Review: Vampires Never Get Old by Various Authors

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Goodreads | Waterstones

In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out―and going out for their first kill―and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.
Welcome to the evolution of the vampire―and a revolution on the page.
Vampires Never Get Old includes stories by authors both bestselling and acclaimed, including Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V. E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley. 

Overall, this was a brilliantly diverse collection of short stories about vampires, tackling the fact most popular vampire stories follow cis, white, male, able-bodied, heterosexual vampires. It takes everything we know and expect from vampire myth and folklore and turns it on its head. I read this an audiobook and I really enjoyed the whole experience. It had a brilliant cast of narrators that changed with the stories and fit the whole book well. I really liked how the editors of this book wrote a short follow up of each of the stories that explained the folklore behind each one.

As this book contains many different stories, I’m going to go through them all separately, but overall I was super impressed with this book!

Seven Nights for Dying by Tessa Gratton ★★

This one was such a strong start to the book and I really enjoyed it. We follow a young girl being lured into the world of vampirism and it tackled some super interesting topics. It was sex positive and followed a character who is bi/pan, and also discussed grief, belonging, loss and anger. We follow the main character as she tries to make a decision about whether she wants to become a vampire or not, which also fit the short story well as it focuses on 7 days. I liked the family aspect and if I remember rightly we had a really positive family relationship featuring a single parent!

The Boys From Blood River by Rebecca Roanhorse ★★

The second story was also strong and I did enjoy it, just not quite as much as the first one. I loved the setting as we follow our main character late at night in a diner where he works, and the whole story reminded me a little bit of The Lost Boys. In this story, there is a legend surrounding a song which mysteriously begins playing on the jukebox at the diner. The legend being that vampires come when the song is sung, and the person who sang the song will then disappear. Again, this story has some really important discussions about grief, loss, race and sexuality, and the only reason I haven’t rated it higher is because I honestly can’t remember as much as I would like about it!

Senior Year Sucks by Julie Murphy ★★

I’ve read Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and really enjoyed it, and I feel like her contemporary approach to a vampire story worked so well in this one. We follow Jolene, who is a fat vampire slayer and I loved her! I really liked that this one was fat positive and sapphic, and also that it followed a vampire slayer rather than the vampire themselves. Again, this one fit the short story narrative really well and left me wanting tor read more by Julie Murphy.

The Boy and The Bell by Heidi Heilig ★★

I sadly can’t remember this story so well, which is why it has a lower rating. This one, as with many of the other stories, is steeped in vampire folklore and follows a trans boy and the idea of people being buried before they are supposed to. We follow our main character, who is a grave digger trying to learn from the corpses he is digging up, when he starts to hear a bell ringing. I would say that I won’t say more because of spoilers, but honestly I can’t remember much more about the story sadly!

A Guidebook for the Newly Sired Desi Vampire by Samira Ahmed ★★

This story was absolutely brilliant and is no doubt my favourite of the entire collection. It was so well written and creative, and is written in second person addressing ‘you’ as the reader. The idea behind this story is it’s written as a guidebook for newly sired Desi vampires who have been turned against their will by British tourists. It was so funny which is what I loved the most and the writing was so witty. It also has some really interesting and important discussions about Colonial India and taught me a lot! I’ll definitely be checking out more books by this author.

In Kind by Kayla Whaley ★★

Yet another story that I really enjoyed and is a close second favourite after Ahmed’s! This story follows a girl who has been murdered by her father, who believes he killed her out of ‘mercy’. Her body goes missing and instead of being buried, she is turned into a vampire and wants to enact revenge on her father for what happened. I love how this book talked about the main character’s degenerative neuromuscular disorder and that she still uses a wheelchair as a vampire. She talks about how much her disorder is inherent to her identity, and I really liked the discussions broached by this story. I loved it a lot.

Vampires Never Say Die by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker

Although this one didn’t quite reach the 5 star level of the previous two, I found it super interesting and really enjoyed it too! This one follows vampires who use Instagram and hide the fact they are vampires. One of these vampires has befriended a human on social media and the human girl decides to throw her a surprise party, but doesn’t know her friend is a vampire. Although I felt a little uncomfortable with the fact the human girl is 15 at the start of this story, I did still really enjoy it and it worked well as a short story.

Bestiary by Laura Ruby ★★1/2

Unfortunately, the stories took a bit of a dip for me as we get towards the end. In this one, we follow a girl who lives in a zoo and has a bond with the animals who live there. This one really fell flat for me and overall, just felt like it wasn’t really going anywhere or that anything really happened. Some of it was entertaining and I liked the themes of capitalism, but I just found there wasn’t as much to enjoy.

Mirrors, Windows and Selfies by Mark Oshiro ★★1/2

I found this one also fell a little flat and was by far the longest story. It honestly felt like it went on forever, but simultaneously had little to no real focus. We follow a young Latino man who is born as a vampire and has been controlled by his parents all his life. Throughout the story, he is trying to find out more about himself, including what he looks like. Although again, we follow some interesting themes of control, isolation and loneliness, and I did find the format (Tumblr posts) interesting, it fell flat. I also had a slight problem with the narrator or tone of writing (hard to pinpoint as I listened to the audio!) sounding very overenthusiastic and therefore inauthentic.

The House of Black Sapphires by Dhonielle Clayton ★★

Things did start to look up again here with the final two stories, and even though this was far from perfect I definitely enjoyed it more than the previous two. In this story, we follow a Black family who are forced to move around and run an apothecary shop. This one is definitely 10 points for atmosphere and I really enjoyed reading about the relationship of the sisters, but I still found the plot disappointing and something didn’t quite click.

First Kill by V.E. Schwab ★★

The final story and one I was most looking forward to was First Kill by V.E. Schwab. And although this one didn’t make it to 5 stars or become my favourite, I did really enjoy it and can definitely see the potential for the Netflix adaptation that is in the making! Without saying too much and spoiling the story, we have two teenage girls who have crushes on one another and there is some real sapphic angst. I really enjoyed it!


4 out of 5 stars


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ARC review: Blackout by Various Authors

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Goodreads | Waterstones

The irresistible blockbuster YA romance of summer 2021 that celebrates Black love stories, by six of the biggest voices in YA. Perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Netflix’s Let it Snow and Bolu Babalola’s Love in Colour.
When a heatwave plunges New York City into darkness, sparks fly for thirteen teenagers caught up in the blackout. From the exes who have to bury their rivalry and walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn in time to kick off a block party, to the two boys trapped on the subway who come face-to-face with their feelings and the pair of best friends stuck in the library and surrounded by love stories and one very big secret, they are all about to see that when the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths, love blossoms, friendship transforms, and all possibilities take flight.
Six of today’s biggest stars of the YA world bring all the electricity of love to a collection of charming, hilarious and heartbreaking tales that shine the brightest light through the dark.

Thank you to Electric Monkey (Harper Collins) for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This book is released on June 24th in the UK.

I have wanted to read this one as soon as I saw it on 2021 YA releases lists. Yes to all of this. Yes to Black voices and Black love stories. Yes to an anthology. Yes to a New York blackout setting. Yes to cute romance. Yes to queer romance. There are so many things I adored in this book.

This is a collection of short stories following different teenagers throughout one night. On this particular night, New York falls into darkness during a blackout, and I adored this setting. It reminds me of the Friends episode The One With the Blackout, which is also one of my favourite episodes because I love the concept of what happens during a weird phenomenon like a city-wide blackout.

The short story concept was so sweet, especially because they kind of intertwined and the characters in some stories mentioned characters from others, which I really liked. I also liked how one of the stories was placed throughout the book in sections, with other stories breaking it up. My only let down was I expected a big scene at the end bringing all of the characters together, and I was a little sad that didn’t happen.

I love how different these stories were, in setting and story and characters. My favourite of the stories was actually sapphic, and was just so sweet. It was set in a home for older people, and the character’s were so sweet. The only downside I find with short stories is I find I struggle to connect to the character’s quite as much because of the lack of time to become connected to them. However, with Made to Fit by Ashley Woodfolk, my favourite story, I just fell in love with the characters. Also one of these stories was set in New York Public Library, which I adored!

These stories were so cute and fluffy, and made for a perfect summery romance read! I loved the differences between the stories but there actually wasn’t one I disliked. I’d highly recommend this one and especially the Waterstones exclusive edition because those sprayed edges!

4 out of 5 stars


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Review: Hungry Hearts by Various Authors

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A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the pastries she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that can cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one in the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home. 

Thank you to MTMC tours for a copy of this book – I won a book of my choice in their giveaway and I chose this one! I’ve known about this one for a while and I really wanted to pick it up as I enjoy reading about food. Any descriptions of food in books or scenes that centre around food captivate me for some reason, I think it might be something to do with feeling connected to the book itself! One of my favourite examples is the patisserie in Serpent & Dove – I really started to fall in love with the book when I reached that scene.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s an anthology made up of 13 different stories about food and love by different authors. All of the stories centre around Hungry Heart Row, a place that has a lot of amazing restaurants and food ingrained into the occupants lives. Where people believe in magic, and think that magic and love are integral ingredients to any dish. Something I really loved about these stories, other than how integrated they are with one another, is that one particular character showed up in every single story (I think) to give the main character of that story a treat. I thought that was a delightful way to connect all of the stories, and it made me smile when that character appeared with a sweet pastry or treat!

I’m going to rate each story out of 5 and discuss a little about each below.

Rain by Sangu Mandanna – ★★★★★

A contemporary story about loss and family. This was an absolutely beautiful introduction to this anthology, a short story centering around a main character who has travelled from England to stay with her Aunt who lives near Hungry Heart Row. I adored this story, it had a beautiful discussion of grief and made me feel warm inside at the way food connected the family.

Kings and Queens by Elise Chapman – ★★★★

A dark contemporary story about gangs and Chinese restaurants. A really interesting and dramatic story full of plot twists. This is not something I expected and definitely showed me that this anthology was not going to be full of sweetness and fluff!

The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon – ★★★★

A contemporary romance story about stepping out of your comfort zone. I was so excited to see that Sandhya Menon had a story in this book – I have one of her books on my TBR and I was so glad to have an introduction to her work. I loved this story, which centered around being brave and trying new things. It was so cute and easy to read, but also provoked a lot of internal reflection for me that I really liked, it had a lot of depth to it!

Sugar and Spite by Rin Chupeco – ★★

A fantasy story, and also the only one by an author I had already read books by! I was so glad that Rin Chupeco had taken on the story of this particular restaurant, as it was infused with magic and fantastical elements. It was a beautiful story, but unfortunately I found it difficult to get into because of the second person narrative that I’m not used to!

Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid – ★★★★

I really enjoyed this story, which centered around a character who had travelled to Hungry Heart Row after hearing about it online. Their experience of depression made me very emotional, and I could feel their desperation jump off the page. This had a beautiful moral about finding magic in the every day and being grateful for what we have.

The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond – ★★★★★

This one was a ghost story, and I loved it. Again, it centered very much around family and upholding family legacy. The concept was so interesting and I could picture it so easily. It also discussed friendship and relationships and the expectations we have from those around us. Such a fascinating read that made me feel warm and fuzzy!

Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Cole – ★★★★★

Another beautiful story that looked at family relationships and being brave for those around us. The discussion of anxiety in this story felt visceral and jumped right off the page. I really related to how the main character felt and admired him for what he went through. The discussions of food were so lovely and warmed my heart! (Also, amazing title that made me smile.)

The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse★★

A story about a girl who just wants her mum back, when she becomes engrossed in the running of her restaurant. This one had a dark undertone and creepy twist I didn’t see coming, but I really felt for the main character and thought this was an interesting and different (darker) look at food and restaurants.

Hearts à la Carte by Karuna Riazi – ★★★★

Another one with a twist that I didn’t see coming and I thought it was really fun! I don’t want to say anymore than that because I will spoil the story – but I enjoyed how this one was set outside and around a family street food cart which I loved, as I could visualise more of Hungry Heart Row!

Bloom by Phoebe North – ★★

A story that centered around relationships and the way we see people. I really liked this one, it felt emotional and raw and honest. It was a unique romance story about discovering who you are yourself, loving yourself and had such an interesting discussion of how we present ourselves to other people.

A Bountiful Film by S.K. Ali – ★★★★

I knew I would enjoy this story as soon as I realised it was about film and the cinema. I noticed the cinema on the map in the front of the book and I was so happy to find it mentioned in a book! This one had such interesting stories about the neighbourhood interwoven throughout, and I really liked the discussions of family, friendship and connection.

Side Work by Sara Farizan – ★★★★★

This was one of my favourite stories in the whole anthology, it was so cute and anything I wanted from the story was quickly delivered. It had a quiet, queer, beautiful romance and a really lovely story about how food connects us to our families.

Panadería ~ Pastelería by Anna-Marie McLemore ★★★

I was so excited to get to this story as it included the character who was mentioned throughout the book in every story, but this fell a little flat to me. It was extremely short (I know all of these are short stories, but this one was shorter than most), and I just didn’t connect to the main character in the way I wanted to. However, this bakery was probably one of my favourite parts about this book and the pastries sounded delicious! This story also had a trans love interest and was very diverse.

In fact, this whole anthology was diverse and I really adored the discussions of different cuisines and cultures. It was one of my favourite things about this short story collection! In no particular order, my favourite 5 stories were Rain, The Grand Ishq Adventure, The Slender One, Gimme Some Sugar and Side Work.

4 out of 5 stars


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