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.

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.

My Comfort Reads: Book List

Everyone always asks me why I buy so many books. Short answer: so I can re-read them. There are some authors and stories that I find myself reaching for more than others. These are my comfort stories.

Disclaimer: there’s going to be A LOT of Jennifer L. Armentrout

The first set of books in my list, is the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I know what you’re thinking, but Hasnita, these covers are atrocious and you only judge a book by it’s cover.

That’s how much I love this series.

In Obsidian, we meet Katy who’s just moved to Virginia with her mum and is stuck with a hot, brooding neighbour. Who happens to be an alien. Daemon infuriates Katy and drives her up a wall. Until they’re attacked and Daemon ends up freezing time to save them, marking Katy as a beacon for other aliens.

This series is amazing, the first book isn’t the best, but I love the rest. This is my ideal series: so much humour that your stomach hurts, endless amounts of sexual tension and pent up angst, and supporting characters that are just as exciting.

I have gone back to re-read this series whenever I need something funny and exciting and this always satisfies. Just typing this makes me want to pick it up and read it. If something is holding you back from picking this up, just do it. TRUST THE PROCESS. Daemon is still one of my top book boyfriends. Daemon in Origin makes me faint.

Two Jennifer L. Armentrout series back to back, what’s wrong with me? Candidly, a lot. This is an oldie that’s a goldie.

A Greek Mythology fantasy where the descendants of Hematoi (children of Gods and Mortals) are divided into Pure-Bloods (who have godlike powers) and Half-Bloods (who either protect Pure-Bloods or live as their slaves).

Alex, a half-blood, is training to be a guard for the Pure-Bloods but her chances of slumming start to look higher when she falls for Aiden (a pureblood). Fun fact: relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden.

This book has always been compared to Vampire Academy, and I do agree. If you enjoy one of these series, you’ll probably enjoy the other.

I love this series so much. I love how badass Alex is, and I just love everything about Aiden. Another one of my top book boyfriends who has survived the strife of time. This series has forbidden romance, kickass action and incredible world building. It is also so funny like anything Jennifer L. Armentrout writes. What more could you ask for?

If you’re a YA reader, you’ve heard of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. This book starts with Celaena Sardothien, a notorious assassin currently chained and slumming it in a salt mine prison. When the Prince turns up and offers her freedom in exchange for participating in a competition, it’s a no brainer. She agrees. But as the participants start dropping dead and weird (understatement) things start occurring, Celaena has to figure it out before she’s next.

This is my all time favourite fantasy series. I would die for these characters. I just want to say, this story goes places. It’s so funny, witty and the romance arcs are swoon-worthy. It’s such a fun series that I always go back to. It always delivers. Despite the parts that make me sob.

While we’re on the topic of Sarah J. Maas, I’ll mention A Court of Mist and Fury, the second book in a new adult/adult fantasy series. This book specifically is one I find myself reaching for frequently. This is a nicely wrapped bundle of enemies to lovers and found family – two of my favourite tropes. If I had to choose one book to read for the rest of my life, this would be it.

Wait For You by J. Lynn/Jennifer L. Armentrout is a new adult, contemporary series that follows different characters in each book. This is full of characters I will never stop gushing over, adorable romance and witty scenes. This is done while dealing with intense backstories and hard topics. Even when I’m not reading, I’m reading this.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead was one of the first series I fell in love with. I read this in early high school and couldn’t get enough of these characters. A well-developed world of vampires, forbidden romance, amazing friendships and so much great banter. It’s action packed and full of badass characters.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles is an oldie that I’ll never stop picking up. Alex Fuentes is a masterpiece and one of my first fictional crushes. This is high school rivalry tied up with enemies to lovers and a sprinkle of ‘forbidden’ romance.

I love all of these stories so much. What’s a comfort series/books that you find yourself reaching for? Have you read any of these? Let me know so we can scream together.

August 2021: Reading Wrap Up

This was an incredibly successful month of reading for me. Almost makes up for the rest of the year, when I wasn’t reading. My favourites this month would be The Bridge Kingdom, Cemetery Boys, We Were Liars and The Trouble With Hating You.

My month started of with A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson.

In a small town, school girl, Andie Bell is murdered. Her boyfriend, Sal Singh, becomes the prime suspect and a few days later, he commits suicide closing the case. Fast forward five years, Pippa is convinced there was more to the open and shut case. As she chooses the case for her final year project, she uncovers more than she expected.

It was exactly what I needed to drag me out of my reading slump.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The next book I dived into was the first book in my TBR for August. Confessions About Colton by Olivia Harvard has an interesting concept as it follows Elliot, who’s best friend, Colton has just been murdered. As Elliot finds letters from Colton’s killer he’s dragging into a mystery of solving not only who killed Colton but if he really knew his best friend at all.

This was a roller coaster of ups and downs for me.

The ups for me were the thrilling, risky scenes. My heart raced through these fast paced scenes. Olivia Harvard did such a great job writing them. I loved how Elliot’s relationships with people especially his mother developed through the book.

The biggest down for me was the ending. It was definitely a plot twist but one that didn’t feel justified. I think I wanted some more set up for it or even more of an explanation – anything that would help me understand the motive.

In saying that, it was a great debut novel, especially for a mystery. I definitely enjoyed reading it and would pick up another book by Olivia Harvard without hesitation.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I listened to You Have A Match by Emma Lord as an audiobook through Libby. Up until she does a DNA test, Abby’s biggest problem was the B.E.I. (big embarrassing incident). When the DNA results show that Abby has a full-blooded sister out there, Abby is thrown into a roller coaster with a new love, a sister she didn’t know about and one hell of a summer.

There is nothing I despise more than the best-friends to lovers trope. I just can’t deal with it. And despite that, Emma Lord managed to create characters that I loved reading about. I was so invested in Abby’s new relationship with her secret sister, Savannah and the new life at the camp.

I would be listening to this as I walked around uni and I’d have to hold back a laugh at the risk of looking crazy. This was light, sweet and an ideal summer read (despite it being Winter here in NZ).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Be a little kinder than you have to

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is the kind of book you need to go in without knowing anything. Just trust the process. If there is any way to describe this book, it is: well-crafted.

In my opinion, the best sort of endings are the ones that surprise you but when you look back, it all makes so much sense! This is the feeling I missed out on in Confessions About Colton but E. Lockhart did not disappoint.

The writing style is so unique and poetic. What I found even more interesting was her utilisation of fairy tales.

I can’t seem to find the right words to explain how much I enjoyed this book. The characters were flawed and so real. Everything about the story came together in the most satisfying and mind-blowing way possible.

This is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but one you must try.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I love listening to audiobooks while I drive anywhere and Auckland traffic gives me ample time to enjoy them. So, the next audiobook I picked up was The Knockout by Sajni Patel. We join Kareena Thakar, a high school student and training Muay Thai fighter with a father that’s really sick, financial problems that are becoming harder to ignore and a culture she’s distanced herself from. Through it all, there’s one saving grace: Amit Patel, the genius who strangely needs tutoring from her.

The thing that initially drew me into this book was the cover. Specifically, the mehendi/henna. And from there, I was hooked. I loved this book as much as Kareena Thakar loves the colour pink.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Deciding to delve into the world of fantasy, I dove into Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim, a new release YA Fantasy.

The retelling follows Shiori, the princess of Kiata as she tries to keep her forbidden magic a secret and get out of her arranged marriage. When her step mother curses her and turns her brothers into cranes, Shiori is left without a voice and a home. Without anyone but the same boy she didn’t want to get involved with, Shiori has to figure out how to break the curse.

This was rich with culture and action-packed. If you want to hear my thoughts, check out my book review.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After Six Crimson Cranes, I was desperate for another fantasy. So, I picked up Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. This book has been on my TBR list for years so it was high time I gave it a shot. The high fantasy novel is set in a world where magic is barren and the lands are perishing except for one kingdom. Four different people are placed against each other, all with their own reasons to survive and gain.

This book took me a long time to get into. There were a few scenes that I enjoyed through out the book but it wasn’t until the last 50-100 pages that I was really invested.

The negatives for me were some of the dialogues and the romance. Some of the dialogues and scenes felt weirdly unnatural and it was so jarring that it would pull me out of the world. And the romance. For the first time, I disliked the romance. Morgan Rhodes sets up two tracks of romance, neither of which I liked. The first one, was too Insta-lovey and rushed and I don’t even want to touch on the second one.

The best thing about Falling Kingdoms is the characters as individuals. They are so interesting, with their motives and backgrounds. They’re not necessarily perfect or morally clear but you can completely understand why they do what they do, even when it’s not right.

The story has always been pitched as Game of Thrones and I totally see it! The way the first book ends, it sets up the opening for the rest of the series well so I’ll definitely be giving the next book a go!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

But fate was fickle, and the gods were cruel just as often as they were kind.

The Raven and the Dove, Kaitlyn Davis

Perfect for the fans of Sarah J. Maas, The Raven and the Dove is a fantasy retelling of Tristan and Isolde. As the avian kingdoms in the sky prepare for the courtship trials, Princess Lyana of the Doves and House of Peace gets ready for one last adventure where she ends up rescuing the Raven Prince from a dragon. Rafe, is the bastard son of the late Raven King, and he’ll do anything for his half-brother the prince, including posing as him in the courtship trials. As the world below the avian kingdoms prepares for war, everything Rafe and Lyana know and love is at risk.

A forbidden romance, wings and dragons. What more could you ask for? I flew through this book, it was so much fun and interesting. To hear more about what I thought, check out my review!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Liya Thakkar is independent, a force to be reckoned with, and against arranged marriages. After she walks out on her family’s attempt to set her up, she doesn’t expect the same guy she walked out on to walk into her office. Jay Shah is charming, infuriating and Liya’s last hope at saving her crumbling company. As office banter turns into late night chats, Liya’s forced to reconsider everything she knows about love, marriage and everything in between.

I loved The Knockout by Sajni Patel and naturally, I loved this one too! This was so much fun. I loved Liya and Jay and everyone around them. I feel like we got to see the supporting characters a lot more in this than we did in The Knockout. I felt so much reading this, I felt so attached to the characters and I was amazed by how desperately I needed a happy ending for them. It was so satisfying seeing every bit get tied up and come together. In closing, I hate Mukesh with a passion.

I highly recommend this for anyone wanting a diverse love story that will have you laughing, crying and rooting for the characters like never before.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson is a standalone young-adult, fantasy novel. Elisabeth has grown up amongst shelves full of grimoires that can transform into monsters. When Elisabeth is implicated in a crime she didn’t commit, she’s torn away from her home and shipped away for justice with Nathaniel, a sorcerer that can’t be trusted and his demonic companion, who’s even more untrustworthy. As a century-old conspiracy unfolds, Elisabeth’s only hope is Nathaniel and his strange friend.

First of all, I love this idea of a dangerous library. This was so well done and I loved the world Margaret Rogerson had created. This was a really great read, well paced and with great characters. My only complaint: this was a standalone. As soon as I finished this, I was so disappointed that there wasn’t more. Not to say, I wasn’t satisfied with how everything wrapped up. I just loved the world and characters so much, I need more!!!

This is the first standalone fantasy novel that I’ve actually enjoyed thoroughly. Normally, I find the world to be underdeveloped and I don’t become as invested in the characters due to it being plot driven. I don’t know how Margaret Rogerson did it, but she hit it out of the park.

I loved the romance between Elisabeth and Nathaniel, it took its time to develop and I loved every bit of interaction. Speaking of Nathaniel, hands down my favourite character in this book. He was such a fun, complex and refreshing character.

If you’re looking for a fantasy book that you get completely immersed in without committing to an entire series, this is the one for you!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Endless Skies by Shannon Price was an ARC received from the publisher and author through NetGalley. The story is set in Heliana, a floating city with winged-lion shapeshifters. As a disease begins to threaten the children of Heliana, our main characters have to race against dwindling time to find the cure.

I had a few issues with this book, but still think it was worth the read. If you want to know my detailed thoughts, you can check out my book review!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another ARC I received through NetGalley was One Last Kiss by A. S. Kelly. I ended up DNFing this fairly quickly. There were too many dialogues and not enough action. I’m talking, pages on top of pages of consistent dialogue without any dialogue tags, description or clue about who is speaking and what they’re doing. It was really confusing and hard to follow.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman follows Nobody ‘Bod’ Owens, an orphan who ends up living in a graveyard being raised by ghosts. When the murderer that killed his family is back and searching for Bod, he must decide between the safety of the graveyard and the world waiting to be explored.

I don’t normally pick up middle grade novels. More than that, I don’t normally enjoy them. But I loved reading about Bod and his quirky family in the graveyard. Neil Gaiman did an exceptional job introducing such unique characters from such different timelines. There was a portion of the book that felt a little slow and took me longer to get through. But other than that, I really enjoyed it. I flew through the last hundred pages, my heart racing for Bod. The ending was so satisfying and I reckon, perfect for Bod’s story.

If you’re looking for a middle grade fiction to pick up, this is the one.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

We Are Not Okay by Natalia Gomes follows four girls in high school as they are silenced. Lucy, who points fingers and shames everyone in an attempt to hide the secret she ashamed off; Ulana, who comes from a conservative Muslim family as she deals with racism and trying to keep any rumours (true or not) from destroying her reputation; Trina, who’s raped at a party and even more broken when no one believes her; and Sophia, who’s betrayed by her boyfriend in the worst ways.

This is the definitely the kind of story that makes me grateful for managing to get through high school with a good experience. The book highlights exactly how cruel teenagers can be. It touches on important topics like: eating disorders, cheating, bullying, mental health, sexual assault, racism and more. I think it did a fair job at dealing and juggling with them all. This book was thought provoking and painful to get through. I was frustrated and heart broken by how terrible these girls had it, it was just so unfair. Especially, how the book came to an end.

We Are Not Okay is told from four perspectives, and I found none of them had very different voices. Though their lives and problems were different, I couldn’t tell them apart without the help of the chapter title. In saying that, I loved seeing the overlap in their perspectives and thoughts.

Two things disappointed me in this book. One was the ending. We spend so much time reading how these girls get dragged through the mud and I was hoping for a more empowering ending but it all seemed too simple. I don’t feel like all the characters had the developmental arc I was hoping for. The second thing was the implication that rape victims that do not report the crime are cowards. Even though I understood where the thought was coming from, I wish it had been explored more to show that it’s not correct, but instead a very harmful way of thinking.

Ulana is a Muslim character, and I think her internal conflict was done well. In terms of the rep, I cannot comment. I would love here an ownvoices opinion.

Overall, I did enjoy this and would recommend as this touches on issues we definitely should be talking about.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The next book I picked up was a graphic novel provided by NetGalley. Good Girls Don’t Make History by Elizabeth Kiehner is a non-fiction historical, graphic novel that you’ll hear me raving about for some time to come. It explores the women’s suffrage movement in the US. It is fast, doesn’t bog you down with a lot of details and extremely empowering. I have a detailed book review if you’re interested.

Meet Me at the Summit by Mandi Lynn is a young adult, coming of age story about Marly. After her parents death in a car accident, Marly’s family executes an intervention and forces her into a trip around the country. Through hiking adventures, her photography and a new guy named Dylan, Marly learns to cope with her grief.

This definitely eased my cabin fever from being in a lockdown. Beyond that, the characters felt two dimension and it was a slow paced read.

Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas is very loved on Booktok. It follows Misha and Ryen, who are pen pals. As the tagline suggests, they are perfect together, until they meet. Chaos ensues and they hate each other. Underneath all of that, are some mysteries. Who is behind the vandalism occurring at school? Why did Misha really move to Ryen’s high school out of the blue?

This was a lot. I can definitely see why everyone loves it the way they do. Unfortunately, I did not. In saying that, I didn’t dislike it. There were just some aspects of Misha and Ryen’s relationship where it went too far for me. The bullying, and just the downright horribleness of their interactions made me grimace at times. Other times, I was so there for it. Like this book was so scandalous that I read it in one sitting.

I loved the mysterious aspects of this book. The plot twist at the end came as a surprise, possibly because I was so distracted by the disaster that was Misha and Ryen’s interactions.

Ryen was definitely a flawed person (she was so horrible at times). It didn’t make me want to DNF, because I’m so here for some good character development. Which happened to an extent, but not enough to make me completely forgive everything she had in the past.

Disclaimer: this is definitely an 18+ book.

Conclusion: enjoyable read with some problems that I’m too soft to ignore.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas follows Yadriel, who raised in a traditional Latinx family just wants to be accepted as a Brujo. In order to prove himself, Yadriel summons a ghost as a part of a ceremony. The next step is to release the ghost, but unfortunately for Yadriel, Julian Diaz is not going to go quietly. He has some unfinished business and until Yadriel helps him with it, he won’t leave.

THIS BOOK WAS SO WORTH THE HYPE.

Now that that’s out of the way. Going into this, I was so nervous that it wouldn’t be as good as everyone was saying it to be. But it was so amazing. I loved Yadriel, I loved Julian and I loved them together. I loved the plot, the world around them and all the supporting characters. The way Yadriel’s journey of not only being accepted by his family but also coming to terms with the fact that he didn’t need permission to be himself, was just amazing.

By the time I finished this book, I was glowing and over the moon. It captured everything perfectly. I learnt so much from this book and it’s one that’s going to stay in my heart with a warm, glowy feeling.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao is a young adult mystery thriller that was a part of my TBR for this month. A dark academia story that I was really excited for. In short, it was underwhelming but not a bad a read. I recommend checking out my full review.

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar is a YA Fantasy about Sheetal, who is the daughter of a star. On Earth with her mortal father, Sheetal hides her true self from the rest of the world. When she accidentally injures her father and the only cure is her mother, Sheetal ascends to the sky, in order to compete in a tournament and win the help of her father.

I had seriously high hopes for this one, but in the end it didn’t satisfy me. I really enjoyed some aspects of this book. For example, the focus on Hindu astrology is one that I haven’t seen in books before and it was really well done. It was super interesting and I loved the magical feel. The execution of the culture itself was really great. The representation was spot on.

Other than that, Sheetal and the rest of the characters felt very ‘plain’. I didn’t feel like she had a personality, so I found it hard to connect with her. Because of the blurb, I went into this feeling like the stakes were going to be high but it was actually very ‘chill’. The pacing was also very slow and the tournament itself was near the end and even then it wasn’t that thrilling.

A slow but magical read. I’d be interested in seeing what the author puts out next.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is so talked about that I’m not going to bother with a summary. Just know: missing wife, suspicious husband, and a lot of questions. This was really brilliantly written and planned, so brilliant that I’m concerned for Gillian Flynn. I was able to guess the ‘plot twists’ but it didn’t diminish the enjoyment for me. The characters were disturbingly complex and the ending had me sitting there and contemplating everything. There are so many paragraphs that will stay with me because of how raw and vivid they were.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Magi Menagerie by Kale Lawrence is a young adult novel releasing in September this year. I won’t talk too much about it as I have a full review on it. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. Diverse characters, forbidden romance and an incredible world building.

Awakened by Ciara Duggan is a fast paced, insta-lovey fantasy releasing in September this year. You can check out my review for more details.

The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen follows Lara, a warrior princess trained in isolation to be ruthless and her enemy and future husband, King Aren. All Lara knows is bringing down Aren is the key to saving her kingdom. But as she infiltrates his home, she begins to questions who the villain really is.

I had no intentions of this picking up, because I’m simply not great with adult book. BUT THIS WAS SO GOOD. LIKE SO GOOD. The enemies to lovers, the angst, the slow burn, the betrayal, the politics. I could go on. It was easy to stay up all night to read this, more than that, it was easy to shelf it as a favourite. I need more people to pick this up and gush with me about it. Readers of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir and Shelby Mahurin will eat this up.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Traitor Queen by Danielle L. Jensen is the sequel to The Bridge Kingdom. I loved this just as much. The angst and oh gosh, the pain. This was so so so so good. I won’t stop talking about this one for some time to come.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Awakened by Ciara Duggan: 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.

Awakened by Ciara Duggan is a young adult, fantasy romance releasing on September 7th 2021. After the death of her parents, Hannah is determined to have a fresh start. At her new college, things turns dire when she accidentally, wakes up a witch who’s been sleeping for a long (decades? centuries?) time. With the witch awakening, so have other creatures, creatures that want Hannah dead. To add to the mix, the witch claims to know her.

I was super excited for this. The blurb sounded fun and the cover is stunning. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I had hoped.

One of my biggest issues was the romance. The entire book takes place over two days, and by the end Hannah and Callan (the witch) are confessing their undying for each other. It felt very rushed and it was hard to believe.

Initially, Hannah is set up as a closed off and stoic character. But as the plot requires, her personality does a 180 turn and she’s so trusting and forthcoming. Hannah’s motivations for helping Callan and risking as much as she did, didn’t make sense to me.

The most believable part of the book was Hannah’s griefs. That was handled well and it did make me feel for her.

The magic system was interesting. I would’ve loved to get to know it more or even to see Hannah learn how to use and harness it. However, the book settles for a more convenient option.

The book is really fast paced and certain aspects felt rushed. But if you’re one for an insta-lovey romance and a fast paced novel about witches, this one is for you.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Magi Menagerie by Kale Lawrence: 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.

The Magi Menagerie by Kale Lawrence is a historical fiction slash fantasy set to release on September 7th 2021. For as long as Ezra has known, his parents have been travelling from the Ottoman Empire and across 20th Century Europe. On their journey, Ezra’s mother is murdered by a bounty hunter and his father is forced into a life on the run. Ezra soon learns that his family has been on the run and now their enemies will do everything to see Ezra dead.

In a moment of desperation, Ezra’s fate collides with the Third Order of the Magi, a secret society dedicated to using their supernatural powers to protect their communities. With increasing violence around the world, the Magi are fairly certain they know who’s behind the attacks on Ezra and his family since the same group could also be threatening their own existence.

Both Ezra and the Magi’s survival hinges on knowledge only Ezra’s father has and the key to saving them could be buried within history itself. In a race across continents and time, both Ezra and the Magi must secure an ancient Babylonian artifact before hell is unleashed on the world. And, against all odds, Ezra must decide where his allegiances truly lie, despite what is written in the stars.

The story is told from Ezra’s and Jonas’ point of view. Ezra was a really interesting character. Through out his journey, I felt for him. There were even a few times that my eyes welled up. I felt frustrated when he was frustrated, and I felt just as lost when he was left to his devices. Jonas, is a Magus, a part of the Third Order of the Magi. The minute we meet Jonas, I loved him. I loved reading from his point of view and seeing the politics that he dealt with.

There’s a romance arc between Jonas and another male character and I was so here it. I liked how the dangers of a LGBTQIA relationship in that period of time was done. I felt so scared for them. Although, the forbidden romance was definitely welcomed. I ate it up.

I liked all of the supporting characters as well, they felt like they had their own personalities. The story also has the ‘found family’ trope, which I’m a sucker for. It was well executed and added to my enjoyment.

The worldbuilding was handled well. By the end of the book, I had a fairly good understanding of the magic system and the politics. I didn’t feel bored by an big portions of info dumps. Instead, there were little bits of information woven into the story.

As soon as I got to the end, and I read the cliffhanger that we ended on, I wanted to scream. I cannot wait for the next book.

I just want to take a moment to appreciate the diversity in this book. I don’t practice Islam nor am I queer, but the topics handled in the book felt like they were done well.

I’m still not able to put my finger on it, but something felt amiss for me. I think it may just have been my mood. So I’m adding this to my pile of books to re-read so I can give it the proper shot it deserves.

I highly recommend this for anyone that likes a good worldbuilding, great characters, forbidden romance and the ‘found family’ trope.

Rating: 4 out of 5.