Review: The Night Country by Melissa Albert

Title: The Night Country

Author: Melissa Albert

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Length: 352 pages

Genre: fantasy

Publication Date: January 7, 2020

Source: NetGalley

Alice Proserpine has escaped the fairy tale world, the Hinterland, where she was created. Now, she lives in New York with her mother and other escapees. Now, though, something is killing ex-Stories and taking their body parts. Worse, all evidence points to Alice. Desperate to find out what is happening, Alice decides to investigate, and finds that the deaths may serve a larger purpose. Meanwhile, Ellery Finch slips out of the fading Hinterland into worlds he’d only dreamed of all while hoping to find a way back home.

I highly enjoyed this book and tore through it with great enthusiasm. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more than The Hazel Wood. It moves quickly and dives right into the action. I liked Alice trying to first navigate the two worlds by being with the others from the Hinterland and our world, and then rejecting the her Hinterland heritage and past. Of course, that would never work and the Hinterland comes to her with a vengeance.

I liked the new characters, especially Sophia. I loved her back story and wish we could have gotten more of her. Daphne was another interesting character, but she was quite scary. I especially liked all the children characters, because they were creepy, like all good fairy tale children should be. The Trio was amazing.

I do feel it was a little rushed, even at it’s length. I would have liked to see more of Finch’s journey and get more of him. There’s something he does that’s really interesting, but I wish there had been more of it. There wasn’t enough. I also would have liked to see more of Alice’s life before it all started falling apart. It would have helped to see more of her normalcy. Or, maybe she never really had any.

Despite all that, I really did enjoy the book. I thought it was a strong follow up to The Hazel Wood.

Yes, I would. If you liked The Hazel Wood, I think you’ll enjoy this. If you enjoy creepy fairy tales and seeing them try to integrate into our world, then this book will entertain you. It’s a solidly written book with amazing characters and a great plot.

Review: Fable by Michele Packard

Title: Fable: Matti Baker

Author: Michele Packard

Publisher: I’m not sure

Publication Date: May 20, 2019

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Matti Baker is a contract operator trained in counter terrorism by Freddy, a man she’s never met face to face, but who has been in her life since she was a child. Coming off a mission in which she was badly injured and lost an entire year to recovery, all she wants is some time with her husband and three kids. But someone is after some important vials and she’s back on the hunt, read to stop a conspiracy that will start a world-wide genocide.

So, that’s what I think it’s about, but even after reading the whole thing, I’m not entirely sure what the plot was. There was something some vials that she’s been protecting since she was a child. There was a conspiracy with a group of identical twins. And, yeah, that’s all I got.

Needless to say, I did not really like this book. First off, it was almost entirely tell-not-show. I felt like I was being bombarded with information, much of it irrelevant to the actual plot. There were long diversions where Matti recalled previous missions with her friend, Bethany, or retold the entirety of the first book, which, although that was sort of helpful, since I didn’t read the first book, also felt a little like the beginning The Baby-Sitter’s Club book, where the formation of the club and backstory of each girl is recounted.

Then, there’s the dialogue. At no time did I feel like any of it was actual words people would speak. It was so stilted and false and just… ugh. There was also the constant references: movies, TVs, songs being brought up on every other page. It was incredibly distracting and annoying. The dialgoue tags annoyed me as well. You can’t smirk a sentence (i.e. “What are you doing there, big boy,” I smirked.). No. Put a period at the end of that sentence and then smirk.

The plot was nonsensical. I literally don’t know what I read. I know at some point she went to Antarctica, but I don’t know why or what happened there because it was one chapter and no one talked the entire time. She was on some kind of tour, but who the other people were, I have no idea. I know there’s some kind of conspiracy, but I don’t know what it was about.

Also, I didn’t like Matti very much. I was very excited at the beginning, because I thought she was going to be a female Joe Ledger, but she’s just a handful of stereotypes slapped on with a veneer of “I’m not like other girls” and “humor” that only see seems to find amusing. Overall, this was a very disappointing and frustrating read.

No. Absolutely not, even if you’re looking for a book with a bad ass female character. Go to the mystery section of your library or bookstore and look there; there are much better and more coherently written bad ass women there.

ARC Review: Fledgling by Molly Harper

Title: Fledgling (Sorcery and Society #2)

Author: Molly Harper

Publisher: INscribe Digital

Length: 267 pages

Publication Date: July 23, 2019

Source: NetGalley

Sarah Smith is finally getting the hang of posing as an upper-class, Guardian born girl named Cassandra Reed. Attending Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies, she’s expanding her circle of friends, defeating carnivorous unicorns, and continuing her courtship with her best friend, Alicia’s, brother, Gavin. Unfortunately, other parts of her life aren’t going so well. The Mother Book has stopped revealing itself to her, and the Senate is pressing her for more spells. Not only that, she has a chilling vision involving other Changeling children.

She and her friends Alicia and Ivy decide to work together to find the missing children. There are rumors of a school for Changeling children in the Weeping Mountains. Luckily, Alicia’s family has a holiday home there and invites the other girls to come along. But her overbearing mother makes it difficult to find time to search for the children. And what can they do if they find them?

I didn’t realize this was the second book in a series when I requested it on NetGalley. Luckily, the author does a good job setting up the world and explaining important events from the first book, so I wasn’t too lost. In fact, I enjoyed this book so much, I plan to go back and read the first one as soon as possible.

I really liked Sarah a lot. She’s smart and funny and cares deeply about the people around her. I liked how the first part of the book focused on her building community with her classmates. She also discovers a secret about her maid and reacts with caring and concern. I love the relationship with her and her friends. They felt very real and natural.

I’m intrigued by the society that Molly Harper has set up in these books. The magic users, or Guardians, are the elite class and the others, Snipes, are their servants and workers. However, sometimes Snipes have powers, which could be the undoing of the repressive system the Guardians have set up. At the same time, the Guardians aren’t all bad. It’s very nuanced and well thought out.

This is a very fun book for fans of the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger and Harry Potter. It’s also a great story for people looking for a large female cast. I look forward to reading more in the series.

ARC Review: Spellbound

Title: Spellbound

Author: Allie Therin

Publisher: Carina Press

Release Date: July 29, 2019

Source: NetGalley

Rory Brodigan has a gift: he can see the history of an object. The danger is he can sometimes get trapped in the history of an object and lose time, sometimes even days. When the woman he works for brings an object locked in a box and tells him the client, Arthur Kenzie said not to look at it yet, Rory’s curiosity is too great and he takes a peak. A very overwhelming peak.

Arthur is, at first, bemused by the young man who comes to him in a fury, but when he realizes what happened, his protective instincts are engaged. Having dedicated his life to protecting the world from dangerous objects and people with powers, protecting Rory comes naturally to him. Rory, however, vehemently doesn’t want to be protected. That doesn’t stop him from behind powerfully attracted to Arthur, an attraction that is returned.

Now a dangerous magical object is on the way to New York. Word of Rory’s powers have gotten out and he’s in danger. Now, Arthur and Rory have to come together to protect the city and each other.

So, I love this book. It is not only really well written, but the characters are just delightful. All of them. Even the villains were incredibly sympathetic and you kind of wanted to give them hugs even though they were trying to do horrible things. Arthur was amazing; I’m a sucker for hero who wants to protect everyone around him. He’s very well named and made me think of King Arthur in his best incarnation. Rory was wonderful, too. A young man, dealing with incredible powers and battling well-founded fears as a result.

This book also had a couple of my favorite tropes. One is a little spoilery, so I won’t say it, but the other is when characters call each other by special names. Not nicknames, but secret, earned names that just they can get away with calling the other person by. I just melt when that happens.

In summary: great plot that moves along at a great pace and keeps you wanting to read more, fantastic characters, good use of historical events (specifically Prohibition) and a good sense of atmosphere. This is definitely a series I’ll be keeping my eye on and following as it unfolds.

ARC Review: An American Duchess

Title: An American Duchess

Author: Caroline Fyffe

Source: NetGalley

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

When Beranger Northcott arrives to take his rightful place as Duke of Brightshire, the entire household is turned on its head by his new wife, Emma. Emma is an American from Colorado. Overnight, she’s gone from working on a ranch to being a duchess. Although she wants to do her best to fit into society and with Beranger’s family, she finds no welcome from his stepmother and stepsister. Instead, she befriends an orphaned girl named Charlotte, who’s taking her cousin’s place in as a scullery maid until her cousin is well again. They quickly become close, which is a solace to Emma as she finds the household more and more unfriendly as time goes on. Will Emma ever feel at home in England, or was marrying a duke and sailing away from her family a mistake?

I wanted to like this book, and for the first half, I was enjoying it. I liked Emma and Charlotte a lot. They both had interesting personalities and inner lives. I liked the way Charlotte was unfailingly polite and gracious when people were cruel to her–and they often were. I also liked Emma’s relationship with Beranger. You could really see the love and why she’d made the choices that she had.

The problem was, about halfway through, it just seemed too many unbelievable things happened. Without going into too much detail, it was all a little too contrived. I also didn’t like the resolutions to either mystery that crops up in the story. The writing also kind of unraveled and the characters became a little samey sounding. It just felt silly and pointless and by the end, I was irritated and glad to be done.

The strength of this novel are the characters and their relationships with each other, but the events and plot are very thin and ultimately not very enjoyable.


ARC Review: Play it Again by Aidan Wayne

Title: Play it Again

Author: Aidan Wayne

Publisher: Carina Press

Source: NetGalley

Format: e-book

Publish Date: April 22, 2019


Dovid (Duh-vid) Rosenstein is a popular YouTuber who, along with his sister, Rachel, runs “Don’t Look Now.” When he becomes obsessed with an adorable let’s player named Sam, he plugs Sam on his channel, wanting him to get more views. Sam, a shy gamer from Ireland, is baffled when his channel is suddenly flooded with new viewers and subscribers. When he thanks Dovid on his channel, it leads to a series of DMs between the two men, which leads to texting, which leads to phone calls, which leads…

They may be in two different countries, but soon Dovid and Sam find themselves becoming more and more attracted to one another. But can a long-distance relationship between two people who’ve never met in person really work?

This was a very cute book and a sweet read. I liked both characters, but Sam was definitely my favorite. I found his anxiety and shyness to be very real. Not that Dovid wasn’t real, too! They were both realistic and well-written. I liked seeing their relationship grow from a one-sided admiration, to mutual admiration, to attraction, and eventually to love.

As cute as it was, the writing style didn’t work as well for me. All the YouTube bits seems stilted and unnatural. I’m not sure if it was simply the nature of trying to translate a visual medium to text or if the writer just didn’t convey it well enough. I also found the plot to be a little simplistic. There wasn’t much conflict or tension. It was a sweet slice of life, but it was a lot of Sam and Dovid just talking or thinking about how much they liked each other. Sam had a lot of problems with his job and his family, but we don’t see it; we’re just told about it when he talks to Dovid. It might have been interesting to see some of those conversation and really get a feeling of how horrible his family way. I don’t know. It just seemed all too easy, when it came down to it.

Overall, while I liked this book, I found it a little boring because of the lack of tension and conflict. If you’re looking for an easy, sweet book without much conflict, than this definitely is the book to pick up.

ARC Review: The Stone Rainbow by Liane Shaw

Title: The Stone Rainbow

Author: Liane Shaw

Source: NetGalley

Publisher: Second Story Press

Publication Date: September 17, 2019

Jack is a gay boy living in a small town. Although there are rumors circulating about his sexuality, he is in the closet to everyone but a few friends and his mother. Even though his friends and mom try to understand and accept him, things are awkward and uncomfortable and Jack feels alienated. Then, a boy named Benjamin moves to town and Jack finds himself intensely attracted. After a brush with near tragedy, Jack decides he can’t hide who he is anymore and decides to make a statement to himself, his friends, and his own.

I really liked this book a lot. Jack and his struggles felt very real to me. I totally understand what it feels like to come out and not be understood, or to declare who you are and not be accepted. I also loved his relationship with Benjamin. They were very high school, but it felt natural and real the way they interacted. The whole book was very authentic and full of real feelings.

I liked, too, that Jack was gay in a way I haven’t seen very much in YA recently. He wants to be fabulous and wear pretty clothes. Part of his coming out is gaining the courage to dress the way he wants and sparkle and shine.

I also really liked that the characters were very complex. There were characters who were kind homophobic when they talked but then took a stand for what was right and actually followed through and made choices that for them was tough. They were nuanced and, while not very likable, very real and ultimately admirable in their way.

This was an charming, realistic, and uplifting book about a boy coming of age and growing. It’s about a family who comes to not only love him but accept him and about a community coming together in pride.

Five out of five stars