Along the Saltwise Sea by A Deborah Baker // Book Review

Along the Saltwise Sea by A Deborah Baker // Book Review

It feels like I read the first book in this series like a week ago, but it was more like two weeks ago lol. I love it when I’m able to catch up on a new series that I’m into and I’m so glad to have read this one to add to my love of Seanan McGuire. Thanks to Tor dot com for the gifted book.

Here’s more about Along the Saltwise Sea

After climbing Over the Woodward Wall and making their way across the forest, Avery and Zib found themselves acquiring some extraordinary friends in their journey through the Up-and-Under.

After staying the night, uninvited, at a pirate queen’s cottage in the woods, the companions find themselves accountable to its owner, and reluctantly agree to work off their debt as her ship sets sail, bound for lands unknown. But the queen and her crew are not the only ones on board, and the monsters at sea aren’t all underwater.

The friends will need to navigate the stormy seas of obligation and honor on their continuing journey along the improbable road

Writing as A. Deborah Baker, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Seanan McGuire takes our heroes Avery and Zib (and their friends Niamh and the Crow Girl) on a high seas adventure, with pirates and queens and all the dangers of the deep as they continue their journey through the Up-and-Under on their quest for the road that will lead them home….

Welcome to a world of talking trees and sarcastic owls, of dangerous mermaids and captivating queens in this exceptional tale for readers who are young at heart in this companion book to McGuire’s critically-acclaimed Middlegame and the sequel to Over the Woodward Wall.

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My thoughts

If you’re wondering if you need to read book 1 before you read this one, have no fears. Seanan McGuire does a really excellent job of catching you up right at the beginning of the story. I think my favorite part of both of these books is the narrator. At one point, the narrator does break the fourth wall and speak to us and honestly, it was so good. It’s got this fairy tale like quality to it as if you can easily read this on audiobook and feel like a kid at reading time listening to a story unfold.

While I’m not 100% sure if this story is for kids, I did love following along while Avery, Zib, Niamh, and Crow Girl continued their journey to the Impossible City. This time, they fall down a well and land in a clever ocean that helps them find someone who can point them in the right direction.

I feel like a lot of this book was setup and explanation for what happened in the first book. Unlike the first one, this had very little action and really didn’t move the story much along. In fact, it very much read like the second book in a series; you know, the one that explains some things a bit more and sets you up for the next book. It did have some really interesting character development and I was intrigued by the pirates and the adventures, but it felt more like an explanation. I felt like book one was about Crow Girl and how she lost her name and turned into a murder of crows and this one is about the drowned girls and the Lady of Salt and Sorrows (the patron of Niamh’s world).

It’s not a fault of the book, I was expecting more of the action I saw in book one, but when I readjusted and realized this book was going to explain some things and actually build on the character development, that’s when I liked it more.

Because it’s more about the characters than the plot, I felt like it had way more quotable moments. I was finding myself dog-earing every few pages with the beautiful words about life, finding yourself, and being who you’re supposed to be. There’s a lot of growth happening for Avery and Zib. Not only are they learning about this weird world they found themselves in, but they’re also learning things about themselves. Like how Avery is learning to let go of everything being perfect and how Zib is learning that she’s not defined by the body she’s born into.

While this story doesn’t have a lot of action, there’s a lot in the book that’s worth exploring. The worlds may be different from ours, but the lessons feel the same and it’s always fun to see where the adventures takes Avery and Zib.

Overall, this is a good one especially if you’re a fan of fairy tales. The storytelling is excellent and while the plot doesn’t move much, it’s definitely got merit in learning more about the kids, the Up-and-Under, and what they’re both capable of.

The Journey into The Wheel of Time

The Journey into The Wheel of Time

Recently, I finished reading The Great Hunt, the second book in the Wheel of Time series and wow, I think this book solidified my love for the series. I loved that the first book was an introduction to the series with a little nod to Tolkien, but this book really gets into its own and the world that you’re about to explore.

If you’re not aware, The Wheel of Time is an epic 14-book fantasy series that came out steadily throughout the 1990s. It’s written by Robert Jordan, but the last two books in the series were written by Brandon Sanderson because Robert Jordan passed away before he had a chance to finish the series.

In many ways, the series is ahead of its time. Using both Eastern and Western folklore and traditions, Robert Jordan weaved together a story that’s so epic but also speaks deeply to young people all around the world. While it’s written for adults, it reads very much like a YA series with the youthfulness of the main characters, the decisions they make, and the very adult situations they find themselves in. I can definitely understand how people read this series as a kid and fell in love with Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Nynaeve.

Of course, after finishing this book, I had a chat with my Wheel of Time buddies and they told me that this isn’t even the meat of the story yet. “You need to get to book 5 before you start reading the real story.” My head was spinning after I heard that. This is such a good series, but I honestly thought the series could end after a third book. I wonder how Robert Jordan is able to prolong the series for as long as it is when after the second book I could see one more book to wrap everything up!

I keep waffling over whether or not I should dedicate the time and energy to read this massive series. On one hand, it would be one of the biggest series I’ve ever read, but on the other hand, I’m extremely intimidated with how long this series really is. Each book is around 600-700 pages long and while I’ve heard the books are super entertaining, I’ve also heard that they can get super boring and tedious at times. I have to admit that while I was reading The Great Hunt, I found myself getting increasingly annoyed with some of the longer passages and super tiny details.

To think that this series is even more book with more happening before the conclusion, it makes me nervous. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been devoted to a series this long. I think the last time was Harry Potter and that was seven books with increasingly bigger books as it reached its ending. However, that series felt much clearer than what this series may have in store.

So I do plan on reading some more of the series. I have books three (The Dragon Reborn) and four (The Shadow Rising) ready for October and November and just in time for the new Wheel of Time series on Amazon. I will definitely be prepared for almost everything the show throws at me and I cannot wait to see how they interpreted the books.

But after book four, I want to see if I’ll continue reading the series or if I’ll quit. My friends told me that I don’t have to read the entire series, but it would be nice. However, reading as much as I want is also fine and I don’t know many people who have finished the entire series.

Perhaps it’ll be more like a marathon sport than a sprint to finish them all. Perhaps it’ll take me years to read all the books because I keep stopping and starting the series every three or four books. But regardless of how I plan on accomplishing this giant feat, I’m really excited about reading what happens next. Of course, you need to rearrange your mental state to take in another book, but so far it’s been an epic journey I’ve been enjoying.

Have you read The Wheel of Time? Did you finish? Where did you end up?

Over the Woodward Wall by A Deborah Baker // Book Review

Over the Woodward Wall by A Deborah Baker // Book Review

If you’ve read Middlegame, then you probably already know about A Deborah Baker and Over the Woodward Wall. But if you’re not aware, it’s the pen name for Seanan McGuire for a book that’s mentioned within the pages of Middlegame. From the book’s reference, Over the Woodward Wall was a children’s series written by A Deborah Baker to explain the more complex phenomenon between Rodger and Dodger, their abilities, and what these children may look like and act. However, you don’t need to know any of this to read Over the Woodward Wall. It’s almost a bonus for those who already know the context of the story. Get ready to enter The Up-and-Under. Thanks to Tor dot com for the gifted book.

Here’s more about Over the Woodward Wall

Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.

Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.

They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.

On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.

And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.

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My thoughts

I have to admit, I was so excited to read Over the Woodward Wall after finishing Middlegame. I love it when authors get creative with their stories and then write subsequent stories to bolster it. Honestly, it’s always a treat when an author continues to share more stories from a universe they’ve built. And like I mentioned, this book doesn’t require you to have read Middlegame before you’ve read it.

I’m always surprised by how much story can be told in such a short book. In the 200-page novella, Seanan McGuire really captures the world within the Up-and-Under introducing a myriad of characters that I hope to follow throughout the series and providing some interesting story line to help us root for the children and boo at the villains.

It reminded me a lot of Wayward Children series where the kids leap over a mysterious wall in the middle of their neighborhood and enter a world where owls talk to them, girls can be made up of a murder of crows, and the kings and queens have nefarious dealings throughout the lands they rule. It’s got Alice in Wonderland vibes, Wizard of Oz vibes, and all the vibes of any other story where children are transported to another world that’s a bit topsy-turvy.

The narration of the story felt like you were sitting at story time with a bunch of kids. It would probably be a really good audiobook to get into because the way its written really feels like you’re being told a story rather than actually experiencing it. The way it’s written makes you think this is a fairy tale with all the possibilities available to Zib and Avery. They start off so plainly and then as they travel through the Up-and-Under, they learn about themselves, each other, and what really matters to them. They start off as unassuming kids at the beginning, but what they learn while they’re forced to survive in a world without parents or authority is something most of us only learn when we become adults.

I will say that the ending is a little bit abrupt, but it’s also a longer series so I have no doubts that the next one will be better. Overall, this was such a magical journey that I really loved and appreciated. I’ll definitely be getting into book 2 once it’s out.

A Clash of Steel by CB Lee // Book Review

A Clash of Steel by CB Lee // Book Review

I’ll be honest, I really wanted to like this one. Swashbuckling pirates, destinies to chase, coming-of-age, and treasures to find. It was honestly the perfect setup for a super fun pirate book. However, it just didn’t hit the mark for me. Thanks to Fierce Reads for gifting me a copy of this book.

Here’s more about A Clash of Steel

1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.

But the pendant’s true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang’s father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool’s journey.

Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.

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My thoughts

In many ways, this book has all the things I’m looking for in a really good pirate story. It has adventures to mysterious lands, pirates with quirky personalities, a little bit of romance, and a whole lot of coming-to-age and understanding that your parents aren’t always the superheroes. It has everything and even buried treasure to be found with an encrypted map that only a handful of people could actually understand. It had the potential to be a phenomenal story, but I think I came away from this book really wanting more.

Much of the story felt like a historical YA story rather than a historical pirate story. The focus was more on Xiang, her life, her upbringing, the people around her, and her mysterious father. She wears a pendant she was told was a token from her father before he passed, but that’s pretty much all she knew about him. The beginning shares her sheltered life. She lives in a super small village with her caretakers and her mentor. The only exploration she knows is what she’s traveled through town and in the books she reads.

Then one day, she asks her mother to take her to Canton to see what the rest of the world looks like. While she’s there, she meets Anh who steals her pendant and reveals to her that the pendant actually had something hidden inside of it; a treasure map to one of the most famous pirate’s buried riches.

In a desperate attempt to make Xiang’s mother proud of her (and avoid the marriage proposals her mother keeps pushing on her), Xiang leaves with Anh and her family’s ship to set sail for a world of exploration, daring adventures, and finding out more about the treasure map she found.

From that point on, the story has so many twists and turns. The drama in Xiang’s life is so unreal and with each new surprise, I was drawn to finding out more. I wish I can talk about them here, but I might give too much away. But be prepared to find how much Xiang’s family has been keeping from her.

I also really loved the characters in this book. The entire crew on Captain Hoa’s ship were all interesting characters that I wish had more time to learn about them. I wanted to know so much about each of the characters and how they make up this beautiful found family. Xiang and Anh’s relationship also deepens as they get to know each other. Xiang learns to fight, the importance of working hard, and discovers a lot about her past that’s been kept hidden from her. Honestly, I was so surprised with all the reveals that kept rolling in.

The pacing in this story felt a little out of sorts. At first, it was slow-paced, which I liked. I felt like I was getting into a seriously big story with tons of adventure and action, but then the second half of the book seemed to rush focusing less on the treasure and more on the drama. I think if I had set my expectations a little differently when I started the book then I would have enjoyed it more than I did.

Overall, it was a fun adventure story filled with a lot of learnings, surprises, and pirate-y action. While it wasn’t my favorite, I know many folks out there will really love this one.

Luminous by Mara Rutherford // Book Review

Luminous by Mara Rutherford // Book Review

What if you had the power of a star only to have it hidden away for a very long time? What if you finally understood how to use it only to know how precious it could be? And what if you knew if you used too much, you could do what stars do and burn out? Well, this story dives into a world where a young girl unleashes her star power only to understand both the pros and cons of the magic. Thanks to Inkyard Press for the gifted book.

Here’s more about Luminous

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos–and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

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My thoughts

This was a super fast read with tons of action and adventure, romance, and big decisions for young people to make that wraps it all up within less than 400 pages. It’s got powerful mages, creepy monsters, the balance between good and evil, and big conversations about being a young person. It was so fast that I read this within a few days without stopping much to come up for air. There was so much packed between the two covers that I was surprised this was a standalone story.

And honestly, as much as I want to read more standalone fantasy books, I kind of wish this was longer and maybe spread itself out into a duology. There is so much that this book shares that if it had the space to get into it, I think it would have been even better. But because it was a standalone, I felt like much of it was skipped over or truncated to fit into the running time. I’m honestly disappointed that this is only a standalone because a bigger series, even a duology, would have answered all the questions more fully, given it room to really breathe, and make you truly fall in love with all the different characters. The potential is there and it really drove me to keep reading, but it needed the space to be fully actualized and be so much more robust.

Much of this story feels like it’s about Lorial removing the veil of ignorance from herself to understand her magical power, how it works, and how she’s been hidden away from what should be a natural thing for her. While there were components outside of this to draw readers into the book like the Lusiri, the magical abyss Margana creates, the fact that some of the royal family was woven into life, the abuse of the mages under Darius’s rule, and the political intrigue Darius is involved with, it all stems back to Lorial and what she’s going through and feeling. All these points were such a draw to the book as a bigger whole, but it all wrapped up so suddenly. It almost felt like the rest of the story was just a maguffin for the real story; a young girl who’s been sheltered her entire life finding out the truth behind her magic, her family, and taking hold of what she can do.

And in many ways, it makes the story more of a coming-of-age story amidst a fantasy book. Honestly, this could have been a contemporary YA roamnce story with the way it read. It was more focused on Evran and Lorial and I don’t have any problems with that, but I wanted the other parts to have the same kind of attention this couple got. I also really loved the other characters introduced in the story and would have loved to have them contributed more to the story. However, I didn’t think that it harmed the story that they weren’t as bigger parts.

A lot of the relationship between Lorial, Darius, and Evran felt so much like Alina, Mal, and The Darkling from Shadow and Bone. I know that will be a huge draw for folks who loved the show and the books and I really loved the romantic parts to the book, but again, I really wanted more. I was also confused by Darius’s motives. Earlier when I was reading, I thought that maybe he’s being manipulative to try and get what he wanted. This was also before I learned that this is a standalone series, so then when I finally learned Darius’s motives and how villainous he is, I was even more confused. I kept thinking that this was all some bigger plot, but it didn’t turn out that way. I just finished reading that part with a big “huh.”

The other part that I wasn’t a huge fan of is Lorial’s “Mary Sue” abilities. It didn’t take too much away from the story from me, but it’s truly hard to believe that someone who’s only learning about her powers has more abilities than someone who’s been training for over 100 years. It kind of makes you stop and think how possible that can be and that always ends up being what I think about over reading the story.

Overall, this was a good one and I really loved how quick of a book it was. I loved the usage of magic and the adventures Lorial goes on. I even loved the romance between her and Evran and seeing Lorial gain so much pride and confidence while she journeys to find herself. But there were too many flaws for me to overlook despite how much I loved the world and wanted to get into it more. It definitely had the potential to be great, but it just missed the mark for me.

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson // Book Review

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson // Book Review

The second book in the Skyward series and I’m so glad I read it before the third book arrived. I know that this is a four-book series, but it’s the first series in a really long time that I’m actually caught up!

Here’s more about Starsight

All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing.

Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars–and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.

But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself–and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.

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My thoughts

In many ways, I loved Starsight more than I loved Skyward. Skyward was so great introducing Spensa and the characters along Detritus. I loved learning about the world and the introductions to all the characters who will be playing a role. I especially loved the introduction of cytonic powers and how Spensa has the ability to hone it. That was a bit of a spoiler, but this is the second book so I highly suggest checking out the first book before you get into this one.

In Starsight, we go to space and OMG I was living for it. While the book starts off a little slow with Spensa fighting off more Krell ships and understanding how they’re all prisoners on a prison planet, the tiny group of people living on this planet finally realized that they needed to escape using the hyper drives that the Krell ships use to come in and out of Detritus’s space.

When a mysterious star fighter shows up at the planet, Spensa and the others find it an opportunity to infiltrate the Krell base and steal the hyper drives they need to escape Detritus. Using holograms to hide her identity, Spensa flies off to Starsight, a massive spaceship that houses a whole bunch of different alien species that live under the ruling of The Superiority. Here, Spensa is told that she’s being trained to help destroy the delvers; a shadowy creature that destroys everything in its path that have somehow started to show signs of being a threat again.

Ok, I did a lot of explaining, but this book has so much to unpack that I felt like I needed to explain the setup a little bit before I headed into the rest of the book. I really loved this story and I loved going deeper into this world with the different alien species and how they all co-exist together. Of course, there were the Krell that we all know from book one, but we’re also introduced to many others with different gender identities, government aspects, and personalities from Detritus. It was really interesting to see all the other aliens that occupy this space and how Brandon Sanderson dives deep into each type including their own history and traditions. I love this part about Brandon Sanderson’s writing. He’s so capable of creating worlds that can never exist, but also getting super deep into how they exist, how they live their lives, and how they’re not so different from us. It’s one of the strongest components of this book.

And as Spensa starts training to defeat the delver, you get to know these characters much deeper and how Spensa is able to learn and adapt to the worlds around her. While the training components of the story were a bit slow, I still loved reading these parts to see how Spensa reacts to different worlds and species within the universe. I loved how human Spensa is and how frustratingly wrong the aliens have it about the human race as well.

But the most intriguing part was the ending when things started to come together and you understand more about everything. You learn about what the Krell use for their hyper drives. You learn about the bigger plot that’s being laid out for us. You learn so much more about what Spensa is capable of and how her humanity really plays a part in saving the aliens and herself from the bigger threat. I also loved that there was a little political intrigue thrown in the mix as well.

Overall, I loved this story. It was action-filled with tons of exposition on the world. I loved learning more about Starsight and the aliens that existed on the space station. I absolutely love a spy story as well and I was completely on Spensa’s side the entire time hoping that she wouldn’t be caught too soon or too late for her to do anything. This definitely sets you up for the third book, but also just intensely good on its own as well. I cannot wait to see what book three has to offer.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow // Book Review

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow // Book Review

When I first picked up this book, I thought I was about to dive into another Sleeping Beauty retelling, but from the first page, this book has already exceeded my expectations and really blew me away with its creativity. Thanks to Tor dot com for the gifted book.

Here’s more about A Spindle Splintered

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

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My thoughts

I can’t believe I started this book thinking it was going to be just another fairy tale retelling. It’s not. It’s so not and I’m actually a little glad for it. The moment I read Zinnia pricking her finger on the prop spindle at her 21st birthday that transported her to another world, I knew I would be hooked and I absolutely loved it.

The world itself was your typical fantasy world with castles and royalty and an evil fairy who casts the spell on Primrose, but what I also loved is the perspectives from the evil fairy. Always with these stories we never see what the other side of the story thinks and seeing that perspective really made you understand that sometimes destiny is cruel and unusual. I also loved the other little nods like Primrose acting like a royal princess. I’m not talking about spoiled or vapid, but actually raised to be a leader and demanding a certain level of respect. It was interesting to see.

I think my favorite character was Charm with her can do attitude and her willingness to help Zinnia in the situation she found herself in. It was weird that Zinnia was still able to text Charm (and a little irresponsible that she didn’t text her family where she was), but I loved that Charm is one of those thick and thin friends who aren’t mad at you for long and will help you out of any situation.

I absolutely loved the multiverse and multiple Sleeping Beauties aspect to it. Although, their time in the book felt a little truncated and it would have been cool to get to know all the different version of Sleeping Beauty and how they can help each other overcome the destinies they’ve been handed. But I did love seeing them all in the same room with the same goal to help Primrose from her fate and help Zinnia get back to her real life before her medication ran out.

And that part I loved. I loved the whole message of taking hold of your own destiny. Zinnia being a terminally ill patient has always felt like she had no control over what will happen and it made her live a sort of zombie life. It makes me so happy that she finds purpose by the end and realizes that despite destiny, you can rewrite the story and make it work for you.

The only part that really nagged at me and probably won’t nag anyone else is the explanation for the multiverse and how Zinnia was able to travel through them. I wish this was a bit more explained just because there are so many ways this is used in stories and knowing how it’s used in this one would help me really envision Zinnia moving from one space to another.

Overall, this was a pretty epic story in a very small package. I just read that it’s a series, so I can’t wait to see what other stories Alix E Harrow rewrites!

Pub Day Picks // October 5, 2021

Pub Day Picks // October 5, 2021

Happy Pub Day!

I know I’ve been MIA from my blog recently, but sometimes you run out of juice and you need some time to get them flowing again. This month is such a great month to be publishing books as well. The spooky month is one of my favorites and the fall is the best season to get into some books. Will any of these be making it on your TBR?

Shattered Midnight by Dhonielle Clayton

Zora Broussard has arrived in New Orleans with not much more than a bag of clothes, a beautiful voice, and a pair of enchanted red shoes. Running from a tragic accident caused by her magic, Zora wants nothing more than to blend in, as well as to avoid her overbearing aunt and mean-spirited cousins. Music becomes Zora’s only means of escape, yet she wonders if she should give it all up to remove the powers that make her a target, especially as a Black woman in the South.

But when Zora gets the chance to perform in a prominent jazz club, she meets a sweet white pianist named Phillip with magic of his own, including a strange mirror that foretells their future together. Falling into a forbidden love, Zora and Phillip must keep their relationship a secret. And soon the two discover the complicated connection between their respective families, a connection that could lead to catastrophe for them both. In the era of segregation and speakeasies, Zora must change her destiny and fight for the one she loves . . . or risk losing everything.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


Blood of the Chosen by Django Wexler

“Fantasy at its finest.”–Nicholas Eames, on Ashes of the Sun  In the second book of Django Wexler’s epic fantasy trilogy about two siblings divided by magic and revolution, Gyre must travel across the Splinter Kingdoms to rally the rebels to his side, while his sister Maya uncovers the secrets of a powerful artifact that could change everything.
 
Gyre finally sees a way to overthrow the all-powerful Twilight Order. But he’ll have to gain the alliance of both the ghouls and the human rebels to the south in order to even stand have a chance. And uniting them won’t be so simple.

His sister Maya is still a soldier of the Order. But after clashing with her brother, she isn’t so certain where her loyalties lie. Chasing the origins of a mysterious artifact to a long-lost library, she just might find the answers she’s looking for.

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Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

The dead of Loraille do not rest.

Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who cleanses the bodies of the deceased so that their souls can pass on; otherwise, they will rise as spirits with a ravenous hunger for the living. She would rather deal with the dead than the living, who trade whispers about her scarred hands and troubled past.

When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia defends it by awakening an ancient spirit bound to a saint’s relic. It is a revenant, a malevolent being that threatens to possess her the moment she drops her guard. Wielding its extraordinary power almost consumes her—but death has come to Loraille, and only a vespertine, a priestess trained to wield a high relic, has any chance of stopping it. With all knowledge of vespertines lost to time, Artemisia turns to the last remaining expert for help: the revenant itself.

As she unravels a sinister mystery of saints, secrets, and dark magic, her bond with the revenant grows. And when a hidden evil begins to surface, she discovers that facing this enemy might require her to betray everything she has been taught to believe—if the revenant doesn’t betray her first.

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A Spindle Splintered by Alix E Harrow

USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story.

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

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Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

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Luminous by Mara Rutherford

A witch who must learn to harness her power–or risk losing her loved ones forever.

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos–and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

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Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M Lee // Book Review

Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M Lee // Book Review

I picked up my second middle grade fantasy book of the year and I have to tell you how much I’ve been loving these books. I haven’t read middle grade since I was a middle grade student, but these books (especially the ones with a lot of diversity) are really making me feel so much for the characters and I keep rooting for them to all succeed.

Here’s more about Pahua and the Soul Stealer

Pahua Moua has a bit of a reputation for being a weirdo. A lonely eleven-year-old Hmong girl with the unique ability to see spirits, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother and playing with her best friend, a cat spirit no one else can see.

One day Pahua accidentally untethers an angry spirit from the haunted bridge in her neighborhood–whoops. When her brother suddenly falls sick and can’t be awoken, Pahua fears that the bridge spirit has stolen his soul. She returns to the scene of the crime with her aunt’s old shaman tools, hoping to confront the spirit and demand her brother’s return. Instead, she summons a demon.

Thankfully, a warrior shaman with a bit of an attitude problem shows up at the last minute and saves her butt. With the help of this guide, Pahua will have to find her way through the spirit worlds and rescue her brother’s soul before it’s too late. Little does she know she’ll have her own discoveries to make along the way. . . .

With its unforgettable characters, unique nature-based magic system, breathtaking twists and reveals, and climactic boss battle, this story based on Hmong oral tradition offers everything a fantasy lover could want.

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My thoughts

This was definitely your chosen one/hero’s journey and I was all for it. I loved Pahua and her destiny, discovering more about being a shaman with Zhong by her side, and really being much bigger than the average 11-year-old. This was such a funny book with a ton of heart and it made me so excited to read and ignore my adult responsibilities. She’s got a cat familiar, which I just adored. I’m a huge fan of characters with talking pets/spirits that guide them along the way. They are always sassy in the books I end up reading.

Pahua isn’t your typical strong character. There were some moments when it felt like she can do more than you expect her to at that point, but I loved that she and Zhong were a team who worked closely together despite there being some obvious animosity from Zhong. Pahua is also dealing with a lot in this story and it’s not just losing her brother’s soul to a mysterious spirit. She’s also struggling with the loss of her father from her life. After her parents separated, it seems like she feels neglected and lost with what to do next. I can definitely relate to that in many ways and compounded on top of that, she’s ostracized at school for being Asian without anyone to help her. It was so relatable to me that I could feel my heart pulling for Pahua’s.

Despite some of the heavier themes, the book was still exciting with a lot of action and adventure as Zhong and Pahua journey into the spirit realm and back again. I loved meeting all the different kinds of spirits while they were traveling. From the aunties who fed them when they were hungry to the old woman watching over the Tree of Souls, there was a warmth to the spirits in these worlds that felt so absent from Pahua’s reality. Even the demons and dragon boys were fun at times.

The adventures don’t quit either. Seriously, once Pahua and Zhong figured out one piece of the puzzle, there was another something they needed to battle or face. It made the story really compelling and I wanted to keep on reading to see what happens next!

One of the aspects I really loved about Pahua is how non-violent she is. Instead of running right at the problem with her ax, she talks to the enemy or negotiates with them. To me, that’s just big brain thinking and I loved having Zhong be the anti-thesis of this as well, but it really surprised me to see Pahua take a different route.

Overall, it was such an action packed story with tons of adventure and friendship. I loved learning about the Hmong culture and folklore through Pahua and Zhong’s journey. It made me laugh super hard and root for these girls to save the day.

Seven Middle Grade Books/Series I’d Love to Read

Seven Middle Grade Books/Series I’d Love to Read

Recently, I finished reading another middle grade book that I absolutely adored. I’d read Percy Jackson over the summer and absolutely adored it, so I wanted to read some more middle grade and tried Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M Lee. I also really loved that one (review to come soon) and it made me realize that middle grade fantasy might be another genre of books I can seriously get behind.

But I have no clue what’s good in the middle grade world. Since I normally read adult and young adult science fiction and fantasy, I asked a few close folks the middle grade fantasy books they would recommend. I already have Percy Jackson and the Olympians on my list, but I also wanted to get in on some other really great middle grade reads. Here’s what I was recommended:

The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend

A cursed girl escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

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Aru Shah and the End Of Time (Pandava #1) by Roshani Chokshi

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

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Dragon Pearl (Thousand Worlds #1) by Yoon Ha Lee

THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD MIN comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times.

Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.

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Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he’s Mr. Charles, her dad’s new boss at the oil and gas company, and he’s alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he’s a threat, but her father won’t believe her.

When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says “Run!”, the siblings and Nizhoni’s best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters. Their aid will come at a price: the kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be . . .

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Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal. Tristan chases after it — is that a doll? — and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?

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Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel (Tyme #1) by Megan Morrison

In all of Tyme, from the Redlands to the Grey, no one is as lucky as Rapunzel. She lives in a magic tower that obeys her every wish; she reads wonderful books starring herself as the heroine; her hair is the longest, most glorious thing in the world. And she knows this because Witch tells her so—her beloved Witch, who protects her from evil princes, the dangerous ground under the tower, even unhappy thoughts. Rapunzel can’t imagine any other life.

Then a thief named Jack climbs into her room to steal one of her enchanted roses. He’s the first person Rapunzel’s ever met who isn’t completely charmed by her (well, the first person she’s met at all, really), and he is infuriating– especially when he hints that Witch isn’t telling her the whole truth. Driven by anger at Jack and her own nameless fears, Rapunzel descends to the ground for the first time, and finds a world filled with more peril than Witch promised … and more beauty, wonder, and adventure than she could have dreamed.

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Pages and Co: The Bookwanderers by Anna James

A magical adventure to delight the imagination. A curl-up-on-the-sofa debut from a uniquely talented author.

Eleven year-old Tilly has lived above her grandparents’ bookshop ever since her mother disappeared shortly after she was born. Like the rest of her family, Tilly loves nothing more than to escape into the pages of her favourite stories.

One day Tilly realises that classic children’s characters are appearing in the shop through the magic of `book wandering’ – crossing over from the page into real life.

With the help of Anne of Green Gables and Alice in Wonderland. Tilly is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago, so she bravely steps into the unknown, unsure of what adventure lies ahead and what dangers she may face.

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What are some middle grade books you’d like to check out?