Review: These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin

Ember is a high-achieving sophomore at Heller High, a normal school with a terrible secret, the Red Court.  The Red Court exists to bring chaos and mayhem into the lives of Heller High’s students.  A highly secretive group of students, with a mastermind, codename:  The Queen of Hearts. 

This is the setting in which Ember Williams finds herself.  Ember’s sister was injured in a car crash before Ember enrolled at Heller and of course the Red Court is responsible.  Ember vows to get revenge on the court by infiltrating their ranks and taking them down from the inside.

These Vengeful Hearts is exactly the high school drama meets dark action movie that I wanted!  The premise is a fun twist on Mean Girls and is filled with fun banter and so much intrigue that your heart will legitimately try to pound out of your chest! 

I was hooked from chapter one and could not put this book down!  The character development is solid and the world building was fun!  These Vengeful Hearts seems to take place in the modern world, with references to Instagram, Facebook, and other present day conveniences.  Overall the writing style and plot development reminded me of Cassandra Clare if she wrote things that didn’t have magic in them!

I would recommend this to readers that enjoy a classic high school YA adventure with a fun twist.  Readers who enjoy Cassandra Clare, Meg Cabot, Stephen Chbosky, and others would love this book! 

These Vengeful Hearts releases September 8th, mark your calendars or pre-order from your favorite retailer!

You can find the book on Goodreads here:  These Vengeful Hearts and Katherine Laurin’s website here:  Katherine Laurin

Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for a galley copy of this book in return for an honest review! 

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Review: The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower is the first book in a new series by Melissa Caruso.  Set in the same world as her previous trilogy, Sword and Fire, this book is centered in a small kingdom to the north of where the main action took place in the previous books.  New characters, new magic, and lots of courtly conspiracy!  Ryx is our main character, the self-described black sheep of a royal-magical family.  In the opening chapters, Ryx explains (in beautifully written detail, rather than boring exposition) that her magic works in reverse, instead of creating things or manipulating things, she kills everything she touches.   

The author really builds great tension through a complex narrative with lots of political intrigue!  As other reviews have said, the plot isn’t new, it’s a book about a girl with a power that is different from her family, she gets pushed away by said family, discovers a group of people who understand her, and she tries to save the day.  That’s common, but don’t we read books because we like elements of that plot?  Because we love magic, politics, made up kingdoms and worlds, and reading intently as the heroine discovers that her power isn’t bad, just different  and different is okay. 

I really enjoyed this book and would absolutely recommend it to a YA reader of any age.  Fans of Leigh Bardugo, Victoria Schwab, Cassandra Clare, and Sarah J. Maas would love this book! I already have the Sword and Fire trilogy on my TBR list for when I finally get out from under this pile of ARCs!

I received a galley copy of this book from NetGalley and Orbit in exchange for an honest review.

You can find The Obsidian Tower on goodreads and on Melissa Caruso’s website.  This book releases June 4th (someone’s birthday!) and be sure to pick up a copy from your favorite retailer!

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Review: Palace of Silver by Hannah West

This series is very interesting because it combines so many different elements of storytelling.  The first book, A Kingdom of Ash and Briars, takes place well over 100 years before the setting of the sequels.  It seems a bit like this was meant to be a standalone that was picked up for a series, which isn’t a bad thing, only an interesting thing.  After reading the first book in the series, I really did enjoy it!   Great storytelling and world building, from what I can tell other reviews said that it was an underrated release in 2016, which was very promising. 

Book 2, Realm of Ruins, focuses on a direct descendant of the heroine of the first book and blends together fairy tale elements and other interesting storytelling devices.  I also really liked this book, though the time jump was disconcerting at the beginning.  I quickly came to terms with the time shift and happily finished Realm of Ruins

Palace of Silver is a continuation of the story from Realm of Ruins and is a captivating read!  I absolutely love the magic system, the elicromancers are a cross between the classic high fantasy elves and wizards both guardians and magic users with a noble charge to protect the people of the world, yet immortal and having to come to terms with long life.  The world building through the first two books holds up, though the original characters are absent.  The political system, magic system, currency, and overall order of things remain steady through this book. 

I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters, the main queens and the other queens.  A world with four queens?  You can never have too many queens!  I love the elements of high fantasy, of fairy tale folklore, and of your favorite fairy tale tropes!  This book has elements of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and other classic western tales that you likely know and love.

This is a great book and series for YA fans of magic and fantasy!  I would recommend to anyone looking for a fresh magical series to get them through this period of social distancing and beyond!  This is a book I would absolutely buy for my shelves (already bought the first two books, so I’ll have to have this one to complete the set!)

This book can be found on goodreads and on Hannah West’s website!  Out on April 28th, be sure to pick up this book from your favorite retailer!

I received a galley copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Blitz: THANK YOU, GARDEN by Liz Garton Scanlon

THANK YOU, GARDEN
By LIZ GARTON SCANLON
Illustrated by Simone Shin
Children’s Picture Book / Poetry / Environment / Ages 3-7 Publisher: Beach Lane Books / Simon & Schuster
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
Number of Pages: 32
A community garden unites neighbors in this celebration of all the things that grow there, from flowers and fruits, to friendships!  This ode to working together for a better world will have young readers wanting to plant gardens of their own!
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Author Liz Garton Scanlon brings her beautiful poetic style to a prescient topic, gardening!  THANK YOU, GARDEN is a wonderful picture book, depicting the stages of gardening and the joys that come with it.  Brilliant colors coupled with fun rhyme schemes bring life to the wonderful subject of a community or home garden.  

The narrative follows that gardens do not have to be neat and tidy, nor do they have to be large or small.  The author cultivates the notion that gardens take time to grow and all of the waiting results in fresh, healthy food to nourish people.  

This is the perfect book to inspire children to plant gardens of their own!  Not only was this title released in spring, but there is also a push for self-reliance across the world right now.  Planting, growing, and taking care of a garden is a fantastic way for children to contribute to their community and to install life-long values of responsibility and character!

Illustrations by Simone Shin jump off the page and bring so much life to the poetic narrative of the story!  The style is almost like paper cutouts and brings detail to every page.  Greens, blues, and browns and vivid complementary colors will captivate even the youngest readers!

Review from an 8-year old:  I asked my son to read along with me and tell me what he enjoyed about THANK YOU, GARDEN.  Though he reads books above this level, he is particularly interested in color composition and rhyme, which made this a perfect book for him to review!  He said he loved seeing kids playing with their families (grandmother, dad, siblings, mom, etc) while working in the garden.  He also said it reminded him of working with his grandpa in the garden!  

Overall, this is a great springtime picture book that would be a great choice for 3-7 year olds!  I am planning on purchasing a copy for a few friends as a baby shower gift!  Educators and parents alike could use this book to teach about life cycles, the environment, and the importance of patience!  The author’s website features teacher’s guides for her other titles and I’m sure THANK YOU, GARDEN will have a section there soon!  Pick up your copy today and enter to win a signed copy below!

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of many beloved books for kids, including the brand new Thank You, Garden, as well as the Caldecott Honor book All the World and others, including several co-authored with her pal Audrey Vernick. Scanlon also wrote the middle grade novel The Great Good Summer and is published in numerous poetry anthologies. She serves on the faculty of the Vermont Faculty of Fine Arts and is a frequent and popular presenter at conferences and festivals. Find more about her life and work at www.LizGartonScanlon.com
Follow illustrator Simone Shin on Instagram!
———————– GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! THREE WINNERS Each winner gets an autographed/personalized copy of THANK YOU, GARDEN and ANOTHER WAY TO CLIMB A TREE MAY 14-21, 2020 (US ONLY)
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Review: The Music the Stars Sang

The Music the Stars Sang is the story of Adi and Rupe, two brilliant characters that find each other by chance when Adi is placed with a foster family while her grandmother gets medical care.  The author uses music-oriented imagery to describe the beauty and the dangers of the world throughout the narrative.  After Adi’s grandmother passes away, she is thrown into a bout of grief that is gut wrenching and something that middle grade readers may have similarly experienced.  Readers are introduced to a ‘getaway’ world called The Sidereal Kingdom when Adi and Rupe venture out. 

This world is filled with memorable characters, beautiful descriptions of sounds, smells, and sights.  This is a surreal world designed to be an escape and what a wonderful escape this is!  I loved the characters and worldbuilding, along with the wonderful tendrils of music threaded through the story.

Books in and of themselves are used as an escape from reality, which is a coping mechanism that is used by many people.  Personally, I use books to escape periodically into a new world or a world that is familiar and safe.  Weaving the musical elements through the narrative is also a beautiful note that lends itself to this coping mechanism.  Particularly when I was around 10-13, I listened to music in order to cope with various things.  I love this idea for middle grade readers and reading about Adi’s story of working through her grief is particularly relevant and timely for readers.

I would absolutely recommend this book to any middle grade reader or parent interested in books such as this.  Adi will hold a special place in my heart from now on.  I will be purchasing a copy of this book for my son to read when he is a little bit more skilled at reading.  I am going to look into other works by T. L. Cervantes, who has a beautiful and engaging writing style!  I am so glad that I was approved for this book, it has been a joy to read and review!

The Music the Stars Sang is available now and I would encourage you to purchase from your favorite retailer! 

You can find The Music the Stars Sang on goodreads and T. L. Cervantes’ website can be found here!

Thank you to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for providing a galley copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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Review: Curse of Blood and Shadow by J. M. Kearl

This is the first book in J. M. Kearl’s second series, Allied Kingdoms Academy.  Though the title denotes that this book would follow the traditional academy trope in YA books, but it is really a fantastic blend of Harry Potter, Throne of Glass, and a hint of teenage angst that manifests in the best way.  For fans of Middle Grade fiction, this also reminds me of the Magisterium series from Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. 

I absolutely enjoy the premise of this book – Vesteal is a princess with two fun friends and a dark secret.  Her parents, the King and Queen, send her to a brand new academy comprised of students from the three kingdoms.  What adventures await? What trouble could there be?  As the description says, this work has talking cats, star crossed lovers, royalty, teenagers trained to fight, and action packed into every chapter!
The author melds interesting characters with subtle wordplay to create beautifully developed world building and fun action sequences.  I loved Atticus and his cat network, he provided some fun sass to break the tension in some scenes.  I feel like the action and story really picked up pace about 1/3 of the way through the book. 

This book was a great read for me!  If you enjoy Holly Black, Lauren Kate, or Sarah J. Maas, you will LOVE this book!  I would definitely recommend this novel for anyone who loves magic, YA, and a great romance!

I found this to be a refreshing new release in YA fiction.  I can’t wait to see where the series takes these characters!  Curse of Blood and Shadow is out on April 7th!  Check out J. M. Kearl’s other works on Amazon!

J.M. Kearl is on goodreads and her website is https://jmkearl.com/.

I received an ARC from the author for an honest review of this novel.

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Review: The Northern Witch Series by K. S. Marsden

K. S. Marsden is an accomplished writer with three series under her belt.  The Northern Witch series is Marsden’s new YA series featuring Mark, an openly gay witch in training, who is navigating high school, boys, relationships, and his apprenticeship as a new witch.  His Nana is an integral part of the series, delivering sassy lines and adding so much to the experience for the reader.

The first book in the series, Winter Trials, is a great introduction to the world and it’s main cast of characters.  We have Mark, one of two openly gay students at his high school.  His Nanna, a witch and his mentor.  An insanely hot new student at the school, along with several other people that interact with Mark.  Winter Trials is a short read, but a great introductory work for this series.  This is definitely a coming of age story about a boy in high school who happens to have magical powers.

Book 2 in the series is Awaken, which picks up where the first book left off with Mark still coming to understand his powers and what he is truly capable of.  Again, this is a relatively short read, but a riveting story about love, loss, high school, and magic. 

The Breaking is the third book in her The Northern Witch series, which follows Adam, a witch in training, as he learns the craft and navigates being a teenager.  The world in which The Breaking takes place has an interesting blend of technology and magic, both work together.  This is in contrast with many novels dealing with magic and technology where magic makes technology nonfunctional.  This world is very much like our own with social media and cell phones.  This book features intrigue, demons, deception, drama, love lost, love found, and, of course, teenage angst.

This series is perfect for fans of Jordan Hawk, Blair Babylon, and Nicole R. Taylor.  I would absolutely recommend this book series for fans of LGBT/YA high school dramas and magical adventures! 

All three books are available at most online retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and SmashWords.  Check out K. S. Marsden’s website as well:  K. S. Marsden

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of all three books in exchange for an honest review!  Happy reading!

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Review: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Set in Edwardian London, Chain of Gold, follows a cast of characters from all the Shadowhunter families you already know:  Lightwood, Herondale, Fairchild, Blackthorn, Carstairs, etc.  And a few you haven’t heard about yet:  Bridgestock, Townsend, Wentworth, etc.  As with all of Cassandra Clare’s novels, this is a wonderful romp through London with plenty of danger, intrigue, romance, twisting plot points, and more! 

Really, I only had a minor criticism of the book, characters get confusing at the beginning, but it eventually clears up.  It’s a little weird that all the character traits, blue eyes/black hair/gold eyes/red hair, are all mixed up from the original Shadowhunter Series.  I understand needing to describe people, but suddenly a Lightwood doesn’t look like a Lightwood because in the years between Chain of Gold and the Mortal Instruments series many people have married each other and it’s just a bit odd.  Also, everyone is someone’s cousin.  I may have waited too long from reading the last Clockwork book, but I’m not sure.  This is honestly a minor criticism.  Around the first 1/4 of the book, I didn’t care about who had which last name because the characters really grew into their own!

I’m really loving the use of characters who identify as LGBTQ, and the depth of these characters is honestly amazing!  You love to see it!  Since this book came out, I’ve seen some comments that Clare used too many characters that identified as lesbian, bi, or gay for the time period.  I really don’t think that criticism should be applied here, Cassandra Clare recently tweeted in response to comments about this issue saying that LGBTQ people existed in the time period, just because you haven’t heard about them does not mean they did not exist.  I absolutely understand where she is coming from and I have to agree.  Persons who identified as a sexual orientation that does not conform to the society in which they live have been a part of humanity since the dawn of time. This isn’t a new thing.  The only thing new about it is that we, as humans, are much more aware and conscious of the free expression of love. 

I appreciate the use of flashbacks to tell backstory; it helps with the continuity and ultimately enhances the narrative.  My favorite character is probably Matthew, he reminds me a lot of Jace from The Mortal Instruments series.  He’s broody, sometimes distant, headstrong, and seems a bit careless.  Definitely a guy I’d like to meet in Edwardian London!

Overall, this book is another exciting adventure by Cassandra Clare and I would encourage you to pick it up ASAP!  If you have not read the Mortal Instruments Series or the Infernal Devices series, you can still read this book. You may miss a few of the jokes that reference earlier books, but it stands well on its own as a new series set in the Shadowhunter Universe!  

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