Review: Hood by Jenny Elder Moke

HoodHood by Jenny Elder Moke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

What happened after Robin Hood and Maid Marian rode off into the sunset together?

They had a daughter, Isabelle. This is her story.

Finding herself on the wrong side of the law, Isabelle is forced to flee the village of Kirklees and the priory where her mother, Marian, is Prioress.

With her mother’s aide, she sets out with a destination in mind, where dwells one of her mother’s old friends who can help her hide from the King’s men.

After a fearful journey, over many days, she reaches the Inn her mother advised her to go to.

It’s there she joins up with the Merry Men, learns the truth of her parentage and grows ever closer to meeting the infamous, Robin Hood.

This was an action-packed, super fun story, full of adventure and close calls.

I enjoyed where Moke took this, finding out how Robin and Marian’s ‘happily ever after’ went.

While I had fun reading this, it was quick and light, I wasn’t necessarily blown away by anything here.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a good story, and if you are a fan of the Disney animated version, you should definitely check it out, but I can’t help but wish it would have been built out further.

Moke has a very pleasing writing style and all the bones were here, but I just wanted more.

I believe this is a standalone, but I sort of wish it was going to be a duology. I started to feel very connected with Isabelle towards the end, and the rest of the Merry Men. Personally, I would really enjoy following them on further adventures.

While I wasn’t crazy about some of the content of the conclusion to this tale, I do believe there is a lot more story to tell and Moke is the perfect person to tell it.

Give me more Isabelle. She is just starting to come into her own!

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 and look forward to reading more from Jenny Elder Moke!

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Review: Star Wars Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston

Queen's Peril (Star Wars)Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Queen’s Peril, when it releases on June 2, 2020, will be the newest addition to the Disney Star Wars Canon.

The events in this novel take place after the events of Master and Apprentice and just before the film, The Phantom Menace.

In fact, to my surprise, the last quarter of the book runs parallel to The Phantom Menace.

It is not a novelization of the events in the movie, it’s more of an expansion.

With that bit of timeline info out of the way, let’s get into this story, shall we?

At just 14-years old, Padme Naberrie is elected Queen of Naboo. Her parents exposed her early to civic duty and the idea that she could one day be Queen never felt far-fetched to her.

After her election, the Head of Security Forces for Naboo, Quarsh Panaka devises a plan to select special handmaidens for the Queen.

These handmaidens will be a lot more than meets they eye. They will actually serve as body doubles and protection.

Each one, chosen with care by Panaka himself, brings a different skill to the table. Together they make quite a team.

A large portion of the story is learning about the girls and how they contribute to the function of the Queen’s reign.

It was interesting to follow as these girls go from being strangers, to companions and ultimately, to friends.

As Naboo becomes threatened by the Trade Federation, maneuverings take place to secure the Queen and gain help for Naboo.

Once the events begin to align with those of The Phantom Menace, we get more insights into what was going on behind the scenes during Padme’s flight from Naboo.

E.K. Johnston writes with such care and skill within the Star Wars universe.

You can tell that she knows the ins-and-outs of this world, complex as it is, and that she is equally passionate about it as we are as readers.

I loved the subtle feel of the narrative. It’s a character driven story, although the action does pick up towards the end, and I feel like I learned a lot.

Some of the highlights for me were learning about each of the handmaidens, why they were chosen and what their specific skills were.

I also liked the little cameos of beloved characters popping up throughout, including Yoda, Anakin, Qui Gon and Jar Jar Binks.

Senator Palpatine is also explored in greater depth here which I loved.

The duality of his character is so freaking interesting and the way Johnston wrote from his perspective was perfection!

Overall, this book is a joy to read and for Padme fans, an absolute gift!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Lucasfilm Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I had already preordered my copy prior to receiving my ARC and was beyond the moon excited to be able to get my hands on it early!

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Review: Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (Sal and Gabi #2) by Carlos Hernandez

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (Sal and Gabi, #2)Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

My favorite Middle Grade magician, Sal Vidon, returns in this second installment of the Sal and Gabi series.

Pairing with his whirlwind best friend, Gabi Real, and their wild and wacky families, this installment continues to bring the humor and good heart.

There is no other way to describe these stories, but: FUN, FUN, FUN!!

Low-key scifi ideas are explored and allow for a lot of flexibility with reality. Magical and heartwarming, I think so many kids are going to fall in love with these characters.

Even as an adult reader, I was fully engaged the entire way through. You just never know where it is going or what is going to happen next.

There are so many important lessons woven throughout as well; just tidbits on how to be a good human and put your most positive side out to the world.

Sal and Gabi attend a private school in Miami called, Cuelco. My interpretation is that it is a kind of performing arts school. This school is an absolute utopia for kids that are different.

I love reading everything about the school and how it functioned. The kids in this one prepare a performance for their parents based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it was EVERYTHING!

Although I did enjoy this so, so much, I didn’t love it quite as much as I did the first book. It did have all of the humor, seriously, I laugh all the time reading from Sal’s perspective, and all of the great characters, but I found the plot to be a little choppy.

It didn’t flow as well as the first one did scene-to-scene, in my opinion. Obviously, this is coming from the perspective of an adult, I think for kids reading this, they will likely not feel that same way.

Overall, I am obsessed with this Middle Grade series. I am not sure how many more of these books are in the works, but I do know, I will read any that are released!

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. I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: Elysium Girls by Kate Pentecost

Elysium GirlsElysium Girls by Kate Pentecost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Ten years ago, the Goddesses of Life and Death decided to play a little game. Their game board, a settlement town called Elysium, set amidst a stark desert landscape.

The inhabitants, the game pieces, scurrying around like the ants in A Bug’s Life, trying to gather up enough sacrificial materials to please the Goddesses once the ten years are up.

Within the settlement, an elder witch, Mother Morvena, seeks her replacement. She is nearing the end of her life, and as the settlement’s unofficial leader, someone needs to take over her duties.

Sal Wilkerson has never quite fit in. She’s different than the other girls and has few friends. She lost her mother to the Dust Sickness and has found it hard trying to make it on her own.

She knows she is meant to be a leader, but getting others to see her as such will be a battle. Her recurring false visions of rain aren’t helping matters.

But when Mother Morvena selects Sal as her successor, things change. Sal begins to see how she can truly contribute and discovers her powers as a witch.

Her new found celebrity is dimmed, however, when a new man arrives in town.

A magician named, Asa, who happens to be a Daemon in disguise! All the townsfolk are completely enamored with him and constantly after him to perform tricks.

When a magical duel between Sal and Asa goes horribly wrong, the entire fate of the game has been ruined. Blamed for the catastrophic result, they face excommunication and Asa disappears.

Now alone, Sal is tossed outside the border wall and forced to survive in the desert, where cannibals are said to lurk.

When all hope seems to be lost, Sal finds her salvation. A badass group of girls, the leader of which was also kicked out of Elysium for bad behavior.

The group takes Sal in, along with Asa, who just couldn’t keep away from those darn humans. They form a beloved found family that was an absolute delight to read.

Together they plan to get back in the game and save all of Elysium from the clutches of Death.

Y’all this book was so much fun to read. Super unique and absolutely full of action. I loved the setting, a sort of magical Deadwood meets Mad Max: Fury Road, and if that isn’t reason enough to pick it up, I’m not sure what is.

I loved both Sal and Asa, as well as many of the side characters. They were full of grit and fun to follow. I really started rooting for this girl gang.

They were smart, tough and never afraid of a fight. The giant mechanical horse on the cover is in the story as well, so there’s that!

The whole way through I was so into it. Thinking all along, this is a 5-star read, but then, the last 20% sort of lost me.

I found it confusing, it was going so fast and there were multiple twists thrown in right at the end. I still don’t really understand the conclusion. I guess if I would have had more information on the world outside of Elysium, it may have solved some of the uncertainties.

With this being said, this is still a highly enjoyable read. One that I can treasure for its magical narrative and captivating setting.

I would urge anyone who finds the synopsis interesting to pick it up. I do not think you will be disappointed.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I had so much fun with it and look forward to seeing what Kate Pentecost dreams up next!

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Review: Conceal, Don’t Feel (Twisted Tales #6) by Jen Calonita

Conceal, Don't Feel (Twisted Tale)Conceal, Don’t Feel by Jen Calonita
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Meg’s ratings for The Twisted Tale series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
5. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
6. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

I was greatly anticipating the release of Conceal, Don’t Feel, the Frozen retelling of my dreams!

I love the story of Anna and Elsa. There’s so much about being true to yourself and being who you are no matter what others think.

The loads and loads of humor and fantastic side characters is another strong selling point for this story.

In this installment of Disney’s Twisted Tale series, we are proposed the twist of Anna and Elsa never knowing one another.

In this version, after Elsa’s magic harms Anna, their parents give Anna away to a family in the village to raise her. The girl’s memories are wiped and they grow up with no knowledge that they even have a sister.

It started out a little slow for me, but did pick up towards the middle and the conclusion was lovely.

Although slightly underwhelming, most likely because I had hyped it up so much for myself, this is still a good book. It was fun to spend some time with all of these dynamic characters again.

After this though, I am very happy the girls grew up the way they did in the movie and not some other version. That was sad enough!

Am I right?!

If you enjoyed the movie version of Frozen, you should definitely give this one a shot! Let Anna, Elsa, Olaf and all the rest, take your mind off the world for a while.

You won’t regret it!

I love the whole concept behind this series. I am always checking to see what tale Disney is going to twist next!

I am looking forward to continuing on with the rest of the books!

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Review: The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Gray #2) by Christine Lynn Herman

The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Gray, #2)The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

With the events of The Devouring Gray behind them, and the Beast seemingly subdued, May, Justin, Harper, Violet and Isaac, are left to lick their wounds and repair their relationships.

Old anxieties remain and as the teens move forward, they find themselves continuing to seek solace in one another as the town at large feels hostile, especially for Justin.

Things are far from over, however, as a mysterious corruption beings to seep from the Gray, infecting those citizens it comes in contact with.

The Founder’s children seem to be immune, so again it is up to them to save the fate of Four Paths.

May seems especially tuned in to the changes around her as she continues working on her powers dealing with the Deck of Omens.

As her relationship with her mother, Augusta, remains hella strained, she reaches out to her estranged father for guidance.

Obviously her mother is less than pleased when he arrives, thus deepening the hole May is already in with her.

Speaking of people returning to town, Isaac’s older brother, Gabriel, makes a sudden appearance as well. Thus forcing the Sullivan boys to have it out once and for all.

As the Gray continues to destabilize and the corruption begins to get out of control, the town leaders have no choice. They must evacuate the town’s citizens for their own safety.

The Founding Families remain, preparing themselves for the ultimate showdown.

This second book of The Devouring Gray duology continues the themes of long buried secrets and heartbreaking deceptions.

The truth about the Gray and its early beginnings are revealed and it flips everything you thought you knew on its head.

You may think the most dangerous thing in Four Paths is the Beast, or the Gray, but you’re wrong!

Guys, I enjoyed this story so, so much! Once I started, I absolutely could not put it down.

While with the first book, I felt that a lot of the plot got bogged down in the details, I didn’t feel that at all with this one.

The town of Four Paths has a complex history and there is a lot to learn in regards to the Founding families, their powers, the Gray and the Beast.

I think, for me, I let myself get too caught up with all the details in the first book and it ended up losing some of its fun.

With The Deck of Omens I went in with that foundation and was just able to relax into the story.

I loved the relationships and how they grew and changed as the teens gained more knowledge about their own family histories. At this point, I am so attached to these characters, I can’t believe it is over.

I am so satisfied with the conclusion. If it has to end, I am happy with this result.

The ultimate showdown was pure nail-biting fun, which is another strong selling point, it was fast-paced the WHOLE way through! There was never a lull in the action.

I am beyond happy that I continued on with this duology and send a very hearty thank you to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing with a copy to read and review.

It’s so far one of my favorite reads of the year! Well done, Christine Lynn Herman!

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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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