Review: Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Race to the SunRace to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When Nizhoni Begay notices a mysterious man in a suit sitting in the bleachers at her Junior High basketball game, she can’t take her eyes off him. So much so, she misses the game winning shot.

The thing is, she knows instinctively that this man is a monster in disguise.

After the game, she learns the monster is her Dad’s new boss, Mr. Charles, and he is very interested in Nizhoni and her little brother, Mac.

Nizhoni calls out Mr. Charles to her Dad, who doesn’t believe her.

In fact, he seems disappointed in her outburst, but when Mr. Begay ends up getting kidnapped by Mr. Charles and his cronies, it is up to Nizhoni to save him!

Nizhoni has always wanted to be a hero and this is her chance.

Along with her best friend, Davery, and her little brother, Mac, they set out on a quest to rescue Mr. Begay and stop Mr. Charles from releasing a horde of ancient monsters upon the world.

Working off the Navajo legend of the Hero Twins, this adventurous Middle Grade novel tackles facing our fears and the importance of family.

While it started out a little slow for me, once the kids finally got into the quest, meeting the Spider Woman and finding the Rainbow Road, I really started to enjoy it.

I didn’t find this quite as humorous as earlier releases by this imprint, but that is really personal taste more than an issue with the book itself.

Overall, this is a great story for Middle Grade readers. I loved learning more about the legends of the Navajo culture and if more books release in this series, I would absolutely read them.

Nizhoni and Davery’s friendship was so pure and I loved little Mac as well!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, as well as Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with an early copy of this to read and review.

I have enjoyed so many of the books in this imprint and this one is no exception!

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Review: As Old As Time (Twisted Tales #3) by Liz Braswell

As Old As Time (Twisted Tales, #3)As Old As Time by Liz Braswell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

An imaginative twist on the ‘tale as old as time’ that we all know and love!

As Old As Time, the third installment in Disney’s Twisted Tales series puts forth the question, what if Belle’s mom was the one to curse the Beast?

Following the parameters of a fairly strict retelling, this story has bonus content!

Music to any fan’s ears. We get a back and forth timeline here, one following Belle in the present part of the story we are familiar with, and the other telling of Belle’s parents before she was born.

The Belle we know is without a mother, living with her father, an inventor, on the outskirts of town.

But of course Belle once had a mother. This reimagining tells who she was, the Enchantress that cursed the Beast.

We learn about the kingdom at a time when magic was still present, as well as about the Beast’s parents and their unkind rule over their kingdom.

There is a plague and a fairly harsh ‘witch hunt’, for lack of a better term, that all ultimately leads to the Beast’s curse.

As I mentioned earlier, this felt like bonus content to the Disney animated version from 1991 because a good portion of this stuck so true to that original.

The rest was icing on the cake, filling in the back story of the time before the movie kicks off. I really appreciated that.

Some retellings you want to be wildly creative and unique (e.g. Hunted by Meagan Spooner or Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust), but for this series, the point is to have the original story with one twist that affects the outcome.

I thought that was well done here by Braswell.

I’m a sucker for this series and will continue to pick them up. This is definitely one of my favorites!

If you love the original animated Beauty and the Beast as much as I do, you should definitely give this one a try!

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Review: Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Scavenge the Stars (Scavenge the Stars, #1)Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

…no one left in the world to love her…only the promise of retribution.

On the debtor’s ship, The Brackish, young Silverfish, once known as Amaya, spends her days diving for pearls and counting down the moments until she can regain her freedom.

Things aboard the ship are far from smooth sailing. The Captain is cruel and treats his young prisoners with an iron fist.

When Amaya rescues a man from drowning, she fears she may be punished by further time added to her sentence.

And although that may be true, she’s taken with this mysterious stranger wrangled from the depths. When she begins to interact with him, Boon promises her unimaginable riches and the possibility of returning to the city of her birth.

With his help, she’ll be able to find out the truth about the cause of the downfall of her family, and in turn, seek revenge of her own.

Through an exciting series of events, Amaya is able to flee the ship and does indeed return to her hometown of Moray, a port-city with an even mix of old-world opulence and new-world problems.

Set up by Boon, she poses as a wealthy Countess in order to infiltrate polite society and bring down the man Boon feels responsible for his problems.

The man he seeks is Kamon Mercado, a high-society businessman, who has secretly fallen into hard times of his own.

His son, Cayo, once involved heavily in the Vice Sector, gambling, drinking and carousing, is trying to stay clean but definitely played his part in dragging the family name through the mud.

Amaya is directed to befriend Cayo and use him to get access to his father. Once she does however, she finds all may not be as easy as it once seemed.

This story is a gender-flipped retelling of the adventure classic, The Count of Monte Cristo, and I definitely felt the themes of that woven throughout.

I loved the back and forth between Amaya’s and Cayo’s perspectives, as they both pieced together the darkness and mysteries surrounding their lives.

I enjoyed so much watching their relationship grow and am definitely interested to see where it will go in the second book.

The setting of Moray reminded me quite a bit of New Reynes, from Amanda Foody’s, Ace of Shades. So, if you enjoyed those books, you should definitely pick this one up.

The Vice Sector, with it’s gambling dens and ruling Slum King, was steeped in danger and underhand dealings. Corruption is a major theme in this book, as is deception and individuals being used as pawns for other’s gains.

Additionally, I enjoyed the pacing and felt it was cleverly plotted, although some of the reveals felt a tad convenient. I did ultimately like the way it all came together. The conclusion was an nice set up going into the final portion of this duology.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this and look forward to continuing with the story!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to get my hands on it early!

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Review: Reflection (A Twisted Tales Story) by Elizabeth Lim

ReflectionReflection by Elizabeth Lim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Any Mulan fan knows well the battle scene versus Shan Yu and his army high in the mountain pass. But what if Captain Shang ended up mortally wounded during the course of that fight?

What would Mulan do in order to save him?

This story tackles that very question. In this recent addition to the Twisted Tales series, we follow Mulan, still posing as the solider Ping, as she travels to the Underworld, Diyu, to try to save Captain Shang.

King Yama, ruler of the Underworld, has agreed to a deal with Mulan. If she can navigate through the different levels of Diyu by sunset, facing numerous challenging obstacles along the way, Shang will be revived and she will be released.

If she fails, however, she will remained trapped in the Underworld as Yama’s prisoner forever.

So, no pressure.

Accompanying her into Diyu is Shang’s lion guardian, ShiShi. Like Mushu in the original version of Mulan, he added a great deal of humor to the story. Although a bit tougher on Mulan than Mushu, I just adored his character.

I really enjoyed in this one. It was such a fun and interesting twist. Following Mulan into Diyu had a very Alice in Wonderland dreamlike quality to it. The obstacles she faced were genuinely terrifying at times and I loved the dark atmosphere to the entire tale.

This is now officially my favorite book in the Twisted Tales series, out of the ones I have read thus far. I truly enjoyed Elizabeth Lim’s take on this classic tale and look forward to reading more from her in the future.

If you love Mulan, you should definitely give this one a shot!

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Review: The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss #1) by London Shah

The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss, #1)The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Debut novels have really been impressing me lately and this one is no exception. Man, what a captivating story. I don’t think I have ever read anything quite like this.

Set at the end of the 21st-century, the world is now underwater. Our protagonist, 16-year old Leyla McQueen is living on her own in London.

Her Father has been arrested and spirited away by government officials, although no one will tell her exactly where.

Leyla knows he is innocent of the crimes for which he is accused and now her whole life is focused on trying to find him and get him back.

When the opportunity arises for her to compete in a government-sanctioned auto race, with the prize being anything the winner desires, she puts her whole heart into winning.

The marathon doesn’t turn out to be what she expected, however, and Leyla finds herself fleeing the perceived safety of London and heading out to lesser chartered waters for the first time in her life.

Now in her own submarine with her sweet pup, Jojo, virtual domestic help, Oscar, and a new body guard, Ari, she sets out to finally solve the mystery of what happened to her Father.

This book is so intriguing, you guys. Once I got into it, I could not put it down and pretty much read it in two days. There is a an enemies-to-lovers plot element which I enjoyed. It was very mild though so if romance isn’t your thing, I would just say that it never overpowered the rest of the storyline.

For me the elements I was picking up the most were the great bits of politically-charged social commentary. That may not be the greatest way to describe it. The story itself isn’t of a political nature but the topics explored definitely were and are poignant for a lot happening in the world right now.

Topics I noticed would include the idea that it is okay to question authority, to question the official story. It explored the idea of governments molding citizens viewpoints on ‘others’ and how individuals can be punished if they speak up or against such sanctioned ideas. There were elements of ‘terrorism’, domestic and otherwise, explored, as well as an us-versus-them mentality.

While all these topics were threaded throughout the narrative, to me, they never felt forced or like the author was championing an agenda. It was all very natural and organic to the plot progression. I was impressed with how the author was able to do that.

It’s also important to note this is Own Voices representation for a Muslim main character. Both of Leyla’s parents were of Afghan descent. So if you are looking for more stories with Muslim main characters, I think this would be a great one for you to check out!

I thought the scifi elements in here were excellent. Very forward thinking and unique as far as the whole world being underwater. I think the concepts are very approachable for all readers, so even if you don’t read a lot of scifi, maybe you are afraid you won’t necessarily understand it all, I don’t think that would be the case here.

Finally, there are very cool ‘monsters’ in this story! They were honestly one of my favorite parts. They are called anthropoids and are basically genetically-modified humans that can breathe underwater. So, think the evil mermaids from Harry Potter — very well done.

Thank you so, so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I was so impressed and cannot wait for the next book to be released!

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Review: The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2) by J.C. Cervantes

The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2)The Fire Keeper by J.C. Cervantes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Prophecy of Fire was only the beginning.

After the tumultuous events of the first book, The Storm Runner, our young protagonist, Zane Obispo, is living a fairly cushy life on a private island with his closest companions. All should be good from here on out but unfortunately, as life often goes, it’s not.

He discovers that the book he recently wrote, detailing his time with the Mayan Gods, has endangered other Godborns. They are being kidnapped at an alarming rate and being spirited away to the Gods don’t even know where!

Making matters worse, his own father, Hurakan, the Mayan God of wind, storm and fire, is set to be executed for reasons I won’t go into here.

Zane sets out to save them all. A quest is no fun alone however, so he brings along his hellhound, Rosie, a new friend, fellow Godborn, Ren, and an old enemy. As to be expected severe hijinks ensue.

As with the first book, The Fire Keeper keeps up the action-packed adventure we have come to expect from Zane and the crew. I love this group. They are caring, loyal, funny and fearless.

Zane’s Uncle Hondo is one of my favorite characters. I just find his energy so charming but Zane himself is the true hero. He is just the sweetest boy and I am enjoying watching him grow. He has been put through so much but always faces what is in front of him with optimism and spunk!

This is a really great Middle Grade series. I am going to be impatiently waiting for the third book to release in the Fall of 2020. It sounds like we are going to have some sort of training for the Godborns, which y’all know, is one of my all time favorite tropes.

Bring it on!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. As always, I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to more from J.C. Cervantes!

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Review: Part of Your World (Twisted Tales #5) by Liz Braswell

Part of Your World: A Twisted Tale: A Twisted Tale Series, book 5Part of Your World: A Twisted Tale: A Twisted Tale Series, book 5 by Liz Braswell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Ummmmmm…

Well, that was a book.

I wasn’t crazy about this one, guys.
I just never connected to it. It’s possibly my fault. I finished the lastest edition to the Twisted Tales line-up, Mirror, Mirror, last month and really enjoyed it. Compared to that one, which does have a new author to the series, this one felt very flat and forced.

The format of this one worked against it, in my opinion. The other books I have read in this series follow the events of the Disney movies fairly closely in the beginning. Then one plot element will change, be ‘twisted’, and the rest of the book will explore what could have happened following the new plot twist.

This one did not do that. It began years after the final events of The Little Mermaid, the twist being that Ursula had won and was now married to Prince Eric.

Y’all, Ursula slays, so I am fine with that. It was just the story focus was much more political and there were just odd little details everywhere. I don’t know, it just felt so off to me in comparison with the other books in this series.

I think maybe if you aren’t as familiar with The Little Mermaid animated Disney film, you may actually enjoy this more. I think for people who are hella nostalgic over that movie, this book just won’t have the right tone for you. But, then again, I could be completely wrong and completely in the minority opinion on this, so, bottom line, if this sounds interesting to you, pick it up!

There is a reader for every book. Sadly, I just wasn’t the reader for this one!

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Review: Mirror, Mirror (A Twisted Tale) by Jen Calonita

Mirror, Mirror (Twisted Tales, #6)Mirror, Mirror by Jen Calonita
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Ahhhh, Snow White. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for this story but let’s be honest, we all know my favorite character is the Evil Queen.

Jen Calonita’s retelling is perfect for Snow White fans, no matter your favorite character, as it is told from alternating perspectives of Snow and the Evil Queen, named within these pages, Ingrid.

There are multiple small twists to the Disney version, most of us are familiar with, and it was just enough to give it a new and exciting feel. While paying homage to the original story, you still feel compelled to keep turning the pages to find out what is going to happen.

There is nothing super ground-breaking about this but I think if you go into it just looking for a fun, quick read — an escape from the world — you can have a heck of an enjoyable time with Mirror, Mirror. That was what I was hoping for when I picked this up and I got it.

I would have liked a bit more depth to the characters, Snow and the Evil Queen both, but I do think they had enough nuance to keep you engaged with them. I also feel like this reads more on the younger end of the YA-spectrum, maybe even verging on Middle Grade, so just know that going in.

Overall, I would recommend this to any Disney fan, especially people who like to get the villains perspective every once in a while. This is the second book I have read in the Twisted Tales series and you better believe I am going to keep reading them as long as they are putting them out!

Thank you to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me a copy to read and review! As always, I appreciate the opportunity and am excited to discuss this with other readers.

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