Wednesday, December 27, 2017

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: All the Crooked Saints
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Maggie Stiefvater and I have a complicated relationship; her books have been very hit and miss for me. It took me two tries to get into and fall in love with The Raven Cycle. The Scorpio Races was another favorite, though the ending wasn’t at all what I expected. I found All The Crooked Saints through a recommendation and had it on hold at my library for a few months. I’d run out of renewals for it, and since the reviews were so glowing, I pushed it to the top of the stack, drawn in by the intriguing plot and the gorgeous, colorful cover. Unfortunately, I finished All The Crooked Saints on Saturday, and I’m still not sure quite how I feel about it. To say that I have mixed feelings is a huge understatement.

The Soria family is known for miracles, so much so that pilgrims flock from all over to experience their remarkable holiness for themselves, often to their detriment. The story focuses on the family at large, but the main characters are dear, close cousins, Joaquin, who longs to leave the dusty town of Bicho Raro, Colorado and become a famous radio DJ, Beatriz, known as the girl without feelings, longs to be free to be able to untangle her seemingly endless thoughts, and finally, Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, able to perform astounding miracles for everyone except for himself. Rife with magic, darkness, rich folklore, forbidden love, and gorgeous prose, I liked All The Crooked Saints, but it wasn’t one of Stiefvater’s stronger entries, at least for me.


There were some aspects of the book I liked, and there were others that I wasn’t so crazy about. I was intrigued by the plot; I love magical realism, and I was kind of expecting something like The Raven Cycle. This was like… Catholic Biblical stories mixed with family and Mexican folklore, with beautiful prose and more than a few elements of magical realism. It was a complete departure from Stiefvater’s usual work, an unusual and unexpected surprise that took a while to get into. Honestly, there was a point in the beginning that I almost put it down. But I’d been looking forward to it, so I decided to soldier on. The prose was what drew me in initially, but what made me stay was the vibrant, colorful Soria family, and the pilgrims they lovingly tend to. Particular standouts are Pete Wyatt, the young man running from familial shame, and Tony, a famous radio DJ out looking for a new lease on life. But what really made me like this book was the rich, dark folklore that surrounds the Soria family, like something out of an old fairy tale. I liked the way that the novel jumped between the different points of view of the characters; it gave a deeper perspective of the whole thing. The ending was also pretty surprising; honestly, that was another aspect that saved the book for me. But I’m so glad that I stuck with it, even if I was thrown off by the beginning. It’s not my favorite Maggie Stiefvater novel, but it was a solid work for the new year, and I’m so happy that I read it! The bottom line: A magical tale of family, faith, magic, and secrets, All The Crooked Saints was a beautiful, thoughtful book, full of surprises and lovable characters! Despite some flaws, this was a story that was greatly enjoyable, and as always, I’m looking forward to more from one of my favorite authors! Next on deck: Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Hit by Lorie Ann Grover Review

Title: Hit
Author: Lorie Ann Grover
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

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

This book was the December pick for one of the library book clubs I go to, and to say that I was leery is an understatement. I don’t necessarily mind books that bring religion into the narrative, especially if it doesn’t take over. But Hit just really fell flat for me. The concept of the plot was interesting, and I liked that the book went between Sarah and Haddings, but a lot of the characters seemed really flat and one-dimensional. The pacing was kind of slow, though I really liked the format. I don’t know, I was expecting more from this intriguing little book, but honestly it just wasn’t for me. The prose was often so overwrought I found myself rolling my eyes or wanting to rip my hair out, and honestly the idea of Sarah being in a relationship with an older mentor who was supposed to be looking out for her best interests seemed a little far-fetched, even for a young adult novel. I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling this book; it really fell short for me.

Sarah is a girl who longs to be seen as more than just a teenage girl; she wants to be acknowledged as an adult and a person in her own right. She’s sick of her parents controlling her every move, and of being treated like a child. She barely feels understood even by her closest friend. But when she meets the charismatic, handsome Mr. Haddings, she immediately feels as if she’s known him for more than just a semester. And despite his protests, she knows that he feels the same spark. But all of her hopes are shattered when she gets hit by a car, a car that is driven by the man she feels so drawn to. Broken and nearly beaten, Sarah must find a way back to herself, even through unimaginable tragedy, and Haddings must find a way to make his unforgivable actions right, even as he fights his attraction to a girl out to his reach.


As I said previously, this book… There were just a lot of problems with it. First of all, a lot of the prose was just so ridiculous. It went from spare and simplistic to melodramatic and eyeroll inducing, and the change in language was distracting. Most of the characters, even Haddings and Sarah, seemed flat, never going so far as to be characters in my mind; I couldn’t even mentally hear their voices. The relationship between Sarah and Haddings seemed more predatory than anything else. And the car crash seemed to just amplify that they were poorly drawn characters; it felt like Sarah was obsessed with her teacher, which could’ve been forgiven if said teacher had actually attempted to rebuff her advances. And for the most part, I didn’t mind the religious undertones, but there were times when it seemed to overtake the whole book. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was definitely more than the result. It could’ve been good, but it just was… meh. It was a brave attempt at a contemporary coming of age story with a mystery at its center, but Hit just wasn’t for me. The bottom line: Flat characters, overwrought dialogue, and a ridiculous forbidden romance made Hit a book that I didn’t like; I wanted to, but it just wasn’t for me. Next on deck: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao Review

Title: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie C. Dao
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Rise of the Empress, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I found Forest of a Thousand Lanterns through a recommendation, and I’ve been excited about it; I’d had it on hold for a few months before it came out. It had been sitting in my library stack for a while. It had one last renewal on it, so I pushed it up the library stack—I’d been waiting for it for over a year and I didn’t want to take it back unread! I never would’ve forgiven myself, especially now that I’ve actually read it. And it’s a series! I can’t stop squealing with excitement! With a fun, diverse twist on the classic Evil Queen tale, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns captured my imagination with gorgeous prose, breakneck pacing, dark magic, forbidden love, and almost more political intrigue than I could handle. And that ending! I can’t wait for the sequel, and it can’t come soon enough!

Xifeng has been raised for more than the drudgery of a common village girl; she’s known of her destiny from the time that she was a child. Her cruel aunt, Guma, who is also a witch, has seen Xifeng’s purpose written in the stars. She must forsake the love of her childhood sweetheart, Wei, in order to pursue the ultimate prize: the position of the Empress of all of Feng Lu. When she is thrust into the world of the royals’ court, she must decide if she is willing to seize what the stars will for her, even if it means sacrificing everything she knows, even if it means stepping into an irreversible embrace with the darkness inside of her…

This book was a breath of fresh air for me! Fairy tale retellings are kind of like a type of literary crack for me; I’d devour them in all of their forms if I were able. But unfortunately, diverse retellings are so rare anymore. That was half the reason I was so excited about Forest of a Thousand Lanterns—an Evil Queen retelling set in an ancient, magical Asia, steeped with folklore, rich worldbuilding, and dark alliances! Forest of a Thousand Lanterns has become one of my favorite books of 2017, if not the favorite! It was just so good! The prose was lovely, and I was sucked into Xifeng’s dangerous, magical world where even the most innocent cannot be trusted, alliances constantly shift, and the darkness is always lurking. Rife with detail, romance, magic, and more than one twist, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was a beautifully dark, horrific fantasy that turns a classic villain origin story on its head. The only bad thing was that I have to wait until next year for the sequel! And that ending! My jaw was on the floor! Julie C. Dao has become one of my new favorite authors of 2017, and I just can’t wait for more from her! The bottom line: A beautiful, dark, diverse Evil Queen retelling, I loved Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and I can’t wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Hit by Lorie Ann Grover!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Glass Spare by Lauren Destefano Review

Title: The Glass Spare
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Glass Spare, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book through a recommendation, and I was excited by the pretty cover. I had one last renewal on it before it went back to the library, so I pushed it up to the top of the stack so I could read it before then. When I finally did, I was rewarded with a rich, rip-roaring fantasy, complete with runaway princesses, dark, forbidden magic, political intrigue, mysterious curses, assassins, and deadly secrets—this book was almost perfect. The only issue is, some of the worldbuilding wasn’t explained clearly, and it left something to be desired; other than that, it was a really great book, and I can’t wait for the sequel!
Princess Wilhemina ‘Wil’ Heidle knows her place in the royal hierarchy. She is one of three spares, and she’s desperate to prove her worth to her cold, distant father, who sees his only daughter as a means to an end. She is his spy, bringing information and other resources so that he can expand his growing empire. Never mind that she longs for her own life, to explore the world and find out who she is on her own terms. But when tragedy strikes and she discovers a dark, hidden power inside of her, she is forced to flee her kingdom and strike out on her own for the first time. When she is drawn into a dangerous web of political alliances and intrigue, she discovers that everyone has their own motives, and more than one person want to use her dangerous, intoxicating power for themselves. And that’s not even mentioning the mysterious, frightening boy who pleads for her help and has dark secrets of his own…

I really enjoyed this book, even with its few flaws. It was a stunning series opener, with gorgeous prose and characters that I really grew to love and care for. It took a little while for me to get in to; for a minute there, I was nervous that I was going to have to shelve it. But once things really started rolling, the pacing became breakneck and I couldn’t put it down; there were times when I could barely focus on my real life, the book was in my head so deeply. I loved the political intrigue; that was one of my favorite things about the book. Wil’s family offered a sharp, biting contrast to her restless nature. Her loving, superstitious mother and science-mad brother were particular standouts. I also really liked Zay and Loom, two people from a neighboring kingdom with a deep relationship and secrets of their own to hide. And the romance! Ugh, I was totally swooning, and if I wasn’t doing that, I was screaming in total frustration! The ending was what really killed me; how am I supposed to wait until next year for the sequel? I’m dying here! The only issues were the pacing at the beginning; it took a little bit for it to keep going. The worldbuilding was confusing at times and not explained enough; there were times that I was lost. Nonetheless, The Glass Spare was a gorgeous, sprawling fantasy that had me screaming, weeping, and cheering—I can’t wait for the sequel! The bottom line: Despite some pacing and worldbuilding issues, I really liked The Glass Spare—it was an amazing, exciting series opener, and I can’t wait for more! Next on deck: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo Review

Title: A Line in the Dark
Author: Malinda Lo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve read short stories by Malinda Lo, and a few years ago, I bought one of her books, Huntress, for myself for Christmas. I really enjoyed it; it was a lovely take on a lesbian fantasy, complete with fairies, magic, and ancient prophecies. When I heard that she was penning a new thriller to come out in October, I put it on hold at the library. I picked it up, and it sat in my library stack for a while. I had one last renewal on it, so I pushed it to the top of my stack to make sure I would be able to read it before it went back. A Line in the Dark tells a story of obsession, desire, and dark secrets, and I was absolutely captivated by most of the book; however, there were some format issues that were a little bit jarring. This book was a spine-tingling, creepy psychological thriller that constantly had me guessing, and the ending stopped me in my tracks; honestly, that’s probably what saved the book for me. It wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t outright bad, either; it fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.


Jess Wong and Angie Redmond are best friends and have been since sixth grade. They both come from diverse families, they’re both lesbians, and they don’t fit in at their school. But for Jess, their relationship goes so much deeper than Angie realizes; she’s passionately in love with her, so much so that the line blurs between love, devotion, and obsession. But when Angie meets a beautiful rich girl named Margot and they begin a relationship, Jess is drawn further into a dangerous world of privilege, secrets, and deception, and she realizes that Angie has no idea what’s about to go down. Determined to be there for the girl that she loves, the lives of all three girls are upturned when one of Margot’s classmates goes missing. And Jess is desperate to solve the mystery, not realizing until the end that the disappearance may have more to do with her than she ever could’ve imagined…



I liked this book; it was a tightly wound mystery that blurred the lines between love, friendship, desire and obsession. As a mystery, it was good; the ending was what really got me, by the time the book was over. I wasn’t expecting it. Jess’s narration, observant, sharp, and fierce, colored by jealousy and hopeless longing, had me glued to the pages. Her character was unreliable and a little bit insane, but I loved the fact that she was a budding comic book artist. The pacing was breakneck, and the relationship between her and Angie was fraught with emotion and volatility; the tension was enough to make me scream. I also enjoyed the way that Jess wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted, whether it be Angie or her dreams of being an artist; she goes to Margot’s school to pursue extra training. The characters of Margot and Ryan were, at first, just stock characters of rich, privileged young women, but they both had layers that had me gasping in shock; I was absolutely astounded by them both by the end of the book, especially Ryan. The ending was what really saved the book; my jaw’s been on the floor since I finished it. This book was a taut, emotional mystery that had me guessing until the last page, literally. It wasn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable! The bottom line: A mystery revolving around two girls who might be obsessed with one another, A Line in the Dark was a dark, twisty thriller that had me guessing well into the night! I really enjoyed it, despite some flaws. Next on deck: The Glass Spare by Lauren Destefano!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Odd and True by Cat Winters Review

Title: Odd and True
Author: Cat Winters
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book through a recommendation; I’ve read several of Cat Winters’s short stories, but I haven’t read any of her full novels until now. First of all, the cover, full of supernatural symbols and two girls who look ready to take names and kick some butt, one dark haired and mysterious, the other in blonde braids, wielding an axe with a no-nonsense look in her eye, caught my eye. But once I began to read, I couldn’t put it down; the book goes back and forth between the two sisters: Trudchen, or ‘Tru’ to her loved ones, the younger sister who is wheelchair-ridden after contracting polio as a child, longs for her older sister, Odette, who has left home to work in the circus. When Odd unexpectedly returns, revealing that all the stories she told Tru in childhood may in fact be true, the two sisters set out on a journey to Philadelphia, to find the truth about their family. But it turns out that each sister has her own secrets to hide, particularly from the past. And they will both discover just how much is true about the dark undertaking of their ancestors…

This book was really good; I enjoyed it very much! I liked the way the narrative moved back and forth between Tru and Odd, and it made the pacing really snappy; it felt like this book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go. It also didn’t hurt that the prose was gorgeous, especially from Odd’s point of view. I related to her a lot, actually; she was a passionate, fierce storyteller who used fiction to help her deal with the harshness of reality. I loved Tru, as well, because yay for a disabled main character! It made me so happy, but I also loved her desire to believe in her sister’s fables, despite the fact that she knows that they may all very well be a set of indulgent fantasies. I also really loved her character development. At the beginning of the book, she’s living with her aunt Viktoria, certain that she will be stuck on the farm forever, helping out with chores when the pain isn’t too terrible. By the end, she’s a strong woman in her own right, with fierce monster-hunting skills and power of her own. Odd’s character development was pretty awesome as well; I loved the way she unapologetically embraced her family’s heritage, even though the profession of monster hunting wasn’t exactly acceptable in the late 19th century.

Her character development was really wonderful; I loved her confidence and bravado in a time that sought only to crush her. And the reason behind her sudden departure from home was awful, brutal, and heartbreaking; I was crying through much of the book when that was discussed. The harsh reality of what happened to women in a socially unfavorable situation floored me and was like a punch to the gut. I really admire Odd’s unshakable character and determination, even in the face of tragedy. The tension was also another big factor in the book; I was constantly wondering if the girls did, in fact, have magical powers, or if it was all just a flight of fancy.


I really liked the other characters, too: Odd and Tru’s mother, beaten down by multiple tragedies and the circumstances in her life, their stern Aunt Vik, who has done nothing but shoulder responsibility and walk the straight and narrow path from childhood, their Uncle Magnus, whose charisma and tales of magic and fantasy set fire to Odd’s own penchant for storytelling. The only thing that I didn’t really like was that it ended a bit too neatly. It was good, but I wish there had been more development. Nonetheless, this book was really good, and I enjoyed it! One of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: A haunting, beautiful novel about two sisters who may or may not have magical powers, Odd and True was a rip-roaring adventure through 19th century America, full of history, excitement, and more than a little bit of magic, and I loved almost everything about it! Next on deck: A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo!

Warcross by Marie Lu Review

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

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

Warcross was chosen as the November book for one of the library book clubs that I go to, and I’m not gonna lie; I was stoked when I received the news. I’d already had it in my stack earlier in the month, but I hadn’t been able to finish it before I had to take it back. When I was told about it, I ordered it the night that I got home from the September meeting. I put it on the top of my stack the weekend before book club, so I’d have ample time to read it. First of all: the cover! It’s so pretty and futuristic-looking! Marie Lu is one of my favorite authors; she captured my heart with The Young Elites series, and so now, I’ll pretty much read anything that she writes. (Cue Hopelessly Devoted to You!) Warcross is a series opener, a science fiction debut that explores themes such as the meshing of technology with real life, the true meaning of family, free will, and what it really means to be independent and how to stand on your own two feet.
Emika Chen is someone who has lived on the outskirts her whole life; ever since her father’s untimely death from cancer, she has become a scavenger, an outsider looking in. Never mind that she is a genius hacker and gamer. Desperate for cash and on the verge of being evicted from her apartment, she hacks into a game of Warcross; think of something like Warcraft and Minecraft mixed together and you’ve got something close to it, only it takes place in virtual reality—literally. When she is caught, the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka, demands an audience. Expecting the worst kind of retribution, Tanaka offers her just the opposite: a job, all expenses and debts paid off, and the only catch is that Emika catch the mysterious fellow hacker that is determined to derail the international Warcross Championships. But the deeper that Emika digs, the more she realizes that everyone has something to hide, and some secrets are worth killing for…

This book was a great series opener, and I really enjoyed it! It was a fun, colorful and unexpected departure from her usual dystopian futures and fantasy. The writing was beautiful, sharp, and descriptive, and the pacing was breakneck; I was glued to the pages and finished the book within two days. But even more than that, I was totally seduced by the futuristic Tokyo that Emika lives in, full of color, excitement, and next generation technology. And the way that games were incorporated into the book was really fun and exciting! And Hideo Tanaka! Oh my gosh, the romance between the two of them was heart-melting and had me fanning myself! I also really enjoyed the other characters, particularly Emika’s competitors.  The added mystery of Zero, deep inside of the dark net, just added another great layer to the book. And that ending! Oh my God, Marie Lu, how could you do that to me?! I can’t possibly wait another year for the sequel! The bottom line: A slick, futuristic series opener, Warcross captivated my mind and stole my heart, and I can’t wait for the next book! Next on deck: Odd and True by Cat Winters!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake Review

Title: One Dark Throne
Author: Kendare Blake
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Three Dark Crowns, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve been a fan of Kendare Blake ever since she published her debut novel, Anna Dressed in Blood. In fact, I bought my own copy as soon as it came out in paperback. It’s still sitting on my shelf to his day. Three Dark Crowns was one of my favorite books of last year, so when I found out that the sequel was coming out, I was so stoked. I immediately put a hold on it at my library, and when it came in, I was practically squealing with joy and excitement. It sat in my stack for a while, and finally, I had one last renewal on it before I had to take it back to the library. I put it at the top of my stack, and then I started to read. First of all, I loved the fact that there was a map and a list of characters at the beginning; it was nice to have references when I got lost. But I was quickly drawn again into the triplets’ dangerous world, full of dark magic, political power plays and uneasy alliances, and a fight for the ultimate prize: to be the Queen of Fennbirn.
Feuding triplet queens Mirabella, Katharine, and Arsinoe have come a long way since their childhood. Elemental Mirabella is hesitant to kill her sisters, even though her victory is all but assured. Arsinoe, the naturalist, long considered the runt, the sacrifice, discovers that there may be more to her power than she ever could’ve imagined. And finally, Katharine, the poisoner queen, has crawled up from the depths of a dark pit and become endowed with a dark, mysterious power. All three are reeling from the fierce war they’ve fought since coming of age, and they must decide what they want more: each other or the crown.


This sequel was really, really good! It took a few minutes for me to remember what was going on, but once I really got into it, I couldn’t put it down. Blake takes the reader all across the country, between the viewpoints of the three queens and several of their courtiers. I really liked the pacing, because once things really started rolling, I couldn’t put it down! I was captivated by the lush, gorgeous prose, and I was frantic to find out what was going on. I loved the way the book elaborated on events from the previous one, especially where Arsinoe and Katharine were concerned! All the awesome character development! Almost against my will, I was rooting for all three of them! I also really enjoyed the way the side characters: Madrigal, Jules, Joseph, Billy, Pietyr, and Eva, were brought in and given a more pivotal role. And that ending, oh my gosh! There better be a sequel or I will never recover! The bottom line: The long-awaited sequel to one of Blake’s best books, One Dark Throne completely exceeded my expectations! I can’t wait for the next book! 2018 can’t come soon enough! Next on deck: Warcross by Marie Lu! 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge Review

Title: A Face Like Glass
Author: Frances Hardinge
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Frances Hardinge won my heart earlier this year when I read her book, The Lie Tree. So as soon as I was finished with it, I sought out her work. I was visiting one of the other libraries I go to, and I saw A Face Like Glass sitting on a shelf. I immediately took it home; when I finally got to it in my library stack, I was so excited. The cover was breathtaking and mysterious, and I was entranced by the image of a mysteriously grinning mask. But what really was wonderful was the story that lie inside; a fantastical, food-laden mystery rife with political intrigue, self-realization, secrets, dangerous objects that can affect anything from your perception to your memories, and people who cannot form their own facial expressions; I was captivated by the dangerous, mysterious world of Caverna, and the girl at the center of it, Neverfell, who must hide her face behind a mask. Her expressions are entirely true and genuine, and in Caverna, that makes her a most vital and dangerous asset indeed…



This book was wonderful! I was totally entranced by the worldbuilding, and by Neverfell, the girl who was found sleeping in the walls of a cheesemaker’s home. Caverna was a frightening, seductive place where Faces were crafted, wines created to forget memories, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as he moves to slit your throat. The prose was beautiful, the pacing breakneck, and soon, I was frantically flipping pages, desperate to find out what would happen to Neverfell as she digs into her past, trying to figure out where she came from and why exactly she’s so different. A Face Like Glass was filled with political intrigue, self-realization (I loved Neverfell’s character development!), dangerous secrets and alliances, and frightening, clandestine designs for power. The format was unusual and exciting, and I really enjoyed it! It was a delightful, weird fantasy that explored timeless themes of self-reliance and self-expression, and I really loved Neverfell, a strange, delightfully inquisitive child who just wants to know more about the outside world. Other characters are a standout as well: the intriguing, mysterious Kleptomancer, a thief who delights in boggling the authorities with his seemingly impossible heists; and the various Face-makers who populate Caverna, and the family who takes Neverfell under their wing, for dark reasons of their own. Yet another wonderful, exciting book filled with layers thoughout, Frances Hardinge has penned another home run of a novel! A Face Like Glass is my favorite novel I’ve read from her thus far! The bottom line: A gorgeous, beautiful novel that highlights one naïve, sheltered girl’s coming of age, I loved A Face Like Glass—it’s one of the best of Frances Hardinge’s novels! Next on deck: One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake!

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess Review

Title: A Poison Dark and Drowning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Kingdom on Fire, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Jessica Cluess really impressed me last year with her series debut, A Shadow Bright and Burning. I loved the way it was billed as Jane Eyre mixed with the magic of Harry Potter, and it was one of my favorite books of 2016. So when I was browsing at my local library, the cover caught my eye when I pulled it off of the shelf, and when I realized that it was the sequel, I immediately took it home. It stayed in my stack for a while, and then I began to read it. I was so excited when I picked it up, because even though it’s been more than a year since I read it, I was thrust right back into Henrietta’s dark, glittering, dangerous world. Normally, sequels make me nervous; all too often, they get overhyped and then I end up with the bitter taste of disappointment in my mouth for days. But A Poison Dark and Drowning more than lived up to my expectations, and I can’t wait for the sequel! How am I supposed to wait until it’s published?!

Henrietta ‘Hettie’ Howell has officially been instated as a sorcerer by the Queen of England. But the war between the dark, demonic forces of The Ancient Ones has only intensified; as the body count climbs, she begins to discover a whole slew of secrets about everything she thought she knew: her superiors, the prophecy that foretold her being the chosen one, and even her heritage. But even more pressing than that, her troubling feelings for her childhood best friend, Rook, whose last encounter with the Ancient Ones have left him forever changed. As Henrietta digs deeper, she discovers that the key to winning the war may be nearby, and her fellow warriors, stoic, hard to read Blackwood, and the relentless flirt Magnus, trying to win his way back into her good graces. They will face down evil, forge new, powerful alliances, and uncover what Henrietta has been searching for all along: the truth.
This sequel was absolutely wonderful! I was a little nervous when I first started, because for a minute, I couldn’t remember what was going on; it took a little bit for my memory to catch up with the narrative. But once I remembered the last book, and the book really started going, I couldn’t put it down! The pacing was breakneck, the prose gory and gorgeous all at once, and I was absolutely spellbound. I was rooting for Henrietta throughout the book, and my heart broke for her as the violence and death kept mounting. But even more than that, the relationship between Henrietta and Rook was so sweet and tender and… Gah! Just gah! Full of romance, action, magic, dark secrets, and political intrigue, and a killer cliffhanger, I loved A Poison Dark and Drowning! Filled with characters both new and familiar, this sequel had everything I wanted, and now, I just can’t wait for the next book! One of my favorite books of 2017! The bottom line: The sequel to the runaway hit A Shadow Bright and Burning, I loved A Poison Dark and Drowning—I only wish that I didn’t have to wait for the next one! Next on deck: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows Review

Title: Before She Ignites
Author: Jodi Meadows
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Fallen Isles Trilogy, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Jodi Meadows stole my heart when she co-authored My Lady Jane with Brodi Ashton and Cynthia Hand, but to be honest, I hadn’t read any of her individual work. But when I found Before She Ignites through a recommendation, I was excited. First of all, the cover was gorgeous and captivated my attention immediately. And the plot. Political intrigue! Romance! Rebellion and revolution! Dragons! Jodi Meadows has penned an exciting, new twist on the fantasy genre, and I can’t wait to see what comes next in this exciting series!

Mira Minkoba is called The Hopebringer, named after the treaty that brought the cluster of islands she lives on peace. She is held in high esteem, propped on a pedestal her whole life. Her life has been a pampered, sheltered one, and though she isn’t really one for politics, her true passion lies in caring for the dragons that are protected under the treaty. But when she finds out a shocking, devastating secret about those dragons and the people who care for them and tries to speak out, she finds herself stripped of any power she ever had and thrown into The Pit, a notorious prison known for containing the islands’ most nefarious criminals. Alone, frightened, and isolated for the first time in her life, Mira must dig down deep and try to find strength she’s never needed before, for the dragons she loves so dearly and the islands she has helped shape.


This book was amazing! First of all, that cover though; it was what initially drew me to the book. I really liked the formatting of the novel, the way that both Mira’s story and the worldbuilding were told backwards. Plus, magic! Dragons! Political intrigue! Deadly secrets and rebellion! This book had everything that I want in a fantasy and more, but it put a unique spin on it. More than any of these factors, I really liked Mira and her character development. She grew from a meek, sheltered princess into a fierce warrior in her own right. And that ending though! Oh my gosh, how am I supposed to wait for the sequel?! Before She Ignites was a thrilling, beautifully written series debut that grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go. Altan was a fascinating, complex villain that had me guessing constantly, and Mira’s budding friendship with Aaru had me cheering! I also really adored the supporting characters, especially Mira’s childhood friends and the cunning advisor that is mentioned throughout the book. Though it was slow to start, I really enjoyed it, and Mira Minkoba will forever be remembered within my heart. I can’t wait for the sequel! The bottom line: Chock full of magic, political intrigue, deadly secrets, romance and rebellion, I loved Before She Ignites, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series! Next on deck: A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess! 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell Review

Title: The Last Magician
Author: Lisa Maxwell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: The Last Magician, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book through a recommendation I found online, and it sat in my library stack for a while, staring at me, beautiful and ominous all at once. And I was busy reading another book, and it went back to the library soon. My husband was looking for a book to read in his spare time, and so I recommended it and let him read it before me. He ended up devouring it in a week and told me to read it as soon as I was done with the book I was currently reading. I did, and I was absolutely blown away! This book is a strange, heady cocktail of historical fiction, fantasy, romance, action, and adventure, all culminating into a rip-roaring tale that captured my heart and turned the gears of my mind at high speed, leaving me breathless and shocked long after the last page.
Esta is a thief, one of the best. But what makes her different is that she can harness magic to literally stop time! When she is sent to Gilded Age New York to steal a magical book that could change the past and the future, she discovers a diverse case of characters, all of them gifted with strange abilities, just like her. But this isn’t the New York of 2017, and dangerous, dark forces, human and otherwise, are converging upon them, forcing a race against the clock. And that’s not even including the troubling chemistry between herself and Harte Darrigan, a mysterious, handsome magician whose easy smile and charm hide a dark past and even more dangerous secrets. Will Esta succeed in her quest, or will everything fall apart?

I really, really liked this book, my husband’s opinions notwithstanding. It was unusual and exciting, a fun, adventurous blend of fantasy, historical fiction, romance, and action. The pacing was snappy and breakneck, and though it was difficult to get into at first because of the different viewpoints, I was captivated by Esta, and her journey from the present to gorgeous, dangerous Gilded Age New York, where magic hides in plain sight and brutal gangs fight for supremacy. I loved Esta and the cast of supporting characters, especially in the past. I was absolutely spellbound, and I was frantically turning pages in order to finish it, both because of needing to return it and the even greater desire to find out what was going to happen. I had no idea who to trust: the cold, shady Dolph, mob boss and protector of the neighborhood, beautiful, feisty assassin Viola, second in command, quiet, unnerving Nibs, and Jack, the poor little rich boy who wants the book for his own purposes. This book was pretty much perfect, down to the ending that’s shocked me to my core, to this day. I’m so excited that there’s going to be a sequel, because that cliffhanger was one heck of a doozy! The bottom line: A deliciously twisty, fast-paced adventure through time and history, The Last Magician is one of my favorite books of 2017, and I just can’t wait for more! Next on deck: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows!

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo Review

Title: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Short Story Collections
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Leigh Bardugo won my heart several years ago, with her debut novel, Shadow and Bone. I never finished The Grisha Trilogy, but when Six of Crows came out, I read that, and I’m actually rereading it aloud to my husband. So when I heard that she was publishing a fully illustrated collection of short stories set in different lands of her Grishaverse, I was so excited, and I immediately put it on hold at my local library. It sat in my library stack for a month or so, beckoning me with its creepy cover and lovingly rendered illustrations. When I finally got to it, I was so excited. First of all, the gorgeous illustrations! Second of all: fairy tales! I’m a total sucker for both, and Leigh Bardugo pulls no punches with this collection of six stories, taking traditional stories and gutting them open. I was absolutely enthralled, and I loved the way the stories gave an interesting viewpoint into the many diverse cultures of the Grishaverse. Normally short story collections are a grab bag for me, but every one of these tales was beautifully written, lushly illustrated, dark and gory and magical, and I was absolutely enchanted. I devoured this collection in a day and a half, and for weeks after, the illustrations have danced through my dreams, coloring even my thoughts in sleep.

Amaya and the Thorn Wood reminded me a bit of Beauty and the Beast, The Arabian Nights, and The Brave Little Tailor mixed together. I really liked the main character, because at the beginning, she seemed like an unlikely hero. The prose was beautiful, as were the illustrations, and I was totally spellbound. I loved the way the poor village girl braved a dark, enchanting forest to tell stories to a misunderstood monster. And the way it ended! It was so wonderful and gleefully wicked. I loved it.

The next story was The Too-Clever Fox, and this one is vying for my favorite book in the whole collection. This one is set in the dark, wintry forests, and the titular fox spends the story scheming his way out of various scrapes and close calls. That is, until he lets his guard down and gets close to a village girl, and barely manages to escape with his life. I loved the tone, and it was almost like a Grimm’s fairy tale mixed with an Aesop fable. Plus, it had a very magical feel, what with the talking animals, mysterious hunters, and villains that aren’t obvious. This story is one of my favorites; a fable about trust, bravery, and resourcefulness.

The Witch of Duva follows these two, and it was inspired by Hansel and Gretel. A young woman gets lost in the woods after being ousted by her family members, and when the enticing, bewitching (heh, I couldn’t resist, sorry not sorry!) scent of candy and gingerbread leads her to a witch’s home, she doesn’t get eaten; in fact, she becomes the witch’s assistant and apprentice. When she realizes that her savior is hiding dark secrets, she must decide if she should leave and forge her own path, or stay with the best friend she’s ever known. I really liked the way the Hansel and Gretel tale was flipped onto its head, with the witch not as a villain but a strong woman who rose above her circumstances, even becoming an adoptive mother! Flipped fairy tales for the win!

Little Knife was another favorite of mine, and I loved it. Rife with romance, deception, magic, and talking rivers, it is the tale of the poor man trying to win the rich beauty. Faced with several challenges along the way, the man asks the river, whom he names Little Knife, for help. The river obliges each time, until the man wins the girl. But it turns out that Little Knife will be owned by no one, and the river offers the man’s fiancée a life of freedom, away from the trappings of wealth and political intrigue of her family. I loved this story. First of all, talking rivers. Second of all, a jaw-dropping, feminist ending! I was reeling at the end. Wily beings and unexpecting endings for the win!
The Soldier Prince is the second to last story in the collection, and I loved that it was inspired by The Nutcracker. That’s always been one of my very favorite stories, from the time that I saw the ballet in elementary school. A clever toymaker crafts a little soldier, to spy on the daughter of a rich merchant’s family. And at first, the little soldier prince follows along with the plan, enchanting the young woman with gorgeous, magical worlds that may or may not be real. But when he realizes his origins and begins to rebel against his ‘father’s’ plans, he begins to wonder what he, and not his master, wants for his life, and begins to harness the magic within himself. I really liked the tone of the story, the prose and pacing, and I was pleasantly shocked by the ending!

When Water Sang Fire is the last story of the book, and I was absolutely enthralled by it. It’s my favorite of the whole volume. I love The Little Mermaid; it’s one of my favorite Hans Christen Anderson fairy tales, and I loved it even more when I saw the Disney film when it came out. (Cue Part of Your World for me! Lol.) But Bardugo gives this retelling an even darker, magical twist: Royal sirens! Two misfits in the ocean gravitate toward each other, bound by magic and their longing for more than their pitiful lives among the sea people. When they and their best friend, the prince of their realm, go up to land for the first time, they discover the wonders and trappings of the human world. When the prince asks his friends to do something unforgivable, the trio are divided for the first time. When they give in to the call of the dark power of forbidden magic, one ends up married, the other, transformed into a powerful, vengeful sea witch. I loved the ending, and the illustration caught my imagination and stopped my heart. What a story to pick for the closer! Overall, this collection is one of the best of 2017, and easily one of my favorite works of Leigh Bardugo. I loved every moment of it! The bottom line: A magical, dark volume of fantastic, original fairy and folk tales, The Language of Thorns is one of my favorites of the year! What a fantastic work! Next on deck: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell!