Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Young Adult

Cursed by Marissa Meyer (Audio & Book Thoughts)

The good news is that this book came out in November, and I’m reading it in January! ARCs aside I am nearly caught up with new releases and can start reading my backlog soon.

You can find my review for Gilded here, and now let’s talk about Cursed.

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Cursed
  • Series: Gilded #2 (Duology)
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, 2022
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐ for fans of dark fairy tales and retellings

A quick note on the audio: narrated by Rebecca Soler, at 16.5 hours from MacMillan Audio in 2022

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Be still now, and I will tell you a tale.

Adalheid Castle is in chaos.

Following a shocking turn of events, Serilda finds herself ensnared in a deadly game of make-believe with the Erlking, who is determined to propel her deeper into the castle’s lies. Meanwhile, Serilda is determined to work with Gild to help him solve the mystery of his forgotten name and past.

But soon it becomes clear that the Erlking doesn’t only want to use Serilda to bring back his one true love. He also seeks vengeance against the seven gods who have long trapped the Dark Ones behind the veil. If the Erlking succeeds, it could change the mortal realm forever.

Can Serilda find a way to use her storytelling gifts for good―once and for all? And can Serilda and Gild break the spells that tether their spirits to the castle before the Endless Moon finds them truly cursed?

Romance and adventure collide in this stunning finale to the Rumpelstilskin-inspired fairy tale

My thoughts:

At this point I’ve read nearly everything that Marissa Meyer has published, and most of it has been consumed by listening to Rebecca Soler.  I’m going to get the annoying thing out of the way first and then talk about all the good things.

The thing is, I think Meyer really had to stretch to make this book 500 pages long.  There was a lot of repetition, a lot of explanation, and while I understand that she wants the reader to get the point, I feel like I would have been more bored if I was reading the text. That said, at this point we know that the Erlking is absolutely evil. Serilda is generally a pretty smart person yet she just kept begging and screaming and crying at him repeatedly over multiple instances, and I just got sick of listening to it.

So parts of both the audio and the text got to me. I just hate people that whine and the audiobook was extremely whiny at times, striking a small nerve.

So on to the positives. I applaud how far and how dark she took this story – even if I felt like the end was a total cop out. I was so devastated by the events leading up to the ending and … I would have just left it.

The lore, stories, action, and characters, were all pretty much on par with the first book.  I liked meeting the gods and monsters and generally appreciated the pacing of the book.  It wasn’t that I was bored, it’s just that the same type of situation between Serilda, the kids, and the king, repeated itself so much that it became more tiresome than shocking.

Not to say that there were not many good parts though. There’s plenty of fierce magic and snarky banter to keep the pages interesting.

TLDR/Overall: All of that said though, I highly recommend reading Cursed if you liked Gilded. It’s just more of everything and it’s difficult to find YA books that are willing to go quite as dark as this series.  With plenty of dark fairytale lore and fantasy imagery, you can’t go too wrong with Meyer.


Thanks for checking out my book and audiobook review for Cursed by Marissa Meyer. I obtained my copy through Libby and as always, all opinions are my own❤️

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Young Adult

Gilded by Marissa Meyer (Audiobook Review)

I knew it was time to read Gilded now that Cursed is out and my library hold is going to be ready within a few weeks.  I have consumed everything by Meyer on audiobook after discovering Rebecca Soler as her long time narrator. I have no regrets at any point in this arrangement as I loved both author & narrator through Heartless and The Lunar Chronicles and beyond.

Anyway, it was a fun diversion to listen while flying last week. Let’s take a look at the book and then I’ll share my thoughts..


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Gilded
  • Series: Gilded #1 (Duology)
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, 2021
  • Length: 512 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of dark fairy tales and retellings

A Quick note on the audio: 16 hours long and narrated by the ever excellent Rebecca Soler. Released in 2021 through MacMillan Audio / MacMillan Young Listeners.  On narration alone I give her a full ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Long ago cursed by the god of lies, a poor miller’s daughter has developed a talent for spinning stories that are fantastical and spellbinding and entirely untrue.

Or so everyone believes.

When one of Serilda’s outlandish tales draws the attention of the sinister Erlking and his undead hunters, she finds herself swept away into a grim world where ghouls and phantoms prowl the earth and hollow-eyed ravens track her every move. The king orders Serilda to complete the impossible task of spinning straw into gold, or be killed for telling falsehoods. In her desperation, Serilda unwittingly summons a mysterious boy to her aid. He agrees to help her… for a price. Love isn’t meant to be part of the bargain.

Soon Serilda realizes that there is more than one secret hidden in the castle walls, including an ancient curse that must be broken if she hopes to end the tyranny of the king and his wild hunt forever


I think it’s fair to begin by saying that Gilded is darker and more along the lines of Heartless and other more typical fantasy books, than say, The Lunar Chronicles was.  Gilded is obviously a Rumpelstiltskin retelling and by far one of the darkest YA books I’ve ever read. Meyer brings in other such lore as The Wild Hunt & The Erlking in order to create a wild fairytale world full of ghosts, curses, undead, trickster gods, and more.

It’s really a dark fairytale in every sense of the genre, and I’m here for it.

Stories about stories are some of my favorite plot lines.  I can’t go into detail without spoilers so I’ll just say that I loved Meyer’s attention to the storytelling and exploration of story itself, and *the twist* was perfect.

I immensely enjoyed the plot although I felt that 500+ pages was way too long.  I liked the lore and stories about the realm and meeting the kids and all the other mystic creatures and world building, but 500 pages just felt like it dragged at times.  I think it’s more noticeable in fairytale retellings too where we know the bare bones of the plot already.  On audio I was ok but I could see where, on page, I would have been glazing over a bit.

The characters are pretty amazing too, I just love all of Meyer’s characters and how Soler brings them to life.  Serilda took a bit to warm up to but eventually I liked her, and was all about Gild.  The kids are cute and seem well written for their ages.

Content wise… a few things besides the length affected the rating. Meyer got to mildly touching on a few topics that I haven’t seen in her books before. Feiwel & Friends is usually good about this but they’re advertising age 12 at the lowest while the book contains mostly fade to black baby making (pools of sunshine and all that), children being found with their hearts eaten out, killing undead fathers, and other horrors… So … Idk, parents use caution.

For me though as an adult I enjoyed the book. Usually Meyer sticks to pretty age appropriate content but as I said, this is a more typical dark fantasy novel than her others.

Overall I think it’s great for those who like characters and curses, stories about stories, dark fairy tales, a twist of romance, and everything else we have come to expect from Meyer.   


Thanks for checking out my book and audiobook review of Gilded by Marissa Meyer. Stay tuned for my thoughts on Cursed soon.  I listened through Libby and as always, all thoughts are my own.

 

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford (Finished Copy Review)

I liked Mara Rutherford’s prior three books and was psyched to claim an early finished hardcover of The Poison Season via Bookish First. Are you on Bookish First? If not, I think my promo code can get you free points when you sign up so you should totally consider doing that. I’ll post it at the bottom!

This is a rather dark YA fantasy featuring a living, bloodthirsty, wandering forest surrounded by a poisoned lake, and the isolated community that lives within. Let’s take a look at the book first then I’ll share my thoughts!


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Poison Season
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Mara Rutherford
  • Publisher & Release: Inkyard Press, 12/06/22
  • Length: 400 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

Here’s the synopsis:

Outsiders are always given a choice: the Forest or the lake. Either way, they’re never heard from again.

Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.

When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.

Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself.


My thoughts:

This is a rather dark and insulated story about a community that fears outsiders and goes through great lengths to keep them away. I liked the lore and rituals but wanted more of them. Endla is a violent community built on lies and secrets and generational trauma, where the townsfolk have magical singing voices tied to the island and forest. A great premise that I rather enjoyed, so I wish more exploration of this could have taken the place of some of the repetitive ish romantic parts. The micro world building was great and I felt like part of the village, just wanted more of the how and why magic developed as it did.

I liked the first half of the book more than the second half. The first was beautiful, establishing the world and characters, where the second half spent a lot of time on the romance. I liked the characters well enough though, Leelo and Jaren seemed like good people experiencing typical YA book struggles like not feeling up to par with community standards and feeling atypical, dealing with family trauma and secrets, etc. Even the more unlikeable characters like Sage and Ketty I felt like they were, if nothing else, done well.

The book was slow burning but not boring at all, then dumped all the answers towards the end. I generally enjoyed the read (plus the large type font and inner artwork). I actually liked the resolution too and would recommend this one for upper YA as it’s one of the better ones I’ve read recently. If I have to read YA, I’ll take these moody, eerie, atmospheric and borderline spooky books any day.

Overall there’s a great premise that wasn’t quite fully realized, but it was close. I’d recommend for fans of darker YA fantasy that like romance too.


Thanks for checking out my book review of The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford! I claimed a copy with my bookish first points, and as always, all opinions are my own. If you’d like to join bookish first and have a chance towards winning early copies, my referral code bc25a61ba071488b9 can earn you some points to start! 

Categories
Fantasy Romance Young Adult

Lakesedge By Lyndall Clipstone (Finished Copy Review)

Thanks to Bookish First and the publisher, I was able to grab a finished paperback of Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone. I keep saying I’ve broken up with YA, but when a free finished copy of a Gothic sounding fantasy with a pretty cover is offered, it’s hard to say no….


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Lakesedge
  • Series: The World at Lakes Edge #1
  • Author: Lyndall Clipstone
  • Publisher & Release: Square Fish, 08/22 (paperback release with excerpt and bonus content) – original 2021 thru Henry Holt & CO BYR
  • Length: 416 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ for older YA or even new adult aged readers 

Here’s the synopsis:

A lush, gothic fantasy from debut author Lyndall Clipstone about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Brigid Kemmerer.

When Violeta Graceling and her younger brother Arien arrive at the haunted Lakesedge estate, they expect to find a monster. Leta knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.

As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn… Now, to save Rowan―and herself―Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.


My Thoughts:

First off I will say that my favorite thing about this edition is probably the art – cover, interior, very pretty.  There’s also bonus content including an interview and annotated pages in this paperback edition which is always fun.

To generally look at Lakesedge as a Young Adult book: it’s ok, and I think teens will enjoy it more than myself as an adult reader.  Shoot me though but I’m sticking to my sexual content objection for the advertised age range.  they could have done worse, but I don’t think characters going from first kiss to pooling desire in a matter of seconds is something 14 year olds need to read 🙄 I’m going to keep saying it because I know I have parents and at least one teen who come here for clean YA recommendations, and I value you guys!

Ok, ok, anyway, off my soap box, let’s talk about the book

For my own personal enjoyment as an adult reader, I actually did like the setting and atmosphere.  The big house at Lakesedge and the gardens were moody and dark and made for a great spooky season read.  The scary parts weren’t too scary and all together the monsters, shadows, corruption, and darkness in all it’s forms contrasted nicely with the cottagecore personalities of some of the characters. 

I liked Clover and Florence, Arien too, the side characters were great.

While there is a lot to like in the book, the two main characters both drove me nuts. They had huge saviour complexes and Violeta and Rowan both ended up annoying me almost immediately. Yes yes everyone is very brave and utterly ridiculous and no one else can save the day because, saviour complex! Part of me does get it and I think that teen readers will have a better time with the storyline.  Their annoyance and relationship gave me major Sorcery of Thorns deja vu too.  I’m not shipping it at all, my mind went straight to the Hades and Persephone theme.

Favorite character? Hands down the Lord Under and I wanted more from him and more about him.

Another fault of many YA books, this one included, is that there’s a ton of very repetitive inner monologue and I just get so bored reading it. Violeta spends sooo much time thinking the same things over and over. Is he a boy or a swamp monster? No one else can protect these people! Gosh! It was also hard to read about her memories surfacing because honestly, it’s first person point of view, she wouldn’t just randomly remember the biggest events of her life.  It’s more like she would have chosen to talk about them when she did, but presenting it as random flashback memories was an odd choice.

To end on a good note: the magic is kind of cool, there’s a light and a dark and it certainly takes its toll on the user.  I think it needed a little more background as far as how the magic came to be and maybe an appearance from The Lady, but, I didn’t hate it. Speaking of Hades and Persephone, I hope the entire second book focuses on the world under because that is a potentially cool storyline taking place in an oddly comforting setting of moths and soul trees.

Overall I think this one has an audience in new adult fantasy romance fans. It’s moody and a bit Gothic and I wanted more in some parts and less in others. The setting and atmosphere were the high points for sure. As a YA book I give it three stars, and as an adult reader I’m kind of in that zone too but am a much bigger fan of Novik’s fairy tale-ish monsters


Thanks for checking out my book review of Lakesedge – I claimed a free copy using my accumulated points and am leaving a review voluntarily, all opinions are my own 

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra (ARC Review)

As the last book I requested from Wednesday Books, I can happily say that Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove is one of the best I’ve read from the imprint.  Mehrotra takes medieval India, a culture that I haven’t been introduced to in fantasy books, YA or otherwise, and crafts an interesting world with plenty of lore, magic, monsters, food, politics, and tons more.

They also adjusted the age range on Amazon to 14-18. which is a small but awesome step.  The book has a few mature themes involving violence and gore, but overall I’m impressed with Mehrotra and her willingness to keep everything in the book age appropriate for the teen reading experience.  That all said, I’m willingly reviewing this one with no issues between me and the book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Rati Mehrotra
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, Oct 18, 2022
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ For fans of YA fantasy

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

In Rati Mehrotra’s YA fantasy novel Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove, a young guardswoman struggles with her unwitting role as a major pawn in the deadly games between two kingdoms in a monster-infested alternate medieval India.

Bound to the queen of Chandela by a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has never fallen short of what’s expected of her―becoming the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen and an advisor to the crown prince when he ascends to the throne. But when the latest assassination attempt against the royals leaves them with a faceless body and no leads to the perpetrator, Katyani is unwillingly shipped off to guard the Chandela princes in Acharya Mahavir’s esteemed monastic school in Nandovana, a forest where monsters have roamed unchecked for generations.

Katyani wants nothing more than to return to her duties, especially when the Acharya starts asking questions about her past. The only upside of her stay are her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul. But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested with monsters, Katyani must find the answers to her past so she can save what she loves and forge her own destiny.

Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.

Starting with the plot today: This book kept me guessing.  I was frequently surprised by the darker twists and turns it took to keep the plot moving, something I don’t see as much in YA books these days.  This wasn’t a happy story. It took a lot of maneuvering and bloodshed to get from point A to point B and at no point was I bored, confused, trying to skim, or otherwise unengaged while reading.

The Characters: Let’s go here next because it’s YA and everyone wants to know about the characters.  Katyani is actually one I can relate to, because while she is super competent at her job, she has like absolutely zero social or diplomatic skills.  She did develop these as she went, as well as her general social maturity level. It was funny at times and other times detracted from the overall story, but it took very little time for me to be rooting for her as a character.

About the princes, the less said the better.  The banter was fun and bountiful.  There were quite a few side characters that played big roles, I don’t feel like any character space was wasted but there are too many to mention.

Daksh… ha ha Daksh. He is another super competent character that had the social skills of a rock, and I respected how strongly tied he was to his morals and rules.  I actually wanted to smack Katyani a few times for not respecting his beliefs at all, although it kind of became apparent that the teasing was the only way she could figure out to make him a little more human at times. He is just great, really great, where are the men like this in real life?

Let’s just say that I shipped the little romance (blessedly appropriate, they actually cared for each other and only kissed, like twice).

Next the worldbuilding: for a standalone YA book, I am all about the world building here. Mehrotra even wrote a fairly personal index in the back about the various aspects of Indian culture and mythology she brought in, which was lovely to read.  From geography to monsters to food, politics, clothing, music, weapons, and more, even ethics and moral codes, this one is packed full of world building and I’m all for it

Last but not least, the magic: Magic had two forms here, the natural spiritual force which could be turned into magic, and a form that could be conjured and considered stolen.  I liked how thoroughly these were brought into the story and used in various forms throughout, whether in the form of battle magic or healing meditation.

The monsters and ghosts tied into the magic in some ways too (some heartbreaking ways for sure) and I think it’s worth reading to find out how.  I loved how connected to ancestry and rites the culture is.

So let’s wrap this up by tying it all together: you get a YA fantasy set in an alternate medieval India, packed full of plotting, magic, intrigue, culture, worldbuilding, and just tons more.  The characters are ones that I personally enjoyed which went a long way towards my overall enjoyment, since usually I can’t be bothered to focus on YA characters.  The main themes involve the changing face of home, the various forms of monsters, adapting to other’s cultures, and learning to find your own way in the world.

Thanks for tuning in, up next will be my review of Foundryside coming later this week!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Blade of Secrets by Trivia Levenseller

Thanks to BookishFirst for the finished paperback of Blade of Secrets! I claimed this one with some saved up points and am leaving a review accordingly.

I’ve been hit or miss with Levenseller’s books so far and fall somewhere in the middle with this one. I think she got some pushback for the promiscuity in The Shadows Between Us and toned it back, thankfully keeping the hookup content off page. For a young adult book I just don’t follow her philosophy that all that content is needed to write a good story!


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Blade of Secrets
  • Series: Bladesmith #1
  • Author: Tricia Levenseller
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends May 2021
  • Length: 336 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for YA fantasy fans

** Note that the paperback released June, 2022 from Square Fish **

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

In Blade of Secrets, the first book in Tricia Levenseller’s exciting new YA fantasy duology, a teenage blacksmith with social anxiety is forced to go on the run to protect the world from the most powerful magical sword she’s ever made.

Eighteen-year-old Ziva prefers metal to people. She spends her days tucked away in her forge, safe from society and the anxiety it causes her, using her magical gift to craft unique weapons imbued with power.

Then Ziva receives a commission from a powerful warlord, and the result is a sword capable of stealing its victims secrets. A sword that can cut far deeper than the length of its blade. A sword with the strength to topple kingdoms. When Ziva learns of the warlord’s intentions to use the weapon to enslave all the world under her rule, she takes her sister and flees.

Joined by a distractingly handsome mercenary and a young scholar with extensive knowledge of the world’s known magics, Ziva and her sister set out on a quest to keep the sword safe until they can find a worthy wielder or a way to destroy it entirely.

This is a fast paced book with a fun sounding plot.  The synopsis presents a good idea and I can usually read one of her books in one or two sittings due to not having to think too hard, so I said WHY NOT and claimed a free copy.  Enchanted weaponry, an all powerful sword, anxiety, ok sure.

Blade of Secrets reminds me more of Warrior of the Wild than her other books. Levenseller gives just enough world building to support the story but it kind of feels like walking through a cool place in the dark with a flashlight – you see what’s in front of you and some periphery, but miss a lot of potentially interesting details.

The same goes for the magic system. It is intent based for Ziva and seems to be hereditary. What we see is pretty cool from the world’s two magic users but I think there’s potential for a lot more.

Character wise, I liked everyone except the main character. The four characters (Ziva, Temra, Petrik, Kellyn) had good group chemistry and I liked that the sisters looked out for each other. I get that the whole point was ZIVA HAS ANXIETY but at the same time, was she really so inwardly focused that she never considered how Temra deserved a life of her own? Ziva was so focused on providing for them that she kind of forgot that she had another human being on hand!

That said though, I liked seeing Ziva and Kellyn come out of their shells.  They did have good chemistry but again Ziva was so quick to overreact to everything that it was frustrating to read. Even more frustrating for her, I’m sure. I liked Temra and Petrik, who would put the feisty one and the scholar together? Yeah she was harsh but I really don’t think Temra owed anyone an apology for wanting her own life and sense of safety and she’s a wonderfully fierce character. By far my favorite.

Overall, this is a fast read with a fun plot and just barely enough world building to carry the story. It comes with an author interview at the end where Levenseller says her goal is to not bore readers with extra world content, like she writes the story then fills in the bare necessity of details.  I liked it but wanted more from both the world and the magic.

An entertaining story for sure and I’ll probably read the second one…because cliffhanger. I would recommend this as well as her other books (but not Shadows Between Us) for YA fantasy readers but honestly don’t think Levenseller works for most adult fantasy fans.

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Romance Young Adult

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Evelyn Skye (ARC Review)

Thank you to Wednesday Books for the early digital copy of Three Kisses, One Midnight by *all those authors* lol!  I haven’t read anything by Skye or Menon but I love Chokshi as a YA author and was happy to grab a copy of this.

This is a young feeling YA with witchy & folklore elements, that hit me like a Halloween version of Cinderella.  Three friends are attending the town’s annual masquerade gala and are intent on finding true love prior to midnight.  It was a little silly but magical and cute overall, and I think that younger YA readers will enjoy the book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Three Kisses, One Midnight: A Novel
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, Evelyn Skye
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 08/30/22
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend:  ⭐⭐⭐✨  for younger teen readers

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads: 

New York Times bestselling authors Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon craft a spellbinding novel about discovering the magic of true love on one fateful, magical night in Three Kisses, One Midnight.

The town of Moon Ridge was founded 400 years ago and everyone born and raised there knows the legend of the young woman who perished at the stroke of twelve that very same night, losing the life she was set to embark on with her dearest love. Every century since, one day a year, the Lady of Moon Ridge descends from the stars to walk among the townsfolk, conjuring an aura upon those willing to follow their hearts’ desires.

“To summon joy and love in another’s soul
For a connection that makes two people whole
For laughter and a smile that one can never miss
Sealed before midnight with a truehearted kiss.”

This year at Moon Ridge High, a group of friends known as The Coven will weave art, science, and magic during a masquerade ball unlike any other. Onny, True, and Ash believe everything is in alignment to bring them the affection, acceptance, and healing that can only come from romance—with a little help from Onny’s grandmother’s love potion.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. And as midnight approaches, The Coven learn that it will take more than a spell to recognize those who offer their love and to embrace all the magic that follows

The synopsis sounded a little not-my-style but I’ll read anything that Roshani Chokshi writes.  The first friend, Onny, has an insanely rich family and her parents host the Moon Ridge founding day gala every year.  Since it’s the 400th anniversary they are sparing no expense and creating the most magical, amazing celebration ever.

There was a good overall mood and setting, I would totally go to that masquerade.

I think the best part was also the most jarring part – Chokshi’s prose.  The other authors wrote the dialogue and stories, and then her lyrical and magic descriptions were tagged into paragraphs.   Text, Text, text, “and it was like *insert block of Chokshi prose*”.

I think they should have melded it together a little better somehow but it really did flow well overall.

Split into three sections, a section for each friend, we get to see how each teen embraces both the literal and figurative magic of the night.  I was surprised to enjoy the third story the most – True had an amazing personality and I feel like the authors gave us a rough idea of her at first, so I got to overcome my first impression of her as she also had her own struggles.  I liked her story the most too.

Each teen had a little adventure and I think True had the best one.  Each character was good though, I didn’t particularly dislike any character or segment.  Ash’s was slowest but interesting, Onny was insufferable and had to learn to look under the surface of people, and I already talked about True!

There are good youth friendly themes of being yourself, honoring family, accepting yourself and others, and others.

Overall, I’m pretty excited that these authors got together.  I do think some of the content isn’t quite as cute as they intended it to be, which is why I went with my neutral rating.  I do appreciate that they kept the main characters to kissing only. The characters tend to talk and text like 12 year olds and they are intended to be 17+! Like I said, I would recommend for the younger YA spectrum and also have no trouble giving this to a strong middle grader.

Thanks again to Wednesday Books for my advanced copy, all opinions are my own.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Burn by Patrick Ness (Book Roast)

I don’t like to waste a lot of time on books that I truly hate. It seems like a lot of my Bookstagram friends have this book on their list though so I’m going to run it down quickly.

I also said I would review everything I read for book bingo this month. Unfortunately.

Why? Because this book was just absolutely f*cking terrible. Thankfully Libby had the audio available and the narrator had a very pleasant voice, because I could not read one more page with my eyes

My actual thoughts:

The synopsis sounded amazing and it was off to a good start, like the first 50 pages was interesting. Then Ness took all these cool main ideas that he started and just dropped them for CONVENIENCE.

The main theme of the book was convenience. There was an alternate history ish cold war aspect that just ended … for convenience.

Ness killed everyone off then switched to alternate universe… for convenience.  What, can be not finish one idea that he starts?

Two teenage boys met conveniently at a camp ground and had insta love, and then there was way more intimacy than I want to see in a YA book. That was the only topic that stuck because apparently Ness writes queer fiction, except there was nothing to this relationship except that the boys happened to be at the same campground and took off together.

The prophecy girl wasn’t special at all, she was just the convenient person there to interfere with the sequence of events.  Literally convenience was the main topic and theme.

After like 6 days, I don’t even remember how the book ended.  I’m sure it was all very convenient. Additionally I don’t even know what the f*ck genre this was supposed to be, alternate history? Dystopia? The world build was so weak I didn’t expend the brain power to try to figure it out.

I give him two stars only because I did like one single theme of duplicity and prophecy that ran throughout the text.  Ness kind of had an interesting idea about how magic is created in a world but it was more weird than anything and not fleshed out.

I’m not even going to bother with the characters because they were all cardboard cutouts of whatever they were supposed to represent

To quote another reviewer named John Mechalas

“I have no idea who the audience is supposed to be. The dialog is so clunky and cringe-worthy that it’s too young for mature readers, but the surprisingly descriptive (and jarring) romance scenes are too adult for younger ones. The rest is just handled badly….. This thing is junk. Time-wasting junk. Life is too short. Read something else

Just … Really, really hard no thanks on this one

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Burn
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Patrick Ness
  • Publisher & Release: Quill Tree Books, June 2020
  • Length: 384
  • Rate & Recommend: 😵😵 no

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957, Sarah Dewhurst waited with her father in the parking lot of the Chevron gas station for the dragon he’d hired to help on the farm…

Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.

The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.

Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal Young Adult

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (Audio & Book Thoughts)

When I polled my friends for their favorite books, one of my bookstagram buddies  responded that her whole family loves Skulduggery Pleasant!

It sounded a little silly. A middle grade novel with fantasy/horror/humor elements about a snarky skeletal detective. I have seen it recommended before and said ok why not, I could use a laugh!

The audiobook didn’t disappoint.  I absolutely loved it enough to put holds on the next few books.  I’m told that the series goes downhill and gets PC/political later on so I am a little bit wary, but plan on enjoying the books until it gets to that point!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Skulduggery Pleasant
  • Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #1
  • Author: Derek Landy
  • Publisher & Release: HarperCollins, April 2007
  • Length: 400 pages:
  • Rate & Recommend: 4.5⭐  for fans of middle grade-YA. (Remember that I rate these books mainly off of age appropriateness and overall enjoyment)

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant

Ace Detective
Snappy Dresser
Razor–tongued Wit
Crackerjack Sorcerer and
Walking, Talking, Fire-throwing Skeleton

—as well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgley, a very unusual and darkly talented twelve-year-old.

These two alone must defeat an all-consuming ancient evil.

The end of the world?

Over his dead body.

There are a lot of books bridging the Middlegrade to YA reading gap and this is one of them.  A mature 10 year old could read or listen to this, or an adult could find a few things to laugh at too.

It’s funny, very funny, and I think the narrator brought out the banter and personalities of the characters really well.  Some of the dialogue is clunky but for a debut novel I really liked the characters.

Stephanie didn’t seem to have a lot to be upset with in her life, but she is seeking adventure and finds it after her uncle dies and a skeleton in disguise shows up at the reading of his will.

Between Stephanie’s adventure sense and Skulduggery’s one liners and absolute lack of any idea of how to handle a 12 year old, they make quite a pair. I say again how much I love the banter and how awkward Skul could be

The book moves at an appropriately fast pace for middle grade fantasy. The fighting got a bit repetitive but the story moved quickly and I was absolutely not bored at all.  I think that 10-16 age group would devour this book

The biggest thing I noted that set this one apart from it’s genre peers is how dark it got at times.  Age appropriately dark, but still dark.  Where other books in this genre stay fairly light on tough themes, this went into grief and torture, betrayal and madness, among other things scattered between the jokes and lighter content.

I liked it for that contrast of light and dark, highlighting the gray zones and debating who the “good guys” are.  

Here are a small few of my favorite quotes:

I’m placing you under arrest for murder, conspiracy to commit murder and, I don’t know, possibly littering


A living skeleton isn’t enough for you, is it? What does it take to impress young people these days?


To betray is to act against, I just haven’t acted at all


Content wise – there’s very little language, I think he says “damn” once. There is no romantic content and the dark content stays pretty age appropriate which I love and find necessary in order to rate these books!  Any one liners targeted at adults are going to go straight over the little one’s heads, even I hardly caught them.

Overall: I would definitely recommend this as a fun, fast paced read or listen for anyone interested in middle grade/ early YA books

A quick note on the audio: approximately 7 hours, narrated by Rupert Degas.  I loved his accent so much and found it perfect for the text, characters, banter, etc. There’s music at the end of each chapter that set the mood for the next chapter, corny but fun. 100% going to listen to a few of these because I need a laugh in my life and if nothing else, I was laughing out loud for sure 😂

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Young Adult

Bloodsworn by Scott Reintgen (Book Thoughts)

Hi all – coming at you today with a short and sweet post about Bloodsworn! Without further lollygagging, let’s talk about this book!

I liked Ashlords quite a bit, but didn’t love it. Bloodsworn matured a lot in both plot, world building, and character development, and I don’t hesitate to recommend the duology to YA fantasy fans at all.

Plus – omg the cover artwork, right?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Bloodsworn
  • Series: Ashlords #2
  • Author: Scott Reintgen
  • Publisher & Release: Crown Books for Young Readers, February 2021
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon: 

Three cultures clash in all out war–against each other and against the gods–in the second book of this fantasy duology that’s sure to capture fans of The Hunger Games and An Ember in the Ashes.

The Races are over. War has begun.

Ashlord and Longhand armies battle for control of the Empire as Dividian rebels do their best to survive the crossfire. This is no longer a game. It’s life or death.

Adrian, Pippa, and Imelda each came out of the Races with questions about their role in the ongoing feud. The deeper they dig, the clearer it is that the hatred between their peoples has an origin point: the gods.

Their secrets are long-buried, but one disgruntled deity is ready to unveil the truth. Every whisper leads back to the underworld. What are the gods hiding there? As the sands of the Empire shift, these heroes will do everything they can to aim their people at the true enemy. But is it already too late?

All the characters from book one – Imelda, Pippa, Adrian, plus Quinn and now the gods, are back in a big way in Bloodsworn.

 I loved meeting the gods! Each had an interesting domain, abilities, “hobbies”. Seeing the other realm was cool too and I liked how Reintgen broadened the scope so much without letting the plot get away from him.

The lore was well done and I never saw the big plot twists coming at all.  Kind of hard to talk without spoiling but when the four characters (races) discover their history and team up against the gods…

…I loved the teamwork.  Overcoming racial differences and doing what is RIGHT, vs just continuing what past generations did, is a great theme for teens and this ties massively into the character growth shown here in book two.

Pippa and Adrian and Imelda might be sons and daughters of political leaders but they really step up and find their own future now.

Reintgen upped the emotional states a bit too with a few well placed side character deaths – I actually like when YA authors do this because war is not pleasant, nor should it be described as such.  I think he captured a lot of wartime atmosphere and ethical concerns well

It was cool to see the new phoenix rebirths and learn some of the ancient alchemy practices too.  I wish Reintgen had packed in more horsie related Phoenix things and alchemy related trick riding, but I have no real gripes about this book.

The end was a little corny but it packed a lot of emotional appeal.  Each of the three main characters obtained major victories and resolution. I was happy with how much each character came into their own and found some happiness going forward.  

Spoiler free ** regarding the “corny” ending – I have learned with YA books that I’m going to eye roll at a lot of endings, and I don’t dock for it anymore.  Teens eat this stuff up and because the language and broader content of the book is appropriate for the age group, I dropped 5 stars with no hesitation

Highly recommend for YA fantasy fans. If you are even vaguely interested after book one, keep reading!

** Quick note on the audio – the crew is back. Rebecca Soler, Andrew Eiden, Lauren Foftgang are back and deliver a decent narration. I think Eiden stepped into the Aiden character a little better than he did in book one and overall I enjoyed listening. About 10 hours, 41 minutes from Listening Library!