Hekla’s Children by James Brogden

I actually began this novel a while back but had to stop because of my workload. The novel stayed in the back of my mind and I’m glad that I finally got the chance to read this book now. So here is my review:

10 years ago, teacher Nathan Brookes was supervising 4 students on a walk … when they all vanished. Only one returned, Olivia, and she was starving, terrified, and unable to recollect where she had been. And Nathan has been haunted by this event ever since. When a body is found in the same ancient woodland where the kids disappeared, it is immediately assumed that it is the body of one of the missing children. However, it is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior. While others may be able to move on from this archaeological curiosity, Nathan finds himself having horrific visions of his students being trapped. Then Olivia reappears, desperate to put the warrior’s body back into the Earth. For he is the only thing keeping a terrible evil at bay.

This novel was both a hit AND a miss for me. The beginning was intriguing and it really grabbed my attention; that’s why I kept thinking about it even when I stopped reading the novel! The author did a great job setting the scene, and I got really invested in Nathan’s character. I suspected that the author would lean towards the fantasy-horror genre combination, and I was pleased to see that my prediction was true. I liked the introduction of the Bronze Age warrior and really wanted to see where the author was going to go with that. Very quickly, the author switched from having Nathan as a main character, to someone else …. and then it switched again to Nathan … and then went back to someone else. That part was a little baffling because it made me feel like I wasn’t reading a continuous story but rather two different stories happening within the same timeline. It worked in the sense that it added more intrigue to the story but it also failed by making things more confusing and muddled. The story itself grew more complex but it had its flaws. A lot of details were skimmed over and could have used some more buildup, and it lost some of its horror feel near the end. The way certain characters were connected didn’t really work for me, and some of the conclusions that were drawn were a bit too unbelievable for my taste. By the end of the novel, I felt like I had read a really complicated and intriguing novel … but one that lacked a consistent flow. Since there were elements that I still enjoyed about this novel, I’m giving it a 3/5.

Happy reading ~

Feel Me Fall by James Morris

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I promise that even though I’ve been super inactive on my blog, I’m still reading books! I’m on vacation right now and I really don’t get good wifi so having the connection necessary to write and post has been quite a challenge. I finally found a stable wifi connection so get ready for a deluge of posts!

After a plane crash that stranded her and her teenage friends in the jungles of the Amazon, these high schoolers must band together to struggle against the elements. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new hierarchy arises, filled with power struggles, betrayals, and revenge. When Emily emerges as the lone survivor, she must explain why she is the only one alive. But can she carry the burden of the past?

There were quite a few things that I enjoyed about this novel. I liked that the author skipped back and forth in time for certain portions of this story. It may have been a bit confusing at first, but it really added to the intrigue and mystery of the story. This novel was really action-packed and it was very easy to get caught up in the story. The one thing I didn’t really like was Emily’s character. She wasn’t a character I felt very interested in and her personality was a little blah for me. The ending was a cliffhanger, which I both liked and didn’t like; it was a unique twist but I generally just like to have a completely finished story. Overall, this was a strong YA novel that was action-packed and gripping, and I think many teens would enjoy reading this book!

Happy reading ~

The Cuckoo Tree by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicles #6

This book was actually the first one I read from this series, back when I was about 9 years old. I absolutely loved it and I loved its sequel, Dido and Pa. This books is what sparked my interest in the whole series and I’m so happy to get the chance to read it now in the correct order! I wanted to know if, after reading about all of Dido’s other adventures, whether my opinion on this novel would be different or not … so here is my review:

Just as Dido Twite makes her way back on English soil, she lands in trouble. When her carriage overturns and her friend Captain Hughes is injured in it, Dido is forced to stay at Dogkennel Cottages to tend to Captain Hughes. There, she meets the odd inhabitants of Tegleaze Manor: fussy old Lady Tegleaze, her nephew Tobit, and his witchy nurse, Tante Sannie. However, there are suspicious things afoot: a priceless miniature is stolen, Tobit is framed, and a twin sister is discovered. And soon Dido discovers that she is in the midst of another Hanoverian plot! Can she get to London in time to save the king?

Once again, we are in for a wacky adventure. Every time Dido had a remark or thought about something, I couldn’t help but laugh – she is just that funny and sarcastic of a character. There’s quite a bit of witchy magic going on in this novel, which was super fun to read about. This novel was a bit darker than Dido’s time on Nantucket, but I really liked that because it gave it a bit more depth. Of course, depth doesn’t mean that this novel was more serious; if anything, the story was even wackier than any before it! We have the presence of an elephant again, which was something that I just didn’t understand, and didn’t like as much, but overall, this story was just as fun to read as every other one in the series. After rereading this book, I think it is still one of my favorite novels in this series! Now, time for the next one!

Happy reading ~

A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m just going to say that I love this novel. A lot. It was an absolutely amazing read and I could not put it down for a second. Here is my review:

The village of Saint-Ferdinand might look like a peaceful place with its farmhouses stretching all the way down one street, its small police precinct, and its quaint coffee shops and diners. But it also has something unusual: a large over-used cemetery, lined with the victims of the Saint-Ferdinand killer, who has eluded the police for nearly 2 decades. When Inspector Stephen Crowley finally manages to capture the killer, it seems as if the nightmare is about to end. However, this is when the REAL nightmare begins.
When a dark spirit reveals itself to Venus McKenzie, one of Saint-Ferdinand’s teenage residents, she learns that this creature’s power has a long history with her town—and that the serial murders merely scratch the surface of a past burdened by evil secrets.

This is by far one of the best horror novels I have ever read. It hit the mark on all counts and kept the suspense, magic, and gore coming throughout the story.

First of all, the story itself is ridiculously good. There is so much depth, so many different elements that come together to give an intricate backstory that makes the reader want more. The author does a great job of keeping you in the dark until the right moment while also delivering a story that you can follow along. Every so often, you get clues that make you question what you previously knew…. and the author also provides the perfect opportunities for you to remember those clues and link the story together. It almost made me feel like a detective, and it was just so much fun to read this book! I loved the gore and the horror and the magical elements incorporated into this story; it was truly dark and I was definitely creeped out! The author had multiple POVs going, but he did such a fantastic job of keeping each one unique and fresh and interesting for the reader! The author also managed to show internal (and external) changes in character personalities and roles, which is not an easy feat by any means! There was so much going on in this novel and yet, it never felt overwhelming. Everything made sense, everything had depth, and everything made me want to flip the page and read on. The writing style was also amazing and easy to follow. I don’t want to keep on praising and praising so just do yourself a favor and give this book a shot, because it will definitely be worth your time!

Happy reading ~

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

This book has been recommended to me multiple times by many people and I have just been pushing it off. I finally decided to read it and see what the hype was all about. Here is my review:

Adam Blake is one of those people who is always positive. Sure, he has his difficulties what with his ADHD, but he’s always able to look at the bright side of things. When his senior year elective is to serve as an aide to the school psychologist, Adam is sure that it will be an easy one. The psychologist asks him to track down a troubled freshman who keeps evading his sessions, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian, the foster brother he hasn’t seen in 5 years. Adam is ecstatic to be reunited with Julian. But Julian isn’t the same anymore. He is quieter, more insecure, and he keeps a lot of secrets – like about what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help Julian, but his involvement could endanger both their lives.

Holy, did this book make me an emotional wreck! I did not expect it to tug at my heart the way it did but I was bawling from the halfway point until the end. I don’t even know where to start with this book.

The story is told from 2 perspectives: Julian and Adam. Each boy has his own voice and personality and the author does a great job of making them complement each other. Adam is this super positive guy, and you may think that this is overkill, but I love how the author really tried to explain why he does things and thinks things in the way that he does. He has ADHD, but he doesn’t fall into the stereotypical portrayal of it and that made me really happy. Julian’s simplicity and kindness is perfectly captured; the author definitely did not overdo it! I found it very easy to imagine the different personalities and relationships between the different characters and that made this an enjoyable read.

This novel deals with a lot of difficult issues. Not only does it address the stigma associated with mental health and illness, it talks about loss, guilt, and abuse. Each one has its role to play in the novel and the author addressed each one with the care and tact it deserved. I love how the story tied in all of these elements to make something beautiful and raw. This novel makes you think about life and the power of friendship, and it is sure to move you. I genuinely cannot express how strongly I feel for this novel but I really want every single individual to read this book because it is just that fantastic.

Happy reading ~

The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

After reading such a fantastic YA fantasy novel (I’m referring to The Bird and the Nightingale – if you haven’t read it already, GO READ IT!), I decided to read something else in the genre. This novel has been on my TBR list for a while because its premise just sounded so interesting! Here is my review:

Swallow, Daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, Daughter. Stay alive.

The day my mother was killed, she bound my fate to my father’s: if I died, he would, too. Then she foretold that the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky. My father wants the throne for himself and is waiting for the chance to make his claim. But all I want is to be free. But I am a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s ambition. I cannot speak or make a sword, and I have no talent to charm or fight. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left.

I left the blurb in first-person because the entire novel is from the perspective of Lark, the main character. I knew that any novel I read after The Bear and the Nightingale would have a tough time impressing me, but this novel completely missed the mark for me. I did not like Lark’s character. After reading about Vasya, I was eager to read about another strong female with magical abilities. Instead, I got someone very weak who developed powers but no spine. There was a lot of focus on the romance in this novel, but it was a romance that made me feel very uncomfortable. I don’t consider things like “it is your duty to please me” and “I will put a son inside of you” as being romantic or sweet. This is a relationship that is very much about power and control, and it makes Lark even more weak than she already is. However, I really liked the plot of the story and the writing style. The story was good enough for me to want to keep reading past the cringe-y points and get into the real action. The writing was beautiful and lyrical and engaging. Overall, I have very mixed feelings about this novel. I didn’t like the characters or the romance, but I enjoyed the story and the writing style. For those reasons, I’m giving this novel a 2.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

When I first heard about this book, I had my doubts. The story sounded interesting but I worried that it would fall into the trap that a lot of fantasy stories based on fairy-tales get into. I am so glad that I chose to read this book anyways, because it was absolutely fantastic!

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind – it means more time with her wonderful siblings, listening to their nurse’s fairy tales. When Vasilisa’s father decides to remarry after the death of his wife, it is in the hopes that the new wife will be a good influence for Vasilisa. Fiercely devout, Vasilisa’s stepmother forbids her family from practicing any “pagan” rituals and honoring the household spirits. While the family does her bidding, Vasilisa worries about the consequences of these actions. When crops begin to fail and misfortune plagues the village, Vasilisa’s concerns prove to be true. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows even harsher in her desire to confine Vasilisa and make her conform. As danger looms ever closer, Vasilisa must defy everyone to protect her family.

This was an absolutely beautiful book. I devoured it in one sitting and it is one of my favorite books of this year. I rarely rave about a YA fiction novel but this one deserves all the praise I can give it! I remember reading some of the traditional folk tales native to Russia and I was very happy to see them incorporated so well in this story. It made these folk stories come alive and seem so vibrant! Not only is this story rich in culture, it also has great characters. Vasilisa, also known as Vasya, is such a strong female character and I absolutely adored her. She is not beautiful in terms of traditional forms of beauty, but she manages to capture everyone’s attention with her fire and energy. I love that she is independent and strong and unafraid. I like how there are characters that complement her and that function as points of comparison. The character of the stepmother and the priest were very interesting to me; I liked that the author didn’t just label them as evil but rather, built layers of complexity for them. The mythical creatures were also so interesting and wonderful and I loved reading about Vasya’s interactions with them all. Suffice to say, this novel hit every note and was amazing in every way. I was thrilled to hear that there is a sequel to this novel and I cannot wait to read it when it comes out. Regardless of if you are a fan of YA fiction or not, this is a novel I would recommend to anyone who likes fantasy and strong female protagonists!

Happy reading ~

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

What drew me to this novel was its allusions to fantasy and to a cultural system that I am completely ignorant about. A chance to learn about something new combined with the fantasy tropes that I love? This was an opportunity I could not pass up on. Thank you to First to Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

12-year-old Sunny is having trouble adjusting. Having been born in New York, but moving to Nigeria has been quite a big change for her. It doesn’t help that she is albino and very sensitive to the sun. All sunny wants to do is play football and not get bullied. And for a while, it seems that her new friends, Orlu and Chichi, will help with that. But when they introduce her to the world of the Leopard People, Sunny discovers that there is more to life than she ever knew. With new friend Sasha, these 4 form the youngest Oha coven to ever exist. Their mission? To track down Black Hat Otokoto, a man who has been kidnapping and hurting children.

When I first began to read this book, I was unaware that this was for middle school children. It took me a little while to adjust at first, but once I realized who the target audience was, I had a better grasp of the story. I really liked the cultural elements that are infused into this story. The author does a great job of integrating them and explaining them in a graceful and sophisticated manner; nothing feels too simplified or “dumbed down”. It was really cool to read about all of these rituals and customs that are practiced and upheld, and it was just a great introduction to the culture. The story itself is pretty much like Harry Potter. You’ve got your group of friends and they are against an evil foe and they practice magic and learn about their abilities and have to pass tests to move up in levels. I felt that the story and writing could have used some polishing. Too many things were conveniently placed and there were many abrupt and awkward transitions in the book. The characters could also have been a bit stronger. Overall, I can see how this novel would appeal to middle schoolers and I would recommend it to any child between the ages of 8-13 who likes Harry Potter-like fantasy novels.

Happy reading ~

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes, I like to take a break from reading heavy books and switch it up with something lighter. I find that books aimed for little kids are just adorable in the way they portray the classic good-vs-evil story with a whole host of cute characters; they can definitely be appealing if you want something light-hearted. With that, let me start my review:

Warren the 13th comes from a long line of hotel owners. He is the sole bellhop, waiter, valet, and groundskeeper for his family’s ancient hotel. Once, it was a glorious place that was always booming but now it’s more of a shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and musty rooms. However, the hotel has a secret: it just might be the home for a magical object called the All-Seeing Eye. Can Warren make sense of all of the clues to find the treasure before his evil Aunt Annaconda does?

What a cute book! Warren is such an adorable character, and he is the sweetest kid you will ever read about! The story reminded me a little of The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken (which I’m still in the process of reading) because of its wackiness and weird plot twists. The ebook ARC version that I read had some illustrations in it but they were not always in the best format; I think the final completed version of this book has made the illustrations a lot clearer so that will be another element that kids will enjoy. This is definitely a story I can see middle schoolers enjoying because it’s got great elements, great pictures, and a great theme!

Happy reading ~

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone – The Hatching #2

I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I read The Hatching, which is the prequel to this novel, it made me terrified of spiders. It was an amazingly freaky novel that had so many elements that worked so wonderfully and I just loved every minute of the adventure, while also being horrified with every page I turned. I was super excited to read this sequel and I have been holding back for a long time on writing this review, so here you go:

Since the discovery of the spiders, millions of people around the world are dead. No country is safe, and the mysterious flesh-eating spiders are running rampant all through America. Scientist Melanie Gruyer is hoping that the spider situation will change and finally become easier to deal with. However, Japan has just noticed the presence of a giant glowing egg sack that threatens to break that illusion, at the same time as survivors in Los Angeles begin to panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are bored out of their mind and decide to invent a weapon to defeat the spiders … but it may all be in vain because President Pilgrim has just enacted the Spanish Protocol. America, it’s every man for themselves.

I didn’t think the sequel could be as good as the first book. It was. Once again, the author seamlessly tied in multiple events and characters in a way that worked. Every single person was important in depicting the mass destruction and chaos wrought by these spiders. It was spectacular to see this large-scale disaster being orchestrated so beautifully by the author …. while also creeping me out! The author kept the tension high and raised the stakes with new revelations about these spiders and the way they attack people. What I loved about this book was that the author managed to tease out various emotions while also writing such a fast-paced novel. I could literally see various different characters going through so many complex emotions and I was really able to connect and live this experience through them. The novel ends in a cliffhanger and I seriously need the author to write the next novel ASAP because I HAVE to know what’s going on! If you are looking for a fantastic thriller with loads of adventure and spiders, then please please please do yourself a favour and give this series a try! It’s definitely worth the effort!

Happy reading ~