Thursday, June 14, 2018

Seriously Hexed by Tina Connolly

Title: Seriously Hexed
Author: Tina Connolly
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Seriously Wicked # 3

Hardcover, 304 Pages

Publication: November 14, 2017 by Tor Teen

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


Cam has resigned herself to being a witch. Sort of. She s willing to do small things, like magically help her boyfriend Devon get over his ongoing stage fright. But tangling with other witches is not on her wishlist. Joining her mother s wicked witch coven is right out.

New acquaintance Poppy Jones is a Type A, A+ Student of True Witchery. She s got all the answers, and she s delighted to tangle with a bunch of wicked witches. She doesn t need any reluctant witch getting in her way, especially one who knows less than a dozen spells, and has zero plans for witch college.

Then a coven meeting goes drastically awry. A hex is taking down all thirteen members of the coven, one by one putting both girls mothers in jeopardy. Now the two teens are going to have to learn to work together, while simultaneously juggling werewolf puppies, celebrity demons, thirteen nasty hexes, and even nastier witches. They may have to go through hell and high water to save their mothers but they also might find a new friendship along the way.
This series gives me major Sabrina the Teen Witch vibes, a show I loved growing up. In the third and final installment of the Seriously Wicked series we continue to watch as Cam balances life as a witch and teenager in high school. At the start of the story, Cam is getting ready to be initiated into her mother’s coven except things go wrong the night of initiation when her mom disappears. Things go from bad to worst when a nasty hex starts targeting coven members. With the help of a fellow witch, Cam sets out to find out who the culprit is and to find her mom before the hex hit her next.

This series was so much fun! I loved Cam and her friends. Connolly did a great job showcasing cam’s witchy side and all the normal things teenagers had to deal with such as school, friendship and the dreaded process of applying for college…that despite being a witch, they were all pretty normal like the rest of us and had the same problems. In Seriously Hexed, we found out a lot more about the coven witches, Sarmine’s past and finally…what happened to Cam’s dad! One of the biggest mystery since the first book.

I really enjoyed Seriously Hexed, and the entire series overall. If you’re looking for a good witch series that’s light, fun and all around feel-good then I highly recommend picking up this series, starting with the first book, Seriously Wicked.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

Title: Brief Cases
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Dresden Files # 15.1

Hardcover, 448 Pages

Publication: June 5, 2018 by Ace Books

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


An all-new Dresden Files story headlines this urban fantasy short story collection starring the Windy City's favorite wizard.

The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue--and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you'll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection.

From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published "Zoo Day," Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales.

With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry's funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold.
I’ve heard a lot of great things over the years about The Dresden Files. I think it’s safe to say it’s synonymous with the Urban Fantasy genre. Unlike most folks, I actually haven’t read the series yet but always wanted to. So when I heard about Brief Cases, a short stories collection by Jim Butcher was coming out; I thought what better way is there to get acquainted with the series then to read short stories taking place in the Dresden World. It was the perfect introduction.

Brief Cases consisted of 12 short stories from The Dresden Files World, some narrated by Harry and other characters in the same world. Most of the stories were previously published in different anthologies and take places at various timeline during the series. I personally don’t read many novellas unless it’s by my favorite authors, but as I said since I am interested in the series It was a great way for me to discover the characters and Butcher’s writing style. Which I gotta say, I really enjoyed it. I also liked that fact that there was an author introduction before each story. The author pretty much set the reader up for what to expect and/or why he wrote the story, a more in-depth explanation into the author’s mind/scene. It was interesting and very helpful.

I think long-time fan will definitely enjoy the book, it’s a great in-between book as they await the next book in the series and those new-to the series, such as myself, will appreciate this glimpse into The Dresden Files World full of all sort of preternatural beings. 

Thursday, June 07, 2018

City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Title: City of Bastards
Author: Andrew Shvarts
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Royal Bastards # 2

Hardcover, 320 Pages

Publication: June 5, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend Zell and best friend, Princess Lyriana.

So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city's prestigious University.

Then, Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate, a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she's suggesting is impossible... and treaso

But Tilla can't, won't, let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire Mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.
There are plenty of books featuring princesses, princes, villains and lost heirs. And that’s all great stuff, but sometimes don’t you just find the side-background characters of a story more interesting? Like Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter or Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, Witch and The Wardrobe…what if they were the main character of the story? I think some of the most fascinating characters are the one that are normally overlooked, which is why Shvarts’s series stands out in a sea of Young Adult Fantasy. The book is centered on the nobility’s bastard children. When I first heard about Royal Bastards, the first book in the series..I thought “that is brilliant!”. It was fresh, new…something that hasn’t been done before (or at least something I’ve never read before). I read and enjoyed Royal Bastards last year and Shvarts’s second installment, City of Bastards is no exception. It was another fun and action-packed novel that is just as good, if not better than its predecessor.

City of Bastards takes place a few weeks after the events of Royal Bastards, Tilla and Co have brought Princess Lyriana safely home to LightSpire and has the protection/sanctuary of King Leopold as thanks. It has always been Tilla’s dream to see the city of LightSpire, to dine in the banquet hall and to dress up in the resplendent dresses. But LightSpire wasn’t anything like Tilla pictured with danger around every corner; not to mention the rumors beyond the wall of her father’s troop making their way towards Lightspire with an arsenal of their own apostate mages in tow.

If you read Royal Bastards last year, you knew how explosive and game-changing the ending was. I didn’t think Shvarts could top that but I was so wrong because Shvarts upped the stakes in City of Bastards and the ending…the ending was a…Total. Crazy. Game. Changer. I loved the surprises and unexpectedness of it all. But don’t worry the trademark humor found in the first book is in abundance and action, so much action. Readers will never be bored because there was so much to see and learn and the action and mystery will have you at the edge of your seat as Tilla, Lyriana, and Zell search for a killer and prevent an assassination attempt.

Overall, City of Bastards was an solid and great follow-up to Royal Bastards. I loved that we got to be in a different city and to learn more about the world and politics. As I mentioned earlier, the ending changes everything for the characters and I can’t wait to see what Shvarts has planned for the series. And if these two books are anything to go buy, I know it’s going to be shocking and phenomenal. Just how I like it! I highly recommend the Royal Bastards series, if you’re looking for a fun, high-octane book to get lost in, this series is the answer. 

Monday, June 04, 2018

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Title: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe
Author: Preston Norton
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 400 Pages

Publication: June 5, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he's so enormous-6'6" and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother's suicide.

There's no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there's only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he's in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS--Cliff feels like he's part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn't as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they've completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined

First off, a big THANK YOU to Disney-Hyperion for giving me an advance copy of this book for review!

Anyone who reads my blog know I’m not an avid reader of contemporary. The ones I’ve enjoyed can probably be counted on one hand. But then I was pitched Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, and there was something that compelled me to accept and review a book and author I’ve never heard of before. And I am so, so glad I read it because this amazing, brilliant book would’ve flew under my radar otherwise.

Simply put, this book is life. Once in a blue moon you read a book that changes your life. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe was that book. I wasn’t even passed chapter one when I knew I was going to love it and was already planning to force, I mean recommend, everyone I know and their momma to read this book. This has got to be the best Contemporary Young Adult I’ve read in years. This book was smart, beautifully written, heartbreaking, sweet, thoughtful, and ridiculously seriously funny, it should be a crime that Norton made me laugh out loud that much in public! It should also be noted that the movie/pop culture references and one-liners in this book were on point. I loved all of it!

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe tackled issues of grief, suicide, sexuality, religion, bullying, and abuse…to name a few. And it was done exceptionally well. I read a good amount of books and from what I’ve seen and read, most authors normally take on one theme as the focus of their story when they write and not all authors are able to execute even that much. Sometimes it comes off too preachy, forceful and in your face with no subtly in sight. However, Norton was not only able to incorporate a vast amount of themes but he did it expertly and woven it into the beautifully realistic characters’ dialogue and actions. Readers were shown these important and thought-provoking ideas instead of being told about them. And that alone makes a world of a difference in how much one enjoys a book.

The characters, oh man do I love everyone. Cliff, the school outcast and Aaron, the most popular kid in school are brought together by god…literally and it was the best thing ever. The other characters that readers will meet along the way are a truly eclectic bunch and fully developed and fleshed out just as well as the main characters themselves. I can relate to so many of them and can definitely see the community I live in reflected in those characters one way or another.  Diversity is a hot topic these days and again, while many authors out there are trying to integrate that aspect into their novel…I haven’t seen it done as perfectly, flawlessly and naturally until now. Kudos to that.

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is a true masterpiece. Norton has crafted one of the most sincere, brilliant, pertinent, relatable YA novel in a very long time that will certainly appeal to readers of all ages. This book had me laughing until my body ache one minute and crying like a baby in the next. While the story took place in high school and dealt with the up and down of adolescence; I found the overall message to go beyond that to life in general. That life is hard but the most important thing is to always try…even when it scares you. You all know that awesome quote… “Be the change you want to see in the world”? That pretty much sums up this book perfectly.

If you can read only one book this year, let Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe be that book. I can say without any hesitation that this is the best book I read this year (yeah, I know we’re only halfway through) and nothing will top it. Nothing. “I love this book”, I don’t think those simple words can sufficiently encapsulate my feelings for this book. Because there aren’t enough words. My review cannot express or do justice to how wonderful this book’re just going have to read it and see for yourself.

Read this book, and I guarantee you’ll be glad that you did. I sure am.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Title: Sparrow Hill Road
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Ghost Stories # 1

Trade Paperback, 308 pages
Publication: June 5, 2018 by DAW 

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.


Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.

It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.

They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.

You can’t kill what’s already dead.

I love McGuire’s work! I’ve read most her books, such as her October Daye series from the beginning, InCryptid series featuring a family of cryptologists and her Parasitology series under her pen name Mira Grant…anything she writes, I will read. Sparrow Hill Road is all about ghosts and I’m a sucker for ghost stories. I missed the serialized version of the story when it was released online years ago and when it was first published back in 2014. However, DAW republished Sparrow Hill Road with an all new awesome cover in anticipation of the sequel that comes out the following month in July, The Girl in the Silk Gown!

Sparrow Hill Road is a first person narrative, as readers follow Rose when she was alive and in death. But the majority of the book takes place after death, as Rose navigates the ghost roads, hitchhiking her way across America. It takes Rose about 3 years to really understand the rules of the ghost road, content with her job assisting the newly departed to their home/final destination. It isn’t till Rose learns that her murderer, Bobby Cross, a man neither dead nor alive is still preying on people just like herself, running them off the roads to their death that she wants to put an end to his terror.  

Whether McGuire is writing about fairies, monsters, zombies, bio-engineered alien-like worms, or ghosts; she definitely puts her own signature on the topic, creating a unique and wonderful world within the pages of a book. I didn’t know what to expect when I started Sparrow Hill Road, it was different from any ghost story I ever read. It was like mini Rose stories within a story (I get why now it was a serial/episode first), the story jumps back and forth over the span of 60 years since Rose died in the first 2/3 of the book and in the last 1/3 of the book it is set in the present day.  We encounter each and every single person Rose manages to save and the unlucky ones that she assists along the ghost road. I’m an action type of gal, I like seeing an overall conflict or an endgame in the long run and I didn’t really see one in Sparrow Hill Road. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the stories (book is divided into 4 parts: book1, book2…etc) within the story because I did. I thought it was really interesting to see what it means to be a road ghost and all the other types of ghosts Rose meets; many I never heard of before. Each ghost has their own trait and duties that differ from road ghost Rose (given that she died on the “road”); there is also a handy little ghost reference guide at the back of the book to help you familiarize yourself with the types of ghost before you start the book. 

Rose isn’t what I expected either. Rose died when she was 16-years-old but she isn’t like any typical 16-year-old, having been died for 60 years…she definitely has a lot of tricks up her sleeves, and isn’t ashamed to do some questionable things. And while she is 16, she has a voice of someone in their early-mid 20’s; she’s real, straightforward, a ‘takes no crap’ kind of girl. This happens to be exactly my type of heroine. 

Sparrow Hill Road  was great and I am really looking forward to see where McGuire plans to take this series. I highly recommend this book to all McGuire and Urban Fantasy fans, it surely will not disappoint. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Mermaid Handbook by Carolyn Turgeon

Title: The Mermaid Handbook
Author: Carolyn Turgeon
Genre: Fiction
Series: N/A 
Hardcover, 240 Pages
Publication: May 15, 2018 by Harper Design

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. 


Beautiful, seductive, mysterious, and potentially dangerous, the mermaid is a global literary and pop culture icon whose roots date back to ancient sea goddesses and Greek mythology. From Homer’s Odyssey and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Little Mermaid to T.S. Eliot’s "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and the Disney animated film The Little Mermaid, this sea vixen has long seduced popular imagination. Cosmetic companies have drawn inspiration for their makeup lines from mermaids, as have designers throughout fashion history, from Jean Patou to Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen. The fishtail dress is a perennial long red-carpet staple, favored by the likes of Marion Cotillard, Sofia Vergara, and Blake Lively.

Divided into four sections—Fashion and Beauty; Arts and Culture; Real Mermaids and Where to Find Them; and Food, Entertaining and Stories of the Sea—The Mermaid Handbook is a unique and sumptuous compilation filled with creative ideas for decorating and living inspired by these beauties from the deep. Learn to make a sailor’s valentine; a mermaid comb and crown; and a pearl and sequin paillette necklace. There are recipes for mermaid-themed poke bowls, aquatic-themed honey gingerbread cookies, and the official cocktail of the 1960s-era mermaid attraction Aquarama.
HarperDesign, Turgeon and the designers hit it out of the park once again with The Mermaid Handbook, a stunning compendium of all things Mermaid. Following up with last’s years gorgeous novel, The Faerie Handbook, The Mermaid Handbook is filled with endless literature, full colored artwork and photographs, recipes and crafts will keep you occupied and enchanted for hours and hours.

The Mermaid Handbook is presented in a sturdy turquoise hardcover compendium with a high quality image of a mermaid resting atop a jagged rock. To tie everything together the cover and spine is embossed with rose-gold foiling, the pages is gilded in rose-gold and is finished off with a baby blue satin ribbon. I loved the color scheme chosen, it definitely conjures up images of mermaids and the sea.

This compendium is a wealth of mermaid knowledge. The book is divided into four sections: Fashion & Beauty, Arts & Culture, Real Mermaids &Where to Find Them and Food, Entertaining & Stories of the Sea. Readers will learn how the mermaid mythology has inspired all aspect of our lives from clothing, to makeup, the vast stories from all around the world to yearly camp and parade dedicated for our love of mermaids; where you can learn to become one yourself and embrace your inner siren…because let’s face it, every one of us has dreamed or wished we were a mermaid at one point in our lives; I sure did!

The Mermaid Handbook is a must have for all mermaid lovers, the believers, the water babies, and anyone who dreamed of swimming in the underwater kingdom and living in the deep depth of the ocean. This is the perfect companion novel to Turgeon’s The Faerie Handbook and the perfect book to get you ready for the summer which is sure to filled with days full of sun, sand and the ocean! 

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Memory of Forgotten Things by Kat Zhang

Title: The Memory of Forgotten Things
Author: Kat Zhang
Genre: Fiction, Middle Grade
Series: N/A

Hardcover, 288 Pages
Publication: May 15, 2018 by Aladdin

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. 


One of the happiest memories twelve-year-old Sophia Wallace has is of her tenth birthday. Her mother made her a cake that year—and not a cake from a boxed-mix, but from scratch. She remembers the way the frosting tasted, the way the pink sugar roses dissolved on her tongue.

This memory, and a scant few others like it, is all Sophia has of her mother, so she keeps them close. She keeps them secret, too. Because as paltry as these memories are, she shouldn’t have them at all.

The truth is, Sophia Wallace’s mother died when she was six years old. But that isn’t how she remembers it. Not always.

Sophia has never told anyone about her unusual memories—snapshots of a past that never happened. But everything changes when Sophia’s seventh grade English class gets an assignment to research solar eclipses. She becomes convinced that the upcoming solar eclipse will grant her the opportunity to make her alternate life come true, to enter a world where her mother never died.

With the help of two misfit boys, she must figure out a way to bring her mother back to her—before the opportunity is lost forever.
The Memory of Forgotten Things was such a sweet and touching Middle Grade novel. The book is centered around Sophia, a twelve-year-old girl who is having memories of her mom; memories when she was 9, 10, 11…except her mom passed away when Sophia was only six-years-old. So the question is, how is this possible? With the help of two of Sophia’s classmates they find a correlation between the Memories and the solar eclipse…and the possibility of bringing back their loved ones.

The Memory of Forgotten Things dealt with some heavy issues such as death, grief and if given the chance to change the past/future, would you? Or should you? I thought Zhang tackled the topics and packaged it in such a way that was easy to understand and was very well written; especially for the targeted audience. While Sophia is the main character, her fellow classmates; Luke and DJ both had to deal with a family member’s death as well. It was interesting to see how children dealt with death and seeing the aftermath of it of how it affected the family life/those that were left behind. I liked the trio of characters and found them mature for their age. In some scenes it felt as if the children were more mature and understanding than their own parents. For example in Sophia’s case, after the death of her mom, her dad spent his days working or in a daze and asleep. And he depended more on Sophia than the other way around as if the roles were reversed.

I really enjoyed The Memory of Forgotten Things, its a story about learning to move on, acceptance, family and friendship. However, it should be noted that this book is an iota part magic/science-fiction. I initially thought this would fall under magic realism (similar to Bridge to Terabithia) but Zhang surprised me and took it to the next level incorporating fringe science, the theory of parallel universes…do they exist? Is there multiple worlds out there with different variation of ourselves? So just a heads up to those interested in reading The Memory of Forgotten Things. Some reviewers were surprised by this and felt mislead. But I am all for magic/sci-fi and actually liked the unexpectedness of it all. I highly recommend this standalone novel to everyone. It definitely poses a lot to think about!