, and on and on. The reward element of her magical powers are very underutilized as is to be expected from someone who assumes she knows all and not only has a right to judge others but has somehow earned it.

So you’re officially volunteering at an animal rescue centre for the next month. How very selfless of you, dear Prudence.”
Hey, I can be selfless.
I know you can, but don’t you see the irony? You’re only doing this for the grade.
So? Actions make a person good, not motives.”
I’m not sure I agree with that.”

^^ additionally the irony is Prudence’s whole argument definitely feeds into her delusion of thinking she knows best. But also.. doesn’t the fact that she’s directing the universe to work through her to punish others also mean her actions, despite her motives, make her a bad person?

The frustrating thing is there was such a lovely element to this story, which thankfully did take up a lot of page time and is what kept me reading, regarding the animal rescue centre and all the animals requiring care and rehabilitation and, occasionally and happily, even a return to the wild. There is a big emphasis on the environment and conservation and protection of animals, both those in the wild but also farming practices and the meat industry too. It worked to ground the story, yes, but was also a nice distraction from everything else.

Ultimately, though, even though Prudence undergoes many little epiphanies and realizations that she’s erred in judging others, I’m just not sure she ever really overcame where she started from. I liked Quint, the love interest, but do not think he deserved half of what he put up with. Though he did have a line regarding his feelings towards Pru that summed it up perfectly, I think. I won’t spoil it though. It’s worth experiencing in the moment.

And, to make matters worse, there ended up being a person who deserved true karmic justice and ultimately didn’t get it. So after putting up with all Prudence’s choices for the whole book, when she finally gets the chance to make an informed decision and enact justice and retribution — even though I don’t agree with someone having that kind of power, particularly an entitled sixteen year old — the one person who does deserve it? Doesn’t get it. Arg.

This definitely wasn’t a win. It wasn’t quite terrible. But it definitely skirted the line for me. It was frustrating, and there were a few too many things left unresolved, but it wasn’t toss-the-book-across-the-room rage inducing. Plus, the image of big eyed seals are keeping me from rating this any lower. So, thank the seals.

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

HAVOC & HAPPINESS by Wren Handman

Michaela Peters didn’t let dying get her down.

After all, it was only for a few minutes, and the hospital paid her a huge settlement. Now she’s an emancipated minor with nine million dollars in the bank and her entire future ahead of her. Life could be a heck of a lot worse!

Michaela moves to Montana, determined to enjoy the queer high-school drama that life is serving up. Instead, she finds herself caught in the crosshairs of a fight between horrible monsters that shift with a person’s imagination, and the gorgeous trigger-happy siblings who hunt them. The problem? She seems to be able to destroy the monsters with a thought, but the hunters haven’t decided which side she’s on. 



Title : Havoc & Happiness
Author : Wren Handman
Series : Agathi Adventure (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 290
Genre : YA paranormal / LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : Wandering Roots
Release Date : October 26, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

The easiest way to pitch this book is Supernatural meets Kaylee, from Firefly, if she was queer.. and also sixteen. Look, the pitch isn’t perfect but that’s the vibe. Our main character is a relentlessly cheerful and hopeful human and honestly if Kaylee isn’t the first person you think of, who is? But I digress.

Michaela, the protagonist of HAVOC & HAPPINESS, has been dealt a hand that would bring lesser humans low. And somehow she keeps on going, and with a smile on her face. Add to that the fact that she’s left the foster system, emancipated herself, and willingly thrown herself into a new school, trying to make new friends, all while living on her own. Said new school comes with plenty of drama.. even before she stumbles across a dead body and the siblings who are hunting the thing that did the killing.

The Supernatural vibes are strong in this one but it’s balanced by the total opposite of that show’s dark and brutal aesthetic. The tone is light even as it tackles heavy topics like grief, abandonment, and a few other things I don’t want to mention because spoilers, and as a bonus it’s also diverse af.

Also? This is the first book in what might be a trilogy, but I think will actually be a duology. So if you’re looking for a new paranormal series to lose yourself in that’s got a healthy portion of romance, angst, trying to find one’s place in a world that is more complex than at first glance, as well as the strangeness of monster hunting stakeouts, all while balancing homework and highschool parties, this would be one to try!

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