Friday, September 17, 2021

She Who Rides the Storm by Caitlin Sangster

Title: She Who Rides the Storm
YA, Fantasy
Series: She Who Rides the Storm #1
Hardcover, 608 pages
Publication: September 21, 2021 by
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Long ago, shapeshifting monsters ruled the Commonwealth using blasphemous magic that fed on the souls of their subjects. Now, hundreds of years later, a new tomb has been uncovered, and despite the legends that disturbing a shapeshifter’s final resting place will wake them once again, the Warlord is determined to dig it up.

But it isn’t just the Warlord who means to brave the traps and pitfalls guarding the crypt.

A healer obsessed with tracking down the man who murdered her twin brother.

A runaway member of the Warlord’s Devoted order, haunted by his sister’s ghost.

A snotty archaeologist bent on finding the cure to his magical wasting disease.

A girl desperate to escape the cloistered life she didn’t choose.

All four are out to steal the same cursed sword rumored to be at the very bottom of the tomb. But of course, some treasures should never see the light of day, and some secrets are best left buried…

My Thoughts

I haven’t heard much about She Who Rides the Storm. What initially caught my attention was the gorgeous cover of a mysterious ethereal being. And boy, am I glad to say that this book did not disappoint. The story and the writing within were just as enchanting as the exterior cover.

For those that don’t know, She Who Rides the Storm is a whopper of a book at almost 600 pages. To say I was intimidated is an understatement. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a long high fantasy novel. However within the first couple of pages I was captivated and invested. Hook, line and sinker. I was so engrossed with the story and the characters that reading this book felt effortless. There was never a dull moment with plenty of action, witty dialogue and heartfelt moments.

In the land of Chaol,the world is divided amongst The Commonwealth, The Devoted and a remnant of Basists. The Devoted are those blessed with powers gifted by the Goddess Calsta and Basists are natural born healers/witches. The book is centered around four young adults, two devoted and two basists as they all try to find the legendary sword of The Shapeshifter King.

I really enjoyed the world building and magic system. It had a complexity to it while still being straightforward and easy to understand. I found the history between Devoted and Basist fascinating, the bond and centuries old feud; and despite old age prejudice amongst the two group we found our two main leads working in tandem together.

I absolutely love Anwei and Knox, they perfectly complemented each other. Their relationship started off shaky and more like a business arrangement. As long as Anwei helped hide Knox from the Warlord, he will help her with her side business. It was easy to see their relationship over the course of the book, going from business to possibly more. Even when they had lingering distrust of one another, Anwei and Knox wouldn’t hesitate to drop everything if the other person was in trouble, even if it was at the cost of their own life. The heart and chemistry was all there, but I’ve never encountered a character relationship like theirs before. It was unique. Sure it had a hint of enemies to lover vibe, but again not the typical kind we see. It all felt effortless, a natural progression, and growth of two people getting to know each other. It was not the usual whiplash, instant, or hate/lust attraction. Let’s normalize this type of enemy to lover trope…I’m here for it!  

Mateo and Lia were also another great pair of leads and very different yet similar to Anwei and Knox. Their encounter began with a marriage arrangement but again not the typical arrangements we see. I loved their bickering and banter as they both try to find alternative solutions to their predicaments. Like Anwei and Knox, as the two spent more time together and better understood each other; they grew from annoyed acquaintances to at least friends(things got complicated in the end but I still holding out hope!). I truly appreciate these natural flow of relationship. It wasn’t rushed and felt realistic which was a nice change to see.

She Who Rides the Storm hits all the high notes for me. Great world building, character driven, solid plot, well written,and well-developed fleshed out characters worth rooting for; all combined to create a unique and refreshing new series starter that I can’t wait to read more of. I am seriously surprised that there isn’t more noise and buzz about She Who Rides the Storm, this is the type of novel that should be at the top of everyone’s most anticipated list! It’s definitely a hidden gem in the world saturated with YA Fantasy. In my opinion She Who Rides the Storm blows most out of the water and most fantasy novels or sequels have nothing on this book. By far one of the best novels I read this year and it deserve every accolades and blurb its garner thus far. I highly highly recommend She Who Rides the Storm…you may come for the heist but you’ll stay for the characters. 



Friday, August 27, 2021

The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

Title: The Witch Haven
 Urban Fantasy
Series: N/A
Hardcover, 448 pages
Publication: August 31, 2021 by Simon and Schuster BFYR
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.

Before she can be condemned as a murderess, two cape-wearing nurses arrive to inform her she is deathly ill and ordered to report to Haxahaven Sanitarium. But Frances finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all: it’s a school for witches. Within Haxahaven’s glittering walls, Frances finds the sisterhood she craves, but the headmistress warns Frances that magic is dangerous. Frances has no interest in the small, safe magic of her school, and is instead enchanted by Finn, a boy with magic himself who appears in her dreams and tells her he can teach her all she’s been craving to learn, lessons that may bring her closer to discovering what truly happened to her brother.

Frances’s newfound power attracts the attention of the leader of an ancient order who yearns for magical control of Manhattan. And who will stop at nothing to have Frances by his side. Frances must ultimately choose what matters more, justice for her murdered brother and her growing feelings for Finn, or the safety of her city and fellow witches. What price would she pay for power, and what if the truth is more terrible than she ever imagined?

My Thoughts

Books with witches are my jam. Combine it with the early 20th century period and a boarding school setting and you have the perfect trifecta. We all know the history of witches. People fear what they don’t understand but what’s even more terrifying is an intelligent woman with powers. Smith did a great job incorporating that theme and picking the perfect setting of 1911 New York. While it was the turn of the century full of expansion, it was also a time of oppression of the lower-working class and women. The world building was pretty straightforward and very easy to understand. 

The world is divided into the haves and have-nots, those with power and without power, and male and female. Frances, our heroine falls in the later. After a triggering violent attack Frances discovers she’s a witch. Immediately she gets whisked away to Haxahaven Academy. Haxahaven teaches its students’ that their place in the world is in a home. The magical spells learned revolved around domesticated routines in the home such as cooking, cleaning and sewing. It comes as no surprise that Frances yearns more in life than becoming a dutiful housewife. As her brother William once said, she was destined to change the world. And that’s exactly what Frances set out to do, but as with life, things don’t always turn out how we thought they would. 

 Frances is your typical seventeen-year-old, curious, rebellious and thinks she’s invincible. I liked that she did anything she set her mind to and never took no as an answer. It was easy to see her growth and transformation from beginning to end. I thought it was done well and best of all, actually believable. All the secondary characters were also well developed and memorable. I adored Frances’s confidantes Maxine and Leah. They embodied loyalty and sisterhood. I normally am not fond of love triangles but I kinda liked Oliver and Finn. They were the complete opposite, the old childhood friend and the mysterious dream boy. But unlike other cookie-cutter YA love interests, these guy had substance and piqued my interest. The somewhat biggest surprise of all was Finn. I guessed how everything was going to end but Smith definitely shocked me in the last chapter. Talk about a cliffhanger! 

 The Witch Haven exceeded all my expectations. I went in thinking it was going to be a regular ol’ story about a boarding school but it was so much more. The story had a natural progression throughout the entire book and ended in an explosive climax that I think will surprise the reader and have them frantically turning the pages. I flew through the last third of the book. The Witch Haven is a great debut encompassing self discovery and acceptance, sisterhood/friendship, and of course a lot of heart. I absolutely enjoyed The Witch Haven, it was one of my most anticipated read...and it didn’t disappoint! I can't wait to see what’s in store for Frances and her friends.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

[SPOTLIGHT] The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

In Hendrix's latest novel, The Final Girl Support Group, he pays homage to cult classic slasher films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween etc. In horror movies, the Final Girl is the one left standing, the survivor and the one that defeated the killer...but what viewers rarely see is, what happens next? And Hendrix's The Final Girl Support Group answers that very question!

To learn more about the novel and the author please continue reading.

Publication July 13, 2021 by Berkley Books
Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she's not alone. For more than a decade she's been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette's worst fears are realized--someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.


Image via Goodreads and bio via author's website

Grady Hendrix writes fiction, also called "lies," and he writes non-fiction, which people sometimes accidentally pay him for. He is the author of Horrorstör, the only novel about a haunted Scandinavian furniture store you'll ever need. It has been translated into 14 languages and is being turned into a movie from the people who made quality films like 1917 and Black Swan. Foolishly, they are paying Grady to write it. He is busy inserting a whole lot of tutus into it right now.

Grady Hendrix used to be a journalist, which means that he was completely irrelevant and could be killed and turned into food at any time. He is one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival, but he is not responsible for the bad parts of it. He is also not Asian. For years he was a regular film critic for the New York Sun but then it went out of business. He has written for Playboy Magazine, Slate, The Village Voice, the New York Post, Film Comment, and Variety. He has a hard time making up his mind.

Connect with Grady|Website|Twitter|Goodreads|Facebook|

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Song of the Forever Rains by E.J. Mellow

Title: Song of the Forever Rains
Mousai # 1
Trade Paperback, 424 pages
July 1st 2021 by Montlake
Source: I received a review copy from Wunderkind PR in exchange for a honest review.

The Thief Kingdom is a place hidden within the world of Aadilor. Many whisper of its existence, but few have found this place, where magic and pleasure abound. There, the mysterious Thief King reigns supreme with the help of the Mousai, a trio of revered and feared sorceresses.

Larkyra Bassette may be the youngest of the Mousai, but when she sings her voice has the power to slay monsters. When it’s discovered the Duke of Lachlan is siphoning a poisonous drug from the Thief Kingdom and using it to abuse his tenants, Larkyra is offered her first solo mission to stop the duke. Eager to prove herself, Larkyra accepts by posing as the duke’s potential bride. But her plans grow complicated when she finds herself drawn to Lord Darius Mekenna, Lachlan’s rightful heir. Soon she suspects Darius has his own motivations for ridding Lachlan of the corrupt duke. Larkyra and Darius must learn to trust each other if there is to be any hope of saving the people of Lachlan―and themselves.

Welcome to the world of Aadilor, where lords and ladies can be murderers and thieves, and the most alluring notes are often the deadliest. Dare to listen?

My Thoughts

Song of the Forever Rains was a very unexpected, pleasant surprise. Although I read the synopsis before I started reading the book, I was not ready for Mellow’s intricate world building and characters. In short, I absolutely loved it.


I thought Mellow’s world building and concept was refreshing and original with each ‘world’ vividly described from Aadilor (regular/upper world), the Thief Kingdom (underworld) and even The Fade (land of the dead). From the first page I was immediately immersed within the world and felt as if I was returning to visit an old friend. While the world building was multifaceted with the right amount of complexity, the writing was well-written, easy to follow and understand. I especially loved the magic system about the old gods and those gifted with their powers. The Bassette sisters, The Mousai, are a few gifted with powers of the arts; singing, dancing and music(instrumental). Song of the Forever Rains is Larkyra's novel. Readers follow Lark's journey as she relearns about her ability with singing and all the pros and cons that come along with it. This concept, while seemingly not barrier-breaking, is unique as I've never read it anywhere else. Lark is able to affect people with her tone/frequency, manipulate the mind and heal the body.


Lark was a great heroine, exactly the type I enjoy reading about. She's intelligent and caring but also knows how to fight and make tough choices. The best part of the entire book was her banter between her sisters and Darius. Darius was also a wonderful lead and the perfect complement to Lark. For once, I'm glad we didn't have the alpha male type. There's so many of them in all genres that they've become stale and redundant in personality. Darius was a kind Lord with childhood issues but instead of having a negative outlook on life, he used his circumstances to help and better those around him. I admired that. And speaking of sisters, Song of the Forever Rains has one of the greatest and most fun family dynamics I've seen in a long time. It's kinda rare to find stories where family plays a big, integral part in the overall novel but whenever I do find them they're a treat! And the Bassette family hits all the high marks. It's even more exciting that this new series has a book focused on each sister!


I very much enjoyed Song of the Forever Rains. It exceeded all my expectations. I appreciated all the detail and research that went into the novel, it was clearly evident down to characters and cities name to the garment colors chosen. The next book in the series follows the fiery Niya, the 2nd Bassette sister and I can't wait to read her story and return to Aadilor/Thief Kingdom!