ARC Review: The Big Reveal

If you’re in the mood for a story that delivers up some awesome body positivity and female empowerment, then you’ll love The Big Reveal  by Jen Larsen. It’s full of friendship, rebellion, and a little bit of teenage romance (because DUH!). It was my first read by Larsen, but after the fun I had while reading it, it definitely won’t be my last.

A dazzling YA novel about a girl who isn’t afraid to be big and sexy and dance her heart out, and a discussion-provoking exploration of the mixed messages our society gives young women about their bodies and sexuality.

Addie is a talented dancer, a true-blue friend, fat, fierce, and driven. When she’s accepted into the prestigious dance program of her dreams, she thinks nothing can bring her down—until she realizes she doesn’t have enough money to go. Refusing to give up, Addie and her friends decide to put on a top-secret, invitation-only burlesque show to raise funds. But word soon gets out, and the slut- and body-shaming begin. Has Addie been resisting the patriarchy, or playing right into its hands?

Perfect for fans of Jennifer Mathieu and E. Lockhart, The Big Reveal asks hard-hitting feminist questions while reveling in some of life’s greatest joys: chasing your passions, falling in love, and embracing yourself exactly as you are.

I really enjoyed Larsen’s writing style. It was fairly straightforward, which I prefer in my contemporary stories, while also including some really hard hitting sentences that you felt deep in your soul. There were a few times when I caught myself tearing up or fist pumping the air! When a book makes me physically connect to it, I know it’s a keeper for me. 

Addie was the star of this book for me. I loved her strength, especially when it came to shaking off all of her insecurities. She felt like a real character and person, someone who I immediately connected with. Now there were a few decisions she made that I didn’t necessarily feel were very realistic, but I guess that’s the case with most fictional stories. Gotta have that conflict, you know! But other than that, I felt she really gave us someone to root for and want to make a difference in how body positivity is such a great movement. As for the other characters, they were all interesting in their own right, if a little forgettable as a whole. I wish we could have gotten to really know them each a bit more individually, but this was really Addie’s story so we only ever get to experience them from her perspective. I did love their little friend group dynamic though. They were such a supportive bunch and I loved how they pushed her to shine. The romantic lead, Jack, was cute, but I’m glad that the romance was just a little sub-plot and not the focus of the story. Also, and I mean this 100%, fuck her mother. She is a terrible and selfish woman.

Sarkle (1)

Now there were a few issues that I had with this book. While I loved the idea of an underground burlesque show to raise money, the actual show was such a tiny part of the book. I wish it had been given more time and description than what it was given. It happened, we glanced over it, and then it was over. For supposedly being such an integral part of the plot, it didn’t really stand out. Also… I NEED MORE DANCING. As a dancer growing up and in school, there was a lot of dance talk but not a lot actual dancing. I would have loved more scenes in dance class or practicing. To be fair though, this is really just my personal issue lol! The pacing also dragged a bit in the middle of the book, but I tend to feel that way about most contemporary novels in general.

With that being said, I feel like any issues I had with the book just melted away at climax, when it comes time for Addie to make her final stand. I don’t want to give too much away but… OH. MY. GOD. I haven’t read any speech in a novel before that moved me and left me feeling quite as empowered as Addie’s did. It was exactly how women and girls everywhere have felt at one time or another, and reading it being expressed like that was extremely powerful. If for no other reason than that, you should read this book.

Final Verdict: 3.5/5 Stars

Have you read The Big Reveal yet? If so, what did you think of it? How did THAT speech make you feel when you read it? Do you enjoy books with feminist messages?

ARC Review: Little Thieves (Little Thieves, #1)

I have never read The Goose Girl, but I do know the overarching plot of the story. However, Margaret Owen really tears it down to the bones and rebuilds it as one of the best retellings that I’ve read in recent years. Little Thieves may be the underrated hit of 2021.

Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl…

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.

This was my first Owen experience and I loved every second of it. She really leaned into the Germanic influence of the original tale, letting it provide the culture and world that this story is set in. My medieval German background is iffy at best (HA!) so I did struggle a tad bit in the beginning with all of the different terms, but I caught on once the story really got going. Which is a good thing because the plot moves pretty fast with this one, specially in the beginning when you are immediately dropped into the story. I love books that really start off with a bang and so I was happy that I can add this book to that list. 

Vanja is a little devil. And I mean that in the best way possible! She is an acerbic wit and always has a comeback locked and loaded. I liked that Owen really leaned into her independence and need to not let anyone get too close, as she has always been burned by relationships in the past. I have to say that this was one of the more realistic portrayals of someone who’s been affected by a traumatic event in their life. I actually connected with that story and immediately grasped to why she felt that way and let it dictate the decisions she would make. And for me, that doesn’t always happen. I also enjoyed the side characters, Gisele and Ragne. Ragne was hilarious and the perfect sidekick. And Gisele was very interesting and had much more depth than I would have expected. Then there’s our sweet cinnamon bun, Emeric. He’s very smart and a great “junior” detective. I thought he was the perfect love interest for Vanja, as they are complete opposites. And also, who doesn’t love a good enemies-to-lovers trope?!

Spice up your Thanksgiving dinner with these recipes!

Like I mentioned earlier, my only real issue with this book was the heavy German influence on the terms and titles used. It took me a while to piece everything together and remember who was who or what such and such was. But luckily. things started to make sense as the story progressed.  It definitely didn’t deter from my reading experience in any way.

Overall, this is definitely one of my favorite fantasy reads of the year so far. It was fun, fast-paced, and full of memorable characters. I liked the open ending, but now I’m really happy knowing that there will be a sequel so we can see where our favorites all end up. I really recommend this book to anyone, whether you’re familiar with original Goose Girl story or are not. It really brings a fresh flavor to the story, while still delivering the original fairytale. I do warn that some of the flashback segments mention/describe child abuse so just be aware of that, as well as some PTSD from that situation.

Final Verdict: 5/5 Stars

Have you read Little Thieves yet? If so, what did you think of it? Do you enjoy fairytale retellings? What are some favorites that you would recommend?

ARC Review: Cackle

Do you ever start reading a book expecting one thing but then it ends up being something completely different? Well I have to say that’s exactly what happened when I first picked up Rachel Harrison’s CackleI was first expecting something a little spooky and thrillerish, but what I ended up getting was a story about a young woman finding her strength and independence with the help from a mysterious neighbor. Can you say GIRL POWER?!

All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching position that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. She’s stunned by how perfect and picturesque the town is. The people are all friendly and warm. Her new apartment is dreamy too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation.

Then Annie meets Sophie. Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologizing and start living for herself. That’s how Sophie lives. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, wanting to spend more and more time with her, despite the fact that the rest of the townsfolk seem…a little afraid of her. And like, okay. There are some things. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power…but she couldn’t be…could she?

This was my first experience with Rachel Harrison’s work, but I have to say that I really like her writing style. It was engaging and wasn’t as straightforward as your typical chick-lit style. I think she did a good job keeping the pace pretty steady throughout the beginning of the book before ramping it up towards the climax. There were only a few times in the middle that I felt were a little slow but I never lost interest in the story. If anything, it matched the sleepiness of small town life.

Here is where things got a little dicey for me… Annie. As our main character, she’s just not someone that I was able to really connect to. She suffers from a sense of self, independence, and mental toughness that makes it hard for you to want to root for her. Or should I say, for ME to root for her. Because honestly, I spent the first half of the book just wanting to smack sense into her. I have never been the type of person to tie myself completely into whatever relationship I’m in. Which is exactly the opposite of how Annie has lived her entire life (I’m going to say that’s affected by some daddy issues but the story only barely touches on it, so we’ll ignore for now). However, that is the point of our story. You’re not supposed to necessarily like Annie, you’re supposed to want better for her. And I did do that. And while I may not have seen any connection between myself and Annie, I know that a lot of people will. Then we have Sophie, our resident mystery woman that’s full of confidence, independence and resilience. She is the complete opposite of Annie and is someone that the young woman wants to become. Luckily for Annie, Sophie sees something special in her and takes her under her wing.

Come celebrate at the Club Disco on June 14.Bar opens at 9PM. See you there!

The plot here is what really shines. As I mentioned earlier, I thought this was going to be horror-lite and full of suspense. Instead, this is a character driven story about a woman finding herself after ending a long term relationship, while under the influence/tutelage of an older woman with “special” abilities. I loved watching Sophie’s influence over Annie transform her. She starts out very timid and holding on to her relationship with her ex, Sam. After their break up, Annie is lost and unwilling to replace him and the hole their relationship has left in her heart. She’s still believing that they will get back together and things can go back to the way they were before. It was nice to see her VERY slowly come to the realization that she can be alone and live her life without needing someone else to validate it.

I think my biggest issue with the book is that it seems marketed as horror-lite with a spooky mystery. That is completely and utterly incorrect. You might could say there is a bit of a mystery aspect as to learning who or what Sophie is and what her background is with the townsfolk, but that’s it. There are a couple of spooky moments but they almost seem out of place due to the tone of the rest of the book. Had there been more and if they were better integrated to the overall plot, I would have preferred that. But as it stands, they stood out too much and not in a good way. To me, this was a missed opportunity in really pushing the mystery aspect and building more tension. I think that change would have really elevated this book.

Final Verdict: 3/5 Stars

Have you read Cackle? If so, what did you think of it? Does it bother you when books are marketed a certain way but end up being very different?

ARC Review: Vespertine

Let me preface this review by first being totally honest and be upfront about the fact that Margaret Rogerson is one of my favorite new authors to have debuted within the past few years. She writes the kind of mature YA fantasy that I absolutely devour. I’ve also loved that she has stuck to writing fantasy standalones… until now. When I found out that her newest release, Vespertinewas going to be the start of a new series, I knew I had to have it.

HUGE thanks to my friends at Simon & Schuster for gifting me a copy for an honest review and allowing me to be a part of their blogger blitz!

The dead of Loraille do not rest.

Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.

When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.

Rogerson knows a thing or two about creating a world so vivid that you’re transported to it from the very first page. I was immediately drawn into the dark and bleak Loraille, which is overrun by restless spirits of the dead. The spirits in this book are divided into 5 Orders based upon how they originally died and what kind of “power” that has bestowed upon them. Now, if I have one complaint for this book, it would be that you are sort of dropped into the middle of all of these classifications without any background knowledge. It took me quite a bit to understand the differences and recognize the many different names used. It did seem a bit info-dumpy in the beginning and I was left scrambling around for around 100 pages until I was able to catch up. With that being said, I was completely fascinated by this world and I loved the idea of a chancellery running the kingdom with warrior nuns and priests providing an army against the spirits, especially by using spirit-bound relics to grant them special powers. I have seen comparisons to Joan of Arc, and while I can see where someone might get that idea, it’s even more intense than our poor martyr, Joan (she didn’t have this kind of power!). 

Which brings us to our own little savior, Artemisia. She’s the ultimate reluctant hero and awkward with a capital A! Growing up in a tiny village, she suffered from a very traumatizing childhood that was impacted by her ability to see spirits and thus causing her to be possessed at a young age. TRIGGER WARNING: The abuse she suffered from her family for this tragedy, ultimately does cause her to have PTSD as well as a physical disability of limited use of her fingers due to extreme burns. I loved how resilient Artemisia is. She only wanted to stay in the convent and prepare the dead for burial, but instead is thrust into the spotlight upon her bonding with the Revenant. And let me tell you, they are a character. Revenant is snarky, sullen, and very much an asshole. Their relationship with Artemisia is fascinating and I loved how you get to see it progress throughout the book. If you love sarcastic banter, you’ll enjoy their interactions. My favorites were their snide comments about humans.. HILARIOUS. And there’s our resident priest, Leander, who’s an intensely menacing and mysterious presence chasing down Artemisia. He has plans of his own and you’re never quite sure what his ultimate end-goal is. I was so intrigued following along with Artemisia as she tries to discover what he wants.

Homesickness for a place I had never been, for the answers to questions I carried in my heart but for which I had no words. I hadn’t recognized it then, because I hadn’t understood what it felt like to h

Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t too many issues with this book (as I had hoped!). I think the only criticism I really have is the overwhelming info-dump at the beginning, which I overcame the more I became accustomed to the world. However, this is the first book in a fantasy series and that is a common enough problem for the genre. I think another issue that some might have is that this book has ZERO romance in it. Which is another large difference between Vespertine and Rogerson’s previous novels. Now, it didn’t bother me too much because the other types of relationships were interesting enough but I do wonder if that will change any in the sequel. I was getting a teeny tiny hint of something towards the very end but that could also just be my wishful thinking. If you are one of those readers who prefers romance in their stories, just be aware that this one may not provide enough for you.

This story really did wow me. I loved going on this journey to sainthood with Artemisia and was constantly left on the edge of my seat. This was a very different type of story than I had first expected from Rogerson, but I loved having my expectations subverted like that. There is so much more to explore in this world and I’m really glad that there’s going to be an opportunity to experience it. Please be aware that this a darker story and comes with a few different trigger warnings from the author – self-harm, anxiety, disordered eating (minor), child neglect/abuse (past), trauma/PTSD (traumatic experiences in past). I do feel that these were handled with care but YMMV.

Final Verdict: 5/5 Stars

Is Vespertine on your TBR? Do you like books without romance in them? Do you prefer to read standalones or series? If you have read Vespertine, what did you think of it?

Book Review: All of Us Villains (All of Us Villains, #1)

When I first heard that Amanda Foody had a new book coming out, I was positively giddy. But then I saw that it was a dual collaboration with Christine Lynn Herman and they were going for a very dark plot… Well let’s just say that I was very jazzed about it. And I have to say that All of Us Villains definitely lived up to my original hype. I need more ASAP.

All of my thanks to Macmillan/Tor Teen for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

The blockbuster co-writing debut of Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman, All of Us Villains begins a dark tale of ambition and magick…


You Fell In Love With The Victors of The Hunger Games.
Now Prepare To Meet The Villains of The Blood Veil.

After the publication of a salacious tell-all book, the remote city of Ilvernath is thrust into worldwide spotlight. Tourists, protesters, and reporters flock to its spellshops and ruins to witness an ancient curse unfold: every generation, seven families name a champion among them to compete in a tournament to the death. The winner awards their family exclusive control over the city’s high magick supply, the most powerful resource in the world.

In the past, the villainous Lowes have won nearly every tournament, and their champion is prepared to continue his family’s reign. But this year, thanks to the influence of their newfound notoriety, each of the champions has a means to win. Or better yet–a chance to rewrite their story.

But this is a story that must be penned in blood.

Have you ever wanted a very dark story about an intensely complicated family relationships and a magical death match between a bunch of antihero teenagers with very questionable motives? Well friends, you are in luck! Foody and Herman have totally delivered on all accounts! The plot in this story is so incredibly dark and twisted, delivering some very interesting revelations from start to finish. I thought the pacing was perfectly done. I loved the build up to the curse, learning about each of the seven families and their chosen participant. Truthfully, I was surprised to find myself super invested in the personal family histories and relationships. As exciting as the violent and super action-packed competition was, I could have read an entire book on the Ilvernath elite.

What also helped really move the story along, was that we were given a POV from a few of the seven competitors. Alistair Lowe – the broody boy who plays the villain to keep others at a distance. Isobel Macaslan – the veryyy reluctant champion of a family who uses her as a media darling to drum up support. Briony Thorburn – the strongest member of her family, but suffers from a serious savior-complex. Gavin Grieves –  Gavin’s family is at the very bottom in terms of prestige but he has very different plans for this tournament. Each of these main characters were different with a unique voice and personality. I never struggled to remember who was who. I also loved seeing how their interactions changed and developed over the course of the story, as the characters themselves went through personal growth. If I had to choose a favorite POV though, I think it would be a toss-up between Alistair and Gavin. They scream villain/antihero and I never knew what they were going to do next.

Roland gave her a courtier’s smile. “And what sort of work do you do for my uncle”Dorian shifted on his feet and Chaol went very still, but Celaena returned Roland’s smile and said, “I bury the king’s op

Like I mentioned before, this book is VERY dark. For me, that is always a bonus when it comes to YA stories, as they usually try to steer more towards cutesy and sweet. I think this more recent push to elevating YA towards heavier themes and darker settings is much more in my wheelhouse. But with that being said, if you are a little squeamish or just prefer your books to have an overall upbeat tone, then you may want to skip this one. Villains is dark, it’s violent, and the majority of the characters aren’t good people. Basically what I’m saying is, it’s the perfect book to pick up in time for Halloween. 

This is one of the rare times where I can’t really think of any issues I had with a book. The general plot of the book may seem very similar to other novels (namely The Hunger Games), but it was done in such a unique way that I didn’t even notice it while I was reading. The setting was fantastic, the characters were interesting, and I am very VERY much here to find out how it all ends. I would like to send a quick prayer to the book gods for a speedy release date for the sequel. I’ve been very good this year (HA!) and deserve for my dream to come true…. Wait, none of y’all believe me?! Drat.

Final Verdict: 5/5 Stars

Is All of Us Villains on your TBR this fall? Do you prefer to read dark or lighthearted stories more?  Do you like it when books revolve around a competition?

Book Review: The Witch Haven

When I first read the synopsis for this book back when it was announced, I was immediately intrigued. I love the idea of mixing WWI-era society with magic, especially from the viewpoint of women. I never realized just how much I needed a book like this in my life. 

Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster for gifting me an Advanced Reader Copy for my honest review.

The Last Magician meets The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy in this thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy following a young woman who discovers she has magical powers and is thrust into a battle between witches and wizards.

In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.

Before she can be condemned as a murderess, two cape-wearing nurses arrive to inform her she is deathly ill and ordered to report to Haxahaven Sanitarium. But Frances finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all: it’s a school for witches. Within Haxahaven’s glittering walls, Frances finds the sisterhood she craves, but the headmistress warns Frances that magic is dangerous. Frances has no interest in the small, safe magic of her school, and is instead enchanted by Finn, a boy with magic himself who appears in her dreams and tells her he can teach her all she’s been craving to learn, lessons that may bring her closer to discovering what truly happened to her brother.

Frances’s newfound power attracts the attention of the leader of an ancient order who yearns for magical control of Manhattan. And who will stop at nothing to have Frances by his side. Frances must ultimately choose what matters more, justice for her murdered brother and her growing feelings for Finn, or the safety of her city and fellow witches. What price would she pay for power, and what if the truth is more terrible than she ever imagined?

I was pleasantly surprised by how well-written this book was for being a debut novel. It was littered all throughout by some amazing quotes that left me really thinking.. And we all know how much I love my quotes! I also enjoyed how the author wasn’t afraid to tackle some of the known issues of the Edwardian Era, such as the atrocities done to the Indigenous population and women’s suffrage. I applaud her for handling those topics with the care that she did.

Frances was an interesting main character. I enjoyed the bond and love she had with her brother, as sibling relationships are usually non-existent in YA. She was also much tougher than I was expecting, willing to do whatever it took to get the job done. However, she did make some decisions that I didn’t quite agree with or understand her reasoning for. Though I suppose you could chalk that up to her age (and  I hate using that excuse). However, I felt that the side characters really shined in this book. I loved the mysteriousness of Finn. It kept me on my toes and always second-guessing my opinions on him. Lena was also great and I loved that the author included her story. But I have to say my favorite was Maxine. She was strong and icy, but so passionate about wanting more for her life. I loved that the author only gave you enough information about her to leave you craving to know more. I hope we finally learn her backstory in the sequel.

Women are supposed to be competent at everything, but experts at nothing. Haven't you heard

I would say that my only real issue with this story lies with the pacing. It starts off diving headfirst into the plot and immediately grabbing your attention but then the majority of the book meanders about. I thought the murder mystery was brilliantly thrown in to set the tone and give context for Frances’ connection to the magical world. However, I wish it would have played a more prominent role within the plot. It only seemed to show up at random times to move the story forward and didn’t quite feel as organic as I would have liked. Though the ending was very exciting, and while I guessed the “plot twist” early on, I still enjoyed seeing it play out.

Overall, this was an enjoyable debut novel and I’m really interested to see where the rest of the series takes us. I think that now Frances is fully integrated into the magical world, some very exciting things will start to happen and I cannot wait to see what they are!

Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars


Have you read The Witch Haven yet? If so, what are your thoughts on the story?  Is this book on your TBR? Do you enjoy reading stories about witches?

Book Review: Flash Fire (The Extraordinaries, #2)

Once again, TJ Klune has written a book that just speaks to my heart on every level. I laughed, I l cried, I had a great time. What more could you ask for?

*Happy Publication Day! And a big thank you to Tor Teen for gifting me a copy of this book for review.*

Nick landed himself the superhero boyfriend of his dreams, but with new heroes arriving in Nova City it’s up to Nick and his friends to determine who is virtuous and who is villainous. Which is a lot to handle for a guy who just wants to finish his self-insert bakery AU fanfic.

If you aren’t familiar with TJ Klune’s work, then let try and explain it to you. The way I think of it is like that moment when you’re sitting around with friends and family just laughing and talking, and then you take a moment and look around at everyone and just feel this sense or warmth and happiness.. That is what reading a book by Klune feels like. It’s sunshine and laughter in written form. Basically, it makes for perfect summer reading! Have I convinced you yet? Okay, good.

For this sequel to The Extraordinaries, I was really excited to see where Nick and Seth were going to take us. I was expecting more hijinks and humorous situations for our little ragtag group of friends. However, I was not expecting the far more serious tone of this book compared to its predecessor. The theme went deep into addressing police brutality/reform and social justice. While I really appreciate Klune taking the time to address these important issues, it did seem to take over the entire story a bit. The humor and quirkiness that was so predominant in the first book (my favorite thing about it), took a major step back in this sequel. The tone just didn’t feel well-balanced and in doing so, kind of threw me for a loop. Nicky’s well-timed quips and humor were few and far between which made me a little sad. I live for the moments when I laugh aloud at his antics. With that being said, the overall book was still light-hearted, just not near to the levels of book one.

Mintmade Fashion Pride Sale

Nick, Gibby and Jazz continue to be absolute delights. I love every second of their banter and friendship. It’s so great to see such a supportive friend group in a YA novel. Sometimes it feels like they aren’t as prevalent as they should be but maybe I just read too much fantasy, which we all know is all about that solo journey. But here it’s very fun to see how well they get along and how much they understand one another. They love Nick for who he is and are always there for him, even when he’s getting himself into trouble (which is often). I just wish Seth had a bit more personality. He still continues to be overshadowed by everyone else and that’s a little disappointing. I guess it plays well against Nick’s outogoing and bubbly persona but I think he tends to come across very flat sometimes, especially in group settings. I did really enjoy the new characters introduced, especially Miss Conduct. Seriously, I would love to read a story following just her. She is amazing and the superhero I never knew I needed! There’s also another newbie to the scene but the mystery of them is good, even if a little too easy.

If you’re looking for a series that’s super fast-paced or are needing something to pull you out of a reading slump, this is the one for you. Just like book one, I was never bored and kept wanting to read even when it was way past my bedtime. Yes, I’m now 30 years old and officially must get at least 8 hours of sleep or I’m useless. I loved the action in this one and really appreciated some of the twists that Klune gave. A few I had already guessed and a few that I didn’t see coming. And oh boy, if you’re a fan of cliffhangers like I am.. this book delivers. I need book three ASAP. Do you hear me, TJ?! I mean it!!!

Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars

Have you read Flash Fire yet? If so, what did you think? Are you a TJ Klune fan as well? 

Book Review: The Starless Sea

Let me preface this by saying that I REALLY did not enjoy Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus. I found it to be extremely boring with a pointless plotline. So that had me a little concerned going into this book but I’m happy to say that I didn’t have that issue at all with The Starless Sea.

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

If you’re familiar with Morgenstern’s writing style, you’ll know that it’s very descriptive and flowery. She has a way with prose that almost lends itself more to the magical realism side of fantasy. I found it to be too much in The Night Circus, but I feel like it was toned down to just the right amount in this book. It felt more whimsical than anything else, which went perfectly with the plot of the story. It wasn’t overdone, nor seemed out of place. I found it especially enjoyable during the little interlude chapters, that were mini stories from the books mentioned in the novel. I thought this was a very clever way to move the plot along, as it just teased you with what was actually going on. It helped add to the mystery element of the overall story, as you tried to understand how each tale was tied to Zachary’s journey.

Speaking of Zachary, he is a very interesting main character. I feel like the majority of introverted book lovers will immediately connect with him, as we all tend to feel more at home curled up with a good book than mingling with a crowd at a bar. I really enjoyed watching him come out of his shell as the book progressed, especially when it came to him trying to learn more about the Starless Sea. I also enjoyed watching him develop new relationships with Mirabel and Dorian. And sweet Dorian.. he is very much the mysterious man that we all secretly want to find and fall in love with. He has a roguish sense of adventure and I really enjoyed how he would bring out a new side to Zachary. They’re dynamic was really interesting, though I have to say that I maybe enjoy Zachary’s relationship with Mirabel even more. They seem to understand each other on a very deep level. I would personally be okay with a book over them just talking the entire time.

Those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them. But what happens next will vary.

I think the only issue with this story that some might struggle with is that it can be a little hard to follow. Morgenstern is really playing with all of the different elements that each of the mini-stories brings to the overall plot. I feel like a lot of it can be very abstract and doesn’t quite say, “Yes this part is important. Remember me!”, which can lead you to forgetting certain things or not fully grasping how important they will be later on in the book. Personally, I really liked that part. I liked trying to make the connections throughout the book and figure out what each story was really about or how it would affect the ending. It was basically a puzzle and one that I truly enjoyed. If you don’t really like ambiguity in your endings or having anything not explicitly laid out for you in terms of what it means, you may not enjoy this book as much. I feel like the ending was left open to interpretation for each reader, which isn’t something you see very often.

Overall, I really loved this book. It was full of truly memorable quotes and constantly had  me in awe of how Morgenstern was able to make some many different stories connect to the overall plot. Like I mentioned, I don’t think this book is for everyone but I do think it is worth giving it a try if you’re even a little bit interested. It may surprise you just like it did me.

Final Verdict: 5/5 Stars

Have you read The Starless Sea? If so, what did you think about it? How do you think it compares to The Night Circus? Do you like books that make you think?

Book Review: The Last Magician (The Last Magician, #1)

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with Lisa Maxwell’s The Last Magician (The Last Magician, #1)I had heard many good things about the book and the premise sounded very interesting, but I was never fully hyped on reading it. However, I’m glad that I did as it turned out to be an interesting read with quite a cast of characters.

Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

Maxwell’s writing style is very straightforward. There’s no use of flowery prose to mask the plot here, which as you all know, I really appreciate. Flowery prose can be very hit or miss and I feel that it would have done a disservice to this book. This story is very plot driven with a lot of bouncing around between characters. I will say that it took some time for it to really build up, as the first quarter of the book is just a build up for all of the characters. It does start off a little slow and took me a while to really get into the story.

We really have two main characters with one being Esta, a time traveling thief with a no-nonsense attitude and doesn’t appreciate being told what to do. She is very stubborn and will do just about anything to complete her mission. Then there is Darrington, a talented Mageus with a troubled past that he’s trying to run from. His relationship with Esta is full of tension from the very moment they first meet, sexually and personality-wise. I loved watching them struggle to take control of each other. They’re both super stubborn and working towards their own personal goals, so it was always fun when they would butt heads. There was also a really large cast of supporting characters, each with their own personality and backstory that was really fleshed out so you could see why they would make the choices that they did.

Saying and doing things over and over and over makes them safe. at least it used to. i'm not so sure anymore.Don't tell.don't tell.don't, it doesn't feel safe at all..png

I would say that my biggest issues with this book was the slow beginning and the complicated world-building. I very rarely struggle to understand the world in which a book is set in, but it took me the majority of this book to really understand the history of Mageus and their struggle against the Order. I feel like there was a lack of explanation that would’ve been very helpful early on in the story, even a little prologue with a history lesson. Instead, we are immediately thrown into this world knowing there’s a struggle between the two, but no real reason as to why. It seemed like we were not really given this backstory until late in the book. I think Maxwell missed an opportunity to really flesh out the setting, focusing on the city itself and not the background.

Overall this was an enjoyable book and I do plan to continue with the series, as I really want to see how Esta’s story ends after that cliffhanger ending. While there were some flaws to the story, it was still entertaining. If you enjoy fantasy and historical fiction, I think this book will interest you as it does weave the two together really well.

Final Verdict: 3/5 Stars

Have you read The Last Magician? Did you struggle to understand the history between the Order and the Mageus? Did you enjoy the book? Have you read the sequel?

Book Review: The Wicked Deep

Everyone has been raving about Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep, ever since it was first released early last year. I was finally convinced to give it a shot recently and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Sometimes the hype is actually deserved…

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the writing. You would never guess that this was a debut novel, as Ernshaw has such a wonderful way with words. I was constantly finding passages that I felt were speaking to me personally. And as a reader, there’s nothing greater than coming across writing that instantly connects with you. Another writing choice that I really appreciated was how Ernshaw would give us small chapters told from the sisters points of view, providing us a glimpse into what their lives were truly like before they were drowned by Sparrow. I’m such a sucker when authors choose to do little back and forth time jumps like this. It definitely adds more substance to the story and allowing us to see from more perspectives.

Other than the small time jumps into the past, the story mostly follows Penny and so we really get to know her over the course of the summer. She’s very closed off from the rest of the world, including the people of Sparrow. She sees her life on the tiny Lumiere Island as the only option for her future, as she takes care of her mother and the lighthouse. She also sees the curse of the sisters as justified punishment for the town, even as awful as it may seem. However, during the course of her budding relationship with Bo, she begins to open up. While Bo may be mysterious, he’s passionate and isn’t afraid to push Penny to her limits. I appreciated how they fed off of each other, especially considering their difficult personal histories.

Love is an enchantress - devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat..png

The only flaw with this book was that the plot twist fell a little flat for me. I had already guessed it very early on and was a little disappointed in seeing that I was correct. Now, I tend to guess a lot of mysteries or plot twists in novel, so this may not be as much of an issue for you as it was for me. I just really enjoy a twist that comes out of nowhere and I never see coming, which is few and far between. But with that being said, that didn’t ruin the story for me nor take away from my overall enjoyment. I still really enjoyed the journey and getting to learn more about the sisters and how their brief lives continued to affect Sparrow.

I think this was a really enjoyable debut novel. The atmosphere and setting really sold the overall plot and I could almost believe that Sparrow is a real town along the Oregon coast. But for me, the real beauty of this story was the writing itself. I think Ernshaw has solidified herself as an auto-buy author for me and I will definitely be picking up whatever she graces us with in the future. If you’re looking for an atmospheric mystery to curl up with on a cold day, I think this one is the perfect fit.

Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars

Have you read The Wicked Deep? If so, what did you think of it? Were you able to figure out the plot twist beforehand? Did you enjoy the flashbacks? Do you plan on reading Ernshaw’s future novels?