Into the Crooked Place | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Into the Crooked Place ( #1)

Author: Alexandra Christo

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 384

Categories: Fantasy, Crime, Young Adult, Romance

The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.

Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.

Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.

Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.

And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.

My Attention: I had to be in the right mood to read this, so I did pick this up and then shelved it for a month – once I was in the right mood to read a “gangster fantasy” type of book I finished it in one sitting

World Building: story takes place in Criejie, where an evil Kingpin boss runs the the city.

Writing Style: story flowed nicely once I got into it

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 

Crazy in Love: there is a queer romance and a friends to maybe lovers situation going on as well

Creativity: sounds similar to other gangster fantasy stories, but I did enjoy the magic

Mood: okay 

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Who can you really trust?

  • I enjoyed the characters:
    • Tavia – she’s funny and has heart. Like Wesley says she is the glue to their crew and I think it’s because she gets a long with everyone.
    • Wesley – the bad boy who has a secret past that he doesn’t even know about. He’s an underboss wanting to be the alpha, Kingpin of Criejie. He grew up in the streets and has killed to survive. His weakness? Tavia – the person who’s known him the longest. He is my favorite character so far because he is dangerous – we’ll see what happens with him.
    • Saxony – has a secret past and is in Creije for revenge. She and Karam used to be lovers. Theirs is a complicated relationship.
    • Karam – another person with a secret past. She is a kick ass warrior bound to protect Saxony.
  • I liked the world building of Creije and learning about the Crafters as well. The magic system was interesting – Crafters (true magic wielders) were killed in a war so now people only use trick magic.
  • I enjoyed the diversity with Saxony and Karam’s queer romance taking the forefront of the other relationships in this book.
  • There are a few twists in this story that kept me engaged until the end.
  • I think I wanted the Kingpin, Dante Ashwood, to be more villainous. As a heist/gangster crew? The team don’t quite trust each other. Everyone has a past and the one leading them has the darkest one of all.
  • There are many perspectives being told in this book and I think between the main four it didn’t take away from the story but then there were perspectives from Krause and Deniel – and I don’t even know if they were needed.
  • There are a lot of characters in this book but one is mentioned as being another powerful player, Doyen Shulze. If the Kingpin is helping Wesley, then the Doyen is the politician trying to take them down. But she never makes an appearance…maybe in book two?

Overall, I found the story entertaining once I was in the mood to read a gangster fantasy. Wesley is the character that intrigued me the most and made me keep reading. I wanted to know how bad he really was and if there was any good in him. The ending was an interesting twist that makes me want to read the sequel so I’m looking forward to that.

Black Girl Unlimited | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Black Girl Unlimited – The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard

Author: Echo Brown

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 304

Publisher: Holt/Ottaviano

Categories: Young Adult, Coming of Age, Racism, Misogyny, Socioeconomic, Drug Abuse, Mental Illness, Sexual Abuse, Magical Realism, Own Voices, Violence

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism—all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age.

My Attention: it had my full attention but I had to read it in sessions to process what I was reading

World Building: this is contemporary, set in the early 90’s, but with magical realism

Writing Style: so poetic and unconventional – there are times when author is writing about an even and it jumps (connects) to another event in her mind

Bringing the Heat: there is heat for the character as she processes new sexual feelings 

Crazy in Love: nothing romantic, Echo has a few crushes in her life

Creativity: Echo and it seems most females in this book are wizards! She lists the wizard rules in this book as she tells you her story. The rules are more like a guideline on how to survive challenges in your life.

Mood: Absolutely inspired!

Triggers: rape, beating, abuse, drug use, thoughts of suicide

My Takeaway: We are wizards and we can get through our hardships!

  • This story cover some hard topics. It is Echo’s story and her parents use drug users, they live in poverty, and she feels ugly because she is black. Echo is also sexual abused, raped, bullied, beaten and yet she is a wizard and she recognizes this darkness that descends upon people who have internal struggles which is almost everyone around her. She learns to defeat the darkness.
  • This story has a lot going on. It explores…everything from drug abuse, racism, poverty, self-esteem, rape, sexual molestation, parenting, religion, oppression, it covered so much! But for me it worked, it made the conclusion so powerful when Echo perseveres over her dark times.
  • The author wrote this book in a way at first jarred me and I had to wonder if it was a mistake because I was reading an ebook. So I thought the formatting was WAY off..but nope – Echo would talk about something and slip into another memory, as they were connected in some way that you didn’t think it would be! I thought it was fantastic after realizing it wasn’t a mistake.
  • The writing is so powerful and strong, I was highlighting so many sentences or phrases in the book!
  • Echo’s voice is so strong. Her life shocked me – the sexual abuse, how she was living and surviving, and still being the smartest and most accomplished kid in school. I felt her fear, her anguish and pain. I felt her joy too. But I loved her speech in the end and the notes she and her friends wrote as well! No matter what Echo went through, I’m glad she had her friends beside her and she did have help. But this wasn’t only about Echo, it was about her friends, and her family too!
  • The magical realism was interesting, I don’t know that it fully worked and that my belief was suspended enough to believe Echo and some of her friends and family were wizards. I actually thought it was a metaphor or that Echo and her mom had a mental illness and being a wizard was the way to explain it but they are wizards. I think the wizard rules was an awesome guideline of survival though and that it applies to wizards and non-wizards alike.
  • There are so many topics and themes that arise in this story, I thought it would be too much but honestly, I thought it made for an impactful reading experience that I won’t ever forget.

Echo’s personal coming of age story is absolutely powerful, fearless, important, and inspirational. It is poetic, and raw. I cheered Echo on as she struggled through events that killed the light in her but what doesn’t kill her made her oh so much stronger. I admired her determination, strength and capacity to forgive. This is an amazing story full of despair but also full of hope, friendship, forgiveness and yes, wizards.

ARC Review | The Dark Tide

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Dark Tide

Author: Alicia Jasinska

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Categories: Dark Fantasy, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Every year on St. Walpurga’s Eve, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.

Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen’s attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice.

Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.

When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas’s freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Reactions:

My Attention: wavered

World Building: dark fantasy world with witches

Writing Style: atmospheric

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 – not much heat, there is a slow burn romance

Crazy in Love: Lina has a major crush on Thomas and basically sets off to rescue him so is she crazy about him? YES…but…things change when Eva comes into the picture.

Creativity: love the dark witchy vibe

Mood: gave me a little but of The Hazel Wood vibes

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: the Witch Queen is not all she seems

  • I like when a book about witches goes into the dark side. When Lina and her brother Finley make it to the Witch Queen’s palace is where things get fantastical, and dark! The world building is great – we learn about the cursed island and the witches that have to sacrifice a boy to keep the curse away. It’s a very dark story.
  • The Witch Queen Eva at first comes off evil…but…we learn she’s more than a witch queen needing a sacrifice to the sea serpent. She’s complicated. I liked learning about her past and her motivations, she has a lot riding on her shoulders to do the right thing.
  • Lina and her brother’s relationship made me a laugh a few times because they bicker like siblings do. They do not hold back with one another!
  • Lina was so in love with Thomas (the boy who escaped being sacrificed), that went to the witch’s castle to free him…like whoa…but at the end of the story, she starts having feelings for Eva. Like where did that crazy crush on Thomas go?! Haha…
  • I think Eva was the most interesting character in this story. At times the other characters felt flat and the story lacked depth.
  • Triggers: violence

I definitely would have been more in the mood to read this in the fall. I enjoyed the dark and witchy vibe. The world building with cursed island and the witch’s castle intrigued me and kept me reading until the end. At times I thought the story fell flat but I think if you like stories about witches, you may enjoy this one.

The Kinder Poison | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Kinder Poison (#1)

Author: Natalie Mae

Format: Hardcover (own)

Pages: 416

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Politics

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

I read this book in one night. And look at that cover! It might be my favorite cover of 2020 releases so far – it’s simple yet oh so vibrant with all that purple. Brilliant!

My Reactions:

My Attention: read this in one sitting

World Building: amazing world building

Writing Style: flowed from beginning to end

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 there is maybe one scene with some heat

Crazy in Love: argh….Zahru and two brothers…a love triangle

Creativity: I love everything about this world, it’s magic, kingdom, the people in it

Mood: amazed 

Triggers: violence

My Takeaway: Be your own hero!

  • Where do I start? I love Zahru – she’s fun, she’s daring, and kind-hearted. She thinks on her feet and is a good listener (she is a Whisperer who can communicate with animals). She loves her family, her friends and her home. I love her heart.
  • The characters from Hen, her best friend, to the Princes and the Princess – it’s an array of personalities and it was fun getting to know everyone!
  • The action – and there is plenty! There is politics involved with three royal sibling vying for the throne by way of a trial. But the drama between these siblings, my goodness – I love how different they were, how they had different goals and motivations and how confused I was about who would make the best ruler. But there is action to the very end!
  • Zahru is the hero of her story. This is such an inspirational story. Throughout the book people look down on her and though it hurts, she doesn’t let it get her down, she keeps moving forward because the race to the finish never lets up. But she digs deep within her to do the right things no matter what obstacle she is faced with. Her power, being a Whisperer seems weak and everyone tells her so – but her strength is kindness, listening and caring. I like that her strength isn’t magic…it’s connecting with people.
  • The world building is lush and vibrant. I love the magic system and the politics. I enjoyed learning about the history of Orkena and wonder what will happen in the next book.
  • The only thing that bugged me was the love triangle. It reminded me a bit of The Red Queen series and I was hoping it wasn’t going to go there…but there it is. It sets off in motion some events that make me want book two in my hands. But I do hope this triangle is nipped in the bud…we shall see.

This is a fun read with an exciting new world. Zahru comes off as the weakest link but her power and strength gets her through many dangers in this story. This is an amazing debut novel and I look forward to book two!

ARC Review | Mayhem

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Mayhem

Author: Estelle Laure

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: July 14, 2020

Categories: Paranormal, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Reactions:

My Attention: what is this magic water? 🤔

World Building: Late 80’s California coast inspired – think…Lost Boys. The magic system? Vague.

Writing Style: lyrical

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: insta-Love

Creativity: magic water gives drinker powers (at times confusing)

Mood: dark 🌑 and a little nostalgic

Triggers: domestic abuse, drug use, death, killing, toxic relationship

My Takeaway: there is magic in the water and it can make you see things

  • The cover and title. Love it.
  • I liked the whole Santa Maria, California beach 80’s vibe in this book. You can definitely tell it is inspired by The Lost Boys. I felt some nostalgia and I haven’t watched that movie in awhile so I can’t compare it side by side, but it definitely got the vibe right.
  • Roxy and Mayhem’s relationship is complex. They confront many issues like suicide, the family’s past, domestic abuse and drug addiction. I’m glad that Mayhem and Roxy come to terms with their “roots” and their family history. Roxy had a lot of secrets she kept from Mayhem but she was drowning in a lot of her own pain and misery.
  • This whole story intrigued me because it’s starts off as an abuse story and then…things just get twisted in a strange way that at times worked and then a lot of times that didn’t.
  • This magical, addictive “water” that was being described in the story was aggravating me a little because of how vague it was. It could make the drinker see who was good and evil and that made the Brayburn bloodline powerful. But at times I was almost hoping this was The Lost Boys remake and vampires were gonna jump out somewhere – that didn’t happen.
  • They use this magic power basically at the end to stop a serial killer. But there is a lot going on already with Roxy and Mayhem, this killer is just not a focus of the book or it didn’t seem urgent enough to me until the second half of the book.
  • The insta-love between Jason and Mayhem felt unnecessary. He became her “great love” in a span of days!

Without the magic elements of this book, I found Mayhem’s story gripping as she and her mother try to start over their lives in Santa Maria. The magic water introduction felt a bit weak to me and confusing but I did like the nostalgia of The Lost Boys. Mayhem standing up to her abuser and learning about her family and the magic they have is a powerful message that everyone can learn from.

Kingdom of Souls | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Kingdom of Souls

Author: Rena Barron

Format: eBook (owned)

Pages: 496

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

THERE’S MAGIC IN HER BLOOD.

Explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend, where one girl must sacrifice her life, year by year, to gain the power necessary to fight the mother she has never been good enough for.

Perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas, Tomi Adeyemi and Black Panther

THERE’S MAGIC IN HER BLOOD.

Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can’t even cast the simplest curse.

Shame and disappointment dog her.

When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

An explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend with a twist you will never see coming.

I’ve been wanting to read this book since when it was published and when I saw the ebook was on sale, I knew I had to get it. I was not disappointed, this book is amazing!

My Reactions:

My Attention: it took me three days to read this because there is a lot of world building and characters to digest

World Building: lush, detailed

Writing Style: the story telling sucked me in, it flowed nicely

Bringing the Heat: 🔥slow burn 

Crazy in Love: best friends to lovers BUT it’s wayyy more complicated than that

Creativity: so many twists and turns I was shocked a lot in the 2nd half of the book. I love the world this is set in with the gods, demons, craven, orishas and tribes!

Mood: blown away

Triggers: violence, death (of children)

My Takeaway: Family can betray you. 🥺

  • The storytelling sucked me into this fantastic world of tribes, magic, Gods, demons, friendship, love, and family! This story has layers – I loved the twists – I was like this… “😲” …throughout the second half of the book!
  • Arrah is a girl who’s magic hasn’t appeared as it should. Both her parents have strong magic so it’s disappointing to her and her mother when it appears she has none. All she wants is to please her mother (there is no pleasing this woman!) and her Grandmother. Thank God her father always appreciating her no matter what. ❤️
  • The backstory of the Gods toying with the lives of these people, makes the story so much more complicated. We get commentary from some of these Gods to show how they are tied in deeply into the culture of the tribes and to the Kingdom as well.
  • When you think the story is a simple one about a girl who wishes she has magic and power…the story gets deeper and DARKER. I loved it. I think when it gets dark is when my mind said wow. Arrah’s journey in this life is not easy and in the end she has to make hard choices about family and about love.
  • I’ve read a lot of books lately with neglectful moms (is this a popular theme lately?) but wow…Arrah’s mother, Arti, is on another level. I didn’t like her mom, but I like that the story went there and it made Arrah’s hurt and despair more relatable.
  • I love Arrah’s friends, they bring humor and have her back when she really doesn’t have anyone else on her side.
  • The beginning is slow because it’s world building but I still enjoyed it. The second half is a lot of action. I’ve learned to keep at it with slow beginnings as long as the world or the characters interests me and I’m glad I’ve learned to do this.
  • As for the romance part of the book…oh boy – not sure what is going to happen there. Is it a love triangle? I’m going to say yes and I was bummed about what happened between Arrah and Rudjek because they were best friends first before anything else. It will be interesting to see what happens with Arrah and Rudjek.
  • Effiya. That girl demon! 😖

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot with it’s vibrant world building and cast of characters! In the second half I was just shocked with the twists and turns. Arrah starts off just a girl wanting her magic and power to manifest inside her. She wants to be recognized by her mother and not be a failure to her Grandmother and their tribe. By the end of this book, her family is taken from her, but she must stay stronger for a little while longer and this time she has her friends at her side and the powers of her tribe within her. I look forward to reading book two in this series!

Book Review | Ember Queen (Ash Princess, #3)

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Ember Queen

Author: Laura Sebastian

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Pages: 512

Categories: Young Adult, Series, Fantasy, Romance

The thrilling conclusion to the series that began with the instant New York Times bestseller “made for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir” (Bustle), Ember Queen is an epic fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.

Princess Theodosia was a prisoner in her own country for a decade. Renamed the Ash Princess, she endured relentless abuse and ridicule from the Kaiser and his court. But though she wore a crown of ashes, there is fire in Theo’s blood. As the rightful heir to the Astrean crown, it runs in her veins. And if she learned nothing else from her mother, she learned that a Queen never cowers. 

Now free, with a misfit army of rebels to back her, Theo must liberate her enslaved people and face a terrifying new enemy: the new Kaiserin. Imbued with a magic no one understands, the Kaiserin is determined to burn down anyone and everything in her way. 

The Kaiserin’s strange power is growing stronger, and with Prinz Søren as her hostage, there is more at stake than ever. Theo must learn to embrace her own power if she has any hope of standing against the girl she once called her heart’s sister.

A princess becomes a Queen.

My Reactions:

My Attention: captured

World Building: detailed, layered, elemental gem magic, conquered kingdoms – all of it

Writing Style: fluid, so good

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 a few kisses and one night of something more not that detailed haha – Theo is busy saving Astrea!

Crazy in Love: not so crazy, but just right for a Princess fighting for her throne – she has priorities and needs balance 🤷🏻‍♀️

Creativity: same tropes as other “princess trying to win back her kingdom” kinda story BUT…the political chess in this story and writing is good

Mood: victorious 👊🏼

Triggers: death, violence

My Takeaway: Theo the princess grows up a lot and earns her real crown and throne. 👸🏻 She learns some hard lessons along the way. 😢

  • I didn’t think I’d finish this series out because Lady Smoke was an okay book mostly because of the love triangle which I felt became distracting to Theo’s goals. But in Ember Queen…she has grown, she listens to counsel from the people around her, she puts aside the romance because she is so close to freeing Astrea and their people. She endures hardship, challenges and painful loss. 🥺 But all of this has shaped who she is.
  • The chess match she has with Cress kept me invested. I wondered what Cress’ end game would be and it kept me on my toes.
  • Theo lucked out having Heron, Blaise and Artemesia by her side. Seriously, if I was someone trying to get my throne back, I want those people my side. ❤️ Talk about loyalty until the end.
  • This second half of this book was emotional and intense. Soren, Erik, Heron, Art and then Blaise…ugh…I was so damn worried about all of them. And I didn’t even think I cared about them but this book showed the bonds between them that wouldn’t break and I wanted a happy ending for them all.
  • Soren and Theo’s reunion was bittersweet but I liked that their relationship wasn’t the focus of this book. It was reiterated over and over in the book that Theo would put Astrea above anyone else and I thought that was a queen mentality. It may have seemed cold at times, but come one…she’s a Queen. She has to make the hard decisions and face the consequences no matter how painful.
  • This story shows how power can corrupt and how a leader has to face hard decisions especially in times of war. What are the right decisions to make? Which one will lower loss of life? What does it take to stop a war and have peace? An eye for an eye? Turn the other cheek? Theo has to face these issues and questions head on and in the end she makes the best possible choice.
  • Some parts were repetitive, like at times Theo’s plans (and there were many) were faulty and her counsel would try to find the holes in it, which I appreciated but there were so many plans in this mission to the throne that at times I wanted it to move faster.
  • You have to dig into the first part of the story because it is really setting up for a final battle which had me on edge. But many parts have to fall into place but Theo has some hiccups here and there which seems like the story is moving slowly – but she and her allies dig deep, and keep fighting.

This was a satisfying end to the series, especially with the epilogue. Most stories end with a happily ever after, the girl gets the guy, the kingdoms are saved. But has to be one of my favorite endings, Theo is alone and reflects on her journey as she approaches and sits on the throne she feared and hated for so long. She knows the loss that came with her victory, she knows the battle within herself that she’s had to fight and overcome. But now she’s made the throne her OWN. Ugh…I wanted to stand up and clap and cheer for her, that’s how awesome I felt at the end of this book. Bravo! I look forward to whatever Laura Sebastian writes next!

Book Review | The Kingdom of Back

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: The Kingdom of Back

Author: Marie Lu

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 336

Categories: Magical Realism, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart. 

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

I did not know what to expect when I borrowed this book. I wasn’t loving the title and this was going to be something new as the author had not written historical fiction before. I only read one series from her and that was Warcross.

But I was pleasantly surprised by this book! Nannerl Mozart is Wolfgang’s older sister, the one we never hear about since Mozart basically equals Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But he had an older sister and one who was accomplished at playing the clavier as well!

This story delves into her life but takes on a fantastical and magical twist. Nannerl wants to be seen too, she wants to be acknowledged as an accomplished talent as much as her brother is, but in a world dominated by men, she is second place. Then she makes a bargain with a magical being who promises he can make her immortal. Will all her dreams come true if she bargains with this stranger? Or will she lose herself and her brother?

  • I was skeptical of the magical realism in this book but hello…Marie Lu’s writing sucked me into this story so bad! It’s written like a fairy tale and it was so lush. The author’s love of Mozart and the music comes through into the writing as well. As someone who took piano lessons and was a big fan of Beethoven, I get her obsession with Mozart. These musicians made music that have lasted throughout time and it is magical.
  • The world building is wonderful especially since we get to travel with the Mozart family all over Europe. Today a popular musician would make millions and travel in style, but back then the Mozarts were just trying to make ends meet as their father’s ambition grew. It’s kind of a sad story.
  • It’s a story about a woman’s place in society, hundreds of years ago but it resonates in our time as well. Nannerl is talented but she’s a girl, which means she’s expected to listen, obey, be demure and marry at eighteen. She knows she will have to put away all her talent for composing after she is married.
  • Nannerl and her relationship with Wolferl is a beautiful yet complicated sibling relationship. They both are so talented and want to impress the world with their music. They also want the affection of their father who treats them like work horses to pay the family’s rent. 😒
  • Hyacinth – the liar. He did well playing both sides and it is revealed in the end of the story what he was truly after but yeah…he was a charmer wasn’t he? But I didn’t fall for it! Hyacinth’s world was well built and I enjoyed the tasks that he had Nannerl undertake. It just made me think of the Grimm fairytales or like Rumplestiltskin and stories in that vein.
  • The title explanation! After reading the book, now I love the title – it’s perfect!
  • At times I was so into the realistic side of Nannerl’s life, I almost wished it was pure historical fiction. But I think the author did such a great job blending the two worlds.
  • During reading this, I had flashbacks to the book Wintersong! 😱 You know, music and bargains with a certain Goblin King. And it seemed reminiscent because I was thinking wow, this Kingdom of Back reminds me of the movie, Labyrinth and it turn my thoughts took me to Wintersong.
  • There is no romance in this book which was awesome because the love between Nannerl and music was enough! ❤️

I am enchanted with this book. It really felt like something magical as I read it and it transported me into Nannerl’s world of music. It was almost like I was being transported to Narnia or The Never Ending Story because the writing is so lyrical. You can tell the author put her heart and soul into it because I felt it! I absolutely enjoyed this story and I’m glad I decided to read it.

ARC Review | Wicked As You Wish

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names For Magic, #1)

Author: Rin Chupeco

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 432

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Categories: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends. 

And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….

Thank you to Sourcebook Fire and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Let me just say, I have a love for Rin Chupeco books. I remember not being able to read The Bone Witch because it was too slow and yet it ended up being one of my favorite series. 😱

So here we have Wicked As You Wish. Think magic, technology, an alternate Earth where the land of fairytales exists in our modern day world. It reminded me of the show Once Upon A Time!

Tala is half filipino, half scottish and her power? She negates magic, she can break spells, which is super useful when you are around evil magic users. The last heir of the magical kingdom of Avalon, Alex, is in hiding and his protectors are her parents who used to be warriors when Avalon was a thriving place. But with the Snow Queen after him, now Tala, her family, the new Bandersnatch warriors are on the run to get to Avalon and free it from it’s frozen prison. Will they succeed?

  • There is an intricate world being described in this book. It will confuse a lot of people because it did confuse me. Just know that it is our modern day world, but the fairy tale kingdoms of Neverland, Wonderland and Avalon exist as well. It’s real. As for the magic system, non-magic users covet spelltech, basically using magic and technology together, ex. a cell phone which can create spells! But there is older magic or powers that are passed down through bloodline as well. Tala’s power is to break up spells and hers is passed down through her mother.
  • Speaking of fairy tales, I like how portals are the rabbit hole, or magic mirrors. There are the magical items like the sword in the stone and a firebird. But I love when fairy tales and the modern world collide, I’m a sucker for it. 😍 And this book is like…chaos with a light-hearted feel to it?
  • Modern day issues arise in this book – the author talks about ICE and people being detained at the border, like our current problems in the USA today.
  • Diversity is everywhere in this book. I love that the elite guards from Avalon were these old filipino women – YES, I felt like my grandmother could have been a Katiputan guard. She could wield a machete like no other. And besides racial diversity, we have LGBTIA+ representation as well.
  • There is action and battles with ogres, ice wolves, toads, ice maidens and possessed cold zombies (is the Night King from GoT the Snow Queen’s man or what? 😅😂). It’s a wild journey to Avalon, folks!
  • Tala as a character seems as neutral as her curse/power/agimat. She’s still learning to control her power, she’s the newbie when it comes to portals, ice maidens and Avalon itself. So basically she’s us, the reader who doesn’t know much. Haha. I hope we see her power grow. She’s the main character but I think she faded when the Bandersnatch crew came along. I love the Bandersnatch crew, they are all so different and have their own strengths and weaknesses. I also see some potential love matches brewing…(I hope!).
  • This story at times is all over the place. I had to put it down to finish an arc that I had a closer publication date and I’m glad I put it down because my brain had some time to simmer with the information about I gathered in the first few chapters. There was a lot of info dump at times. For me, I didn’t mind that because I needed to understand all the workings of this magical world. There is a lot to learn. But once I picked up the book again, I finished it in a day because I was entertained.
  • Like I said it’s a wild journey from Arizona to Avalon because there are SO many characters, places and magic terms to remember. I enjoyed it, but I think a lot of people will be put off with all of it thrown at them at one time. I think the world building will confuse many readers.
  • Please give me some romance between Zoe and Cole? And what’s going to happen with Tala and Ryker? Can anything come from that? 🙁

This book was chaotic but for me in a good way. I felt like it woke me up, which was what I needed because there are a few books on my night stand I’m trying to get through and they have been putting me to sleep. 🤣 This one slapped me in the face and was like come on, pay attention and let’s take a ride! It’s not perfect by any means, it can be confusing. At times I was like…

It’s not a story for everyone, but seriously, I enjoyed this story a lot and the ending made me go… 😱. I think this book would make a great tv show because it is so visual! Anyway, I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel because I need answers.

ARC Review | We Are Blood and Thunder

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: We Are Blood and Thunder

Author: Kesia Lupo

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

On the edges of a sealed-off city, a chance encounter between two girls in the misty woods is about to change the course of everything. . .

Lena is on the run from her home, the Duke’s Forest, after being convicted as a mage and sentenced to death. Meanwhile, Constance escaped the Forest years before, after her own magical powers were discovered–but now, she will do anything to get back inside and reclaim her place as the duke’s daughter. The girls cross paths for only a moment, but that’s long enough to set them down paths that will change the dukedom forever.

As Lena reaches a safe haven where she can study and develop her powers alongside handsome but mysterious mage Emris, Constance maneuvers her way back into the home she left behind, unsure whether she trust the people she once considered her family and friends. All the while, the girls are connected by the dark, terrifying storm clouds that hang over the land and devastate everything in their wakes. 

Only Lena and Constance hold the keys to dispelling the storm and keeping their home safe–if they can uncover who cast the spell that generated the clouds to begin with. But the truth is far more sinister than anyone could imagine, and it could mean that one of the girls will lose everything.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

We are Blood and Thunder follows two main female characters, Lena, who has a mark on her face, no family and was raised as a cryptling in Duke’s Forest. She was assistant to the city mortician. Then there is Constance, a mage who comes back home to Duke’s Forest to help get rid of the toxic storm cloud that has been circling above Duke’s Forest for years.

Nothing is what it seems with either women. We follow their journeys and find out if the storm cloud can be defeated at all.

  • The world building is fascinating with different mage factions. We only get a glimpse of a few of them but I think there is so much potential to learn more about this fantasy world. The people in Duke’s Forest don’t use magic, they worship their Ancestors – the dead that are buried below their city in crypts. Their way of life is to serve them. Outside of Duke’s Forest is where magic thrives.
  • Lena interested me more than Constance. Lena is an orphan raised as a cryptling, assisting the city’s mortician. She is without family, raised basically with dead bodies but then things start happening to her, she has power. More power than she ever had in her life.
  • Emris, a huntsman mage, is Lena’s introduction into life outside of Duke’s Forest. He teaches her about her magic and power. Theirs is a friendship that grows and I was glad Lena had someone.
  • This story was gory and dark at times! There was dark magic, necromancy and dead bodies coming to life. I thought that was fun, haha, morbid yes but I liked that it went there.
  • I needed MORE from this story – I felt like there was so much potential with the world building and I didn’t get enough. Also I felt like the characters, or maybe mostly Constance, was superficial. Even her supposed romance with Xander was so quick and strange, I was like…??…am I supposed to feel something about these two? Because I feel…nothing.
  • I didn’t vibe with Constance but by the end, my feeling about her was right. So maybe there was a reason why something about felt off! There were some parts of this book that felt a bit melodramatic and it was mostly to do with Constance. 🤨
  • The story did drag a bit, especially with this problem of this toxic storm cloud hovering over Duke’s Forest. Like…what is it? Why is it there? Why Duke’s Forest? It ties in all at the end, but it took awhile to get there – to the point I didn’t know why Constance’s story mattered. It matters…but in the beginning I wanted to skip her parts to read about Lena.
  • The twist at the end was surprising but, Constance again, to me…ruined it. I just did not like her!
  • Triggers: death, being around dead bodies

I enjoyed the world building, Lena and the necromancy in this book but I really needed more. Overall, this book fell short for me in so many areas, but it did keep my interest enough to want to know what was the whole deal with the toxic storm cloud! It was just an okay read for me.