Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein Review

Title: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein
Author: Kiersten White
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I finished Seafire on Sunday night after returning from visiting my in-laws, and since The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein had holds on it, I decided to push it to the top of my library stack. I love reading horror books in preparation for autumn and Halloween; for me, fall has always meant the onset of horror and all things spooky. Now, I’ll start this review officially by being honest: I’ve never read Frankenstein. Though I am familiar with the source material through pop culture, I haven’t yet read the book. Nonetheless, I do think that what I do know of, White does the magnificent and extraordinary justice to the original story, all the while creating something totally new. I will be forever captivated by this tale of twisted love, obsession, and madness, and Elizabeth’s dark, desperate heart and desire to be secure, no matter the means. I’ve read Kiersten White’s other series, Paranormalcy, but I think this book takes its place as my favorite. I’m so happy that I have And I Darken waiting for me on my shelves, because I need more of her work! The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is one of my favorite books of 2018; terrifying, thoughtful, and beautifully written, I loved this new take on a classic, touching on a character who fades into the background in the original: Doctor Victor Frankenstein’s wife.

Elizabeth Lavenza has not had an easy life, by any stretch of the imagination. Raised by a cruel and wicked woman, she finds purpose and love when Madame Frankenstein takes her in as the family’s ward. Hiding ambition and wickedness behind beauty and a sweet smile, she soon becomes Victor’s dearest friend, and later, something more. But just as she’s close to everything she’s ever wanted: an official position in the Frankenstein family, the endurable love of Victor, a true friend, and the security that she’s been longing for, mysterious murders begin to happen, and Victor has disappeared. Determined not to lose everything that she’s worked for, more often than not by nefarious means, she goes to retrieve Victor and bring him home. But on her journey she discovers that nothing is as it seems, not even her beloved Victor, and monsters may indeed exist, inside of her and otherwise. She must draw on every skill that she has, or she may lose everything, including her life…


This book is easily, so far, my favorite of Kiersten White’s, and I’m so happy that I have And I Darken in my future, because I’m addicted. With The Dark Descent, White spins Frankenstein into a dark, feminist and strangely compassionate retelling that tells the origins of the character most forgotten in the original: Victor Frankenstein’s wife, named Elizabeth Lavenza in this story. Abused, neglected, and cast aside, desperation and need bring her into the path of the wealthy Frankenstein family, whose matriarch hires her to be the best and only friend of her brilliant, cold son, Victor. As the two grow older, they grow close, and begin to fall in love. But when Victor disappears, Elizabeth follows, not realizing that all the while, something dark and terrible is stirring in the shadows of the life she’s worked so hard for. I loved the way that Elizabeth did everything she could to get where she wanted, fierce and bold and utterly unapologetic for being herself. Victor was a terrifying antihero, then villain, and there were times that I reread because I was so enraptured by this romantic, gothic homage to The Modern Prometheus; this book is one of my favorites of the year, and even though I finished it last week, it hadn’t left me; I’ll never forget it. And it had such spooky, creepy vibes that really got me into the Halloween mood. This book was so good; I wish there had been more, because it was spectacular! But at least I can read Frankenstein sometime in the future. I loved this book, I cannot recommend it enough. Gruesome, scary, and positively spine-tingling, it was a creepy thrill ride that I adored! The bottom line: Terrifying, thought-provoking, and fiercely feminist, I loved The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein! Next on deck: The Merciless by Danielle Vega! 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker Review

Title: Seafire
Author: Natalie C. Parker
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
Series: Seafire, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

As soon as I finished Grace and Fury, I chose to start Seafire. Natalie C. Parker won my heart all over again recently, after I read the anthology about love triangles that she edited. But I’ve always been a fan, since I read her debut novel, Beware the Wild. So, when I found out that she was writing a brand-new series debut, complete with forbidden love, high seas adventures, betrayal and a heaping helping of girl power, I was so stoked. I dove into Seafire as soon as I was finished reviewing Grace and Fury. I wish I’d had this book when I was younger, because it was just so good. Filled with adventure, action, and girls as tender as they were fierce, my heart was stolen by Caledonia Styx and the dynamic, unstoppable crew of the Nors Mavis. I can’t wait for the sequel and to see what’s in store for the new friends I’ve made!

Caledonia Styx had everything taken from her by the brutal, vicious Warlord of the high seas, Aric Althair, and his clip, The Bullets, when she was a teenager. A Bullet washed ashore, asking for mercy, and Caledonia granted it, only to have a dagger shoved through her gut and her family slaughtered in return. Vowing to take her parents’ ship and avenge her fallen family, she becomes the Captain of the Nors Mavis and devotes her life to getting her revenge, building her crew along the way. But things suddenly get complicated when a Bullet saves one of her girls’ lives and asks to join her crew. Forced to make a shaky alliance with someone she trusts least, Caledonia finds herself at the greatest crossroads of her life when she discovers that her brother may, in fact, be alive. But this mission will be the one that tests all of her limits, and not everyone in their ragtag crew will make it out alive…


This book was wonderful, a rip-roaring adventure across the seven seas, full of political intrigue, action, forbidden love, humor, and most importantly, girl power! I really loved it. It wasn’t perfect; there were times when I wished that the world-building and the technology throughout the novel was explained better. But nonetheless, Seafire has become one of my favorite books of 2018. The pacing was breakneck, and I was absolutely seduced by the dangerous world that Caledonia and her family inhabited, even in the darkest and most terrifying parts. But what really sold this book for me were its characters. I loved Caledonia and her fierce resolve, and her crew members, especially Pisces, Lovely Little Hime, Red, Lace, and the Mary sisters. I adored the way that they were all so well fleshed out, a great foil to Caledonia. I also adored the Bullet that slowly gains the trust of Cale and her crew; Aric Althair and Lir, the Bullet that almost fatally betrayed her and set all of the events of the book in motion. The only thing that I really wanted was the world-building, tech, and weaponry explained better: it felt like it took place in a near-future, but it wasn’t that clearly defined. But this ragtag group of young women, full of heart, fight, and bravery, more than made up for the few flaws the book had. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, I need the sequel, right now! I’m kind of dying a little bit! The bottom line: A rollicking, thrilling adventure in a near future across the seven seas, I loved Seafire, and I can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy! Next on deck: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White!

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart Review

Title: Grace and Fury
Author: Tracy Banghart
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Grace and Fury, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Grace and Fury has been sitting at the top of my library stack for a while, and I didn’t want to return it without reading it, as I’ve heard so many good things from the book community. So, when I was finished with Toil and Trouble, I immediately dove in. I’ve read Tracy Banghart’s first book, so when I found out that she was writing a new book, a feminist fantasy in a world inspired by medieval Italy, I was so excited. The first book in a new duology, Grace and Fury was thought-provoking, romantic, tense, and exciting, and in this particular political climate, it was especially timely. With breakneck pacing, strong characters, shocking twists, and surprising romance, I’ve definitely found my new favorite book by Tracy Banghart, and I can’t wait for Queen of Fury!

Serina and Nomi Tessaro are sisters, and each other’s closest friends, but they are two very different people. Serina longs to be a Grace, one of the country of Viridia’s most revered women, and the ideal to which all other women are upheld. With that position, she will win security and stature and the ability to raise her family up from the depths of poverty. In comparison, defiant Nomi bristles against the rules that she must be yoked with, defying convention when she learns how to read and questions male authority. The sisters journey to the capital, with Serina vying for the position of Grace, and Nomi as her handmaiden. But this is where things get interesting: Nomi is the one chosen as the Grace, and Serina is sent off to the prison of Mount Ruin for the terrible crime of reading a book. With both sisters in the last place they expected, they must reach deep inside of themselves for bravery and courage, for nothing is as it seems, and no one can be trusted…


This book was really enjoyable! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it was kind of like a mashup of The Selection and The Handmaid’s Tale. The pacing was breakneck, but at first, it was hard to get into. But once things really started rolling, I couldn’t put it down! There were so many twists and turns that had me eagerly reading throughout; I was utterly captivated. The setting was one of my most terrifying parts for me: Viridia is a country where men hold all the power, all because they’re afraid of women and what they can do. (Sound familiar?) I really enjoyed the characters, especially Serina, Nomi, Malachi, Asa, and Val; they were all well-drawn out, and their character development was wonderful, especially for the girls. I loved the way that Serina changed from a submissive, passive young woman into a fierce, smart, and vicious leader. Nomi’s character only expanded for me, and it was really exciting to see. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, it was fantastic! I need Queen of Fury, stat! It’s been a few days and I’m still reeling! The only thing that could’ve been better was that I wish that the worldbuilding and history of how the world changed was expanded on more. Nonetheless, this book was amazing, and I can’t wait for the sequel! The bottom line: A fierce, thought-provoking feminist fantasy, I loved Grace and Fury, and I can’t wait for the sequel! Despite some little flaws, I really enjoyed it; one of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker!

Toil and Trouble by Jessica Spotswood Review

Title: Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft
Editor: Jessica Spotswood
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Anthology/Short Story Collection
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I’ve had this anthology on my library loan list since I heard of it, and as soon as I had an opening in my library stack, I ordered it. When I was finished with The Sacrifice Box, I wanted to keep that witchy, spooky feeling going; nothing gets me in the mood for Halloween and autumn quite like horror stories. I also really love short stories, they kind of serve as a sampler size for new authors and are a fun new way to experience ones that I’m already familiar with. There are fifteen stories total in Toil and Trouble, and honestly, I’ve been wondering how to review this for a few days now, because there wasn’t an entry that I didn’t enjoy in some way! For clarity and length’s sake, I will highlight my favorites and give the whole book an overall rating. Okay, so without further ado, here we go!

Starsong by Tehlor Kay Meija: 5 out of 5 Stars. The story of a magical Latinx girl who was chasing a high and ending up hitting rock bottom, she discovers the magic that she inherited from her late aunt, and slowly begins to work toward peace, even knowing that her overprotective mother is waiting for her to fall off of the wagon again. When she gets into a heated debate with a headstrong and very pretty girl online, Luna must decide if she’s willing to open herself up again and take a chance, or risk hiding everything that makes her love herself. Beautiful, funny, and romantic, this vies as one of my favorite pieces in the whole anthology. Absolutely stunning, and I will be checking more of Meija’s work as soon as I can.

Death in the Sawtooths by Lindsay Smith: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story read, to me, like an old-school, black and white noir crime movie, only with magical female witches at the forefront! I loved it. When a young, dark witch discovers that someone has taken her lady’s magic and perverted it, using it to control the dead instead of lay them at rest, she must team up with an old classmate that she didn’t get along with when they were younger. Along with finding the culprit, the witch discovers that she can take pride in her unusual, grim trade, even if it means the rest of the small town of Smalltooth shuns her. Absolutely fantastic and unique! Lindsay Smith, were have you been all my life?

The Moonapple Menagarie by Shveta Takrar: 5 out of 5 Stars. Oh my goodness, this story is one of my favorites! First of all, I loved how diverse the characters were, and that the main character was a writer, asking an ancient monster for help with completing her play. The prose was gorgeous, and I loved every single character in the story, but my favorite part especially was the ending. It was a knockout! One of the reasons I love this anthology so much is because of the diversity and scope of the authors; I feel like I’ve definitely gained some new people to admire for my writing career.

The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma: Nova Ren Suma is one of my favorite authors; I just love her prose and her dreamy, slightly spooky writing style. The One Who Stayed tells the story of three sisters, all coming back together after being apart for a while. The middle sister, Rose, is just bouncing back from an abusive relationship, and her sisters are trying desperately to pick up the pieces. I really enjoyed it because Suma’s prose was wonderful, and I loved the bond between the three of them. To be honest, this story had me crying through most of it. Of all her sisters, Rose stayed in their small town, drawn into a relationship that was intoxicating and volatile until it stifled her entirely. I loved the way it ended, and even though it was painful, I really enjoyed the way that sibling love was at the forefront instead of romantic.


Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story in particular was searing; even a few days later, I cannot stop thinking about it. It was like The Handmaid’s Tale but with magic. The prose was stark and sparse and hard-hitting, like a punch to the gut, and the imagery had me gritting my teeth and crying, often. Especially considering our current social and political climate, it bore into my brain and wormed its way into my heart and I loved the way it ended; it reminded me that though things are very dark and scary right now, that doesn’t mean that things can’t change. It gave me hope, and I can’t wait to seek out more of May’s work. The bottom line: A fantastic, diverse, and timely anthology that’s all about feminine power, I loved Toil and Trouble—one of my favorite books of the year for sure! Next on deck: Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart!

The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart Review

Title: The Sacrifice Box
Author: Martin Stewart
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Unfortunately, I got about fifty pages into Markswoman and it just wasn’t working for me, so I picked up The Sacrifice Box instead. Autumn means Halloween and fall in full swing, and so, I love to read horror and spooky mysteries to really get me in the right mood for my favorite holiday. I’ve heard great things about British author Martin; I’ve been curious about his writing ever since I saw his debut novel, Riverkeep. So when I saw this sitting on the new shelf at my library, the stark, scary cover drew me in, and when I realized that it was due back on the third, I pushed it up to the top of my stack. I was looking for a spooky, creepy horror novel, and I wasn’t disappointed. But to call this a mere horror novel would be a disservice to the story, because ultimately, it was a novel of friendship, love, betrayal, and courage. I’m still not sure how to describe this book, even after finishing it last week. The best thing that I can think of is if the gory, tense horror of Stephen King and Joe Hill, and the offhand, hilarious humor and time period of Stranger Things had a baby. It was delightfully weird, surprisingly funny, dark and spooky, and beautifully written. It was not perfect, but it came really close to it! One of the best books I’ve read this year!

The Sacrifice Box tells the story of a group of friends: Sep, Hadley, Lamb, Arkle, and Mack. Brought together by a summer of friendship, they decide to put some special objects in an old stone box that they find in the woods. Fast forward to years later, and the childhood pals have long since grown apart. Sep longs to escape the stifling island on which he lives and strike out on his own, Hadley is often alone and quiet, more interested in music and her own thoughts than in real life; Lamb and Mack are proud jocks, more athletically skilled but just as lonely as before, in their superficial circle of friends, and Arkle is adrift without his old friends, more content to trudge through school and cause trouble, mostly of the pyrokinetic sort. But when the box opens again and all of the kids begin to see birds gathering, things dying mysteriously, and certain objects begin to resurface, they realize that the box took more than they could’ve ever imagined, and that the fate of the island rests on their shoulders…


The Sacrifice Box was such a surprising, shockingly funny horror novel with a bleeding red heart at its center; I was absolutely blown away. Stewart’s prose was hypnotic and beautiful, even when it got creepy or gory. There were definitely times that I wanted to put the book down and walk away for a while; the imagery was so strong and compelling that it followed me into my dreams. But try as I might, I just couldn’t put it down! For every frightening, spooky detail, it was broken up by utter hilarity; as a result, the pacing was fantastic! I was laughing and shivering and pulling my hair out constantly throughout. I also enjoyed the way Stewart told the story of the box, the way that the kids found it, but it was so much more than that! I don’t want to say too much; I don’t want to give it all away. But The Sacrifice Box was the best book to kick off autumn and to get in the spooky mood for Halloween! One of the best horror books I’ve ever read! It wasn’t perfect; at times, the pacing between the characters and the shifts in point of view were confusing. But nonetheless, I really enjoyed it! Absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait to check out Riverkeep! The bottom line: Terrifying, hilarious, and beautiful, I loved The Sacrifice Box! One of my favorite horror novels that I’ve read recently! Next on deck: Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft by Jessica Spotswood!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wildcard by Marie Lu Review

Title: Wildcard
Author: Marie Lu
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Warcross, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I received this book from Goodreads in an advanced readers giveaway. Thanks Goodreads and to the publisher!

Warcross was one of my favorite books of last year, so when I was scrolling the Goodreads giveaway pages and I saw its sequel, Wildcard, I entered, and then promptly forgot about it as my life went on. But imagine my excitement and surprise when I got an email, telling me that I won! Since then, it’s been sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. I wanted to read it closely to the release date, so I could put my review up on my preferred outlets. Since it came out last Tuesday, I started it Friday night, after I finished Dreadful Young Ladies. Sequels usually make me nervous, especially if I really happened to enjoy the first book, but it turns out that I didn’t have anything to worry about. With Wildcard, Marie Lu crafts a satisfying, emotional and action-packed conclusion that I will never forget. It made me gasp, laugh, and cry, more than once, and I’m so happy that I got to read this without even using the library. Thanks for the book, Goodreads!

Wildcard picks up where Warcross left off, and I won’t say too much about the plot for my readers that haven’t read it yet, with Emika Chen dealing with the horrifying and emotional aftermath of the events of the last book. Wildcard takes place three days after Warcross ends, with Emika doing everything she can to fix her own mistakes and Hideo’s, despite the sacrifices and heartbreak she is dealing with. Thrust right back to the beginning of it all, Emika finds herself surrounded by new and old enemies, as well as mysterious new allies who all have secrets of their own to hide. With everything slipping through her fingers, even her beloved Warcross and Phoenix Riders teammates, she has no idea who to trust or how to fix the problem. Caught in a dangerous web of intrigue, lies, and fear, Emika must dig deeper than she ever has before, or risk losing everything, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance…


This book was amazing! I was nervous, as I always am with sequels, but it turns out that my worries were unfounded. As it had been a while since reading Warcross, it took some time for my mind to catch up on what was happening, but it only took a few chapters for me to remember everything. The pacing of Wildcard was breakneck; I felt like it grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go, even during the times that the tension was so high that I had to walk away from the book for a while. I enjoyed Emika and her strong, unshakable will; I was rooting for her throughout the book, even during the difficult parts with Hideo. (Ugh, all the slow burn romance! It killed me!) Zero and Dr. Taylor were also amazing characters, both villains with checkered pasts and unclear motives. I really enjoyed the way that the loose ends from the last book were tied up, though the last half of the book was so tense and terrifying and emotional that I nearly didn’t finish it. I laughed, cried, cheered, gasped, and screamed, often more than once. And that ending! Oh, my goodness, that was the last thing I was expecting, but I was surprised in the best kind of way! I’m so happy with the end of this exciting and gripping duology, and I’m so happy that I got the book for free! Thanks again to the publisher and Goodreads! The bottom line: An exciting, gripping and tense series closer to the hit Warcross, Wildcard exceeded all of my expectations! It was amazing, basically perfect! Next on deck: Markswoman by Rati Mehrota!

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill Review

Title: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Anthology
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I’ve heard so many good things about Kelly Barnhill, even before I’d heard about her book that won an award last year, and when I realized that her brand new short story collection was at my local library, I put it on hold for myself. As soon as I was finished with Court of Shadows, I pushed it to the top of my stack; I tend to go for more moody stories and books when autumn comes; it gets me in the mood for horror and with it, Halloween! This book, composed of seven short stories and a novella, contained gorgeous prose, creepy but relatable main characters, and more than a hefty dose of magic. This book was one that was perfect to start the beginning of fall. I’m so happy that I have two more Kelly Barnhill books in my library stack, because I just finished it on Friday night and I’m already going through withdrawal! She has become one of my new favorite authors; I was totally blown away by the dark, creepy stories in this book! As there are six pieces, I won’t be reviewing every one, but giving the anthology a rating as a whole and highlighting my favorites.


Mrs. Sorenson and the Sasquatch is an unusual sort of love story, one that read like a modern fairy tale and had me laughing, crying, and scratching my head in confusion more than once. Mrs. Sorenson loses her husband before his time, and finds solace in the arms of a being long thought to be a legend: A sasquatch! The fellow residents of her small town are perplexed and bewildered by this new development, and before long, tongues begin to wag. But it turns out that even in the middle of heartbreaking tragedy, happiness and new love can still bloom. Dreadful Young Ladies was a delicious, inspired examination of power—both real and imagined—of young women, and it vies for my favorite in the entire collection. It was so surprising and powerful, I loved it a lot. Notes on the Untimely Death of Ronia Drake is a dark, bloody fairy tale, straight out of the Brothers’ Grimm, focusing on the deadly repercussions of a black magic spell. I really enjoyed it, because it was like a modern fairy tale, all the way down to the mysterious, frightening imagery and more than a bit terrifying ending. But my favorite story of them all was the one that came last: The Unlicensed Magician. A beautifully written novella, it takes place in a series of small countries in a not so distant future, where both magic and free will are forbidden, and babies are stolen from their mothers solely for the purpose of giving magic to the great and powerful Minister, who hoards all of the power and magic in their world to himself, all to satisfy an impossible goal. But one child has slipped through his grasp, innately powerful, feared, and longing to be loved: Sparrow, the junk collector’s daughter, who has a plan to love The Minister and set everything to rights. I was absolutely spellbound by this story, and I walked away from this collection feeling awed, jealous, and inspired all at once. I’m so happy that I have two more books of hers in my library stack; I can’t wait to dive into more worlds that Kelly Barnhill has so lovingly crafted. There is so much joy and magic in her words; Barnhill has become one of my favorite authors! The bottom line: A magical, dark and spellbinding collection, Dreadful Young Ladies was a great book to start off autumn! Next on deck: Wildcard by Marie Lu!