Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson: ARC Review

I was fortunate to receive an audiobook copy from the publisher and author through Netgalley in exchange for feedback and my honest review. These are my opinions, uninfluenced.

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson is a standalone YA Fantasy, releasing on October 2nd 2021. Artemisia is training to be a Gray Sister, a nun who ferries the dead and prevents that from turning into vicious souls that kill the living. When her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia awakens an ancient spirit. Now, bound to the spirit, Artemisia begins to uncover a sinister mystery that could destroy everything and everyone. Without any options, Artemisia has to betray everything she knows by putting her faith in the spirit with the hopes that it doesn’t betray her first.

I loved Sorcery of Thorns so my excitement for this off the charts. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

Margaret Rogerson’s writing style shines in this. It’s captivating, honest and so brilliant.

Anxiety, trauma and PTSD play a really important role in Artemisia’s story. Because of the way these hard topics were handled, the story really resonated with me. I could feel Artemisia’s pain in everything she did. More than that, despite not living through what she had, I completely understood it. Through all of her actions, the little things and the big decisions, to the things she said (or even didn’t say), it was really easy to understand her. And what made her the way she was.

Artemisia was such a complex character, with layers and layers. I wish this was a series so I could see more of her. The development arc we did get in this story was a delight. I loved reading about her growth and would’ve enjoyed it even more if I could stay with her in more books.

I was really happy with the pacing for this. It’s fast paced and full of action. We’re constantly on the move and constantly fighting to survive. It was simply exhilarating. So much was packed into this without it overwhelming.

One thing that catch me by surprise, was the absence of romance. I completely adored the romance sub plot in Sorcery of Thorns so I simply expected it in this. But it wasn’t, which is probably a good thing. There is so much to this story that I don’t think there was room for more.

I can see how everyone wouldn’t be able to appreciate this, but I highly recommend giving it a go. Especially if you’re looking for a fast paced fantasy that is unlike what you’ve read before.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

House of Glass Hearts: ARC Review

I was fortunate to receive an audiobook copy from the publisher and author through Netgalley in exchange for feedback and my honest review. These are my opinions, uninfluenced.

House of Glass Hearts by Leila Siddiqui is a unique magical realism story. One day, after her grandfather passes away, Maera wakes up with a greenhouse in her backyard. The greenhouse is supposed to be thousands of miles away and when her ammi doesn’t find that strange, Maera grows even more suspicious. Forced to confront her grandfather’s past, Maera investigates the greenhouse, only to find out that it may hold the key to uncovering what happened to her missing brother years ago.

This story was told in alternating point of views across a timeline. We follow Maera, in present day, and also see from her grandfather’s perspective from his youth days. This could potentially be confusing for readers, though I didn’t have any issues with it. I did find that at certain points, I only cared for one perspective and towards the end, I was more invested in Maera’s arc and not the past timeline.

The plot for this book is my favourite part. It’s twisted and brilliant. Full of culture, myths and wonder. There were some parts that I found jarring and confusing. I wished they had been better explained and more fleshed out but I still appreciated the concept.

I loved learning about Pakistani culture and there were some elements that I recognised. It felt real and relatable.

I did struggle with the pacing. For the first 60-70%, I wasn’t that invested. It started off slowly and there wasn’t much happening. After the 70% mark, the pacing really picked up. Like really. So much so, that some things happened too quickly.

There was a small romance sub plot, that for once, I didn’t care about. It didn’t add anything to the story for me. Maera has a crush on a boy named Rob, who she hasn’t interacted with in years. And suddenly he comes back into her life and this really intense romance is introduced out of the blue. There were some sentences that I just found strange. It pulled me out of the story. I can’t remember what the exact words were, but it involved ‘feasting her eyes’ on Rob.

The characters did feel a little flat, and one dimensional. With the exception of Shah Jehan. She was my favourite. I loved that we touched on women empowerment as she was so brave in such a ‘man’s world’.

The ending was incredible. I was really happy with how it wrapped up. This brought the book up in rating. It tied everything together and I liked how all the pieces that were set up through both timelines fell into piece. It was really satisfying.

I would recommend this for readers who enjoy historical fiction and stories full of culture. If you’re looking for a fast paced book, this probably isn’t for you.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Social Queue by Kay Kerr: ARC Review

I was fortunate to receive an audiobook copy from the publisher and author through Netgalley in exchange for feedback and my honest review. These are my opinions, uninfluenced.

Social Queue by Kay Kerr is a young adult, contemporary novel releasing tomorrow! Zoe Kelly is finally done with High School, and she’s so over the bullying and autistic masking. With an internship at a media company, Zoe ends up writing an article on her non-existent dating life which ends up going viral. Turns out, Zoe had just been missing the signs. Now, with a list of contenders from her past, Zoe’s spun away in a ride full of confusing signals, old sparks and new articles.

This was such a heart warming and fun read. It definitely delivered what the synopsis sold.

I loved Zoe’s character and found it easy to root for her. I can quite easily get bored with monologues but I found Zoe’s thoughts pretty fun to follow. She was a refreshing and quirky character.

Zoe’s relationships with the people around her (beyond romance) was a delight to read. I loved getting to know her sister. I didn’t enjoy the romance as much as I had expected. It’s not to say, I didn’t like it, I just wasn’t that invested in. However, that didn’t diminish my enjoyment for the story, I still cared a lot about where Zoe’s story went.

I was really happy with how the social anxiety portion of this story was handled. It felt honest and authentic. Personally, this was such an insightful read. I haven’t read a young adult book with autism rep (mc) before, so I’m glad we’re getting more neurodiversity.

I really liked the writing style. It was easy to read and enjoy. There was a great balance of dialogue and monologue. There were some moments that tugged at my heart strings and did make me emotional. They were probably some of my favourites.

If you’re looking for a refreshing coming of age story that tugs at the heart, I highly recommend this one.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After the Ink Dries: Book Review

After the Ink Dries by Cassie Gustafson is a young adult novel that released in July this year. Sixteen-year-old Erica Walker is a webcomic artist who wants to fit in at her affluent new high school. After a party, Erica wakes up half-clothed, and discovers words and names drawn in Sharpie in intimate places on her body—names belonging to Thomas’s lacrosse friends and his own. Told in alternating viewpoints, Erica seeks to uncover what happened while battling to keep evidence of her humiliation from leaking out, as Thomas grapples with his actions and who he thought he was. Woven throughout, illustrated graphic novel interstitials depict Erica’s alter ego superhero, Erica Strange, whose courage just might help Erica come through to the other side.

First of all, I’ve never read anything like this. The story alternates between the survivor’s pov and one of the perpetrator’s perspective – something I’ve never read before. This was a really unique idea that was executed really well.

This is not an easy read, but it’s one I encourage people to pick up (do check trigger warnings). This tackles assault in every aspect – the trauma, the guilt, the frustration. Reading about Erica was heartbreaking and angering. There were several points where I cried. Even a time, where I was so frustrated, I thought I was going to chuck my phone across my room.

Watching this unfold from Thomas’ perspective and seeing how the families of the perpetrators reacted, was interesting to the say the least. By no means was Thomas a character I liked or had sympathy for. But it was a really important perspective.

It reminded me how horrible high school could be for some and just how cruel teenagers could be.

The illustrations woven in through the story added another unique touch. They were so beautifully done by Emma Vieceli. They added another dimension to the book and were just as relevant as the writing.

I was really happy with the direction this book went in. The only thing that would’ve made it more satisfying would be a bit more closure – but I suspect that may have been the intention.

This is one that I highly recommend and will not stop talking about for a long time.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A Lesson in Vengeance: Book Review

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee is a young adult new release that’s been pitched by the author as ‘dark academia but make it lesbian’. We follow Felicity Morrow, who after the death of her ex-girlfriend, has finally returned to Dalloway School. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds. As Ellis Haley, a prodigal and methodic writer, turns up at Godwin House, Felicity is roped into researched the Dalloway Five. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

I want to start by speaking about the characters. Felicity and Ellis were such great characters. They felt so real to me, they had personalities, flaws, and motivations that weren’t just driven by the plot’s demands. There were parts of them that were twisted and complicated and I just wanted to sit down and untangle it all.

The entire plot is brilliant and wicked. It’s a great concept that was executed really well. There were a few points that took me by surprise and I loved how they were executed.

I really enjoyed Victoria Lee’s writing style. It’s a combination of sophisticated and also very haunting. The writing style created a brilliantly twisted atmosphere and characters. You can tell how intelligent Ellis and Felicity are by their choice of words – not just dialogues. The words are chosen deliberately to create tension. Even in scenes where there wasn’t much happening, the vibe itself had my heart racing.

The most well-done part of this book is the atmosphere it creates. The vibes that the characters, the writing style and the plot give are so dark. Which contributes to making this a true ‘dark academia’.

My only complaint was the slow start. This took me a little bit to get into but my patience paid off. Despite the slow beginning, when it kicked off, it kicked off.

Going into this, I was under the impression that this was more fantasy than suspense (thanks Goodreads). This did disappoint me a little, but that’s a me problem and not a book or writing problem. I’d recommend going into this not expecting a fantasy element but more dark academia and suspense.

In closing, this is an incredible book that you must pick up. If you’re looking for something that’s dark academia, sapphic and has gothic vibes this is it for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Daughter of Sparta: Book Review

Daughter of Sparta by Claire M. Andrews is a young adult, Greek mythology, fantasy. Daphne has been training her entire life so she can accepted by the Spartans. When Artemis, the Goddess of the hunt and moon, turns up with a mission to restore the nine stolen items from Olympus, Daphne has no choice but to accept. If she fails, the gods will lose their powers and Daphne’s brother will lose his life. Alongside Apollo, Daphne begins an empowering journey filled with action, Gods, and mythological legends.

Going into this, I had low expectations. I love Greek mythology but rarely do I find a retelling or mythology inspired book that I thoroughly enjoy. But Claire M. Andrews understood the assignment. This reinterpretation of Daphne and Apollo was so well done.

The entire journey was exhiliarating and I was so invested. This is a fast paced story filled with action, that hooks you from the start and never lets you go. I loved the characters we met along the way, to the allies we made and to the foes we fought.

The characters were all lovable and multi-faced. Daphne is a complex character that felt real. I cared about her and was so scared for her in so many scenes. I was really happy with her development and the direction her character went in. Apollo’s character was also handled really well. It was a great combination of the sinister actions the Gods are known to make and a refreshing take on his character.

The romance between Daphne and Apollo was swoon-worthy. The slow burn, hate to love arc was die to for. The tension was described really well and I was really happy with its development.

The banter was really funny. Not just between Daphne and Apollo, but with all the other characters we meet.

I loved how the story wrapped up and I was really satisfied with the ending, despite all the questions I have. I’m so excited for the sequel and I can’t wait for it. Why does it have to be so far away?

I highly recommend this for anyone looking for a fast paced fantasy with a badass heroine. If you love Greek mythology, you need to pick this one up.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

True Loaf by Austen Johnson: Short Story Review

I was fortunate to receive an audiobook copy from the publisher and author through Netgalley in exchange for feedback and my honest review. These are my opinions, uninfluenced.

True Loaf by Austen Johnson is a fantasy, childrens/middle-grade short story. Inspired by Balkan Folklore, the story follows Riley who works at a bakery. When a strange man has a strange request for her, Riley goes on an adventure to finding an essential ingredient. Along the way, she realises that not all is as it seems.

This was short, sweet and fun. It started off a little slow, but then it hooked me in. I felt immersed into Riley’s world and became invested in her journey. The story finished on a high with some unanswered questions. I think this would’ve been more satisfying, if a few more of my questions would’ve been answered. A younger audience will really enjoy this and it will provoke enough thought for the gears in their heads to turns.

All the characters were quite interesting. Riley was an easy to love character. Her thoughts were witty. It was a short story, so there was not a lot of development and complexity, but I wouldn’t expect that from a short-story.

Listening to the audiobook was really good. The narration was engaging and easy to follow.

Overall, this was a great, quick read. It would definitely keep younger kids occupied and interested.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Own Your Period: ARC Review

I was fortunate to receive an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher and author through Netgalley in exchange for feedback and my honest review. These are my opinions, uninfluenced.

Own Your Period by Chella Quint is a fact-filled guide to periods. It covers everything from the female anatomy, the bleaching properties of discharge, managing them to sustainability.

First of all, the illustrations were so cute and amazing. They were bursting with colour, and definitely engaging. Giovana Medeiros did such a great job.

This covered EVERYTHING. I was so impressed by how much it covered, and is such a dynamic, interesting way. Through out this entire guide, all I could think of was, how much easier puberty would’ve been with this. How much I wished I had read this when I was younger. There was so much I didn’t understand, and this would’ve answered all of my questions.

I was so surprised by the section on sustainability. I even learned a little something. I think this was definitely a great, informative step forward.

This was witty enough to keep you reading and interesting, but the humour didn’t overwhelm the information and its importance.

I read through some reviews, and found that a lot of people were unhappy with some of the topics broached and that some of it was too informative. I think, the whole point is to break some boundaries, and normalise these topics. Which is done well. As time goes on, younger kids are learning more and faster. But not always in the right ways, they stumble onto myths or information that may not be comfortable. Own Your Period provides a good way to manage how teens are accessing this information and to also debunk these myths.

If you know a younger girl, give this to them. This is a game changer. Even if you’re an adult, pick this up. I guarantee, you’ll learn something new, or at least feel a little more empowered, and comfortable in your skin.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Slanted and Disenchanted: ARC Review

I was fortunate to receive an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher and author through Netgalley in exchange for feedback and my honest review. These are my opinions, uninfluenced.

Slanted and Disenchanted by Lisa Czarina Michaud is a young adult, coming of age story releasing on September 21st 2021. We follow Carla and Pete, two teenagers that are unsatisfied with their lives, as they start a rock band. Just before they’re set to begin their tour, a tragedy occurs, making them reconsider all of their choices.

I had to think about my feelings for this book for a few days. On one hand, this is a witty book that reads like a love letter to music. You can tell the author is really knowledgeable and passionate about music. On the other hand, I found it really hard to connect with the characters and the story just didn’t resonate with me. I’m not crazy into music, like the characters are, and I wonder if that’s where the issue was.

Everything about this book was honest. From the problems the characters had, to the awkward interactions. I think the coming-of-age aspect was handled and executed really well. From the language, to their thoughts and worries, all of it felt realistic for their age.

I won’t spoil the ‘tragedy’, but it wasn’t one I was expecting. I do think it was handled well. There were some emotional moments that touched me.

This is a witty book with some heartfelt moments but something in it failed to fully engage me. I think anyone who’s really into their music will enjoy this.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Before We Were Blue: ARC Review

I was fortunate to receive an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher and author through Netgalley in exchange for feedback and my honest review. These are my opinions, uninfluenced.

Before We Were Blue by E. J. Schwartz is a young adult, Sapphic contemporary releasing on September 14th 2021. At a treatment centre for eating disorders, Shoshana and Rowan rely on their friendship to survive the drama of the treatment life. As the girls’ friendship develops into something more, their destructive tendencies force them to make a decision: their relationship or their recovery.

This was by no means, an easy read. In fact, I had to take a few breaks while reading this. However, I’m glad that it. This is an important story that needs to be told and read. E. J. Schwartz did not shy away from gritty parts of eating disorders. It’s the unadulterated truth. From what I’ve gathered from other reviews (from people with an ownvoices experience), the handling of eating disorders was done well. From someone who didn’t have a personal experience with it, I felt like I learnt a lot.

This is very much a character driven story. And the characters are flawed and complex. Shoshana isn’t hard to love, I was rooting for her the entire time. She’s definitely flawed, but I loved reading about her growth. Rowan, on the other hard, definitely takes time to get used to. Initially, I really didn’t like her. But the more you learn about her, the more you see why she is the way she is. The character development for both of these characters was done well.

I expected the LGBTQIA+ representation, but the asexual aspect surprised me. It’s not one I’ve read about much but I really enjoyed it.

So many hard topics are dealt with in this and I think they’re done well. I would recommend checking the content warnings because this deals with sexual assault and more. The only thing I found a little unsettling were some of the lines seemed very anti-Semitic. I don’t think I know enough to comment on this one though.

I loved the way the story ended, it was really satisfying but believable. It showed that recovery doesn’t look the same for everyone and it’s not always linear.

Because this is a character driven story, this felt quite slow. Since it deals with hard topics, I kept having to take frequent breaks. This is as a combination, made it hard to pick back up.

This is a really important and I highly recommend it for anyone that enjoys character driven story.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.