Review | Tidesong by Wendy Xu

Sophie is a young witch whose mother and grandmother pressure her to attend the Royal Magic Academy–the best magic school in the realm–even though her magic is shaky at best. To train for her entrance exams, Sophie is sent to relatives she’s never met.

Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan seem more interested in giving Sophie chores than in teaching her magic. Frustrated, Sophie attempts magic on her own, but the spell goes wrong, and she accidentally entangles her magic with the magic of a young water dragon named Lir.

Lir is trapped on land and can’t remember where he came from. Even so, he’s everything Sophie isn’t–beloved by Sophie’s family and skilled at magic. With his help, Sophie might just ace her entrance exams, but that means standing in the way of Lir’s attempts to regain his memories. Sophie knows what she’s doing is wrong, but without Lir’s help, can she prove herself?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This graphic novel was an absolute delight to read – in it we follow Sophie, who is finally getting the opportunity to further her magic and possibly go to a famous magic school. She battles that little voice inside her head that tells her she’s a failure, while also trying to find her place and learn where she really lies in her family. When she meets Lir and learns about the consequences of actions things get a bit more complicated. I really loved the story as it unfolded and Sophie learned more about herself and about interacting with others. The artwork is very Ghibli-esque with an extra dash of cute and perfectly fit the story overall. The color palette had a softer feel to it which I felt was great for the seaside setting and the whimsy of the world.

Wendy Xu is a Brooklyn-based illustrator and comics artist with several upcoming graphic novels from HarperCollins. She is the co-creator of Mooncakes, a young adult fantasy graphic novel published in 2019 from Lion Forge Comics/Oni Press, which has been nominated for Hugo, Ignatz, and GoodReads Choice awards. Her work has been featured on Catapult, B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, and Tor.com, among other places. Visit her online at www.artofwendyxu.com.

Make sure to check out Tidesong when it comes out on November 16th! Happy reading!

Review | All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation.

Summer 1958—a string of murders plagues the Midwest. The victims are found in their cars and in their homes—even in their beds—their bodies drained, but with no blood anywhere.

September 19- the Carlson family is slaughtered in their Minnesota farmhouse, and the case gets its first lead: 15-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene. She is covered in blood from head to toe, and at first she’s mistaken for a survivor. But not a drop of the blood is hers.

Michael Jensen, son of the local sheriff, yearns to become a journalist and escape his small-town. He never imagined that the biggest story in the country would fall into his lap, or that he would be pulled into the investigation, when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to.

As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was quite a ride that I was not expecting. I loved the sound of it and as someone who listens to true crime podcasts which include crime cases from the early to mid 1950s I figured it would definitely be in my wheelhouse. Once I got into the book I really enjoyed the interviews between Michael and Marie. As the story moves on you definitely have that aspect of wondering if there is really something supernatural or if it is all the act of humans.

Michael, with his yearning for the truth and love of journalism was a very compelling character, while Marie was at the best of times unreliable but tragic in her own way. Other characters such as Pilson, McBride and Nancy were also well dimensioned and really fleshed out to where their personalities were clear.

There were a few times I had to remind myself this was set in the 1950s as there was perhaps some more modern language or just something that rang modern, but overall I loved the aesthetic of this story and the way it progressed. There was just enough left up in the air to give it an even more unknowing and creepy feeling which was both unsettling and satisfying.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell | Review

In this sexy, sophisticated romantic comedy, two women juggle romance and career across continents.

Charlotte Hilaire has a love-hate relationship with her work as a museum courier. On the one hand, it takes her around the world. On the other, her plan to become a professor is veering dangerously off track.

Yet once in a while, maybe every third trip or so, the job goes delightfully sideways…

When a blizzard strands Charlotte in Spain for a few extra days and she’s left with glorious free time on her hands, the only question is: Dare she invite her grad school crush for an after-dinner drink on a snowy night?

Accomplished, take-no-prisoners art historian Adrianna Coates has built an enviable career since Charlotte saw her last. She’s brilliant. Sophisticated. Impressive as hell and strikingly beautiful.

Hospitable, too, as she absolutely insists Charlotte spend the night on her pullout sofa as the storm rages on.

One night becomes three and three nights become a hot and adventurous long-distance relationship when Charlotte returns to the States. But when Adrianna plots her next career move just as Charlotte finally opens a door in academia, distance may not be the only thing that keeps them apart.

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Buy Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I really wanted to love this book as the premise really intrigued me, but it didn’t quite get there for me. It was definitely enjoyable and a super cute romance with a lot of steam, but the pacing in some places was very slow.

I did really enjoy the characters in relation to their occupations and reasons for being in Spain, this felt very well researched (or just being knowledgeable in the subject) and gave a new dimension to the characters outside of the romance. Their romance was a tad instalove, but in this instance that was understandable since they had known each other before this book takes place.

All in all it was an enjoyable read, but there were spots where I struggled a little bit to get through it. It was a cute story and the romance was fun in the end.

Verity Lowell is a professor and occasional curator who writes queer of color romance. She likes imagining and describing a world where art, ambition, and history provide the background for diverse and steamy love stories, mostly about women falling hard for women. She and her partner and their cats live in New England and sometimes elsewhere.

Find Verity Lowell Online | Website | Goodreads

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Secrets of a One Night Stand by Naima Simone | Review

She said yes to one night with a stranger… Now she’s pregnant and that stranger is her boss! Only in this Billionaires of Boston romance from USA TODAY bestselling author Naima Simone.

She told herself it was one night. Nothing more.

But her heart knew the truth…

Finding out her previous one-night fling is her new boss is the shock of Mycah Hill’s lifetime. She can’t say no to being VP for software CEO Achilles Farrell—she’s finally made her career dream come true. But knowing he’s so close… It’s only a matter of time before she’s back in his arms. It can’t end well. Achilles’s tortured family history means he’s not up for sticking around long-term. But Mycah’s surprise pregnancy is about to change everything…

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Buy Secrets of a One Night Stand by Naima SimoneHarlequin.com

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m fairly new to Naima Simone’s writing, having only read one other book by her so far, but I’m thoroughly enjoying her writing. The way she crafts and describes her characters no only gives you a full image of them in your mind, but it makes you feel emotionally for them as well. As a pair I really enjoyed Mycah and Achilles – both of them have their own struggles independently but also some struggles that they have to work through together. There are a fair number of tropes in this one but not to the point that I minded them. I don’t always like those that use surprise baby situations, but I felt this one was both realistic and understandable. Overall I really enjoyed their story and liked the experience of their relationship.

USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone’s love of romance was first stirred by Johanna Lindsey and Nora Roberts years ago. Well not that many. She is only eighteen…ish. Published since 2009, she spends her days writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark. 

She is wife to Superman–or his non-Kryptonian equivalent–and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern US.

Connect with the Author | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Happy reading!

Review | Hex Vet: Witches in Training by Sam Davies

Have you ever wondered where witches’ cats go when they pull a claw? Or what you do with a pygmy phoenix with a case of bird flu? Nan and Clarion have you covered. They’re the best veterinarian witches of all time—or at least they’re trying to be. When an injured rabbit with strange eyes stumbles into their lives, Nan and Clarion have to put down their enchanted potions and face the biggest test of their magical, medical careers. Hex Vet: Witches in Training is an original graphic novel suitable for kids of all ages! From popular web cartoonist Sam Davies (Stutterhug), this book explores a truly spellbinding story about sticking together and helping animals at all costs. Perfect for fans of The Tea Dragon Society and Steven Universe!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was a super adorable graphic novel perfect for young readers! In it we follow two very different apprentice veterinarian witches as they have a day full of unexpected issues. It was a fun adventure and was a great introduction to the characters and their differing personalities/challenges. It was a fun, quick story and a great set up for further volumes. The colors were more of a restricted palette, but fit the theme perfectly and suited the setting and characters. The perfect word for it really is adorable and I look forward to seeing more of the series and characters.

Happy reading!

Review | Crystal Cadets by Anne Toole

Cadets Go! Join this team of darkness-fighting, world-saving, power-packed teen girls from all over the world on their first adventure!

Zoe has always felt out of place; her foster parents are great and all, but she’s long felt like something was missing. That is, of course, until she discovers a mysterious gem left to her by her birth mother and her whole universe gets flipped around! When the crystal grants Zoe mysterious powers of light she becomes the Diamond Cadet, and she’s not the only one; suddenly she’s meeting new friends who shoot flames and glowing green arrows. It’s all fun at first, but when The Darkness possesses Zoe’s foster parents her only choice is to join this wild group of action-hero girls, traveling the globe to defeat The Darkness and find a cure!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I found this one when browsing the selection of items in Comixology and upon Katie O’Neill was the illustrator I had to pick it up. This was such a fun read, following a group of girls as they locate more of the Cadets and work to banish ‘the darkness’ from the world, while accepting that it will never truly be gone. They definitely had Sailor Moon vibes in some ways, but with a fun spin of added mythological companions and modern settings. There’s some squabbling within the group of girls which sometimes seem natural, but other times a little extreme. The art style is bright and fun, which perfectly fit the characters and theme of the story. It looks like there won’t be any more to this series, but it did end in such a way that it would be easy to see further issues/volumes.

Happy reading!

Review | Ski Weekend by Rektok Ross

Six teens, one dog, a ski trip gone wrong . . .

Sam is dreading senior ski weekend and having to watch after her brother and his best friend, Gavin, to make sure they don’t do anything stupid. Again. Gavin may be gorgeous, but he and Sam have never gotten along. Now they’re crammed into an SUV with three other classmates and Gavin’s dog, heading on a road trip that can’t go by fast enough.

Then their SUV crashes into a snowbank, and Sam and her friends find themselves stranded in the mountains with cell phone coverage long gone and temperatures dropping. When the group gets sick of waiting for rescue, they venture outside to find help—only to have a wilderness accident leave Sam’s brother with a smashed leg and, soon, a raging fever. While the hours turn to days, Sam’s brother gets sicker and sicker, and their food and supplies dwindle until there isn’t enough for everyone. As the winter elements begin to claim members of the group one by one, Sam vows to keep her brother alive.

No matter what.

Filled with twists, secrets, and life-changing moments, Ski Weekend is a snow-packed survival thriller featuring a diverse cast of teens that will appeal to fans of One of Us is Lying and I Am Still Alive.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

When I first read the synopsis of this book I was really excited as I am definitely in the mood for survival/spooky/thriller books. At first I had a hard time connecting with some of the characters and felt that they were a little too cliche in some ways, but once I got a bit into the book they developed more and gained more depth which made them more relatable. None of them were perfect and there were certain thoughts and actions that had me rolling my eyes a bit, but I feel that was intended in some cases. I did really enjoy how much we really get to know the characters in this extreme situation which was a nice facet of the story.

Since I live in an area where there are isolated places/roads where people have gotten stuck and lost before, the setting and scope of this story was very realistic to me. The suspense was well written and kept the tension high as the story went on, which made it hard to put it down because I had to know what was going to happen to the characters. If you’re looking for a fast, suspense filled survival story, this would fit the bill.

Make sure to come back to the blog on release day to read my Q&A with Rektok!

Happy reading!

Review | Rebel Girls Powerful Pairs: 25 Tales of Mothers and Daughters

What do Beyoncé and Blue Ivy and Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst have in common? What about Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton and Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak Hawk? They’re all incredible mother-daughter duos who have used their creativity, cleverness, and unique talents to do something remarkable—and they are all featured in Rebel Girls Powerful Pairs: 25 Tales of Mothers and Daughters.

Readers will celebrate the strength of family bonds through the inspiring fairytale-like stories of authors, activists, skiers, dancers, pilots, hikers, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, and more. Powerful Pairs is part of the award-winning Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series.

Celebrate singing and songwriting with Beyoncé and Blue Ivy. Save frontline soldiers with Marie Curie and Irene Joliot-Curie. And swim across the English Channel with Leena and Bhakti Sharma. Rebel Girls Powerful Pairs showcases many of the wonderful ways mothers and daughters work together to make the world a better, healthier, and more vibrant place.

This collection of 25 stories follows in the footsteps of the best-selling series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. It is illustrated by female and nonbinary artists from around the world.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This may be up there to be my favorite from Rebel Girls so far, I loved the concept of highlighting mother and daughter pairs. As with the other installments we get women/girls from all aspects of life, some historical but mostly current and from many different cultures/locations. I really enjoyed how this volume highlighted the pairs working together, even if they didn’t always agree or get along. It’s full of empowerment, teamwork and accomplishments with a dash of lifting each other up when it’s needed. I think this will be really inspiring to young girls who already have great bonds with their mothers as well as those that want to form a tighter bond with their parents. Again the artwork and storytelling are on point, as with all other installments in the series.

Happy reading!

Review | to drink coffee with a ghost by Amanda Lovelace

From the bestselling & award-winning poetess, amanda lovelace, comes the finale of her illustrated duology, “things that h(a)unt.” In the first installment, to make monsters out of girls,  lovelace explored the memory of being in a toxic romantic relationship. In to drink coffee with a ghost, lovelace unravels the memory of the complicated relationship she had with her now-deceased mother.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was perhaps my least favorite of Amanda Lovelace’s poetry collections, but only because there weren’t as many poems that I could identify with, so I didn’t feel the same kindship with them. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, just that I didn’t feel it the same way I’ve felt with her other collections. Definite trigger warnings for toxic parental relationships, death of a parent, self harm and more. The images that accompanied the poems were also beautiful and suited the poetry and theme of the collection. As always the writing and progression of the collection was stellar and kept me engaged throughout the read.

Happy reading!

Review | Keeping it Real by Paula Chase

Marigold Johnson is looking forward to a future full of family, friends, and fashion–but what will she do when it all explodes in her face? When she discovers that her entire life is a lie?

Paula Chase, the author of So Done, Dough Boys, and Turning Point, explores betrayal, conformity, and forgiveness–and what it means to be family–in this stand-alone novel perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Rebecca Stead, and Ren�e Watson.

Marigold Johnson can’t wait to attend a special program at her family’s business, Flexx Unlimited, for teens who love fashion. But Mari quickly realizes that she’s out of place compared to the three other trainees–and one girl, Kara, seems to hate her on sight.

As tension builds and the stakes at the program get higher, Mari uncovers exactly why Kara’s been so spiteful. She also discovers some hard truths about herself and her family.

Paula Chase explores complex themes centering on friendships, family, and what it means to conform to fit in. Keeping It Real is also a powerful exploration of what happens when parents pick and choose what they shield their children from. Timely and memorable, Paula Chase’s character-driven story touches on creativity, art, fashion, and music. A great choice for the upper middle grade audience.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I haven’t read anything by Paula Chase before, but I fell in love with this one. I really enjoyed that this is more of an upper middle grade age, which is something that you don’t see a lot. The writing style and overall narrative voice were well crafted and had a really good flow, I didn’t really have any spots where I felt like the pace slowed down.

The characters were also well crafted and I really enjoyed the portrayal of different aspects of familial and friend relationships, different youth experiences based on class regardless of friendships and the cultural aspects in the novel. While there were definitely parts of this story that I personally couldn’t identify with, it was still a beneficial story for me to read and experience. Overall this was a great story, with a few twists that were heart wrenching, but so wonderful to read. I will definitely be checking out more of Chase’s writing in the future.

Happy reading!