January First Impressions

Happy New Year, Book Nerds! Let’s get down to business. Actually, let’s get down to books. Business is boring. We’ve gone ahead and rounded up some upcoming titles. Let’s see if we’d request them.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

With Anna-Marie McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.

Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

Pub Date 14 Jan 2020

Anyone ever see the musical episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer? If Rosella exits her house singing about a mustard stain I will give this a whole five stars. I’m more curious about the history than I am about Rosella’s story, but I think we’re supposed to be. I’m curious to know if the shoes will make anyone Flashdance.


Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden

From acclaimed author Tonya Bolden comes the story of a teen girl becoming a woman on her own terms against the backdrop of widespread social change in the early 1900s.

Savannah Riddle is lucky. As a daughter of an upper class African American family in Washington D.C., she attends one of the most rigorous public schools in the nation–black or white–and has her pick among the young men in her set. But lately the structure of her society–the fancy parties, the Sunday teas, the pretentious men, and shallow young women–has started to suffocate her.

Then Savannah meets Lloyd, a young West Indian man from the working class who opens Savannah’s eyes to how the other half lives. Inspired to fight for change, Savannah starts attending suffragist lectures and socialist meetings, finding herself drawn more and more to Lloyd’s world.

Set against the backdrop of the press for women’s rights, the Red Summer, and anarchist bombings, Saving Savannah is the story of a girl and the risks she must take to be the change in a world on the brink of dramatic transformation.

Pub Date 14 Jan 2020

The setting will be integral to whether or not this is a good book. Savannah sounds spoiled and unlikable and I haven’t even met her. I’m put off by another book about a rich kid learning how the other half lives. It’s very “Royalty leaves palace for first time ever. Discovers kingdom sucks for everyone else.”


Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard by Echo Brown

“Just brilliant.”—Kirkus Reviews

Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism—all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age story for fans of Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together and Ibi Zoboi’s American Street.

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor.

Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Pub Date 14 Jan 2020

Echo Brown sat down at a computer and was like “You want Black girl magic? I’ll give you Black girl magic.” Black Girl Unlimited sounds like an amazingly emotional read and I’m just gonna add it to my TBR now.

Rogue Princess by B.R. Myers

A princess fleeing an arranged marriage teams up with a snarky commoner to foil a rebel plot in B. R. Myers’ Rogue Princess, a gender-swapped sci-fi YA retelling of Cinderella.

Princess Delia knows her duty: She must choose a prince to marry in order to secure an alliance and save her failing planet. Yet she secretly dreams of true love, and feels there must be a better way. Determined to chart her own course, she steals a spaceship to avoid the marriage, only to discover a handsome stowaway.

All Aidan wanted was to “borrow” a few palace trinkets to help him get off the planet. Okay, so maybe escaping on a royal ship wasn’t the smartest plan, but he never expected to be kidnapped by a runaway princess!

Sparks fly as this headstrong princess and clever thief battle wits, but everything changes when they inadvertently uncover a rebel conspiracy that could destroy their planet forever.

Pub Date 21 Jan 2020

Says it’s a Cinderella retelling… reads more like a Star Wars ripoff? Every princess flees arranged marriages these days. Anywho, princess has snarky pilot on stolen spaceship and rebel conspiracy. All I see are space buns and wookies.

The cover is pretty though.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

“A witty rom-com reinvention … with deeply relatable insights on family pressure and growing up.” – Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of Always Never Yours and If I’m Being Honest

“An adorable debut that updates a classic romantic trope with a buzzy twist.” – Jenn Bennett, author of Alex, Approximately and Serious Moonlight

A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Pub Date 21 Jan 2020

I hate contemporary. I want to read this. It sounds adorable, relevant, and hilarious.

The Night Country

The highly anticipated sequel to Melissa Albert’s beloved, New York Times bestselling debut The Hazel Wood!

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home…

The Night Country – Melissa Albert
January 7th, 2020

I wasn’t a fan of The Hazel Wood. In fact, I DNFed it pretty quickly. But I was a little deeper invested in the events of book two.

After a quick internet dive to get a full synopsis of the first book, I put on my headphones and began listening to The Night Country.

While I was a little confused at first, even with the found information, Melissa Albert did a wonderful job reminding readers what happened in the previous installment, an issue I often find in book series.

I made it through book two but didn’t find much stayed with me. Alice’s characterization felt inconsistent. Does she like Finch? Is he just a friend? Is she mad at him? Does she understand his actions? Even Alice doesn’t know.

I flipped back and forth about my rating. I didn’t hate it, the writing flowed smoothly, but I also didn’t love it. Somewhere in the middle I experienced a story.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Buy THE NIGHT COUNTRY on Libro.fm and support local bookstores and get more books for Booked All Night.

Blood Heir

This hot debut, perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and An Ember in the Ashes, is the first book in an epic new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder.

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

Blood Heir, Amelie Wen Zhao
November 19, 2019

We begin as Ana is trolling a prison looking for a specific prisoner to help her clear her name. Desperate to keep her Affinity (magic) hidden from the guards, Ana spends a lot of time telling us she’s trying to keep it under control.

There is, perhaps, too much backward information at the beginning of Blood Heir. Her father is dead but we didn’t see him die, she’s on the run because people think she did it, but we’re not sure why, she somehow knows this prisoner will help her, but we don’t know who he is.

I was certainly intrigued by the action of the opening chase scene but it wasn’t enough to keep me going with all my questions.

The other reason I put it down was the way the writing flipped. Some parts were very well written. They felt perfect for a YA audience. But other parts felt overly informative and talked down to the reader. Basically, I don’t need a description for a sword so much as I do for the magic system.

I ended up not finishing.

My Rating: DNF

Upcoming January Titles

New year–new books! Who else is excited for a whole new year of fresh books? My New Year’s resolution is to read all of these!

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war. 

Pub Date: January 7th, 2020

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.

Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…

Packed with high-stakes adventure, romance, and dueling identities, this gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo is the first novel in an epic YA fantasy duology, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo.

Pub Date: January 7th, 2020

One of Us is Next by Karen McManus

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling thriller everyone is talking about, One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe’s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

Pub Date: January 7th, 2020

Infinity Son by Adam Silvera

Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.

Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.

Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.

Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.

Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.

Pub Date: January 14th, 2020

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson delivers the witty and pulse-pounding conclusion to the Truly Devious series as Stevie Bell solves the mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for over 75 years.

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

Pub Date: January 21st, 2020

Contagion

contagion

Fans of AlienOutbreak, and World War Z will love this spine-chilling, zombie horror film-esque novel about a search-and-rescue mission gone terrifyingly wrong.

It got in us and most are dead.

Decklan flew for help. 

Don’t trust the kid.

Responding to the distress call was supposed to be a straightforward mission. But when Thea Sadik and her crew land on the distant planet of Achlys, they find destruction and devastation . . . and no survivors.

As they try to piece together the puzzle of who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some SOS messages should be ignored—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

Erin Bowman takes suspense to new levels in this heart-racing first installment in the Achlys duology. Fans of Jonathan Maberry, Rick Yancey, and Madeline Roux will delight in the electrifying horror that Contagion so vividly brings to life.

SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!

Had to. Sorry. I loved Contagion. The most impressive part for me had nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with the writing. Every character has a POV. I thought the head hopping would get difficult to follow by Erin does it so seamlessly that it just felt natural to know what everyone was thinking.

It lost points for me in the beginning because slow builds are slow.

But once the ball got rolling I couldn’t put Contagion down. The suspense is built up from the first SOS and only continues to build on Achlys’s surface, a perfect setting for a space thriller.

As with all sci-fi, technology plays a part, but none of it was ever technology from the Hand of God. They fought with it, against it, and lost it creating new obstacles for the characters to overcome (or be overcome by!).

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Published
Categorized as Blog

The Hate U Give

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give blew up the book community when it released in February 2017, and for good reasons. The Hate U Give is an intense look into the lives of black kids living in a racist society that’s trying to keep them down. It was not only an incredibly well-written story that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, but it was also very heart-wrenching in a way that made me, a white woman, realize my privilege because I knew that I would never be found at the end of such an injustice.

In The Hate U Give we follow Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old girl from Garden Heights, a predominantly black community, as her life gets turned upside down when she’s the sole witness in the shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil. She’s pulled into the rollercoaster of the movement to give Khalil the justice he deserves.

The Hate U Give comes right on the heels of the Black Lives Matter movement, the largest movement of the current generation. It’s a must-read for anyone and everyone.

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of contemporary stories. They’ve never been for me. I mainly read fantasy for the escapism, but when it comes to police brutality and the state of our world, there’s no place for escapism. The Hate U Give hooks you in and keeps you in the real world, a world where violence against children isn’t always met with the right justice, a world that can still have hope among all the darkness, a world worth fighting for.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Three Dark Crowns Series

When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

Ok, so, I binged through this whole series via audiobooks and my unnaturally long car rides lately. I absolutely loved the first two books, but I had significantly less love for book number three.

In Three Dark Crowns, I was really in love with the presentation. I loved that the story seemed to revolve around the place more than the characters and Blake’s narrative style never left me confused, which considering it’s written in third person omniscient, that’s pretty impressive. Like, five stars impressive. In fact, it felt incredibly episodic. I could easily see this whole series turned into a TV show and my nerdy ass would be firmly planted on my couch with a bowl of popcorn each week to watch.

I think that narration worked really well, actually, because instead of making sure each of the sisters, their friends, and their caretakers all have unique narrative voices, Blake was able to jump between these characters without beating me over the head with the POV change.

It also worked really well to hint that something was wrong with one of the queens. After being thrown into the center of the island, Katharine climbs her way back to life, but she is exponentially stronger than when she went in. Her coming back was suspicious enough, but with her gifts and personality change, the arch is even more intriguing. And because we’re distanced by the narrative instead of lead to experience it as we are in first person, we have the room to speculate what happened to her.

The second book is action-packed, full of betrayals, murder, and all sorts of scheming and the writing remains on par with the first one. We picked up right where the first book ended and missed no time at all.

Which is probably why the third book, Two Dark Reigns, has been such a turn-off. It seems months have passed, lives have happened, and an uprising, which was only hinted at before, has already started. Names of dead queens are dropped but we’d never heard of them before. Katharine has been scaring herself. The island’s mist, its defense system, is especially thick and eating people.

And I want to see when this happened. It may be that it’s in the companion novels but it’s barely recapped at the end of the series proper. We don’t see life on the mainland as the two queens who fled there are already on their way back at the beginning of book three, we don’t see the mist take its first life, we don’t see Jules come into her War Gift or accept her role as the Legion Cursed Queen, and we don’t even see her mother get captured–we just sort of find out that Katharine has managed to do so.

Overall, I did enjoy the series, but it peters out at the end, as so many books nowadays.

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

Bestseller and author of the popular middle grade series Confectionately Yours Lisa Papademetriou is back with a magical, page-turning adventure for readers of all ages—a touching tale about destiny and the invisible threads that link us all, ultimately, to one another.

Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page—and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila’s copy on the other side of the planet. Kai’s words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined.

A heartfelt, vividly told multicultural story about fate and how our stories shape it.

Magic is my favorite thing in a story. I get to see how it works in the universe and how it affects the characters. Magic in a modern day world, like the one in A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic, where cell phones and blogs make a regular appearance, always intrigues me. How will magic and technology interact? Will one negate the other, or will they work in highly unusual harmony?

I promise I’m not telling everyone how much I loved A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou because I met her during my first semester at Sierra Nevada College. It’s because the story of Kai and Leila is so heartfelt and runs much deeper than one might initially think.

Kai and Leila are both headstrong girls, lost in the surrounding newness they have found themselves in. Kai is on her own for the first time with her great-aunt in a town she’d never been to, and Leila is halfway across the world visiting family in Pakistan by herself for the first time. Then both girls find a magical book and a new story that connects them in an unusual and slightly magical way begins to unfold.

Leila gets herself into some trouble regarding a bad translation and a goat on her first time in town on her own. She has to find a way out of it and in the process changes from the self-conscious, self-doubting girl she was into a strong and well-rounded young girl.

Kai finds a friend with a strange obsession–moths, of all things!–and she finds the key to her friend’s success means revisiting her failures. When she travels down the hard path of her past, she finds it easier to navigate with a friend at her side.

I truly loved the interwoven stories of both Kai and Leila, not to mention the third story hidden within the Exquisite Corpse, the magic book. And while we don’t get a closed ending in A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic, we do get an open ending: there are plenty of things that could happen after the closing of the story, lots of places for the reader to imagine the possibilities that might befall Kai and Leila after their jaunt with the Exquisite Corpse is all said and done. The only question is whether it’ll be highly unusual, or highly magical.

Tricked

Things are changing at Fairy Tale Reform School.

At least, that’s what Gilly’s heard through the Enchantasia rumor mill. Word is, notorious trickster Rumpelstiltskin has taken over management from Headmistress Flora, and he’s locked down the school tighter than the Pied Piper’s pants. Not that this news concerns Gilly. She’s been released from FTRS and is now suffering through attending Jack of All Trades School, where she gets to learn about different kinds of shoe leather and ways to measure feet. Truly riveting stuff.

But when Gilly’s little sister Anna gets whisked off to FTRS thanks to her troublemaking new friends, Hansel and Gretel, Gilly knows she’s got to get Anna out of there. There’s only one thing to do; make some serious trouble and get thrown back into FTRS.

It’s time to out-trick a trickster.

Jen Calonita
Fairy Tale Reform School: Tricked
March 7, 2017

Tricked is everything you want in a middle-grade title–EVERYTHING!

If you’ve ever heard me talk about Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go, you know I’m passionate about middle-grade books that imitate and re-tell other stories (Go pick up Heck if you haven’t already.) So it should be no surprise when I tell you that this series needs a place on your shelves.

Because I requested and was approved for Book #3, I needed to run through books #1 and #2. Lucky for me, they were easy to listen to. Because the FTRS is fantasy, there is a lot of world-building, but we are never just told about it all. We learn so much about the world just by being it. I felt like I’d already been in Enchantasia, and that everything in this world was plausible.

From gargoyles to evil fairies, everything in this world is plausible. And everything is a pun that children and adults are sure to enjoy.

Jen’s quirk keeps up in all three installments. And we watch Gilly toggle back and forth between a likable quirky little thief-and an obnoxious little brat.

Tricked brings us back to FTRS to once again watch Gilly, Jax, Maxine, Ollie, and Kayla save the day. Flora, Cinderella’s formerly wicked ex-stepmother, is no longer the headmistress at Fairy Tale Reform School. She has been replaced by Mr. Stiltskin, and he is cracking down on the rules so hard that more children are being sent to FTRS than ever!

I guarantee this is a series you, your kids, your younger siblings, your classmates, and basically, anybody with a pulse will enjoy. I definitely recommend you run out to your nearest bookstore to pick up a copy. Right now.

The Okay Witch

Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Roller Girl in this hilarious, one-of-a-kind graphic novel about a half-witch who has just discovered the truth about herself, her family, and her town and is doing her best to survive middle school now that she knows everything!

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

In this spellbinding graphic novel debut, Emma Steinkellner spins a story packed with humor and heart about the weird and wonderful adventures of a witch-in-progress.

Emma Steinkellner, The Okay Witch
September 3, 2019

Maggie’s Review

I love all things witchy. And oh man, is The Okay Witch an amazing witchy coming-of-age story. Not only is the art in this graphic novel beautiful and colorful and expressive, but the story is endearing and magical all in one.

Moth is such a compelling character: a girl who’s an outsider and a bit of a weirdo, whose family holds an ancient secret that she only discovers when she accidentally steals the mouths right off the faces of a pair of bullies! MAGIC IS WONDERFUL.

Moth struggles to accept not just her new layer of weird–uncontrollable magic–but also grapples with her mother’s history and their hometown and how it all affects her family. And on top of it, she finally makes a new friend and now she’s got to come around to figuring out how to be a good friend and a good witch at the same time.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a talking cat that’s possessed by the spirit of Moth’s Russian neighbor? It’s all super cute and incredibly deep with twists and stellar worldbuilding.

The Okay Witch is a must-read for all witchy fans and graphic novel fans and just anyone who loves a cute, tries-her-best main character.

Jessica’s Review

The Okay Witch is adorable from start to finish. If you don’t love it for the art, you’ll love it for Moth and her journey of self-discovery.

Moth Hush is a weird, friendless outcast who discovers that her family isn’t at all what it seems. Putting magic in place for the consequences of our emotional outbursts, Moth literally steals the mouths right off some bullies’ faces.

The Okay Witch features all kinds of teenage witch favorites: talking cat, cool best friend, family secrets, and other realms.

I really loved watching Moth figure out the extent of her powers reveling in her triumphs and reacting to the uncontrollable nature of her magic. An especially empowering scene comes near the end when Moth decides to make a commitment to herself and her magic in her own way, telling both her mother and her grandmother that it’s hers to discover.

Which is a great coming-of-age message that no two people will get through the same experience in the same way.

The Okay Witch is a must-read for everyone, adults and kids.

Maggie’s rating:
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Jessica’s rating:
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟