Author: Mara Rutherford
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: fantasy
Age Group: young adult
ARC?: yes

Outsiders are always given a choice: the Forest or the lake. Either way, they’re never heard from again.

Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.

When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.

Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself.


Review

ATMOSPHERE. LOVE. DESPERATION. POISON. DEATH. HOPE. What more could you want from a book? Honestly, The Poison Season is fabulous. I enjoyed the author’s previous works, but this one is my favorite. I love the mysterious aspect of the magic and the island and what has happened in the past.

Leelo is an amazing character, because she isn’t ready to give up everything to change the world. She’s scared, she has feelings and she’s not perfect. Her relationship with her family is one of the main focuses of the book, and as I know from previous books Rutherford is an absolute talent at crafting some of the best sibling and familial relationships I’ve ever read. This book is no exception to that. In fact, my heart broke several times throughout this book, because none of the characters were perfect or right or wrong. It was so lovely, and honestly, just don’t have the words for it.

As a character, Leelo’s arc was one of the best I’ve seen in a YA book. There is so much growth and learning from her as a person, and she is willing to admit to herself and others when she’s made a mistake. She wants to be honest, but she also wants to help, and this is the problem Leelo has to face. She has a decision she must make.

There is also a romance in the book, between Leelo and the outsider, Jaren. There are some interesting aspects of this woven throughout the book, and I liked it. I felt that their slowly growing romance and attraction was well done.

I love the world that was created, it was enchanting and mystical, and I like that it had a dark and creepy atmosphere to it. I felt it contrasted nicely with the atmosphere of the town. It gave me the chills at some points.

This is a great winter read, especially if you love evocative, YA fantasy dosed with atmosphere and powerful character arcs.

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Author: Susan Dennard
Series: The Luminaries
Series #: 1
Genre: fantasy, horror
Age Group: Young Adult
ARC?: yes

Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you.

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night.

Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.


Review

The Luminaries was an excellent book — I enjoyed it. This is very different than her Witchlands series. This book has a feel of horror/mystery with a mixture of paranormal/supernatural elements. It also felt a bit dystopian. Not in a bad way but I would say it had “Supernatural” vibes with the hunters aspect.

Much of the book is exactly the summary of the book, Winnie must pass the hunter trials and redeem her family. There is some mystery thrown in as well, and I enjoyed Winnie as a character. I loved how she and Jay interacted. Darian was pretty cool as well.

(Also want to point out I love that she wears glasses, and it felt so relatable with her constantly pushing them up.)

One thing I will say is that it didn’t have a lot of plot to it, it was pretty much trial, trial, trial, and then end. This definitely is more like a setup for the rest of the series. This isn’t a bad thing at all, because I’m intrigued enough to read the next book.

An aspect that I also enjoyed is that she isn’t super powerful, she doesn’t gain all these amazing skills, in some ways a bit like the anti-chosen one. Which worked very well for this book.

The atmosphere was wonderfully done. This is a book that reads very well for the fall. It kind of sucks you in. Honestly, I kept thinking back to TV shows like Teen Wolf, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries while reading this. They were all shows I loved, so I also very much enjoyed the book. Just the feeling of them…it felt like that.

The second part I had some trouble with is not necessarily the world building, but how this society actually functioned. I felt that it wasn’t totally fleshed out well enough to be understood. I’m hoping we’ll get more of that in the future, and understand more of what this world is like.

I’m excited to see what happens next for Winnie, and the mystery she must solve!

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Author: Rachel Gillig
Series:
Series #: 1
Genre: fantasy
Age Group: adult/YA crossover
ARC?: yes

Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.

But nothing comes for free, especially magic.

When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.

Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.


Review

Thank you to NetGalley for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

ALL I NEED TO SAY IS I NEED THE NEXT ONE ASAP. AAAA IT WAS GOOD

Like what do I even say about this book??? I don’t think I have any words for it. The beginning is a little slow at first and you’re kind of scratching your head going… Is there a point to this/where is this going? BUT THEN you get to the amazingness that is the rest of the book. I just fell in love with the characters in this book, especially Elspeth and Ravyn. They’re so… Ugh. Anyways this is somewhat of an enemies to lovers kind of book but not exactly. It’s got a very gothic kind of feel to it, but it’s a darker and more atmospheric fantasy. I found it very enjoyable. It has all the vibes that I could ever love in a book. I feel like this book was made for me.

I liked how the characters interacted, and I liked their character arcs. In tone I might relate this to Allison Saft books! It also gave me For the Wolf vibes. I can’t quite put my finger on what else it felt like… But it kept me engrossed the whole way through.

The concept with the cards? SO GOOD. I loved it — obsessed with it in fact. I love the idea of Tarot, but it isn’t something I know a whole lot about, but how it was weaved in through this book? Top notch.

I don’t know why I thought this was a standalone — it isn’t — but I am extremely excited for the next book in the series.

I felt the writing in this book was amazing and I couldn’t get enough of it – the pace worked well for me. There were some funny moments thrown in amongst the more tense moments which gave a nice balance.

I loved the romance in this book. It was dreamy and done well. I wanted to smoosh them together. Ravyn’s family was also amazing, and I appreciated how this felt like a darker fairytale, perhaps a bit of a reimagined Cinderella? I quite enjoyed that. I want Ravyn’s family in fact. I need more of his family. ALL OF THEM.

The world that Gillig has created fascinated me, and I want to know more about it!

If you like dark fantasy, atmospheric fantasy, a bit of gothic horror, tarot or anything similar then this book is absolutely going to be for you!

P.S. This is probably one of my favorite books of the year and I am begging you to read it.

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Author: Adalyn Grace
Series: Belladonna
Series #: 1
Genre: fantasy, gothic
Age Group: YA
ARC?: yes

Orphaned as a baby, nineteen-year-old Signa has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her well-being—and each has met an untimely end. Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy. Its patriarch mourns his late wife through wild parties, while his son grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and his daughter suffers from a mysterious illness. But when their mother’s restless spirit appears claiming she was poisoned, Signa realizes that the family she depends on could be in grave danger and enlists the help of a surly stable boy to hunt down the killer.

However, Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer is an alliance with Death himself, a fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side. Though he’s made her life a living hell, Death shows Signa that their growing connection may be more powerful—and more irresistible—than she ever dared imagine.


Review

Thank you to the publisher for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review!

So, I was excited going into this book because it said gothic on it, and I’m into pretty much anything gothic. And boy, did I get gothic! I also got a mix of fantasy elements that I love so much. And Death. Death was great as well. In some ways the atmosphere — something — about the book reminded me of Sorcery of Thorns, one of my all time favorite books. As well as Down Comes the Night. The combination in this book was just so well done. I was living for it. It is going to be a must re-read this fall when it’s spooky season. (I promise, you won’t be disappointed!)

Grace’s writing has only improved since her debut series, and I was gripped by it in this book. It was great before, and it is even better now. While the themes are different and styles are different, she does both very well! I found it easy to read and very addicting. I kept wanting to hug Signa. I loved her so much in this book. I adored her story — I felt connected with her even though she experienced things I hadn’t. And that is Grace’s talent, she can make you connect with a character even if it isn’t something you have experience. You feel empathy with them.

Also, the prologue was amazing . One of the best prologues that I have ever read to be honest. And I mean…the prologue was something else. What a way to get you into a book and keep you reading! Hook, line and sinker! This book was a slow burn in many ways; the romance, the plot, the world building, but it was beautifully done. I was obsessed with the idea of this glittering world, of “witches” of the personification of Death.

The romance in this book was much like Grace’s previous, it was slow and twisting; I rather enjoyed those aspects of it. Then you had the complicated factor of the mystery. Honestly, the mystery and ghosts were some of the best parts of this book. It incorporated well into the book, and it gave the book more body. And I love a gothic mystery that incorporates paranormal elements. I’m a sucker for it, and Grace had all of that.

And I loved the plot. I kept flipping pages because I wanted to know what was going to happen next! Suffice to say, I LOVED this book. What was also nice was the MC was 19! An older YA character! Hurray! This book literally checked all the boxes I could ask for. And I am addicted. ADDICTED I TELL YOU.

I need to get my hands on the sequel because HOLY HECK I can’t wait to see what happens next! This is definitely going to be one of my favorite books of the year. I already have THREE editions ordered.

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Author: Kelly Devos
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: mystery, thriller, horror
Age Group: Young Adult
ARC?: Yes

For Dracula lovers and fans of Diana Urban’s All Your Twisted Secrets, this spine-tingling thriller follows seven horror buffs as their dream trip to a remote Romanian castle turns into a nightmare when they begin to be killed one by one.

Alex Rush is ready for the trip of a lifetime.

She and her friends have made some creepily awesome films together throughout high school, so with only a few months left before they go their separate ways for college, they’re determined to make the best one yet: an epic short film that reimagines the story of Dracula, filmed on location at a remote castle in Romania.

But when they get there, it’s not quite the majestic setting they planned for. Menacing weapons line the walls, the twisted halls are easy to get lost in, and with no connection to the outside world, the group is unexpectedly off the grid. After just a few hours spent under its roof, Alex and her friends have no trouble imagining how this dark, terrifying castle inspired one of the most enduring horror novels of all time.

Only soon they no longer have to use their imaginations to understand the location’s terrifying history—just as they get the film’s first shot rolling, one of Alex’s friends disappears, and she’s nearly certain she saw a cloaked stranger lurking in the shadows. As more members of the group begin to meet an untimely demise, Alex is desperate to stop the bloodshed, even if it means facing a monster she never thought would be let loose.


Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

This book is going to be a huge draw for teen readers! It combines many things that are relatable: being an influencer, struggling with college decisions, getting rejections, dating, issues with parents and so on. To top it all off it is a murder mystery. A murder mystery in a Romanian castle that has to do with Dracula. Sounds intriguing right? And I think for teens it will be. In many ways the style of this book reminds me of Tom Ryan’s I Hope You’re Listening, Kit Frick’s I Killed Zoe Spanos, the Truly Devious series and the Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series. This is a YA book, however it does remind me some of Riley Sager’s adult books. For me it is almost the teen version of those. IIt goes back between present and the past (where the main events took place) and it is interspersed with Alex’s interviews with the police in the aftermath. 

I found 90% of the characters unlikeable, and I don’t know if that was intentional. I also think that they were supposed to represent real teens, teens who are flawed and are jealous, who are still learning about themselves and what they want from life. So to me, this was a realistic representation of them. Even if I didn’t like them, it wasn’t like they were written badly! 

The writing style is easy to follow, and this book is a fairly quick read (for me). There is a lot of build up to the actual events at the castle. But there’s a lot of tension, not knowing how we get to the end. 

I guessed what was going on from the very beginning. There certainly were some red herrings thrown in, but overall I found it easy to guess. But the read itself was engaging and kept me entertained until I got to the end of the book. In some ways I wish that it had gone differently – that it hadn’t been as I expected. Alas. 

This book is going to be for anyone who enjoys slasher/final girl etc types of books and movies. It definitely lands more on the horror side of the mystery/thriller aspect, so just be aware of that. There isn’t anything overly descriptive in this book (or at least not too much), but more generalized descriptions. 

Overall, this book was a solid three star book for me. I enjoyed the book, but I think that teens (and tweens) will enjoy it far more than me! 

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Author: Lana Harper
Series: The Witches of Thistle Grove
Series #: 2
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Age Group: Adult
ARC?: Yes

Wild child Isidora Avramov is a thrill chaser, adept demon summoner, and—despite the whole sexy-evil-sorceress vibe—also a cuddly animal lover. When she’s not designing costumes and new storylines for the Arcane Emporium’s haunted house, Issa’s nursing a secret, conflicted dream of ditching her family’s witchy business to become an indie fashion designer in her own right.

But when someone starts sabotaging the celebrations leading up to this year’s Beltane festival with dark, dangerous magic, a member of the rival Thorn family gets badly hurt—throwing immediate suspicion on the Avramovs. To clear the Avramov name and step up for her family when they need her the most, Issa agrees to serve as a co-investigator, helping none other than Rowan Thorn get to the bottom of things.

Rowan is the very definition of lawful good, so tragically noble and by-the-book he makes Issa’s teeth hurt. In accordance with their families’ complicated history, he and Issa have been archenemies for years and have grown to heartily loathe each other. But as the unlikely duo follow a perplexing trail of clues to a stunning conclusion, Issa and Rowan discover how little they really know each other… and stumble upon a maddening attraction that becomes harder to ignore by the day.


Review

It was a huge surprise for me! I enjoyed this book so much. There was just something about it that worked for me; but hadn’t quite worked for me in the first book. Maybe this is a sign I need to go back and try the first book again! 

Issa was a brilliant character and I LOVED everything about her. She was such a nuanced character, and one that I think people will relate to. (Even if we don’t have any witchy powers, sadly). Issa and her relationship with her family was lovely. The way Harper played out her sisters and her relationship, as well as the relationship with her mother was so well done. I loved that side plot and how it contributed to the book. 

And Rowan was SO SO adorable. I loved when he was being so gentle and caring. It made me melt. We didn’t get as much relationship with Rowan and his family, but I like how Harper showed that Issa and Rowan had good, but different, relationships with their parents. 

Oh, did I mention that this was an enemies to lovers romance? No? It is. And it is well done. One thing I really appreciated about this book is that miscommunication isn’t a huge trope, but done here, it was  done right. I was very impressed with Harper for that. 

This isn’t what I would call a super spicy book, it has a few spicy scenes, but by and large the book is focused on the mystery and the relationships between the characters. There are a few plot points that made me laugh, and I just loved how it was opposites attract romance too. Rival families…it pretty much hit on all the things I love. 

Harper is also a great writer. It’s bliss to read this book, because the cadence and the pace of the book. Also, there is an atmosphere to this book. It reminds me of a cozy mystery, but with witches. And diversity. 

There were a few important conversations had in this book regarding racism and prejudice (Rowan is a Black man). 

Talia and Emmy were back (briefly) in this one, so we heard how much they were into each other. It was adorable! (I really do plan to go back and read the first book…) 

I will say, Issa felt like such a strong character, but she hits a point in this book where she becomes overwhelmed. I loved the representation of anxiety and trying to deal with it on your own because you’re supposed to be “strong”. 

Overall, this was a fantastic read and I highly recommend that you add it to your shelves! I know I want to! 

P.S. the title is so cute too. I totally forgot I had DNF’d Paybacks a Witch until I requested this ARC, got approved and went to look. This is what happens when pretty covers and cool descriptions are briefly looked at, and not read all the way through. I guess I didn’t realize this was a sequel. 🙈

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Author: Ava Reid
Genre: fantasy, dark fantasy
Age Group: adult
ARC?: Yes

A gruesome curse. A city in upheaval. A monster with unquenchable appetites.

Marlinchen and her two sisters live with their wizard father in a city shifting from magic to industry. As Oblya’s last true witches, she and her sisters are little more than a tourist trap as they treat their clients with archaic remedies and beguile them with nostalgic charm. Marlinchen spends her days divining secrets in exchange for rubles and trying to placate her tyrannical, xenophobic father, who keeps his daughters sequestered from the outside world. But at night, Marlinchen and her sisters sneak out to enjoy the city’s amenities and revel in its thrills, particularly the recently established ballet theater, where Marlinchen meets a dancer who quickly captures her heart.

As Marlinchen’s late-night trysts grow more fervent and frequent, so does the threat of her father’s rage and magic. And while Oblya flourishes with culture and bustles with enterprise, a monster lurks in its midst, borne of intolerance and resentment and suffused with old-world power. Caught between history and progress and blood and desire, Marlinchen must draw upon her own magic to keep her city safe and find her place within it.


Review

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for an arc in exchange for an honest reivew!

I was super excited to get an ARC of this book, I gave her previous novel 4 stars. This one is somewhat interlinked with that one, and touches on similar subjects. This one is dark fantasy and horror combined. I had hoped that I was going to absolutely love this book, however, it fell short for me in many ways, which is a bit unfortunate. There were some good aspects to the book as well, and I will discuss those aspects first.

Reid is a talented writer. I love her prose. It is able to evoke feelings, emotions, moods and atmosphere. It is essentially, a lush book that could be easy to get lost in. The writing is one of the best parts of the entire book to be quite honest.

I love her world-building. It definitely captures the imagination, and you can even imagine it was real. This I think it partly because it is grounded in truth. It makes it easier to believe.

The incorporation of the fairy tales was excellent and remains one of my favorite parts of the book. I love how they just meld into the story seamlessly.

Even the premise of the book was good, so what was wrong with the book overall?

I struggled a bit with the characters. I feel that I didn’t ever really become convinced by them or their relationships. I wish I had because I think it would have been more successful for me.

Secondly, I was bored. This is definitely a me problem. I kept getting distracted and wanting to skim read through this book. I felt that there was no advancement in plot or character development, and that some of it was repetitive. I kept hoping that the end of the book would make it better. It sadly didn’t. It did get more intense towards the end of the book, but didn’t make up for the pacing.

I am however looking forward to seeing what the author produces next!

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Author: Jennifer Saint
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: fantasy, mythology, retelling
Age Group: adult
ARC?: yes

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?


Review

Overview

Thank you to Netgalley and Flatiron Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book was high on my list of books that I wanted to read. I’m a huge fan of Greek Mythology, especially new and different takes on what we think we know about it. Madeline Miller’s Circe was excellent because we got to see the myth’s from a woman’s perspective, not that of the men who take up about 90% of the mythology. When we do get women in myth they are usually evil or temptresses or some other variety of a woman who is considered bad or wrong. Much like Circe, Ariadne takes the myth as we know it and turns it into a powerful look at sexism and empowerment.

Writing


This book was a delight to read on so many levels. Saint’s writing is excruciatingly beautiful and I fell in love with it from the very beginning. There is something so powerful about this writing, and I felt it in my bones as I was reading this novel. It is very prose filled with some dialogue, but the prose is powerful. Much of the dialogue focuses on stories and the myths that we’ve all come to know. One interesting thing is how Saint manages to loop in the other myths and explains how the relate to Ariadne. While the book is titled Ariadne, her sister Phaedra, has some chapters from her perspective as well.

Plot

The plot of the book revolves around Ariadne and her family. The choices she makes from helping Theseus and the Labyrinth to after. The book was very detailed in its plot. It stuck to the general feeling of the original myth but elaborates and adds perspective from Ariadne. The plot is almost backseat to Ariadne and her own power.

Characters

One thing I loved about this book is we know so little about the women in the myth. Saint has had to create and invent a personality and overall general character for Ariadne. Like many other women in Greek myth she lacks character. The goddesses have a little more, but here we see how powerful Saint is because her characterization is so lovely. From the moment you meet the women in this book you can see what positions they’re in, and how they have to fight. This book shows how women are manipulated for men’s purposes. Saint did it so wonderfully and it was well done – I cannot express how much I enjoyed it.

Pacing

The pacing of this book is slow. It doesn’t meander, but it definitely has a purpose to the slowness. And it is helped by the fact we flip between what action there is in the book.

Last Thoughts

Elaborating from myth and real Greece, Saint creates a world and captures the imagination of mythic Greece. The palace of Knossos is vivid in the imagination, and when you look at pictures it is easy to envision Ariadne and her sister there.

This book was just stunningly beautiful on so many levels and I absolutely feel in love with it. It left me breathless and engaged. I can’t put into words how much I adored this book.

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Author: Wendy Clarke
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: mystery
Age Group: adult
ARC?: yes

Everyone in town said it was a mercy that she remembered so little. But there are some things Maya has never forgotten: that her mother was beautiful and kind, and she loved Maya very much. It’s what her father Stephen always tells her, about his perfect wife.

Years later, Maya still lives with her father in their cliffside home. Thankful for all the sacrifices he has made for her, she never pushes to find out what happened the night he lost the woman he loved. Even when she hears the whispers in town about him, and what they say he’s done.

But then Stephen introduces Maya to his new girlfriend Amy, and Maya starts to feel uneasy. With her soft dark hair and big blue eyes, Amy looks just like Maya’s mother. The more time they spend together the more Maya notices just how similar they are. And the tune Amy hums whilst cleaning the dishes is the same lullaby Maya’s mother sang to her when she was a little girl…

A thrilling and twisty tale, His Hidden Wife will keep you up all night, desperate to race through to its final conclusion. Readers of Gone Girl, The Couple Next Door and Lisa Jewell will be hooked.


Review

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an earc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

So, the premise of the book seemed intriguing. It was why I requested it in the first place. However, I just didn’t enjoy the book. It was okay. The writing was good, and there was enough of a mystery to be entertaining. Yet, at the same time, the mystery felt a little disjointed. It was almost as if there was too much going on, and nothing felt really well developed.

The characters too, I didn’t really like. It felt like the book was aiming for unreliable narrators and just missed the mark with this one. It’s a shame, because I think it could have been a really good book.

There were some important points brought up in the book, but in the context of the whole plot…just felt odd and unnecessary, like, they were brought in to add more tension, but instead did nothing.

CW/TW: abuse, domestic abuse, murder, self-harm

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Author: Aiden Thomas
Series: n/a
Series #: n/a
Genre: paranormal/supernatural, LGBTQ+
Age Group: young adult
ARC?: yes

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

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

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


Review

Thank you to Swoon Reads and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

First off there were a whole bunch of things I loved about this book. We get Yadriel who is an amazing character. He has such a sweetness to him that I adore and you really want all the best for him. Julian too is a great character. One thing I felt is I liked the characters more individually than I did together. One of my issues was the romance just didn’t work for me completely. There isn’t one thing I could put my finger on. But I loved them each on their own and felt it worked really well. Not to say the romance want cute, it was. I like insta romances but I felt that this one kind of fell a bit flat compared to all the other moving parts in this book. I suppose I wanted more of it? Just a minor thing I would have liked.

I think the world building is stunning! There is so much to love about it. I really enjoyed getting to know the different aspects of the world and how magic was explained. I loved those portions and I love how culture was worked in through the book. It all felt very cohesive and just…I loved it. I loved every minute of when we were getting Yadrial being a brujo I loved how he dealt with the issues of culture and being trans. It all worked so well within the novel and was done brilliantly. This is one of the best parts of the book!

I think my main issues were the pacing and writing. The pacing is where I struggled intensely because I felt there were portions I just didn’t love. The pacing felt a little less cohesive than I would have liked, and it made some sections a bit awkward for my personal tastes. And while the writing is good, I did think it could have been a bit better. Those are both me things though! In the long run I think the writing was good, and that while I didn’t like portions of the pacing it didn’t take away that much from the book. Which is why it is a solid 4 star rating from me!

The plot of this book (and the bad guy) was pretty obvious, but that really didn’t bother me at all. It’s not a bad thing to have guessed the plot and it didn’t take away from the overall enjoyable reading experience. The plot was well done and I think it tied in well with many of the issues presented in the book. We have both action plot and character plot pushing the story forward.

Overall, I felt that this was an excellent book and one that I will definitely being recommending to everyone! I think this is going to be one of those enduring books that people will want to continually go back to and enjoy immensely.

Also be sure to check out some of the #OwnVoices reviews as well – they’ll have insight into the culture as well as the trans experience that I don’t have!

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