Review: Lion Heart by A.C. Gaughen

Title: Lion Heart

Author: A.C. Gaughen

Publishing Information:  May 19, 2015 by  Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Retellings, Fantasy

Series Information: Book 3 in the Scarlet Trilogy

Format: Hardcover, 348 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC for review via the publisher

Recommended For: Fans of strong heroines, and those of you needing some consolation after finishing Lady Thief

Related Reviews: Review of Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince’s clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

Oh this series, I love it so. Scarlet is strong and feisty and an absolutely lovable heroine. Rob had to grow on me a little during the first two books, he was swoon-worthy for sure but I needed him to just put in a little bit of effort to try and work through his own “scars.” In Lion Heart, the secondary characters again stole my heart. I adored Allan and his antics, he was hilarious and though he was a jokester, it was clear that he had heart and cared about Scarlet as if she was his true sister. David is another new addition, and he is a perfect opposite of Allan. He loves and cares for Scarlet and her well-being, and is her dedicated knight so he is very adamant about doing things the “correct” way. That is to say, he doesn’t always go for Rob and Scar stealing kisses due to their lack of marriage! I loved the antics between Allan and David, and found them to be fantastic additions to the crew that I had crown to love from the prior two novels. Continue reading

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Publishing Information:  May 12, 2015 by Putnam Juvenile

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retellings

Series Information: The first in The Wrath and the Dawn duet

Format: Hardcover, 388 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss *review and quotes based on an unfinished copy

Recommended For: Readers looking for something that feels familiar but is wholly different, and anyone needing a multitude of swoons

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

There is so much to say, and yet I don’t think that I have enough words to convey how much I absolutely adored The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. I honestly don’t know where to start…

Let’s start with all of the things that The Wrath and the Dawn could have done. It could have given the readers a love triangle to frustrate the most easy going reader. It could have provided us with a strong heroine who suddenly shifts in character and falls apart due to a man. We could have been given women who hate each other due to their beauty, or jealousy. Honestly, this novel could have fallen into every trope imaginable, and somehow the author managed to move past these boundaries and therefore succeed in writing one of the best debuts that I have ever read.

Instead, Renee Ahdieh wrote a novel that encompasses love after it has grown and become something real, between two characters who grow and learn with one another. Characters who only lose themselves in the moment, still maintaining their sense of self and strength while learning to allow another past the walls around their hearts. The slow burn love story in The Wrath and the Dawn is admittedly the best part of the novel. It is the core of the novel, weaving through every page, yet it doesn’t take away from the underlying plot, the question of why Shazi is there in the first place and the struggle that Khalid has every waking moment.

“What are you doing to me, you plague of a girl?” he whispered.

“If I’m a plague, then you should keep your distance, unless you plan on being destroyed.” The weapons still in her grasp, she shoved against his chest.

“No.” His hands dropped to her waist, “Destroy me.”

Continue reading

Review: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Crimson Bound

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Publishing Information:  May 5, 2015 by Balzer & Bray

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Series Information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 448 pages

Source: Received an ARC from the publisher for review

Recommended For: I don’t know, fans of dark fantasies who don’t have high expectations I guess

Related Reviews: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I am going to mark spoilers as clearly as I can, but for those of you who are planning on reading Crimson Bound, you might wanna avert your eyes until after you finish. Then come back and let’s discuss!

A few things to note before reading this review…First, Crimson Bound was one of my most anticipated reads this year. Second, Crimson Bound is NOT at all part of the Cruel Beauty world; it is not a sequel or companion and has nothing to do with the author’s first book. Third, I am pretty easy to please, and rarely DNF books. I do not generally have an issue with love triangles and am not one who tears apart books due to unrealistic standards. I was an English major in college and it was necessary to critique in that way while reading so now that I have the time to read for pleasure that is exactly what I do – I am not here to be a critic. Finally, with all of that being said, I have to tell you that I did not enjoy Crimson Bound. In fact, I not only didn’t enjoy the novel, but I was angry over my disappointment upon completion. To sum up…

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But, let me explain…

Crimson Bound starts off strong, Rachelle is attacked in the forest (basically the only allusion to Little Red Riding Hood to be found in the novel) by a “forestborn” who marks her and leads her to make a choice that will bound her to him and The Devourer (our villain, he isn’t really fleshed out so?) forever. Race forward a few years and Rachelle is living with her choice, doing all that she can to fight for her (for lack of a better word) soul and save the world from the Devourer. She is doing so by the side of her best friend, Erec. Erec is made to be strong, unforgiving and extremely charming. In fact, Rachelle spends much time in the novel thinking about how he is a womanizer but is still oh so dreamy that she can hardly contain the stirrings in her loins. Admittedly, I liked Erec. He was definitely harsh, but he knew what he wanted and went for it and also seems to be quite a good kisser as the only swoony moments had to do with him and his ego. So as I said, the beginning of the novel was decent. There are many action packed moments and our main character Rachelle seems like she is strong and likable. Also there is a very strong “character” to be found in The Forest which often comes alive in response to The Devourer “waking,” and any novel that puts so much emphasis on a forest is okay in my book.

Then…things started to change in Crimson Bound. This novel that held such promise, and strength started to fall apart (much like the main character) at the introduction of the king’s bastard son, Armand. Armand is thought to be a Saint, as he went up against a forestborn and survived – though he lost his hands and thus lives as a martyr every day. The easiest way for me to describe Armand to you is for me to do what Rachelle did and compare him to Erec. You see, Armand was kind, and filled with the sunshine that Rachelle so needed for her soul. While Erec, oh Erec played to that dark side of her, the side that was wakened when she went up against the forestborn in the first place. Thus begins the dumbest love triangle ever and basically the reason that Rachelle spends A LOT of time putting herself down, thinking herself unworthy of Armand. Who, by the way, she was saying that she LOVED not long after meeting (and hello familiar trope) HATING him. Rachelle, who is a bad ass fighter and is strong in her convictions, falls apart when Armand (apparently) betrays her. In order to feel better about herself she lowers herself by sleeping with Erec. Yeah, you read that correctly. She goes to find Erec to “forget” what Armand did because she thinks that she is only worthy of being Erec’s mistress. This made me so angry. First of all, why is this strong woman falling apart like this over a man to where she actually thinks that she DESERVES to be with someone who hadn’t made her a priority up to that point, and when she was made a priority it is only as a piece of property. In fact, Erec stated multiple times that she belonged to him and that he wouldn’t give her up without a fight. YOU BELONG TO NO ONE, RACHELLE!! NO ONE BUT YOURSELF!!

Then throw in this whole religious aspect where The Bishop is preaching about renouncing The Devourer, and so on. Which only made me think that the author was trying to force the novel into this mold that didn’t fit, and it didn’t sit well with me. If the Bishop is preaching the will of God, and going against The Devourer, does that make The Devourer the stand in for Satan? Why is this religion taking up so much plot and reasoning for my character’s actions in my short young adult novel that has no time to give much explanation to the dynamics of the religion? Stop it. Then the ending, this is where it is going to get spoiler-y folks so look away…Rachelle finds out that Erec – you know the dude who she has such strong feelings for that she lowered herself to sleep with – is actually the forestborn from the beginning who first marked her AND the same forestborn who Armand went up against who took his hands. Erec confesses that he loves her and wants her to RULE with him (I mean every trope imaginable, this novel falls into, honestly). She obviously hates him and decides that she is going to sacrifice herself to The Devourer to wait for it…SAVE ARMAND! So she goes to The Dark Forest by sacrificing herself and of course Erec is there and they have a nice chat and he confesses his “love” and then as they are getting away from The Devourer he decides that he doesn’t want to go back to the real world and life in exile, or chains, or whatever so HAHA he SACRFICES HIMSELF TO THE DEVOURER – not to be confused with Rachelle who attempted to sacrifice herself for another, he is doing this to take his fate into his own hands. So, obviously she succeeds and comes back to life where she is no longer a forestborn but a mere human, and then she and Armand have an awkward few weeks together where they barely speak. Then within the last few pages of the novel she thinks she sees the forest come alive again and cries and realizes how bad she feels for Erec because he isn’t really dead he is just been devoured (hehe) by The Devourer so still lives in his stomach or something and what a horrible way to go?? Then Armand finds her and awkwardly tells her that he doesn’t want her to leave his side and they have sunshine and a kiss and BOOM it’s over.  What. / end spoilers

To sum up, I was pretty disappointed in this novel. I had the highest expectations and perhaps that is where I went wrong. To be fair, many people who have read Crimson Bound really enjoyed it so make your own judgments!

Review: The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier

Hi friends! Whew it feels like it has been forever since I have brought you reviews but if I am being honest, I have barely even had time to read! I have, however, had time to listen to ALL THE AUDIOBOOKS!! Well, “all” really covers too wide of a range as in actuality I started some pretty awesome but LONG series on audiobook and have been devouring them for months. Let’s take a looksie..!

Oh these books. These books were just wonderful. I can’t lie, I was a little wary to branch out into another Marillier series seeing as my love for her Sevenwaters series knows no bounds. I took the plunge, and did so in the form of the audiobook read by Michael Page and in doing so, found myself a new favorite narrator! Don’t you just love it when that happens?! I would highly recommend this series for fans of Marillier, strong female leads, brooding heroes, slow burn romances between the two and hints of political intrigue…

Title: The Dark Mirror

Author: Juliet Marillier

Narrator: Michael Page

Publishing Information:  March 6, 2004 by Tor

Genre: Fiction, Epic Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance

Series Information: Book one in The Bridei Chronicles (was a planned 5 book series that turned into a trilogy)

Format: Hardcover, 512 pages

Source: Bought for my personal library (in hardcover AND audiobooks!)

Recommended For: Fans of epic fantasies, slow burn romances, and historical fiction

The Dark Mirror was one of those books that broke my heart a little bit, the relationship between Bridei and Tuala is very sweet and I loved the strength shown from both of them. Each has to deal with their own struggles, but it was the struggle that Tuala faced that really felt heart wrenching to me. I liked how The Dark Mirror set the tone for the rest of the series, though the next two books branch off, they always come back to the backbone that is Bridei’s kingdom, and the relationship between he and Tuala. If I am being honest, though I did enjoy book one in this trilogy, I did not LOVE it and it was the promise of better things to come that had me continuing on with the series. The relationship between Bridei and Tuala was very sweet, but it was the secondary characters that really piqued my interest. Had I not known that the next two books would be focusing on Faolan (hubba, hubba) I am not sure that I would have been as excited to continue on.

“Tales within tales. Dreams within dreams. Pattern on pattern and path beyond path. For such short-lived folks, the human kind seem determined to make things as complicated as possible for themselves.” Continue reading

Review: Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Title: Dragon Slippers

Author: Jessica Day George

Publishing Information:  March 20th 2007 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance

Series Information: The first in the Dragon Slipper series

Format: Hardcover, 324 pages

Source: Bought for my personal library

Recommended For: Fans of Patricia C. Wrede, Merrie Haskell, and dragon books of all kinds.

True, when Creel’s aunt suggests sacrificing her to the local dragon, it is with the hope that the knight will marry Creel and that everyone (aunt and family included) will benefit handsomely. Yet it’s Creel who talks her way out of the dragon’s clutches. And it’s Creel who walks for days on end to seek her fortune in the king’s city with only a bit of embroidery thread and a strange pair of slippers in her possession. But even Creel could not have guessed the outcome of this tale. For in a country on the verge of war, Creel unknowingly possesses not just any pair of shoes, but a tool that could be used to save her kingdom…or destroy it.

Creel and her brother are taken in by their aunt and uncle after their parents die, unfortunately for Creel, their aunt doesn’t think much of Creel and her prospects. Instead of acting as a loving aunt should, Creel’s caregiver decides to drop Creel off near a dragon’s lair. It is her hope that the dragon will abduct Creel and in turn, attract an adventurous heir of some type of fortune that will then provide for Creel and her entire family.

Creel does, in fact, get picked up by a dragon but what follows is not the experience that she expected. Instead of meeting a ferocious dragon and being forced to sit and wait to be rescued, Creel rescues herself and manages to talk the dragon into giving her a piece of his hoard. No, not gold, silly human, why would all dragons collect them same thing? You see, a dragon’s hoard is representative of the dragon’s hobby, and this particular dragon collected shoes. Creel heads to the kingdom’s capitol with a new pair of beautiful, unique, and powerful blue slippers, and manages to find work in a dress shop, using skills her mother taught her before she died. What happens next is a series of fantastical adventures that leads Creel to form a lifelong bond with a dragon and the beginnings of a romance with a rather sweet prince.

It is no mystery to any of my readers that I love dragons. Give me a book with a friendly dragon or even better, a friendship between a human and a dragon and I am sold. This series was actually recommended to me from one of my fellow librarians because she knew how much I enjoyed The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede. Though Creel was less snarky than Cimorene, they were both headstrong and fabulous. The secondary characters were just as lovely and interesting, I’m sure you aren’t surprised to hear that I thoroughly enjoyed Prince Luka. It was the dragons, however, that really brought my interest from simply liking this book to loving it. I love how thoroughly Jessica Day George described these characters; she has a knack for bringing personalities off the page. As I mentioned prior, each dragon has a different type of hoard, Shardas, Creel’s best friend, collects glass, and his cousin Feniul is extremely unique as he collects dogs, try and picture that because I promise it is as adorable and funny as it sounds.

Shelf Talker: While it may sound that this is just another dragon inspired fairy tale employing all of the familiar themes, I promise that it is more involved than that, and though reminiscent of other tales it is uniquely sweet and promising. Admittedly, there is one scene in particular that had me tearing up as if my heart was breaking, that is the depth of friendship and loyalty that manifests between the characters. As I turned the last page I was smiling with glee and desperately hoping for more from these characters. This novel comes highly recommended for those of you looking for a sweet story about a girl, her dragon, and their successful attempts to save a kingdom.

Fortnight of Fright: Review The Book of Bad Things by Dan Poblocki

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Hi friends! Welcome to week two of Fortnight of Fright! This week we will be sharing a few reviews of creeptastic books with you, and a guest post by Cat Winters!! Make sure you check out what we had last week, A guest post by Dan Poblocki, Eldritch Black, some awesome bloggers AND a giveaway! Also don’t forgot to check out what Amy and Brittany have for you on their blogs!

Title: The Book of Bad Things

Author: Dan Poblocki

Publishing Information:  August 26, 2014 by Scholastic Press

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Mystery

Series Information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 256 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a horror novel that is just the right amount of horrific, fans of Anna Dressed in Blood and Cat Winters

Related Posts: The Ghost of Graylock Review and The Bad Place Guest Post by Dan Poblocki

One kid’s trash is another kid’s terror in this spooky supernatural mystery.

When Cassidy Bean leaves New York to spend the summer upstate, she’s disappointed to find that Whitechapel is not the quiet, pleasant suburb she remembers. Ursula Chambers, the strange old hermit at the end of the cul-de-sac, has passed away under mysterious circumstances. And the townspeople are shocked to discover that Ursula was a hoarder: Her farmhouse is teeming with stacks of newspapers, piles of furniture, mounds of antique dolls and taxidermy animals.

Cassidy watches as the people of Whitechapel descend upon Ursula’s farmhouse, claiming her abandoned treasures for their own. She listens as rumors spread that Ursula’s vengeful ghost is stalking the town with a warning from beyond the grave. And when Cassidy resolves to uncover the truth behind the strangeness, she learns there are more bad things in the world than she ever suspected. . . .

Cassidy was a wonderful main character, it was easy to love her and I can’t tell you how much I adore how real Dan Poblocki’s characters feel. Cassidy certainly doesn’t have it easy in New York, and I really felt for her and the way that she needs this escape to Joey’s house and family. Joey is dealing with some issues of his own, most importantly the loss of his dog, and the belief that his neighbor Ursula Chambers isn’t all that she seems. Joey’s next door neighbor, Ping, was incredibly refreshing and fun, I loved the way these three interacted with one another and stood together to face down the “bad things” in the neighborhood. Probably my favorite part of the novel was the addition of Hal and his antics, I enjoyed his character thoroughly. Continue reading

The Book of Kindly Deaths by Eldritch Black

Title: The Book of Kindly Deaths

Author: Eldritch Black

Publishing Information:  September 16th, 2014 by Spencer Hill Press

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal

Series Information: The first in a planned series* (*I believe)

Format: Paperback, 304 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher for review

Recommended For: Fans of the darker side of middle grade, fans of Neil Gaiman, and Claire Legrand.

When twelve-year-old Eliza Winter finds a secret room in her missing grandfather’s sprawling, Gothic house, her safe, sheltered life is blown apart. Inside, below a stained glass window where moonlight shines no matter the time of day, sits The Book of Kindly Deaths.

When the strange, crooked man from the book arrives on the doorstep claiming to be a rare-book collector and demanding entry into the house, Eliza’s world is turned upside down. To escape him, she must dive all the way into the spine-tingling world of The Book of Kindly Deaths to save her grandfather–and write an end to the nightmare she’s caught inside.

When my friend and fellow blogger Estelle reached out to ask me if I wanted to read and review The Book of Kindly Deaths by Eldritch Black I was a bit hesitant due to time and responsibilities and ya know, life. But when she told me that it was being geared toward fans of Neil Gaiman, my interest was immediately piqued. Then I read the synopsis and realized that the gal was right, the book was right up my alley. Many thanks to Estelle, Eldritch Black, and Spencer Hill Press for giving me a chance to read and review what turned out to be a rather perfect book for my tastes.

As you can see, this is a story about Eliza Winter and her adventures in a world unlike our own in order to save her grandfather, and others who have been affected by the monsters who frequent the streets of this parallel land. While reading, I was at first somewhat wary because The Book of Kindly Deaths read a bit like a compilation of short stories. In fact, it was very reminiscent of On The Day I Died: Stories From the Grave by Candace Fleming, which was entertaining, but not what I was looking for. Thankfully once I delved further into the story things started to come together and I really enjoyed the different tie ins from the stories within the Book of Kindly Deaths. There was one particularly interesting story filled with characters called “the wrong people.” That is, they were all together wrong. They were a group of “people” with greasy wiry hair, yellowed skin, and crooked teeth who eat mud pie filled with rotten vegetables. They lock up humans, and bring them out for show so that other residents of Grimwytch can see their abnormalities – that is, pale skin, white teeth and normal hands and toes. I loved Katherine’s story, and her escape from Grimwytch and the bittersweet ending to her story. Continue reading

Review: Jackaby By William Ritter

Title: Jackaby

Author: William Ritter

Publishing Information:  September 16th 2014 by Algonquin Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery, Historical Fiction

Series Information: Book one in what I believe is a planned series

Format: Hardcover, 304 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Readers interested in a novel with a paranormal mystery, slight macabre, cheeky and interesting main characters and yes, those of you who love Sherlock and Doctor Who.

 Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Raise your hand if you are annoyed at the way in which books are being described as “The next Game of Thrones,” or “The Hunger Games meets The X-Files,” and so on. *looks around at the plethora of raised hands* Me too. Now, raise your hand at how many of those crossovers have been successfully dubbed “The next Game of Thrones,” or “The Hunger Gams meets The X-Files.” Oh, no one? That’s what I thought. My point is that when I saw Jackaby was being described as “Sherlock meets Doctor Who” my head was screaming “NOOOOOOOO!” while my heart was screaming “PLEASE SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE?!” So in an nutshell, I was wary to pick it up. Well let me tell you, I am so glad that I did, because Jackaby absolutely delivers.

Do you love the quirks of Sherlock? The way in which he finds the so called “ordinary” insanely boring, and the impeccable way in which he can tell where you have been vacationing simply by looking at some loose thread on your coat? How about the way in which The Doctor doesn’t take no for an answer, or his knack for collecting strong and witty companions you can’t help by envy? Take all of these things, add in a bit of the paranormal and you’ve got R.F. Jackaby.

Our mystery was set in New England, which I loved and the novel was narrated by a smart, spunky, and strong young lady, Abigail Rook. Abigail was a gal after my own heart, running away from home, winking at little old ladies looking down their noses at her, catching the eye of a handsome detective…yep, sounds like me! The secondary characters were also superb, though I felt as if I didn’t get enough of them. I sincerely hope that with more novels comes more backstory on Charlie, Jenny, and Douglas! Although I figured out the big twist early on in the novel, I still found it enjoyable to see how it played out and was not at all disappointed.

To give you some insight into how fantastic this character (and obviously, author) is, take a glimpse at some of our twitter chats..

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Isn’t that just the most fun? It really added to my enjoyment of the book and you guys, it shouldn’t be surprising to you that I think I have a little bit of a crush on R.F. Jackaby.

Shelf Talker: Jackaby was absolutely everything that I wanted it to be, it was fast paced, and funny, with the perfect amount of mystery and macabre. I read it in nearly one sitting and eagerly anticipate much more from this quirky character.

Review: The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill

Title: The Witch’s Boy

Author: Kelly Barnhill

Publishing Information: September 16th 2014 by Algonquin Young Readers

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure

Series Information: Standalone

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

Recommended For: Readers looking for a middle grade novel filled with self discovery and friendship with a perfect blend of darkness and hope.

When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging, bewitched river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Sure enough, Ned grows up weak and slow, and stays as much as possible within the safe boundaries of his family’s cottage and yard. But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it’s Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.

In the meantime, in another kingdom across the forest that borders Ned’s village lives Áine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King. She is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his.” But when Áine and Ned’s paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to make their way through the treacherous woods and stop the war about to boil over?

There is so much to be said about The Witch’s Boy, right from the beginning I was hooked in the story that was reminiscent of old tales being told over a campfire. Kelly Barnhill managed to weave what felt like a very old story into the life of Ned and his (now dead) twin brother. It was a different way in which the author portrayed our main character, as he was not one, but two boys merged into one by their mother’s love and magic. Ned is described as “the wrong boy” who lived when an accident struck he and his brother. But somehow, Ned manages to grow to mirror his mother’s strength, taking control of the increasingly pushy magic that flows through him. It was a novel filled with different stories that flowed together to tell a very important tale. Overall, the novel was unique and refreshing in the way that the author portrayed the characters and their combined flaws and strengths.

The best things about The Witch’s Boy were the characters and their relationships with one another. I loved Ned for his courage and ability to move forward for the love of his family. I loved Aine for her strength, wit, and the choices that she makes when faced with adversity. Don’t even get me started on the wolf and his loyalties to this pair. Aine’s father had a great backstory that broke my heart a little, which brings me to the second thing that I loved about The Witch’s Boy, the fact that Kelly Barnhill doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff.

If you are familiar with some of my other reviews of middle grade novels, you will remember that the one thing that will make me love a novel geared toward children is the ability to not brush over those “tough” subjects. I’m talking about grief, pain, death, and so on. I have to be honest and say that I was pleasantly surprised while reading The Witch’s Boy because the author does a perfect job of serving the reader a plate of bitter heartache which is then followed up with just enough light and hope to keep one going. I am completely in the mindset that these so called “children’s” novels are often darker than young adult or adult novels because the kids can handle it. Much respect to the author for perfectly blending darkness and light, for showing the reader how to hope and move forward through all sorts of trials.

An added bonus to loving this novel was that I actually met Kelly Barnhill at the Kids Author Carnival a few months ago and she was wonderful. Honestly, one of the nicest people that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Shelf Talker: The Witch’s Boy was everything that I wanted it to be. It was a beautiful and wonderful story about love in all forms. It had adventure, coming of age, a perfect blend of darkness and hope, and elements that reminded me of the fairytales I read as a kid. In truth, I loved it, and I think you all will too.

Review: The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

Title: The Mirk and Midnight Hour

Author: Jane Nickerson

Publishing Information: March 11th 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Romance, Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction

Series Information: Standalone (though apparently the three books are companions in the “Strands” universe)

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Source: Obtained an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss

Recommended For: Readers looking for a quick read with an enchanting setting and vibrant setting.

A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest. All collide at night’s darkest hour.

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother.

When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she’s drawn to him. But Violet isn’t Thomas’s only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn’t been out of compassion.

Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.

From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”

I was wary to pick up The Mirk and Midnight Hour because I had heard very mixed reviews about Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson, and by very mixed reviews, I mean that some people downright LOATHED it and they were very passionate as to why. Upon hearing that The Mirk and Midnight Hour was just a companion set in the same world, and not a sequel, I thought I would give it a go. How gorgeous is the cover, and the a retelling of Tam Lin hooked me right away.

The best compliment that I can give The Mirk and Midnight Hour is that months after reading it, I still can’t stop thinking of the haunting and vibrant setting where the story takes place. Much of the novel takes place in the woods, where Violet finds a wounded soldier, Thomas. I am a sucker for a gothic tale, and I love me some beautiful, bird filled woods. The setting and the secondary characters ended up adding some depth that the novel was missing from the beginning. I enjoyed Lainey and Michael, who work on Violet’s farm as slaves, and I absolutely adored Violet’s cousin, Seeley.

First, there is a lot going on in this novel. There is a focal point on Violet’s home life, her relationships with her stepmother and stepsister play an important role in the growth of the novel, and though at first they seemed irrelevant to the plot, I really enjoyed they way that the relationships grew as the characters did, I was surprised to find how much I liked Violet’s stepsister and mother come the end of the novel. For me, the love story was, in a word, rushed. I realize that some growth in their relationship happened “off the page,” but I still couldn’t see how they fell in love so quickly and deeply. Though I did enjoy it to an extent, it was not deeply moving in the least.

Probably the biggest flaw in The Mirk and Midnight Hour was found in the “retelling” of Tam Lin. Readers have to trudge through quite a bit of the novel before we actually meet his character and  though I can understand how certain circumstances can bring people together, the romance felt a little too easy for me. The fairies found in Tam Lin are replaced with (what is described in the blurb as being) Voodoo and I found it to be a tad out of place. Violet also has a rather nonsensical affinity with bees that somewhat plays into the novel but again, it felt out of place (and quite frankly confused me).

Shelf Talker: The Mirk and Midnight Hour was a very quick and vibrant read, if you are willing to look past some frustrations over the under developed romance and and less than stellar retelling. If you want a gothic novel, filled with a girl growing up in the south during the Civil War that focuses on the struggles of this time with hints of romance, voodoo, and a creepy atmosphere, then give this one a go.