Monday, December 17, 2018

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao Review

Title: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix
Author: Julie C. Dao
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Rise of the Empress, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was one of my favorite books of last year, so I was so excited when the sequel finally came out. After yet another library haul redo, I decided to keep Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix: I didn’t want to take it back to the library before I’d had a chance to read it. I was richly rewarded for my patience, and Julie C. Dao has become one of my favorite authors with this spellbinding, lush duology! It picks up where Forest of a Thousand Lanterns left off, with Xifeng’s stepdaughter, Jade, coming of age. With beautiful prose, magic, secrets, folktales, and more than one magical creature, I loved Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and I was so happy with how these two wonderful books ended! I can’t wait to see what Julie C. Dao has in store for us next!

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix picks up where Forest of a Thousand Lanterns left off, with Xifeng’s stepdaughter, Jade, coming of age to eighteen. I loved how this book brought Jade, as a young adult, into the spotlight. Forced away from court and her father at the young age of four, she is forced to navigate the glittering, treacherous arena that is her stepmother’s court. All the while, she is trying her best to deny what is her true birthright: the throne that her stepmother has stolen, through wicked magic, murder, and deceit. Forced again to leave her rightful home, Jade of the Great Forest must reach deep inside of herself to claim what is hers by right and law, even if it means confronting all of her deepest fears and fiercest demons…


I really enjoyed this book! It took a little bit to get into it, since it had been a while since I’d read Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. But Dao returned with gorgeous prose, breakneck pacing, strong, well-drawn characters, magic, shocking twists and thrills, more than one awesome magical creature, and an amazing ending! Sequels make me so nervous; I call it sequel anxiety, because there have been so many times where I’ve loved a book and was so exciting for the next one, and got let down. But that wasn’t the case with Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. I loved how, in this book, it was Jade in the spotlight, fighting for her rightful place on the throne and the broken land of Feng Lu. Her character development was wonderful; it was my favorite part of the novel for sure. I loved watching her transition from a sheltered, na├»ve girl into a strong, courageous young woman, and I also adored her friends, Wren and Koichi. I really liked the way that the story felt like a classic folktale; I’m such a sucker for anything that feels like a fairy tale. And that ending! It was so fulfilling and exciting; that, too, was one of my favorite parts. My feelings are bittersweet, but overall, I really loved The Rise of the Empress duology, and I can’t wait to see what Julie C. Dao is going to do next! Absolutely stunning! The bottom line: Gorgeous, thrilling, and courageous, I loved Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, and I’m so sad that it’s all over! More please! Next on deck: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shari Petroff!

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver Review

Title: Broken Things
Author: Lauren Oliver
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Lauren Oliver is one of my favorite authors: I loved her dystopian series, Delirium, so when I heard that she had a new book coming out, I reserved it at my library. It’s been sitting on my library stack for almost a month now, and after an enormous rehaul, I pushed it to the top once I realized that someone had put a hold on it. I’ll be honest: I finished this book about a week ago and I couldn’t review it right away: My feelings were too tangled up. Even now, as I put the review on paper, I’m still not sure exactly how I feel. Overall, I really enjoyed it, but there were some things that are sticking like thorny burrs in my brain, and so I’m going to do my best to vocalize how I feel. Lauren Oliver has penned a dark, spinetingling tale of obsession, toxic friendship, dangerous secrets, and the power of stories, and I was captivated, even though there were some parts I wish had been taken care of more neatly.

                It has been five years since Summer Marks was brutally slain in the woods. The entire world believes that Mia and Bryn, her best friends, did the killing as a result of the three girls’ obsession with a fantasy novel called The Way into Lovelorn. But there’s a twist: They didn’t do it. On the anniversary of Summer’s deaths, both Bryn and Mia, set adrift by the false accusations and the loss of Summer herself, are drawn back together in an attempt to clear their names and find out the truth about who murdered Summer. All over again, the line between fact and fiction, truth and lies, blurs, and they both must confront what really happens in the woods five years ago, even if it means unearthing secrets that could end up deadly…


                There were elements of the book that I really enjoyed, and others that I’m still chewing on like pieces of gristle, sticking in my brain. Lauren Oliver writes with her signature, quiet bravado, pulling punches and delivering pacing like no other. The prose was gorgeous, even captivating, and I was utterly spellbound by Mia, Bryn, the ghost of summer, and the small snatches of the fictional novel, The Way into Lovelorn, that preceded each chapter. I liked the mystery of it and the way the point of view bounced between Mia and Bryn, seamlessly joining the past and present. I also really liked the side characters, especially Wayne, Owen, and Mia’s parents. I enjoyed the way that I was constantly guessing; mysteries and thrillers make me nervous because I tend to guess the killer before I even crack a hundred pages. But there were several parts of the book that bothered me, which was the ending. I won’t spoil it, because it’s one of the biggest plot points in the whole novel. But it just really bothered me; I was really hoping for more resolution. I wanted, too, more information about Summer; I wanted more of a proper picture of who she was in a person, the good and the bad. Nonetheless, Lauren Oliver has created a dark, horrifying tale of monsters, both real and imagined, obsession, secrets, and desire that will stick with me for as long as I live. The bottom line: A beautifully written, meticulously plotted mystery filled with secrets, shocking twists, and real-life monsters, Lauren Oliver has created a gripping, tense thriller of a book that will stay with me forever! Next on deck: Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen Review

Title: When We Caught Fire
Author: Anna Godbersen
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Anna Godbersen first won my heart way back in 2005, my freshman year of high school, with her bestselling Luxe series, so when I found out that she was writing a brand new standalone, revolving around a love triangle and the Great Fire of Chicago, I was so excited. She became one of my favorite authors with her first series, and I was so happy that she was finally writing another book. I reserved it at my library, and after another library haul return, I put it at my stack. It took me almost a week to read it, as my life has been insanely busy recently, but I really enjoyed this book: rife with romance, betrayal, disaster, both social and natural, secrets and danger, When We Caught Fire took one of my least favorite tropes: the love triangle, and framed it within one of the most horrifying natural disasters in history. When We Caught Fire was beautifully written, captivating, frightening, and surprisingly informative. One of the reasons that I so love historical fiction is that I can learn about things that happened before my time, in my favorite format: A story! When We Caught Fire is one of my favorite books of 2018. Lush, beautiful, and more than a bit painful, I expected nothing less from Anna Godbersen, and I hope that there’s more to come from her!
                
Emmeline Carter, Anders Magnum, and Fiona Brynes all come from different walks of life. Emmeline longs to be a wealthy, admired socialite, and that dream is all but realized when she becomes affianced to one of Chicago’s richest scions. Fiona is her maid and best friend, and she is hiding secrets of her own; she has been secretly in love with their best friend, Anders, a fierce boxer and their childhood friend. But there’s a dangerous catch: So, too, is Emmeline. As the three former friends try to hide their secrets and reconcile their feelings for one another, another sort of fire is beginning to build, literally. As Chicago is swept up in wild, uncontrollable flames, these three friends must do everything to survive and achieve their dreams, or everyone that they love just might go up in smoke…


                I really enjoyed this book! The prose was gorgeous, lush, and captivating; I was entranced from the first line. The pacing was breakneck; I was immediately drawn into the dangerous, glittering world of early Chicago. I also loved the characters and the way the point of view moved between them: Emmeline, desperate for social standing and a romance straight out of a novel, Fiona, the lowly lady’s maid who longs for more in life than her class affords her, yet fiercely loyal to Emmeline, even as a young man comes between the two women, and Anders, the girls’ childhood friend, desperate to do right by them both even as their budding loves tear the three of them apart. But even more than I loved the character dynamics, it was so interesting to see an all-too familiar trope, the love triangle, framed within a survival scenario. I haven’t read much about the Great Fire of Chicago before this point, but to see it within the story, beautiful and deadly, was captivating, even as I wanted to turn away. The pacing really picked up as the fire swept through the city; the whole time, I was freaking out, hoping and praying that the characters I’d come to love would make it out. And that ending! It was so beautiful and bittersweet; by the end of the novel, I was in tears. At times, there were so many different names it was difficult to keep up; my only complaint was that I wish there had been a character list at the front of the novel. Nonetheless, Anna Godbersen makes a fantastic, exciting debut, reminding me of just how much I love historical fiction; I cannot wait until her next book! The bottom line: Bittersweet, gorgeously written, and meticulously researched, I loved When We Caught Fire, even though at times, it was hard to keep up with. Next on deck: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver!

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Deepest Roots by Miranda Abesedo Review

Title: The Deepest Roots
Author: Miranda Asebedo
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.

I found this book through a book recommendation list, and it had been sitting in my library stack for a while. Once I realized that I couldn’t renew it anymore, I put it at the top of my stack, starting it as soon as I finished Soulstealer. I was even more excited when the author began to follow me on Instagram; unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture, because I had to return both it and Soulstealer back to the library before I could get decent lighting. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this book was a great reminder of how much I love the magical realism subgenre. Quickly paced, beautifully written, suspenseful and more than a little haunting, The Deepest Roots is one of my favorite books of 2018, and I can’t wait for more from this talented debut author!
                
Cottonwood Hollow, Kansas, is a strange place, some say even cursed. For the past one hundred years, each girl born in its boundaries has been gifted with a special, unique talent. Best friends Rome, Lux, and Mercy all have similar talents, but most of the time, they feel like curses. Rome is a Fixer, but being able to fix the things she touches won’t help her mom out with the climbing bills, and she refuses to confide in Lux and Mercy about what’s going on at home. But it turns out Rome isn’t the only one hiding secrets behind closed doors, for Lux’s home life is crumbling, even as she struggles to stay strong.  But an even more pressing mystery begins to mount: Why are the young women in Cottonwood Hollow cursed? What caused it? Finding the answers she craves just might mean risking everything, even her closest friends.


                This book was such a lovely surprise! It kind of was a mashup, for me, of Practical Magic and The Goonies, though that sounds like a really weird comparison. The writing was sparse but beautiful, and I was immediately entranced by the stark beauty of Cottonwood Hollow. The pacing was breakneck, and Rome’s voice was hypnotic and wry and quick to the point. I really liked the way that the town’s powers were incorporated into the story; it tied really well together. But my favorite part of the book was the close, tender friendship of Rome, Lux, and Mercy; all three girls were different, but I feel like they really complemented each other with their individual character traits. I also enjoyed the other characters, especially Red, Rome’s mother, Jett, and Mercy’s tightknit, loving family. At times, all of the different characters were difficult to follow, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. My favorite part was the mystery of it all, trying to figure out just what was going on in the strange little town of Cottonwood Hollow. I really liked the ending, also; it really tied everything else together. The Deepest Roots is a heartfelt, tender and beautifully written exploration of friendship, family, and being comfortable with yourself, even when it seems the odds are stacked against you. The bottom line: Dark, true, beautifully written, and heartfelt, I loved The Deepest Roots, and I can’t wait for more from this promising, talented debut author! Next on deck: Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Catwoman: Soul Stealer by Sarah J. Maas Review

Title: Catwoman: Soul Stealer
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: DC Icons, book three
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

I’m a complete comic junkie, though usually, I tend to lean more toward Marvel than DC. However, there are a few notable exceptions in the DC Comics canon. Two of those are the protagonists of the two previous Icons novels, Diana/Wonder Woman, and Bruce Wayne/Batman, and the third DC Icons book returns to Gotham with the young woman who becomes Catwoman, the author being Sarah J. Maas. If I’m being totally honest, part of the reason I picked up Soulstealer was because I was hoping to see certain other characters as well, and I was not disappointed. I really enjoyed this book, and I’m really excited about the next entry in the series. This book is one of my favorites of Sarah J. Maas, and one of my favorite books of 2018.

Soulstealer explores how the young Selina Kyle became the master thief and techie, Catwoman, and I really loved the ride, every step of the way. The book begins with Selina fighting for money, literally, forced to hand to hand combat in order to support herself and her sister. After returning as the wealthy, mysterious socialite Holly Vanderhees, she begins to use her training and cunning to bring the corrupt members of Gotham down hard. Things soon get further complicated when she crosses paths with several residents of the city’s seedy underbelly, and Selina soon realizes that her mission could cost her everything, to cap all of her other losses. But hey, when the Bat’s away, the cat will play, right?


I really liked this book; it’s probably my favorite so far in the series. Selina Kyle is one of my favorite characters from the Batman canon, and to have a whole book to read of her journey; I love comics, but I really like this medium to tell familiar stories. As soon as I was done with For a Muse of Fire, I dove in, not sure what to expect. The pacing was breakneck, and I was immediately plunged into Selina’s dangerous but exciting world; I really liked getting to know who the young woman who becomes Catwoman was; it really helped me understand her. It was nice to have background of a character whose past I knew so little about. I also loved the other cameos Maas introduced, some of my favorites: Batwing, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, the Joker. I loved the way that Selina tried to balance being normal and being a cunning, clever thief by night. I was cheering, laughing, and crying the whole time; it felt like returning to a more fun, but still gritty, version of the Gotham I thought I knew. There were times that I was slightly confused, but overall, this book is my favorite of the series, and though I’ve never been a Superman fan, I’m looking forward to it next year. Sarah J. Maas has done a fantastic job of bringing one of my favorite comic book characters to life, and I’m so excited for Matt de la Pena’s Superman! One of my favorite books of 2018! The bottom line: An origin story for one of my favorite characters in the whole DC canon, I loved Soulstealer; it is my favorite book in the Icons series, and of the year! I can’t wait for the next book in the series, and this one is a testament to Sarah J. Maas’s considerable talent! Next on deck: The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig Review

Title: For a Muse of Fire
Author: Heidi Heilig
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: For a Muse of Fire, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Heidi Heilig made quite a splash last year, with her debut novel and series starter, The Girl from Everywhere, and I really enjoyed it. I mean: Time travel! Forbidden romance! Danger and adventure! So, when I found out that she was writing a brand-new series opener, I was so excited, and I ordered it from my local library. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, and once I realized that I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it up to the top of it, as soon as I was finished with Blanca and Roja. And I was pleasantly surprised; it took me a little bit to get into it, but once I did, I found myself totally transfixed. Full of magic, darkness, war, political intrigue, and more than a few monsters, I loved For a Muse of Fire, and I can’t wait for the sequel!

Jetta and her family are renowned as the most talented shadow troupe in the whole land. With her behind the scrim, their homemade puppets move without the aids of string or sticks. They pass it off as nothing more than trade secrets, but in reality, Jetta can see recently departed souls and bind them to their puppets with her blood. But the old, magical ways are forbidden, now that the colonial army has taken over their country. Forced to hide the only skills she has to support her family, she is seeking passage to Aquitan, where shadow plays are in high demand, and rumor has it that it contains a magical spring that could hold the cure to her own madness. But she also has even bigger problems than restless spirits: a rebellion is beginning to brew throughout the land, and there is a compelling, dynamic smuggler who has his own secrets to hide. Jetta will risk everything to get her family to safety, even if it means turning her back on everything that she’s learned before…


This book was such a dark and lovely surprise! First of all, the format of it was unusual and compelling; told in the form of sheet music, prose, letters, telegrams, and other documents, it really kept the book fresh and exciting, and it also offered a different perspective on what was happening. Jetta was a great character; desperate for normalcy, safety, and security for herself and her family, and I really liked her point of view throughout the novel. The pacing in this book was breakneck, once it started to pick up; it felt like I was right beside Jetta, experiencing what she felt as the book went on. I also really enjoyed the other characters, especially Leo and his girls, and Jetta’s mother and father. The characters on the other side, especially the Legrande family, were also intriguing. There were several things that I was aching to know more about, but perhaps the author is saving that knowledge for the next book. And that ending! For a Muse of Fire, despite its flaws, is one of my favorite books of 2018. I especially liked the way that Jetta’s bipolar disorder was depicted; we need more books that talk this frankly about mental illness, especially in fiction. I’m so excited for what’s coming next from Heidi Heilig! The bottom line: A darkly magical, unusual series debut, I loved For a Muse of Fire! One of my favorite books of 2018! Next on deck: Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas!

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore Review

Title: Blanca and Roja
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve been a huge fan of Anna-Marie McLemore’s work since I read her debut novel, The Weight of Feathers, and I read her third book, Wild Beauty, for my book club a few months ago. So, when I heard that she was writing a diverse, mashup retelling of Snow White, Rose Red and The Wild Swans, I was so excited. I ordered it from my local library and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while; after I couldn’t renew it anymore, I dove into it right after I finished Muse of Nightmares. (Well, after I was finished mourning the painful end of that series. But moving on.) I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, as I haven’t really read either of the fairy tales that the story was inspired by, but I was blown away. With lush, gorgeous prose, diverse characters that felt so real that I felt that when I finished, I was saying goodbye to a beloved group of friends. Blanca and Roja is the most brutal and beautiful of McLemore’s novels, captivating and tender and full of every kind of love you could possibly think of. A deliciously bittersweet exploration of sisterhood, first love, and sacrifice, I will never forget Blanca and Roja; I feel like they’ve burrowed into my heart and soul.

Blanca and Roja are two sisters, best friends, and rivals, because ever since they were tiny, the women in their family have been cursed: One sister is doomed to become a swan, taken by the flock that live nearby, and she must live out the rest of her years as a bird, while the other is untouched. This is the way things have always been, and how it always will be. Blanca is sweet, gentle, delicate, everything that her sister, Roja, is not. Roja is sharp-tongued, tomboyish, brash, loud, and curious. They know their fate, even when it means sacrificing everything. But things become even more complicated when two different people emerge from the wood near their home: Yearling, who has spent the last year as a bear, and is drawn to Roja in spite of hiding his own secrets, and Page, someone whose identity is as unclear as their motives. As the time draws near for one of the girls to gain wings and the other to remain human, the girls begin to wonder if they can, in fact, change their destinies, and find everything that they’ve denied themselves.


This book; it was amazing, a beautiful, bittersweet triumph of family, especially sisterly bonds, love in all of its forms, magic, and most importantly, agency, and the courage to change your fate, even when it seems that all the odds are stacked against you. The pacing was breakneck, the prose so gorgeous that more often than not, I was rereading lines, absolutely in awe over it, but even more than that, I was head over heels for the characters that she so lovingly created. I was utterly spellbound by this book, and I was so happy to finally be reading a diverse, gender-nonbinary fairy tale retelling; this is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life! I also really enjoyed the way that the point of view bounced between Blanca, Roja, Yearling, and Page; I loved that everyone was giving perspective on what was happening. I also liked the other characters: Roja and Blanca’s parents, Page’s loving, if confused, family, Yearling’s grandmother, mother and father, and cousins; each character was fleshed out beautifully and I was captivated. But honestly, the ending was what really got me. I cried through most of the book, but it was the worst when the book ended. It was so bittersweet, shocking, and unexpected; my heart was broken and then stitched back together all at once. Easily one of the best books of 2018, and I will never forget Blanca and Roja! The bottom line: A tender, beautiful, and brutal fairy telling retelling involving forbidden love, diverse and non-gender binary main characters, and the bonds of family, especially sisterhood! My favorite book by Anna-Marie McLemore, and one of the best books of 2018! Next on deck: For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor Review

Title: Muse of Nightmares
Author: Laini Taylor
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Strange the Dreamer, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Strange the Dreamer was one of my favorite books of last year; I loved it so much that when I was able, I bought myself my very own paperback copy of it to prepare for the sequel. I ordered it from my library and as soon as I was finished with You May Now Kill the Bride, I dove in, expecting answers, heartbreak, gorgeous writing, and more than a few crying jags. And I got all that and more. I loved and savored every moment of my return to Weep, and Sarai, Lazlo, Minya, and all of the other characters I grew to love. Honestly, the only bad thing is that it’s all over! Wah, I can’t deal with it. The story of Weep and its inhabitants will live on in my heart forever, and I had to take a few days to process all of the feelings that came with this book. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, so I will be doing my very best to keep this review spoiler free. And without further ado, here we go!

Muse of Nightmares picks up where Strange the Dreamer left off, and I was happy that I read it again in order to prepare, because I was plunged into the sequel without any difficulty in figuring out where everything left off. Lazlo and Sarai, again, are tangled in a conflict, and it expands much farther than they could have ever imagined; the fate of Weep and their very own lives dance on a knife’s edge, and new players soon surface. Secrets abound throughout the novel, and Sarai, Lazlo, and the rest must band together to uncover them, or it could mean the end of everything they know…

I adored every messy, heartbreaking, and beautiful moment of this book; once I started it, I tried my best to go as slowly as I could so as to savor it. The pacing was breakneck, the writing was gorgeous; so beautiful, in fact, that there were several times when I had to stop and go back to read them again. As a sequel, Muse of Nightmares was very satisfying; all the loose ends were tied up and everything made sense. I also really adored the way that all the characters were fleshed out, especially Minya and the new characters. But I’m not going to lie: This book, at times, was very hard to get through. I cried, a lot, through most of it, and there were many times that I had to walk away because it felt like my heart and soul were being put through a food processor. And that ending! I loved it, but God, it was so painful. Laini Taylor, I hope you know you’ve killed my heart and soul! How could you do that to me?! But that’s okay, I still love you! Now when is your next book coming out? Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares is one of my favorite duos of all time, and I’m so sad that it’s all over, because I know I’m going to miss the new friends I’ve made. The bottom line: The closing book to the smash duology that started with Strange the Dreamer, I loved Muse of Nightmares, every painful, messy, gorgeous moment of it! Next on deck: Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore!

You May Kill the Bride by R.L. Stine Review

Title: You May Now Kill the Bride
Author: R.L. Stine
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: Return to Fear Street, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Everyone knows the name R.L. Stine, whether it be through the original Goosebumps book series, the original Fear Street series, or the TV show, or the more recent movies; however, you come to know the man, it’s impossible not to, whether in passing or personal experience. So, when I found out that he was writing again, and revamping the Fear Street series, I was so excited. As soon as I got an opening in my library stack, I ordered it. I finally finished Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel, and it was kind of disappointing, so I was looking for a do-over of sorts for my Halloween read (and yes, I know, Halloween’s over, don’t remind me!). You May Kill the Bride was a fantastic series opener; dark, creepy, well-written, and absolutely jaw-dropping, so I’m very happy to report that Stine has not lost his own unique, off-kilter brand of magic!

Ruth-Anne and Carly Fear are two sisters divided by time and united by a resentment so black that they are willing to do anything in order to satisfy it. When they discover that an ancient curse haunts their bloodline, both sisters seize the opportunity to make good on their dark deeds, allowing history to repeat itself. But when they do, they soon realize that even the darkest magic cannot be controlled… Welcome back to Fear Street!


I really enjoyed this book! After I finished Hocus Pocus, I was still in the mood for a spooky Halloween read, despite Halloween being over. (Wah! I’m in such holiday denial.) So, I figured, who better to continue that mood than the great R.L. Stine? I read some Goosebumps books when I was younger, and a couple of Fear Streets, but I didn’t read them all. But I was so excited when it was announced that the classic series was getting a reboot. Honestly, I read this book in the span of a few hours. The pacing was breakneck, and I was really intrigued by the plot; I liked the way that the real-life instances alternated with the spooky, supernatural parts. Some of the characters fell flat, but I really liked Carly, Melissa, Aiden, and Ruth-Anne. The tension was fantastic, and the ending was amazing! It reminded me of all of my favorite old-school mysteries I used to read back in the day; I loved how retro it was, and I can’t wait to read the next book! This book wasn’t perfect; at times Carly’s inner monologue seemed to drag on and some of the situations seemed a bit far-fetched. But! I really liked this dark, creepy, and weirdly strange and funny return to Fear Street, and I can’t wait to go back! The bottom line: Creepy, dark, gory, and weirdly funny, I really liked You May Now Kill the Bride—all hail one of the great kings of old-school horror! Next on deck: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor!

Hocus Pocus and the All New Sequel by A.W. Jantha Review

Title: Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel
Author: A.W. Jantha
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I started Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel the night before Halloween, and truly, what better timing? Hocus Pocus is one of my favorite Halloween movies, and when I heard way back in July that there was being a book written based on the screenplay, and a bonus surprise: an original, new sequel that continued the story, I ordered it from my library as soon as I had an opening in my library stack. As soon as I was finished with Positively Beautiful for my book club, I dove in, and I really enjoyed the first part, it was what I always wanted when I was younger. But overall, this book was just okay; by the time I realized that I wasn’t really feeling it, I was almost done and was too invested to just drop it. It wasn’t terrible; I really liked the illustrations and the first part of the novel. But the sequel just really fell flat for me; it felt like the original plot was just recycled, though I really liked the characters. I liked it, but it was just meh to me, honestly.

Everyone knows the plot of the movie Hocus Pocus: Three wicked witch sisters, the Sandersons, are hung for the offense of witchcraft. But they cast a spell that will allow them to return to Salem, and three hundred years later, a virgin lights The Black Flame candle and restores them to life. Suddenly Max Dennison, his little sister, Dani, and his beautiful, mysterious classmate, Allison, are facing off against the sisters in a bid to save the whole city of Salem. The sequel of the book takes place twenty-five years after the original, following Max’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Poppy, and her two best friends, Isabel and Tucker. Poppy, for her part, hates that her family carries this crazed legacy that she isn’t even sure she believes. But her skepticism is blown to pieces when she and her friends accidentally revive the Sanderson sisters, and soon she is caught in a dangerous game of dark magic, surprising alliances, unexpected romance, and an evil unlike any she’s ever seen before…

This book… I finished it a week and a half ago or so, and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it. It wasn’t awful, but it definitely wasn’t spectacular; in fact, I started You May Kill the Bride by R.L. Stine the same night that I finished Hocus Pocus. But I didn’t hate it! Maybe because I loved the movie so much, my expectations were too high? But I really liked the first half, because ever since I first watched the movie, I always wanted a novel to go along with it, because it’s just one of my favorite Halloween stories. The second half of the book; I liked the continuity of the story, and I loved the romance between two of the central characters. But I feel like the attempt to modernize the Sanderson sisters and their quest to kill all of the children of Salem was weak, at best. I really liked the humor and most of the characters, especially Poppy, Isabel, Tucker, and Poppy’s parents and aunt. I have really mixed feelings about it, honestly; it was a good attempt, but the magic of the movie and what was imagined to come after just did not find me. Nonetheless, what better book to start to read on the spookiest night of the year? The bottom line: I was really excited to find out about this book, and I really liked the first part of it, but the sequel really just fell flat. Next on deck: You May Now Kill the Bride by R.L. Stine!

The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes Review

Title: The Storm Runner
Author: J.C. Cervantes
Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Storm Runner, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I tried to read Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa, but despite holding on through one hundred and sixty pages, it just wasn’t working for me. So, I moved on to the next book in my stack, which was this one. Anyone who really knows me knows that I am completely mad for lore and mythology, so it stands to reason that I would be a huge fan of Rick Riordan. The first book published in his imprint, Aru Shah and the End of Time, was fantastic, so as soon as I heard of The Storm Runner, I ordered it so I could read it with my husband. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I really liked it! Full of action, romance, terror, humor, gods and monsters, The Storm Runner stole my heart, and has become one of my favorite books of 2018! I can’t wait for the sequel! I will never forget Zane Obispo or his friends! Absolutely fantastic!

Zane Obispo is used to being the odd one out, the freak, the one whispered about in the hallways and out and about. He’s so sick of the constant bullying that he’s been home schooled for a year. But the night of his first day of school, he’s drawn to The Beast, the volcano (yes, you read that right, kid has a volcano in his backyard!) in his backyard. He accidentally awakens an ancient, evil power: Ach Puch, the Mayan god of death and destruction. He learns soon after that that the Mayan gods are quite real, and closer to him than he could have ever imagined. Zane is soon thrown into a deadly conflict older than time itself, and finds out so much about himself along the way, even while dealing with shapeshifters, magic, and his own anxieties.


This book was such a fun, hilarious surprise! Being disabled myself, I loved that Zane was disabled and walked with a cane, just like me! I was drawn into the story immediately, spellbound by Zane’s voice; the pacing was breakneck, and this book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go, not even after I finished. I loved the world that Cervantes created, full of magic, darkness, and power in the most unexpected places, and the characters alongside Zane, but my favorites were Brooks and Hondo; I loved them! I also adored the fun spin that she put on Mayan mythology, a canon that I am not nearly as familiar with as the others. I mean, a goddess just for chocolate?! That is too awesome for words. Diverse, hilarious, surprising and powerful, I loved The Storm Runner, and I cannot wait for The Fire Keeper, as well as the next new book from superstar Rick Riordan’s imprint, exclusively for diverse authors and obscure mythologies! The bottom line: Refreshing, hilarious, and utterly wonderful, The Storm Runner is a fantastic middle grade series opener, and I can’t wait for The Fire Keeper next year! Next on deck: Hocus Pocus and the All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha! 

Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills Review

Title: Positively Beautiful
Author: Wendy Mills
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.

Positively Beautiful was the October pick for my book club, Young Adult for Adults, also known as YAFA. We also read Wendy Mills’s other young adult book, What We Have Left, last year, so I was excited to read another book by her. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was Tuesday of the week of book club before I got to it. I rushed to finish it, because I wasn’t able to go last month and I wanted to participate in the discussion. I was expecting something thoughtful and well-written, which I got, but what I was not expecting was a heavy, heartbreaking book about love, bravery, severe illness, and finding yourself; this book made me laugh, cry, and think, and I will never forget Erin Bailey or her painful, tender journey to acceptance.

Erin Bailey has only ever had her mother; she lost her father to a motorcycle accident when she was just six years old. Fearful, painfully shy, and mostly friendless, she tends to keep to herself, her best friend Trina, and her mother, who is almost like her other best friend. But her world is shattered when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. Reeling from sadness and shock, she gets another nasty surprise: She, too, is positive for the gene that could give her two severe types of cancer. Out of control and listless, she signs up for flying lessons in an effort to get her life back and feel close to her late father. As she begins to explore what her life really means in the big scheme of things, she discovers what it really means to live for the moment, even when life pushes her to the brink…

This book was amazing! Brutal, beautiful, and tender, Positively Beautiful shattered me apart and then slowly, painfully, stitched me back together. The prose was beautiful, searing, and sharp, and Erin was a flawed but relatable character; I really enjoyed her. I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect, but it surely wasn’t me being a bawling mess practically every other page. Bittersweet, bitingly funny and more than a little dark, I really liked her journey, as heartbreaking and messy as it was. Her narration was really what kept the book moving, because some of the other characters seemed kind of flat, especially Chaz and Trina. But I loved Erin, her mother, and Jason the most, and the way that Erin went from shocked and angry to accepting was very realistic. Honestly, though, this book was really hard to get through; if I wasn’t screaming, I was crying hysterically; there were several times that I had to walk away so I could breathe and collect myself. But Wendy Mills’s second contemporary young adult novel delivers in spades, especially in the heartbreaking department. The bottom line: Full of heartbreak, love in all of its forms, and spunk, I loved Positively Beautiful! Next on deck: The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes! 

Rule by Ellen Goodlett Review

Title: Rule
Author: Ellen Goodlett
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Rule, book one
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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

I found Rule through a recommendation list, and ever since, it’s been sitting on my library stack. As soon as I was finished with Pride, I pushed it to the top of my stack, drawn in by the gorgeous, creepy cover and the synopsis, which came across as something like Pretty Little Liars mixed up with Game of Thrones. I was so excited; I’m such a sucker for fantasy novels, and this series sounded really promising. Three powerful sisters! Magic! Political intrigue! Romance! Betrayal! On paper, it sounded like something that I would adore. And I did like some parts of this book, but honestly, it just fell short to me. I was really hoping for more. But thanks to the ending, I know for sure that I’d like to read the next and last book. Nonetheless, this book was just disappointing. Maybe my expectations were just too high.

Zofi, Florencia, and Akeylah are all from different parts of the world, with nothing in common. Except, that is, the King of Koloyna as their father. Claimed as legitimate for the first time in their young lives, they are brought to the Keep to learn the royal ways under their father, and to compete for his throne. But all three girls are hiding dark, dangerous secrets, and they can’t trust anyone, not even one another. Things get even more sticky when the three sisters discover that someone is hot on their trail, and is determined to expose them. They are soon caught in a web of political intrigue, forbidden romance, and shaky alliances, and it is more than just their lives that hang in the balance for their choices…


I really wanted to love this book, and there were some parts of it that I really enjoyed, but there were others that fell severely short. The worldbuilding was slightly vague and needed some polishing, and the magic system was kind of confusing. The villain of the story seemed a tad obvious; I suspected it from the beginning. But, it wasn’t a bad book overall; I want to read the second one. I enjoyed the characters, especially the three sisters; I was rooting for all three of them, but Akeylah was definitely my favorite, especially for her storyline! I was swooning. Goodlett did a really good job of making them strong and flawed in their own right, and I loved the way they all tackled their problems. The pacing was kind of slow at first; it took me a while to get into. But I really liked most of the characters, especially the girls’ father the king and the queen Rozalind. The political intrigue was another big factor that went into redeeming the book; I was loving that part. And that ending! Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the ending, I don’t know if I would be so eager to read the next book. There were a few highs and a lot of lows, but I enjoyed it nonetheless; it just wasn’t what I was expecting. The bottom line: There were some parts I didn’t like and others I loved; either way, I’m very excited for the sequel! Next on deck: Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills!

Pride by Ibi Zoboi Review

Title: Pride
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

I’ve never read Ibi Zoboi’s work before, but when I heard that she was writing a contemporary, modern and diverse retelling of one of my favorite Jane Austen classics, Pride and Prejudice, I was so excited that I reserved it at my library that same day. It’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, but I pushed it to the top as soon as I was finished with the beautiful wrecking ball that is Strange the Dreamer. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I have to say that I really loved this book! Full of heart, humor, love, Zoboi gave Pride and Prejudice a long overdue makeover, and I loved every minute of it! Full of parallels of the original but strong enough to stand on its own, it’s easily one of my favorite books of the year, and I can’t wait to read American Street! This is the retelling that I’ve been waiting for my whole life. Yay for diverse books!

Zuri Benitez has a lot of pride: pride for her neighborhood, family, and her Afro-Latina roots. But it may not be enough to stop the rapid wave of gentrification from consuming her beloved Bushwick. Things become even more complicated when the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street. Zuri wants nothing to do with either of the teenager boys, even when her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for Ainsley. She can’t stand the other Darcy brother, Darius. Arrogant, judgmental, and rude, it’s pretty much hate at first sight. But as they begin to find common ground, their mutual dislike gradually shifts into something entirely different. But with her four wild, independent sisters pulling her in all different directions, another cute boy named Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering in her very near future, Zuri must cement her place in the changing landscape of Bushwick, or risk losing everything.


I really, really liked this book! I love retellings, whether they be fairy tales or classics such as this one, and Ibi Zoboi did a fantastic job. Jane Austen is one of those authors that I feel really needs retelling, to make the original easier to understand, and Zoboi did a wonderful job of retelling it, with diverse, biracial characters! This is the Pride and Prejudice I’ve been waiting for since I read it for the first time. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved Zuri’s warm, hilarious and unique voice. I also loved her loving, funny family; especially Janae. The Darcy boys made for an interesting foil against the loud, shameless Benitez women, and I loved the chemistry between Zuri and Darcy! I was laughing, crying, and swooning throughout the book. I loved Carrie and Catherine, and Warren; I could see all of the parallels to the original, retold in a more modern light. It was so exciting and refreshing! And I loved the ending. This book was absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait for more from Ibi Zoboi! With Pride, she has become one of my favorite new authors! An outstanding achievement! The bottom line: A fresh, funny, romantic and modern retelling of one of my favorite classics, I loved Pride! One of my favorite books of the year! Next on deck: Rule by Ellen Goodlett!

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor Review

Title: Strange the Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Strange the Dreamer, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I bought a copy of this book and reviewed it.

I first read Strange the Dreamer back when it came out in hardcover, borrowing it from my library, and it was one of my favorite books of the year. So, this is a reread review! It was originally supposed to be a standalone, so, imagine my delight and surprise when I found out that it was getting a sequel, Muse of Nightmares! I reserved Muse of Nightmares for myself at my local library and got around to thinking: I loved Strange the Dreamer so much, why not buy myself a copy for my collection? After all, what better way to prepare for the finale that will be Muse of Nightmares? As soon as I was able, I went to my local bookstore and snatched up my copy, and it sat on my shelf for a week or so, until Muse of Nightmares actually came in. As soon as I received word that it was in, I started reading it, and I was completely blown away for the second time. One of my favorite books of all time, I loved Strange the Dreamer even more the second time around! Enchanting, romantic, and more than a bit puzzling, I loved it, and I’m so excited (and scared) to finish the duo!

Lazlo Strange was named so for his tendency to walk around the library of Zosma with his nose stuck in a book; a war orphan, he came to the library as a gray, sick infant, and grew into a man among the books. A passionate lover of words, stories, myths, and legends, the one that inflames his imagination the most is that of the lost, forgotten city of Weep. When a man shows up, known only as the Godslayer, hoping to put together a capable team to set out to the city and solve a dark, forbidding problem, the boy who once found adventure and companionship only in books is leaping at the chance to finally chase his dream. When he finally gets to Weep, he discovers a world beyond even his grand imaginings, full of magic, danger, and gods that history has indeed almost forgotten. Things become even more complicated when he meets a beautiful girl with skin the color of lapis, opals, and the spring sky, and hair the color of warm cinnamon. Forced to confront the bloody, dark secrets that his dream holds, Lazlo must decide what he is willing to sacrifice for the ultimate dream, whether it be first love or his own life…


I really, really enjoyed this book, even more the second time around! Reading it again, I realized that there were a lot of things that I missed the first time, but it was such a wonderful, emotional, and fulfilling journey. I cannot wait to return to Weep when I finally read Muse of Nightmares! The pacing was breakneck, the prose gorgeous, and the plot, setting and world-building beautifully, masterfully wrought. I was swept away, and I loved the characters most of all, especially Lazlo. I really found that I related to him a lot; until the beginning of the book, most of his adventures were of the literary sort. But I found that I loved all of the characters, and even though this was my second time and I knew that it was coming, I cried like a baby on more than one occasion. And that ending! I’m so happy that I have Muse of Nightmares close at hand; I honestly don’t know how I survived the wait for the sequel after the first time I read it. Tears, laughter, and swooning await the reader in this passionate, unique, and dazzling series debut! I’m so excited for Muse of Nightmares! The bottom line: A beautiful, enchanting series debut by one of my favorite authors, I loved Strange the Dreamer so much I just had to buy a copy for my own collection! Next on deck: Pride by Ibi Zoboi!

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles Review

Title: The Edge of Everything
Author: Jeff Giles
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Edge of Everything, book one
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

When I finished The Merciless, I dove into The Edge of Everything, not knowing exactly what to expect. It’s been on my library stack for a while, and I wanted to add another creepy, spooky book to the list. The Edge of Everything is a unique, hilarious, thought-provoking and romantic series starter, and I really enjoyed it. It was urban fantasy at its finest, and I’m really excited about The Brink of Darkness, even though I have to say that the instalove between the two main characters kind of turned me off a little bit. This is the first book I’ve read by Jeff Giles, and it definitely won’t be my last!

Zoe Bissell lost her father in an awful caving accident a few years ago, and she and her family still haven’t recovered from the loss or the weight of their grief. After a violent, unexpected snowstorm sweeps through her town, her life is changed forever, upon meeting a mysterious yet compelling young man she calls X. Blessed with superstrength, speed, and the dark and deadly power to kill, she learns that he hails from an awful place called The Lowlands, and that he hunts bounties for those in that realm who hold power. Drawn together by X’s destiny and Zoe’s losses, they soon are in orbit of one another, despite the mounting forces on both sides that are conspiring against them. Then X gets the opportunity to right everything and walk away from a life of brutality that he never chose, but there’s a significant snag: the last soul that he must collect is one that he never expected. Zoe, in turn, must face the secrets that lurk in the darkness of her family, even when it means risking everything she’s ever known.


As I said, there were some parts of this book I liked, and others that definitely needed polishing. The relationship was believable, for the most part, though at the beginning it was really rushed. There are few tropes that really turn me off, and instalove is one of them. But nonetheless, this book was really solid. There were several different elements that I enjoyed; particularly the worldbuilding and humor. But the characters and the pacing were what really sold this book for me. The new spin on classic tropes really made it unique; I liked all of the characters and really enjoyed the ending. I laughed, I cried, and I’m so excited for what comes next! The bottom line: Hilarious, thought-provoking, and romantic, I really liked The Edge of Everything! The bottom line: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor!

The Merciless by Danielle Vega Review

Title: The Merciless
Author: Danielle Vega
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: The Merciless, book one
Star Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

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

Danielle Vega was one of the first authors to follow me on Instagram shortly after I became active, and so, I ordered The Merciless so I could review it. It’s been sitting in my library stack, and with Halloween coming (and that somehow spooky pink cover), I decided it was high time to push it up. As soon as I was finished with The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, I started it. It wasn’t spectacular, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and was blown away by the ending! I really like horror when the month of October hits; Halloween is my favorite holiday and one of my favorite ways to celebrate is with books, of course. The Merciless is a series starter that evokes a mix of Mean Girls and gory, brutal horror reminiscent of Stephen King; I had chills running down my spine. It also kind of seemed tongue-in-cheek, making a weird but interesting effect. I don’t know if I want to finish the series, but it was a good book!

Sophia Flores is used to being the new girl; with her mom as a doctor for the Army, it’s become an unavoidable, and seemingly insurmountable, task. So when she is invited to sit with the most popular girls in school, she jumps at the opportunity to be given such a great social in. And for a while, things are great. Until Riley, the queen bee, insists that they need to help a fellow student, Brooklyn Stevens. Only problem is, she and her friends, Alexis and Grace, seem to think that Brooklyn is being possessed by a demon. What starts as a cruel high school prank ends in blood, hatred, and betrayal, and Sofia is now literally fighting for her life against those she counted as friends…


As I said, there were things that I liked and didn’t about this book, but it was definitely really scary, and I really enjoyed Vega’s pacing; I felt like I was constantly guessing, never sure about who to trust and what was going to happen next; it had me off kilter through most of the time I was reading it, and I was shaking in my boots; there were times when I would walk through the house and hear a noise and jump, or almost scream. I was iffy about the book in the beginning, but I didn’t want to stop reading. Once I was invested, I had to see it through to the end, even as the night grew later. And that ending! I did not see it coming; honestly, for all its flaws, that redeemed it. I really liked Sofia’s narration, and Riley, Alexis, and Grace were evil little terrors in their own right; I had no idea whether they were insane or if there was, in reality, evil in their midst. I may continue this in the future, but I definitely want to check out Vega’s standalone, Survive the Night. The bottom line: Though this book wasn’t one of my favorites, I definitely enjoyed The Merciless and am looking forward to more from Danielle Vega! Next on deck: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein Review

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, October 8, 2018

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker Review

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

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

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

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


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

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart Review

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

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

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

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


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

Toil and Trouble by Jessica Spotswood Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart Review

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wildcard by Marie Lu Review

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

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

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

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


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

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill Review

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Court of Shadows by Madeleine Roux Review

Title: Court of Shadows
Author: Madeleine Roux
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Horror
Series: House of Furies, book two
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

House of Furies, the first book in this series, was one of my favorite books of last year, so when I found that there was a sequel coming, I was totally stoked. I picked it up from my library, and it’s been sitting in my stack for a while, the gorgeous, dark cover beckoning me even while I read other books. When I was finished with Mirage, I pushed it up to the top of my stack. I don’t know about you guys, but fall always gets me in the mood for horror! School starting, leaving turning, apple cider and cinnamon doughnuts, sweater weather, I could go on. But my absolute favorite thing is to read spooky, creepy books; I love being scared when Halloween is just around the corner. Now, on to the actual review, and I don’t want to give away too much detail about the plot for those who haven’t yet read it.

Court of Shadows begins where House of Furies left off, with Louisa Ditton still trying to adjust to her still new position as a maid in Coldthistle House, which is populated by all manner of ghoulish, dark creatures, and dealing with the consequences of the ending of the last book. Cautiously trying to understand her own origins and master her mysterious, unpredictable powers, things get even more complicated when the devilish Mr. Morningside offers to help her, for a price. But once she begins to dig, she starts to realize that no one is exactly who they seem, not even the people who claim to love her, and the favor that Mr. Morningside asks begins to draw to light a darkness older and more dangerous than anything she’s ever known…


This book was wonderful! Honestly, I almost liked it better than House of Furies. The pacing was breakneck, and I really enjoyed the format of journal entries and drawings throughout; it provided a nice counterpoint to Louisa’s voice, and a lot of background on several characters I knew and a few that I didn’t. And it also helped that there were old, vintage photos before each chapter, giving little hints as to what was going on. I was absolutely spellbound, and I really liked the continuity from the first book to the next. Sequels give me such anxiety; more often than not, they just don’t live up to the original book. But my worries were completely unfounded with this book! It had been a while since I’d read House of Furies, but the writing and pacing were so good that my memory caught up to what was happening after the first few chapters. I really enjoyed the gothic, gory horror bits of this novel too; it was one of the perfect books for me to officially begin my autumn with! And that ending! Oh, my goodness, I need the next book, right now! How am I supposed to wait until next year for the next one? I’m dying here! Madeleine, you’ve got me addicted to your work now, and I can’t wait to read the Asylum series! The bottom line: A dark, gory, meaty sequel to House of Furies, I loved Court of Shadows! Full of familiar characters and several new ones, I can’t wait for the next novel! An amazing sequel to one of my favorite books of last year! Next on deck: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill!