Monday, July 16, 2018

Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen Review

Title: Reign the Earth
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Elementae, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book from a recommendation list, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while. As soon as I was finished with The Radical Element, I dove into this book. This is my first book by A.C. Gaughen, and I can promise you all that it will not be my last. A lush, gorgeous fantasy series opener, rife with magic, deception, betrayal and political intrigue, I was captivated by this book, and I will never forget it. Easily one of my favorite books of 2018, and I’m so excited for the sequel! I decided to wait a few days to review, because I needed some time to think before I put my thoughts down on paper, and I went on a camping trip on Friday and didn’t return until yesterday. Honestly, I’m really tempted to check out her first series, about a lady Robin Hood! Reign the Earth was absolutely amazing.

Shalia is a daughter of the desert, and in an effort to barter for peace for her people, she is engaged to marry the King of the Bone Lands, Calix, never mind that they’ve never met. In their world, there are people who have the gift to control different elements, called The Elementae. But her new husband has his own secrets, many of them deadly: He longs to exterminate The Elementae, aiming to settle the score for a wrong that happened years before his time. Even more unsettling, Shalia begins to have feelings for her husband’s brother, Galen, which trigger dormant powers over Earth that she never knew she had. As whispers of rebellion and revolution begin to reach the palace, Shalia must choose between forging a lasting peace between the peoples of the desert and the Bone Lands, or to fight for her own future as an Elementae, even if it costs her everything she loves.


This book was amazing. The writing was gorgeous, the pacing breakneck, and I was utterly spellbound by Shalia’s glittering, dangerous world. I also really enjoyed Shalia’s voice, and her character development; she grew from a meek, shy girl into a powerful young woman who refuses to let anything stand in the way of what she believes is right; I loved it. All of the characters in this book were really memorable, especially Shalia’s family members most noticeably Kairos and Rian, Calix, his siblings, Danae and Galen. There were also really great elements mixed into it that helped move the plot along: secrets, betrayal, political intrigue, forbidden love, surprising magic and heartfelt bonds. And that ending! Oh my goodness, how in the world am I supposed to wait a whole year before the sequel?! I’m dying here! This book was perfect, a gorgeous, thoughtful fantasy about what it means to be human, and how to stand up for yourself, even if all the odds are stacked up against you! The bottom line: A gorgeous, emotional series opener full of magic and action, I loved Reign the Earth, and I can’t wait for what’s next in this series! Next on deck: Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Radical Element by Jessica Spotswood Review

Title: The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, and Other Dauntless Girls
Editor: Jessica Spotswood
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Anthology
Series: A Tyranny of Petticoats, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I loved the anthology A Tyranny of Petticoats, so when I found out that it was getting a sequel, I was so excited. I reserved it at my local library, and as soon as I was able, I pushed it to the top of the stack, eager to drive in after The Neverending Story. I really loved Tyranny, but I honestly think that The Radical Element was the stronger of the two. Since this is an anthology, I’ll do this review a little differently than normal; I’ll give the whole book an overall rating, and since there are twelve stories, I’ll be reviewing the stories that were highlights for me, for the sake of clarity and time. I will say this, though, before I get started: all of these stories were well-researched and strong, featuring women who refused to let the social mores of their time hold them back from what they truly wanted. Okay, so without further ado, here we go:

The Magician by Erin Bowman: 5 out of 5 Stars. Set in 1858, on the Colorado River, in the New Mexican Territory, this story tells of a girl disguised as a scrawny boy, desperate to make a living and leave the tiny riverside town she lives in, only to end up with her secret in deep jeopardy. But she fights back with everything she has and gets away with more than she could’ve ever imagined. Gritty, poignant, and spare, I loved this story!

Lady Firebrand by Megan Shepherd: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, with the Civil War in full swing. Honestly, this was one of my favorites, partially because the main character was disabled, confined to a wheelchair due to a tragic accident. But that doesn’t stop her from doing her part to turn the bloody tides of the war, disguised as the dashing figure of Lord Firebrand. Accompanied by her best friend, Pauline, a freed slave, she is presented with an opportunity that she simply can’t refuse. Gorgeous, witty, and surprising!

Step Right Up by Jessica Spotswood: 4 out of 5 Stars. 1905, Tulsa, Indian Territory. Honestly, I think that this story is my favorite piece of work in Spotwood’s arsenal. This story tells of the brave, vivacious and defiant Ruby, who has the restless heart that led her father to run away with the circus when she and her sister, Pearl, were young. She longs to be a star, to be more than the girl who’s beaten by her Uncle Jack and all but ignored by her mother. Refusing to be confined to the life of a loveless marriage and having children, she runs away in pursuit of her dreams, even when her family turns against her. I loved it a lot, but I honestly hated her family, aside from Pearl. I loved Ruby and her bright, unstoppable voice. Wonderful!

Better for All the World by Marieke Nijkamp: 5 out of 5 Stars. 1927, Washington D.C. A story of law, the eugenics movement, and being unapologetically yourself, Carrie longs to be a lawyer and be able to stand up for those who can’t do so for themselves. She is spurred on by this and a secret that only her closest family members know. When she makes an unexpected friend outside of the courthouse while waiting on a verdict on a case that is close to her heart, she thinks that she may have finally found a kindred spirit, until they begin to debate and she realizes that he fully supports the eugenics movement, a movement that is about optimal genetics and eliminating the threats to society, for example, the disabled, the old, the infirm. Deciding that she cannot be friends with someone who would have her sterilized or even killed because of her differences, she lets go of her fear and goes on to live the way she wants. This story really hit home, and I will never forget it. Thoughtful, brutal, and enlightening, I loved it.

When the Moonlight Isn’t Enough by Dhionelle Clayton: 5 out of 5 Stars. 1943, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. This story is a contender for my favorite of the entire collection. Emma and her family have lived for hundreds of years, collecting moonlight to prevent natural aging. But now that the War is on, Emma is no longer content to hide in plain sight and move on once people get suspicious. She longs to do something meaningful, to enlist as the boys in her town have been doing. But her parents are desperate to keep her out of the conflict, and so the story ends with her posing as a nurse, determined to make a difference even if it means defying her loved ones. I loved Emma’s voice, the prose lovely and beautiful and sparse; easily one of the best of the whole collection; I wish this story was a whole book! Clayton is one of my favorite authors, as I loved this story and her sophomore novel, The Belles. Fantastic!

Land of the Sweet, Home of the Brave by Stacey Lee: 5 out of 5 Stars. 1955, Oakland, California. I loved Stacey Lee’s last book, Outrun the Moon, so I was really looking forward to this one, and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed at all. Lana Lau is a Hawaiian native, come to California with her parents, her mother a worker in a sugar refinery, her father a cobbler. Desperate to help her parents and to make something out of herself, she decides to try out for the part of Sugar Girl, the girl who will be on all the bags of sugar for the company that her mother works for. When things go deeply wrong in her audition, she is forced to rely on another, unexpected talent: her jokes. I really, really enjoyed this one! Another frontrunner for my favorite story of the whole book. Full of spirit, resilience, and humor, I loved Lana and her vibrant, hilarious voice, and the way she used her connection to her Hawaiian culture to come out on top! Amazing!


This book is one of my favorites of the year, full of spunky, spirited stories that inspired me, made me laugh, cry, and cheer! I can only hope that there’s another anthology in the works now, because if I wasn’t hooked before, I definitely am now! Full of tales from some of my favorite authors and ones that I’ve just discovered, I loved The Radical Element! Absolutely stunning! The bottom line: Filled with stories that are as diverse as they are inspiring and funny, I loved The Radical Element—one of my favorite anthologies of 2018! Next on deck: Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen!

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende Review

Title: The Neverending Story
Author: Michael Ende
Age Group: Middle Grade/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.

Okay, so I’ll admit it: This is a reread. I read this for the first time when I was ten or so; my library had a hardcover copy, and I loved the way that the text was green and purple; that was initially the thing that caught my eye. I also adored all the three movies, so when I realized that my library had a copy, I snatched it up. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and as soon as I was finished with Bookish Boyfriends, I started it, and reading it from an adult perspective put a different spin on things. It was still the captivating tale from my childhood, but it was really interesting, the things that I noticed because I had grown so much since reading it the first time.

First, I’d like to note that the movie and the book are completely different, as is usually the case when a book is turned into another media format; the movie only scratched the surface of the worldbuilding that Michael Ende created, and a lot of the characters were significantly different, especially Bastian himself, but overall, I think the movies did a good job of telling the story. It had been years since I read the book, but the writing was beautiful, the pacing breakneck, the illustrations gorgeous, dark, creepy, and eerily detailed, and I loved every dark, lovely moment inside of this story.
Bastian Balthazar Bux doesn’t exactly fit in at his school: often, he’s the target for bullies and tormented by teachers. Grieving for his late mother, one of his only ways of coping are reading books. When he passes a bookstore on the way to school one day, he spots a book called The Neverending Story. He steals it and hides in the attic, plunged into the story of Atreyu and The Childlike Empress, quite literally eventually. And he must decide whether to save the magical world of Fantastica, or if he will ever return to his own life and world, for the very fabric of existence may depend on his choice…


This book was wonderful, and not just because of the nostalgia factor. The prose was beautiful, the worldbuilding was well fleshed-out, and I was captivated by the illustrations. I really liked the adventure of it all, and I really loved Fantastica, and the peril that plagued the world that Bastian eventually fell into. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound. This book was nothing less than a classic fantasy, suitable for both middle grade and young adult readers. I also really liked the way that the darker parts of Bastian’s personality were expanded on; it was almost like the world of Fantastica changed him as much as he changed it. This was a weird experience, reading this book so many years on. I still really enjoyed the fantasy elements of this book; it will always be a classic to me. But the concepts of escapism, good and evil, and fantasy versus reality really stuck with me. Honestly, the second read was just as good as the first, especially with all the riddles, questions, and the ending! I only wish that there was more! The bottom line: A beautifully written, thought-provoking fantasy novel perfect for all ages, I still love The Neverending Story! Next on deck: The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, and Other Dauntless Girls by Jessica Spotswood!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Bookish Boyfriends by Tiffany Schmidt Review

Title: Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Bookish Boyfriends, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while; the first time that I borrowed it from the library I decided to return it because I didn’t have enough room in my stack at the time. So when I saw it sitting on the shelf, I snatched it up. I’ve never read any of Tiffany Schmidt’s work prior to this series debut, but I can assure you all that I will be seeking out more of her work as soon as possible. This book was a very pleasant surprise; I picked it up expecting a funny, light romp into classic literature and first love. And it was, but it was also a lot more substantial than I expected it to be. Feminist, funny, and smart, I loved A Date with Darcy, and I can’t wait for more from this hilarious, promising new series! One of my favorite books of 2018, and it was the perfect antidote to the two heavy, emotional reads I had before it.

Merrilee Campbell firmly holds the belief that boys are always better in books. But that doesn’t stop her from longing for the ultimate love story in real life. Upon a transfer to Hero High with her best friend, Eliza, and her little sister, Rory, she meets Monroe Stratford and is certain that the romance she craves has finally come true. But when Monroe gets demanding, possessive, and clingy, she is forced to rethink on what she really wants in a guy. Things are further complicated by the appearance of Fielding Williams, the infuriating headmaster’s son, to whom Merri has an irresistible attraction, even though she can’t stand him. Drawing on the literature she learns about in her class, she starts to see that a romance straight out of the books may not be for her after all. Other issues pepper Merri’s life: her older sister is getting married to a real-life Ken doll, her younger sister is having trouble keeping up with the rigorous new coursework, and Eliza’s parents, brilliant scientists, are gone for months at a time. But Merri must decide what she really wants, from romance and her own life.

As I said, this book was a really pleasant surprise! I was expecting fluff, nothing really meaningful, but this book really proved me wrong. Sure, it was stuffed to the brim with romance, but it was also smart and funny and full of literary references that had me constantly laughing! I really liked the pacing; it started out at a brisk clip, and I really enjoyed Merrilee’s bright, vivacious voice, though it didn’t hurt that she was a major bookworm, just like this girl! I also really liked Merri’s bright, loving family, especially her parents and sisters; they provided a great foil to Merri’s dreamy whimsy. Eliza, too, was a really fun character; I liked how she tried to ground Merri when her imagination ran away with her (which was often). I honestly didn’t like any of the boys in the book, except for Fielding and Toby. Monroe was just so obnoxious and annoying! I wish that Merri had given him the boot earlier. I really enjoyed the ending, too; both romance wise and what Merri decided to do with her life. I really hope that there’s more to come, because this book was the perfect palate cleanser after heavy novels, full of serious issues and emotion! The bottom line: Funny, thoughtful, feminist and romantic, I loved Bookish Boyfriends, and I can’t wait for the next installment! Next on deck: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende!

Tradition by Brendan Kiely Review

Title: Tradition
Author: Brendan Kiely
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Brendan Kiely is known for three books, the most notable of which is All-American Boys, coauthored with fellow superstar Jason Reynolds (who holds a special place in my heart because of Miles Morales). But before Tradition, I hadn’t heard of him, nor read his work. But I found Tradition through a recommendation list online, and I checked it out from my library. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and when I realized that I had no more renewals on it, I pushed it to the top of my stack after I finished A Court of Frost and Starlight. Kiely has penned a runaway sleeper hit that I will never forget, challenging everything we know about age-old traditions, rape culture, misogyny, and speaking your truth, even if it means letting go of everything you once held dear.
Fullbrook Academy, an elite boarding school tucked in the hills and mountains of New England. An establishment of learning, privilege, and success. But behind its polished veneer lies dangerous traditions and even darker secrets. Jules Devereux wants only to keep her head down and get through her last year, to start over at a new college and leave the antiquated, good old boys culture behind. She longs for complete freedom, but ex-boyfriends and friends hold her in her place, much to her frustration. Enter James ‘Bax’ Baxter, a newcomer from Ohio gifted a clean slate after a tragic accident back home, and an unlikely friendship springs up between them.

But the culture at Fullbrook, where girls in the yearbook are rated for their looks, boys stack hockey packs in their windows to show their sexual prowess and conquests, and dances sponsored by the school shove innocent first-year girls out into the night with older boys, is rife with sexism, misogyny, and more than skeletons in designer closet, and Jules and Bax must join forces to pull back the curtain on the sheltered world in which they live. Can they join forces and shed light on the darkness hiding in their everyday lives, against an institution that believes it can do no wrong?
This book… I finished it the night before last, and I had to let it marinate in my head before I could find the words that would describe how I felt. And to tell the truth, my feelings are still all tangled up. This book was like a punch to the gut, a fist through the teeth, a searing and unforgettable call to arms to fight against the ‘traditions’ that still thrive in our culture, where men can do whatever they want and get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. But even more than that, it was a beacon of hope, a reminder that though it can take some time and a lot of effort, change can happen, and all we have to do is hold on and do everything we can to dismantle the foundation of our sexist, misogynistic culture that gave birth to rape culture. I loved this book, it is easily one of the best I’ve read this year.


I really enjoyed all of it; the pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn into the secretive, dark world that James and Jules inhabit. I also really enjoyed the format of the book; each chapter focused on Jules and James, going back and forth. The prose was searing, sparse, and gorgeous, full of power; I love Brendan Kiely’s writing style. I really enjoyed Jules and Bax’s voices, distinct and different but uplifting and powerful all at once. I will admit, due to the subject matter, there were times that I wanted to scream in rage and frustration, rip my hair out, and punch something. This beautiful, timely novel got into my head and heart and will never leave. I also really liked the way that Jules and Bax’s situations were portrayed: Jules isn’t sure what to think after a violent, drunken encounter with her ex, Ethan Hackett, and Bax longs to right his mistakes as well as fit in with the boys who can lift him up or make his existence hellish. But the two unite to dismantle the good ol’ boys club that is Fullbrook. That ending, too! Everything was meticulously researched and real to life; I will never forget Tradition, and I can’t wait to read more from Brendan Kiely. This book needs to be read by all, no matter their age or gender. Tackling class, privilege, rape culture, misogyny, and the awful traditions that haunt our culture to this day, Tradition is searing and unforgettable! The bottom line: A gorgeous, powerful and timely book featuring great, strong characters and searing prose, I loved this book! Easily one of the best books of 2018 for me. Next on deck: Bookish Boyfriends: A Date with Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt!

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas Review

Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses, book four
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Sarah J. Maas and I have a complicated love/hate relationship. I didn’t much care for her Throne of Glass series, but I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses; I’m so very excited that there will be more, even after this book. I’ve had ACoFaS on hold since I heard of its existence, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while; my husband had to help me trim down, and I absolutely refused to return this book, because I’d waited for it for so long. When I realized that I couldn’t renew it, I pushed it to the top of my stack as soon as I was finished with Legendary. I was pleasantly surprised; I wasn’t expecting to love this little mini sequel as much as I did. When I finished it, I had to stew over it for a few days, because I just had so many feels afterward.

I don’t want to reveal much of the plot, because I’m sure there are readers out there that haven’t read it yet. A Court of Frost and Starlight picks up a year or so after the events of the final book in the trilogy, with the Winter Solstice coming up, and with it, a brief reprieve from all the worries and duties that come from attempting to heal the scars from the war and each character’s painful past. But our motley group finds hope in the darkest of times, even when the past threatens to drag them under.


Honestly, this book is one of my favorites in the whole series. I love Feyre and Rhysand, of course, but it was also really exciting to get the perspectives of everyone else, especially Azriel, Morrigan, Cassian, and Nesta. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately spellbound by the gorgeous, tender prose. It was also really smooth; I liked the way that the book flowed, and it was totally heartwarming to see the way that my favorite family of misfits interacted and celebrated the Solstice holiday. But this book wasn’t all fun and games; it was painful. After Legendary, I honestly thought that this book would be light and fun, more fluffy than anything else. But I completely missed the mark with that one; this book was some majorly heavy stuff. I laughed, I screamed in frustration, I cried due to heartbreak. And that ending! Oh my goodness, I need more, darn it! I couldn’t give it a full five stars, though, because at times the plot got muddled and hard to follow. Nonetheless, this book was lovely, and wonderful, and I can’t wait for what happens next in the land of Prythian! The bottom line: The mini sequel to the hit A Court of Thorns and Roses series, A Court of Frost and Starlight enchanted me, and I can’t wait to see what happens next in Feyre’s lush, dangerous world! Next on deck: Tradition by Brendan Kiely!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Legendary by Stephanie Garber Review

Title: Legendary
Author: Stephanie Garber
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Caraval, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I read Caraval last year, and I really enjoyed it, though the worldbuilding was confusing and left a lot of holes in the plot for me. As soon as I found out about Legendary, I ordered it through my library. I got it almost immediately because—lucky me!---my library had its own copy. It’s been sitting in my stack for a while now, and when I realized that it went back this week, I put it to the top of the stack and started it almost immediately after I was finished with Fatal Throne. Due to a small mishap, I left the book in one of my book club buddies’ cars, so she had to bring it to me the next day! Honestly, I was really pleasantly surprised; you all know how often I get sequel anxiety. If I’m being completely honest, I think that this was better than Caraval, and I can’t wait for Finale, the last book in the trilogy!

Caraval focused on the first game, and on the oldest sister, Scarlett; now Garber flips the script to focus on the younger sister, Donatella, or Tella, for short. The girls have escaped the powerful and dangerous first game of Caraval, saving Scarlett from a disastrous, ill-fated arranged marriage. But they haven’t freed themselves yet. Tella made a dangerous bargain with a mysterious, alluring stranger, and what she owes is something that no one else has been able to deliver: Legend’s real name. Forced to win the second game of Caraval to make good on her bargain, Tella has to rely on every bit of wit, bravery, and skill to win the game. But she realizes that she may have to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to fulfill her end of the deal. But if she wins, it could be the end of Legend and Caraval. The game has only just begun, again, and it could mean the end of everything that Tella has ever cared about.


This book was really surprising; honestly, I liked it a lot better than the first one, probably because I received more answers in Legendary. I have really bad sequel anxiety, but this book more than lived up to my expectations. I started it as soon as my friend brought it to me and devoured it in a day and a half. The pacing was breakneck, and my head was spinning as I read the book; there were so many enticing, tantalizing riddles that I couldn’t figure out. The worldbuilding was elaborated a lot more, and I was glad for that; the last book was really confusing to me because of that. And I was constantly guessing, especially as to Legend’s identity. I was also pretty captivated by Tella herself, magnetic, brash, and brazen, determined to forge her own destiny despite all of the odds stacked against her. This book is stuffed to the brim with action, intrigue, and romance so compelling that I was constantly swooning, but the real killer of this book was its crazy ending. How am I supposed to wait until next year for Finale?! I’m kind of dying here, Stephanie! I can’t wait to see what happens next! The bottom line: The explosive, romantic, and enchanting sequel to the runaway sleeper hit, Caraval, I loved Legendary, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next book in the trilogy! Next on deck: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Fatal Throne by M.T. Anderson Review

Title: Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All
Author(s): M.T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, Lisa Ann Sandell
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres of all time; I’ve used it as a lens through which to observe and learn about real events and put them in a real-life and modern context. The Tudor period of English history has fascinated me from the time I was a child, when I was learning who Elizabeth I was in school. So when I found out about this extraordinary book, authored by seven different people, I was excited. Too often is the eye of history fixed on the King himself, but not his six wives, all strong, charismatic in their own rights. I really liked the format of this book, because the deeper you got, you were awarded with a different perspective, from both Henry and his queen. It gave me new knowledge on a period in history I thought I knew like the back of my hand. Easily one of the best books of 2018 for me.

We all know the story of Henry VIII and his unfortunate wives—or, so we think. These six women are all completely different, with hopes, dreams, and desires, all united by the desire of one man, one of the most powerful in the world: King Henry VIII. Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Kateryn Parr are each given a chapter, narrated from the first person, telling of each ascent and subsequent death at the hands of their king and husband. This book gives you a front row seat to each of Henry’s queens, the way that they were lifted to the seat of the most powerful woman in England, and the way that they died, most by his hand, however indirectly. Each chapter was narrated by a different author, and it was broken up by Henry’s voice in several pages in between. As a result, this book was really informative and fulfilling, despite the fact that it was fiction. Even with the creative liberties, it was deeply immersive, and I found myself completely captivated.


This book was highly unusual, unlike any other book I’ve ever read. I’m a huge sucker for books with multiple points of view, and this delivered, seven times over. The pacing was breakneck, even when the narrative moved between Henry and all of his queens, different but all coming short of his high expectations. Honestly, there wasn’t a character that I didn’t love, even Henry. I really enjoyed the way that each of his wives got her turn in the limelight, explaining her ascent to the throne and eventual downfall; Anne of Cleves and Kateryn Parr were the only two of the six who outlived the wily old king. I also loved the amount of meticulous research that went into the book, and the sheer teamwork of the authors because of it. It was also really refreshing for the narrative to be focused on Henry the whole time. And that ending—it was absolutely perfect! I liked it a lot. It was really nice that the book contained references and a timeline at the back, it really helped make sense of all of the events that happened in the book. Honestly, I wish this book had been around when I was first learning about Henry and his line, and the wives that were sentenced to death when they didn’t provide him with a male heir. One of the best books of the year for me, and I only wish that there was more! The bottom line: A book about Henry VIII and his wives, Fatal Throne gives you a front row seat to the king’s reign, and each’s wife’s downfall—most to death by beheading, but others managed to escape with their lives. One of the best historical fiction books I’ve read recently! 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist Review

Title: Devils Unto Dust
Author: Emma Berquist
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror/Western
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 list, and I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t know it was a Western crossed with a horror movie, and I’ve never been a fan of spaghetti Westerns myself. Maybe it was the countless hours spent at my grandfather’s side, watching John Wayne movies, but the genre generally doesn’t appeal to me. I like my escapism with a fantasy tilt. But Devils Unto Dust was a surprising, gritty book that doesn’t hold back, whether on the action or the blood and guts. I enjoyed it, far more than I expected to. The only thing that prevented me from giving it a full five stars was that the plot got kind of repetitive, though I think that that’s to be expected, considering that this meaty debut was close to five hundred pages. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this crazy, horrific roller coaster of a novel, and had few qualms with it. The characters were strong and well-drawn, the plot original, and the pacing sharp and exciting. I really liked the writing style as well.

Daisy ‘Willie’ Wilcox’s world ended when a deadly disease spread through her tiny town of Glory and beyond, turning people into ‘shakes’: zombies who crave the taste of human flesh, their brains fried of all human thought except for hunger, rage, and survival. As if she didn’t have enough problems, her no good drunkard of a pa has stolen money from The Judge, the man who rules over Glory with an iron fist, and has sent Willie to collect it, complete with a bounty on her pa’s head. But the shakes aren’t the only danger that the dry deserts hide, and so she asks two hunter brothers to help her. On her journey, she discovers that she must rely on every bit of strength, wit, and skill to survive, because the desert takes everything in the end…


Like I said, this book was a really pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did; Westerns tend to come off as really dry and rather ridiculous to me. But that plight didn’t befall Devils Unto Dust. The pacing was sharp, moving at a fast clip, and I was captivated entirely by Willie’s rough, wry voice. The worldbuilding was really impressive, too, though I would’ve liked more information as to how the infection came about and spread. I was spellbound, often against my will, by the dangerous desert landscape that Willie has to brave to save her family and the last of her livelihood. I also really enjoyed the other characters: Curtis and Ben Garrett, the two brothers who guide Willie across the barren flatlands, riddled with shakes and many other dangers, Micah, Cath, and Calvin, Willie’s younger siblings, Sam Kincaid, the stubborn, reserved doctor’s son, and of course, Willie’s Pa. This book delivers on action, tension, and more than a little gore; I was laughing, cheering, crying, screaming, and cringing throughout the book. And that ending—holy moly! I was completely floored, and I’m a little sad that this book is a standalone. I couldn’t give it a full five stars due to some light plot recycling, but it was really enjoyable, nonetheless, and I can’t wait for more from Emma Berquist! The bottom line: A gory, vicious, and emotional thrill ride that mashed up an old-school Western and a George Romero movie, I loved Devils Unto Dust! Next on deck: Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All by M.T. Anderson!

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Belles by Dhionelle Clayton Review

Title: The Belles
Author: Dhionelle Clayton
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Belles, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve had The Belles on my list since before it came out; I read Clayton’s debut novel, Tiny Broken Things, coauthored by Sona Chairaipotra, and I was totally spellbound, so when I heard that she was writing a brand-new series opener, I was so excited. I had to return it a few times, but at last, I got a chance to read it, and I was really surprised! This book is the best that Clayton has penned yet, and I’m so ready for more! A beautiful, powerful treatise on the meaning of power, beauty, autonomy, and free will, The Belles was a gorgeously written, thoughtful and action-packed debut; I felt like I’ve been waiting for this book my whole life, and I can’t wait for the sequel, slated for release next year! Clayton has outdone herself with this book, and it’s one of my favorites of the year.

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle, and in the glittering, opulent world of Orleans, she and her sisters are revered, treasured as descendants of the Goddess of Beauty; their help is the only way that the damned and gray people of Orleans can be beautiful. But Camellia wants more than to be a Belle; she wants to be the favorite of the royal family. But when she and her beloved sisters finally arrive at court, she realizes that being the favorite is not the gilded pipe dream that she imagined. Dark, terrible secrets are hiding under the surface of the royal family’s shiny veneer, and things get even more complicated when she discovers that everything she’s been taught is a lie. Her powers are even greater—and more dangerous—than she could’ve ever imagined. When the queen asks Camille to use her powers to help one of her daughters, she is caught between the desire to fulfill her lifelong dream of being the treasured favorite or saving herself and her sisters. All power comes at a price, and it might just be too high for her to pay…


This book was really interesting! Easily one of my favorite books of the year. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately seduced by the glittering, beautiful world of Orleans; the prose was beautiful and I loved the way that Clayton structured the worldbuilding. I really liked the way that the book discussed relevant themes, like the meaning of beauty, power, autonomy, free will and choice; it was thoughtful, well-written, and powerful, and I will never forget it. But my favorite parts of the book were Camille and her sisters; I loved Camille’s voice, I loved her almost as much as the world in which she lived. The political intrigue was exciting, and constantly had me guessing throughout the book. I loved all of the characters, especially the royal family and Auguste. I loved the feeling throughout the book; that no one was to be trusted, and that under all of the pretty promises of the court, darker things lurked. It gave me more than a little bit of claustrophobia. And that ending! Oh my gosh, I’m so upset that I have to wait until next year for the sequel! All I know is that this book is nothing less than a knockout, and I can’t for the sequel! The bottom line: A gorgeous, dark, beautifully written series opener, I loved The Belles! One of the best books of the year, and I can’t wait for what’s next! Next on deck: Devils Unto Dust by Emma Berquist! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron Review

Title: Out of the Blue
Author: Sophie Cameron
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I saw this book on the shelf at my local library and I’ll freely admit that the reason I picked it up initially was for its beautiful, mysterious cover. As soon as I was finished with The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue yesterday, I started Out of the Blue and was pleasantly surprised. This is Scottish author Cameron’s debut novel, and I really enjoyed it, more than I was expecting. The prose was lovely, and the plot was a little bit vague, but I think it added to the charm of it all. Thoughtful, beautifully written, powerful and sad, Out of the Blue was a wonderful debut, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve for next year! A wonderful addition to the angel genre and canon of young adult literature.

Jaya is over the whole mysterious phenomenon that have caused winged beings to fall to their deaths to the Earth. Ever since the death of her mother, her once close-knit family has fallen apart, with her father and sister scrambling to calculate when the next Being will fall, obsessive in their pursuit of answers and fame. But Jaya is drowning, both in grief and the unshakable certainty that her mother’s untimely death is her fault. Her already tumultuous life is further turned upside down when a Being falls right in front of her eyes. Panicked and desperate, she hides the Being, driven by a strange urge to protect the angel, whom she names Teacake. Things are further complicated by the appearance of Allie and Calum, two kids fighting against the people’s exploitation of the Beings, and Jaya is drawn to them, in spite of herself. But when Teacake is stolen from the trio, Jaya must put aside her own complicated feelings to save her, risking everything to do so.

Like I said, this book was an exciting, pleasant surprise; it was an angel story unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It was a short, sweet, and sad story that had me crying before it was over. The prose was beautiful, if a little sparse, and I was immediately drawn into this new version of the world, where angels falling to Earth is a (mostly) normal occurrence. The pacing was really nice, and the short chapters helped it move it along quickly. I really liked Jaya and her voice, she was a really strong and flawed main character, as well as Calum and Allie. I especially liked the way the author portrayed Allie’s cystic fibrosis. But even more than that, I loved Teacake; her character was so sweet and endearing. The portrayal of cults, too, was really fascinating to me. And that ending made me cry so hard! At times it got a little confusing, which is why I didn’t give it a full five stars, but I think my favorite part of it all was that Cameron left the question of the afterlife (or lack of one) so vague. I really liked that part of it. I’m looking forward to more from this promising Scottish author, Out of the Blue was a pleasant, bittersweet surprise that really had me thinking about the state of the universe. Beautiful! The bottom line: Beautiful, bittersweet, and brilliant, full of love, grief, and deep questions, Out of the Blue was a surprising, thoughtful debut that I really loved! Next on deck: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton!

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee Review

Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Series: Guide, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ll be honest; this book has been on my list since before it came out. I’ve checked it out from the library a few times and had to return it, but when I saw it sitting on a shelf at my local library, I snatched it up, eager to read it. I went through a slight slump before I began this book, so when nothing was working, I decided to pick this up, and boy, am I glad I did! This book was so much more than I was expecting. It was a historical fiction romp that was unlike anything I’ve ever read, full of adventure, forbidden romance, and so much humor and tenderness I was alternately between laughing and crying. This book is one of my most recent favorites, and I’m so happy that there’s a sequel coming out in October, about one of my favorite characters, Monty’s little sister, Felicity! I can’t help but feel sad and disappointed that it’s over—October seems so far away from now!
Henry Montague, or ‘Monty’, as he’s called by his friends, is like every other young gentleman his age. Well, sort of. His father despairs of him, that he’s more concerned with drinking, gambling, and bedding beautiful people (both lads and lasses!). So his father sends him away on a Tour of the Continent, with the stipulation he return and be a functioning individual of society. But when Monty’s plans go wildly awry due to some reckless, rakish behavior, he finds himself on a grand adventure straight out of a fanciful novel, on the run from a vicious nobleman who longs for revenge, all the while fighting his forbidden attraction to his best friend, Percy. His little sister, Felicity, longs to be a doctor despite being sent to finishing school, and the trio find themselves on a journey spanning countries, avoiding highwaymen and pirates on the way.


This book was really exciting, surprising, and enjoyable; it was a new kind of historical fiction that I wasn’t accustomed to. It was a funny, hilarious, and romantic adventure across time and continents, and I was crying, laughing, swooning, and cheering all the while. This is the first book I’ve ever read by Mackenzi Lee, and it definitely won’t be the last; I loved every moment of this book, and I can’t wait for the sequel in October! The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately drawn into the book; I loved Monty’s voice, and his narration was spot on. It was also refreshing that he was bisexual, I haven’t read many books with a male bisexual main character. The romance between Monty and Percy had me swooning and groaning in turns; the slow-burn romance between them was one of my favorite parts of the book. Felicity was also one of my favorite characters; her spunk and wit had me laughing, crying, and cheering in triumph; I’m so excited that she’ll be getting her own book later this year! This book has to be one of my favorites of 2017, and I really enjoyed the ending! Easily one of the best books I’ve read recently, and it busted right through my reading slump! What a lovely, hilarious, and romantic romp of a book! The bottom line: A gorgeously written, hilarious and romantic romp through the eighteenth century, I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue! Next on deck: Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron!

The Outcast by Taran Matharu Review

Title: The Outcast
Author: Taran Matharu
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Summoner, book four
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

My husband and I became fans of Taran Matharu after I won a copy of the first book in his Summoner series, The Novice. I read The Novice and gave it to him, and then we read the last two books in the trilogy together. We were both excited when he announced a prequel to the series, focusing on one of our favorite characters, one of Fletcher’s instructors, Arcturus. My husband demanded that I order it, and he read it before me, since I had been reading something different at the time. As soon as he was done and I finished my other book, I dove in. It took a little while to remember what was going on, as well as the terminology. But once I did, I was blown away. This book is vying for my favorite of the series, and I really hope that there’s more to come!
Arcturus is a lowly apprentice, treated with more abuse and disdain than even his master’s animals. Desperate for a new start, he plans to leave the drudgery of his old life. But his careful planning goes swiftly awry when he accidentally reads a summoner’s scroll and ends up with a Canid. Forced by the crown and nobility to hide his origins, he finds himself at the grand academy of Vocans, where more than lessons in controlling his magic await. Turns out that he’s the very first commoner blessed with the ability to summon, and danger, political intrigue, rebellion and revolution await, and enemies, some obvious and others subtler, hide in every corner. The humble apprentice from a tiny village in Hominum must decide where his loyalties lie, or it could mean losing the blessed life he’s just found…


This book was a really enjoyable surprise. Arcturus is one of my favorite characters in the whole series, so I was really excited when we realized that the book was about him. He’s probably my favorite adult in the whole thing, so it was really nice to see events from his perspective. It was also really cool to see things before they were ‘modernized’ in the kingdom. I can only hope that Matharu has more to come, because I was hooked. As with most sequels, it took a few chapters for me to remember the world, and what was going on, but once I did, I was sucked into the story of this wayward apprentice who stumbled his way to being a summoner. The pacing was breakneck, and even when I wasn’t reading, it was constantly on my mind. One of my favorite parts of the book was his relationship with the other nobles, though most of them were quite hostile, and the dwarves. I really liked his character development, and his friends and instructors were also a great standout. I can only hope that there’s a sequel, because that ending was killer! As I said, this book is vying for my favorite of the series, it was wonderful. I didn’t want to leave the world that Matharu has created. I wanted to give the book five stars, but at times the political intrigue and the nobles got confusing and hard to follow. But it was such a fun return to a world that I fell in love with, and I really, really hope that there’s more! The bottom line: A fantastic, fun prequel to his sleepaway hit, The Summoner series, The Outcast put the spotlight on one of my favorite characters, and I loved it, despite some confusion to the political intrigue parts of the novel. Hopefully there’s more in the future! Next on deck: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles Review

Title: Tyler Johnson Was Here
Author: Jay Coles
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: Standalone
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 list, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while now. As soon as I was finished with The Price Guide to the Occult, I dived into Tyler Johnson Was Here and devoured it in a day and a half. I just finished it yesterday and honestly, I’m completely stunned. It was a gorgeous, heartfelt and thoroughly thought-provoking debut, and I know that I will never forget it. Tender, ripped from the headlines, and timely, Tyler Johnson Was Here should be required reading for all, no matter their race, age, or gender. Written as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and inspired by true events from the author’s life, this coming of age story blew me away, and holds the spot for one of my favorite books of the year. Absolutely marvelous in the best kind of way. This book pulls no punches, kicking you in the teeth and breaking your heart and then stitching it back together.

Marvin and Tyler Johnson are twins and have been attached at the hip since birth. But since high school, they’ve been drifting apart. Tyler has been hanging out with a rougher crowd at school, and Marvin is worried that he’s going to lose his brother and closest friend. When the boys head out to a party to blow off some steam with their friends, tragedy soon follows in a blur of violence. When Tyler goes missing, Marvin is determined to find him, fearing the worst. The police claim that his brother was killed in a gang-related incident, but Marvin’s suspicions that something is deeply wrong is confirmed when a video surfaces of Tyler, getting fatally shot by a white police officer. Determined that his brother not die in vain, Marvin is forced to summon the courage to speak out, even if it costs him everything.


This book. This book was incredible. First of all, it was diverse. (Yay for diverse books guys!) There were times when it was really hard to get through, and it made me really emotional, but I’m so happy that I was able to read it before it went back to the library. This book was something that I definitely needed; police brutality against black people, especially young black people, is such an issue right now, and I’m so happy that there have been books highlighting it. The pacing was breakneck, the writing tender and evocative; I was laughing, screaming, cheering, and crying throughout the narrative. This book was straight up a literary punch to the gut, and a total eye-opener.  I loved the characters, especially gentle, sweet Marvin, his headstrong brother, Tyler, Faith, and Tyler’s best friends, G-Mo and Ivy. This book gutted me, and I loved every moment of it. I loved the way that it talked about racism and the class divide so clearly; it made me so happy. And that ending! It made me cry all the tears, and it was so bittersweet and beautiful. Easily one of the best and most timely novels of the year, and I can’t wait to see what Jay Coles has in store next! The bottom line: A timely, ripped-from-the-headlines novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the horrifying police brutality against black people in America, I’ll never forget Tyler Johnson Was Here! Absolutely stunning! Next on deck: The Outcast by Taran Matharu!

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton Review

Title: The Price Guide to the Occult
Author: Leslye Walton
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.

Leslye Walton won my heart with her gorgeous and heartfelt debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, and when I found out that she was going to be writing another novel, I was so excited. Even more so when I found the book, a bright, colorful little thing, sitting on my library’s shelf, I just knew I had to take it home with me. I was in danger of slipping into a book slump after The Heart Forger, and I decided to give The Price Guide a chance. Honestly, I think it was better than Ava Lavender, and I’ll never forget it. Dark, beautiful, and more than a little terrifying, I was absolutely captivated. One of the best books of 2018 for this girl.

Nor Blackburn is the last descendant of the powerful, magical Blackburn clan, made up of women gifted with different ‘Burdens’, magical gifts that they are blessed with from their original ancestor, Rona Blackburn. A newcomer to the island, she got pregnant by one of the town’s original sons. But when he abandoned her and wished for her death, she turned on the town, cursing her own line in doing so. Nor is almost as powerful as her great-grandmother, but her most prominent gift is the ability to hear, speak to, and understand animals. When the island is barraged with storms and the animals begin to flee for fear of something dangerous and dark, Nor realizes that the events may be closer to her than she could’ve ever realized. When her wicked mother, Fern, returns to the island to carry out vicious revenge, Nor must dig deep inside of herself to find the courage to face her fears, or risk losing everything she loves…


This book was really a darkly pleasant surprise. I adored Ava Lavender, but this book was much darker and creepy in tone. The prose was lovely, beautiful and hypnotic, per Walton’s signature. The pacing was breakneck; I was absolutely captivated by the tragic tale of the Blackburn women, but most of all, Nor. I really liked her as a character, and her development was really exciting. The small island town where she lived was somehow both creepy and charming all at once, and I liked the way the small-town mentality played into the scary parts of the novel. I also really liked Nor’s hardy, weird family, warm and full of love, unusual though they were. And Nor’s romance with one of the boys in town really played well against the horror throughout. I think my favorite part, though, aside from Nor and her character development, was Fern, Nor’s terrifying and powerful mother, sadistic and full of hatred toward all. And that ending—it was killer! Oh my gosh. I loved the way it ended, and I really, really hope that there’s a sequel in the works! The bottom line: A beautiful, gorgeous horror story, The Price Guide to the Occult is a great sophomore novel, and I can only hope that there will be more to come—beautiful, dark, and more than a little creepy! Next on deck: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles!

The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco Review

Title: The Heart Forger
Author: Rin Chupeco
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: The Bone Witch, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

The Bone Witch was one of my favorite books of last year, so when I received word that it was going to have a sequel, I was ecstatic. As soon as it came out, I ordered it from my local library. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and when I realized that it would go back soon, as soon as I finished To Kill a Kingdom, I got started on it. As with most sequels, it took me a little while to remember everything that happened in the previous book, but once things got rolling, I was totally captivated by Tea’s tale; I’m so excited that this will have another book! Chupeco delivers, doubling the action, romance, and political intrigue, to the shocking conclusion that made my jaw drop! The Heart Forger is just as strong as its predecessor, and I can’t wait for the last book in the trilogy!
Tea continues telling her tale to the mysterious Bard, going back and forth between the past and present. She has begun mastering the power to control the darkness, and the coveted and reviled ability to take life and return it. Finished with her self-imposed exile, now she longs for revenge and answers. Backed by an army of terrifying daeva, she returns, determined to dismantle the royal family’s hierarchy for their many wrongs against her, and stole the life of the person who meant the most to her. But it turns out that there are secret plots in the shadows that even Tea can’t foresee, and with war brewing amongst the nations, she must discover who she can really trust, or risk losing what’s left of what she has…


I really, really enjoyed this book! As I said previously, as with most sequels, it took a few chapters for me to catch up; but once I did, I was glued to the pages, the pacing breakneck. I really liked the format of The Bone Witch and The Heart Forger, the way that the narrative went back and forth from past to present. Sequels usually make me anxious, because I’m not sure that they’ll live up to the hype. But The Heart Forger more than delivered, especially in the action, romance, and political intrigue areas. I loved the way that the characters were expanded in this book, especially the side characters. But what really stood out to me was Tea’s character development; I loved it, and of course, the romance! I was swooning during those parts. It was really nice, balancing that with the more horrific, terrifying parts of the novel. I was shocked by the ending; I couldn’t believe it ended that way, and the only way I’ve been halfway okay with finishing it is that there’s more to come in the future! I can’t for The Shadowglass! The bottom line: The high-octane sequel to The Bone Witch, I loved The Heart Forger—I only wish I didn’t have to wait nine months for the last book in the trilogy! Next on deck: The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton!

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo Review

Title: To Kill A Kingdom
Author: Alexandra Christo
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.

I found To Kill a Kingdom through a recommendation list, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while. When I realized that it was on its last renewal, I wanted to make sure to read it before I had to return it, and boy, am I glad that I was able to. I’m a total sucker for fairy tale retellings, and this was like The Little Mermaid with fangs, action, pirates, dark, ancient magic, and more than a little bloodshed. And honestly, I have to say, it was near perfect. Easily one of my favorite books of 2018! This was the classic tale that reminded me more of Brothers Grimm than Disney, and it was right up my alley. What a magical story!

Lira is the only daughter of the wicked, vicious Sea Queen, and The Princes’ Bane. Determined to live up to her mother’s expectations and the weight of the crown she will inherit, she kills princes and sailors without mercy, taking their hearts (literally) for her own. But in a cruel twist of fate, she kills one of her own. Her mother punishes her with the worst thing Lira can imagine: humanity. If she does not bring her mother the heart of Elian, crown prince of the nation of Midas, she will kill her own daughter and will begin the cruel war between sirens and humans anew. But Lira discovers that humanity goes deeper than a pair of legs and being able to walk on land, and she must decide whether to live up to her mother’s legacy or if she will take her new opportunity to create something entirely new, even if it means betraying everything she’s ever known…


This book was wonderful, and almost perfect. The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite fairy tales, and Christo gave it fangs, claws, and all the dark magic I could handle! The pacing was breakneck, the prose so lyrical and beautiful that I was seduced almost against my will, taken in as much by the treacherous ocean by Lira’s words. I loved the way that Christo provided two different points of view: vicious, fierce warrior princess of the ocean, Lira, and her latest adversary, Prince Elian of Midas, who longs for more than his royal station can give. He feels far more at home and fulfilled on the water, however dangerous it might be, secure in his position as an infamous siren killer. The two collide at the cusp of an ancient war, started by an ancient sea goddess, and they both discover that perhaps their way of life might be wrong, and that love seems to emerge from the most unlikely places. I loved every character in this story, but I loved Elian and Lira’s rich, exciting character development most. The Sea Queen, Lira’s mother, was also quite the standout; she was so deliciously evil! The bottom line: A darkly glittering fairy tale retelling with its own set of fangs and claws, To Kill a Kingdom captivated me totally, and I can’t wait to see what Alexandra Christo has up her sleeve next! An absolutely killer debut that seduced me as well as any siren! Next on deck: The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco!

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw Review

Title: The Wicked Deep
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror/Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found The Wicked Deep through a recommendation list, and it’d been sitting in my library stack for a while, pushed to the top after its last renewal, and as soon as I finished Wild Beauty, I dove in, eager to explore this debut. So eager, in fact, that I gobbled it up in a matter of hours. I was absolutely captivated by this beautifully written, dark and spooky tale that took place in the small coastal town of Sparrow. If I had to pitch this book to people who haven’t read it, I would sum it up as Hocus Pocus mixed with Ghost, with elements that were surprising but they really worked. Full of magic, suspense, historical elements, and romance, The Wicked Deep is one of my favorite books of 2018! I loved every moment of it, down to the jaw-dropping ending!

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow, where two hundred years ago, the three Swan sisters were drowned for suspected witchery. Now, every summer kicks off the dreaded Swan season, where the women, for a brief time, possess three weak-hearted girls’ bodies so they may wreak their revenge on the town that murdered them, luring boys to the harbor with sweet promises of false love and drowning them. Penny Talbot, a seventeen-year-old local, has long since accepted the fate of her tiny town, resigned to the way things are. But everything changes when a tourist shows up, looking for work. But it turns out that everyone is hiding their own dark secrets, and soon distrust and suspicion spreads throughout the tiny, rainy town, and as the body count climbs, Penny must make the ultimate choice: save Bo, or save herself…


This book was such a pleasant little surprise! What a fun little genre-bender of a debut! As I said, I devoured it in less than a day. The prose was beautiful, and I really enjoyed the format of the book; it was told mainly from Penny’s point of view, but quite often, it switched to the Swan sisters and other residents of the town. The pacing was breakneck; I was both seduced and terrified by the tiny coastal town of Sparrow, steeped in urban legend and old wives’ tales. I also really liked the frightening, claustrophobic atmosphere that Ernshaw created in it. I loved all of the characters, but the standouts were Penny, Bo, Penny’s mother, and of course, the mysterious Swan sisters, capable of casting spells that weren’t from witchcraft, but rather from their own charms. I sped through the book, to the ending that made my jaw drop. That was really the kicker for me; all the twists and turns added up to the ending that felt like nothing less than a kick to the chest. I loved every crazy, beautiful moment of The Wicked Deep, and I’m so excited for what Shea Ernshaw has in store next! The bottom line: A beautiful, creepy novel that captivated me almost against my will, The Wicked Deep was as deep and dark as the ocean itself, and I loved every moment of it! Next on deck: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo!

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore Review

Title: Wild Beauty
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Magical Realism/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Wild Beauty was the book club pick for May for one of the library book clubs that I go to, much to my pleasant surprise. Anna-Marie McLemore won my heart last year with her magical realism debut, The Weight of Feathers, so naturally, I leapt at the opportunity to read her third novel. (Now I just need to read When the Moon Was Ours and I’ll be caught up with her whole body of work!) Book club was this evening, and unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances, I wasn’t able to go. But I figured, why not give a review of it anyway? A book of such gorgeous prose and lovely characters deserves to be recounted, in my honest opinion. First of all: I love her books, especially because they feature diverse characters! Diverse books for the win, forever! McLemore pens a beautiful tale of the many different kinds of love, family, flowers, dangerous magic, and deadly secrets, and honestly, from the first sentence, I was spellbound. Gorgeous, heartfelt, tender and brutally beautiful, Wild Beauty has planted a seed in my heart that will never die. One of my favorite books that I’ve read recently.

For close to a century, the women of the Nomeolvides family have tended the lush, beautiful gardens of La Pradera, something that draws people across the globe. But the gorgeous blooms of The Meadow hide far darker secrets: If any of the women fall in love too deeply, they accidentally will that person out of existence. But after generations of mysterious disappearances, this time, the garden gives the family of women a young man who remembers nothing of his past, only his name: Fel. One of the lovely, talented cousins, Estrella, finds him, and is desperate to help him piece together his existence. But it turns out that their beloved home hides even more deadly secrets, and Estrella must decide if she is willing to sacrifice everything she loves to cover the truth…


I tried to read this book earlier this year, but I had to return it before I could even start it, much to my disappointment. So when I was told that this was the book club pick, to say that I was excited was an understatement. I was absolutely enchanted. The prose, as per McLemore’s signature, was beautiful and eerie, and I was immediately transfixed. This book is weird, in the best kind of way. Magical realism is one of my favorite genres, hands down, and Anna-Marie McLemore does it like no one else. Even more than that, the setting was so seductive; I found myself dreaming of La Pradera, the lush meadow thick with blooms, even when I wasn’t reading. But my favorite part was the Nomeolvides family, all fiery, defiant women named after the plants they adored so much. Cursed to never fall too deeply in love with someone, for fear of them disappearing into thin air, they cling to one another fiercely, sometimes too much so. They were just so full of heart and love that at the end of the novel, they felt like one of my many literary families, and I will never forget them. I also really enjoyed the love story between Fel and Estrella, shy and hesitant and beautiful; again, as with The Weight of Feathers, I was reminded of how I first fell in love with my husband, and it was such a joy. The real kicker of this book, though, was the ending; I won’t reveal it, just in case there are some readers out there who haven’t read it yet, but my jaw was on the floor! I think Wild Beauty is my favorite book of Anna-Marie McLemore’s, and I will never forget it. It was such a beautiful tale of love, family, flowers, and mysterious magic, and I loved every moment of it. Totally gorgeous, and unforgettable! The bottom line: A book as beautiful as the flowers of La Pradera, I loved Wild Beauty, and it has become my favorite book of the author’s! One of the best books of 2017! Next on deck: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw!

Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake Review

Title: Beyond a Darkened Shore
Author: Jessica Leake
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.

As soon as I finished King’s Cage, I dived into Beyond a Darkened Shore, not wanting to return the book before I’d had a chance to read it. I found it through a recommendation list, and it’d been sitting in my library stack for a while, drawing the eye with its dark, enticing cover. But even better were its contents. A historical fantasy tale rife with romance, action, and Norse and Celtic mythology, Leake weaves an enthralling, enchanting tale, dark and bloody and beautiful, meticulously researched and finely wrought. This could be one of my favorite books of 2018, if not for the formulaic romance. I like the enemies to lovers trope as much as the next girl, but the romance, at first, seemed like instalove, and it kind of turned me off. Nonetheless, what a fantastic young adult debut! I’ll be on the lookout for what she comes out with next!

Ciara is the eldest princess and heir to the kingdom of Mide, feared by her people—including her own family members—for her power to control the minds of her enemies. When the Northmen try to raid her father’s keep while her family members are away, Ciara apprehends one of her enemies, and finds, much to her surprise, that he can resist her. When a shocking and terrible twist of fate results in her being exiled from her own kingdom, she finds that she must turned to her most hated enemy for help. On their journey, the two must learn to trust each other, for the end of the world is coming, and there are giants, gods and goddesses, and ancient creatures are ushering it in. And maybe, just maybe, trust can turn into something much deeper…


Despite the relationship that sprung up almost instantly between the two main characters—one a fierce Celtic warrior with frightening, misunderstood powers that she can barely control, and her captive Norseman who has his own secrets to hide—I really liked this book. I’m a sucker for all things mythology related, and I loved how the prose was peppered with fragments of both cultures. (Bonus points for the sweet glossary in the back of the book!) The pacing was breakneck, and even though the romance seemed a little bit too well knit for me, Ciara’s tense narration grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go, even after the final page. I was immediately drawn into her dangerous world, full of magic, political intrigue, gods and goddesses, religious upheaval, and dark forces. I liked the way that despite Christianity taking over Ireland during that period, Leake brought in parts of the older cultures. I really enjoyed the romance, but I wish it had taken a little longer to actually bloom; I can’t stand when couples look at each other a handful of times and get heart-eyes, it just doesn’t make sense. I really enjoyed Leif and the way his culture was explained as the book went on. And that ending—it was so fulfilling and painful, all at once! Despite some little quibbles, I really liked Jessica Leake’s young adult debut, and I’m looking forward to more from her. A fantastic debut novel! The bottom line: A debut packed with almost everything I love in a historical fiction novel, I loved Beyond a Darkened Shore, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from this promising young author! Next on deck: Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore!

King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard Review

Title: King’s Cage
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Series: Red Queen, book three
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Sorry I haven’t posted anything more recent, you guys! I’ve been crazy busy, with my family life and work and everything else, and on top of that, King’s Cage was so explosive and emotional for me that I needed time to process all of my feelings, and then time just got away from me. But on to the actual review! King’s Cage is the second to last book in The Red Queen series, and man, was it explosive. Way to pack a punch, Aveyard! I finished this almost a week ago, and I’m still reeling; I’m practically salivating for War Storm, and the only reason I haven’t lost my mind is because it’s on its way! I’m so excited and anxious to see how one of my most recent favorite series will end! That ending though: Ouch, my heart! I’m so scared for what’s in the future for Mare, Cal, and Maven!
Mare Barrow has gone on to sacrifice everything, her heart and soul, her freedom, the love of her life, in order to stop Maven. Giving herself to him freely in exchange for the lives of her friends and fellow soldiers, she is used as a trophy for Maven’s twisted new regime and tortured brutally. But Maven isn’t done; he’s determined to use her to wipe out what’s left of the Scarlet Guard and the newbloods they’ve taken in. Desperate to escape the clutches of her captor and the feuding factions that come out of the woodwork under his fragile rule, Mare must decide if she is willing to sacrifice the things and people she cares for most in order to stop Maven, or if she will walk away from the battle, tired as she is of the bloodshed.


This book; this book was strong in some respects and the weakest of the series in others. I’ve even had time to think about it and I still don’t quite know how I feel about it. The pacing was breakneck; Mare’s terse, spare narration grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go; even when I wasn’t reading it, it was constantly on my mind, picking at me. (It even wormed its way into my dreams several times!) My heart broke for Mare and what she had to do for her loved ones, and the too-young soldiers under her care. I liked the way that Aveyard added in two other perspectives to even out the tension: Evangeline Samos, Maven’s betrothed and eternal nemesis of Mare, and Cameron, the reluctant child-soldier rescued from the battlefield of The Choke, focused on nothing but rescuing her twin brother and the other innocent children trapped in Maven’s war machinations. I liked the way that Aveyard explored Mare’s twisted, poisonous relationship with Maven. At times the book seemed really focused on Mare and her relationship with Cal, so much so that it took away from the other parts of the story. But I enjoyed the political intrigue of it all, and that ending—it was insane. I’m still reeling over it, and frankly, I’m angry; I can only hope that War Storm isn’t going to rip me apart as this did. But it’s Victoria Aveyard, so, I don’t really have my heart set on it. The bottom line: The second to last Red Queen novel, King’s Cage butchered me, despite some little flaws that took away from the better parts of the story, and I can’t wait for War Storm! Next on deck: Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake! 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Winter Glass by Lexa Hillyer Review

Title: Winter Glass
Author: Lexa Hillyer
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Spindle Fire, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Spindle Fire was the first book I’ve ever read by Lexa Hillyer, a dark and beautifully written retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty. When I found out that there would be a sequel, I was really excited. Winter Glass, as far as sequels go, really delivered; despite some little flaws, I really enjoyed it. Full of magic, beautiful prose, exciting character development, frightening villains, political intrigue, and familiar fairy tale elements with a different spin, Winter Glass was absolutely captivating—what a great way to end this promising duology! I really, really enjoyed it. I don’t want to say much about the plot, in case there are readers out there that haven’t read it yet. Still, this book was absolutely wonderful, especially in the character development area.

Two young sister princesses must navigate two very different, but equally difficult, paths until they make their way back to one another. Aurora has been woken from the sleeping curse that was originally supposed to kill her, only to find herself faced with more temptations than she could have ever imagined. Isabelle, or Isbe, finds herself thrust into a position she has spent the whole of her childhood wanting, only to find that it is not at all what she expected, and she fears that she’s losing herself to the circumstances that surround her. But as it turns out, fate has different plans for these girls, plans that may end up costing them everything…


This book was really enjoyable! Sequels usually make me so anxious, as sometimes they just don’t live up to the hype. But Winter Glass delivered in spades; all of my questions were answered, the loose ends tied up neatly, the pacing was breakneck, and I was frantically turning pages, desperate to find out what would happen. I also liked the way that Hillyer inserted other voices into the story to break up the sisters’ dynamic. Plus: Evil fairies! Political intrigue! Returning characters! New characters! Forbidden romance! Action, darkness, magic, and that ending! It was amazing, I loved it. I was cheering, crying, screaming, biting my nails as I read the book, and I was so happy with it! At times, though, the cast of characters got kind of confusing and muddled; this book might have benefited from a dramatis personae. But nonetheless, Winter Glass was a delightful sequel to Spindle Fire, and I really liked it! The bottom line: The duology closer to last year’s retelling, Spindle Fire, I loved Winter Glass! What a way to end these lovely books! Next on deck: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard!

People Like Us by Dana Mele Review

Title: People Like Us
Author: Dana Mele
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found this book the way I find most of my library books, a recommendation list. It’s been sitting in my stack for a while, and since I couldn’t renew it anymore, as soon as I finished Honor Among Thieves, I began it. A compelling and chilling first novel, People Like Us is an enthralling, nail-biting mystery that had me constantly guessing until the very last moment; it’s still on my mind, two days after I finished it. My jaw dropped throughout the novel, but especially at the ending. This book, a twisting, creepy thriller that held just as many questions as answers, had me breathless throughout, and I simply can’t wait for what Dana Mele has planned next!

Kay Donovan is a girl who is used to reforming herself. After an unspeakable tragedy strikes too close to home, she is sent to Bates Academy and reinvents herself. Now a star soccer player with a gorgeous set of powerful friends, she is sure that things are going to go in her favor. That is, until a girl’s limp, dead body turns up slashed in the lake. Things get even more complicated when the dead girl has left Kay a password protected scavenger hunt, implicating her own classmates, until, at last, it is Kay herself in the hot seat. As she digs deeper into the killing, she risks unearthing her own demons, and the perpetrator, but uncovering the secrets of Bates Academy elites may end up costing her more than she could have ever imagined…


This book; what a surprising little gem it was! I’m so glad that I got to read this mystery before I had to take it back to the library. Honestly, I devoured it in a day and a half, and it’s still lingering in my mind, insidious and more than a little bit terrifying. I loved everything about this book: the pacing was breakneck, and despite Kay’s self-assured and confident voice, I could feel deep in my soul that something was badly wrong. I was absolutely transfixed, and Kay’s voice haunted my mind, even when I wasn’t reading. I was breathless, and I couldn’t put the book down. I was constantly guessing who had killed Jessica Lane, and exactly why, until the final pages, which shocked me to the core; I’m still reeling over it, honestly. I also really liked the boarding school setting; lush, gorgeous, and full of dark, scandalous secrets, and it just added to the mystery of the whole book. I liked a lot of the characters, though, to be honest, throughout the book, I didn’t know who to trust; it felt like everyone had their own secret agenda. I was constantly shocked by the twists and turns of the book; it felt like every time I had something figured out, something else would come to light that sent my theories off into the ether. And that ending! It was such a double whammy; my heart raced and my jaw dropped. If I hadn’t had to return it to the library the same day I finished it, I would’ve started it over, desperate to connect the dots again, since I had all the answers. Easily one of my favorite books of 2018; I’m still in shock over it, and I will never forget it. The bottom line: A dark and twisty thriller that had me constantly guessing until the shocking, breathtaking ending, I loved People Like Us, and the way it offered a glimpse into the secrets of the rich and elite. One of the best books of 2018! Next on deck: Winter Glass by Lexa Hillyer!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Honor Among Thieves by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine Review

Title: Honor Among Thieves
Author(s): Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Honors, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Honor Among Thieves the way that I usually find my library books, a recommendation list. It’s been sitting in the pile for a while now, and I didn’t want to return it without reading it. (Story of my life, lately!) I pushed it to the top of the pile after asking my husband what I should read, and this book got his vote. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t this, and I mean that in the best kind of way. Chock full of action, excitement, philosophy, questions, and of course, aliens, Honor Among Thieves may not be the most original book out there, but it has become one of my favorite books of 2018. I just finished it last night in the tub, and I’m still reeling; the only thing keeping me halfway sane is that there’s more to come. What a wonderful, searing series debut, with one of the weirdest relationships I’ve ever seen at its heart.

Zara Cole lives a life that is quite unusual. Refusing to live life within the strict confines of what she calls ‘Paradise’, she ekes out a brutal, gory existence among other misfits in the Zone. She’s resigned to her way of life, so when she gets into a particularly sticky situation, she fully expects to die a messy death out in the fringe. But that all changes when she is selected as an Honor out of a pool of random people. Honors get the privilege to live amongst the stars, with a mysterious race of alien life called The Leviathan. Thrust into a prestigious position that she never wanted in the first place, Zara accepts, albeit reluctantly. Forced to adapt all over again, Zara begins to like this new fate she’s been given. That is, until she starts digging and finds opposition on all sides. She must decide if the secrets she uncovers are worth her life, or if some things are just better staying buried…


This book was, in a word, a surprise. Science fiction is a genre that I deeply love, though it’s often hit and miss with me. I was a little worried at first; I’d read some reviews that said the book fell short, due to plot issues, lack of originality, and character development. But despite all of this, it was so much fun that I decided to disregard others’ thoughts on the book. Honor Among Thieves has everything that I love in a science fiction novel: spunky, hilarious heroines, breakneck pacing, aliens, political intrigue and dark secrets, killer character development, and a shocking ending that made my jaw drop. It took a little bit for me to get into it, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. And when I did, it was constantly on my mind. I loved the concepts introduced in this book; I liked the way the authors took a typical topic and gave it a really cool spin. The Leviathan were one of my favorite parts of the book, especially Nadim, and his relationship with Zara and the other Honor, Beatriz. (Diverse books forever for the win! I freaking loved that Zara was biracial and Beatriz was Brazilian, it made me so happy!) Beatriz was another fun standout of a character, and I also really loved Marko, Chao-Xing, and Typhon. This book was one of the best of 2018, and I can’t wait for the sequel! The bottom line: A gorgeous, meaty and deep series opener that takes place in the deep black depths of space, I loved Honor Among Thieves! One of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: People Like Us by Dana Mele!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth Review

Title: The Fates Divide
Author: Veronica Roth
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Carve the Mark, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Veronica Roth and I—I’m not going to mince words here. We have a love/hate relationship. I read her first novel, Divergent, and loved it, but I’m still really sore about how the series ended. After that, I swore that I wasn’t going to buy another book from her. But borrowing the from the library was and is a different story, and I loved the first book in this duology. Picking up from where Carve the Mark left off, The Fates Divide was a meaty and satisfying sequel to one of my favorite books of the last year. I really, really enjoyed it, though I had sequel anxiety and it took me a little while to remember the events from the previous book. Honestly, this set of books, for me, is the favorite of her work. Shocking, beautifully written, rife with romance and political intrigue, The Fates Divide more than delivered for me. One of the best books of the year!


The Fates Divide picked up where Carve the Mark left off, and I don’t want to say too much about the plot, in case there are any readers out there that haven’t read it yet. Cyra and Akos meet again, and in this installment, things become even more dangerous than before. Roth adds two distinct new voices to the narrative, two of Akos’s siblings, Cisi and Eijeh. As I said, I don’t want to say much about the plot, but I will say that the pacing is breakneck, the romance heartbreaking and gorgeous, the political intrigue deep and dark and pretty much impossible to untangle. I really liked the continuity of it all, and the way the two books tied together. And that ending! It was so beautiful and bittersweet. But what really sold this book for me was the character development of all of the characters, but especially Cyra and Akos. I’m totally here for bomb character development, all day, every day. I loved this sequel, and this set of books is my favorite of Roth’s work so far. Absolutely amazing! The bottom line: A meaty, satisfying duology closer, I loved The Fates Divide, and it’s bittersweet that this deep, thoughtful science fiction romance is over! Next on deck: Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre!