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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: Sands of Arawiya Duology

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

We Hunt the Flame and We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal have been on my TBR for a long time (probably since their release dates)! I finally got around to reading them in December, and they were pretty great!

I will preface my review by saying that, if you don’t enjoy slow paced books, then these books probably aren’t for you. While I enjoyed the story, I found myself having to push through at some points. However, if you’re looking for an interesting plot and complex characters, I highly recommend this duology!

Basically, We Hunt the Flame starts off with Zafira, the hunter, who risks the Arz woods to keep her village fed. She is the only person who has gone into the Arz and returned alive and sane. When the mysterious silver witch offers her a way to bring magic back to Arawiya, Zafira cannot resist. On the other hand, the Sultan’s son, Nasir, aka The Prince of Death, is sent on the same mission, but for the purpose of forever ridding the world of magic.

First of all, Faizal did exceptionally well with writing a compelling plot across both books. I find that a lot of duologies have somewhat of an identity crisis and oftentimes lose sight of the plot, or simply have boring plots. That was not the case with either of these books. The ending of We Hunt the Flame was both satisfying, and also paved the way for the events in We Free the Stars. Honestly, I have nothing negative to say about the storyline!

Additionally, I really enjoyed the characters! Faizal calls them a zumra, which means squad or gang in Arabic, and that was honestly a perfect description. These books certainly fit the found family trope that so many of us booklovers crave!

I wouldn’t necessarily say that the characters were likeable, in a sense that they had likeable personality traits, but they were likeable in their authenticity and general mannerisms. Zafira is a bit grouchy, but carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. I loved the way her character is initially juxtaposed to Nasir’s character in the first book, and then the second book focuses on their similarities.

Likewise, when I first picked up We Hunt the Flame, I was not sure how I was going to root for a character like Nasir, who was portrayed as ruthless and heartless, but he certainly grows on you! I also adored most of the supporting characters, especially Kifah and Lana.

Overall, I have to agree with the majority and admit that Hafsah Faizal is an immensely talented author! If you’ve been putting off We Hunt the Flame, do yourself a favor and pick it up now! I can’t wait to see what Faizal has in store for us with her next book, A Tempest of Tea!

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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!

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Book Review: Reclaim the Stars

Genre: YA SciFi/Fantasy Anthology Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Reclaim the Stars is definitely the best anthology I’ve read in a long time, if not my favorite anthology of all time! If you don’t already know, Reclaim the Stars is a collection of 17 YA SciFi and Fantasy short stories that all share the common theme of the Latin American diaspora (The dispersion of Latin Americans from their homelands). This anthology was so refreshing, and every single story adds more depth and novelty to the overall book.

Typically, I rate anthologies by giving a rating for each story and taking the overall average, however with Reclaim the Stars, I added another 1/2 star because the conceptualization of the anthology, and the overall organization were clearly well thought out. The book is divided into 3 main sections: “To the Stars” (SciFi), “The Magical Now” (Present Day Fantasy), and “Other Times, Other Realms” (Historical Fantasy). I thought the way the stories were organized really contributed to the overall flow of the book. I generally have a hard time finishing anthologies because I start and stop after each story, but with this one, I could seamlessly jump into the next one!

Normally, I mention some of my favorite and least favorite stories when I review anthologies, but there was literally only one story that I rated below 3 stars, so I would not have room to mention all of my favorites.

My favorite from the SciFi section was “Reign of Diamonds” by A.M. McLemore. It is about two princesses who must fight one another to the death, but they were secretly in love. The MC is determined to kill the other after having her heart broken, but things are not as simple as they appear. The ending for this one was absolutely perfect in my opinion!

From the Present Day Fantasy section, my favorite was “Creatures of Kings” by Circe Moskowitz. I won’t spoil anything, but the premise of the story is that the MC and her mother literally cannot die. There was a bit of a plot twist (which is harder to pull of in a short story), that I really loved!

Lastly, from the Historical Fantasy section, my favorite was “Tame the Wicked Night” by Zoraida Córdova. This was the longest story in the anthology, and it left me wanting more! It is about a boy who has magical powers that allows him to grow plants. When he rejects the offer of marriage with royalty, he is sent on a quest. The ending of this one gave me chills!

While those are my top 3, pretty much all of the other stories were outstanding too! There were so many great stories that not only show the authors’ creativity in creating worlds, but also have a wide representation in the MCs’ experiences, and identities. There is so much representation in this book! Polyamorous rep, nonbinary rep, sapphic rep, and so much more! I live for books like this! Overall, this is definitely a book you don’t want to miss out on!

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Book Review: Warrior of the Wild

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m starting to believe that Tricia Levenseller literally cannot disappoint me with her wonderful writing! I finally got around to reading one of her older books, Warrior of the Wild, and once again I’m in love!

In Rasmira’s world everyone faces a trial at the age of 18 to prove that they are ready to enter their profession. Rasmira, who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a warrior, and eventually the leader of her village, is ready for her trial. Unexpectedly, she fails her trial in an astonishing way, and she is faced with a horrible punishment. She is banished from her village unless she can complete an impossible task. Rasmira quickly learns that there is more to the wild than she thought.

Rasmira is yet another one of Levenseller’s characters that I absolutely love. She is overall just a likeable person and her general mistrust of people is relatable and surprisingly endearing. She is the definition of a strong female protagonist!

My favorite thing about Tricia Levenseller’s books is that I lose myself in the story, and this book was no exception. I truly felt like I was experiencing the story right alongside Rasmira!

If you know me well, you know that my favorite books have shorter reviews because I simply can’t convey the wonder of the book through my words. This is certainly one of those books, so I hope go discover Rasmira’s world for yourself! If you enjoy adventure, cute love stories, and quests, you will love this book!

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Book Review: The Language of Trees

Genre: YA Portal Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

I was so excited to read the sequel to The Land with the Two Moons by Marcia Soligo, especially after that ending! I must say, The Language of Trees was even better than the first book in my opinion!

Once again Marcia wrote a poetic and beautifully composed story. That is one of my favorite aspects of these books, that the writing is profound and fluid. For this reason, among others, I truly thing these books could, and should, become modern portal fantasy classics. While I liked The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis has nothing on Marcia Soligo!

Additionally, I really enjoyed revisiting so many of the characters I came to love in the first novel. Belenos is my favorite, but Olivia and Trevor are also very fun to read about. I found Olivia’s development from the first book extremely compelling. She grows so much from where we left off with the last book, and it is endearing to watch her on her journey through life.

Another aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was the development of the magic system. We get to see more of Olivia’s magic, and Tartae’s magic, and I thoroughly loved that development! A magic system can make or break a book, and I think the magic system in The Language of Trees adds so much to the storyline, and also adds more depth to the characters, and to Tartae itself.

I will be the first to admit that I usually prefer standalones or duologies, but the ending of this book has me craving a third one! I will be anxiously awaiting the publication of the third book, and in the mean time, I hope many people get a chance to experience the magic of Tartae that grips your attention and warms your heart!

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Book Review: The Kindred

OMG!!! My heart just about stopped when I saw The Kindred by Alechia Dow on NetGalley. Dow’s debut novel, The Sound of Stars, was absolutely phenomenal, and I knew all her books would be instant buys for me! I have to say, I loved The Kindred just as much as The Sound of Stars!

In the system of Monchuri everyone is paired with a Kindred at birth; someone who is connected to your every thought, feeling, and belief. The Kindred program was intended to create equality among everyone, leaving no person’s voice go unheard, but Joy knows better than anyone that inequality is not gone. Joy’s Kindred was a mistake; she was never meant to be paired with Duke Felix, but she can’t imagine her life without him. Unfortunately, she knows she can never be with him. When the threat of the Third Chaos threatens their world, Joy and Felix go on an adventure that brings their true feelings to light, and that could change everything.

This book is absolutely everything you could ever ask for! First off, I adored the fact that it is connected to The Sound of Stars. We even see a couple characters from Dow’s debut novel in The Kindred!

I certainly don’t have enough words to describe how amazing this book is, but it is truly a work of art. Dow has an unparalleled talent for writing stories that bring prejudices to light, encourage us to accept ourselves for who we are, and inspire humanity to be better than we have been in the past. She flawlessly uses aliens and other worlds to reveal hard realities of our own world. Perhaps the greatest aspect of her books is that Dow clearly believes humanity has the ability to change.

Honestly, if everyone read The Kindred, I think our world would be changed for the better. There is no conceivable way that someone could read either of Dow’s books and not be moved.

Additionally, Felix and Joy are the cutest! It was refreshing to read a story where the boy admits his feelings for the girl first. Joy was unsure, but full of sunshine at the same time, and her character felt so genuine. Similarly, I sincerely, yet maybe unrealistically, hope that Alechia Dow continues to write stories about demi, plus sized, Black girls! She does an outstanding job at incorporating the importance of Joy’s identity into the story, while also showing her simply living life.

If you’re still not sure about reading The Kindred, trust me when I say, you need this book in your life!

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Book Review: Tiger Queen

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan has been on my TBR for a while, so it was perfect that it was one of the books included in a reading challenge I participated in during November. Sometimes, when books have been on my TBR for a while, the novelty fades for me, and I’m not as excited about reading the book, and that was unfortunately true with Tiger Queen. However, as soon as I started the book, I wished I had picked it up sooner!

The story follows Princess Kateri, the only heir to her desert city’s throne. To prove she is worthy, she must defeat potential suitors in battle before she can earn the right to her crown. Kateri is determined to defeat everyone who challenges her in order to keep the promise she made to her mother; that she would lead and care for her people. However, Kateri’s last suitor is not so easily defeated, and she decides to enlist help from a source she never imagined turning to before.

I have to say that at the beginning of the book, I thought the author was going to ship Kateri with someone who was clearly toxic, but she didn’t, and that honestly made the whole book 1000 times better! The only thing better than reading a cute romance is reading a cute romance that has healthy relationships. Not to mention that I adored the simple, yet adorable relationship she forms with another character.

Kateri’s perspective was unique compared to other YA protagonists I’ve read. She is open-minded, and is willing to change her opinion on things when she is presented with evidence that contradicts her previous opinions. This is honestly not seen enough in YA. I feel like many characters think and feel a certain way, and they are dedicated to that stance throughout the entire book. So, Kateri’s openness was certainly refreshing.

Furthermore, the ending felt complete and satisfying. Much of the story had somewhat of a fairytale feeling, but ultimately Kateri was not living in a fairytale, and had to face some hard truths. Even at the end, she is still facing a lot of hardships. I really appreciated this aspect because I think a lot of authors feel like they have to wrap everything up in a pretty bow to please the readers. However, sometimes a realistic ending is more appealing than a pleasant one, and Tiger Queen is the perfect example of this.

Overall, this book is a quick, fun read! I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy, especially if you love strong female characters. I definitely will be checking out more books by Annie Sullivan! She surely seems like she could be another instant-buy author for me!

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Book Review: Furyborn

Genre: Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I have seen Furyborn by Claire Legrand mentioned by so many readers. I read Sawkill Girls by the same author, and it was also a three star read for me. However, I decided to read Furyborn for a reading BINGO giveaway in October. I have to say, I’m really torn about the book now that I’ve finished it.

Rielle can manipulate all 7 elements, but this power is not necessarily a good thing considering a prophecy that foretold of two queens that would wield this power; one the Sun Queen, the other the Blood Queen. Rielle knows if people discover her abilities she will be questioned and feared, but it is not always easy to hide her powers.

More than a thousand years later, the myth of Rielle, the Blood Queen, is no longer viewed as fact. The world of the Blood Queen is long gone, replaced with a harsh world ruled by the Emperor. Eliana basically works for the Empire to keep her family alive, but women are mysteriously disappearing, and Eliana’s loyalties will be tested. She is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family and survive, but she might be asked to do much more than she expected.

This book sounded really good, but I feel like the execution did not meet my expectations. Perhaps my biggest issue with the book was that the chapters switched POVs between Rielle and Eliana, but for the first 3/4s of the book, the two characters did not really feel distinct. For that reason, the first 75% of the novel felt really slow to me.

I will say that towards the end of the book, Rielle and Eliana became a bit more distinct, and the novel picked up a lot. I personally feel torn about the book because it wasn’t outstanding, and I’m not sure if I want to read then next two in the trilogy. On one hand, I need to know what happens, but on the other hand, I don’t want to spend 75% of book two and three wanting to be finished with it.

Overall, a lot uncertainty about this book. Only time will tell if I ever get to the second and third books. Maybe they will improve my opinion on the series.

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Book Review: The City of Brass

Genre: Historical Fantasy, Adult Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I recently read The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty for a BINGO reading challenge, and WOW! Rarely does a book leave me speechless, but this book was absolutely outstanding! It is by far the best book I’ve read since Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor was released in 2018! Unfortunately, when I read a book that is mind-blowing, I have a difficult time verbalizing its profundity, but I will do my best.

The novel is about Nahri, a girl living in 18th century Cairo. Her world is turned upside-down when she accidentally summons an ancient djinn. The djinn, Dara, immediately realizes that Nahri is not completely human, so they embark on a journey to the djinn city, Daevabad. However, Daevabad is not everything it appears to be, and could prove more dangerous for the two adventurers than they ever imagined.

Ugh, this book is just everything! The plot is flawless, the characters are perfectly imperfect, and the world building is just *chef’s kiss*! I read a blurb on the book that basically says it captivates you within a few pages, and I thought that was an exaggeration, but it certainly isn’t. Literally on page 4 I know this book had my complete attention.

The magic system and world-building are stunning, yet the world somehow still feels realistic. I seriously could not put this book down, and felt like I was holding my breath in anticipation of what would happen next. The ending has a pretty major plot twist that made me gasp out loud.

If you’re looking for a book that fully enwraps you into its world, The City of Brass would be perfect for you. When you finish, I’m sure you’ll be running to the bookstore for the second book!

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Book Review: Skin of the Sea

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A West African retelling of The Little Mermaid with Mami Wata as the protagnist? YES PLEASE!

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen is a debut novel that takes place in the 1400s when Africans were being forcibly taken and sold into slavery. This wonderful novel tells the story of Simidele, a girl who was recreated into Mami Wata by the Goddess, Yemoja. When Simi saves a boy from drowning she discovers that she broke an agreement that all Mami Wata must adhere to. Now she must go on an epic adventure to save herself, her fellow Mami Wata, and Yemoja. However, she quickly realizes that there is much more at stake then what she initially thought.

While the beginning of the novel is a little slow, it picks up quickly, and certainly keeps you on your toes. It was one of those novels that I got lost in while reading, and it truly transports you to another world.

I really enjoyed the way that Simi’s memories from her life as a human come back to her throughout the story. She struggles with feeling torn between life as a human and her reality of being Mami Wata. While I’m sure some readers will disagree with me here, I truly loved the ending of the book! This novel is the first in a duology, and I thought the ending was the perfect mixture of closure and leaving the reader hanging.

All of the characters were really likeable, but I particularly loved many of the supporting characters. The way Yemoja was depicted was really interesting because she is clearly a deity, and embodies everything that encompasses, but at the same time, she is really relatable and compassionate. This is definitely different than the way I’ve seen her and other orisas depicted in other books, and I really enjoyed this difference.

Also, Yinka and Issa are absolutely PERFECT! While they aren’t necessarily main characters, they are so well-developed and you can’t help but to adore them. Issa is so innocent and pure, while Yinka initially seems to be the opposite, but these two characters really stuck out to me.

Overall, I am extremely impressed by Natasha Bowen. Skin of the Sea sets the bar really high as far as debut novels go. I hope the second book is just as riveting!

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Book Review: Meet Me in St. Louis

Genre: YA Romance, YA Contemporary Rating: ⭐⭐

As Nelly says, “I’m from the Lou and I’m proud,” so I was pumped when I saw a book called Meet Me in St. Louis by Heather Schneider on NetGalley. Unfortunately, I did not like the book as much as I wanted to.

Basically, the book is about Stephanie who wants to go to college in Florida, but can’t afford it. She decides to participate in a city-wide scavenger hunt because the $100,000 grand prize could pay for her tuition. While trying to solve the clues in the scavenger hunt, she runs into Cam, the cute guy from school that she assumed was out of her league. The two of the instantly connect, and Stephanie has to juggle a new relationship while also trying to win the scavenger hunt.

Parts of this book were really cute. The scavenger hunt mostly kept my attention, and the characters were likeable, granted not necessarily unique. I absolutely adored all the aspects of St. Louis that the author included!

Sadly, there were many aspects of the novel that I didn’t enjoy. First off, one of the clues and its solution makes absolutely no sense. I don’t want to spoil the answer, but I will just say, simply because something has an equal width and height, it does not make that object a square in any way, shape, or form. A circle has the same width and height, along with many other shapes.

Additionally, the author made a comment along the lines of saying the arch casts different shaped shadows at different times of the day… All stationary objects do this. I don’t mean to sound rude, and maybe the author didn’t think this sentence all the way through, but it again makes no sense. The arch casting a shadow that moves throughout the day is not a unique feature of the arch.

Furthermore, I was elated when the protagonist mentioned the Disney Pixar movie, Ratatouille, because it is quite possibly my all-time favorite movie. However, the author interchangeably refers to Remy as a rat and a mouse. Remy is a rat. A mouse is an entirely different species.

Similarly, another aspect I didn’t like, which was wholly a matter of opinion, is that the protagonist claims that Finding Nemo (the movie that traumatized me as a child) “rivals” the cinematic genius that is Ratatouille. I know this is an opinion, but I never claimed to be objective. I’m biased… literally I write under the name “The Biased Bibliophile.” Defending Ratatouille is a hill I’m willing to die on.

Finally, I found that parts of the novel dragged on. Especially after the scavenger hunt was over, it felt like the story should have wrapped up quickly. Again, this is just a matter of personal preference, but I would have liked it to feel a bit more fast paced.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with Meet Me in St. Louis. I was truly looking forward to reading a book set in my hometown, but it simply did not live up to my expectations and had some factual errors that snagged my attention too much. That being said, the overall writing was pretty good, so I would certainly be interested in reading another book by this author.

While I think it is important to be honest in my review, it is always good to keep in mind that debut novels are not always 100% polished, and that’s okay. In the grand scheme of things, this book is a good place to start a writing career, and hopefully the author will only grow from here.

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Book Review: Noor

Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I really enjoyed Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch duology, so when I saw Noor on NetGalley, I was delighted. Overall the book was a pretty good read, and it had so many compelling themes and ideas, which make it stand out from other novels.

For a book under 300 pages, Noor has a lot going on. Essentially, it takes place in Africa, many years in the future. The protagonist, AO, was born with birth defects, and over the course of her life, decides to have operations that allow her to use cybernetic legs, an arm, and a device that is connected to her brain. When AO defends herself after being attacked in a market, she is suddenly thrust into the life of an outlaw, and she soon meets DNA, who ends up in a similar situation. Together they must fight, not only against the government and the mega-corporation, Ultimate Corp, but also against harmful stereotypes.

Okorafor has an uncanny talent when it comes to world-building. It can take many authors multiple books to truly develop a world, but Okorafor manages to do it flawlessly in only one short novel. I also appreciate the fact that the author finds inspiration in everyday life for her stories. Honestly, the world in Noor has so much potential, I could see many more books being written within the same world!

Additionally, I didn’t necessarily adore any of the characters, but they were at least likeable. For me, the characters in this novel were not what kept me reading, but I admired their perseverance and determination to change, not only their circumstances, but the world they lived in.

Furthermore, I enjoyed how the themes in the novel have parallels within our world. Okorafor makes statements on the commercialization and exploitation of African countries, the abuse of power by mega-corporations, and the way in which powerful businesses, not only financially damage small businesses, but also force customers to use their business by undercutting prices. Through AO, Okorafor asks us to imagine what choices we truly have when major corporations are sometimes the only available option.

Finally, my favorite aspects of the book related to AO’s self image. She urges us to ignore traditional standards of beauty because they convince us that we aren’t enough. She tells us that we should celebrate our bodies, even when they don’t fall into specific, glorified categories of what is considered “normal” or “pretty.” Ultimately, AO’s courage in the face of adversity sends the message that we can be the heroes of our own stories, no matter what circumstances we may face.

All in all, this book didn’t necessarily blow me away, but it was certainly worth reading. The themes throughout the novel were definitely the most compelling aspects of the book, and the world-building leaves open the possibility for more books set in this world. Noor will be published on November 9th, so don’t forget to preorder a copy today!

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Book Review: Serendipity

Genre: YA Romance, Short Stories Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

I would read absolutely anything with Marissa Meyer’s name on it, so when I saw that she was editing a collection of short stories, I was stoked! Serendipity is a collection of 10 short stories that each play on a different romance trope. The authors who contributed include Marissa Meyer herself, Julie Murphy, Leah Johnson, Abigail Hing Wen, Caleb Roehrig, Sarah Winifred Searle, Elise Bryant, Elizabeth Eulberg, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Sandhya Menon. With a line-up like that, I knew I would find at least a few great stories!

It can be difficult to review a collection of short stories because each story can be rated individually, but also collectively. As a whole, I would say the book fell a little short of my expectations. The subtitle of the novel claims that the romantic tropes are transformed, but most of the stories didn’t add anything new or unexpected to these common tropes.

On the other hand, I felt like there was quite a bit of diversity within the stories, which I greatly appreciated! Many of the stories were queer, and I certainly think we need more stories that represent queer people.

My average rating for all the stories was 3 stars, but I had a few 2 star and some 4 star stories also. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like any of the stories were 5 stars because most of them didn’t put a twist on the romantic trope in their story, and some were also forgettable.

I would say my top two short stories in the novel were “Shooting Stars” by Marissa Meyer and “Liberty” by A.M. McLemore. I’m not sure what I can divulge in my review, but Marissa Meyer’s trope is one of my all-time favorites, and it was written in a surprising and fun way. Similarly, A.M. McLemore’s story was so endearing and I like the way they incorporated cheerleading into the story. Both Marissa and Anna-Marie embraced the “twist” on their romance tropes more than any of the other authors in my opinion.

“In the Blink of the Eye” by Elizabeth Eulberg was also great, but I didn’t particularly care for the ending. Essentially, the MC didn’t end up with who I wanted her to end up with, and it was strange that feelings she had felt for years literally switched to the opposite feelings within minutes.

On the flipside, my bottom two stories were “The Idiom Algorithm” by Abigail Hing Wen and “Auld Acquaintances” by Caleb Roherig. I felt like “The Idiom Algorithm” didn’t really make a lot of sense. Maybe with a longer story, the author could have changed that, but it felt rushed and random. I also didn’t really connect with the MCs in “Auld Acquaintances” and didn’t particularly care for the plot. Admittedly, that trope is not one of my favorites.

Overall, most of the stories were pretty good, and I definitely think this novel is worth reading! It was a quick read that literally put a smile on my face. I’m all here for the sappy love stories!

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Book Review: These Violent Delights

Genre: Historical Fantasy, YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

After hearing a lot of hype about These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, I finally decided to read it myself. While the book was good, it did not really live up to my expectations.

Essentially the novel is a Romeo and Juliet retelling that takes place in 1926 Shanghai. Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov are the heirs to rival gangs with a bloody history filled with betrayal, but when a mysterious madness starts spreading throughout the city, they may need to put past events behind them to save their city.

Although I enjoyed the premise of the novel, the majority of the book felt very slow and uneventful. Out of almost 450 pages, I truly enjoyed only the last 150 or so. For the most part I feel as though the main reason why I didn’t find the book entertaining was more because of a personal preference more than anything else.

Despite the fact that the pace of the novel lowered my overall experience of it, I found Juliette’s character extremely likeable. Additionally, the supporting characters in the novel are absolutely endearing. Rosalind, Kathleen, Marshall, and Benedikt are all surprisingly well-developed, and really contribute to the overall plot of the novel.

All in all, I will likely be reading the sequel, as I do feel attached to some of the characters. However, I will not buy Our Violent Ends, unless I fall in love with it after reading a copy from the library. Chloe Gong is clearly a talented author, but her first book simply didn’t fall in line with my personal preferences, and didn’t live up to the hype in my opinion.

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Book Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter

Genre: Mystery, Suspense Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Clearly, I caved into the hype about Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley, and for once I was not disappointed! I’m not going to lie, 90% of the reason I picked up this book was because of the cover and because I wrongfully thought it was a fantasy novel. However, I’m really pleased that I ended up reading it because it certainly lived up to the hype in my opinion.

The novel follows Daunis, a young Native American woman, who is tasked with protecting her community from meth. She sees people who have become victims of addiction and violence, and feels an urgent need to do something. So, when she discovers that her uncle’s death was not what it appeared to be, she works with the FBI to help them discover who is running a meth operation in her community, and in other Native communities near her.

The one aspect of this novel that truly made it stand out is the way in which Boulley incorporated Native American culture into the story. In her author’s note, Boulley says that we need more books by Native Americans, and more books about them, and I couldn’t agree more! This novel was a genuine window into Native American life, and raised issues that many Native American women face.

The mystery in the novel was also very compelling. Especially when the author started revealing parts of the mystery. However, Daunis’s love for her community is what made the book interesting. It is clear from the start of the novel that Daunis cares about people in her community, particularly the women, who are often victimized. Throughout the novel that dedication and compassion only grows stronger, and as a reader, I felt moved by everything Daunis went through, to her actions to make her community safer, to her feelings about her family.

As a reader, I feel as though we come across many books that are written with sincerity, but rarely does that genuineness shine as brightly as it does in Firekeeper’s Daughter!

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Book Review: Seven Dirty Secrets

Genre: YA Suspense, YA Mystery Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

I was so excited to see that I was approved to read an ARC of Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards on NetGalley! I have all of Richards’ books, and have thoroughly enjoyed most of them. Thrillers are not really my favorite types of books, but Natalie D. Richards never fails to wrap me up in a story I can’t put down, and Seven Dirty Secrets was no different.

Basically, the book is about Cleo, who starts receiving strange clues in a scavenger hunt on her birthday. She quickly realizes that the scavenger hunt is related to her ex-boyfriend’s drowning, which happened a year prior on a floating trip for Cleo’s birthday. Not only does this scavenger hunt bring up painful memories and uncomfortable tension between Cleo and her friends who were also on the trip, whoever is sending these clues also seems to be putting Cleo’s future at risk, maybe even her life.

Probably my favorite thing about Natalie D. Richards’ books is that they are very quick reads because the suspense won’t allow me to put the book down! While a lot of the “big reveals” were pretty obvious, I still couldn’t help but to keep reading.

Furthermore, I really enjoyed the scavenger hunt aspect of the novel. I haven’t read a thriller like this before, so it was fun to read with the unique plot.

Overall, nothing necessarily stands out about this book, but it is an enjoyable and easy read. If you enjoy thrillers, or if you’ve liked Richards’ previous books, you will certainly like this one too!

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Book Review: Redemptor

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Once again I’m astounded by everything Jordan Ifueko fit into just one book! I honestly wasn’t sure that Ifueko could top the epic feat of Raybearer, but Redemptor was absolutely stunning!

Redemptor picks up where Raybearer left off and follows Tarisai as she attempts to fulfill her promise to the abiku by anointing the leaders of the 12 realms to her council, and then entering the underworld. However, her task turns out to be even more difficult than it first appeared, as she is afflicted by ojiji, evil beings from the underworld, and a revolutionary nicknamed “The Crocodile” starts raising legitimate concerns while also provoking alagbados across the empire.

This book has everything you could ask for and more! I personally really enjoyed the philosophical ideas raised throughout the novel. Ifueko urges readers to contemplate purpose, worthiness, and responsibility through Tarisai’s experiences. Perhaps the most powerful message that I took away from the novel is that our worth does not lie within our usefulness to the world or others, we deserve to live for ourselves as much as anyone or anything else.

Additionally, I adored the fact that Tarisai’s friendships in the novel are just as important to her as romance. It was especially refreshing to read about how her relationship with Dayo developed, considering how rarely authors write platonic relationships between female and male characters. Tarisai’s romantic life also flourished in this book, but it did not take center stage, a detail that I particularly appreciated.

Furthermore, the novel was action-packed and held my attention the whole way through. I enjoyed the fact that Ifueko incorporated details about Dayo’s asexuality, and his acceptance from other characters.

Overall, if you liked Raybearer, you will certainly love Redemptor! Jordan Ifueko has raised the bar for all fantasy novels!

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Book Review: The Portals of Tartae

Genre: YA Fantasy, Portal Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

After connecting with the author on Facebook, I was extremely excited to dive into The Portals of Tartae by Marcia Soligo! Marcia graciously sent me a signed copy of her wonderful novel, and I have to say, it was such a pleasant surprise!

The novel is about Olivia Halin, a young girl who is suddenly thrust into a seemingly unknown world, named Tartae, with her best friend, Trevor. Olivia and Trevor soon discover that there is something strange and magical about this world with two moons. The two go on many adventures in Tartae and are tasked with a huge challenge that puts the fate of both Tartae, and their own world, in their hands.

Honestly, if I were describing this book to someone, I would say it is similar to The Chronicles of Narnia, only it’s more modern and ultimately higher quality! The Portals of Tartae gives the reader that same whimsical feeling, that you get when you experience another world through a book. However, there were so many ways in which this book raised the bar for portal fantasy.

First of all, the writing in this novel is poetic, and absolutely breathtaking at certain points! On top of that, the themes throughout the book of conquering evil and appreciating nature (among others), are so inspirational and are flawlessly intertwined with the plot. This book has so much depth, that I feel as though I could read it again and find countless more hidden treasures within its pages!

Additionally, the characters were very likeable in so many ways, but Olivia truly shined as the protagonist! From the outset of the book I felt as though Olivia was very easy to relate to. Her feelings were similar to feelings that many people experience in their lives, and I soon became invested in her story. Soligo clearly put a lot of work into developing Olivia, and all the other characters in the novel.

I also enjoyed the little romantic details of Olivia’s life, but I appreciated that the romance did not overtake the plot of the story. Similarly, I love that Olivia’s best friend is a boy, and that their relationship was both deep and platonic. While I occasionally enjoy the friends-to-lovers trope, I think it is used a lot, and Olivia’s relationship with Trevor felt perfect in my opinion.

Overall, I think The Portals of Tartae is a highly underrated book that has the potential to become a modern classic portal fantasy novel! I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to read and review this wonderful hidden gem, and I hope many others get the chance to discover the magic that I experienced while reading this book!

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Book Review: Lakesedge

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was beyond excited when I received an email from NetGalley saying that my wish for Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone was granted! I heard that this book was going to be in one of the monthly book boxes I’m subscribed to, so I was elated to have the chance to read it early! This gothic fantasy has everything you could want, including spooky vibes perfect for this Autumn season!

When the lord of her village demands that Leta’s brother come live with him at the mysterious estate of Lakesedge, Leta is not about to let her brother go alone. She’s not sure what is more dangerous, the spine-tingling visions she’s had since arriving at the manor, or the lord himself, nicknamed the Monster. Not to mention her chilling encounters with the Lord Under, who Leta has not seen since she was lost in the woods as a child. However, as she starts to uncover more of Lakesedge’s secrets, Leta begins to believe that their is more to the Monster than meets the eye. But how can Leta balance her complicated ties to the underworld with keeping her loved ones safe?

Normally when I read I take notes because I want to remember what I plan on including in the review, but Lakesedge is one of those rare books that completely drew me in, and I couldn’t stop reading to take notes. The story is truly all-encompassing, and you really feel like you’re at Lakesedge with Leta. The overall tone of this book is so darkly enticing that you feel as though you want to live in this world.

In my opinion, the details and descriptions throughout the novel made it stand out. While there wasn’t necessarily a lot of world building, the descriptions gave me such a vivid picture of Lakesedge. Lakesedge is like a world in and of itself.

Furthermore, there were not many characters, but the few main characters in the novel were well-developed and relatable. I adored the fact that Leta was conflicted about loving a monster. Most novels focus on the protagonist loving the person behind the monster, but Leta loved the person and the monster, which was a unique twist.

I honestly don’t have enough words to accurately convey how wonderful and creepy this book was! I will certainly be displaying this book on my shelf when I get it in my book box, and recommending it whenever people are looking for spooky reads that draw you into the story. Lakesedge will be published next Tuesday, September 28th, and this is certainly a book you don’t want to miss!

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Book Review: If You, Then Me

Genre: YA Contemporary, YA Romance Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I recently borrowed If You, Then Me by Yvonne Woon from the library, solely based on the title, and it was such an enjoyable and wholesome book! If you’re looking for a lighthearted or quick read with some cute romance, then this is the book for you!

The novel follows Xia, a high school student who was recently accepted into her dream school, which is also a competition for young app developers. Only 20 students are accepted, and at the end of the year one student is awarded a million dollars to start their company. Xia knows she has what it takes to succeed at the Foundry, and her AI app, Wiser is top notch. However, when Xia starts to see that the life of an app developer may not be as simple as she imagined, she questions her path at the Foundry.

If You, Then Me had so many fun and interesting aspects. I truly enjoyed reading about Xia’s struggles with finding her place within the career she aspires to. She was such a likeable and relatable character, that you can’t hep but to root for her!

Additionally, there was just enough romance in the novel to be cute, but not too much that it took over the plot. The romantic aspects added to Xia’s adversities with finding her place in the world, and her journey showed so much growth throughout the novel.

Overall, If You, Then Me was a wonderful and lighthearted book that told a unique story!

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Book Review: Sawkill Girls

Genre: Horror, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, YA Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand was yet another book I was avoiding since I’ve seen so much hype about it, but when The Novel Neighbor recommended it to me, I finally decided to pick it up. Overall, this book was certainly unexpected and had a good balance of suspense and horror. Definitely a great book if you’re looking for something spooky this Fall!

The book is told from 3 alternating perspectives: Marion, who just moved to Sawkill Island with her mother and sister, Zoey, the outspoken daughter of Sawkill’s sheriff, and Val, the popular girl who seemingly gets everything she wants. Girls have gone missing in Sawkill for as long as anyone can remember, but it becomes personal when Zoey’s best friend goes missing, and shortly after Marion’s sister disappears too. The two team up, determined to figure out what’s going on, but they soon realize that the mystery they are trying to solve is much darker and deeper than they ever imagined.

The mystery aspect of the novel really kept my attention throughout the whole story. The author did a superb job of giving the reader enough information to keep them captivated, while still leaving a big reveal for the end of the novel. From the start of this book, it is clear that something mysterious and mystical is happening in Sawkill. That fantasy aspect also encouraged me to keep reading.

Overall, the characters were pretty likeable, but I felt like their dynamics with one another was what made the novel truly stand out. As a reader I could feel the tension between the characters, and the emotions they felt were portrayed in a genuine manner. It definitely made the characters more relatable. Despite the alternating POVs, I felt like each character was unique and distinct. While there were sometimes conflicts between the characters, I still felt empathetic towards whichever character’s perspective I was reading.

All in all, horror and suspense aren’t necessarily my favorite genre, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I highly recommend it to anyone who also appreciates aspects of fantasy within horror!

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Book Review: 11/22/63

Genre: Sci-Fi, Historical Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Whenever I’m in the mood to read a long book, it’s always a struggle to find the right one. When you’re reading 500+ pages, you want to be sure that you’re not wasting your time. While Stephen King novels are a hit or a miss for me, I thoroughly enjoyed 11/22/63!

In my opinion, you have to be a talented author to write a book over 800 pages and not lose your readers. I was certainly invested throughout the entirety of 11/22/63. The story was slow, but didn’t necessarily feel like it was dragging. I also think longer books can be advantageous because there is more room to develop characters.

I would not recommend reading 11/22/63 if you are in a reading slump, but it is the perfect book to read over time. It’s nice to read a little every day because I felt more invested in the story.

Additionally, this book had elements that appeal to many different readers. The time travel aspect is ideal for Sci-Fi lovers, while the time period is perfect for readers who prefer historical fiction.

Overall, a pretty good read!

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Book Review: Raybearer

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

When The Novel Neighbor announced that they were doing a virtual event with Jordan Ifeuko and Chloe Gong, I immediately had to read Raybearer, which has been on my TBR since it came out! I don’t normally buy books before reading them, but after finishing Raybearer and watching Jordan Ifeuko speak at the event, I had to buy Redemptor! If you enjoy fantasy, this is a duology you do not want to miss!

Essentially, Raybearer is about Tarisai, a girl who is half demon, and was basically created to fulfill her mother’s wish of killing the rulers of the empire they live in. The rulers of the empire become immune to different forms of death as they choose 11 members of their council, and by the time they have a full council, they can only die from old age, or by the hand of their council members. Tarisai’s mother was granted 3 wishes by Tarisai’s father, and she uses that wish to demand that Tarisai kill the crown prince when she is anointed to his council. Tarisai is torn between wanting to connect with other people, and wanting to avoid her destiny of killing the crown prince, but ignoring a binding wish is not as easy as it may seem.

This book is so complex and has so many moving parts! I’m highly impressed by Ifeuko’s world-building abilities, and I can’t wait to see how she further develops Tarisai’s world in Redemptor. In the virtual event I attended, Ifeuko said that she spent 12 years writing Raybearer, and I am honestly not surprised. This book has been very clearly thought through, and has so much novelty, it is astonishing.

There is truly nothing missing from this wonderful novel. Diverse and 3 dimensional characters, enchanting myth and lore, a creative magical system, and a vast and multi-cultural world are some of the many aspects you can look forward to in this book. After reading Raybearer, I sincerely don’t know how Ifeuko fit so much high quality ingenuity into one book!

I’ve found with some novels I have a hard time writing a review because I simply don’t have a lot to say, but with Raybearer I have the opposite problem: I’m having difficulty writing the review because there is so much to say! Trust me when I say, this is not a book you want to pass up on! Jordan Ifeuko has received a lot of praise for Raybearer, and after reading it myself, it is clearly well-deserved. This book is perhaps one of the best debut books I’ve ever read!

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Book Review: One Hundred and Sixty Minutes

Genre: Nonfiction Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Normally, I wait a few days after finishing a book before I review it, but I literally just finished reading One Hundred and Sixty Minutes: The Race to Save the RMS Titanic by William Hazelgrove. I absolutely loved this book! If you think you know the history of the Titanic, think again and read this book. Hazelgrove morphs a seemingly well known story into a riveting tale in this stunning book!

Clearly, the book is about the Titanic, but it’s so much more than your run-of-the-mill Titanic story. The author adds a new depth to the story by dispelling the idea that it was tragically unpreventable, and that people accepted their fates with honor and grace. He paints a vivid picture of the true heroes of the story: the two wireless officers on board, Jack Phillips & Harold Bride, along with the Captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Rostrun.

Frequently, I have mixed feelings about many nonfiction books because the actual story is interesting, but the stories are not always conveyed in a captivating way. However, I was enthralled with this book throughout its entirety. Honestly, there are not many nonfiction books that I would consider “page-turners” or that I literally couldn’t put down, but I finished this book in under 48 hours.

Truthfully, when I requested this book on NetGalley, I was interested because the lore around the Titanic is fascinating to me, but I had never read a book about it before. I kind of thought, “If you’ve read one book about the Titanic, you’ve read them all,” but it is abundantly clear that Hazelgrove’s book is original and unique.

He refrains from depicting the story through rose colored lenses. He points to multiple mistakes that could have been avoided, which could have saved all the lives that were lost, or circumnavigated the disaster entirely. While he admits that this event shows a failure of human compassion, the fact that he highlights the unsung heroes of the tragedy, left me with a sense of hope and inspiration.

Whether you’re particularly interested in the Titanic or not, this is a book everyone should read! It’s quite possibly one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read!

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Book Review: Dragon by Midnight

Genre: YA Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I recently joined BookSirens, a site that is dedicated to connecting readers with new books! I was absolutely stoked to find Dragon by Midnight by Karen Kincy on the site because I had recently added it to my TBR, and I could not wait for it to be released! This wonderful book is kind of a mashup of Cinderella and Aladdin, and I did not know how much I needed this book in my life until I finished reading it!

The book is about Cinderella, who turns into (you guessed it), a dragon at midnight! She had literally no clue what happened to make her turn into a dragon, and she was desperate to return to her human form. Enter Sikandar, a mysterious sorcerer from a faraway land, who conveniently promises to help her break the curse. During their quest, both characters face tremendous adversity, and are left questioning where they belong in the world.

I was so pleasantly surprised with this novel! I love fairytale retellings in general, but when there is an unexpected twist to the original story, I cannot resist! Overall, this was a fun and whimsical story that left me wanting more. (Thankfully there is going to be a sequel!) The plot moved at a nice pace, the characters were likeable, and the conclusion is just *chef’s kiss*!

Honestly, many fairytale retellings are not really original, but Dragon by Midnight was filled with novelty while also incorporating aspects of the stories we know and love. I absolutely adored how the author wrote the ending, which is drastically different from the original fairytales! All in all, the book was a wonderfully enjoyable fairytale retelling with a compelling and unique twist!

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Book Review: Modern Guide to Mudras

Genre: Non-Fiction Rating:

Thank you to NetGalley and Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. for allowing me to read and review an ARC of Modern Guide to Mudras: Create Balance and Blessings in the Palm of Your Hands by Alexandra Chauran! I’ve been wanting to read more nonfiction books lately, and when I saw the title of this book, I thought it would be perfect. I practice Buddhism, so I often use mudras in meditation, and the history behind them is generally fascinating to me. Unfortunately, the book did not live up to the hopes I had for it.

The strongest aspects of the book are the author’s notes about cultural appropriation and her inclusion of all types of people. Writing about mudras can be difficult to navigate considering how sacred they are in many cultures, but Chauran does exceptionally well by emphasizing the importance of respecting cultures and only using these mudras with pure intentions.

Similarly, Chauran has a section where she explains that her book is meant for everyone. She states that, despite certain mudras being considered feminine or masculine, they can be used by people with multifarious gender identities. Likewise, she admits that some of the mudras can be difficult to form, and that if a reader cannot form a mudra due to physical disability, there is no need to stress. She encourages the reader to try their best and have good intentions, and the rest will follow.

Despite these positive aspects, the book was simply not what I thought it would be. I found a lot of it very repetitive. Chauran often reexplains mudras that she explained in the first section of the book, and I think this repetition could have been circumnavigated by having an index with all the mudras, or having the reader refer back to the beginning of the book.

Additionally, the title of the book does not really indicate that Chauran describes magical spells, hexes, etc. and these were unexpected, and not in a good way. Personally, if I wanted to read about magic, hexes, or curses, I would pick up a fantasy book. The title does not mention these aspects at all, so I was expecting more of an objective description of mudras, and maybe how they are frequently used. I was not expecting a how-to book on using mudras in spellcasting.

Overall, this book was simply not what I was looking for. I think there is certainly room for literature about magic and spellcasting, but most readers would prefer to know what they are about to read before diving into those topics. The instructions for the mudras were pretty clear, but I would have preferred a more objective or historical take on the topic.

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Cookbook Review: Teatime at Grosvenor Square

Genre: Cookbook Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I always enjoy reviewing books from many different genres, but this one is new for me! When the publicist of Teatime at Grosvenor Square asked me to review this book, I was extremely excited to add cookbooks to the genres of books I’ve reviewed. I love baking and cooking, but haven’t been able to do much lately, so this was the perfect excuse to try out some new recipes!

While this book is meant for fans of the book and T.V. series, Bridgerton, it is ideal for anyone wanting to try out some new recipes! There are simpler recipes along with some more challenging ones, and this book would be perfect for anyone planning a fancy party.

Of the four recipes I tried, all of them were relatively easy to make! I will say that the book calls for some tools that you may not have on hand, especially if you don’t bake often. However, it is usually easy to improvise in these situations.

Additionally, all the recipes I tried were absolutely delicious! No one in my family particularly cares for cranberry, but we were all pleasantly surprised by the Cranberry Brie Bites. Also, the honey-thyme drizzle for the Buttery Asparagus was phenomenal!

Another aspect of the book that I truly enjoyed was the cute little blurbs above each recipe. They were Bridgerton themed, but I liked them, even though I have not read the books or watched the show. I sincerely wish I would’ve had time to try out some of the desserts, but I am definitely looking forward to trying more (especially that beautiful cake on the cover)!

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Book Review: Now Entering Addamsville

Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Once again The Novel Neighbor comes through with a fantastic recommendation! I’ve been reading a lot of LGBTQIA+ books lately, especially books with ace characters, and this was one of many recommended by my favorite indie bookstore. Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia is a wonderful story that will draw you in, with a spunky and rebellious ace protagonist!

Addamsville is haunted, in fact it is a tourist trap for that very reason, but Zora Novak knows this better than anyone else. Why, you ask? Because she can see the ghosts that haunt her small town. Zora’s mother had the same ability, and not only taught her about the ghosts, but about dangerous creatures she called firestarters, that start fires in order to kill people, so they can feed off their souls. When a new firestarter comes to Addamsville, Zora believes it is up to her to stop it since her mother disappeared years ago. But when Zora is blamed for starting some of the fires, she is not so sure that she can stop this firestarter without becoming an enemy of her beloved town.

This was such a unique and wonderful book! While the protagonist, Zora, is ace, the story does not focus on that, which is nice because I think it’s important to not only have stories centering on asexuality as an identity, but also stories that show asexual people simply living their lives. Additionally, I absolutely loved Zora’s rebelliousness, independence, and overall vibe. She is depicted in a way that comes close to being a cliché, but not in an annoying or overdone way.

Furthermore, I think this book really stands out because it’s not only a ghost story, but a ghost story with a unique spin. Zora and her family’s history with firestarters really added depth to the novel and made it more compelling to read. I enjoyed the fact that Zora’s mother and aunt had their own background with firestarters, and also that Zora herself has some bad blood with the dreaded creatures as well.

On top of that, I think the other characters in the novel add more to the story without taking the focus away from Zora’s experiences. The other characters were well-developed, original, and didn’t overshadow Zora herself.

There was only one issue I really had with the book: IS THERE NOT A SEQUEL?!?!?! The book does leave some open endings, but nothing too major. In my opinion, there are enough loose ends that Zappia could write a sequel, but not too many that it takes away from this book as a standalone. I will warn you that the ending will leave you shocked! I think I probably read that last sentence at least 10 times, flipping back and forth between the ending and the map at the beginning!

Overall, this book is fun, mysterious, and compelling, and I would highly recommend it for any reader, regardless of genre preference. I don’t think you need to like most paranormal books to enjoy this one. It also has interesting and original features, and memorable characters. If you’re looking for a spooky story to pull you in, this is the book for you!

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Book Review: Where the Stars Sing

Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+ Rating:

I’ll start off by saying that I rarely rate books one star, but this book was a doozy. I read an ARC of Where the Stars Sing by Aminah Fox, which is the first book in a series. It’s clear from the author’s note at the end of the novel that Fox put a lot of work into this book, which I certainly appreciate as a reader. Sadly, the book was disappointing for multiple reasons.

The book is narrated by the protagonist, Charles Sykes, as he reflects on events in his life at ages 12, 17, and 27. The two main focuses of the book are Charles’ relationship with the love of his life, Arthur Westmoor, and the adventures Charles goes on when he is mysteriously gifted a book that lists crimes of Wonders, who are supposed to be superheroes.

First off, I want to remind everyone that I read an ARC of this book, not the final copy. However, there were so many mistakes in the ARC, that it was difficult to discern the author’s meaning at certain points throughout the novel. The word “passed” is used instead of “past,” “phased” instead of “passed,” and sometimes even “the” instead of “then.” It was hard to try to figure out what the author meant at certain points.

Similarly, there were many sentences that were incomplete, missing words, or simply didn’t make sense. The author even introduced a character by a certain name and then referred to the same character by a different name later on in the book. I know ARCs are unfinished copies, but I have never read an ARC that is unintelligible before.

Additionally, I am not entirely sure what was going on throughout much of the book, and I honestly don’t think the protagonist did either. The plot jumps all over the place and more than half the events that take place are not really important for the story’s progression.

Furthermore, the world-building in this novel was so under-developed despite having potential. The book takes place in a dystopian society where scientists tried to send a “star” into space, which ultimately failed (granted the details of how that happened are obscure). This catastrophe apparently caused some people to become superhuman and gave others cancer, but again the hows and whys of this are not explained. With more attention to detail and descriptive world-building, this book could have become really unique.

Finally, the protagonist was one-dimensional and boring. Like I said before, he didn’t seem to have any clue as to what was happening half the time. He lacked any real personality traits, and was truly annoying most of the time. Readers want protagonists who draw them in and who are likeable, or whom we love to hate. Unfortunately, Charles Sykes does not fit the bill.

Overall, I think the author had an admirable goal in mind, of trying to send a message about the importance of love, no matter what it may look like. Dishearteningly, I did not feel moved by this book at all, as it was confusing and lacked depth. The good news is that this is Aminah Fox’s first book, so she definitely has room to grow. With many great authors, you can see improvements in their writing as they publish books. I would love to see how Fox’s writing progresses in her next novel!

ARC Review: Love Radio

Genre: YA Romance Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle is an adorable romance novel about Dani, a girl who has basically given up on love, and Prince, a DJ who tries to convince Dani that he can make her fall in love with him after just 3 dates. Dani wants nothing to do with love, but can’t resist Prince’s thoughtfulness and sincerity.

LaDelle shares some of her goals for the novel in a letter to readers at the beginning of the book, and I must say, she accomplished all of those goals in this cute, but deep story. The novel focuses on Dani and Prince’s relationship, but it also addresses serious matters, such as cultural appropriation and sexual assault.

Furthermore, I’m not from Detroit, but LaDelle describes her hometown so vividly that I felt like I was there with the characters. I especially loved the way she incorporated music into the novel, and shared with readers how Mowtown was such a vital part of music history.

As a whole, Love Radio was a beautiful love story that dealt with issues so many people face in their lives. LaDelle’s message of the importance of self-love shined throughout the entirety of the novel and made the romance that much stronger!

ARC Review: We All Fall Down

Genre: YA Fantasy Rating:

I was so excited to read We All Fall Down by Rose Szabo after reading an excerpt from the book. Sadly, it ended up being largely disappointing as a whole.

The novel is about a small, magical town called River City. Kings and Maidens bring magic to the city, but after the previous maiden dies and the king falls into madness, the town is slowly losing its magic, and its identity. The book follows numerous characters who all have a part to play in the cycle of Kings and Maidens.

I’ll start off with the features of the book I enjoyed. I know there are some reviews on this book that complain about the gender pronouns for one of the characters, Jesse. While I agree that the switching up of pronouns was a little confusing, I’m guessing Szabo did this intentionally to show that Jesse is gender fluid and/or discovering their gender identity. So, in the end, I actually appreciated this aspect of the novel because it gives readers a window into an experience they might not be familiar with.

That being said, there wasn’t much else I liked about We All Fall Down. The story basically lacked a plot, and felt extremely disjointed. The multiple POVs were not executed well, and by the end of the novel, it truly felt as if nothing really happened.

Furthermore, there is an incident in the novel where a Black man is falsely accused of a crime, and I’m not entirely comfortable with this. The author addresses instances of racism at some points throughout the book, but the character who accused the man never showed much remorse and other characters in the novel acted as though this was normal and okay. I can’t entirely put my finger on what felt wrong… I know this is a fictitious book, but I felt disturbed by this aspect of the novel.

Finally, there was another character who used she/her pronouns, and when people misgendered her, she never corrected them. This isn’t a huge problem, but the main character that originally misgendered her became angry when she found out that this character was a woman. Again, this was another aspect of the novel that just made me feel awkward and uneasy.

Overall, I was not a fan of We All Fall Down. I thought the premise of the novel was compelling, but the execution was extremely lacking, and there were some problematic aspects of the novel that were very disconcerting.

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