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!

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 | Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay

In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to MeNot That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.”

Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This should go without saying (and I knew this going in) but anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault or rape is likely to be very triggered by the stories told in this book. It took me a while to get through because it was so triggering. In it we get a wide range of stories including stories of people who were assaulted as children to people who were assaulted or harassed as adults. It is a very hard read and in some ways crafted to be uncomfortable, but it is a valuable and important collection of experiences. Some of the stories were more clinical or journalistic in a way, but the ones that touched me the most were the personal experiences. As a survivor myself who heard plenty of “it’s your fault,” reading the experiences of people with not necessarily the same experiences but many of the same emotions and thoughts was a comfort even while I hurt for these other people. Again, it’s a very hard read, but it’s also a very important one.

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 | Daughter of Kali: Awakening by Shiulie Ghosh

Monsters are real. And I might be one of them.

Kaz Deva definitely has her demons. She’s a half-Asian teenager with a chip on her shoulder and a home life she desperately wants to escape. But then she witnesses the impossible – her mother killing a monster without breaking a sweat. And suddenly her world is turned upside down.

Kaz discovers she comes from a long-line of demon-slayers stretching all the way back to the Goddess Kali herself. An ancient deity who seems to have plans for her.

Kaz is dragged right into the middle of a supernatural war, and everything she thought she knew turns out to be a lie. Except her feelings for a guy she can never have.

As she learns the truth of who she is and where she comes from, something awakens inside her. Something cold and ruthless. It could make her almost invincible. But it could also drive her to darkness.

With the battle between Warriors and demons becoming ever more deadly, Kaz must find a way to survive her destiny and save the people she loves.

Can she embrace her power and become the Warrior the world needs?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this one but wanted to read it based on the synopsis. This was a really fun read that moved at a good pace with serious Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibes. Kaz as a character definitely had a lot to adjust to and deal with which is not always an easy thing – but was very compelling, even when her behavior wasn’t the best. The side characters also had depth and felt dimensional, which was great to see, especially in a debut. The writing style kept the book moving at a good pace and felt very polished. Overall it was a fun and fast read.

Happy reading!

Review | The Blue Witch by Alane Adams

Before Sam Baron broke Odin’s curse on the witches to become the first son born to a witch and the hero of the Legends of Orkney series, his mother was a young witchling growing up in the Tarkana Witch Academy. In this first book of the prequel series, the Witches of Orkney, nine-year-old Abigail Tarkana is determined to grow up to be the greatest witch of all, even greater than her evil ancestor Catriona. Unfortunately, she is about to fail Spectacular Spells class because her witch magic hasn’t come in yet. Even worse, her nemesis, Endera, is making life miserable by trying to get her kicked out.
When her new friend Hugo’s life is put in danger by a stampeding sneevil, a desperate Abigail manages to call up her magic―only to find out it’s unlike any other witchling’s at the Tarkana Witch Academy! As mysteries deepen around her magic and just who her true parents are, Abigail becomes trapped in a race against time to undo one of her spells before she is kicked out of the coven forever!

Rich in Norse mythology, The Blue Witch is the first of a fast-paced young reader series filled with magical spells, mysterious beasts, and witch-hungry spiders!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I went into this one knowing very little about it other than I’ve liked previous books by the author. This was an absolutely adorable story and a great beginning to a series. I enjoyed getting to know Abigail, Hugo and the others as Abigail starts her learning. I also really liked the little tidbits of figures from Norse Mythology and little tidbits of mythology here and there. It is definitely Abigail’s story, but also shows signs of tying into an even bigger mythos. Adams gave each character distinct voices and personalities, showing how some of them weave together really well. Abigail doesn’t always make the right decisions and sometimes stumbles – but has friends who are willing to help, even when those friends are from unlikely places.

Happy reading!