Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: A Dark and Starless Forest

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles! I can’t believe it’s almost March…

Last week, I got approved for not one, but three eARCs (!!!) which are all loaded up on my Kindle at present. I recently got around to reading the first of the three, and I’m SO EXCITED to see it go out into the world! A Dark and Starless Forest is just the kind of diverse dark fantasy that we all need.

Enjoy this eARC review!

A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell

A Dark and Starless Forest – Sarah Hollowell

Derry is one of eight magical lost children living in the woods. Though they are not related by blood, they all possess different types of magic, and they all live under the roof of their caretaker, Frank, who helps them hone their Alchemist abilities. But when Jane, the oldest of the siblings, goes missing in the dark woods beyond their home, Derry is determined that she’s still alive. As she tries to get to the bottom of Jane’s disappearance, she and her siblings confront dark secrets about their upbringing, and that their caretaker may not be the kindly man he makes himself out to be.

Spectacular Time-Lapse GIFs of Flowers Blooming

TW/CW: Death/disappearance of loved ones (siblings), fantasy violence, body horror, frightening situations

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and HMH Books for Young Readers for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I was intrigued by the premise of this one, but wow, I didn’t expect to be blown away as much as I was! A Dark and Starless Forest was such a rich and dark fantasy, and a page-turner in every sense of the word.

First off, I was so glad to see all of the representation in A Dark and Starless Forest! Derry, our protagonist, is plus-sized, and among her siblings, there’s several Black and Latinx characters, a nonbinary (they/them pronouns) character, a trans girl, and several Deaf characters; and beyond that, it’s implied that most of them (if not all of them) are queer, and two of them were confirmed to be on the asexual spectrum. It was such a joy to see such a diverse and unique cast of characters as the stars of the show in this novel, and I’m sure that I’ll be recommending this one to lots of people!

What also stood out to me was the unique relationship shared by all of the siblings. Most of them aren’t related by blood (save for two sets of twins), but they’re such a tight-knit community, in tune with each other’s comings and goings no matter what. Each of the characters had such distinct personalities, and there was clearly so much care put into each and every one of them. They were all so caring towards each other, and they stuck together until the end.

Beyond the characters, I loved the dark fantasy aspect of A Dark and Starless Forest! It’s more of an urban fantasy (real-world, but with fantasy aspects woven in), but there’s no shortage of gripping suspense and creepy plot twists. Without spoiling anything, there was definitely a sensibility about it that reminded me of some of the darker X-Men storylines, and I loved seeing how the story unravelled. (I guess the X-Men parallels go beyond that – the relationship that the siblings have is certainly akin to the denizens of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Mutant and proud.) Hollowell hits a perfect balance between showing the tender side of the siblings’ magic and showing the darker, more body-horror side to it.

At its heart, A Dark and Starless Forest is a story of sibling-hood, a story of resistance and uncovering hidden truths, and a story of sticking together against all odds. It’s a beautiful found-family story, and even though the ending was more bittersweet, it made me feel so warm inside at some points.

All in all, a dark but tender story of family and magic that’s sure to enchant so many readers. 4.25 stars!

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* and one nonbinary sibling

Expected release date: September 14, 2021

A Dark and Starless Forest is Sarah Hollowell’s debut novel, but her work has also been included in The (Other) F-Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce anthology.

Today’s song:

OKAY LITTLE OBLIVIONS IS SO GOOD AND I PROMISE I’LL REVIEW IT SOON

That’s it for this eARC review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: All These Warriors (Monsters, #2)

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

After finishing All These Monsters recently, I remembered that I’d seen the sequel floating around Edelweiss. I finished and loved book 1, so of course I had to request book 2–and I was approved for it! I read it last weekend, and while it didn’t quite pack as much of a punch as book 1, it was still a decent conclusion to the duology.

Enjoy this eARC review!

WARNING: This review contains some spoilers for book 1, All These Monsters, so tread lightly!

For my review of book 1, click here!

Amazon.com: All These Warriors (All These Monsters) eBook: Tintera, Amy:  Kindle Store

All These Warriors (Monsters, #2)–Amy Tintera

Grayson St. John is dead. Julian has revealed his true intentions. And Team Seven is in shambles.

Without any leadership, Clara, Madison, Edan and the others are stranded in scrab-infested London, harboring a dark secret–scrabs are being trained in secret facilities, and if they fall into the wrong hands, they could become an unstoppable army. Scrambling for a foothold, Team Seven must beat the odds once more, facing not only the consequences of this revelation, but the pasts that they thought they’d left behind forever.

CrissColfer RPH — Below there are 50 gifs of ballroom dancing, as...

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and HMH Books for Young Readers for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

All These Warriors marks the end of the Monsters duology. It’s only been a week and a half since I read book 1, but I know that it’ll have a special place in my heart, what with a mixed race/Latinx protagonist and the best kind of monster fighting in YA. All These Warriors was a bit of a disappointing sequel, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it.

With everything that built up in book 1, I expected this duology to go out with a bang–and it certainly had the potential to, but didn’t quite hit the mark. Granted, it focused more on the human aspects than the monster-fighting that I enjoyed so much in book 1, so my mind was just going “haha monsters go brrrrrrr.” And while the aforementioned aspects were still just as well-written, it still made for a sequel that didn’t live up to the first book.

Let’s start off with the good stuff: just like in book 1, Tintera stuns with her authentic characters, and all of their individual developmental paths. I loved seeing Clara grow beyond who she was before and face her past traumas. There’s a lot of focus on the toxic relationship with Julian (EW), and Tintera does a great job of making me loathe him even more than I did in book 1, which is definitely saying something.

When He Couldn't Help but Tell the Truth | 25 Downright Brutally Honest  David Rose GIFs From Schitt's Creek | POPSUGAR Entertainment Photo 2
Me every time Julian showed up

All These Monsters had a lot of promise for a riveting, fiery conclusion, but personally, it ended up being a lot of scrambling all over the place, with some galas and scattered monsters in between. There were several instances that got me excited, but that ended up going out with a whimper and not the bang that I expected. Namely, there was an AMAZING plot twist about the origins of the scrabs (which I won’t spoil, for everyone’s benefit), and I was so excited to see the motive behind it, but it just…wasn’t resolved? It just floated there for a few pages and was never expanded upon further, which made me terribly sad. That was the most notable of said instances, but I feel like there were a few more.

And the ending? It wasn’t awful or amazing for me, it was just…there. It wasn’t quite satisfying, but I wanted a little bit more. I just wished that All These Warriors was on the level of its predecessor, but…sigh…

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All in all, a sequel that didn’t live up to the stunning gem of its predecessor, but was entertaining all the same. 3.5 stars.

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Expected release date: July 13, 2021

Today’s song:

That’s it for this eARC review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: Things That Grow

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

Whew, I’m so glad the school week’s over! I might not be able to do Top 5 Saturday tomorrow because I’ve got some studying to do…plus, I haven’t been able to come up with anything for this week’s prompt…🤣

Either way, I recently got this eARC, and right after finishing something as long and dense as Dune, this novel was just what I needed. Darkly humorous and full of heart, Things That Grow is a lovely piece of contemporary fiction.

Enjoy this review!

Amazon.com: Things That Grow eBook: Goldstein, Meredith: Kindle Store

Things That Grow–Meredith Goldstein

Grandma Sheryl was seventeen-year-old Lori’s whole world, her anchor when her absent mother wasn’t there to care for her. So when she passes away, Lori’s world is thrown off-center–not only is her beloved grandmother gone, but in her absence, she’ll have to move back in with her mother and start her senior year in Maryland, without her old friends and the peaceful life she led.

But Grandma Sheryl left Lori and her family one final mission–a list of four gardens to travel to and spread her ashes. Along with her uncle Seth and her best friend Chris, Lori sets off on a chaotic journey that will change her life–and the way that she sees her grandmother.

The Big Lebowski (1998) - Scattering Donny's Ashes GIF | Gfycat
This is exactly the kind of darkly hysterical vibe that the book gave off

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and HMH Books for Young Readers for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I really haven’t read much contemporary fiction lately; it’s one that I try to read frequently, but I always end up gravitating more towards sci-fi or fantasy. But Things That Grow reminded me of what happens when the genre is executed right–it tugged at all the right heartstrings and made me crack up at the same time.

This novel certainly tackles some heavy topics, grief being the most prominent of them. I expected it to be a more somber novel, but Goldstein imbues a grimly humorous aspect that had me cracking up every few pages. It struck the perfect balance between honestly addressing grief and its consequences and having moments of being comedic and lighthearted. This is my first exposure to Goldstein’s work, but I can already see her clever writing shining through.

The other aspect that I enjoyed the most was the characters. Lori, Seth, Chris and all the rest were such distinct and lovable characters, and they all had lovely chemistry–part of what made a lot of the jokes I mentioned earlier land. They were all so authentic and well-developed, and I loved delving into their individual stories. I loved Chris and Lori’s friendship–the romance seemed a bit half-baked at its worst times, but I loved their whole backstory with his art and her stories.

That being said, Things That Grow wasn’t without its flaws, certainly. The conflict between Lori and Seth was interesting in concept, but felt very rushed and poorly executed; we only get introduced to the plot line maybe…3/4 of the way through? After that, they touch on it once or twice before it’s too-neatly resolved. That certainly left something to be desired, but it didn’t take as much away from the novel for me.

All in all, Things That Grow was a memorable contemporary novel that hit just the right balance between serious and hilarious. 4 stars!

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Release date: March 9, 2021

Today’s song:

I haven’t listened to this in years…I haven’t even seen this movie, but this cover brings back so many memories… ;_;

That’s it for this eARC review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: Dustborn

Happy Wednesday, my dudes bibliophiles!

I think this may be the first sci-fi eARC that I’ve ever gotten, so it’s nice to get something from my favorite genre. I’d read Bowman’s Contagion duology beforehand and enjoyed it, so I figured that it would be interesting to delve into her newest project. And while it wasn’t without its flaws, Dustborn was a perfectly tense dystopian novel!

Enjoy this eARC review!

Dustborn by Erin Bowman

Dustborn–Erin Bowman

The only world that Delta of Dead River has ever known is a wasteland. In her dwindling pack, she and her family struggle to get by. But when her pack is raided, she is forced to escape, armed only with the clothes on her back and her sister’s newborn baby.

Delta soon discovers that the world beyond her pack is lawless, filled with rulers who drill fear into colonies of helpless workers, and secrets that are best kept under wraps. And to make matters worse, she has a target on her back–literally; branded on her back is a map that leads to the Verdant, a lush and green promised land that everyone in the Wastes seeks to get their hands on. With the help of a childhood friend, she may be the first to find it–but some things are too good to be true.

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The cover gives me the most IMMACULATE Rey vibes

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and HMH Books for Young Readers for giving me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

The Goodreads synopsis describes this novel as a mashup of Mad Max and Gunslinger Girl, and even though I’ve never seen/read either of those, I definitely see where the vibe comes from. Dustborn is a tense and twisty dystopian novel, with notes of classic Westerns.

First, CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW PRETTY THIS COVER IS? The color scheme. The art. The typeface. THE REY VIBES. Even though this definitely wasn’t my favorite novel, I wouldn’t say no to a poster of this for my room.

Now…[ahem] I should probably talk about the book now, shouldn’t I?

Let’s start off with Delta. I wasn’t a huge fan of her character–she was that classic, dystopian teenager who’s been hardened by all of the horrific things she’s seen and done, and has built up this impenetrably tough skin as a result. She’s closed off, and she thinks she knows everything, even though she’s…what, 17? I get it, living as a semi-nomad in a barren wasteland does some nasty stuff to the brain, but it didn’t make for a very likable character. It did, however, make her a nice guinea pig for some well-needed character development. Plus, that kind of character is the perfect kind of character to interact with a baby…because she KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT CHILDREN, AND IT’S HILARIOUS.

Best Maleficent Baby Aurora GIFs | Gfycat

As far as the other characters went, I wasn’t super attached to any of them. I felt ambivalent about most of them–I didn’t hate anybody, but I didn’t want to die for anybody, either. Delta and Asher’s friends-to-lovers dynamic was cute, even though the romance felt a bit like it was needlessly shoehorned in there to appease the Teenage™️ audience, but it wasn’t egregiously bad, or anything.

The plot itself was easily the most enjoyable part of the novel for me. Filled with rich imagery and no shortage of fascinating plot twists, Dustborn definitely kept me guessing in the best ways. Still not my ideal novel, but Bowman is the master of tense sci-fi, where it be in a lifeless wasteland (this one) or on an alien planet with the dangers of a deadly virus (Contagion). I liked the latter better (even though book 2 wasn’t as good), but this was still entertaining.

Overall, a bleak dystopia that was lacking in likable characters, but made up for it with its imagery and plot twists. 3 stars!

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Expected release date: April 20, 2021

Today’s song:

GUILTY PLEASURE SONG TIME–

That’s it for this eARC review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!