Recommended: MIRRORLAND by Carole Johnstone

Mirrorland's cover has a brunette white woman looking into the eyes of a blond white woman

Publisher’s Description of Mirrorland

Cat lives in Los Angeles, about as far away as she can get from her estranged twin sister El and No. 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where they grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to the grand old house, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. No. 36 Westeryk Road is still full of shadowy, hidden corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues all over the house: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

Rebecca’s Thoughts on Mirrorland

I picked up this book because I’m a sucker for dark thrillers.

Dark and twisty from its opening to the end, Mirrorland is a page-turner. When Cat returns to her old family home after her twin sister’s death, she’s forced to confront painful memories she moved across the globe to suppress.

Cat’s convinced her sister El is alive. This disappearance just is more of her scheming.

Cat is pulled into a treasure hunt as mysterious emails lead her to decades-old pages of El’s diary, directing her to their imaginary play places in Mirrorland. But the clues lead to more mysteries than answers and unexpected friends of El’s come forward with warnings.

Johnstone’s writing pulls you into both Cat’s present and past, reality and make-believe in the old, gothic house and the brutal, creepy world of Mirrorland. You’ll also be pulled into Cat’s wrenching emotional journey. The story is fast-paced and twisty. It will keep you guessing to the very end.

Highly recommended, especially for fans of dark thrillers.

Trigger warnings: on-page violence and mention of attempted suicide.

I received a free advanced reader copy of Mirrorland in exchange for an unbiased review.

Mirrorland will be published on April 20, 2021. You can add it to your “want to read” list on Goodreads, or pre-order on Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

If Mirrorland sounds good, you might like these other books I’ve recently reviewed:

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab


I was interested in reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue because I’ve loved everything I’ve read V.E./Victoria Schwab (9 books ranging from middle grade to adult), and this one does not disappoint.

It’s the story of a teenage girl in 18th century France who makes a deal with a dark god to get out of an unwanted marriage and instead live a life of freedom.

Her wish is granted but it comes with an unexpected price: “freedom” from personal entanglements—no one remembers her once she walks out of their site.

The story follows Addie for over 300 years, as well as a second point-of-view character whose life becomes intertwined with Addie’s. The story is thought-provoking and twisty. It’s so well described that you’ll feel you’re experiencing the entire historic timespan and settings all over the globe along with Addie.

The book’s themes include the question of how a person leaves a mark on the world, what one would give for artistic excellence, and what it means to live a full life.

Since Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic was marketed as a crossover to the young adult market, I hoped to recommend this to my YA-reading audience. Though I recommend the book enthusiastically, I can’t say I’d push it as a teen read because of the sex and casual use of serious drugs. Of course, teens have their own opinions about what books are appropriate for them.

If you are a fan of young adult books, I’ve reviewed dozens on The Winged Pen.

Also notable, Schwab does a great job of portraying diverse characters. Henry, the book’s second main character, has bipolar disorder. Also, Schwab tweeted at the time I was writing this review: “For the record, there are no straight characters in THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE. There are straight-passing pairs, but none of the people in those pairs are straight. And it’s on page, canon. Addie has relationships with women. Henry’s ex is a man.”

Props to Schwab giving characters of diverse backgrounds their fantasy/adventure story.

Highly recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tor for the eArc of the book. They provided the eArc in exchange for an honest review.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue will be released on October 6th. You can find it on:

Goodreads      Indiebound     Barnes & Noble          Amazon

If this book sounds good, you might like these other books I’ve recommended recently:

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
Enchantée by Gita Trelease

Recommended: DEV1AT3 by Jay Kristoff

Publisher’s Description of DEV1AT3

In the wake of a climactic battle in the ruined city of Babel, two former best friends suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of the same quest. Eve is torn between the memories of the girl she was, and the synthetic she’s discovered herself to be. Together with her lifelike “siblings,” Eve sets out to find the real Ana Monrova, whose DNA is the key to building an army of lifelikes.

Meanwhile, Eve’s best friend, Lemon, is coming to terms with a power that she has long denied– and that others want to harness as a weapon. When she meets a strange boy named Grimm, he offers to lead her out of the horror-ridden landscape and to an enclave of other abnorms like herself. There, Lemon quickly finds a sense of belonging–and perhaps even love–among the other genetic deviates. But all is not what it seems, and with enemies and friends, heroes and villains wearing interchangeable faces, Lemon, too, will join the race to locate Ana Monrova before her former best friend can get to her.

Rebecca’s Thoughts

I’m picky about the sequels I read but thought the 1st book in the LIFEL1K3 series was as imaginative as it was action-packed. (You can read that review here.) It pulled me in for another 448-page romp through post-apocalyptic cities and barren desert with Jay Kristoff and his characters. I wasn’t disappointed.

Image via Goodreads.

Science fiction fans will appreciate Kristoff’s reinterpretation of Asimov’s 3 Law’s of Robotics, which he uses to underpin the conflict in this series. His characters include machines made to serve humans, humans—all sorts, including deviates with special abilities, and machines made to be better than humans. While LIFEL1K3 was primarily told from a human point-of-view, DEV1AT3 gives more time to the viewpoints of the machines. This allows Kristoff to explore more deeply their thoughts and choices, and the prejudice each faces at the hands of others. The correlation between this prejudice against the “other” in Kristoff’s dystopia and that in the world around us boils under the story’s surface.

At the surface level, I love Kristoff’s characters. Whether human or machine, they come alive with voice and personality. The world he builds is larger-than-life and the story’s action is out-sized enough to fill that world. Growing conflict and quick pacing make the story a page-turner.

What did I not like about this book? That because I read an advanced reader copy, the wait for book 3 will be really, really long.

Highly recommended!

I received an advanced reader copy of DEV1AT3 in exchange for an honest review.

DEV1AT3 will be released on June 25th. You can check it out on Goodreads, or pre-order via Indiebound, Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

If DEV1AT3 sounds like a book you’d like, you might be interested in other young adult spec fic books we’ve reviewed recently on the Winged Pen:

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The 2018 CYBILS Book Award Short List – a Wrap Up
Enchantée by Gita Trelease
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton
Salt by Hannah Moscowitz

The review was originally posted on

Recommended: AURORA RISING by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Today I’m over at The Winged Pen with a review of Aurora Rising, a new young adult science fiction novel by the authors of Illuminae. Click here to see the full review!

The CYBILS Award YA Speculative Fiction Short List – A Wrap-up

Today, I’m over at The Winged Pen talking about the 7 books that made the short list for the CYBILS Award for YA Speculative Fiction. If you love young adult fantasy, sci fi, alternate history or magical realism, you’ll find some titles you want to add to your TBR! Check out the post here!

Recommended: STRONGER, FASTER, AND MORE BEAUTIFUL by Arwen Elys Dayton

Today, I’m over at the Winged Pen with my thoughts on STRONGER, FASTER, AND MORE BEAUTIFUL by Arwen Elys Dayton. This book provides a fascinating yet terrifying exploration of the future of the human body.

Read more here.

Recommended: SALT by Hannah Moscowitz

Today, I’m over at The Winged Pen talking about Salt by Hannah Moscowitz. The story starts with action and pulls you into not only the thrill of the battle but also the teamwork of the siblings fighting sea monsters with knives, arrows, blowtorches and hooks. They are all lethal.

Bottom line: highly recommended! Check out the full review here.

Recommended: NOT EVEN BONES by Rebecca Schaeffer

Today, I’m over at The Winged Pen talking about Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer, a gritty, blood-drenched young adult thriller. Bottom line: highly recommended! Check out the full review here.


Recommended: HULLMETAL GIRLS by Emily Skrutzkie

Publisher’s Description

Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor’s salary isn’t enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she’s from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha’s and Key’s paths collide, and the two must learn to work together–a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

Rebecca’s Thoughts

I picked up this book because of the promise of kick-butt girls in space. It had that and more!

The book pulled me immediately into the life and motivations of Aisha. Her religious beliefs give her every reason to NOT allow her body to be enhanced – except that it’s her only chance to protect her sick brother and younger sister. Aisha’s closely-held beliefs feel genuine and make her a stand-out in the YA spec fic market. The fact that she’s caught between her beliefs and the cybernetic enhancements she’d taken on creates a constant source of tension in the story.

Aisha’s beliefs also put her in direct contrast with Key, a girl of action, not faith. But beneath her tough exterior, Key struggles to hide her faulty memory, a difficult thing to do since their team has been augmented with mental connections which allow them to read each other’s thoughts and emotions and therefore perform well as a team. Both girls struggle with the mutual acceptance and cooperation they’ll need work together effectively and earn a spot among the elite units protecting the fleet.

I found this a quick read for space sci fi. Skrutskie includes plenty of world-building, but not world-building for its own sake, only as needed to move the plot forward. The story is told in first person, alternating perspectives, which allows the reader to really get to know both girls and move with them through the story. Twists and turns along the way keep the plot interesting. It will appeal to readers of Nyxia by Scott Reintgen and LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff.

Hullmetal Girls will be released on July 17th. You can check it out on Goodreads or order from IndieBound, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

I requested an advanced reader copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book recommendation was originally posted on If Hullmetal Girls sounds good, you might also like other young adult books discussed on The Winged Pen.

Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on

Recommended: LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff

Publisher’s Description

On an island junkyard beneath a sky that glows with radiation, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap. Seventeen-year-old Eve isn’t looking for trouble–she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she spent months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, she’s on the local gangster’s wanted list, and the only thing keeping her grandpa alive is the money she just lost to the bookies. Worst of all, she’s discovered she can somehow destroy machines with the power of her mind, and a bunch of puritanical fanatics are building a coffin her size because of it. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

The problem is, Eve has had a worse day–one that lingers in her nightmares and the cybernetic implant where her memories used to be. Her discovery of a handsome android named Ezekiel–called a “Lifelike” because they resemble humans–will bring her world crashing down and make her question whether her entire life is a lie. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic sidekick Cricket in tow, Eve will trek across deserts of glass, battle unkillable bots, and infiltrate towering megacities to save the ones she loves…and learn the truth about the bloody secrets of her past.

Rebecca’s Thoughts

Full of awesome future tech and kick-butt characters fighting their way out of one tight-corner after another, this book will keep your heart thumping fast and the pages turning! Each of the characters is grappling with their own secrets, ones that at times unite them to fight common enemies and later force them to question who they can trust. The slow reveal of the secrets makes the story a sci fi-adventure-mystery mash-up.  Kristoff writes secondary characters who you’ll want to befriend with voices that will keep you smiling.

Fun read! Highly recommended!

LIFEL1K3 will be released on May 29th. You can check it out on Goodreads or pre-order from Amazon Barnes & Noble or IndieBound.

I requested an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Need more book suggestions? If LIFEL1K3 sounds good, you might also like other young adult books discussed on The Winged Pen:

Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
The Takedown by Corrie Wang

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on