ARC Reviews, Book Tour, Reviews

Refraction ( + Giveaway!)

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

With fast pacing and riveting characters, this is a book that you’ll finish in one sitting.

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Refraction by Naomi Hughes was an intense, compelling, ultimately fun read that I kept itching to pick back up. During work or driving home, I’d be thinking about where I left off and what theories or guesses I had about the story. Ultimately, I enjoyed this a lot. Another win for YA Horror in 2019.

First and foremost, the characters felt real and so did their connection. They felt like people: engaging, likable and flawed. I still rooted for them. I wanted them to survive. Marty’s drive to get to his brother and Eliot’s need for approval were so relatable, honest, and human that my empathy survived through every fumble, twist, and turn. 

I also loved that there wasn’t a romance in this book. I don’t mind romance, usually I enjoy it, but because it seems to be in absolutely every story lately, this was— a refreshing change of pace. It was nice to not be distracted for once, especially in a story where it would have felt forced. It wasn’t needed. The story kicked ass on its own.

The plot was wild, dark, and frequently terrifying. I’ve always been particularly creeped out by scary stories involving mirrors and this one took that trope and ran with it. The author does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing and the reveal(s) took me off guard more than once.

Not everyone likes an open ending, but I do. This one left just enough room for the imagination, while providing enough of a foundation to still be satisfying. I’d love to read a sequel, if that’s in the cards. Who knows?

Ultimately, I enjoyed Refraction a whole lot. I have high hopes whenever I dive into a YA scary story, and this mix of horror and sci-fi was the perfect tone to set my spine tingling. I loved the focus and detail the story was written with, and it was just unbelievable enough that I was swept up along for the ride. If this genre is your jam, don’t miss Refraction this year.


Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.

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Enter to win a copy of Refraction by Naomi Hughes!

Giveaway is open to US residents and ends 11/19/2019.

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Book Tour, Reviews

Sisters of Shadow and Light (+ Giveaway!)

From the acclaimed author of DEFY, Sara B. Larson, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT is a timeless and fantastical tale of sisterly love and powerful magic.

“The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes…”.

Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world―including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.

On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out―leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.

For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.

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This book was wholeheartedly fun to read.

Sisters of Shadow and Light is not a simple story, but it’s a wildly intriguing one. It was readable, relatable, fantastical, and most of all it felt original. The story moved in ways that I didn’t expect at all, which is saying something considering that I’d pegged the story for an ending early on in the book. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Following two sisters with vastly different talents and experiences in the world, this book is told from alternating perspectives for the most part and the effect this creates is masterful. Zuhra, the sister we hear from first and most often, has had her life formed around caring for her sister and keeping their family’s secrets. Inara, on the other hand, is struggling with powers that make her so sensitive that she can’t even communicate for part of the book’s story. Her moments of lucidity are cherished and then used as a device to further the story, it really is well done.

I enjoyed the characters as much as the book in this one. These girls aren’t perfect, but they are strong. Both whole and interesting characters in their own right, both sisters are ambitious and headstrong, committed and focused, and they do not give up. Their bond was my favorite part of this whole story. Yes, I know, I’m a bit biased in that I love a good sisterly bond in a book, but adding the fantasy and the dynamic between them, this felt new and fun.

I hesitate to say too much else about the magic system or plot lines because I truly enjoyed being confused and confounded throughout the course of this story. I truly enjoyed Sisters of Shadow and Light and (gah! with that ending??) I cannot wait for the sequel that hopefully comes.


Sara B. Larson is the best-selling and critically acclaimed author of the YA fantasy DEFY trilogy (DEFY, IGNITE, and ENDURE) and the DARK BREAKS THE DAWN duology. Her next YA fantasy, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT, comes out November 5th from Tor Teen. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband, their four children, and their Maltese, Loki. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.

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Enter to win 1 of 10 copies of Sisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. Larson!

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Happy reading, friends! See you tomorrow! x

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Book Tour, Reviews

Beyond the Black Door (+ Giveaway!)

Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen…

Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons.

Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.

But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.

When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.

A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom…

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Are you kidding? A spooky, LGBTQ+, fantasy read that just happens to fall in the spoooooky month of October? I was SO in.

Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland was a fun read. It was dark and moody, gothic and spooky, fantastic and magical, and just complex enough to keep me reading all the way until the end. More than anything about this book, I was just– interested: to see how it ended, to see what happened next, to see what would happen to Kamai in the end.

The magic in this system is completely new and original, which I loved. The concept of “soul walkers” was wild and a little esoteric, but what I found so wonderful about this book was the way that the system and the explanations of this form of magic were written so well. Her concepts are complex, but the way Strickland writes about them was accessible, relatable, and dare I say- magical.

I loved the representation in this book  most of all, I was so excited to see a book (especially a fantasy book) lean into a character who falls into the Aromantic/Asexual spectrum. Especially given that the character, internally, struggles with these feelings and perspectives, which I found wholly and utterly relatable. This book uses many metaphors to show how asexuality is a grey area where many people fall along a wide spectrum. I loved the use of moon phases, which also tied into the magic in this story, to examine gender identity and the character’s conflicts with sex and her work.

I rooted for Kamai throughout this book. I wanted her to succeed and find what she was looking for, even when things became murky and it looked like that might be unlikely. Kamai is impulsive, flawed, stubborn, and has her own internal conflicts aplenty, but all of this combines to make a immensely human character inside an already fantastical world.

I hesitate to talk too much about to romance or “romance,” depending on your POV, because I don’t want to give anything away. Needless to say, it was refreshing to see a dark, villainous love interest actually— you know, stay dark and villainous. So often in YA novels, when an author is trying to write an abusive or manipulative or dark romantic plot like, these edges can be somewhat rounded off and instead we get a villain that is sympathetic and understandable. I enjoyed the fact that this was not the point of the romance in Beyond the Black Door. The fact that this relationship in the book is unhealthy, manipulative, and dangerous is never argued, ignored, or glossed over. I am always so grateful when an author can acknowledge these dark truths, especially in a romantic plot line, because as much as we enjoy these stories, it also reminds us that this is not how romance ‘should’ be.

I will say one thing: I want more. I have so many questions left and I go back and forth over whether or not that’s a great thing or a frustrating thing. I just want to know more. So here’s hoping!

Overall, this was a strong debut for Strickland into the crowded field of YA and I will be keeping my eye out for what comes next from this author.

Check it out for yourselves and I hope you enjoy!


AdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, her pugs, and her piles and piles of books. She loves traveling, dancing, vests, tattoos, and every shade of teal in existence, but especially the darker ones. She is the coauthor of SHADOW RUN and SHADOW CALL (Delacorte/Penguin Random House) and author of the forthcoming BEYOND THE BLACK DOOR (Imprint/Macmillan).

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What spooky reads have you been reading this month?? x — A

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Reviews

Wilder Girls

“We don’t get to choose what hurts us.”

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true. (Goodreads)


“Did I like this??” That is the question I’ve been asking myself since I finished Wilder Girls by Rory Power. There is a lot to consider, despite this little book’s size and I had a very interesting journey while reading it. I went back and forth on this question for almost all of the book before finally deciding…it just wasn’t for me.

First, let me say that there is a lot to appreciate in this book. The atmosphere and descriptive world-building were strange and beautiful, the characters were tough, Queer, young women, even the element of “wtf?” suspense in this novel were wonderfully enjoyable. For a debut novel, this was so creative and original and I genuinely look forward to seeing what else Power writes in the coming years.

But for me personally…this was a big miss. And because my expectations were so high, also a big disappointment. To be fair, some of that is my doing, so I don’t completely blame Wilder Girls for this review, but I wanted to like it so much that it’s still a bummer.

I came to Wilder Girls knowing almost nothing about it except for the synopsis and that it was widely anticipated. I was one of those anticipators! As it turns out, there was one fact that would have been very helpful for me to know about this book before I read it: It’s a semi-retelling of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, unless you’re like me and you hated Lord of the Flies. The ugliness and brutality, in both character and style, just never felt like stress-free entertainment to me, and Wilder Girls felt the same in some ways. My feelings throughout this book made a lot more sense to me when I learned that fact.

I can’t hold a book accountable JUST because I hated its inspiratory predecessor, but it didn’t help things for Wilder Girls. There was something about the emotional style of this book that held me up more than anything else. I don’t know if it was unintentional or a choice by the author, but for most of the book I felt as if I were a cool, casual observer to what was going on. Instead of enmeshed and engaged and actively feeling. I tend to read with my emotions first, so this kind of style gets tiring very quickly. I wanted to feel more and be sucked further into this world, of which there was so much to explore, but for most of the book I felt kept at arms’ length.

This cool, almost detached perspective against the backdrop of this wild, organic, ugly, beautiful world did have its fascinating moments. The bizarre speculative science and mutations in this story also felt somewhat reminiscent of Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, another organic science thriller I read this year. If you liked the Southern Reach trilogy, you may enjoy this YA take on a similar vibe.

Overall, there were a few other struggles for me in Wilder girls: I didn’t click well with the characters, I didn’t understand some of their motivations, and it was often kinda gross. But I could’ve lived with all of that, especially balanced with the book’s positives, if it weren’t for the ending. I’ll try to say as little as possible, which is really hard when reviewing endings, but it didn’t work for me. It almost felt like a sci-fi dystopian “slice of life” novel, in that I did not get any of the answers I wanted. I like answers.

In the end, I’m glad that I read Wilder Girls. Whatever struggles I had, I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. I’m still left wanting to know. I started this one with big expectations and, sure, it let me down. But I also think this is a beautiful, little novel in its own– weird, gross way. Wilder Girls was gritty, dark, bizarre, and wildly creative for all of its more grisly flaws. Read it for yourself and decide.

I want to know what YOU thought of Wilder Girls!

Did you know it was a retelling? Did you like the open end? What did you think of the book??

Leave me a comment letting me know

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