The Barren Grounds Book Tour: Review, 15 Thoughts While Reading, and Fan-Art

The Barren Grounds Book Tour: Review, 15 Thoughts While Reading, and Fan-Art

By David Alexander Robertson

Publisher: Puffin Canada

Print Length: 256 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.25

Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and always be sure to check your local library/Libby)

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Aski, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them. (Goodreads)

Special thanks to Puffin Canada and Hear Our Voices Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.

I don’t often read middle-grade for no particular reason. There are a number of books on my TBR that actually happen to be middle-grade but for whatever reason, I’ve continually put off reading them. The Barren Grounds quickly reminded me how great these books can be, even if they’re intended for an audience much younger than myself. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and am going to get the negative out of the way by saying there is none. This is an amazing book, with amazing character development and world-building. It also serves as an introduction to indigenous culture for those who may not as familiar with it. This book had me in tears at one point, and I was so invested in the world. The books does have some similarities to the classic Chronicles of Narnia, but I personally found this much more interesting and engaging.  

I learned some new things about indigenous culture from this book that sparked an internet deep-dive into the history of many First Nations people, their beliefs and cultural practices. I found my eyes opened to a culture, that I was aware of but never truly saw. This book opens the readers to a fantasy world, yes, but it also opens a part of our world so often forgotten or overlooked. I want everyone to read this book, be moved by the story, and be inspired to learn more. I recommend reading this book, and then going out and finding out more about the beautiful stories that inspired this one. 

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

15 Thoughts While Reading

  1. I was glad to find that Morgan and Eli seem to have been placed in a truly caring foster home. I understand that that is not always the case, but this particular home has great potential. I also realized how much more meaning this had to me as an adult who is old enough to have children. 
  2. I learned about some First Nations dishes, which lead me to research more about the culture, particularly cuisine. 
  3. It was easy to draw immediate parallels between The Chronicles of Narnia and The Barren Grounds; which the portal to Misewa being opened through a drawing and one of the portals to Narnia being opened through a painting. 
  4. I learned about fishers. Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of such an animal. 
  5. I found myself often relating to Morgan in her feelings of disconnection to her heritage and the anger that made her feel. 
  6. I found myself contemplating the ethical conundrum that Ochek was faced with when he and the children came across Arik. And wondered what I would do in such a situation. 
  7. I noticed the allegory against colonizers in the description of the antagonist. It reminded me how truly wasteful modern society is, and how we take advantage of nature. 
  8. Robertson does a good job setting up a mystery surrounding Morgan’s origin, as well as Eli’s in a sense. I want to know more about how they got in the foster care system, and if it had to do with legitimate concerns or one’s based on discrimination and ignorance. 
  9. I was very interested in the character of Mahihkan, and wanted to know more about him. Especially whether or not his presence held more weight that I may have noticed. 
  10. With the mentions of North and South country, I became more curious about the stories that could be set in this world. So much was set up, with things only mentioned hopefully with the intent to more fully explore. 
  11. I was reminded of how beautiful the indigenous languages are with the book’s inclusion of Cree words. It makes me want to cry knowing that these languages are in danger of dying out. 
  12. Learning one of the stories behind what we call the Big Dipper was a beautiful experience and during this scene in the book, I cried quite a bit. 
  13. Morgan truly grew in this book, that was a beautiful thing to see. She and Eli found a home not only in Misewa but in each other.
  14. The way time worked in this story fascinated me, especially in the final conversation between the kids and Arik. Could they have sat there and talked for a literal eternity?
  15.  The final poem was so beautiful. I read it more than once. 

Fan Art

Portrait of character Arik

The Cup and the Prince Review

The Cup and the Prince Review

By Day Leitao

Publisher: Sparkly Wave

Print Length: 256 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Release Date: October 15, 2020

Special thanks to Sparkly Wave for providing me with an ARC.

Available for pre-order on Amazon.

One prince wants her out.

Another wants her as a pawn.

Someone wants her dead.

Zora wants to win the cup and tell them all to screw themselves.

Yes, 17-year-old Zora cheated her way into the Royal Games, but it was for a very good reason. Her ex-boyfriend thought she couldn’t attain glory on her own. Just because she was a girl. And he was the real cheater. So she took his place.

Now she’s competing for the legendary Blood Cup, representing the Dark Valley. It’s her chance to prove her worth and bring glory for her people. If she wins, of course.

But winning is far from easy. The younger prince thinks she’s a fragile damsel who doesn’t belong in the competition. Determined to eliminate her at all costs, he’s stacking the challenges against her. Zora hates him, hates him, hates him, and will do anything to prove him wrong.

The older prince is helping her, but the cost is getting Zora entangled in dangerous flirting games. Flirting, the last thing she wanted.

And then there’s someone trying to kill her. (Goodreads)

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a sucker for fantasy that promises a strong female protagonist, and this book delivered. Other than a propensity to randomly cry, Zora is a competent woman. And while her motivation is not as noble as that of other female protagonists, it is a legitimate one. After all, nothing is more dangerous than I woman scorned. 

I enjoyed the book well enough to read it through and to have an interest in a sequel, but it’s evident that this book has much more potential than what was delivered. The plot is solid, but the world wasn’t. We are introduced to a magic system that is never explained and the world with rules and laws that seem arbitrary. As a result, certain stakes just don’t hold the weight that they could. 

The major downfall of this book is over-simple writing. The writing is not that of a final book, not even a second draft really. There are many scenes that would benefit from being drawn out that just aren’t and at times the writing just seems incomplete. It’s a quick read as a result, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s just missing something. 

I enjoyed the book, I’m interested to see more. I feel like first books in YA fantasy series are allowed an amount of leeway for the author to focus on what they think is the most important thing to set up, in this case, that was the characters and plot. I’m open to a sequel in the hopes that it fleshes out this world more because there is definitely great potential.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

Hush Review

Hush Review

By Dylan Farrow 

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Print Length: 384 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy 

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Special thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC.

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

They use magic to silence the world. Who will break the hush?

Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighbourhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.

When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.

Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible. (Goodreads)

Like with many books I read, I went into this book relatively blind. I’ve never heard of the author, I’d seen the cover, and skimmed the synopsis. My interest was immediately piqued with the little I was able to glean from my quick lookover. I do this because I don’t want to have many expectations when going into a book; and let me tell you, that really paid off because this was yet another five-star read. 

Hush is an exceptional debut and introduction to an interesting and vividly created world. I don’t always know what to expect from YA Fantasy, with the world or characters not being fleshed out as well as standard Fantasy. This book exceeded this notion though, with well-developed and sympathetic characters as well as a world depicted through beautiful but clear descriptions. I found that I could imagine the event of this book quite clearly, without the usual fuzziness I tend to experience with some fantasy novels. 

There were times where I found myself annoyed with the protagonist but in a good way. I was able to understand her motivations and actions, even if I didn’t agree with them. This made me like her quite a bit, though because she felt like a real person. She’s not perfect, but not in the manufactured sense. Her reactions felt organic to the situations, and that was refreshing. 

I am in love with the magic system (let’s just be honest, all of the world-building really). It fits well with the plot and themes the author presents and provides an amazing allegory for our society. After reading it, I found myself thinking about how the book relates to things going on in the world, and my mind was just blown. This is definitely a book I see myself reading again and again, and in doing so, I hope to pick up on the more minute details the author’s provided us. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It’s truly a gem that deserves to be read by many.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

10 Creepy Books to Read in October

With the spooky season finally here I thought I’d curate a shortlist of creepy books to read during the month of October. Some are adult fiction, some YA, a non-fiction book, and a couple of mystery-thrillers. Whatever tickles your fancy I hope there is an option you enjoy!

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

1984 by George Orwell

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life—the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language—and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

It wasn’t that she didn’t love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake—a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father.

So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic.

Just for a little while.

But the brutal days swelled into agonizing years. Now Cathy, Chris, and the twins wait in their cramped and helpless world, stirred by adult dreams, adult desires, served a meager sustenance by an angry, superstitious grandmother who knows that the Devil works in dark and devious ways. Sometimes he sends children to do his work—children who—one by one—must be destroyed….

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Buliosi and Curtis Gentry

Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider’s position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the twentieth century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Here is the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime.

Unwind by Neil Shusterman

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state, is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Girl Gone Mad by Avery Bishop

They say everything is fun and games until someone gets hurt. Well, someone did—and now the game has changed…

Emily Bennett works as a therapist in Pennsylvania, helping children overcome their troubled pasts—even as she struggles to forget her own. Once upon a time, Emily was part of a middle school clique called the Harpies—six popular girls who bullied the new girl to her breaking point.

The Harpies took a blood oath: never tell a soul what they did to Grace Farmer.

Now, fourteen years later, it seems karma has caught up to them when one member of that vicious circle commits suicide. But when a second Harpy is discovered dead shortly after, also from apparent suicide, the deaths start to look suspicious. And when Emily starts seeing a woman who looks a lot like Grace Farmer lurking in the shadows, she’s forced to wonder: Is Grace back for revenge? Or is Emily’s guilt driving her mad?

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but the Harpies are about to find out just how much words can hurt you.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Please note that all descriptions are taken from the book’s respective Goodreads.

Miss Meteor Review, Theme Analysis & TV Recommendations + Fan Art

Miss Meteor Review, Theme Analysis & TV Recommendations + Fan Art

By Tehlor Kay Mejia, Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher: Harper Teen

Print Length: 320 pg

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT

Release Date September 22, 2020

Buy this book at Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to HarperTeen and HearOurVoices Tours for providing me with an ARC and allowing me to participate in this book tour.

There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything. (Goodreads)

Lita Fanart

Miss Meteor proves to be a top of the line coming-of-age story with plenty of drama and laughs for everyone. Exceptionally inclusive with a hint of magic, we follow a group of friends who learn probably the most important lesson of them all: about being yourself. The book goes to great lengths to illustrate this common lesson in a way that shows the wide variety of acceptance someone can come to, whether it be on there own or with the help of those around them. Miss Meteor is a feel-good read for anyone who has ever felt other, and for me, one of the very few books I felt represented as a queer Latinx woman. 

I loved this book and felt truly blessed when I realized this is a five-star read (the second of this month!) I related deeply to a lot of the story and found myself rooting for the characters and crying alongside them. This is one of those books you read when you’re not having the best time; cosy up with it under the covers with a cup of warm tea and escape into Meija and McLemore’s version of Meteor(ite), New Mexico. 

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

As mentioned above, Miss Meteor is full of a lot of important lessons and themes. I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of the themes explored in this book. All of which are important, and represented masterfully:

Stand-Up for Others (and Yourself) is one of the smaller themes explored in this book with the character of Cole (who, let’s just be honest, is my new book boyfriend). Throughout the book, he stands-up for those being bullied by his sister’s boyfriend, but when it comes to himself he stays considerably silent. As the book continues we see him realize that if he’s going to stand up for his friends, he also needs to stand up for himself. And, in doing so, he puts the book’s bullies in their place in a triumphant scene that had me cheering out loud for him as I read it. 

The Value of Friendship is heavily featured in this book, as we see old friends come together, friendships grow stronger, and relationships metamorphosis. The character of Chicky is probably the one who learns the most from this lesson, as she realizes how much she needs her friends and how important they are to her. We watch as she overcomes personal struggles to preserve her friendships as she realizes that her friends are much too important to lose. 

Self-acceptance is the explicit theme heavily woven throughout this story. Every character has something holding them back, and as the story progresses we follow them as they come out of their shells and learn one of live’s most important lesson. While the focus is mostly on Lita and Chicky, it’s hard to miss the personal growth in Cole and Junior as well. This definitely gave the book a sense of depth that I’m truly amazed the authors managed to put in so few pages.

I don’t want to let go of this book yet. I could re-read it right now if it wasn’t for the fact that I have other things to read. If you share these feelings with me, I hope you enjoy a short list of series I’ve included below that embody some aspect of this book in some way (in order of least related to most related):

Switched

This series is the most different from Miss Meteor, but I wanted to include it because there are definitely parallels in the lessons of this show to that of the book. 

Switched follows a depressed and bullied young woman who decides her only option is to commit suicide. After a series of unexpected events she switches bodies with a popular classmate, the young woman is forced to more closely examine the reasons that lead her to want to end her life.

I Am Not Okay With This

I’ve reviewed this series in the past, and while it is tonally very different from Miss Meteor, it heavily includes themes of friendship and otherness. 

I Am Not Okay With This is a coming of age story following a young woman as she develops telepathic powers. 

Ugly Betty

Ugly Betty shares a lot of themes with Miss Meteor, including those listed above as well as some not mentioned, such as Latinx-culture and queer culture. 

Ugly Betty follows a young woman who, despite a chronic lack of style, lands a job at a fashion magazine.

The Inheritance Games Review (Book Tour)

The Inheritance Games Review (Book Tour)

By Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Print Length: 384

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Release Date September 1, 2020

This book is currently available on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to Little, Brown Books and TheWriteReads for providing me with an ARC and allowing me to participate in this book tour.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive. (Goodreads)

I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never been the biggest fan of mysteries. As of late, I’m wondering if that’s simply because I haven’t read enough of them. After all, a year ago I would have said the same thing about fantasy, but that’s now one of my most favourite genres. The Inheritance Games, in a way, maybe a wake-up call for me to pick up more mysteries. 

The Inheritance Games is honorarily the first YA mystery I’ve read and I have to say: I thoroughly enjoyed it. If it weren’t for certain life-responsibilities I would have read this book in one sitting, my attention was utterly rapt. Barnes shows an exceptional understanding of how to properly create suspense, making every little detail seeming like a possible clue. It’s hard to put down a book when you’ve convinced yourself you can solve part of the mystery in the next chapter; the desire to continue and know more seemingly endless. (And the book ends on a cliffhanger! Boy, isn’t that frustrating!) 

This book follows a young woman, Avery, as she discovers she has been left an immense fortune by an eccentric billionaire; all to the chagrin of his family. She soon finds out she may be a piece in yet another one of his puzzles, and as she falls into the spirals of this mystery we are treated with a fair amount of thrills and romance. There are so many questions, and the answers are in sight, but just out of grasp. 

I enjoyed following along with Avery and the Hawthorne brothers as they worked through puzzle after puzzle, finding some easier than others as I’m sure they did. The book was predictable enough to be a chill read, but with enough unpredictability to keep you turning the page. For romance lovers, the book definitely did not fall short on its romance, with a heart-pounding love-triangle that had you anticipating what came next almost as much as the mystery. The characters are charismatic and charming, it was easy to fall into their world. 

From what I understand this book and it’s upcoming sequel have been picked up to be adapted into a television series, or streaming series rather. While reading the book I was acutely aware of how well this book would translate into a serial television romance, and if the production follows through, trust I will be an early viewer.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

Girl Gone Mad Review

Girl Gone Mad Review

By Avery Bishop

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Print Length: 411 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Mystery Thriller

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.06

Available on Amazon

They say everything is fun and games until someone gets hurt. Well, someone did—and now the game has changed…

Emily Bennett works as a therapist in Pennsylvania, helping children overcome their troubled pasts—even as she struggles to forget her own. Once upon a time, Emily was part of a middle school clique called the Harpies—six popular girls who bullied the new girl to her breaking point.

The Harpies took a blood oath: never tell a soul what they did to Grace Farmer.

Now, fourteen years later, it seems karma has caught up to them when one member of that vicious circle commits suicide. But when a second Harpy is discovered dead shortly after, also from apparent suicide, the deaths start to look suspicious. And when Emily starts seeing a woman who looks a lot like Grace Farmer lurking in the shadows, she’s forced to wonder: Is Grace back for revenge? Or is Emily’s guilt driving her mad?

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but the Harpies are about to find out just how much words can hurt you. (Goodreads)

I don’t often read thriller because the ones I have read this far have been guilty of a writing faux-pas (in my opinion). I absolutely hate it when the final twist is revealed at the very end of the book, as in the final chapter. At least give me a few chapters to watch things unfold, and please, please, have the final twist make sense. It’s frustrating when the book spends so much time setting up possibilities only for the reality to come out of the far left field. (Think Arya killing the Night King in the final season of Game of Thrones.) In saying all this, I’m glad to say, that even if this book sort of did that, it did it in a way that made sense. This book was good. I couldn’t put it down. 

I appreciate that the protagonist was a pretty reliable narrator and a pretty smart narrator. While reading it was refreshing to come to important realizations at the same time she did or only shortly before. The characters, while some terrifying, were all relatable in some way. This book definitely plays on many victim’s dreams of vengeance on their bullies while showing that people are able to change. At the same time, it shows that who you truly are can come to light under the right circumstances. And with subtle character development peppered throughout the book, details that at the time seemed like throwaway lines for setting the tone actually turned out to be hinting that culminates into this powerful realization. 

Honestly, this book deserves five stars, but I reserve that rating for books I love so much I can reread them. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, at the end of the day I don’t feel like I can read it again. Not because of the whole “well, I already know what’s going to happen” reasoning, but because this was a stressful read. Stressful in a way that I would compare to Gone Girl. Phenomenal, well worth it read, but something that can only be experienced once.

Subjective Rating

Objective Rating

Final Rating

Legendborn Review

Legendborn Review

By Tracy Deonn

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Print Length: 512 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Special thanks to Margaret K. McElderry Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Legendborn is available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight. (Goodreads)

In the past year, I have read a number of Arthurian retellings and its quite easy for me to say that Legendborn is by far my favourite. It was practically unputdownable as it lead me through an emotional rollercoaster ride of sadness, anger, joy, and love. I found myself being so deeply involved in this book that I had to occasionally set it aside to absorb the plot and to calm the intense emotions I’d find myself feeling, mirroring that of characters in the book. I read a lotlike 110+  books by mid-September a lot— and this book was far and way one of the best books I’ve read this year. 

Legenborn boasts a well-crafted world with well-crafted characters and will make you feel everything from deep rage to unbridled joy. The protagonist, Bree Matthews, is truly a protagonist we’ve needed as she is the definition of black girl magic. She’s powerful, emotional, and unyielding; a literal force to be reckoned with. But even with great, unexpected power, she is one of the most relatable protagonist’s I’ve read in a while. 

Did I mention this book made me cry multiple times? Cause it did. 

Deonn flawlessly follows the beats of modern action-thrillers and presents us while a wholly entertaining twist on classic legends. Legendborn is a book for everyone. Those who love fantasy, those who love action, those who love romance, and those who love mystery. A lot of the struggles depicted in this book are very real, and the themes important. Legenborn highlights one’s roots, where one comes from and how their history affects them. It teaches about grief, and how it can hold us back but also propel us forward. 

We really need this book. I can’t tell you how important it’s become to me, and how monumental it will be in the lives of others. You need this book. So does your friend. And you’re mom. 

I don’t give out many five stars, or in this case five hearts. Five heart books are books I love so much I keep a physical copy in my personal library, which currently holds 44 books. This year, of the 116 books I’ve read (as of writing this) I have given 18 of those books five hearts. Legenborn will be the newest addition to my collection. 

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The Legend of Akikumo Review

The Legend of Akikumo Review

By Dani Hoots

Publisher: Fox Tales

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: September 15 2020

Available for pre-order on Amazon

Special thanks to Foxtales Press for providing me with an ARC.

Ketsueki would give anything to find out why her mentor Akikumo, the last wolf in Japan, abandoned her. He left her with other kitsune at the Inari Shrine, but she doesn’t fit in. And now the other kitsune are bullying her and saying Akikumo is dead.

After causing trouble for the hundredth time, the Inari, instead of punishing her, has given Ketsueki a task: she must find out what happened to Akikumo. She quickly agrees, not realizing the delinquent son of the shrine’s head priest must accompany her.

Will Ketsueki be able to make peace with a human? Or will her years of resentment make this partnership impossible? (Goodreads)

Okay, let’s start with the positives of this book: the cover is absolutely gorgeous. It was what brought me into this, at least the primary thing that did. The second was the concept, it’s an interesting concept, one I’d generally be interested in reading. 

The only thing was… this book is bad. Like, really bad. It was almost a herculean task to get through this one. The writing was very inconsistent and the writing told much more than showed. The sentences were stifled by their poor grammar usage and the excessive use of Japanese words throughout this English book. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, especially with words that are commonly used in English, such as katana, but words that otherwise would have been translated if this was a translated piece were left in this book. Words with easy translations, such as “baka.”

Honestly, this book reads like a bad anime fan-fiction. The book definitely seems to romanticize Japanese culture in a short-sighted matter. This book just isn’t worth the time.

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Otherworld Review

Otherworld Review

By Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Print Length: 355 pg

Release Year: 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating:  3.66

Available on Amazon, B&N, and be sure to check your library/Libby

The company says Otherworld is amazing — like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive — that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

And it’s about to change humanity forever.

Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming. (Goodreads)

Oh goodness, this book. 

First of all, I have to give this book credit, it is not what I expected. My first impression of it was that it would be sort of similar to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which just so happens to be one of my favourite books. This was enough to make me buy this book because I figured even if it wasn’t as good as Ready Player One I would hopefully find it enjoyable. Let me tell you now: I didn’t. 

The one good thing I remember about this book is that I was surprised by the direction it took with the story’s concept. Simply based off my first impression the plot was not what I expected it to be. Sadly, this fact didn’t save the book from being unpleasant to me. 
Mainly, I did not like the main character. I didn’t like the secondary character. The only character I liked in this book was a background character that would eventually end up dead, and even their death wasn’t impactful to me. Additionally, I found the motivations of both the antagonist and the protagonist to be either dumb, confusing, or some mixture of both. In the end, it was the characters that forced me to give this book a low review.

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