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ARC Review: Of Cages and Crowns

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Once I realized that Of Cages and Crowns by Brianna Joy Crump was a fantasy novel where The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, I was a little skeptical. That being said, it ended up surprising me more than I expected.

Every generation ten girls are marked by the goddess and gifted with a unique ability. It is an honor coveted by many, but dreaded by Monroe, a goddess-touched girl who has lived hidden away her entire life. The ten girls are required to compete in the Culling, a competition to the death where the prize is the Prince’s hand in marriage and the title of Queen, but they have to outlast nine other girls to win.

I had mixed feelings about a good portion of this novel, but as a whole, I think if you can stick it out to the end, it’s clear that many of the aspects that are a little annoying seem to set up the ending and the next book in the series. The book felt a bit too long for me; especially the first part seemed very slow.

Furthermore, I was not thrilled at the comparison to The Bachelor, but I was excited to discover that it didn’t give off the same creepy vibes as the T.V. show. I went back and forth between loving Monroe and Prince Cohen’s relationship to hating it. There was a little bit of instant attraction on Monroe’s part, which I found odd considering her circumstances. I thought the relationship developed nicely from there though, but fizzled out, and then reignited towards the end. Overall, I wouldn’t say I was wholeheartedly invested in their relationship, but I think that is because other aspects of the novel needed to take priority.

Similarly, I thought Cohen was infuriating! He basically becomes angry with Monroe when she simply takes action to try to survive, and boy was I furious. The nerve of him to be mad at her when he was partially to blame for her circumstances to begin with, when he was not willing to do anything to change those circumstances, was appalling! However, I think the ending of the novel showed some growth in his character, and explained (but didn’t excuse) his poor behavior.

Additionally, there were a lot of elements to the story that made it more complex. For instance, Monroe’s relationships with the other goddess-touched girls, her brothers, and her trainers, really added a lot of depth to the novel. These aspects also showed an impressive growth in Monroe and the other characters in the book.

When I was planning on writing this review, I was ready to say that I saw the ending coming, but it ended up being surprisingly unexpected. Now, I wouldn’t say that it was a major plot twist or anything, but I’ll just say that I was ready for the author to leave the novel open-ended to a certain extent, and that did not happen. There are certainly still some loose ends, but not in regard to what I was expecting. I really appreciated this aspect of the book!

Overall, if you are a reader who can appreciate a book for its complexity, and who doesn’t mind a slow novel, then I think this book is for you. While I initially wasn’t planning on reading the sequel, that ending really drew me in!

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Book Review: Strike the Zither

Genre: YA Fantasy, Retelling Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: WOC

After reading an excerpt of Strike the Zither by Joan He I was enticed, but after finishing the book I was absolutely blown away! To be honest The Ones We’re Meant to Find had been sitting on my shelf for a while, and I eventually ended up donating it because I wasn’t sure that I would ever get to it, but now I’m regretting that. Strike the Zither was one of those books that is clearly a five-star read from the first few chapters!

Having grown up as an orphan, Zephyr was determined to raise herself out of poverty. After studying under multiple mentors she decided to live a life of solitude, but changes her mind when Ren, a warlordess who fights for her people, approaches her, asking Zephyr to be her strategist. When Zephyr finally agrees, she did not realize how much she was committing to, but finds her loyalties truly lie with Ren’s cause.

From the outset of this novel I was captivated! It was interesting reading about a protagonist who is not typical. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel with a strategist as a protagonist before and it added a lot of new and interesting aspects to the story. I also enjoyed how He stayed true to Zephyr’s identity as a strategist throughout the novel.

Additionally, this novel was inspired by Three Kingdoms, which is a classic story in Chinese literature. While I have not read Three Kingdoms, it was clear from the author’s note that she made a huge effort to incorporate aspects of the original story into this retelling. One change she made was to change the gender of many characters, as only men were seen as fit to be rulers or strategists in the original story, and in history. I thought this change was fitting and improved the novel, just as the things He mirrored from the original added to the story as well.

Furthermore, Zephyr is such a compelling character. I was so invested in her personal story and seeing where that would take her. The novel is split into two parts (at very logical points in the story I might add) and Zephyr is the biggest constant throughout the novel. When her world was forever changed halfway through the book, I felt heartbroken like she did. Her spirit and defiance added fire to the story as well.

Finally, the plot really made this novel shine. Joan He mentions that she thinks this book is her best, and while I haven’t read her other books, I find it hard to imagine her being able to top the epic adventure of Strike the Zither. It truly was everything I could ask for in a book, and left me begging for answers. There were also quite a few plot twists (some predictable, some not) that added a fun element to the novel.

Overall, Strike the Zither was a heartbreakingly beautiful fantasy novel, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

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ARC Review: Silver in the Mist

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: Asexual, Nonbinary

I’m always excited to find new fantasy books with ace rep, so I was stoked when I saw that Emily Victoria would be publishing her second novel, Silver in the Mist! I have not had a chance to read her debut novel, This Golden Flame, yet, but if it’s half as good as Silver in the Mist, I know I’m going to love it!

What’s better than an ace protagonist? An ace protagonist who is also a spy! Being the daughter of her nation’s head spy, Devlin is willing to do anything for her country, so when she is sent on a mission to infiltrate the sister nation of Cerena, she is ready to sacrifice anything. However, the more she gets to know her target, Alyse, Cerena’s most powerful caster, the more secrets she discovers. Her mission turns out to be more difficult than she ever imagined.

Normally, I try to keep notes of the things I like and dislike while I’m reading a novel, but I was so wrapped up in Silver in the Mist, I completely forgot to do so! The whole book was very immersive, and the plot had a decent mixture of action and depth. I thought the relationships Devlin made throughout the novel related to the plot well.

Devlin is such a great protagonist! I was fascinated reading about how her character develops throughout the book, and I loved that she starts off confident, questions herself a little, and regains that confidence. Her relationships with her mother, Lochlan, and Alyse really made the story shine.

Additionally, I found quite a few quotes that were simply poetic. On the surface, this book is about a spy trying to save her nation, but deeper down it is a novel about hope and perseverance. I was moved by the way Victoria developed those themes throughout the book, and that is what made it great in my opinion.

Overall, I highly recommend this book, and I can’t wait to finally read This Golden Flame, and to see what else Emily Victoria has in store for readers in the future!

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Book Review: First Earth

Genre: YA Portal Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: disabled, chronic pain

I have written many reviews where I don’t quite have the words to express how much the book moved me, but none quite so much as this one. When I found out that author, Cami Murdock Jensen, chose me as a reader for BookGush October, I was absolutely stoked, but I never imagined that her book, First Earth, would impact me as much as it did.

The novel follows Agnes, who jumps at the chance to do an internship with her mentor. However, when she and her mentor go to view an ancient artifact, her internship takes a wild turn, and she ends up traveling through a portal to another world! Throughout all of this she battles neuropathy pain, and she discovers that she is stronger than she ever could have imagined.

I had absolutely no idea that this book had chronic pain representation until I started reading it. Chronic pain is something I’ve lived with for most of my life, yet I’ve never actually read a book that truly incorporates a character’s pain into their story. Reading First Earth, I have never felt so simultaneously seen and hopeful. I have read fantasy books for a long time as a way to escape reality. Imagining myself in the role of the protagonist has always come with one caveat; that my chronic illnesses and pain would have to disappear for me to be part of these stories. For the first time in my life this book allowed me to escape into a fantasy story that accepts me as I am; a story where I don’t have to change a single thing about myself to imagine myself in that world. Honestly, words cannot convey what that experience means to me.

Additionally, while I personally don’t have neuropathy pain, I found many details about Agnes’ pain relatable. Truthfully, when I started reading the book, I was curious to see how her experiences would be incorporated into the story. Fantasy books that have people with chronic pain constantly running around, saving the day, and showing immense physical strength are really disheartening because they aren’t realistic. But First Earth was so genuine and uplifting. So, maybe Agnes didn’t engage in a harrowing sword fight, but her powers allowed her to show strength in other ways. I absolutely loved how she was just as much a part of the story as the characters who didn’t have chronic pain. I never felt like she was taking a backseat to the action, or only mentioned as an afterthought. She took the spotlight and fought battles in her own way!

Furthermore, I appreciated another aspect of the way Agnes’ chronic pain and physical scars were portrayed. Now, I want to preface that this is completely my opinion and personal preference. By no means do I speak for the disabled and chronic pain warriors of the world. That being said, I thought it was fitting and relatable that Agnes’ pain and scars were not magically healed. Don’t get me wrong, I would have absolutely no issue with someone choosing to have chronic pain magically healed if they could. I certainly would. However, that feature was vital to the story. I’m not saying that people with chronic pain become their chronic pain, but it does become a part of them. Agnes’ story isn’t powerful because she lives with chronic pain or despite her living with chronic pain. It is not the defining factor of who she is, but it is one of the many attributes she has. The story would have drastically changed if Temnon wasn’t fiercely loyal or if Grimmal wasn’t feisty or if Dominath wasn’t wise. In a similar way, it would have been vastly different if Agnes didn’t have chronic pain and scars.

On top of the phenomenal representation, the book was fantastic! The characters were clearly well thought out and the plot was robust and immersive. I know it’s cliché to say this, but I truly couldn’t put it down. I also thought the ending was a good mixture of satisfaction and curiosity.

As a whole, First Earth quickly became one of my all time favorite books! I can’t wait to go on more adventures with the wonderful characters!

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ARC Review: Princess of Souls

Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Fairytale Retelling Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2 Rep: Bi

When I heard that Alexandra Christo was publishing a new book that is a Rapunzel retelling, I was so excited! I absolutely loved To Kill a Kingdom and jumped at the opportunity to read an early copy of Princess of Souls!

On the outside, everyone thinks Selestra is a princess, the next in line to take her mother’s place as the royal witch, but Selestra knows she is really a prisoner to the immortal and cruel king. When her ancestor tied her family’s magic to the king, she doomed generations of women to blindly serve him. However, every year the king offers citizens a chance to cheat death and earn a wish if they make it a couple weeks, or steal his immortality if they survive the month of the blood moon. Nox, a solider in the king’s army is determined to steal his immortality, but when his fate is tied to Selestra’s, things become much more difficult for the two of them.

While I found the first half of the novel kind of slow, I thought the action really picked up in the second half, and truly captured my attention. Towards the end of the novel, things were moving so quickly that I literally could not put the book down. I also loved the adventurous elements of the novel, and the way the characters traveled to different lands.

Furthermore, despite being a Rapunzel retelling, I thought the novel would have benefitted from more focus on the romance between Selestra and Nox. Although it was certainly part of the story, it felt like it took a backseat for most of the book. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but being a Rapunzel retelling, it was a bit unexpected.

In addition, I really enjoyed Selestra and Nox’s points of view throughout the novel. Having the dual POVs highlighted the ways the two main characters interpreted events differently throughout the book. I also appreciated the way Selestra’s doubts and hesitations were apparent from her POV, but not as obvious from Nox’s POV. It definitely emphasized her growth throughout the novel, and the way the two characters’ feelings developed.

The supporting characters in the book were interesting, but I would have like to see more of them throughout the book. Especially, Selestra’s mother, since she plays a vital role in Selestra’s story. Pretty much all of the supporting characters were compelling, I just think some of them could have taken on a more significant role in the novel.

Overall, Princess of Souls was pretty good, but unfortunately didn’t quite live up to my high expectations after reading To Kill a Kingdom.

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Book Review: The 716

Genre: YA SciFi Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: LGBTQIA+

Every now and then an indie author reaches out to see if I would be willing to read and review their book, and I absolutely love these interactions! Connecting with indie authors is one of my favorite parts of being a book reviewer, and it was no different when S.J. Pratt reached out to see if I would read her book, The 716. I have to say, this is one of the most memorable and underrated scifi books I’ve ever read!

The 716 is a futuristic novel that completely obliterates gender stereotypes. Olivia and Andy couldn’t be more different. Olivia was raised to eventually take her mother’s place as the leader of their society, while Andy is told he will never be more than a house-husband. However, Olivia and Andy have more in common than they think; they both want to be an engineer. While Olivia is told her dream is beneath her social status, Andy is told that his head is in the clouds, wanting to do a woman’s job.

I could go on an on about this book for days, but my favorite part of the book was the way it incorporated feminism and highlighted the obstacles women face in our own society by attributing them to men in the novel. The small details were perfect, such as vehicles being referred to as “he” instead of “she” and “resting b@stard face,” which will forever change my usage of the phrase it was created from. These details showed how closely Pratt thought this novel through, and made it feel even more authentic.

Additionally, the bigger details of the novel were wonderful as well! For instance, in Olivia and Andy’s society, nursing and teaching are considered prestigious careers that women should aspire to. Pratt makes a huge statement suggesting that teaching and nursing should be viewed as more valuable than they are in our society. Similarly, the way she suggests that only women could do these jobs in the novel, brings up the absurdity of associating certain jobs with certain genders in real life.

Another detail that I truly appreciated was Olivia’s brother, Will’s, outrage that men are not included in medical trials in the novel. I think it is shocking when people find out that many medical trials in reality do not include women, which ultimately kills women. Will in general was a great character, and I really related to his perspective and desire to fight for change.

Furthermore, Pratt tackles sexism head-on with her characters in The 716. Multiple times in the novel Olivia is forced to confront her sexist views. I absolutely loved that she made the mistake of acting sexist towards Andy, because this mirrors the way that people are sexist in real life. Even better though, was the fact that Olivia took the time to reflect on her behavior and realize her wrongdoings.

Finally, I enjoyed the fact that Pratt included people with various gender identities. While the focus at the beginning of the novel is on the unfair and unequal treatment of men, she further develops this theme to include trans, nonbinary, gender fluid, and people across the gender spectrum. It was not only heartening that she included everyone, but also that Andy discovered new gender identities along his journey towards equality.

Honestly, I feel like my review doesn’t even begin to convey how wonderful this book truly is. On top of all the major issues it brings to light, it also has fun characters, a complex world, and a solid plot. I especially think fans of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer will love this book, but truthfully I think pretty much anyone and everyone that enjoys scifi or YA will absolutely adore it!

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Book Review: The Newlyweds’ Window

Genre: Short Stories Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: POC

After reading Send Her Back by Munashe Kaseke, which was published by Mukana Press, I was interested in the Mukana Press 2022 Anthology of African Writing, The Newlyweds’ Window. I try to read books that have diverse characters, written by diverse authors, so this anthology sounded fantastic. As a whole, it was definitely one of the best anthologies I’ve read!

The stories are all from different genres, and I thought I wouldn’t like this feature, but I ended up loving it! The anthology still felt cohesive and the different genres actually added more depth to the book. Many of the stories left me wanting more, and wishing that each author had published a whole book instead of a short story!

My favorite thing about the anthology was that the stories elicited such strong and varying emotions. I felt everything from fear and disgust to outrage and lonesomeness; from thoroughly creeped out to heartbroken. Most of the stories were so simple, yet so effective in conveying emotion, and that made it a very powerful book.

Honestly, it’s hard to pick my favorite stories from this anthology, but if I had to choose, I would say “The Daya Zimu” by Vanessa Nakayange, “Rain” by Muuka Gwaba, and “This is for My Aunt Penzi, Who—” by Idza Luhumyo were my top 3. These stories were so inventive and unique! I highly recommend this book, especially because it combines immense talented with the representation of overlooked authors!

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ARC Review: The River of Silver

Genre: Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: POC, Gay

Ironically, I recently picked up The River of Silver by S.A. Chakraborty for the exact reason the author wrote the book; I was going through personal issues and I needed some familiarity in my life. Like Chakraborty, I was excited to revisit a world I already knew and loved. The River of Silver turned out to be the exact mixture of comfort and adventure that I needed!

The book is an anthology of short stories that take place in the same world as Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy. There are stories for many of the characters we all know and love, that span a huge time period, from before the other novels to after them. It also included an alternative ending to The Empire of Gold.

Once again, I find myself at a loss for words to adequately describe the immense talent that Chakraborty so clearly has in abundance! I love that she decided to revisit this world and expand on so many of her characters. I was a little worried that I wouldn’t feel as connected to this book since the stories follow quite a few different characters, but that worry was completely unfounded. I ended up loving that I got a deeper look into the histories and lives of characters I already knew, especially Hatset’s and Rustam’s stories.

My favorite part of the book is that it is so immersive just like Chakraborty’s other books. I truly felt like I was in Daevabad while reading, and that feeling of escaping reality is indescribable. Likewise, I have only found a handful of authors who have this uncanny ability to fully transport their readers to another world.

Chakraborty has a solid place among my favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi when it comes out next year!

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ARC Review: Writing Gatsby

Genre: Nonfiction Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

After reading William Elliott Hazelgrove’s books about the Titanic and Cassie Chadwick, I was so excited to see he was publishing a book about F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby! The book was certainly enjoyable, but didn’t necessarily live up to the other two I’ve read by Hazelgrove.

I absolutely love the idea behind the book, to tell the story of how The Great Gatsby became one of the greatest American novels ever written. One of my favorite parts was reading about the publication process, and finding out that the novel gained popularity during WWII through Armed Service Editions. The fact that this novel that everyone knows and loves might have been unheard of if it weren’t for this book giveaway during WWII is astounding!

Furthermore, I thought Hazelgrove captured Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald exceptionally well in his writing. While I knew a little bit about the couple before reading this book, I didn’t know a lot, and Hazelgrove really made them come alive. Similarly, I appreciated that their depictions were not sugarcoated. While that made me like them (especially Scott) less than I did before, it was important that the book stayed true to their personalities.

That being said, I think the book was a bit unclear in some aspects. For one, it is not written in chronological order, which normally doesn’t bother me, but it was a little difficult to follow. Likewise, I enjoyed the fact that some of Scott’s and Zelda’s quotes from their books were included, but it was not apparent at the beginning of the book that these quotes reflected their relationship and real-life experiences. It would have been better if Hazelgrove had shared at the beginning of the book that Scott and Zelda later stated that some of their fictional works applied to their lives.

Finally, after reading the entirety of this book, I’m not sure that the title is completely accurate. While it is about the process of writing and publishing The Great Gatsby, it seemed like that took a backseat to Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s tumultuous relationship. Although this was still an interesting topic, it was not altogether expected based on the title.

As a whole, Writing Gatsby by William Elliott Hazelgrove was pretty good! His books about the Titanic and Cassie Chadwick are in another category in my opinion, but this was definitely worth the read!

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ARC Review: Forestfall

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐ Rep: Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian

After absolutely loving Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone, I couldn’t wait to read the sequel and conclusion, Forestfall! The book picks up where Lakesedge left off, Leta made a deal with the Lord Under to save everyone and mend the corruption. Unfortunately, the deal did not go as planned, and she ends up stuck in the World Under. The book revolves around her efforts to return to the World Above.

Devastatingly, I did not enjoy Forestfall very much. By itself, it is a great story, but the plot made absolutely no sense after the events of Lakesedge. Leta develops a romance with another character in the book, and this was the main issue I had. Not that someone can’t be in love with two people at once, but Leta’s love for this character in the second book was simply illogical and contradictive from what we know about her from the first book. This issue really influenced my opinion of Forestfall, and was the main reason why I didn’t like the novel.

That being said, Clipstone’s writing is absolutely poetic and lyrical. There are not many authors that have the talent to write such beautiful prose, and that was Forestfall’s one saving grace.

Overall, I would not recommend this book to those who enjoyed Lakesedge. Like I said, the story is good, it just doesn’t make sense as a sequel to Lakesedge.

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ARC Review: Shadowsphere

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Shadowsphere takes place after Bewilderness, but the contents consist of a character telling a story that takes place before the events of Bewilderness. In the novel Tavarian and Dexius are enemies from the same mountain village called Rethia. The Council that governs Rethia needs rokenstones to help improve the productivity of the town, but only a few citizens can breath the air of Rootcore, the unknown land below the mountain where the rokenstones are. When both Tavarian and Dexius are chosen to descend the mountain they are excited to become the hero of their town, but also not looking forward to spending time together.

While I absolutely loved Bewilderness, Shadowsphere was good, but not necessarily great. I think the main thing that bothered me was that it tells the backstory of a character from Bewilderness, but that was not apparent at first. I would have preferred to know this ahead of time, as I would have immediately felt more invested in the story.

The story was interesting, and once the characters started their adventure, I felt more immersed in the novel. It was a little slow starting off, and a few of the action scenes were a little confusing.

That being said, I really liked the characters, and the growth of the MC throughout the book was phenomenal. The characters relationships with one another were complex and tumultuous, and the found family trope was perfection!

Furthermore, I enjoyed the greater themes of corruption and the questions of morality that arose throughout the book. Although the plot was a little predictable, I thought it was interesting to feel like I knew more as a reader than the MC did.

Overall, I was expecting Shadowsphere to be a continuation of Bewilderness, so I was a bit surprised, but there were many compelling aspects to the story!

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ARC Review: The Christmas Clash

Genre: YA Romance Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Rep: POC

The Christmas Clash by Suzanne Park, is a cute rom com about Chloe Kwon, a young Korean American girl, whose family owns a café in Riverwood Mall. Unfortunately, Chloe’s nemesis, Peter Li, is never far away, as his family owns a competing restaurant in the food court. When the mall is in jeopardy of being demolished, the two must work together to save their family’s livelihoods.

After reading the synopsis of this book, I was really excited to read it! It sounded similar to Tweet Cute by Emma Lord, which was adorable. While The Christmas Clash was cute, it fell a bit short of my expectations.

I will say that many of the characters were well-written. Park did a fantastic job with Chloe’s and Peter’s character development, and they both felt very distinct and unique. Similarly, both Chloe’s and Peter’s friends also had memorable personalities. I enjoyed the fact that the friends in the story stood out instead of feeling like part of the background. Chloe’s friends especially were very supportive of her, and I loved that they knew her so well!

Sadly, I was expecting more from this story than it offered. It’s clearly supposed to focus on the enemies-to-lovers trope, but I felt like neither the enemies aspect, nor the lovers aspect, were done well. At the beginning of the novel, when Chloe and Peter are allegedly enemies, they are swapping dinners from their families restaurants. That, along with other details, suggested that they weren’t truly enemies to begin with. Likewise, the romantic tension was practically nonexistent, both before and after they became lovers.

Other than that, nothing about the book necessarily stood out to me. While I read an ARC version, a lot of the writing was incomprehensible, which drew my attention away from what was happening in the novel. As a whole, not my favorite read this year.

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ARC Review: My Name is Ona Judge

Genre: Historical Fiction Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: POC

Typically I am the one to recommend books for my mom, but she recently read The Girl at the Back of the Bus by Suzette D. Harrison, and couldn’t stop gushing about it! So, when I saw My Name is Ona Judge by the same author on NetGalley, I quickly requested it!

The book is written from two perspectives, Ona Judge, who lived as a dower slave to Martha Washington, and Tessa, a close family friend of Ona’s descendants. When Tessa accidentally finds Ona’s diary, she gets a glimpse into a life she could never imagine, and learns some life lessons herself.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that it is based off of a true story! Ona Judge Staines was one of Martha Washington’s slaves, and escaped to live in freedom for the rest of her life. Prior to reading this novel, I had never heard of Ona, and I loved that Harrison took the time to share such an important part of history. Hopefully Ona Judge will be a household name like Harrison mentions in the novel.

Additionally, I felt as though Harrison told both Ona’s and Tessa’s stories in such an eloquent way. While there are many books about slavery, I don’t think I’ve ever read one from the perspective of a child, so that truly made this book stand out. Similarly, I thought it was important that the novel addressed significant issues, such as colorism and the belief that slaves working in the house had it easier. Ona’s story dispelled the common belief that all slaves working in the fields had more difficult lives, and encouraged readers to recognize that all slaves faced different types of adversity.

Furthermore, Tessa’s story amplified the power in Ona’s story, but also stood on its own. The fact that Tessa found bravery through reading Ona’s diary was inspiring, and I liked that she did not compare her experience to Ona’s, but was still able to find the wisdom in Ona’s story and her own.

Overall, I will certainly be checking out Suzette D. Harrison’s other books! My Name is Ona Judge was a wonderful novel that speaks on both past and current issues in our society!

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Book Review: Coven

Genre: YA Fantasy, Graphic Novel Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: Queer, Sapphic, POC

I typically don’t read many graphic novels, but after reading an excerpt of Coven, written by Jennifer Dugan and illustrated by Kit Seaton, I could not wait to continue reading! Honestly, this book has convinced me that I need to read graphic novels more often!

The book is about Emsy, a young witch whose family moved away from her coven when she was young. She has a life, friends, and a girlfriend in California, but when tragedy strikes her coven in New York, her family forces her to move across the country. She soon learns that she is more powerful than she thought, but being part of a coven is not all fun and games.

Everything about this book was fantastic! When it was advertised as a queer fantasy graphic novel, I was interested because you don’t see that every day. The queer rep in the book really elevated the overall quality, and I loved that it was normalized within Emsy’s family and coven. While it is important to have books about coming out, it is equally important to have books that simply show queer people living life, and this book was a phenomenal example of the latter.

Furthermore, I enjoyed both the fantastical and mysterious elements of this novel. The magic system was compelling, and not too complicated. Watching Emsy discover more about her powers was fun, and it was endearing to see members of her coven teaching her more and being open with her.

Similarly, the friendships that Emsy developed were complex, personal, and inviting. She developed relationships with different dynamics, which added a lot to the story.

Finally, the illustrations in this novel were what really made it stand out. All of the drawings were well thought out and pretty consistent. Every now and then there would be a drawing that was simply breathtaking, and gave me chills.

As a whole, I will definitely be trying out more graphic novels in the future. I would love it if Dugan and Seaton decided to create a sequel to Coven because the book was truly fantastic!

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ARC Review: The Sunbearer Trials

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: Transgender, Nonbinary, Gender Fluid

I was absolutely blown away by The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas! The novel takes place in a world where the god, Sol, sacrificed their life to save the world from the evil Obsidian gods. Every 10 years the Sunbearer Trials take place with 10 demigods, who are almost always Golds. The loser of the trials must be sacrificed to protect the world from the Obsidians. Teo, a Jade demigod, is shocked when he is chosen to compete in the trials, but throughout his journey, he realizes things are even more complicated than he initially thought.

While I’ve heard people compare this book to The Hunger Games, I personally loved this book so much more. The trials in the book were inventive and action-packed. I found myself wanting to skip ahead just to see what the results would be. Likewise, I appreciated the fact that the demigods were ranked after each trial, and that those rankings made sense.

On a similar note, I thought the camaraderie in The Sunbearer Trials was phenomenal! Teo develops complex and multifaceted relationships with most of the other competitors, and I adored this human element of the story. Teo, Niya, and Xio were the perfect trio! They truly complemented each other well, and the way that they knew each other’s flaws and still had such a strong friendship was endearing.

One of the aspects I enjoyed most about the book was the queer representation. Teo, the main character, is a trans boy. The way Thomas used Teo’s wings to convey messages about what it’s like to be trans was moving. Additionally, Xio is also a trans boy, and he and Teo connected over their shared experiences and struggles. In my opinion, this connection was so vital to the story, and it shows why more books need multiple trans characters. Having two trans characters converse and connect amplified Teo’s and Xio’s experiences, whereas we might not have gotten that insight if there had only been one trans character.

Similarly, the worldbuilding was fantastic, and I enjoyed the way Thomas made being queer a normalized part of this world. There was both subtle and overt representation of queer people in this book, and we truly need more books like this, especially within the fantasy genre!

Finally, I loved the way I just got lost in this story! You can always tell a great book from a good book because you will lose track of time while reading a great book. I found myself shocked to reach the end of the novel, and obviously disappointed because I want more of this story now! I also laughed out loud a few times throughout the book, and I thought the touch of humor was the perfect addition.

Overall, while The Sunbearer Trials has been compared to other books in the genre, I can certainly say it stands on it’s own and has the potential to become a new classic within YA fantasy. It’s not often that you find a book that seamlessly incorporates queer representation with a compelling story, but that is exactly what this book accomplished!

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ARC Review: Kindred Kingdoms

Genre: YA Fantasy Anthology Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rep: Queer, Disabled, POC

As a whole, I absolutely loved this anthology! There were quite a few 4 and 5 star stories, and the representation was fantastic! My top 3 were:
1. The Necromancer’s Army by Agatha Lopez
2. From the Ether by E.M. Lacey
3. Dawn by Morgan Daimler

Weight of the Arrow by Erin Casey (3 Stars)
I liked that the MC is in the midst of a journey towards body positivity. I also really enjoyed the dragons in this story!

Daughters of the Jungle by R.L. Medina (4 Stars) 
I really liked that the story focused on both sisters, but it was from Yara’s perspective. I loved the magic in the story and the way Yara and Leku are opposites, but also connected. The ending was fantastic!

Enchanted by the Elven Prince by Sirena Knighton (5 Stars)
I feel like elves are overdone in fantasy nowadays, but I must say I absolutely loved this story! I will definitely be reading the full novella of this story and, if it’s not too spicy for me, I will be ordering Knighton’s first book in this series as well. Her writing was simply exquisite and the romance was perfect!

Kingdom of Blood and Bane by K.R.S. McEntire (4.5 Stars)
Another wonderful story! It certainly drew me in from the beginning. I really liked the plot twist towards the end of this story. The plot in general was interesting and I adored the main character, Sura.

Akin to Magic by Jessica Cage (2.5 Stars)
I was not a fan of this story. The writing was repetitive at times and inconsistent at others. For instance, one character is described as having the ability to wield fire, but a few sentences later is said to have no magical affinity. Additionally, the story itself was disappointing. I would have liked to see Adain stick to her decision to make a point.

From the Ether by E.M. Lacey (5 Stars)
The best word I can think of to describe this story is powerful. It was absolutely phenomenal and packed a lot of emotion in a short story. The plot was unique, and I appreciated the way the main character was disabled, but also had special abilities. Overall, this was a beautiful and moving story, and I will definitely be checking out the author’s books!

They Call Him Destroyer by John Wells (3 Stars) 
This story was good, but nothing really stood out to make it great for me. I wasn’t particularly attached to any of the characters. However, the plot was solid and the story moved at a quick pace.

Beauregard by LaLa Leo (1.5 Stars)
I’m not sure if this story is related to some of the author’s other works, but it was very confusing. Keep in mind that I read an ARC copy, so perhaps there will be significant changes, but the writing was so jumbled and inconsistent, it was difficult to tell what was happening in the story. There were some incomplete sentences and scenes that just seemed random.

A Mother’s Love by Kristen S. Walker (4.5 Stars)
I absolutely loved this story! Maylayna’s love for her daughter is moving and I think the story being told from her perspective made it better. I really liked that it highlighted the experience of a trans girl, showing what that is like in real life. It warmed my heart that Nestia’s mother stuck by her as every mother should!

Lucky Scales by Kat Zaccard (5 Stars)
I need more Avina, Saphie, and Finneus!!! This story was wonderful! I loved the fact that there were various creatures and beings included, and the three main characters, really made the story shine. Who wouldn’t love an adventure with an orphan, a dragon, and a leprechaun? This story seems like it could set up a larger series, and I’m sincerely hoping the author has plans on writing more with these characters!

Season of War and Blood by D.L. Howard (5 Stars)
I definitely got lost in this wonderful story! The characters were fantastic, especially Tiaret. Tia’s powers are very intriguing and I love that she forms a bond with a lion cub. My favorite aspect of the story was the theme of acceptance!

Heads Will Roll by Amanda Ross (4 Stars)
I really enjoyed this Alice in Wonderland retelling! I love that Roisin is a morally grey character. Ross did a phenomenal job of connecting to the reader’s feelings. At first Roisin’s feelings towards Allis are a bit alarming, but as the story goes on I felt myself understanding Roisin more and more. Overall, a great and unique retelling!

The Sword, the Scepter, and the Crown by N.D.T. Casale (4 Stars)
I have read a few of Casale’s short stories now, and she is surely becoming a new favorite author of mine! This story was cute and exciting. I’m always amazed by Casale’s writing because it is so vividly descriptive, which is by far my favorite aspect of this story. I can’t wait to read her debut book, which is coming out this year!

The Necromancer’s Army by Agatha Lopez (5 Stars)
If the title of this story doesn’t draw you in immediately, the first few paragraphs surely will! This is perhaps the most unique short story I’ve ever read, and I loved every minute of it. Everything about it was stunning; the plot, the action scenes, the characters. Not to mention the MAJOR plot twist. I did not see that coming at all! Reading that this is Lopez’s first published work is shocking. When I read a story this epic, I typically assume that it is written by a seasoned author. I feel this only attests to how talented Lopez is, and I cannot wait to read more of her work!

Dawn by Morgan Daimler (5 Stars)
As a fan of fairytale retellings, I absolutely loved this Beauty and the Beast meets a gender-swapped The Boy Who Cried Wolf retelling! Una was a perfect character! As someone who also uses a cane, I really liked the representation and felt as though I related to her a lot. Similarly, I liked how Daimler points out that the elderly, like the disabled, are often overlooked. Marie and Una were the perfect team. The story was beautiful, and I would have love to read more about Una! 

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ARC Review: The Liar’s Crown

Genre: Fairytale Retelling Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

As usual, as soon as I heard the word “retelling” I immediately requested The Liar’s Crown by Abigail Owen on NetGalley. While I’m not typically a huge fan of romantic fantasy, I absolutely loved this book!

Meren is a princess, but no one is allowed to know about her. There are a set of twin girls born in the royal family every other generation, and the second-born is always raised to give her life to protect the future queen. Meren is no different. She knows that her sole purpose in life is to protect her sister from the evil king, Eidolon, but when Meren is kidnapped things go awry quickly.

I adored so many things about this wonderful book! Probably my favorite aspect is that the plot is not lost to the romance. That is definitely the biggest issue I run into with romantic fantasy novels, but The Liar’s Crown was the opposite. The romance was well thought out, and more importantly, the plot was the main focus of the novel. Usually I feel like you end up sacrificing one or the other; either you have a great romance with little plot, or a great plot with no romance, but this book balanced the two perfectly!

Furthermore, Meren was a phenomenal character! She felt so realistic and very three-dimensional. Her character growth was fun to read and extremely complex. Similarly, I was initially worried because the romance seemed to rely heavily on Stockholm Syndrome, which should not be romanticized, but the author was really clever about handling this, and the romance did not feel creepy to me at all.

The entire book was written so eloquently, but the ending was everything! It doesn’t really leave you with a cliffhanger, but I’ll just say the characters are in precarious situations towards the end of the book. However, Owen adds, what I think is the perfect detail, at the end that gives the reader hope while also building intrigue for the next book!

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys romance, fantasy, or retellings!

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ARC Review: Three Kisses, One Midnight

Genre: YA Romance/YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, and Evelyn Skye is a cute atmospheric romance novel that includes 3 connected stories. The 3 stories follow Onny, Ash, and True on Halloween night, four hundred years after their town, Moon Ridge, was founded. All three have complicated histories with relationships, but they just might be destined to find love on this mysterious and spooky night.

Sometimes I’m just in a mood where I want to read a lighthearted romance. Prior to reading Three Kisses, One Midnight I did not realize that I needed a lighthearted spooky romance novel in my life! The cute stories of romance along with the ghostly details turned out to be the perfect mixture for a fun, easy read! I cannot recommend this book enough if you want romance and Halloween/Autumn vibes!

While the book follows three characters on one night, it is really 3 separate stories. The first one, which follows Onny was absolutely fabulous! I adored the enemies-to-lovers trope, which is honestly unusual for me. However, the romance in that story simply felt right. Onny was an eccentric and spontaneous character, I simply couldn’t get enough of her!

The second story follows Ash, who is a shy and artistic guy, pining after his next door neighbor. While the love story was cute, it was my least favorite out of the three. I didn’t particularly feel the sparks flying between Ash and his love interest, so the story was okay, but not necessarily great.

Finally, the third story follows True, a girl who is unapologetically skeptical about anything supernatural. Her romance was cute, but I really loved her character more than anything else. She relies on evidence and data, but when possibly paranormal events occur, she is stuck between relying on her logical instincts and giving into her curiosity. I certainly felt like True was such a relatable character, which made that story enticing.

Overall, I found the book to be entertaining, and a quick read. It would be perfect for people who enjoy romance, but also for anyone that loves the spooky aesthetics of Halloween!

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ARC Review: The Stars Between Us

Genre: YA Romance/YA SciFi Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Vika Hale is willing to do anything so she can live a life of wealth and abundance. Her and her family have lived a life of poverty on Philomenus for far too long, and Vika wants more for her life. However, when she is offered the chance to live a wealthy life after a famous billionaire essentially requires his son to marry Vika in order to inherit his fortune in his father’s will, Vika is not so sure that a wealthy life is worth a loveless marriage and her dignity. Little does she know that events will unfold and make her life much more complicated than she could ever have imagined.

As a whole, I really enjoyed The Stars Between Us by Cristin Terrill. The plot was predictable, but fun to read and I enjoyed the premise of the story. I will say that I found myself a little bored at many points throughout the novel. For the first 30% of the novel, I wasn’t sure who I should ship Vika with, so it lagged a bit. Once Terrill introduced a few romantic scenes between Vika and her love interest, I was more attentive, but I felt like there wasn’t enough romantic tension.

Additionally, I enjoyed the characters for the most part. I appreciated that Vika is a little selfish and not your typical protagonist. Other than that, I liked the other characters, but didn’t feel as though they necessarily stood out.

The mystery element in the novel was good, but again, highly predictable. This book is great if you want a quick and easy read. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are looking for surprising plot twists or a riveting romance, but as a whole, it was pretty good. Overall, The Stars Between Us was one of those books that was good while I was reading it, but nothing particularly stands out that would make it great.

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ARC Review: All of Our Demise

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

So many of us have been anxiously awaiting the release of All of Our Demise by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman! With the shocking ending to All of Us Villains, I was also excited to get my hands on the conclusion to this duology!

The plot is a little hard to discuss without majorly spoiling you all, so I will just say that the book picks up right where book one left off.

While I did find the novel a bit slow, I was thoroughly impressed with the book as a whole. The aspect of the novel that I enjoyed the most were the villainous endeavors the characters experienced. Too often, I find books that advertise morally grey characters, usually have a redemption arc, which is disappointing. I want truly villainous characters who are ruthlessly evil! In this regard, All of Our Demise did not disappoint! There is deceit, betrayal, and even torture…not that torture is something to be excited about, but you know when a character engages in it, they are a genuine villain. In my opinion, some of the things the characters did in the book were past redemption, which was refreshingly unique.

Furthermore, I think part of the reason why I found the book a little slow was due to the fact that there is extensively complex character development. If you’ve read the first book, you know the novel switches between multiple POVs. By the end of the second book those characters are almost unrecognizable! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that not only pulled off phenomenal character development, but which did so for more than 4 characters!

Likewise, there was just the right amount of unpredictability that I felt surprised by certain events in the book. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is shocking, but it was still unexpected.

Overall, this book definitely lived up to the hype. Between All of Us Villains and All of Our Demise, Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman wrote one of the best YA duologies of all time!

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ARC Review: The Monsters We Defy

Genre: Historical Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

I saw Leslye Penelope at a virtual author event for another author, and she seemed like such a genuine and nice person, I wanted to support her writing. Little did I know how talented she truly is!

The Monsters We Defy is a historical fantasy novel that takes place in Washington D.C. during the 1920s. The main character, Clara, has “the sight,” or the ability to see into the world of spirits and communicate with them. When people suddenly start mysteriously vanishing, Clara knows it is up to her to do something to stop it, but she unwillingly picks up a few helpers along the way.

There are so many aspects of this novel that were simply phenomenal, it’s hard to know where to start! What truly blew my mind was the author’s note at the end of the novel, explaining that the story was based off of a real person, Clara “Carrie” Minor Johnson, and real events. Penelope seamlessly incorporated the true story into the book, not only staying true to the real person’s story, but also adding an element of fantasy that was believable and intriguing.

Furthermore, I am usually not a fan of paranormal fantasy, but The Monsters We Defy had a great balance of believable fantastical elements and reality. While the main problem that Clara faced was seemingly fantastical, it was clearly symbolic of the way Black people have been viewed as worthless throughout history. I loved how Clara was an extraordinary yet ordinary person who was determined to change this, both in her every day life, and in her quest to stop an evil spirit.

Additionally, I always love the found family trope, but I particularly liked Penelope’s use of it in her book because Clara is seemingly completely uninterested in having friends. This aspect really added to her growth throughout the novel, and her reluctance to connect with the other characters made those connections that much more meaningful.

Overall, there are so many other aspects of this novel that I could go on about, but trust me when I say this is a book you don’t want to miss! It certainly appeals to readers who enjoy many genres, and addresses important issues, such as racism, classism, and the importance of fighting for what’s right. I will definitely be reading more books by Penelope in the future!

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ARC Review: Send Her Back

Genre: Short Stories Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Send Her Back by Munashe Kaseke is a collection of short stories that describe the lives of many Zimbabwean women. Some of Kaseke’s characters immigrated to the U.S., while others are living in Zimbabwe, but all of them have a complex, and often complicated, story to tell.

First off, I was impressed to see that this is Kaseke’s debut book, because she writes as if she has been doing so for her entire life. Her stories are so detailed and descriptive. Each character felt unique and three-dimensional in her own way. Honestly, I would have been happy to read an entire book for each story that Kaseke included because the writing was simply stunning.

Additionally, I had to go back and check the genre of this book because the stories felt so realistic, I thought it must be nonfiction. While I can confirm that it is in fact fiction, I have no doubt that these stories are representative of the experiences of real women. Having the opportunity to see what life is like for women who are different from myself was eye-opening. I think most of us have preconceived ideas of what immigrants are like, and what Black women are like, but this book expanded my perception of humanity.

Finally, every single story was not only captivating, but also emotionally moving. It is a powerful thing for authors to have the ability to evoke such strong emotions in readers, but after reading this book, I have no doubt that Kaseke clearly has that talent.

Overall, I hope Kaseke writes another book soon because it will certainly be a must-read for me! Even if she never wrote another book in her life, Send Her Back is an amazing feat, the likes of which most authors strive for just once in their lives!

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Book Review: Soul Shade

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Soul Shade picks up right where Soul Render left off. I don’t want to spoil the first book, so I’ll leave it at that.

Not to be that pushy, annoying reader, but where’s book 3? I NEED it now! In all seriousness, I know that amazing books like Soul Render and Soul Shade take time, so I will try to be patient.

Soul Shade had all the action that I loved from the first book! That was definitely one of my favorite aspects of the novel; I was never bored because things were constantly happening.

Additionally, I loved seeing some of my favorite characters from book one grow and develop more, with the addition of some new and interesting characters too!

The fact that more soul stones were in play throughout this novel really added a lot to the book as a whole. It was fun seeing how the soul stones interact with one another and learning the limits and abilities of some from book 1. This feature of the series is truly unique and riveting!

Overall, this series has the potential to become classics in fantasy in this reader’s opinion! This is not a series you want to miss out on!

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Book Review: Soul Render

Genre: YA Epic Fantasy Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Have you ever heard that video of Owen Wilson just saying “wow” over and over again? Well that was me while reading this wonderful book!

Soul Render follows multiple characters, but mainly Will. After an attempt to fight back against the corrupt king fails, he suddenly finds himself with the powers of a stone made from one of the 12 gods, the soul render, which allows him to steal and/or obliterate souls. As if he wasn’t already in a sticky situation, the king will do anything to get the power of the soul render back.

Literally from page one you are thrown into action, and that does not stop throughout the entire book. I sometimes struggle with books keeping my attention, but Soul Render was so action packed that I felt like I couldn’t read fast enough and didn’t want it to end.

Additionally, the plot twists were fantastic! There were a couple I saw coming, but a few took me by surprise, and the one at the end… blew my mind! 🤯

The whole premise of the book was interesting, but the execution was phenomenal! The sequence of events flowed so well and simply made sense, and I lost myself in the book quite often.

Finally, the characters were complex and interesting. I enjoyed the dynamics between multiple characters and I found myself growing close to many of them throughout the novel.

Once again my TBR plans are upended because I don’t think I can wait to read the next book in this series! I rarely stick to my planned TBR anyway, but Soul Render gave me the best excuse to ditch my original plan and hopefully binge Soul Shade ASAP!

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Book Tour: Sunset Rising

Genre: YA Dystopian Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Recently, I saw on social media that an indie author plagiarized the work of another indie author. While I am very disheartened to see that happen in the book community, it led me to the original book, Sunset Rising by S.M. McEachern.

300 years after a nuclear fallout in the United States, Sunny O’Donnell is one of the survivors. You might think she be pretty lucky to survive such a disaster, but there are two classes in the biodome, the elite “Domers” and the unlucky laborers who live in the “Pit.” Being part of the latter group, Sunny’s life isn’t easy, but when she ends up being pulled into a dramatic farce with the President’s daughter, her life is quickly turned upside-down.

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The plot is definitely the aspect that appealed to me the most, as it was robust and interesting. There wasn’t necessarily constant action, but so many things happened that it felt like a whirlwind just reading the book, which emulated what Sunny was likely feeling.

The theme of government corruption was perfect and I thought the events in the book were realistic, but also inventive, which is not easy to pull off in a dystopian novel.

Furthermore, I thought the characters were well-written. I particularly liked Sunny and her love-interest (I won’t spoil who it is!). Many of the supporting characters were great too!

Finally, the ending certainly left me wanting more! I was bummed because I have so many other books that I’ve committed to reading, but I just wanted to abandon all my responsibilities and read the next book in the series.

Overall, Sunset Rising was a wonderful YA dystopian novel! I am a huge fan of dystopian books, and I think anyone who enjoys that genre will love this book too!

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ARC Review: Blood and Moonlight

Genre: YA Fantasy/Mystery Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It’s been a long time since I read a book that was so good that I felt compelled to skip ahead and read the ending, but that is exactly what happened with Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty!

The book is about Catrin, an orphan who was basically adopted by her town’s architect. One night, as she is inspecting the scaffolding of the Sanctum, she witnesses a murder. She is too late to help the victim, but is set on helping with the investigation, which may be more trouble than it’s worth. Add to the mix the mysterious young man appointed to lead the investigation, Simon, who is dark and complicated. On top of all that, Cat’s association with the investigation brings her closer to the magical and shunned Selenae, who worship the moon instead of the Sun.

This was the first book in a long time where I was urgently turning the pages, trying to read as fast as I could because the story was so interesting that I needed to know what happens immediately! The plot was certainly robust, as Catrin goes on adventures to catch a serial killer. Although I don’t read a lot of mysteries, this was the best one I’ve read in years, and it’s convinced me that all mysteries should incorporate elements of fantasy!

As I said, the mystery was fantastic, and would have kept me guessing until the end if I had not purposefully spoiled the ending for myself, but the elements of fantasy really made this book shine! The Selenae are essentially very mysterious, nocturnal people who secretly have magick. Most of society isn’t aware of the Selenae’s powers, but Catrin’s involvement in the murder investigations immerse her within their world, which added a lot of excitement to the story.

Finally, I thought the little bit of romance in the novel was cute, and didn’t take over the plot. I appreciated the fact that Catrin had ambitions outside of her feelings that develop for Simon, such as her dedication to her job, her friendships with Marga and Remi, and her determination to learn about her past. These aspects on top of the romance added a lot of depth to the story, and I feel as though the book would have felt incomplete if it had been missing even one of them.

As a whole, Blood and Moonlight was a wonderful book! I would recommend it to both fantasy and mystery readers, especially if you also enjoy YA.

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ARC Review: Into the Mist

Genre: Apocalyptic Rating: ⭐⭐

Unfortunately I did not finish Into the Mist by P.C. Cast. Honestly I really tried to push through and finish the book, but I simply couldn’t…. First off, the characters were extremely annoying. When I read an excerpt of the book, I though they were teenagers, only to find out that they are women in their 40s, who speak and act like teenagers.

While the novel is advertised as feminist, I did not get that from the portion I read (about 22%). Simply killing off most of the men in the novel doesn’t make it inherently feminist. Not to mention the fact that all the characters were extremely superficial.

Finally, many aspects of the novel were highly unrealistic. The characters conveniently had everything they would need in an apocalypse, which was a bit absurd. Likewise, there was supposedly an EMP, yet the characters claimed that electronic cars would still work as long as they were off at the time of the EMP, they were also able to use batteries and cell phones (even though they had no service), which wouldn’t be possible after an EMP. It really showed a lack of research on the author’s part because that is not how EMPs work.

Overall, I just found this book disappointing, unrealistic, and a little annoying.

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Book Review: Hotel Magnifique

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

It’s been a while since I finished a book in less than two days, so I’m so happy I finally decided to pick up Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor because I literally couldn’t put it down!

The story follows Jani and her sister, Zosa, who are enthralled by the mysterious magic of the famous Hotel Magnifique; a hotel that travels to a different place every night, and is full of magical people. When Hotel Magnifique comes to their town, Jani and Zosa will do anything to get a job at the hotel and leave their dull lives behind. When Zosa is offered a job and Jani is not, Jani is desperate to do anything so she can stay with her little sister, but she quickly learns that the hotel is not the perfect paradise she imagined.

I was absolutely immersed throughout the entirety of Hotel Magnifique! There is an element of mystery that really added a lot to the story and made the plot flow really well. On top of that, while the major events in the novel were a little predictable, I found most of the book unique. Specifically, the way Jani solves problems throughout the novel was wonderful!

Additionally, I loved Jani’s relationship with her sister. It made the tension in the novel much more urgent and I wish more fantasy books incorporated family. Likewise, Jani’s other relationships also added depth to the story. The found family trope was great, but I would have liked to see how it could have developed across more books.

Overall, I absolutely loved Hotel Magnifique, and I can’t wait to read whatever Taylor writes next!

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Book Tour: Amethyst Pledge

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was so excited to read my first YA book with Blackberry Book Tours, Amethyst Pledge by Leonie Rogers. If you’ve seen my review for the second book in the series, Dark Days, then you likely already know how I feel about Amethyst Pledge!

In the world Rogers created, every 15-year-old must make a decision that will impact the rest of their lives; pledge their service for The Lady, or choose another path in life. Only a few are called on to serve The Lady, but Kazari knows she is one of them. Once a person declares that they will spend their lives in service to The Lady, she chooses what role they will have. Kazari never imagines that she would be destined to become a Hunter, but that is exactly what happens, and she is quickly thrown into a new and dangerous world.

So many aspects of this book were absolutely wonderful! First off, the writing and plot both flow really well, which made the book go by really quickly. The storyline is action-packed, and I felt like the writing swiftly carried me through the events of the novel. On top of that, I also thought that the events that occurred made sense for the storyline and kept the novel interesting throughout its entirety.

Furthermore, I found many of the characters captivating, especially Kazari. There was something about her that I couldn’t really put my finger on that felt fun, yet relatable. She certainly shows some immaturity, but it felt true to her age, and honestly added to the book as a whole. The character development for Kazari was absolutely phenomenal.

The one thing I didn’t necessarily love about the book was The Lady and the religious aspects. That addition just isn’t appealing to me, and I felt like Kazari’s references to The Lady were a tad bit annoying. That being said, there was a point in the novel where one of the other Hunters subtly suggests some hesitation in his faith in The Lady, so I think it’s possible that Rogers could further develop this idea into something more unique and exciting.

Overall, I was so pleasantly surprised by Amethyst Pledge. If you don’t already know, I ended up emailing Rogers’s publisher immediately after finishing it to see if I could read and review the sequel, Dark Days. If you’re looking for a fast paced fantasy novel that has compelling characters and a robust plot, then this is the book for you!

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Book Review: The Light and The Loyalists

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

What a way to start out the Indie Fantasy Addicts Summer Reading Challenge! I connected with one of the authors of this book, in the Indie Fantasy Addicts Facebook group! I was hooked when I read “If you like The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer…” and I was not disappointed!

The novel follows multiple characters in a futuristic earth. The main character, Zara, is thrown into a course of events that tear her from her home and ask her to take on a powerful mission: save the fate of both worlds.
I really enjoyed the found family trope in this book, and I loved the characters. I can’t wait to see how the authors further develop the characters in the next books. If anything, I would have liked to see a character that was more morally grey. Either a hero that is clearly flawed, but lovable, or a villain that I love to hate would have been wonderful. Some of the characters seem to start out this way, but they come off as smug more than morally grey.

Furthermore, I appreciated the traveling in the novel. It definitely gave off Lunar Chronicle vibes without losing originality of its own.

Additionally, the events in the book certainly feel like they’re setting up the plot for the next book, but it was still interesting and fun to read.

My TBR list is way out of hand with this challenge, but I look forward to reading the next books in the Lodestar Diaries, hopefully soon!

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ARC Review: Little Bird

Genre: Adult Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐1/2

When I saw Little Bird by Tiffany Meuret on Edelweiss, I was immediately captivated by the cover and the fact that it has the “found family” trope! Unfortunately, the book didn’t really live up to my expectations.

Basically, it follows Josie, a 30-something alcoholic divorcee who is struggling just to make it through life. Her dog Po is the closest thing she has to a friend, and she doesn’t mind, but when a new neighbor moves in and a mysterious sentient skeleton appears in her backyard, her life suddenly becomes more interesting.

Josie, started off as a salty yet intriguing character. Sadly, this did not last, and she felt pretty one-dimensional to me. There was very little character development throughout the novel, and Josie’s personality quickly became stagnant and a bit boring. As a whole, I was really disappointed with Josie’s character.

Furthermore, I was genuinely excited about the found family trope in this book. It is one of my favorite tropes, and I honestly had not read a book with that trope that I didn’t enjoy. However, I did not really like the way the author executed the trope in Little Bird. Josie’s found family is apparently her dog, her new neighbor, and the skeleton that appears in her backyard, but she doesn’t really connect with any of them throughout most of the book. I generally like the found family trope because of the sense of comradery, but that aspect was lacking in this novel. Josie was utterly lonely throughout the course of the book, and that just didn’t fit well with the idea of the found family trope in my opinion.

Finally, fantasy is by far my favorite genre, so I was looking forward to exploring the fantastical in Little Bird. Disappointingly, the fantasy aspects in the book were minimal, and didn’t play a huge role throughout much of the novel. Don’t get me wrong, fantasy played a role in the book, but it felt like Josie’s alcoholism and social issues took the spotlight. There were a lot of missed opportunities that could have been explored more, and they weren’t. For instance, the origin of Skelly, the skeleton, was never fully explained, and the ending of the novel was vague in an anticlimactic way.

Overall, Little Bird was pretty disappointing… It wasn’t wholly unenjoyable, but it certainly fell short of the expectations I had prior to reading it.

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ARC Review: Not Good for Maidens

Genre: YA Horror/Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Not Good for Maidens by Tori Bovalino was off-the-scales impressive! I have not read The Devil Makes Three, so I was certainly blown away by the talent and skill Bovalino showed throughout the entirety of Not Good for Maidens!

This wonderful novel switches between two POVs; May who had a traumatic experience at the goblin market 18 years ago, and her niece, Lou, who grew up ignorant of the market’s existence. When May’s younger sister and Lou’s aunt, Neela, gets stuck in the goblin market, Lou is exposed to an entirely new, and dangerous world.

By far the best thing about this book is its immersiveness! From the first chapter to the last page I felt like I was part of the story and couldn’t wait to read what would happen next. I would frequently lose track of time while reading, and I definitely felt like the book was over too quickly. While I believe Not Good for Maidens is a standalone, the ending leaves a good opening for a sequel, so I will hold out hope that Bovalino might write one some day!

Similarly, the world-building was absolutely wonderful! While the novel takes place in our world, Bovalino creates an entirely new world within the goblin market. She describes it so vividly, and it added a lot of depth to the novel as a whole.

Finally, the representation in Not Good for Maidens is phenomenal! The main character, Lou, is ace, which was extremely exciting to read since I am also ace! On top of that, Lou’s Aunt May is bi and her Aunt Neela is pan. While the characters’ sexual identities are not a huge focus of the book, I sincerely believe we need more books that include this kind of representation without necessarily focusing on it. Regardless, I was elated to read a book with an ace character, and I related to a lot of what Lou experienced, which truly means a lot to me as both a reader and an ace person!

I could go on about this book for hours, but I will leave you to discover its amazingness on your own!

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ARC Review: All Signs Point to Yes

Genre: YA Romance Anthology Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

A special thanks to Inkyard Press and Bess Braswell for giving me the opportunity to review this ARC! When I read the premise behind this anthology, a love story for each astrological sign, I was so pumped! There were quite a few wonderful stories included in this anthology!

One thing I really enjoyed about this book is that each story lists the astrological sign it corresponds to, and some of the traits for that sign. I thought most of the authors did exceptionally well at staying true to the signs they wrote about.

Additionally, some of the stories were so heartwarming and endearing. They weren’t necessarily complex or deep, but sometimes we need to read a lighthearted love story! On the other hand, some of the stories completely missed the mark. I probably would have rated this book lower if not for a few stories that were redeeming. The ones that weren’t great were confusing, or simply didn’t make sense.

Finally, I feel really conflicted by the fact that the editors included a story based on the sign ophiuchus. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, there was a huge revelation within the world of astrology some years ago. Some people claimed that their is a 13th sign, ophiuchus. The story in the anthology is about a girl who can change people’s birth charts, and she is supposed to change anyone who was born under ophiuchus. It was a compelling premise, but I was a little disappointed that this sign was included at all. Most astrology experts have written off the idea of a 13th sign. While there could technically be as many as 21 zodiac constellations, many experts use the 12-sign system.

Overall, there were some highly disappointing aspects in All Signs Point to Yes, but there were also a few stories that were truly adorable!

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Book Review: Bewilderness

Genre: YA SciFi, YA Dystopian Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wow! I don’t actually know what it feels like to be in the middle of a tornado, but I’d imagined it is similar to what I felt while reading Bewilderness by Kevin Cox!

The novel follows a girl who has lost her memory and is in an entirely unrecognizable world. She soon discovers that this world is filled with dark and dangerous entities, and ends up accidentally traveling to yet another world while trying to flee. Throughout the book she faces much adversity, meets new friends, and has an adventure of a lifetime learning more about herself and existence as a whole.

There were so many things about this book that I enjoyed, but the depth and world-building were a whirlwind! I love philosophy, but very rarely do SciFi and Fantasy books incorporate it well, if at all. Bewilderness is the existential crisis that I’ve been wanting to read for years! The novel raises philosophical questions about our experiences of the world and the meaning of life. I feel as though I could immediately read it again and take away a ton of messages and ideas that I missed the first time.

While there were many moving and philosophical moments throughout the book, my favorite was towards the beginning when the main character, Ambrielle, briefly experiences a memory in which she felt as though she had a greater understanding of the universe for a split second. Cox described this particular phenomenon extremely well because I instantly knew the feeling he was talking about, and I did not think there were words to truly convey an experience like that.

Additionally, the world-building in Bewilderness was mind-boggling! Cox describes, not one, not two, but three unique worlds in such depth, that I felt as though I had explored them myself! Truly, the world-building in this book is a feat that is exceptionally difficult to accomplish, and can only be compared to authors like Laini Taylor and S.A. Chakraborty. I am excited to read the sequel, for many reasons, but mainly because I cannot wait to read the ways that Cox further develops and enriches these worlds!

The only aspects of the story that I didn’t absolutely love were the romance and, occasionally, the descriptions. I honestly feel torn about both of these things because I think they could be improved upon through development in the second book, so they didn’t negatively influence my overall enjoyment of the novel. However, I did not feel the chemistry between Ambrielle and Gavian. I would have preferred either no romance, or a stronger connection between the two characters. As I said, I think there is potential for development in this aspect, which could completely change my opinion of their relationship.

Similarly, there were certain points in the novel that went into great detail, but almost too much detail. Whenever I’m reading a book, I love losing myself in it, but a couple times while reading Bewilderness, the length and detail in the descriptions were overwhelming, to the point where I felt myself briefly disconnect. That being said, there is a fine line between too much detail and not enough, and I am a reader that would certainly prefer too much, so I can’t complain.

As a whole I was entirely impressed with Bewilderness! It addresses so many deep and significant topics, both philosophically and in a way that is easily understood. Overall, I know this book will stay with me for a long time!

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ARC Review: Dark Days

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Every now and then I read the first book in a series and I feel as though I need the next one immediately! After reading Amethyst Pledge by Leonie Rogers, I was dying to read the sequel, Dark Days, which is out now. Thankfully, Hague Publishing graciously sent me an eARC, fulfilling my urgent need to continue the series!

This is kind of a unique situation, since I won’t publish my review of Amethyst Pledge until June, with Blackberry Book Tours. So, I won’t spoil anything from book one, but I’m sure you can guess how I feel about it since I read the sequel!

Dark Days picks up a few months after the events in Amethyst Pledge, and I must say, it was just as riveting as the first book in the series. The main character, Kazari, shows a lot of growth throughout the novel. While book one subtlety emphasizes the physical trials Kazari goes through, book two deals with the emotional challenges Kazari faces. She slowly learns more about what it means to be a Hunter for the Lady, and the effects that has on her personal relationships. Similarly, she starts to come to terms with the events that took place in Amethyst Pledge.

Furthermore, the plot in Dark Days flowed really well. It really made me feel like I was going through the experiences with the characters, and Rogers’s writing kept my mind present throughout the novel. While the writing was occasionally a bit repetitive, as a whole, it was vividly descriptive and detail-oriented.

Finally, the aspect of the book I enjoyed the most was the way in which it alluded to the real world. While I felt a little conflicted about the Lady after reading book one, I appreciated the way that Kazari’s relationship with the Lady and understanding of the world evolved in Dark Days. Although I still don’t necessarily like the religious undertones, I love the way that Kazari’s belief in the Lady reflects the way we view the Truth in our world. I am excited to see what Rogers does with these ideas in book three!

Overall, I highly recommend reading Amethyst Pledge so you can immediately start Dark Days! They are such fun and surprisingly deep books! I’m so grateful to have had the chance to read an eARC of Dark Days, but now I am left urgently wanting to read the third book. Unfortunately, I think I’ll have to wait a little longer this time, but I’m sure book three will be worth the wait!

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ARC Review: Places We’ve Never Been

Genre: YA Romance Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another wonderful Kasie West novel! Recently, after powering through a YA fantasy ARC that I was not enjoying, I really needed something to get me back in the swing of reading. Places We’ve Never Been by Kasie West was exactly the book I needed!

Essentially, the main character, Norah is excited to go on an RV road trip with her childhood best friend, Skyler, and his family. She’s longing for the chance to reconnect with Skyler, but on the day the road trip begins, he is clearly uninterested in rekindling their friendship. On top of the tension between Norah and Skyler, Norah knows something is going on with her mom, and goes on escapades to figure out what’s up. As the trip unfolds, she realizes that everything is not as simple as it may seem, and she may have more feelings for Skyler than she realized.

This review is certainly going to be short and sweet because I can only say how amazing Kasie West is so many times! I have not read a single book by her that I did not thoroughly enjoy, and Places We’ve Never Been was no exception! The storyline was fun, and I am dumbfounded by West’s ability to create new plotlines. While all of her books feel similar (in a good way!), they have distinct and interesting plots and characters.

Additionally, I appreciated the added mystery of Norah knowing something was going on with her family, but not being clued in on the secret. It complemented the romance well, and kept the novel moving at a nice pace.

Speaking of romance, Norah and Skyler were absolutely adorable! While I would have liked a little more romantic tension between the two, I really loved the way their background played into their story. Similarly, I thought both of them were relatable and likeable.

Overall, if you read and enjoyed Kasie West’s other books, you’re sure to like Places We’ve Never Been, and if you haven’t read a book by West before, you are missing out! This novel is sure to be an all-around crowd-pleaser!

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Book Review: Bitter

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Last February I read Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, and absolutely loved it, so when I heard that the author was releasing a prequel this year, I was thrilled!

Basically, Bitter tells the story of the city of Lucille before the monsters were banished. It follows Jam’s parents, Bitter and Aloe, as they attend a creative arts school, Eucalyptus. Bitter knows that her city is in the midst of a revolution, but she wants nothing to do with it. However, when she is suddenly thrown into the middle of it, she starts to see things in a different light.

So many aspects of this book are simply moving and novel. I truly feel as though it belongs in a category of its own. Emezi sends such powerful messages through seemingly straightforward events. They show how emotional it is to live through a revolution, and fighting an internal battle of whether you are doing enough to help, whether the fight is worth fighting, and that it is okay to find other ways to help the cause.

I cannot put into words how Emezi portrays an experience that so many people live through today, in such a deep, heartfelt, and genuine way. They clearly put so much of themselves into this novel, and I could feel that as a reader.

Pet was so surprising and wonderful, but Bitter leveled-up even more. This is definitely a book that everyone should read and experience themselves. It gives an insight into an experience that needs to be heard more often!

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Book Tour: The Maker-Man of Merryville

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Maker-Man of Merryville by Pete Mesling is the first book I read as a reviewer for Blackberry Book Tours! I typically don’t read a lot of middle grade books, but one of my reading goals this year was to read more, so this book was the perfect opportunity!

The book is about Gilbert and Sarah, two children who anxiously awaited the opening of a new toy store in their dreary town, Merryville. When given the chance to travel to a new world through a mysterious portal, both kids jump at the opportunity; Gilbert because he wants to find a way to bring joy back to Merryville, and Sarah because she wants to make her father proud.

Overall, the novel was pretty good. It would be a great book to introduce younger readers to the genre of fantasy! I felt like Mesling did a phenomenal job at staying true to Gilbert’s and Sarah’s age, which is really important for me in a middle grade book. I think a lot of authors focus so much on the plot, that the characters don’t always feel like 12-year-olds, but that was not the case with Gilbert and Sarah.

Additionally, many of the supporting characters were extremely lovable. Snarl and Belch specifically were so endearing, and I don’t think a single child (and maybe some adults) will read this book without secretly imagining their favorite stuffed animals coming to life. Likewise, Ripplecot was probably the most compelling character, and I would be highly interested in reading a spin-off novel about him. His character was very complex, and despite being a secondary character, he added a lot to the story.

I did feel like the story was a little lost through the quick and constant changing of perspectives. Perhaps in a longer novel I would not have felt this way, but sometimes it simply felt like I was switching perspectives too often.

Furthermore, my only other issue with the book is not necessarily something unique to this novel, but something I see in a lot of middle grade fantasy novels. The book focused a lot on Gilbert, and fell into some potentially harmful stereotypes with Sarah.

I’m not saying that anything about the book was wrong or bad, but I would like to see more middle grade fantasy novels with unapologetically confident female characters. Sometimes Sarah felt excessively passive, and the whole idea that the reason why she wanted to travel to another world was to make her father proud seemed very confining to me. I think young girls need more books where they see themselves as independent, assertive, daring, confident, etc. All of the things that Gilbert was, but which were frequently lost in Sarah.

Finally, the strongest point in the book was the philosophical ideas that were introduced in a light, yet thought-provoking way. Throughout the novel Mesling incorporated ideas that encourage readers to think more deeply. I thought this was a great way to introduce younger readers to philosophy. This extra addition to the novel made it all the more enjoyable for me.

All in all, The Maker-Man of Merryville was a fun middle grade fantasy, that would be perfectly suited for introducing younger readers to fantasy and philosophical ideas!

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Book Review: Breaking News

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

While I don’t necessarily read a lot of middle grade books, I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed Breaking News by Frank Morelli! The book switches POVs between two main characters; Anthony Ravello and Liberty Lennon, middle school students at the Ridgewood Arts & Technical School, and journalists. The two seem to be enemies after $1,000 is stolen from a school fundraiser, and they are reporting the incident from separate newspapers, but as events unfold they might have to team up to capture the whole story.

So, I will be the first to admit that I rarely read middle grade books because I feel like I’m usually disappointed in one way or another, but very surprisingly, I adored Breaking News! First off, the entire book is told through newspaper articles, diary entries, and notes on an investigation. We never actually hear the story directly, which is a huge factor in this narrative. This book would be absolutely perfect to teach kids about biases in the news. As a reader, you realize that all the accounts you’re reading might be inaccurate, and you have to decide for yourself what is likely true, and what is a little deceptive.

In fact, the author explains in the acknowledgements that part of the inspiration for this story stems from the fact that we cannot rely on newspapers nowadays to report the truth. The truth is a huge theme throughout the book, and I appreciated the ways in which Morelli showed how it can be morphed, or just blatantly cast aside in favor of entertainment. Not only is this an important message for everyone in the world, but Morelli conveyed this message in a way that can be easily understood by a younger audience.

Finally, the most compelling aspect of the story was the characters! Both characters had a lot of depth, and Tony’s overall personality took me back to the days when I wrote for my middle school’s newspaper. Overall, they were simply fun and loveable.

Going back to what I said earlier, I almost always have issues with middle grade books, but Frank Morelli basically solved my biggest problem in two words: Liberty Lennon! So many middle grade books either don’t have female protagonists, or the female protagonists are portrayed as submissive, shy, nervous, blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are girls and women that have these attributes, in fact, most girls and women have at least some of them, but too many middle grade novels make the male protagonists something amazing to aspire to, and the female protagonists are like footnotes.

Liberty Lennon is the opposite! She is loud, boisterous, creative, demanding, outspoken, opinionated, determined, focused, and so many more positive attributes that are usually lost in female protagonists in middle grade books! Morelli did a wonderful job with her personality in general, and I think Liberty is the kind of girl that we should want young girls looking up to.

On top of that, Morelli also shows that Liberty sometimes has doubts, i.e. that she is human! I would say that Liberty can definitely be described as confident, but with all the crazy events going on in the novel, she ends up having doubts, but instead of this being seen as a character flaw inherent to Liberty, it is portrayed as part of life, and is experienced by both main characters.

Furthermore, I thought Liberty’s Dad and Grandpa Joe supported her in a way that didn’t take away from her value as a person and as a girl. They did not sweep in to save the day, they did not fix everything for her, but they were there and they believed in her. Young girls need to know this more than anything else; that when they fall down they have the strength to pick themselves up, but they aren’t alone.

As a whole, I was truly impressed by Breaking News by Frank Morelli! I hope he, and other middle grade authors, continue writing strong and empowered girls in their stories!

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Book Review: An Unreliable Magic

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐

I want to preface this review by saying that, while reading, I found out that Rin Chupeco made some racist comments on Twitter last year, and I won’t say that this did not affect my feelings towards the book. That being said, I tried to consider the book separately from Chupeco’s comments, but I most likely won’t be reading anything else by them, as I prefer to support authors who are inclusive.

***SPOILERS for Wicked as You Wish***

An Unreliable Magic picks up right where Wicked As You Wish left off. The Banders just saved the kingdom of Avalon, Tala just drew the nameless sword from the stone in secret, a prophecy foretold that there is a traitor in their midst, and basically all the characters have dooms (aka prophecies) that are both intriguing and vague. The main premise of book 2 is that OzCorp is engaged in some sketchy business in Avalon and the Banders and their crew need to find out what’s going on.

Frankly, I have so many issues with this book. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that the first book was certainly left open-ended, and I was hoping more would be resolved by the end of this book, but alas my hopes were misplaced. The few answers that this book gives, such as revealing the “traitor” and further exploring some of the characters dooms, were anticlimactic. Similarly, many of the open endings from book one were still left open by the end of book two. I can appreciate leaving some open ends, but authors need to give readers something to keep them going. Marissa Meyer does this perfectly in my opinion, especially in The Lunar Chronicles. However, it seems like Chupeco doesn’t even try to satisfy readers at all.

Furthermore, most of the book revolved around politics, even more so than the first book. Now, don’t get me wrong, authors can certainly incorporate politics into books to make a statement, but I personally read fantasy to escape reality, and I would say 80% of the book was about politics. The few action-packed scenes that were enjoyable were sparse to say the least. More than anything, I just felt like the incorporation of politics overtook the plot, and it wasn’t really what I signed up for.

Additionally, there are some characters in the novel that were likeable, but unfortunately there were so many characters and side-stories, that it felt hard to fully connect with any character. Many of the chapters go back and forth, following different characters, and by the time I would start feeling invested in one character by the end of a chapter, Chupeco moved on to another character in the next.

Overall, Wicked As You Wish was certainly not one of my favorite books, but it was okay. On the other hand, I actively disliked the sequel, An Unreliable Magic. While the premise for the books was interesting, I did not like the direction Chupeco went with the books. If you enjoy open-ended books that discuss politics, this would likely be a great book for you, it just wasn’t the right book for me, and I would rather support other authors going forward.

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Book Review: Fevered Star

Genre: Adult Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rarely do I find sequels that are as great as the first book in a series, but Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse was one of those rarities! If you haven’t read Black Sun, you need to ASAP!

SPOILERS for Black Sun!!!

Fevered Star picks up right where we left off in Black Sun; Serapio just unleashed the crow god’s wrath, and the first year of the crow has begun. It’s a little difficult to summarize the book because so many exciting an unexpected events unfold!

One thing I really appreciated about this sequel was the way Roanhorse further developed characters we already knew, such as Xiala, but also the way in which we see more of some of the supporting characters from Black Sun, such as Iktan and Ochi. The character development was clearly well thought out, and as a reader I genuinely connected with all the characters, which is honestly emotionally conflicting because not all of their interests are aligned.

Additionally, there are so many moving parts to this novel, but in a really engaging and fun way! You have the main characters from the first book, but you also get a deeper look into the different groups of people and how they function in the world Roanhorse has created. You become more acquainted with the clans of Tova, the people in the Maw, the Teek, the Seven Merchant Lords, and even the spearmaidens in Hokaia. Each group of people are so diverse and intricate, it makes for a really complex story!

Overall, this is one of those wonderful fantasy novels that simply consume you! I would frequently lose track of time while reading, and feel completely immersed in the story. In my review of Black Sun I predicted that Fevered Star would leave me wanting more, and I have to say that was correct! If you need me, you can find me obsessively waiting for news about the third book in the series!

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Book Review: Of Arrows & Anarchy

Genre: Adult Fantasy Retelling Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When I realized that Of Arrows and Anarchy by Morgan Perryman was a Robin Hood retelling, I was stoked! I don’t normally read a lot of adult books, but this one was fantastic!

The story goes back and forth between Lady Robyn of Loxley, a captain in the royal army, and Lady Marian, the Royal Healer. For the most part, the two don’t see eye-to-eye, but when the King announces that a tournament will be held, they end up having to work together on the preparations for the tournament.

Quite honestly, this book was one of the best retellings I’ve ever read! Not only did Perryman expand upon the original story, and add a compelling twist, she also incorporated important elements in her novel, such as feminism and the importance of class. Obviously, economic background is relevant in the original story of Robin Hood, but Perryman elaborated on the issue, and made it a central part of the storyline.

It was really interesting to see how Lady Marian never viewed class as relevant when treating her patients, and Lady Robyn helped her recognize the problems that were plaguing the people living in poverty. In a way, Marian’s naiveté added a lot to the story because she was so genuine and pure-hearted, but I also appreciated that she grew throughout the novel, and later on was better able to see the injustices in her world for what they truly were.

Furthermore, feminism was such a huge part of the novel, which is always a plus in my book! Ultimately, Of Arrows and Anarchy is a sapphic book, but not all sapphic books address sexism like this book does. The characters’ lives are basically dictated by men, who usually see them as objects, and both Marian and Robyn fight back against the sexism that invades their lives in multiple ways.

In the end, this book could have addressed these issues without including the relationship between the two main characters, but I think that would have taken away from the power that Marian and Robyn reclaim. Yes, their relationship is about attraction and sexuality, but it is also a means to fight back against the restraints and obstacles in their lives. Their love for one another is bigger than the problems they face.

On top of that, I thought the progression of Marian and Robyn’s love story was adorable! They were both so likeable, and complemented each other’s personalities so well. I appreciated the fact that their relationship was a significant part of the story, but that it did not overtake the entire plot. Not to mention the fact that this is the first book I’ve read that actually pulls of the “Touch her and I’ll Kill You,” trope without being overbearing, or feeling too much like the girl has to be saved. I did not realize I could enjoy that trope until I read this book!

Overall, I was so pleasantly surprised with Of Arrows and Anarchy by Morgan Perryman! If you enjoy retellings, or fantasy in general, I certainly think you will love this wonderful book!

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Book Review: Love From Scratch

Genre: YA Romance Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I will be the first to admit that I typically have high expectations going into most books, so when a book surprises me, that is truly saying a lot! Love From Scratch by Kaitlyn Hill was one of those rare and surprising books!

Basically, the novel follows Reese during her summer internship at a popular company called Friends of Flavor (kind of like The Food Network, but more social media oriented). When Reese meets the charming Benny, who seems like the perfect guy, she quickly realizes that her summer may not turn out as she had planned. She struggles to work through trauma from her past, while also striving to achieve her goals for her future.

On the surface, this book is a cute and food-oriented rom-com. What more could a girl ask for? FEMINISM! Love From Scratch incorporates feminism like very few romance novels can (and do). Towards the beginning of the novel, Reese says something relating to apologizing to feminism because she was not knowledgeable about cooking. Initially, I thought, “Great, another novel that mentions feminism once and moves on…” BUT NO! Feminism is such an important part of this book throughout its entirety, and I adored it! Not to mention the fact that one of the older, and wiser characters raises the importance of intersectional feminism!

Additionally, Benny was the romantic interest of my dreams! Like Reese, I think he might be a unicorn, but I loved reading the idealized version of a partner most people would die for. He was so in tune with Reese’s feelings and communication was clearly important to him. Overall, he was just amazing, and despite him feeling a bit unrealistic, I loved every aspect of him!

Furthermore, the plot was captivating! Reese and Benny being roped into filming a show was a fun addition, and all the events that unfolded afterwards felt perfect. There was even a point in the novel where I was thinking that a certain event should happen, and it did. The entire plot of Love From Scratch just felt right!

All in all, Love From Scratch was everything you could want in a romance novel and more! It was so unexpected in such a wonderful way! I hope Kaitlyn Hill incorporates feminism in all of her future books, because I will certainly be reading them!

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Book Review: Black Sun

Genre: Adult Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

After winning Fevered Star in a giveaway, I immediately borrowed Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse from my local library! I really enjoyed Trail of Lighting by Rebecca Roanhorse, so I had high hopes for Black Sun.

The book follows multiple characters at different points in time. Essentially, the story is centered around the city of Tova, which is made up of four clans; Carrion Crow, Water Strider, Golden Eagle, and Wind Serpent; who are led by the Watchers; Sun Priest, Priest of Knives, Priest of Records, and Priest of Healing.

Serapio is a young man who’s mother blinded him and killed herself when he was a child, as she believed he was the prophesized return of the crow god. Serapio is then raised to be a god, and is told that he must exact vengeance against the Watchers for Carrion Crow on the day of the Convergence. Xiala, is a Teek woman and Captain, who is mysteriously paid a lot of money to take Serapio to Tova in time for the Convergence. During their journey, the two become friends. Lastly, Naranpa is the current Sun Priest, but she is the only Watcher in history who came from a background of poverty. Her goal is to encourage change within the Watchers so that they connect with their people more. However, all three main characters discover that fate has different plans in store for them.

I will start off by saying that this is a wonderful book, but not something you want to read if you’re looking for an easy read. The sheer number of characters and their interconnectedness is a lot to keep track of, not to mention also keeping track of the jumps in time between the chapters. That being said, once you get into the book, it’s easier to follow along, and it really draws you in.

The plot is extremely complex and exciting, and the characters all have so much depth. I spent a lot of the book hoping that the characters wouldn’t end up in a conflict with one another because I liked them all too much!

Furthermore, the world-building in Black Sun is wonderful! The aspect I generally value most in world-building is a representation of diverse cultures, and Roanhorse certainly included that in this novel! When you feel as though you could get lost in a world that doesn’t even exist, you know the author succeeded in the world-building department!

All in all, I’m really excited to dive into Fevered Star, granted if it is anything like Black Sun, I know it will only leave me wanting more!

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Book Review: Akata Woman

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

I read Akata Witch and Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor last year, and absolutely loved them! When I heard there would be a third book, Akata Woman, I had mixed feelings because I generally prefer to read all books in a series around the same time, but I was also excited to revisit Sunny’s world. While I sometimes feel a disconnect after reading a book a long time after the others in the series, I was drawn back into Sunny’s world with the first sentence of Akata Woman!

The book has a very similar vibe to the first two in the series, but has a distinct and interesting storyline. Basically, Sunny and her friends are compelled to set out on a journey to retrieve an item that their ancestors stole. The plot was such an enjoyable rollercoaster of events, that I felt constantly captivated!

Sunny’s character develops a lot in this book, which is impressive because her character is also developed greatly in the first two books. Nnedi Okorafor is clearly a talented writer for many reasons, but I think it’s especially impressive to write such strong character development across three books.

Additionally, the incorporation of Africanjujuism is both authentic and magical. It is exciting to read a book with magic that is tied to a culture drastically different from my own. Nnedi Okorafor does such a wonderful job of conveying this complex magic system, and drawing readers in, no matter their personal background. I would say this element of Okorafor’s books is a huge reason why I read them, and I hope she continues writing within this genre and promoting Africanjujuism!

Overall, if you’ve read Akata Witch and Akata Warrior, then you will definitely love this book! If you haven’t then you are certainly missing out!

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Book Review: Stepsister

Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The synopsis of Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly drew me in right away. Cinderella’s stepsister cuts off her toes to try to fit into the glass slipper? What a novel twist on the classic story!

There were so many things I adored about this book! First off, possibly the most interesting aspect for me, was that Fate and Chance are actual characters in the story. Fate draws maps of people’s lives, effectively sealing their fates, but Chance steals Isabelle’s map in hopes of giving her a second chance. While Fate and Chance aren’t necessarily a huge part of the story, they added a compelling twist.

Additionally, Isabelle was a pretty likeable character. I appreciated the depiction of her struggles with her self-image. At the beginning of the book she believes that her greatest wish is to be pretty because she is used to being ignored. However, her wish slowly changes throughout the book. She realizes that people believed she wasn’t pretty because she was adventurous, daring, and strong-willed. She also comes to the conclusion that being pretty is not necessarily the most important thing.

Furthermore, while there was some romance in the novel, it took a backseat to Isabelle’s story, and I absolutely loved that! I enjoy fairytale retellings with romance, but I have to say, it was refreshing to read one that didn’t focus on romance. I truly believe that we need more books where a girl’s happily-ever-after is not a person, where she is allowed to have her own aspirations and dreams that are unrelated, or even contradictive, to love.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fairytale retellings or fantasy in general!

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Book Review: Gilded

Genre: YA Fairytale Retelling Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

YES, YES, YES!!! Okay, I am not going to lie, I was not a huge fan of Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer. My faith was a little shaken when I didn’t get the chills I normally do while reading her books. However, Gilded has reinstated a motto we can all live by: In Marissa we trust!

In case you don’t already know, Gilded is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. I attended a virtual event where Marissa discussed the book, and she explained that she felt as though the original fairytale went astray by having the girl end up with the Erlking. So, in her amazing retelling, the Erlking is the villain, and Serilda ends up with someone else (I won’t spoil it).

This novel had the classic Marissa Meyer feel to it. If you haven’t read anything by her before, then maybe you won’t know what I’m talking about, but if you know, you know! Serilda’s backstory was well thought out. Basically, she was cursed by the god of storytelling, which causes her to, spin stories, or lie. I thought Meyer did a great job at really incorporating this part of Serilda into her personality. It truly affects her life in every aspect, and defines who she is.

Additionally, the plot was enticing in that it felt drawn out, but in a good way. Sometimes I feel like some retellings don’t build off the original plot, so events occur in quick succession and the book barely feels like an expansion on the original story, but the plot in Gilded develops over 400 pages, and I couldn’t put it down!

Finally, the romance! I am not a huge romance reader, but Marissa Meyer writes books that have the perfect amount of romance for me! She is so skilled at developing them in a way that feels natural, even if the romance is a little rushed. It was absolutely adorable, and I cannot wait to see how Serilda’s relationship develops in book 2!

Overall, I thank the universe that Instant Karma seems to have been a fluke (possibly on my end because rom com isn’t my favorite genre)! I know this is selfish, but I hope Marissa Meyer continues writing fairytale retellings because no one does it quite like she does!

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Book Review: Greed in the Gilded Age

Genre: Nonfiction Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Very rarely do I use the word “perfect” to describe a book, but Greed in the Gilded Age by William Elliott Hazelgrove certainly comes close! A very special thank you to William for sending me a signed copy of this wonderful book! I can’t wait to read your next book!

Greed in the Gilded Age describes the story of Cassie Chadwick, aka Elizabeth Bigley, who pulled off multiple outrageous cons in the late 1800s and early 1900s, amounting in about $2 million of stolen money, which is equivalent to over $60 million today.

I absolutely loved everything about this book! First off, the story is extremely compelling on its own, but we all know that even nonfiction is not objective, and Hazelgrove tells Chadwick’s story in a captivating and enchanting way.

Perhaps the detail I appreciated most in the story is Hazelgrove’s depiction of Cassie. Yes, she is certainly a con artist and criminal, but in a time where there was a very narrow margin between legitimately wealthy people and criminals, the narrative truly makes readers question where Cassie actually falls on that continuum. Criminal? More than likely. But also clearly brilliant and innovative.

The way in which Hazelgrove tells the story leaves the reader wondering, “Was Cassie really wrong for trying to make something of her life?” We can obviously see that she crossed some lines, but when her actions are juxtaposed by those of Andrew Carnegie, we start to wonder what it is that morphs someone from legitimate to criminal. By the end of the novel, I felt as though Cassie partially got what she deserved, but I was also left with a somewhat mystical admiration of her too.

Additionally, Hazelgrove frequently referenced women’s positions in society at the time Cassie lived. This aspect is vital to the story, as many of us cannot comprehend some of the gender differences between then and now. I was also quite happy that Hazelgrove makes small suggestions that point towards sexism linked to Cassie’s case. For instance, the way in which many people assumed a man must have been helping Cassie, or the likelihood that many of the parties involved did not want to give an accurate depiction of what happened, purely out of embarrassment from being duped by a woman. These details were not only key to the overall narrative, they also gave women credit where credit was due, which is not the case with all nonfiction authors.

Finally, Hazelgrove frequently provided context to other events going on during Cassie’s life. Some nonfiction books treat their topics as though they exist in a vacuum, which is detrimental to conveying a complete understanding to the readers. However, Hazelgrove does the opposite, and provides relevant and interesting information about events that occurred during Chadwick’s life. From background information on Andrew Carnegie, to information about the Wright brothers, to details about Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. Hazelgrove gave such a comprehensive narration of Cassie Chadwick’s life, and it would not have been so complete without the additional information he provided.

Overall, the story of Cassie Chadwick’s life is interesting on its own, but William Hazelgrove has given it new depth through his thoroughness and talent with situating a story in history. I am never hesitant to admit that I’m quite picky when it comes to reading nonfiction, simply because nonfiction can become boring in the wrong hands. History is an important treasure that we should all treat as valuable, and some nonfiction authors simply don’t seem to have the passion to convey that value to readers. On the opposite end of that spectrum we have authors like William Elliott Hazelgrove, who clearly make it a point to convey the value of history in any narrative they tell. I may be a picky reader, but Hazelgrove certainly has one lifelong reader in me!

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Book Review: Our Violent Ends

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Okay, so if you didn’t read my review of These Violent Delights, I recommend reading that first, and also don’t read this review if you don’t want to be spoiled for book 1! If you didn’t already know, I was not a big fan of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, but the plot was interesting enough that I wanted to know what happened, so I did end up reading Our Violent Ends in December. As a whole, I enjoyed book 2 way more than book 1!

Our Violent Ends picks up roughly where we left off in These Violent Delights: The threat of monsters looms over the city, Roma hates Juliette again because she “killed” Marshall, and Juliette is keeping Marshall hidden in a safe house after faking his death.

I think the main aspect that improved my opinion of the duology is that Our Violent Ends was more face paced and action packed in my opinion. The first book felt like I read 350 pages waiting for something to happen, but events start unfolding quickly in book 2.

Additionally, I really liked the whole purposeful misunderstanding surrounding Marshall. Many YA books become annoying when one character is unnecessarily keeping a secret from others that could literally solve all the problems in the book if they were just honest. However, this deceit was clever because it was truly necessary to protect Juliette from Tyler, and telling the truth wouldn’t have solved the whole monster ordeal.

Finally, I must admit that I was glad to have less bugs mentioned in this book. I wouldn’t say that I have a phobia or anything, but I certainly found myself scratching my head during book 1. The monsters kind of evolve in book 2, and I appreciated that turn in events.

Overall, Our Violent Ends sincerely redeemed my opinion of the duology. If I were to based my opinion solely off of book 1, I probably wouldn’t read anything else by Chloe Gong, but after reading book 2, I’m curious to see what else she will create!

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Book Review: Myracles in the Void

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book was so bizarre, but in an oddly satisfying way! If you are looking for a book that’s a bit different from many fantasy novels that are popular right now, then this is the book for you!

Basically, the novel is about Gai, and his younger sister, Lynd. Gai and Lynd live in a place called Hop, which is basically a very small town that floats in the middle of the ocean, which was constructed to be a port city, but is now run down. When Lynd mysteriously vanishes after touching a red spryt, Gai will do anything to find her and fix their family. However, on his adventures he learns that fixing his family may not be as simple as he first thought.

This book was so refreshing! If you’re like me, and you read a lot of fantasy, sometimes the books are good, but you can’t help but to feel as though you’ve read the story before. Don’t get me wrong, I love classic, well-written fantasy tropes, but sometimes the plot feels so expected. Myracles in the Void was entirely unexpected!

I will admit that it took me a minute to get into the book. The main characters have a very odd dialect, which became endearing by the end of the novel. The complexity of the plot was so well thought out, and even though the book was a little slow paced at times, I felt as though there were so many mini adventures within it, that I never found myself bored.

Furthermore, I literally could not put the book down as the plot unfolded. Wes Dyson did a stunning job at creating a connection between the reader and the characters. One minute I felt like I barely knew Gai and Lynd, and the next I felt like I could have enjoyed a meal with them on Hop.

While the fantasy aspects of the novel are unique and enticing, the book truly shines with Gai’s character development and the messages Dyson incorporates throughout the book. I think so many people can relate both to desperately wanting to fix something like Gai, but also feeling broken at times like Lynd. The author created a bridge between these two contradictive, human feelings, showing that it is okay for us to be broken, and that we have the strength to move forward from that too.

Honestly, I could go on for days about this wonderful book! The themes of friendship, communication, mental health, family, and unity were so strong throughout the book. I personally think many people can write fantasy novels, but few authors have the talent and skill to integrate messages that we can all grow from into a beautiful story. Myracles in the Void is one of those rare books that pulls it off flawlessly!

ARC Review: The Poison Season

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐1/2

After reading an excerpt of The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford, I was intrigued. I particularly liked the idea of a sentient forest and a poisonous lake tying into a magic system. Sadly, I found the book to be a bit disappointing.

My main complaint is that the novel was extremely slow. While it did pick up a little towards the end, even the climax of the plot was not very compelling. Likewise, it was only 390 pages, but it felt like it was about 1,000.

Furthermore, I felt let down by the developments throughout the novel. The idea of a malicious, sentient forest was so interesting, and I was really excited about that, but I think that concept was very under-developed and didn’t add much to the story. Similarly, the poisonous lake was again fascinating, but I think the author should have spent more time focusing on these two aspects of the novel to add depth and mystery.

I will say that the characters were complex. Leelo’s relationships with different characters in the novel were dynamic and diverse. I thought Rutherford did a great job of adding a lot of complicated family dynamics, and the friendships in the novel were multi-dimensional as well.

Overall, I think plenty of people will enjoy The Poison Season, it just wasn’t the right book for me.

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

So many people in the book community talk about rereading comfort books, and up until recently I couldn’t relate. However, I found myself having a difficult time getting through any book on my TBR shelf, so I decided to reread one of my all time favorite books, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, and it was just as wonderful as the first time I read it!

The novel follows Karou, a girl who lives a mysterious life in Prague. She is a talented artist who sketches stunning drawings of monsters, and when her acquaintances ask her about them, she claims they are real. Little do they know, she was raised by the very monsters she draws. When angels come to Earth and start burning the portals to the world of Karou’s family, she is desperate to do anything to stop them.

Laini Taylor is an absolute genius! The originality of this story is simply mind-blowing, and I think it has become so popular in recent years that we often take this uniqueness for granted. Similarly, Taylor’s writing is both vivid and lyrical. So many of her sentences paint such a clear picture in the reader’s mind, and I’ve yet to find another author who does this quite the way she does. Her words flow like a poem, and I could get lost in the beauty of her writing.

My favorite quote from the book was and remains, “Wished are false. Hope is True. Hope makes it’s own magic.” If that doesn’t take your breath away, then I don’t know what will!

I’ll keep my review short and sweet. If you haven’t read this life-changing book yet, then you need to abandon all of your responsibilities to do so immediately!

Book Review: If You Could See the Sun

Genre: YA Magical Realism Rating: ⭐⭐ Rep: POC

After reading an excerpt of If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang, I thought I might have finally found a magical realism book that I would enjoy. Despite the fact that I have yet to find a book in this genre that I love, I am determined to find one. Unfortunately, If You Could See the Sun was not that book.

The novel follows Alice, a girl attending a private school in China, who finds out that her family does not have enough money to continue sending her to this school. While Alice is a perfectionist and overachiever, she often feels invisible, but is shocked one day when she actually turns invisible. She decides to profit from this misfortune by secretly accepting tasks from her classmates in exchange for money, but this plan soon goes horribly wrong.

The excerpt that I read was fantastic, and it ended with the first time Alice turns invisible. Sadly, the rest of the book was underwhelming. It felt like nothing happened for a good portion of the book, and then everything was crammed into the last 50 pages or so.

Similarly, I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it was absolutely horrible. Basically, Alice does something morally wrong, and not only does no one stop her, she argues that she shouldn’t be punished for her wrongdoings because she is poor. Likewise, much of the novel focused on her growth as a character, only to have her lie to someone towards the end. It just ruined all the character growth prior to that instance.

Finally, I thought the ending was a little abrupt. It left me with quite a few questions, and I was certainly disappointed. Overall, this book is probably a good fit for those who like magical realism, but I am still searching for a book within that genre that I enjoy.

Book Review: Secrets So Deep

Genre: YA Mystery, YA Suspense Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

When I saw the cover of Secrets So Deep by Ginny Myers Sain, I thought it would be the perfect book to celebrate this spooky season. As a whole, it was pretty good, but not necessarily great.

The book follows Avril, a young woman who attends a theatre/summer camp, which also happens to be the place her mother died and she drowned as a child. Strange events start unfolding as soon as Avril arrives, and she is torn between reconnecting with her mother’s old friends, making new friends of her own, and avoiding the legends of the sea calling women to their deaths that seem all too real.

I have to say that the ending of the novel was definitely my favorite part. Not because it was spectacular or anything, but more so because it felt right. While it was certainly predictable, it was still a fun read. I did find the majority of the novel to be slow, but I think that’s like because I don’t read a lot of mysteries and thrillers. I guess I expected it to be…I don’t know… a little more thrilling.

Overall, I think people who generally enjoy mysteries and thrillers will like this book, it just wasn’t the right book for me.

Book Review: The Elven Prince

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

I was so honored to have been chosen by indie author, K. Rose, for BookGush October, which matches authors with readers who can help spread the word about their books! I am so lucky to end up working with a wonderful author, who wrote an equally amazing book, The Elven Prince!

The novel follows Sebastian, an elf who is fourth in line for his kingdom’s throne. After he finds a treasure that can save his kingdom from an evil sorceress, he must travel to the land of the firekeeper’s to ensure the item’s safety. Along the way he meets new friends and enemies, and goes on the adventure of a lifetime.

First off, K. Rose mentions in the acknowledgements that her readers might have rolled their eyes at the many puns in the novel, but for me, the opposite was true! I am a sucker for a good pun and this book had me literally laughing out loud. I don’t know if this would be overkill, but more puns in the next novel would be greatly appreciated by this reader. (If I was punnier, I would have a great joke to add here!)

Furthermore, I love the epic feeling of this story! As a reader, you feel as if you are going along with Sebastian on his journey, and experiencing a fun adventure of your own. I particularly enjoyed the found family trope in the novel, and I can’t wait to see how that plays out in the next book!

Likewise, I think this novel sets up the sequel nicely. There are so many places K. Rose could go with the sequel, and I’m anxiously awaiting it! I would also be interested in a prequel that explores some of the other characters in the novel, especially Guy and Aislen.

As a whole, The Elven Prince was a fantastic novel, and I can’t wait to read more books in this world and with these wonderful characters!

ARC Review: The Gravity of Existence

Genre: Poetry/Horror Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

While I don’t normally read a lot of poetry, The Gravity of Existence by Christina Sng captured my attention with its title and cover! On the whole, it was pretty good!

It’s definitely a quick read, and didn’t even take me an hour to read the entire book. While I thought the poems were a bit disjointed and didn’t necessarily go together well, there were some that dug deep and truly made me think. Some of the lines in certain poems were simply so lyrical and genius, they definitely stood out.

As a whole, I wouldn’t say that The Gravity of Existence greatly impacted my opinion on poetry, but it was worth the read considering the short length and the handful of beautiful lines!