Apologies for my sporadic posting and commenting.  Work is still kicking my butt right now so my free time is limited.  I was so tired by the weekend that I mostly just vegged on the couch, watching Hallmark movies.  I also got my COVID booster, which made me even more sleepy.  Aside from the need to nap, a sore arm and a mild headache, no real side effects from that third shot.  Definitely worth it to feel better protected going into the holiday season. Anyway, I’m back today with two new reviews.  These reads are a bit darker than most of what I’ve been reading lately but I just couldn’t resist them.  Check out those covers!


Reviews:  ALL OF US VILLAINS and ROXYAll of Us Villains (All of Us Villains, #1) Goodreads

Author:  Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

Publisher:  Tor Teen

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

If you are a fan of The Hunger Games, All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman is the start of an exciting new fantasy series that you are going to want to check out.  It follows seven magical families, each of whom is vying for control over their city’s High Magick.  Every generation, there is a tournament to determine control, with each family selecting a teen champion to represent them in this fight-to-the-death magical competition.

I was a little worried at first that seven families would be too hard to keep track of, but the story ends up being presented from four of the champion’s perspectives, each of which is so distinctive that it makes it very easy to follow along.  There’s Alistair, who is representing the Lowe family.  The Lowes have traditionally dominated the competition and appear to have no qualms whatsoever about annihilating the competition. Alistair himself has quite the reputation for being a monster and goes into the tournament with every intention of living up to his reputation.  As the tournament wears on, however, it becomes clear there’s more to Alistair than meets the eye.

Then there’s Isobel who doesn’t really want to fight in the tournament in the first place, but who would love to finally bring some glory to her family, who are considered trash by most others in the city.

Gavin Grieve is the third voice, and he’s the underdog with something to prove.  His family has never won, their spell casting abilities are believed to be mediocre at best, and he would love to just shut people up once and for all for always underestimating the Grieves.

Lastly there’s Briony.  Briony believes that the tournament itself is a curse and that there must be a way to break it so that no one ever has to die again.  She’s so determined to stop the curse that when her sister is chosen to be their family’s champion instead of her, she chops her sister’s finger off to get the champion ring and take her place.

While I found each of these characters fascinating to follow and especially to get inside their thoughts while they’re engaging in this tournament, the most exciting part of All of Us Villains was the tournament itself and the worldbuilding.  The magical system is so intricate and well thought out, and I thought the whole idea of a high stakes tournament where the participants cast spells and curses at one another was fascinating. Everything about the story kept me engaged, from the curses themselves, to the tentative alliances formed by various champions, the creative strategies employed by all participants, and especially Briony’s movements as she sets out to dismantle the curse and free them all, all while fighting for her own survival since no one else believes her theory.

All of Us Villains reads like a mash-up of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and yet still feels like a unique and original fantasy.  If you enjoy dark reads that feature high stakes competition and magic, I definitely recommend All of Us Villains4 STARS


Reviews:  ALL OF US VILLAINS and ROXYRoxy Goodreads

Author: Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Roxy by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman is one of the most unique books I’ve read this year.  It’s a dark and all too timely read about the opioid crisis that has ravaged so much of rural America.  While the topic itself might not be new, the authors’ approach to it sure is.

Roxy follows teens Isaac and Ivy Ramey, siblings who are both on prescription medication.  Ivy is taking Adderall to help with her ADHD, and Isaac is taking oxycodone for pain after suffering an injury during a fight and then further exacerbating it out on the soccer field.  The story tragically begins with first responders at the scene of an apparent drug overdose.  We learn that the victim is deceased and that it’s I. Ramey. Which I. Ramey though? We then back up and follow each teen through what led to their being prescribed the medications in the first place and then continue forward until we learn which Ramey sibling has died. The authors do a wonderful job of making the readers invested in the lives of both Ivy and Isaac.  They’re both good kids who come from a good family, and what happens is just so sad and preventable.

While this story is a dark and tragic one, it’s also a very creative one in that two of the other main characters are actually the drugs themselves personified. Roxy is oxycodone and Addy is Adderall.  Each of these drugs is given a distinct personality, and they behave as rivals throughout the story as if it’s a competition to see which can get more people hooked. I could see this being potentially offensive for a reader who takes either of these prescription medications, but I think the Shustermans do a fantastic job of handling the topic with sensitivity.  They make it very clear throughout Roxy that both medications have medicinal value and that people use them for legit reasons.  Isaac and Ivy only start heading down the dangerous path to addiction and overdose when they choose to veer from their prescribed dosages.

There were also some interesting interludes throughout the story that featured drugs who used to be in the spotlight the way Oxy and Adderall are these days.  There’s Mary Jane who has now gone legit, and we also see Lucy who is just kind of floating around doing her own thing.

Roxy is a compelling story that definitely kept me turning the pages.  It was a heartbreaking read, knowing that it would end in the death of a young person and I shed tears as soon as I learned which sibling it was, but it’s also a powerful read that left me with so much to think about, particularly with respect to how it’s all too easy for anyone to fall victim to addiction.  4 STARS

10 replies
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      I’ll be curious to see what you think of All of Us Villains. Roxy was definitely unique, not that I’m surprised considering this is the same author who brought us the Arc of a Scythe series.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Ha! It didn’t even register with me that both books had co-authors. Yeah, that mystery death was definitely a hook that drew me right into the story.

  1. Greg
    Greg says:

    Those are wild covers. Both of these have me curious. Villains just sounds good and the drugs-as-characters is something I saw in another review as well and it sounds so interesting the way it’s done, even if the story has a heartbreaking end.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yeah, Roxy was just such a creative approach to discussing the opioid crisis and even though it was a tragic story overall, I did still have to chuckle a bit at the chapters where we revisited Mary Jane and Lucy. I’m sure younger readers will recognize Mary Jane gone legit as legalized marijuana, but I did wonder if they would pick up on what drug Lucy is supposed to represent.

  2. Verushka
    Verushka says:

    Wow, Roxy sounds incredible! I just started following Dopesick on TV here and watching the drug take hold of communities is devastating. So much of your review reminds me of that show too.

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