ARC Review: The Diseased Ones by Danielle Harrington

The Diseased Ones by Danielle Harrington

YA Dystopian

301 pages

Acorn Publishing

Publication Date: 8 February 2020



Life is easy in 2647, unless you’re a Diseased One…

On the morning of her 16th birthday, Hollis Timewire receives the worst possible news. She can’t become a citizen of the world. She’s a Diseased One.

Born with a biomarker that bestows dangerous, brain-altering powers, Hollis is forced to hide underground with other Diseased Ones, who believe that the government falsified history to cover up their genocide.

Now Hollis must discover the truth, and is willing to risk anything, including her powers, to go back home.

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 


So at first glance, this book had so much potential. Sure, the title isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but I’m sure there are plenty of people like me that would go ‘ooh, I wonder what that’s about.’

Basically, Hollis is a normal 16 year old girl, living in a society where people don’t show their emotions. They are forbidden from touching other people. Children are also segregated by gender, with boys and girls educated separately. At age 16, everyone is tested to see if they have the genetic mutation that causes superpowers. Obviously, Hollis has that biomarker, and her powers manifest. The rest of the story follows Hollis as she tries to come to terms with her abilities, as well as learning to control them, after being taken in by ‘The Diseased Ones.’

I’ll say at the outset that the writing was pretty decent. I found Hollis’ first person, present tense, stream-of-consciousness narration kind of grating in the beginning, but you get used to it after a while.

The pacing was a bit off. There were long stretches where we just follow the minutiae of everyday life, and Hollis learning to control her powers. The action only starts to happen in the last 15- 20% of the book.

I also found a lot of the plot fairly predictable, and I felt like I was just waiting for something to happen. And when it did, I wasn’t surprised, or shocked, or… anything really.

Most of the characters were flat, but that tends to be what happens with this type of first person limited narration. Only Hollis gets any development, and I’m not really sure it was of the forward moving kind. She tended to be stubborn and naive, to the point where I wondered if she was being wilfully ignorant, despite all the information she received.

And I don’t even really want to talk about the romance. It’s not that it was bad per se, but she ‘falls in love’ with the first boy she ever touches. And she falls quickly. I’ll let you make your own conclusions about that.

Finally, I felt that the turning point – the event that actually starts the action – was very contrived. The series of random events that lead to the climax were inconsistent with the rest of the plot (and characterisation), and seemed conveniently slung in, in order to drive Hollis to action. And it seemed like a complete over-reaction.

The other little thing that bothered me was a question of logistics. Where on earth did they get all that food while living underground? It’s still bothering me.

Ultimately, I think this could have been a decent book. The ideas were interesting, but I think they weren’t executed as well as they could have been. Sadly, this book just wasn’t for me.


The Starless Sea|| Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern


498 pages

Publisher: Harvill Secker

Publication Date: 5 November 2019



Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues — a bee, a key, and a sword — that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians — it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

My Thoughts: 

I’ve seen this said in a lot of reviews, but I’m going to say it anyway: This book is not going to be for everyone.

I don’t really know what to say about this book. It made me feel awed and sad and annoyed and bored and happy and confused. It isn’t the type of book that really fits into any boxes, which is frustrating, because I love boxes.

But if I have to describe The Starless Sea, I would have to say it’s very conceptual. It isn’t plot-driven, or character-driven. It’s world-driven. That’s probably not actually a thing. But Erin Morgenstern doesn’t seem to care much about the craft of storytelling in any traditional sense. She’s said as much in numerous interviews. For me, it’s sort of like watching an experimental film. Weird, but compelling. It reminds me of how I felt when I watched Donnie Darko.

The thing I loved most about The Starless Sea was all the different stories. They’re so beautiful and whimsical. I could read a whole book of these little fairy-tale-esque vignettes. There were also many beautiful scenes, and I wish I was more of an artist, because I want to paint them all. The imagery was so so vivid.

That being said, there was a lull in the middle where I almost didn’t pick it back up again because I was frustrated that none of the strands seemed to be coming together. And this, my friends, is not a small book. At almost 500 pages, I sort of wanted there to be more of a cohesive plot. And I especially wanted to feel like there was some direction at the halfway mark. It does pick up at around 56%, but god it was a struggle getting there.

I didn’t really care much about the romance. It was very much a case of insta-love. Zachary and Dorian barely spend any time together, and suddenly their love is supposed to be something of epic proportions. I didn’t hate it, but I was ambivalent about it. And that’s almost worse.

I thought that there was very little in the way of depth in most of the characters. The events in the novel don’t really have much impact on them. They seem to be there almost to allow the author to move from one beautiful scene, to the next beautiful scene. I also thought that Zachary was perhaps not the best choice for the main character. He was there primarily to witness the story happening. I think the story was more about Dorian, and we don’t see that much of him really.

As for the ending. Well.

When I first finished The Starless Sea, I was very very confused. Granted, it was 3am at the time. But I’m still confused now. I desperately trawled through Goodreads to find spoilers, hoping someone else would be able to explain just what the hell the answers were to all my questions. Basically every single person who has ever reviewed it seemed to be part of a conspiracy of silence.

I thought that the longer I considered it, the more I would dislike The Starless Sea. But it turns out I kind of appreciate the ambiguity of the plot and the ending. I like that there’s so much room for discussion, and to assign my own meaning to things. It isn’t a traditional method of story telling, but it doesn’t mean that it’s bad.

So I guess the question is, is the Starless Sea worth it? Yes, and no. If you’re looking for a meandering book with beautiful world-building, and whimsical stories within stories, then yes, this could be the book for you. If, however, you like strong characters, a clear plot, and an unambiguous ending, then you should, perhaps, avoid it. This book is in the realm of experimental fiction, and it never gives you a clear answer to any of the questions you’ll have.



ARC Review: The Other Bennet Sister|| Janice Hadlow

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

Historical Fiction/Romance

480 pages

Publisher: Mantle/ Pan Macmillan Australia

Publication Date: 28 January 2020



The Other Bennet Sister is a warm homage to Jane Austen and a delightful story in its own right, following Mary Bennet, who is the middle of five Bennet girls and sadly the plainest of them all.

Not blessed with the same qualities of beauty, wit, charm and liveliness that possess her sisters – Mary, who is prim and pious has no redeeming features, is unloved and seemingly unlovable.

As an introvert in a family of extroverts, Mary is a constant disappointment to her mother who values beauty and marriage above all else. With little in common with her siblings and fearful of her father’s sharp tongue – is it any wonder she turns to books for both company and guidance?

One by one, her sisters marry – some for love and some for a semblance of respectability – but Mary, it seems, is destined to remain single and live out her life at Longbourn, or at least until her father dies and the house is bequeathed to the reviled Mr Collins.

When that fateful day finally comes, Mary slowly discovers that perhaps there is hope for her, after all.

At its heart, The Other Bennet Sister is a life-affirming and heart-
warming tale about a young woman finding her place in the world.
Witty and uplifting, it will make you feel, and cheer for Mary as you never have before.


I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts: 

I always felt a bit sorry for Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, so I was really excited when I received an ARC for this book via Netgalley. It is, I am pleased to say, pretty much everything I wanted from it.

The Other Bennet Sister started off slow for me. My ARC had the unfortunate problem of removing the combination of the letters fi or fl from every word in which it appeared. Which was rather a lot more than one might think – five, figure, fine, fire, fish, flat, floor, confidence etc. Once I got used to it, I really got into the book.

The first third of book covers Mary’s childhood up to and including most of the events in Pride and Prejudice. For most part I enjoyed this, and Janice Hadlow did wonderful job of portraying Mary in a way that made sense. All those times she says or does something awkward in Pride and Prejudice were explained in a way that made me even more sympathetic toward Mary.

I was very impressed with how nuanced and believable Mary’s personal journey was. At the beginning she lacks self-confidence, but it grows over the course of the book. There was never a lightbulb moment where everything changed, but rather her confidence and identity grew organically with every situation that she faced.

I was also impressed by the detailed world building, and it was clear that the author had taken great pains to research all of the different aspects of the setting, including, but not limited to the environment, the landscape, the society, the fashion, the customs, and the literature.

The later part of The Other Bennet Sister read very much like most historical romances I’ve come across. So that could be taken as a positive or a negative depending on how much you like the sort of tropes you tend to find in them. I was a little underwhelmed by it because other aspects of the novel were so strong.

My main critique was how long the book was. Sometimes scenes dragged a bit, slowing the pacing considerably. But then, I found the same true for Pride & Prejudice, so perhaps it was a stylistic choice.

The only other tiny remark I have is that while almost the entire book was written in third-person limited from Mary’s perspective, every so often there would be a random sentence relating Mrs Gardiner’s thoughts, which always threw me off.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable read. I’d recommend it to fans of retellings, historical romances, and lovers of Pride & Prejudice.

About the Author

Janice Hadlow was born in London and currently resides in Edinburgh with her husband and two sons. After studying History at university, Hadlow spent a few years working for the House of Commons before she joined the BBC. With a career in television that spanned nearly 30 years, Hadlow was credited for rejuvenating drama on the BBC, including originally commissioning The Great British Bake Off, now the biggest show on UK television. For her work, Hadlow has received a number of awards, and is a Fellow of the Royal Television Society and King’s College, University of London.

Hadlow is the author of A Royal Experiment, which is a biography of Great Britain’s King George III, originally published in 2014. The Other Bennet Sister is Janice Hadlow’s first novel.

ARC Mini Review: 18 Tiny Deaths|| Bruce Goldfarb

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics by Bruce Goldfarb


336 pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication Date: 4 February 2020



The story of the Gilded Age Chicago heiress who revolutionized forensic death investigation. As the mother of forensic science, Frances Glessner Lee is the reason why homicide detectives are a thing. She is responsible for the popularity of forensic science in television shows and pop culture. Long overlooked in the history books, this extremely detailed and thoroughly researched biography will at long last tell the story of the life and contributions of this pioneering woman.

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts: 

I think I should stop requesting ARCs for non-fiction titles, because I’m always stumped when I have to write a review. But here goes:

I enjoyed most of the book. It was well researched, and a fascinating portrait of a fierce and intelligent woman. For the rest, it was a history of the birth of modern forensics in the United States.

In many instances there was way too much detail and a bunch of extraneous information. Part of one chapter relates the events of a dinner at Frances Glessner Lee’s parents home where they entertained the Flonzaley Quartet. It goes so far as to describe who sat next to whom at the dinner table, which was completely irrelevant to the overall narrative.

In other instances, the narrative veers completely away from Frances Glessner Lee, and it takes some time for it to become apparent how these threads connect back to her.

The narrative a bit dry in places and I found myself skimming parts in the middle section, but ultimately everything is pulled together again in the last third of the book. I’m happy I read 18 Tiny Deaths, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is particularly interested in the history of forensics in the United States.


I received an e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Plantagenet Princesses||Douglas Boyd

Plantagenet Princesses: The Daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II by Douglas Boyd

Non-Fiction History

248 pages

Publisher: Pen & Sword History

Publication Date: 28 February 2020



The names of few medieval monarchs and their queens are better known than Eleanor of Aquitaine, uniquely queen of France and queen of England, and her second husband Henry II. Although academically labelled ‘medieval’, their era was the violent transition from the Dark Ages, when countries’ borders were defined with fire and sword. Henry grabbed the English throne thanks largely to Eleanor’s dowry because she owned one third of France.

Their daughters also lived extraordinary lives. If princes fought for their succession to crowns, the princesses were traded – usually by their mothers – to strangers for political power without the bloodshed. Years before what would today be marriageable age, royal girls were despatched to countries whose speech was unknown to them and there became the property of unknown men; their duty the bearing of sons to continue a dynasty and daughters who would be traded in their turn.

Some became literal prisoners of their spouses; others outwitted would-be rapists and the Church to seize the reins of power when their husbands died. Eleanor’s daughters Marie and Alix were abandoned in Paris when she divorced Louis VII of France. By Henry II, she bore Matilda, Ali�nor and Joanna. Between them, these extraordinary women and their daughters knew the extremes of power and pain. Joanna was imprisoned by William II of Sicily and worse treated by her brutal second husband in Toulouse. If Eleanor was libelled as a whore, Ali�nor’s descendants include two saints, Louis of France and Fernando of Spain. And then there were the illegitimate daughters, whose lives read like novels…

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts

Plantagenet Princesses immediately drew my attention because I love reading about women in history. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed with the execution.

My first problem was inconsistency. The style vacillated between very chatty and extremely dry. There were some spelling and grammatical problems – these may be fixed in the final copy – but it had me itching to get out my red pen. There were also a number of instances of repetition within the text.

The author also seemed to lack focus. This is supposed to be a book about Plantagenet princesses, specifically the daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. The first fifth of the book is about Eleanor, who was not a Plantagenet princess at all. Even so, the narrative doesn’t really focus on her. It meanders off into general history (such as pages about Thomas Becket, for example) that were not really necessary. The rest of the book talks about various Plantagenet princesses over the course of about 100 years – granddaughters of Eleanor and Henry II, or daughters-in-law, which were completely outside the promised scope of the book.

There was also a tendency to gloss over things, leaving me confused; or to list events, leaving me bored. An early example (and I am paraphrasing) goes something like: Henry went here, Eleanor went there, Christmas Court was here, then Easter Court was there.

My final disappointment was the inclusion of sensationalist stories and rumours, such as the one about Eleanor of Aquitaine and her ladies riding bare-breasted on Crusade. One, I didn’t see how it was relevant to the narrative. Two, it was presented as fact, where there are no concrete accounts of it ever actually happening.

Unfortunately, I can’t really recommend this book to anyone.

ARC Review: The Mercies|| Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 336

Publisher: Picador

Publication Date: 11 February 2020



After a storm has killed off all the island’s men, two women in a 1600s Norwegian coastal village struggle to survive against both natural forces and the men who have been sent to rid the community of alleged witchcraft.

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Bergensdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Northern town of Vardø must fend for themselves.

Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty evil.

As Maren and Ursa are pushed together and are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1620 witch trials, The Mercies is a feminist story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts:

I was really excited when I heard about The Mercies last year, and I was fortunate enough to receive an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley. I wavered a little when trying to decide what to rate it though. On one hand, I think it is an objectively good book. On the other, I didn’t enjoy it very much.

The two things that struck me the most were the world building and the writing. Millwood-Hargrave did a masterful job at transporting me to 17th century Vardø. It felt like I was completely immersed in the lives of the women who lived there. This was both a good thing, and a bad thing. Good, because it takes talent to achieve that. Bad, because I was equal parts bored with the minutiae of every day life, and anxious because of the oppressive atmosphere.

That’s another thing that was done really well. The atmosphere. Since this is a very character driven novel, told alternatively from Maren and Ursa’s perspectives, we get to see events as they unfold through the eyes of two characters who are very aware of the dangers, even if they don’t necessarily know what the exact outcome will be. As the fear, and bigotry amps up, and the accusations start flying, the tension is palpable. 

The pacing throughout is quite measured. Then the climax crescendos very quickly, very close to the end, and then boom! The book is over. This seems to be a sort of signature for Millwood-Hargrave, because I had the same feeling of ‘that’s it?’ at the end of The Deathless Girls and The Girl of Ink and Stars.

Speaking of the end, I found it to be a bit unbelievable. I tried to do some of my own research to corroborate the story that was told, but my success was limited. This is why I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. I want everything to be factual, and to have references, and primary sources. Which is what non-fiction is.

In the end, I realised that this is an intensely psychological novel. There’s a plot, to be sure, but it is ultimately a meditation on womens’ survival, in so many different senses of the word. It is less concerned with historical accuracy, and more concerned with exploring the different ways women overcome.

After the storm takes the lives of every able-bodied adult male in their village, the women cling to each other and eke out a life on their own. They continue to do what is necessary to survive, even while they grieve. They cling to their faith and beliefs, in both Christianity and older traditions, to give them strength. Some choose to wield their faith like a weapon, lashing out at others for their pain and loss.

Others choose more practical outlets. Kirsten is most representative of all of these things- she chooses to wear trousers, she takes on a leadership role, she convinces the women to go out fishing, and she slaughters animals for the meat and hides. All socially acceptable – if you are a man.

Even Ursa, who is from the city of Bergen, is a survivor. She travels far from home, with a man she doesn’t know but to whom she is wed. She survives the journey, and she survives the realities of being a wife, with all that entails.

There are some pretty graphic scenes in this book- spousal rape, domestic violence, murder, violence- so that’s something to be aware of going in.

While I didn’t really enjoy The Mercies per se, I thought it was a compelling read. I found it hard to put down, even when I didn’t like what I was reading. I think it was well written, and it’s has some really thought-provoking themes.





ARC Review: The Language of Cherries|| Jen Marie Hawkins

The Language and Cherries by Jen Marie Hawkins

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Magical Realism

Pages: 260

Publisher: Owl Hollow Press

Publication Date: 11 February 2020



When Evie Perez is cut off from everything she loves and forced to move to Iceland for the summer, she takes her canvas and paintbrushes into the picturesque cherry orchard behind her guesthouse. She stains her lips with stolen cherries in the midnight sun and paints a boy she’s never met.

Oskar is startled to discover Evie in his family’s orchard, and even more surprised to see himself on her canvas. Too ashamed to reveal his stutter, he remains silent as Evie returns day after day to paint, spilling confessions she wouldn’t even tell her priest.

As Evie’s life back home unravels, Oskar wants to comfort her with words, but he knows he’s waited too long, so he uses music instead. But when it all comes to the surface, he knows that if Evie can’t forgive him for lying, he may never forgive himself for surviving.

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts

The Language of Cherries was a quick, easy read for me. At only 260 pages I polished it off in a few hours one afternoon.

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a YA contemporary romance. What sets it apart is the inclusion of magical realism elements, which were a nice touch and helped move the story along.

Chapters alternated between third person, following Evie’s perspective; and first person diary entries from Oskar’s point of view.

I thought that The Language of Cherries was well written, and I enjoyed reading about Oskar and Evie’s relationship as it developed.

Both characters are extremely creative individuals, and both have their share of problems. Oskar has a stutter, which causes him a lot of anxiety. But he’s also dealing with grief. The two combined have caused him to isolate himself from basically everyone around him. Meanwhile, Evie is dealing with family problems, and the declining state of her grandmother’s mental acuity due to dementia. In addition, she has been physically isolated by the move to Iceland.

I liked how there was a balance between the romantic elements and the exploration of the characters’ lives in general. I thought the themes of grief and isolation were handled really well, and I appreciated that both characters are experiencing those things for very different reasons.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to fans of YA contemporary/ romances.


Weapon (Whisper #2)|| Lynette Noni (minor spoilers)

Weapon by Lynette Noni

YA Sci-Fi

407 pages

Publisher: Pantera Press

Publication date: 4 November 2019

#2 of 2


*Spoilers for first book!*


I already knew he was a psychopath. But now?
He’s more dangerous than ever.
And I have less than twenty-four hours to stop him.

After escaping Lengard and finding sanctuary with the Remnants, Alyssa Scott is desperate to save those she left behind ─ and the rest of the world ─ from the power-hungry scientist, Kendall Vanik. But secrets and lies block her at every turn, and soon Lyss is left questioning everything she has ever believed.

When long-lost memories begin to surface and the mysteries of her past continue to grow, Lyss battles to retain her hard-won control. Allies become enemies and enemies become allies, leaving her certain about only two things: when it comes to Speakers, nothing is ever as it seems… and the only person she can trust is herself.

My Thoughts

I almost never review sequels because I don’t want to give away spoilers, so this is all new territory for me.

I read almost the entire book in one day – it was completely addictive and so easy to read.  For me, it’s the mark of good book when I wouldn’t really change anything. My issues in the first book were resolved to my satisfaction. All loose ends were tied up, and conclusion was open ended enough that you can imagine the future you want.

Something I really like about Lynette Noni’s books is that she takes tropes and cliches inherent in the genre, and she does one of two things: she turns them on their head, or she acknowledges them and pokes fun at them in these meta moments.

She does a similar thing with the info and clues she lays down. Even though I sometimes wanted to shake Alyssa and point her to the answer, she got there not long after I did. It annoys me when a main character is completely oblivious when they have all the information. Alyssa was a breath of fresh air in that respect, because she was rational and acknowledged that there would be repercussions to her actions, and she admitted when she wasn’t sure about something. It’s like Lynette Noni has somehow read my list of things I hate in books and set out to address every single one of them.

Weapon had some genuinely surprising twists. While I predicted some things, there were others I never saw coming. The last couple chapters were what tipped it over to five stars, because all the foreshadowing was there, and I still did not see things coming. I like to be knocked off my feet like that.

I also liked that there was a hint of romance, but it was dealt with in a mature, subtle, and quite rational way. By that I mean that the main character didn’t just turn into a pile of goop whenever she even thought about possible love interest(s). I really appreciated that Alyssa’s feelings didn’t completely run the show, and her rational mind tempered those feelings when it was appropriate. (God it’s hard to be non-specific.)

I don’t feel like I can say a lot more about the characters, but I loved Arryn, and I really loved Smith’s backstory. And all I will say about Vannik, our resident psycho, is that by the very end he was given a bit more depth, which I appreciated.

I also liked the thought and research that had gone into the setting. It was nice to read about (semi) familiar landmarks in Sydney. And the whole underground tunnels is actually a real thing, which is so cool.

Here come the minor spoilers, so if you aren’t interested, stop reading now.



My one quibble is this:

It was completely unrealistic that the whole gang made it out alive and only some of the bad guys died. The stakes were too high for everyone to come out of it physically unscathed.


(Very Late) ARC Mini Review: Mirage|| Somaiya Daud

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

YA Sci Fi/Fantasy

320 pages


Publication: 28 August 2018

# 1 of 3



In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

My Thoughts

I finished this book three days before it’s publication date in August 2018, so this review is going to be pretty short. Somehow I managed to not write a review at the time (even though I was sure I did), and I have since misplaced the notes I took back then. So here goes:

The main thing I remember loving about Mirage was the world building. It had this mix of Middle Eastern/Moroccan culture, traditions and religion, which was rich and vibrant. It was particularly evocative because it was contrasted with the high tech space age setting. 

It explored themes of colonialism/imperialism, and cultural genocide in particular. The Vath have banned almost all of Andalaan traditions – including their religion and language, although the Andalaan people try to keep them alive in secret.

The plot itself wasn’t super original, and was quite predictable, but there were enough other elements that made the story as a whole different enough to be enjoyable.

Most of the main characters were well rounded, but all of the pure Vathek characters were all one dimensional and ‘evil.’ I wish there had been a little more subtlety in their characterisation.

I actually quite liked the love story from memory. It unfolded slowly, and was very sweet.

Overall, I think Mirage is a book I would recommend if you are interested in Middle Eastern/Moroccan traditions, and you want a bit of a twist on your space opera.

ARC Review: The Will and the Wilds|| Charlie N. Holmberg

The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg

Expected Publication Date: 21 January 2020

Publisher: 47North

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 267

Series: Standalone



Enna knows to fear the mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. When one tries to kill her to obtain an enchanted stone, Enna takes a huge risk: fighting back with a mysting of her own.

Maekallus’s help isn’t free. His price? A kiss. One with the power to steal her soul. But their deal leaves Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Only Enna’s kiss, given willingly, can save him from immediate destruction. It’s a temporary salvation for Maekallus and a lingering doom for Enna. Part of her soul now burns bright inside Maekallus, making him feel for the first time.

Enna shares Maekallus’s suffering, but her small sacrifice won’t last long. If she and Maekallus can’t break the spell binding him to the mortal realm, Maekallus will be consumed completely—and Enna’s soul with him.

I received an e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

My Thoughts

I’m going to say straight out that I enjoyed reading The Will and the Wilds. It was a comfortable, easy read for me, and it came at the perfect time. It is very much a Beauty and the Beast type of story, and plays on similar riffs and tropes. And I adore them. It causes Enna to question the nature of humanity and the soul, but she doesn’t dwell too much on the philosophical, because there are demons coming for her, man.

The Will and the Wilds revolves around two main characters – Enna, a human, and Maekallus, a mysting (basically a demon.) That was both a pro and a con for me, because while the Beauty and the Beast thing essentially only involves two people, which I am okay with, there were bigger stakes, and I didn’t really feel the urgency because we were so focused on Enna and Maekallus.

The writing was super easy to read. Most chapters were from Enna’s point of view, and we really get to know her and the kind of person she is. Curious, smart, practical, and considered a bit of an outsider. She loves learning, has a near obsession with mustangs, and wants to go to university, but can’t because she’s female. Sadly, this angle wasn’t explored in the book and was more of a footnote. Enna goes on learning on her own, so I suppose it doesn’t matter? Every so often we got a chapter in third person limited from Maekallus’ perspective, which I enjoyed.

The magic and the worldbuilding were pretty solid, and there were some interesting points, but it wasn’t the focus of the novel, so I still have a lot of questions.

The one thing that really bothered me was the way Enna gaslighted her father all the time. I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but basically her father has symptoms of dementia, and Enna uses his memory loss in order to lie to him. It just didn’t sit right with me.

For me, The Will and the Wilds was a good read, and one I would recommend. It wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, but I enjoyed reading it. If you like Beauty and the Beast, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno Garcia, or the K-Drama ‘A Korean Odyssey,’ you may enjoy The Will and the Wilds.