Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Keeper of the Lost Cities Book 1 by Shannon Messenger

Summary from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.”
There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.


So, this has been such a strange reading year for me…I feel like my favorite books have been middle grade, not YA. I have been loving Non fiction more than ever before. And I go through spats where I just can’t focus on books, and then I return to books with such force. 2020 has been hard. My brain doesn’t seem to know what to do. I do know I am so glad that multiple people suggested I read this series. As I explained to my husband earlier this week, I am not prepared to fully discuss my feelings on JK Rowling right now without going into a complete existential crisis, and well, what is 2020 if not one giant existential crisis after another? However, this book is so similar to Harry Potter in so many fun, great ways that it brought nothing but joy to me during an extraordinarily difficult week when I needed a really good book to escape into.

This book was magical. It’s one of those stories where the real world is side by side with a magical one…and ahhh. This is the best. Instead of the focus being wizards here, the focus is on elves. There’s a very Hogwarts-like school the elves attend and learn about their specific skills. However, they don’t live there. They live with their families. Sophie has a lot in common with Harry. There’s a bit of a chosen one feel to her. A lot of focus is placed on her eyes. And she grew up with humans. Oh, and she fails at Alchemy, which turns out to be a lot like Potions…There’s also a great deal of mystery placed around why Sophie was brought up by humans, who her parents are, and why she is the way she is. In Harry Potter, I feel like a lot of those questions were pushed aside for later books, or answered early on, but not how we wanted them to be.

One of the things this book had that Harry Potter book 1 didn’t, was a lot of action, right from the beginning. There’s magical, destructive fires, secret rebellion organizations, hidden ruins, kidnappings, memory charms that erase a whole family’s memory (something that doesn’t happy until book 7 of HP), dealing with elf tribunals (that reminded me of moments of book 5 of HP), and lots of big reveals for things to come. Basically, a lot happens in book 1. It wasn’t just a welcome to the magical world. And this was awesome.

As far as chosen ones go, I feel like I don’t 100% love Sophie. Maybe I will later? I love the side characters. She has some great friends, teachers, caregivers, and creatures on her side. She’s very caring and good. I’m not sure I would have admitted to something she did, or made all the right decisions she did in this book. Her powers are so cool though. I can’t wait to see how those develop. Oh, and I’m so excited to see where her best friend’s powers go.

This was no small book at 488 pages, and I’ve been told they only get bigger. But, it never felt like it dragged. In fact, I read it remarkably quickly. And these are the best books. I ordered the rest of the books in the series before I was ¾ of the way through this first book.

There were a few strange, quirky loopholes type things in here. For instance, none of this is actually described as magic. Sophie had to keep un-learning everything she knew about science to make room in her brain for “real” elf science…What? Also, she had a photographic memory. This helped her in practically everything. I don’t understand how this didn’t help her in alchemy too. I get that it might not be the best in physical education. But, shouldn’t all things mental go great? Also, why did they have to lick their lockers to open them? Double also, why was the school nurse picking locker flavors? And why did no one find it weird that the only person Sophie was projecting to was Fitz? Why not her mentor? I was so mad at Fitz for the whole last part of the book, and Sophie just instantly forgave him.

Any way, these are small things I just had to get out. Mostly, I loved this. I cannot wait to keep reading. It looks like I have 7 more to go. I give this first one an 8/10.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Brightly Woven the graphic novel by Alexandra Bracken, adapted by Leigh Dragoon and art by Kit Seaton

Summary from Goodreads:

A graphic novel about discovering your own power.

Extraordinary things just don't happen to fourteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabil, a talented weaver who dreams about life outside of her tiny village. But that all changes when a mysterious young wizard named Wayland North appears and asks for Sydelle's help. He's got a shocking secret that could stop a war between kingdoms-if he can reach the capital with the news in time. North needs a navigator who can mend his magical cloaks, and Sydelle is perfect for the job.

As Sydelle and North race against the clock to deliver their message, they must contend with unusually wild weather and a dark wizard who will do anything to stop them. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers more about North's past and her own strange abilities, she realizes that the fate of the kingdom may rest in her fingertips.


I knew nothing about this book going in. I may have made some totally wrong guesses about the book based off the rainbow hood on the cover…However, I was pleasantly surprised by the magical fantasy world I got lost in. I like Alexandra Bracken, but I have not read all of her books. And I did not know she had this whole fantasy world written! But, now I think I want to see the book that inspired the graphic novel.

What really appealed to me above all else, even above the amazing world-building, was the artwork. It’s beautiful. The panels have this almost nostalgic 90’s manga feel to them. They felt both totally new, but also like I was reconnecting with old friends like Sailor Moon, in a good way. Everything was bold and expressed so much emotion. I was actually sad when the book was over because I wanted more. I literally was hoping for more pages to look at.

The story does have a bit of the whole guy-coming-into-the-girl’s-world-and-showing-her-how-everything-really-is vibe to it, but then the plot twists it up a bit, and I was happy that the twist happened. I don’t want to spoil it too much. I just want to say that if that plot device annoys you, don’t give up on this book, cause all is not what it initially seems. Also, Sydelle is strong and stubborn and never lets North just get away with man-splaining the world to her.

I can see how maybe fans of the original text might think the graphic novel cuts a lot out. It’s short. But, in a way, I loved this. Yes, I could easily have looked at so much more art and have been happy. But, it was also nice not having a ton of description filler in a fantasy novel. I like how a graphic novel limits the filler, and focuses more on the important moments. All in all, I really loved this. I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for a book 2. I give this a 9/10.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy

Summary from Goodreads:

From Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin', comes the first in a two-book origin story of Faith, a groundbreaking, plus-sized superhero from the Valiant Entertainment comics.

Faith Herbert is a pretty regular teen. When she's not hanging out with her two best friends, Matt and Ches, she's volunteering at the local animal shelter or obsessing over the long-running teen drama The Grove.

So far, her senior year has been spent trying to sort out her feelings for her maybe-crush Johnny and making plans to stay close to Grandma Lou after graduation. Of course, there's also that small matter of recently discovering she can fly….

When the fictional world of The Grove crashes into Faith's reality as the show relocates to her town, she can't believe it when TV heroine Dakota Ash takes a romantic interest in her.

But her fandom-fueled daydreams aren't enough to distract Faith from the fact that first animals, then people, have begun to vanish from the town. Only Faith seems able to connect the dots…


First off, I have to say I cut off the summary from Goodreads at the last sentence because it ended on a preposition, mid-sentence. I couldn’t stand it, so I ended it wan an ellipses...Maybe someone didn’t realize part of the sentence was missing? Regardless, this was a super fun book. I’m a sucker for superhero stories. I love Julie Murphy. Combine all that to make a bisexual fat girl superhero who loves animals, and where do I sign up?

I have to say I love that more and more YA novels and now even superhero stories are embracing people of all shapes and sizes. Just because you want to help save the world does not mean you have to be a size two. I felt like overall this was really a body-positive book too. There was a little negativity, but I love that the main character had two love interests (of different genders!), friends that mostly supported her and at least never mocked her size, and no bullying at all. Normally bigger girls in books are bullied and picked on. And it was so nice to have a main character who was curvy and not picked on for her looks. In fact, she was singled out for being special.

I got really into the all the drama of it all. The TV show coming to her town was awesome. The love triangle was different. I also really felt bad for Faith’s situation with her grandmother. I knew early on that it was not going to go well. …Some of these things were all classic Julie Murphy traits. I guess the parts I had a tougher time getting into were the super hero ones. They seemed a little surface level/sugar coated –almost like they were made for a much younger audience. I was hooked on the YA drama, but the puppy napping villains seemed like something out of a children’s superhero cartoon.  I guess it got a bit darker when the villain was taking people (not just animals). But, at that point, I had it all figured out already and I was a little disappointed in how easy it was to guess. I wanted the suspense and super hero action to be on par with the YA drama.

All in all though, I really enjoyed reading this. I flew through the whole thing (pun intended). I could easily see this becoming a TV series or something very popular. I give it a 7.5/10.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney

Summary from Goodreads:

The Silence of the Lambs meets Sadie in this riveting psychological thriller about two teenagers teaming up with the FBI to track down juvenile serial killers.

In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can't crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country's most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. Despite Travis's objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he's an expert manipulator playing a very long game...and he has his sights set on Emma.

Captivating, harrowing, and chilling, None Shall Sleep is an all-too-timely exploration of not only the monsters that live among us, but also the monsters that live inside us.


I’m not exactly sure what this says about me, but I love stories about serial killers…I binged through all of Dexter and You. I found Silence of the Lambs to be one of the most interesting, creepy storylines out there. There’s just something so fascinating about how the human brain works to me, and human brains that don’t feel empathy? So when I came across a book that’s being compared to Silence of the Lambs and is written by an author who’s already written a teen Sherlock book that I loved? I couldn’t get my hands on it fast enough.

I knew I was going to love this. I was right. I read it in less than 24 hours. I just had to know where it was all leading. In some regards I knew it was leading to a big, crazy finale, but I don’t think I knew how big….And I loved all the bumps and creepy details along the way.

Also, this isn’t a book about one serial killer. It’s a book where the main characters are interviewing several serial killers! They are interviewing ones who are already incarcerated, but of course this conflicts with an active case….It’s kind of like that one season of Dexter when you realize Dexter isn’t the only one in Miami….

Then of course, there’s Emma, the survivor. She’s such a great main character. She’s still dealing with everything she’s already been through, but fighting to do all that she can for everyone else. She’s so angry and flawed, but perfect for this job. I love all the scenes with her and Simon. I almost wanted to skip all the other scenes to get back to those. I of course didn’t because I didn’t want to miss anything.

The book doesn’t paint the FBI in the most positive light. Then again, I guess there’s good cops and bad cops everywhere? It was interesting to see inside some of the buildings and jobs they were doing. I really felt like I could see this all in my head. Like I was watching this as a Netflix show. I would binge this show if it were created.

The whole ending of this book was just insane. My poor husband kept trying to talk to me, and I was like “please shush!” The story was an interesting concept (if not the most probable). The characters were fascinating. I could read whole books on all of them. And I just couldn’t stop reading. I give this a 10/10.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Whigmaleeries & Wives' Tales edited by Jessica Augustsson

Summary from Goodreads:

Superstitions, Legends, Folklore and Old Wives' Tales--where do they come from? How did they get started? What's the "real" reason we throw spilled salt over our shoulder or avoid stepping on a crack? What were the old women really afraid of when someone broke a mirror? Delve into the imagination and enjoy our theories!


Full disclosure: I was given a copy of the book for an honest review by one of the contributing authors and I helped edit the story, by this author, slightly before it was published in this anthology. So needless to say, I knew before reading this book in its entirety that I would be enjoying at least one of the stories.

Reviewing anthologies is a bit tricky because I always like certain stories more than others. That was definitely the case in this book. Though, I’m happy to report that I enjoyed a lot more stories than ones I didn’t enjoy. It’s not often that I get to read short fiction that is fantasy/sci-fi and I found the overall experience to be rather nice. It was a mix of redone fairytales, surprise Christmas tales, spooky ghost stories, and stories from other planets. I read about grave digging, goblins in caves, the northern lights, and so many other little surprises.

I liked the stories that surprised me. Some were so good, I wished I had more. I’d read the whole book if the story continued on (like the one about the Koi or the magic mirror). Others, just didn’t seem to compare and I was unsure how they made the cut…

My favorite story was of course the one I already knew: “Queen of the Sunward Asteroid Belt,” by Jennifer Jeanne McArdle. It was inspired by the legend of Nyai Loro Kidul / Queen of the South Sea from Indonesian folklore. The story follows Kidul, a young woman who escapes the monotonous life of military school for one of poetry. She’s soon pulled into the politics of her planet and finds herself falling for and writing the speeches for the only person brave enough to run against the planet’s current corrupt political leader. There’s poetry, politics, romance, betrayal, aliens, explosions, space travel, and a little mythology mixed in too. This story has a little of everything. I would read the book of this story too, or watch the movie.

I went to school with Jennifer and I knew she could write fantasy. She seems to build worlds out of nothing. This world has a weird plant life that grows super fast. The characters always seem to be cutting the plants out of doorways. I don’t think I’ve ever read a sci-fi by her before, but of course it’s great. The planet has so much background for a short piece of fiction. I got lost in this setting, in a good way. The asteroid belt was almost its own separate world of its own. I could visualize each place so well: the military academy, the family home, the cafes, and the warehouse where it all goes down at the end. The setting of this piece is really just so incredible. But, the plot with all the different elements is what made the longest story in this anthology breeze by.

All in all, I’d give this book an 8/10. But, I’d give “Queen of the Sunward Asteroid Belt” a 10/10. Keep writing, Jen! I’ll keep reading.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe

Summary from Goodreads:

A charming new middle-grade fantasy adventure, about a young witch whose pinch of magic just might be more than enough, perfect for fans of Kiki's Delivery Service and Aru Shah and the End of Time.

Sometimes all you need is a pinch of magic...

Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch before she turns thirteen years old. If she doesn't, she'll lose her magic forever. For most young witches and wizards, it's a simple enough test:

ONE: Help your town, do good all around.
TWO: Live there for one moon, don't leave too soon.
THREE: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks.

The only problem? Eva only has a pinch of magic. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers and gets a sunburn instead of calling down rain. And to add insult to injury, whenever she overuses her magic, she falls asleep.

When she lands on the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, the residents expect a powerful witch, not a semi-magical girl. So Eva comes up with a plan: set up a magical repair shop to aid Auteri and prove she's worthy. She may have more blood than magic, but her "semi-magical fixes" repair the lives of the townspeople in ways they never could have imagined. Only, Eva's bit of magic may not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she's grown to love. Eva must conjure up all of the magic, bravery, and cleverness she can muster or Auteri and her dreams of becoming a witch will wash away with the storm.


Normally, I hate it when books get compared to movies I love so much as Kiki’s Delivery Service. How on earth can anything compare? Well…this actually does compare. I can see why so many reviewers are making the comparison. There’s this definite Japanese, whimsical/romantic Miyazaki feel to everything.

There are spiritual/sprite-like magical creatures, beautiful coastal towns, and a cast of characters who all just accept a young 12 year old girl character living on her own….not attending school, and in charge of saving a town from impossible feats. Totally believable….

Yet, there’s also something so wholesome, and so innocent about this book too. Eva genuinely wants to save everyone, even those who aren’t very kind to her. There’s a lot of problem solving in regards to bad weather. There’s friendship stories and family stories in here too. The town feels a little bit like Stars Hollow. And the magical lessons and hardships Eva faces reminded me also a little bit of the old version of Sabrina the teenage witch. I guess a lot of the book felt familiar. A lot of witch stories have already been written. But, it didn’t feel like a giant cliché. It felt more like a comfy mug of tea on a cold fall day. This was a sweet, magical story. There wasn’t anything too scary in it, or anything that will make you think too hard. It was a nice escape.

It’s a good book for kids who might not be up to Harry Potter yet. It’s a little lighter, but still fun and filled with magic. I guess it’s the book I needed in the moment, and I can see a lot of people feeling that right now. I give it an 8/10.

Monday, October 12, 2020

A Good Week in Books (223)

I’ve had a nice couple of weeks in books. I’ve finished reading 3 books. And I’ve received 6 new books for review, thanks to Macmillan and Hachette. I feel like I’m getting back into a somewhat normal reading routine. Basically, I can focus on books again. Or I guess I want to escape reality so badly that I have to focus on books again. What a crazy world we live in. My focus these last several months has been all over the place, so it actually feels really nice to get lost in books again. 


The new books:

The Tower of Nero by Rich Riordan
This is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi
Unbirthday: A Twisted Tale by Liz Braswell
Brightly Woven the Graphic Novel by Alexandra Bracken and adapted by Leigh Dragoon and art by Kit Seaton
The Mirror Book 1: Broken Wish by Julie C. Dao
For Unicorn Lovers Only: History, Mythology, Facts, and More by Penelope Gwynne and illustrated by Kate O’neill