Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim (1/24/23)

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim
Expected Publication: January 24, 2023

Recommended: eh
for an incredible setting, for a story rife with possibilities and big moments, but also there are characters I hate so much I really wanted to DNF this one

Summary

In the hidden desert city of Qalia, there is secret spice magic that awakens the affinities of those who drink the misra tea. Sixteen-year-old Imani has the affinity for iron and is able to wield a dagger like no other warrior. She has garnered the reputation as being the next great Shield for battling djinn, ghouls, and other monsters spreading across the sands.

Her reputation has been overshadowed, however, by her brother, who tarnished the family name after it was revealed that he was stealing his nation’s coveted spice–a telltale sign of magical obsession. Soon after that, he disappeared, believed to have died beyond the Forbidden Wastes. Despite her brother’s betrayal, there isn’t a day that goes by when Imani doesn’t grieve him.

But when Imani discovers signs that her brother may be alive and spreading the nation’s magic to outsiders, she makes a deal with the Council that she will find him and bring him back to Qalia, where he will face punishment. Accompanied by other Shields, including Taha, a powerful beastseer who can control the minds of falcons, she sets out on her mission.

Imani will soon find that many secrets lie beyond the Forbidden Wastes–and in her own heart–but will she find her brother?

Thoughts

My biggest issue with this book was Amira. I freaking hate Amira. From basically page two she’s being a massive immature pain in the ass while also being super preachy about it. She’s one of those people who condemns someone else for doing the exact thing they themself are doing, and she doesn’t even realize it. It’s awful and I couldn’t stand her. The only way I was able to finish this book was by skipping anything she said and any reference to her name for the last 50% of the book. There was nothing redeeming about her for me.

► View spoilers about how my hopes were dashed
    And when she was like “I promise I won’t come.” I knew it was going to be a lie because that’s just how annoying younger siblings work in an adventure story, but god did I cling to that hope that she would in fact stay home. And of course she emerges by way of waking a legendary immortal giant full of rage. I hate her so much.


I persevered mainly because this was an ARC and I wanted to get more than twenty (incredibly annoying) pages in before quitting, and also because I had so much hope for seeing more of the world and the lore of it. I did indeed get more lore, and I was able to slowly fall in love with that aspect of the story. There’s so much history built into it, both in the small daily lives and the world-shaping historical beings and events that exist. Learning about each kept me entranced (until shattered by an annoying scream — if you read my spoiler or the book it’ll make sense).

Continue reading “ARC Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim (1/24/23)”
Posted in Reviews

Review: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Recommended: yep!
For a cold magical adventure, for children who are cleverer and braver than adults, for surprising philosophical discussions, for a really masterful balance of chaos and calm to keep you pulling effortlessly through the pages

Summary

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.

Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want–but what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other.

Edit: the above blurb does not do this book justice. That is the absolute bare bones of it all, and I’m astonished that such a long-lived and excellent novel has such a lackluster blurb. I guess they figure it doesn’t need any help at this point…? But trust: it’s a wonderful and exciting story!

Thoughts

This is one of those books that I thought I missed the boat on because it came out when I was too young to read it. Technically it came out when I wasn’t even 1 year old, so definitely not on my radar at that point. Kind of like with Harry Potter, I figured that even if it was a good book it wouldn’t have the same impact on me as it might have at that time. Essentially, my expectations were kind of low going into this. I didn’t think it would be a bad book, but I wasn’t sure I was going to be the target age or audience at this point.

Having just finished it today, I’m not sure what the target audience is! This is one of those books that has a main character who is a child and yet it’s extremely entertaining and accessible for an adult. I assume there’s a lot in it that a child would like as well, such as adults being terrible, magic bears, shape-shifting demons, and children outwitting adults. Frankly, three out of four of those are things I enjoy as well at my age. And enjoy it I did!

Continue reading “Review: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman”
Posted in Reviews

Review: Summertide (Wonder Tales #4) by Charlotte E. English

Summertide by Charlotte E. English

Recommended: YES!
For a world of magic and wonder, for a story that warms your heart, for an intriguing and exciting plot rife with mystery, for extraordinarily unique and lovable characters

Summary

On the edge of the town of Kottow stands the tallest (and oddest) Tree in the land. It’s a staid and solid arbour — until the Tree picks up its mighty old roots and wanders off, taking its resident band of misfits away with it. Whither goes the Tree? Not even the wizard can say.

‘There is something mighty fey about all this, or my name ain’t Diggory Stokey.’

Far away from Kottow, a forest lies lost in the mists of a dream. There’s much to mend in this hoary old wood, for the Summer’s been swept from the glittering skies, and no one’s keeping an eye on the Winter…

‘Enchanted forests,’ Mudleaf spat. ‘Bah. Like it’s been raining magic this long age through.’

The good folk of Kottow aren’t used to so wayward a magic — not even Maut Fey, the one with the sunlight behind her eyes. But magic will have its way with them, whether they will or no.

Summertide’s waiting. Can the folk of the Tree bring it back, or will the wild magic wash them away?

Thoughts

Are you feeling a bit burnt out? Does it feel like there’s endless stress and pain in the world and you just want somewhere to take a break? Are you hoping to find a world of sunshine and compassion that is still exciting and compelling?

Y’all, this book is exactly what I needed and exactly what you might need too. Apparently the author also thought that, because in the notes at the end they mentioned writing it during COVID lockdowns and how they really need something happy and lovely to carry them through. The result is this wonderful gift for us all.

Continue reading “Review: Summertide (Wonder Tales #4) by Charlotte E. English”
Posted in Reviews

Review: The Quarter Mage by Angelina J Steffort

The Quarter Mage by Angelina J. Steffort


Recommended: Yes!
For a magical adventure, for a familiar story structure, for some interesting magical creations and rules, for VENGEANCE, and for family

Summary

Perfect for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and The Cruel Prince by Holly Black.

WHEN DESTINY FAILS YOU, WHO WILL YOU BECOME?

A forgotten princess. A cruel realm. A Mage who might be her salvation.

Sanja is a princess on the run. And when she flees her father’s court to escape an arranged marriage to a tyrant, the one thing she doesn’t expect, is to be killed for her throne.

But magic that shouldn’t exist in her kingdom saves her, and Sanja is thrust into the daunting fairylands where, as a human, she’s prey…

Fighting to survive, Sanja signs herself into the service of the most powerful Mages in the fairylands, determined to master the magic to save her kingdom—and finds herself stuck with a brooding Mage with a knack for keeping secrets.

As Sanja’s feelings for Tristan turn from dread to attraction, she learns that she isn’t the only thing the fairies are after. And Sanja must risk her life and her heart, or she will lose both him and her kingdom forever.


Dive into Angelina J. Steffort’s latest heart-wrenching upper YA fantasy romance and find out what makes the world of The Quarter Mage so special.

Thoughts

Y’all, we’ve been sleeping on this book. Let me start this review by saying I’m already anticipating the second book which is out early 2023 (but not early enough for me with the ending of this!). It was a good find from BookBub and I’m so pleased with it!


Okay, praise sung, now to acknowledge that as much as I enjoyed this book, it really didn’t blow me away or anything with it’s originality or style. There are a lot of scenes and plot structure points that felt very reminiscent of other books (especially Sarah J Maas’ titles). Part of that is because it’s fairly common fae-and-magic plot lines in general for the genre, and part of it did feel a little more directly inspired by specific books. The thing is, I didn’t really care. Even though I wasn’t stunned at the direction of the plot, I was fully hooked in for the ride and cheering the characters on.

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Posted in Reviews

DNF Review: Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore

Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore
DNF @ 65%

Recommended: not really, but maybe for you
For folks who love a story that suits audiobook format really well, for folks who love investigative reporting, for folks who enjoy lots of short-form formats mixed together (this is an easy book to read in small chunks because of the natural breaks)

Summary

Nearly a decade ago, iconic magician Violet Volk performed her greatest trick yet: vanishing mid-act. Though she hasn’t been seen since, her hold on the public imagination is stronger than ever. While Violet sought out the spotlight, her sister Sasha always had to be the responsible one, taking over their mother’s hair salon and building a quiet life for her beloved daughter, Quinn. But Sasha can never seem to escape her sister’s orbit or her memories of their unresolved, tumultuous relationship. Then there’s Cameron Frank, tapped to host a podcast devoted to all things Violet, who is determined to finally get his big break–even if he promised to land an exclusive interview with Sasha, the one person who definitely doesn’t want to talk to him.

As the ten-year anniversary approaches, the podcast picks up steam, and Cameron’s pursuit of Sasha becomes increasingly intrusive. He isn’t the only one wondering what secrets she might be keeping: Quinn, loyal to the aunt she always idolized, is doing her own investigating. Meanwhile, Sasha begins to experience an unsettling series of sleepwalking episodes and coincidences, which all seem to lead back to Violet. Pushed to her emotional limits, Sasha must finally confront the most painful truths about her sister, and herself, even at the risk of losing everything.

Thoughts

After not coming back to this for about a week, and forcing myself to pick it up for about 20% prior to that, I am finally calling it on this book for me.

I think this might be a better experience as an audiobook, particularly as I’ve read a few audiobook reviews that said the production value was great with unique narrators for characters and such. Considering about 30% of the writing is from a “podcast” style, this makes a lot of sense to me that it would be effective to be read aloud.

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: If You Could See The Sun by Ann Liang (10/11/22)

If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang
Expected Publication: October 11, 2022

Recommended: yeppp
for a medium-dark story that feels like a dark-reality fairy tale, for academic rivals / unlikely team tropes, for a look at morality and poverty and how those two can conflict

Summary

Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible.
 
When her parents drop the news that they can no longer afford her tuition, even with the scholarship, Alice hatches a plan to monetize her strange new power—she’ll discover the scandalous secrets her classmates want to know, for a price.
 
But as the tasks escalate from petty scandals to actual crimes, Alice must decide if it’s worth losing her conscience—or even her life.

Thoughts

Oh man. I’ve been looking forward to this one for, I don’t know, 10 months now? I came in expecting this book to be gut-wrenchingly sad, and — thankfully — it was actually not quite so much. Maybe that’s because my expectations were SO dire that in reality it seemed easier. To be clear, though, this is not an easy read. There’s so much pain and fear in it, everyone is saturated. But that’s the point: the emotions, the underlying fear in life that connects even the most otherwise disparate people.

Continue reading “ARC Review: If You Could See The Sun by Ann Liang (10/11/22)”
Posted in Release Day!

Just Published: How To Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra!

Hey y’all! Just a reminder that How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra published today! Check out the full review here or grab a copy of your own!

Recommended: yes!
As a sweet magical middle grade read for anyone, for kids who love animals, for witchy Italian lore

Summary

With her thirteenth birthday just around the corner, Giada Bellantuono has to make a big decision: Will she join the family business and become a healer or follow her dreams? But even though she knows her calling is to heal vulnerable animals, using her powers to treat magical creatures is decidedly not allowed.

When a group of witches kidnaps her beloved older brother, Rocco, and her parents are away, Giada is the only person left who can rescue him. Swept into the magical underground city of Malavita, Giada will need the help of her new companions to save her brother—or risk losing him forever.

Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra (10/04/2022)

How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra
Expected Release Date: October 4, 2022

Recommended: yes!
As a sweet magical middle grade read for anyone, for kids who love animals, for witchy Italian lore

Summary

With her thirteenth birthday just around the corner, Giada Bellantuono has to make a big decision: Will she join the family business and become a healer or follow her dreams? But even though she knows her calling is to heal vulnerable animals, using her powers to treat magical creatures is decidedly not allowed.

When a group of witches kidnaps her beloved older brother, Rocco, and her parents are away, Giada is the only person left who can rescue him. Swept into the magical underground city of Malavita, Giada will need the help of her new companions to save her brother—or risk losing him forever.

Thoughts

I adore our main character, Giada. She’s so unabashedly herself, and has such a strong sense of who she is! I think that’s something a lot of kids have, then lose, and many adults take a long time to get back there (or maybe never totally do). Giada holds tight to it, and isn’t afraid to call out people (even adults!) when they are being rude (which at least one adult ABSOLUTELY was). She doesn’t let people shame her about enjoying sweets and food, and she devises her own brilliant salve for thigh chafing which lets be honest, who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Continue reading “ARC Review: How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra (10/04/2022)”
Posted in Reviews

Review: A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (Curse So Dark and Lonely #3)

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer
Book 1 Review: A Curse so Dark and Lonely
Book 2 Review: A Heart so Fierce and Broken

Recommended: if you made it this far…
Look, if you’ve already read book 1 and book 2, just finish it here. All characters get a perspective, so no matter who you’re most interested in, you’ll get something from them

Summary

Face your fears, fight the battle.

Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace.

Fight the battle, save the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

Thoughts

This is the last book in a series, and I think it did fine in that position. Unfortunately, “fine” is kind of a let down for a series that was on FIRE for so long. There were things I liked and disliked in each book, but it seems like book 2 was so epic to me and this one was just so… not.

Continue reading “Review: A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (Curse So Dark and Lonely #3)”
Posted in Reviews

Review: A March of Kings by Morgan Rice

A March of Kings by Morgan Rice

Recommended: sure
For people who liked the first one, for an adventurous escalation of the story now that the world and premise are set

Summary

After he escapes from the dungeon, Thor is horrified to learn of another assassination attempt on King MacGil. When MacGil dies, the kingdom is set into turmoil. As everyone vies for the throne, King’s Court is more rife than ever with its family dramas, power struggles, ambitions, jealousy, violence and betrayal. An heir must be chosen from among the children, and the ancient Dynasty Sword, the source of all their power, will have a chance to be wielded by someone new. But all this might be upended: the murder weapon is recovered, and the noose tightens on finding the assassin. Simultaneously, the MacGils face a new threat by the McClouds, who are set to attack again from within the Ring.

Thor fights to win back Gwendolyn’s love, but there may not be time: he is told to pack up, to prepare with his brothers in arms for The Hundred, a hundred grueling days of hell that all Legion members must survive. The Legion will have to cross the Canyon, beyond the protection of the Ring, into the Wilds, and set sail across the Tartuvian Sea for the Isle of Mist, said to be patrolled by a dragon, for their initiation into manhood.

Will they make it back? Will the Ring survive in their absence? And will Thor finally learn the secret of his destiny?

Thoughts

I liked the first book, but this one was maybe more exciting! Now that all the characters and various dangers of the world are in place, it was easier to move forward into the depths of the story and really get into the drama.

The classic style is still in effect, where things have a bit of a trope-y path they follow, but still in a surprisingly wonderful way. It’s like reading a modern classic, if that makes sense? Even though the vibe is very traditional knight’s adventure, I can’t predict what’s going to happen and I’m SO excited for it. The ending of this one by the way? Be sure to have book 3 ready to go when you finish. xD

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