Review: The Last Fallen Star (Gifted Clans #1) by Graci Kim

The Last Fallen Star (Gifted Clans #1)The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Riley Oh has never felt like she fits in. She loves her adoptive family with her whole heart, but while they are a part of the Gom clan, a powerful line of Korean healing witches, Riley is a saram; one without magic.

When her sister Hattie is about to be initiated into the clan, earning her Gi bracelet and the ability to perform spells without adult supervision, Hattie comes up with a plan to share her magic with Riley.

While that sounds like a great idea, like many great ideas before it, things don’t quite go as planned.

With Hattie’s life hanging in the balance, Riley must now go on a seemingly impossible quest to find the last fallen star. Obviously, it would be helpful if Riley even had the slightest clue what the star is, or how to find it.

Along with her best friend, Emmett, the two work against the clock, challenging everything they believed about their world, in order to try to save Hattie.

I absolutely adored this story. Riley was such a sweet little gumdrop. She was so easy to get behind and support.

I really appreciated the growth Riley made as a character and the way Kim incorporated so many true to life, coming of age issues into this fantastical story.

I thought there was a lot of great content in here for young readers concerning things like the meaning of family, friendship, being true to yourself and who you are meant to be.

This story left off in an incredible spot for a continuation of the series. I am really, really, really looking forward to the next book, set to release in 2022.

I highly recommend this action-packed, Korean-mythology inspired Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure. Yes, it has everything! Such an impressive debut!!!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Books and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I will be praising this one to the rooftops for a long time to come!! Available now!!

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Review: Malice by Heather Walter

MaliceMalice by Heather Walter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, an evil fairy cursed a line of Princesses to die. The only way to break the curse, true love’s kiss.

You may be thinking you’ve heard this story before, right?

I’d say, not quite like this. in Malice, Heather Walter has put her own darkly creative spin on the beloved tale, Sleeping Beauty.

Alyce is a Dark Grace, living in a house of Beauty Graces since she was just a young girl.

While the wealthy of Briar set appointments with the other Graces to enhance their beauty, they go to Alyce for more sinister potions and tinctures.

Alyce has never fit in with the other girls and is frequently harassed by them; particularly by the beautiful and talented, Rose.

As deplorable as their treatment of her is, Alyce grows used to it. She even comes to accept it, in a way.

That’s why when she crosses paths with the last Princess, Aurora, and Aurora shows her kindness, Alyce isn’t quite sure how to react. Why would the Princess want to be friends with her? It doesn’t make any sense.

In the midst of all of this, Alyce actually stumbles upon, and befriends someone else. Kal, a man magically imprisoned in a tower, who promises to teach her how to harness her powers.

Through her meetings with him, Alyce begins to learn more about her history, potential and the world outside of Briar.

The world Walter created within this story was absolutely immersive. I loved the magic system. Learning about the Graces and their powers, but also the interactions with Fae and the history of Briar.

It’s richly detailed, but in a way that stays engaging. Alyce was a fantastically created character. I felt her every emotion; also extra points for including her kestrel, Callow. Three cheers for animal companions.

I also thought the relationship between Alyce and Aurora was well done. It felt natural. The stakes were really high and it definitely pushed the drama of the story.

I did feel like the end dragged on a bit, but overall, I was so impressed with this. I would definitely recommend Malice for Readers who enjoy the darker side of fairy tales.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more from Heather Walter!

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Review: Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations #1) by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Night BrothersAmari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, yes, yes!!! Middle Grade Fantasy at its best!!!

I love Amari. I love the world. I love the magic system and humbly request at least ten volumes for this series.

Is that too much to ask? I think if you pick it up, you’d agree.

13-year old, Amari Peters, lives with her Mom in the Rosewood housing project. She had an older brother, Quinton, who was smart, fun and brave. He meant a lot to Amari. He was her best friend.

Quinton has gone missing and Amari doesn’t understand why it isn’t a bigger deal. Why isn’t it on the news? Why do the police act like if something happened to him, it was probably because he was up to no good?

Amari knows better. She doesn’t care what they insinuate about him, Quinton is the best person she knows and she is going to find out what happened to him, whether others believe her, or not.

Upon arriving home after an especially trying day, Amari is surprised by a visitor who gives her a clue that may help; the answer to which lies in a briefcase hidden in her missing brother’s closet.

She can’t believe what she finds. The Bureau of Supernatural Affairs? Is this for real?

Quinton has nominated her for a try-out? The prospect is sort of scary, but Amari knows this may be her best, perhaps only chance, of getting to the bottom of her brother’s disappearance. She’s got to go.

Thus begins Amari’s introduction to the hidden supernatural world around her. She also discovers the power within herself.

Under the guise of attending a ‘leadership camp’, Amari is able to stay at the Vanderbilt Hotel with the other Bureau trainees. There she is fully immersed in learning, training and competing. Did you hear that? Learning, training and competing.

It’s a MAGIC SCHOOL trope! I know, it’s called ‘camp’, but it’s a magic school, only one of the best tropes ever created.

The Reader learns along with Amari the ins-and-outs of the world and magic system. The good guys, the bad guys, the history. It’s all beautifully constructed and paced out.

I was totally engrossed in this while reading it. As first books in a series go, this is top notch. It definitely left me wanting more and I can’t wait to see how Amari grows in future books.

If you are looking for that good old-fashioned, kid discovering they are actually part of a magical world, then learns about it, competes within it, and fights evil forces, kind of book, you NEED to pick this up. There’s not even an option.

You can thank me later.

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Review: The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

The Bone MakerThe Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Twenty-five years ago, the five heroes of Vos, waged an epic battle against the evil magician, Eklor. Although they were victorious, only four survived.

This fight, now the stuff of legends, was memorialized in songs and stories, but the ones who fought it went their separate ways when it was over.

Kreya, the group’s leader, lost her husband, Jennt, tragically in the battle. Saving his body, she has moved the two of them into a tower in the mountains, far from other people.

Kreya is a bone worker and continuously resurrects Jennt for short periods of time. She is busy formulating a spell she believes will bring him back for good, but it requires copious amounts of human bones to work. A resource she doesn’t currently have.

She knows where to find all she will need, however; the old battlefield. It’s illegal though and will be dangerous as heck. She’s going to need help.

Thus, she goes to her old friend and fellow fighter, Zera. Even though Kreya ghosted her for 25-years, Zera is a good sport and agrees to go on the mission.

Reunited, the two women, embark on a cross-country quest to steal some bones; all for a good cause.

Once on the battlefield, however, they discover their battle may not actually be over.

Kreya and Zera stumble upon evidence that indicates Eklor’s reign of terror may be resurrecting itself.

Eklor had created an inhuman army from animal bones. It was believed all had been destroyed, but they find a few of his horrifying constructs still functioning and still murderous. They rush back to the city, assemble the old crew, and prepare for round two!

The Bone Maker is a story of second chances. It is creative, pulse-pounding, nail-biting, full of danger and twists and turns. I had a lot of fun with this story.

The characters were fantastic. I loved the five heroes. Their relationship dynamic was heart-warming. They supported one another and played off of one another’s strengths and weaknesses beautifully.

Even though they had moved on, and some would consider them past their prime, they were still willing to put it all on the line for one another and to fight for what was right.

Eklor was a marvelously constructed villain. His motivations, powers, abilities to deceive; it was all so well done. I also enjoyed how Durst framed Kreya’s relationship with Eklor. They were similar in a lot of ways. It sort of reminded me a bit of the dynamic between Harry and Voldemort.

Additionally, I was impressed by the magic system. The bone magic was fascinating. The different types of bone workers and what powers they could wield.

Certain aspects had a sort of steampunk feel that I rather enjoyed. So, yeah, overall, really good standalone Adult Fantasy. I would absolutely recommend it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Harper Voyager, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I really appreciate it and will definitely be picking up more from Sarah Beth Durst!

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Review: Akata Warrior (Akata Witch #2) by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Warrior (Akata Witch, #2)Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

A year has passed since Sunny first discovered she was a part of the magical Leopard Society and along with her friends, Orlu, Sasha and Chichi, formed the youngest Oha Coven ever.

Now a little older, and a bit more experienced, each of the four kids have been selected by a powerful Leopard mentor to oversee their studies and continue strengthening their powers.

Sunny’s mentor, Sugar Cream, is a wise older woman with incredible power. She’s tough and I loved reading their interactions with one another. You can tell that Sugar Cream sees something very special in Sunny.

Through it all, Sunny continues to try to understand her visions of a coming apocalypse. What can she possibly do to prevent the horrific things she envisions from happening?

In the midst of all of this, her older brother departs for college. When he arrives home unexpectedly, late one night bloody and battered, Sunny knows she needs to do something.

Enlisting Chichi’s help, the two girls head off to the University to set things right. Their escapade causes Sunny to break one of the Leopard Society’s rules however and detection is swift.

Her punishment consists of Sunny being locked in the library basement, which trust me, is not as magical as it sounds.

It is during this time of isolation that Sunny begins to feel more compelled towards her quest.

Along with her friends, she must find the secret town of Osisi, facing off against mortal enemies along the way in order to stop the end of the world from coming.

I flew through this story. There is so much going on. Sunny is basically living a dual life. She has her home life with her family and regular school, as well as all of her dealings within the Leopard world.

I enjoyed watching her relationship with her family change as she changes and grows more confident in herself and her powers. Particularly, her relationship with her older brother.

The friend group, again, is the highlight of this story for me. I love the way the four personalities play off of one another.

There’s more drama in this installment as the relationships veer out of friendship territory and more into romance. Although this wasn’t my favorite plot point, I think it was executed naturally and therefore, I didn’t mind it.

In addition to the characters and relationships, I loved the world so much. It’s actually quite dark and dangerous. Our protagonists definitely do not have an easy go at it.

Okorafor uses excerpts from books that Sunny is studying to help educate the reader on the lore, history and magic system of the world. I thought that was such a fun way to develop the story.

I did get a little lost towards the end, but I think it was because I was reading so fast. I was anxious for everyone to be okay and I let that get the best of me!

The ending was so satisfying. Initially, before picking up this sequel, I wished there were more books in the series. Now that I have completed it, I couldn’t be happier with how Okorafor left Sunny.

This is odd to say, but I am proud of Sunny. Her growth and accomplishments. I am okay with leaving her here and moving on.

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Review: Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker

Over the Woodward WallOver the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seanan McGuire, writing as A. Deborah Baker, brings a book within a book to life with Over the Woodward Wall.

For those of you who haven’t read Middlegame, first…

I’m kidding, I just couldn’t resist using that gif.

Moving along, A. Deborah Baker is a character first introduced in Middlegame.

She is in fact the author of a book called, Over the Woodward Wall; snippets of which you get interspersed throughout Middlegame.

My recollection, although hazy, is that Baker was high-up in the alchemical world and was involved in some way with Roger and Dodger and other children like them.

In Over the Woodward Wall we follow two children, Avery and Zib, who live in the same town, on the same street, attend the same school, but have never met one another.

One morning on their respective walks to school, they both encounter a detour. Said detour leads them to a wall, the only option is to go up and over.

They do and find themselves in an entirely different world with no immediate evidence of a way to return home.

From there, the kids are forced to become acquainted rather quickly as they work together to survive the somewhat hostile fairy tale landscape known as the Up and Under.

Meeting an intriguing cast of side characters along the way, including talking owls and a girl made entirely of crows, Zib and Avery, come to trust in and rely on one another. A far jump from where they started.

This story is absolutely enchanting. There are so many fine details, I know I didn’t get everything I could out of this first read.

McGuire is a master at making every sentence count. Every word is placed for maximum impact. It’s truly an impressive display of skill.

Do I think people who haven’t read Middlegame can enjoy this?

Absolutely, 100%, yes!

You could compare this to so many things, yet it is like nothing else. I feel Alice in Wonderland. I feel The Wizard of Oz. I feel The Chronicles of Narnia. But at the same time, it is different.

If you have read and enjoyed any of McGuire’s, Wayward Children series, you should definitely pick this book up. I feel like it could easily be incorporated into that series.

I have so many thoughts on this, but as you can tell, they’re a little discombobulated.

As always, I appreciated McGuire’s subtle social commentary with regards to gender roles and the effects of unnecessary expectations placed on children, not just by parents, but by society as a whole.

Although, the ending was a little too abrupt for my tastes, and I would have enjoyed a bit more to the story, overall, I did really enjoy it.

I will end up rereading this at some point, maybe simultaneously with a reread of Middlegame. I am also hoping we see more of Zib and Avery’s adventures in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity and will continue to pick up anything this author writes, under any name!

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Review: In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4) by Seanan McGuire

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Not going to lie, this sort of crushed my heart.

I found this story to be so sad, y’all. It truly hit me right in the heart.

The idea of childhood innocence and optimism being dashed on the rocks of reality.

You cannot outsmart the market; you cannot have it all.

In an Absent Dream, a prequel novella, tells the backstory of Katherine Lundy, Eleanor West’s Assistant.

Her world was a goblin market with the door first manifesting to her in a large, mysterious tree which appears in a place it had never been before.

Talk about every child’s dream!

A portal world accessed through a tree that probably only you could see.

The description of the goblin market itself, not just the vibrant atmosphere, but also the system’s function, was fascinating. I think a lot can be taken from that as a social commentary on our own economic system.

That’s one of the things I love about McGuire’s writing, the stories hold so many different layers depending on how far you want to look.

There’s something for every reader within the pages.

I thought this was a super solid addition to this series. I enjoyed the relationships and how Lundy got to travel back and forth between the two places.

I’m looking forward to continuing on my Wayward Children journey. I wish this series would keep going on forever and ever!

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Review: The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A.K. Larkwood

The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates, #1)The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It.
Is.
Done.

Phew. I feel so accomplished having completed this.

Csorwe is a teenage girl who has been raised to be the sacrificial wife of the Unspoken One, an ancient god living within the earth.

Locked into a tomb on what is to be the day of her death, a mage appears and offers to rescue her and provide her with a new life.

She decides to accept his offer and flees with him. Over time she lives with him and trains to be his assassin.

She feels she owes him everything. She owes him her life and thus, is extremely loyal to him and his goals.

The mage, Belthandros Sethennai, is a very powerful man who is also on a mission. His aim is to regain control of the lands from which he was exiled.

In order to do so, he wants Csorwe, along with another young person in his employ, Tal, to seek and return to him the Reliquary of Pentravasse.

This Reliquary is said to hold immeasurable knowledge and the one able to capture that will increase their power to new heights.

…or something like that…

Okay, so, I will admit this was a little hard for me to grasp. I never felt like I truly understood the world. For example, Csorwe, is an Orc, which I never really knew until I read someone else’s blurb about the book.

I knew there was something going on with her, as she is described as having tusks, but I thought maybe she was some sort of elephant human hybrid or something.

But even knowing she was an Orc, didn’t really piece the rest of it together for me. Were they all orcs? Were there humans? Were there all sorts of magical beings living together in harmony like in Middle Earth?

I genuinely don’t know. If you know, comment down below.

I am also of the opinion that this was entirely too long. There were two distinct portions of the book, or quests if you will.

There is a quest for an object. Once that point is resolved, you think, it could be over. This is it.

But no, it is not. Characters are separated, there’s still a baddie out and about, it would have been a great place to leave off prior to a second book.

Then there is a completely new quest to find a particular person.

Again, I feel like that could have made a great second book. If it had been broken up that way, I think the world could have been built out more and perhaps the author would have more time to really focus on that instead of trying to cram it all into one.

Overall, this was a mixed bag for me. I felt the pacing was off.

There were moments when I was really into it and then a few pages later, I would be bored, and back and forth it went until the end.

It did have moments of greatness and I don’t want anyone to think my minor critiques make this a bad book. It’s a good book, I just feel the story could have been better served if formatted differently.

It also isn’t an easy read. I did end up mentally exhausted after reading it for a half hour or so. I could have made it through more quickly if it didn’t take me 8.5-minutes to pronounce each name.

My favorite part of this was the relationship between Csorwe, and a religious adept, Shuthmili. Their friendship-to-more was beautiful. I waited a long time to get to it, but it was worth it.

In short, although this wasn’t perfect for me, it did have some strengths. If you can make it through the weaknesses, it is a pleasant, though entirely too long, read.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3) by Holly Black

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3)The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is done.

In this, the final installment of The Folk of the Air trilogy, we find Jude back in the mortal world, trying to recover from the events of The Wicked King.

Her heart is hurt, but as our girl Jude is apt to do, she is still focused on getting back what she has lost.

Unexpectedly, her annoying sister, Taryn arrives, pleading for Jude’s help. She has done something terrible and sees Jude as her only path to salvation.

How convenient for her.

This help comes in the form of Jude sneaking back into the Faerie Court under the guise of being Taryn. What could possibly go wrong?

Once there, Jude finds Elfhame on the brink of war with the political class and society in general running amok.

Can Jude save her sister and her power before everything is ruined?

I’m sad, man. Yes, everything was wrapped up, but this felt so quick. I needed more time with my babies!

Why you play me like this, Holly Black?

I’ll be honest, I feel like I didn’t retain much of this story. Completely not the book’s fault, I was just so anxious to know how it was going to turn out, I flew through it.

I definitely plan to reread this entire series at some point, to really soak it in. With this being said, I do wish this had been a little longer.

I came away feeling a lot of the story felt very surface level and I wish it would have gone deeper. This could be me just being hurt that it has come to an end however.

Either way, a great series overall. So glad that I read it and looking forward to reading more by Holly Black!

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Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryThe Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

((awkward silence due to unpopular opinion))

((sound of crickets))

I’m sorry, everyone. I just did not enjoy this book. I really wanted to, I was so hyped for it, then I saw all the reviews coming in and they were fantastic! I couldn’t wait to get into it.

Then I started reading. The writing was a little quirky at first but my interest was still high. Then it just seemed to not be going anywhere. I wasn’t feel anything. I didn’t like anything about it. The writing was flowery and beautiful but I felt like the plot got lost in all of that. I dreaded picking it back up and really struggled almost the entire way through.

There was a sweet spot for me that really picked up between 50% and 80% but that’s just not enough. If you read through the reviews, I am clearly in the minority opinion. I have read the reviews. I know.

When I first finished, I contemplated giving this a 2.5-star and rounding up to 3, but then I slept on it and came to the conclusion that I would just be doing that to appease people. I genuinely did not enjoy this book.

I can understand why so many people have loved this and I am happy that they found something in here that resonated with them, that’s just not me.

I love portal fantasy; The Dark Tower or Wayward Children series are great examples but this fell so flat for me. The characters seemed one dimensional and I had zero connection to any of them. I don’t need to like characters but I do need to actually care about what happens to them.

The only character I cared about was the dog, Bad. I was so worried about that dog, and traumatized by things that happened to him, that I was never able to relax into the story. That is 100% a personal preference and it has spoiled books for me in the past — see my review for The Deep by Nick Cutter — but yeah, there’s not much here to save this story from that pitfall.

With all of this being said, I would never want a personal review from myself to keep people from picking up a book that really interests them. If you think this sounds intriguing, please pick it up and try it for yourself. There is a book for every reader and a reader for every book. Sadly, this just wasn’t my cuppa tea.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Redhook Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity and know that many, many readers are going to absolutely adore January’s story.

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