Review | The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

A fantasy about a kingdom beset by monsters, a mysterious school, and a girl caught in between them.

If no one notices Marya Lupu, it is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city of Illyria, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in in the kingdom holds the potential for the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread.

For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy–a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself–things that threaten the precarious balance upon which Illyria is built.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First and foremost I really enjoyed the world that Anne Ursu created in this story and could see other stories set in it, the world building and setup were really wonderful (even if the society didn’t have the best standards or norms when it came to the place of females). I enjoyed the theme within this book where Marya isn’t will to accept what society expects of her and other females. It very much lends to breaking expected gender role and challenging societal norms. She’s not willing to just go along with things and is constantly questioning the expectations set upon her.

Ursu’s writing is beautiful and while the pace isn’t super fast, the language used and phrasing is a pleasure to read. There were a few sections that I felt were a tad slow, but the writing more than made up for that. The characters are fully fledged and have multiple layers to them, making them seem more real and easier to identify with.

This story is full of strong themes of feminism, knowledge is power and bucking societal norms, which was nice to experience in a fantasy setting. Though it is longer than most middle grades, it is a great story that I’m sure younger readers will devour.

Happy reading!

Review | The Mermaid Queen by Alane Adams

Abigail and Hugo have just helped restore the balance of power in Orkney by defeating the powerful alchemist Vertulious when Abigail discovers that Capricorn, the mermaid queen she trusted to help them, has unleashed the powerful Midgard Serpent named Jormungand―who, years ago, encircled the world of mankind and held it captive until Odin banished it to an underwater prison. Capricorn is determined to force Odin to make her goddess of the seas over Aegir, and she’s ready to use the massive serpent to bend him to her will―threatening all of Orkney. Abigail and Hugo must embark on an adventure across the seas to Odin’s island sanctuary to find a way to stop Capricorn and return Jormungand to his watery cell. But when Abigail finds that her powers are not enough, she has to tap into her dark magic again and again. As she is drawn further down this path, a dark presence makes itself known to her―one that may alter her path forever.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First and foremost, make sure you check out my reviews for the last three books in the series:

Also, happy book birthday to The Mermaid Queen!

This book picked up almost immediately after the ending of the 3rd book, so things in Abigail’s world were pretty bleak while no one else thought anything was wrong. It was great to see her friends band around her to lift her spirits and find out what is wrong. While Abigail was still the main character, it seemed like her friends were able to take on more central roles which was nice. I also liked that with each book we seem to get more figures from Norse mythology. I really enjoyed the story and feel like this series with its mythology driven story will be loved by younger readers. Abigail is easy to identify with, especially with how human she is with her emotions, self doubt and more – but other characters such as Hugo, Calla and yes, I guess even Endera have qualities that can be identified with and understood. Another fast paced and exciting installment to this series – I can’t wait to read more!

Thanks so much to SparkPress for sending me the books in this series so I could review them all. Happy reading!

Review | Witch Wars by Alane Adams

Abigail’s second year at the Tarkana Academy has been an all-out disaster. She’s just unwittingly helped Vertulious, an ancient he-witch and powerful alchemist, destroy Odin’s Stone and restore his powers, and now all of Orkney is caught up in the threat of war as the witches prepare to destroy the helpless Orkadians. Determined to set things right, Abigail and Hugo set off for Jotunheim, the land of the giants, to find a weapon to restore the balance. All they have to do is track down the God of Thunder and convince Thor to turn his hammer over to them.

When their former-friend-now-foe Robert Barconian arrives with a band of dwarves, intent on stopping them, Abigail and friends must unite to prevent a war that will destroy them all. But has Abigail made the biggest mistake of all by trusting in the wrong ally? 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

So far this is my favorite book of the series. While Abigail, Hugo, Endera and others are still children, their emotional depth has grown as is really evident in this story. Abigail especially is struggling with the weight of what her decisions and actions have contributed to and suffers from a lot of personal guilt – while Hugo is steadfast in helping her and being her lifeline. Once again they go on an exciting adventure in order to set things right, which tests the bonds they have with each other and others. We see some familiar characters, but also some new ones along with way, as well as more figures from Norse Mythology which I thought was a nice touch. As with the other books in the series the book was fast paced and a fun read.

Happy reading!

Review | The Rubicus Prophecy by Alane Adams

Abigail has just started her second year at the Tarkana Witch Academy and is already up to her ears studying for Horrid Hexes and Awful Alchemy! Worse, Endera’s malevolent spellbook has its hooks in her, whispering in her ear to use its dark magic. Meanwhile, the entire school is talking about the Rubicus Prophecy; a sign has arrived that the chosen witchling is among them, the one who will one day break Odin’s curse over them. When an Orkadian warship arrives carrying troubling news, Abigail and her friend Hugo are swept into a new mystery after a young boy from the ship, Robert Barconian, asks for their help retrieving a missing item.

Along with the former glitch-witch, Calla, the four friends end up deep in the catacombs beneath the Tarkana Fortress—a place where the draugar, the living dead, wander about. Abigail discovers there is more to the Rubicus Prophecy than anyone ever imagined. Can she stop it in time before she and her friends are destroyed?

Filled with magical spells, spine-tingling ghosts, and visits from the Norse gods, The Rubicus Prophecy pits Abigail against a sinister power greater than anything she has ever imagined.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Blue Witch, and I liked this one just as much if not more. I was a little worried that it could suffer from being a bridge book, but it definitely different. In this book we definitely see a lot of growth (both good and bad) in the characters. I felt like Endera definitely solidified in her character in this book, but after the events of this book we will see what happens with her in the future. Abigail is definitely struggling between good and evil, feeling the draw of the darkness, but knowing that it’s not what she wants. In this book we saw her friends (old and new) more cemented around her and supporting her, which was really nice to see even as they dealt with their own issues. As in the first one, Adams’ writing style flows really well and made this a quick and exciting adventure.

Happy reading!

Review | The Crumrin Chronicles Vol. 1: The Charmed and the Cursed by Ted Naifeh

In this new spin-off from the New York Times bestselling Courtney Crumrin series the powerful young sorceress Courtney Crumrin has battled against all manner of evil forces, but helping her little brother Will navigate high school might be the death of her.

To help Will Crumrin adapt to the mortal world after a hundred years in the twilight realm of faeries, sis big sister Courtney makes him a glamor charm that renders him the most popular kid in school. But he eventually finds popularity a prison, in which he’s surrounded by people who neither know nor care about the real him. When football star Ross, jealous of Will’s friendship with outcast Tucker, bullies her relentlessly, Will decides to turn him in, give up the false popularity of the charm. But Ross retaliates against Will, prompting Courtney to take revenge using magic. But her activity draws the attention of Emil Gorka, an ancient, powerful vampire.

Once driven into hiding by Courtney’s former mentor, Uncle Aloysius, Gorka has reemerged under the guise of a corporate CEO. Everyone in town works for him, including Courtney and Will’s clueless parents. But he wants Courtney, a powerful but inexperienced young sorceress as his servant. And to save Will from his dreadful bite, she must surrender herself. Now only Will, with the help of his best friend Tucker, can save Courtney from eternal servitude to the undead monster and his unquenchable hunger for blood and power. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I haven’t previously read the series that this is a spin off from, so I’m not sure if that would add more to this story or not. That being said I really enjoyed this first volume and felt like for the most part the setup was done well. I did wish that a little more was revealed about Courtney’s background earlier on, because I was unsure at first how she factored into the story/characters. Still, if there are further adventures ahead for Will and Courtney in the future, I did feel it was a good set up for him and their interactions. It was also a great journey for Will to come to a number of realizations about himself, people and magic. The art style was dynamic and kept the story moving, and I felt the color saturation and tones suited the story really well as well.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Boy, The Wolf and The Stars by Shivaun Plozza | Review + Mood Board

A boy and his pet fox go on a quest to find a wolf who has eaten all the stars in the sky before the Shadow Witch destroys the stars and removes good magic from the world forever.

Long ago, the land of Ulv was filled with magic. But that was before a wolf ate all the Stars in the night sky, ridding the world of magic and allowing Shadow Creatures, beasts made of shadow and evil, to flourish. Twelve-year-old Bo knows the stories but thinks the Stars and the wolf who ate them are nothing more than myths—until the day Bo’s guardian, Mads, is attacked by a giant wolf straight from the legends. With his dying breath, Mads tells Bo that Ulv is in danger and the only way to prevent the Shadow Creatures from taking over is to return the Stars to the sky.

And so Bo—accompanied by his best friend, a fox called Nix, a girl named Selene who’s magic is tied to the return of the Stars, and Tam, a bird-woman who has vowed to protect Bo at all costs—sets off on a quest to find the three magical keys that will release the Stars. But Bo isn’t the only one who wants the Stars, and the friends soon find themselves fleeing angry villagers, greedy merchants, and a vengeful wolf. And all the while, an evil witch lurks in the shadows and time is running out.

BUY LINKS | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | Indiebound

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After reading the synopsis of this one, I knew I wanted to pick it up. It looked like just the middle grade fantasy I was craving and promised to be a fun adventure. It was all that and more. I did not expect to fall in love with some of the characters as much as I did or sympathize with some of their plights as much as I did. Bo really has his own internal struggles that he battles with more of the book, which also tie into a lot of the core theme of the story.

The story flowed so well and turned this book into such a quick, enjoyable read. I was seriously bummed when I finished it because I wanted to read more about the characters and their lives – not because the story was lacking, but because the characters and world were woven so well. If you’re looking for a fun fantasy adventure, I definitely recommend picking this one up.

As part of my experience I decided to do a mood board, enjoy!

Shivaun Plozza is an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. Her debut novel, Frankie, was a CBCA Notable Book and won a number of awards, including the Davitt Awards and a commendation from the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Her second novel, Tin Heart, sold in three foreign territories, received two starred reviews, and was nominated to ALA’S Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Her debut middle-grade novel, The Boy, the Wolf, and the Stars, is forthcoming in 2020 from HMH Books for Young Readers and Penguin Random House Australia. She is a frequent contributor to anthologies, and when she is not writing she works as an editor and manuscript assessor. 

AUTHOR LINKS | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour – here! Thanks again to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

Happy reading!

Review | Lobizona by Romina Garber

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I am so excited about the number of books coming out as of late which are timely and have themes that tie into some of the difficulties people are facing in every day life. Romina Garber tells Manu’s story really well, from the every day challenges she faces in our world to the similar problems she faces in another more magical world. Going into this book knowing very little is better in my opinion as things will have more impact that way.

I really appreciated how Garber addressed and explored different issues such as immigration and gender roles while also including so much culture and folklore in the tapestry of the story. I felt the flow of the writing was paced well, though there were some spots that slowed down, it still kept me invested in the story.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles | Review

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Buy Link | Macmillan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As soon as I started reading this book I was sucked in by the writing style, it was beautiful and perfectly set the tone of the book. As I delved more into this world I did want a little more world building than there was as there were some blind spots I felt could be filled, but that’s a minor criticism. I also found myself wishing it was a little more mature toned, as there were times it felt immature, but I understand that this is being marketed as YA, so that’s likely the reason it’s a little more younger toned.

Aside from those two points I really enjoyed this story and loved the overall dark and brooding vibe. It fulfilled the feelings of Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge for me and that alone made it a really fun ride. As noted earlier, Janella Angeles’ writing is beautiful and lyrical, perfectly suited to the story she crafted and I will definitely be picking up future books she writes as her writing style alone is enough for me to be sucked in and lose myself in the story. I can’t wait to see what happens with book two!

JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Social LinksTwitter: @Janella_Angeles | Instagram: @Janella_Angeles

Where Dreams Descend comes out tomorrow, August 25th, so make sure to pick up a copy! Thanks again to Wednesday Books for including me in the blog tour.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Lost City by Amanda Hocking | Review

Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles, returns to the magical world of the Trylle Trilogy with The Lost City, the first novel in The Omte Origins—and the final story arc in her beloved series.

The storm and the orphan

Twenty years ago, a woman sought safety from the spinning ice and darkness that descended upon a small village. She was given shelter for the night by the local innkeepers but in the morning, she disappeared—leaving behind an infant. Now nineteen, Ulla Tulin is ready to find who abandoned her as a baby or why.

The institution and the quest

Ulla knows the answers to her identity and heritage may be found at the Mimirin where scholars dedicate themselves to chronicling troll history. Granted an internship translating old documents, Ulla starts researching her own family lineage with help from her handsome and charming colleague Pan Soriano.

The runaway and the mystery

But then Ulla meets Eliana, a young girl who no memory of who she is but who possesses otherworldly abilities. When Eliana is pursued and captured by bounty hunters, Ulla and Pan find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous game where folklore and myth become very real and very deadly—but one that could lead Ulla to the answers she’s been looking for.

Buy Links | Macmillan | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

I’ve never read any of Amanda Hocking’s previous works, but I have heard of them, so when I got the chance to give this one a read I was really excited. While I know this is in the same world as some of her other books, this book definitely gave enough world building that I feel you don’t have to read the other books first. I’m sure if you read the other books first you will benefit from them, but I feel you don’t have to.

The pacing of the story was pretty good, though there were sections that certainly slowed a bit because of the info dumps that occasionally happened, but other than that it was really well paced and enjoyable. I really liked the characters as we got to know them and felt that they were well rounded. I’m definitely excited to see where this story goes.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

AMANDA HOCKING is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Happy reading!

Review | St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid by C.L. Polk

I’ve really been enjoying the Tor.com originals that I picked up recently as they are fun, quick reads that are great palette cleansers. Plus – these types of short stories are a great way to get exposed to author’s you may not have read works from yet.

All magical requests come with a price. A girl with witchcraft, no friends, and only her mother’s bees to confide in will pay whatever’s necessary to keep the girl she loves safe.

I enjoyed the fact that this story had a very short blurb, which served a dual purpose – not a ton was revealed about the story and it’s just enough to intrigue you and get you to read it.

This is the first thing I have read from C.L. Polk and I LOVED the writing style. At first it’s like you’re entering the middle of the story, but Polk very quickly weaves the world and characters into a fully shaped story. This story has a ton of magic and mysticism, and looks at the lengths people may go to protect those they love, without realizing the consequences.

Happy reading!