E-Arc Review: The Castle School: For Troubled Girls by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Title: The Castle School: For Troubled Girls
Author: Alyssa Sheinmel
Genre: YA Contemporary / Mental Health
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!




“When Moira Dreyfuss’s parents announce that they’re sending her to an all-girls boarding school deep in the Maine woods, Moira isn’t fooled. She knows her parents are punishing her; she’s been too much trouble since her best friend, Nathan, died―and for a while before that. At the Castle School, isolated from the rest of the world, Moira will be expected to pour her heart out to the odd headmaster, Dr. Prince. But she isn’t interested in getting over Nathan’s death or befriending her fellow students.

On her first night there, Moira hears distant music. On her second, she discovers the lock on her window is broken. On her third, she and her roommate venture outside…and learn that they’re not so isolated after all. There’s another, very different, Castle School nearby―this one filled with boys whose parents sent them away, too.

Moira is convinced that the Castle Schools and the doctors who run them are hiding something. But exploring the schools will force Moira to confront her overwhelming grief―and the real reasons her parents sent her away.” (Goodreads)

I have read two other books by this author and although one was just an okay read, I figured why not read a third book.

This book was different than I expected as on netgalley it says “dark psychological contemporary”. To me, there was nothing dark or psychological about it. I think that is where part of my disconnect was with this story.

When it came to the characters, Moira is the MC and has the biggest point-of-view. The plot is mostly about her journey through grief from the loss of her best friend. It was interesting to read about her from start to finish. She goes through a lot of development along the way even if she questions the headmaster’s motives. I wouldn’t say I fully connected to her but it didn’t lessen my likeness for her.

There are other chapters about each girl who attends this school and covers how each one got there. I thought this was a nice touch since when they are first introduced we are told about what brought them there. Each one is dealing with a different issue. I like this added bonus but I also wish we got more from them throughout the plot. A few of the girls are more major than others but it just wasn’t enough for me.

One thing I like about this author is that she talks about mental health. In this day and age our mental health is more important than ever. I like seeing it discussed in YA books and I hope there will be a lot more books about it.

Overall, it was a good book. I didn’t fully connect to the story but I appreciate what the author wrote about and can see many enjoying this book.

CW: Self-Harm

E-Arc Review: A Wolf for a Spell by Karah Sutton

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Title: A Wolf for a Spell
Author: Karah Sutton
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy / Retelling
Publication Date: September 22nd, 2020
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this e-copy to review! All opinions are my own.

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon meets Pax in this fantastical tale of a wolf who forms an unlikely alliance with Baba Yaga to save the forest from a wicked tsar.

Since she was a pup, Zima has been taught to fear humans—especially witches—but when her family is threatened, she has no choice but to seek help from the witch Baba Yaga.

Baba Yaga never does magic for free, but it just so happens that she needs a wolf’s keen nose for a secret plan she’s brewing… Before Zima knows what’s happening, the witch has cast a switching spell and run off into the woods, while Zima is left behind in Baba Yaga’s hut—and Baba Yaga’s body!

Meanwhile, a young village girl named Nadya is also seeking the witch’s help, and when she meets Zima (in Baba Yaga’s form), they discover that they face a common enemy. With danger closing in, Zima must unite the wolves, the witches and the villagers against an evil that threatens them all.” (Goodreads)

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This was a fun and adventurous MG! Plus, I really enjoy the illustration of the cover as well as the artwork that was included in the book throughout.

A Wolf for a Spell has different point-of-views that we follow throughout the book: a wolf named Zima, Baba Yaga, and a girl named Nadya. Each of their story connects to one bigger plot that involves the tsar.

I liked each character that was introduced, especially the ones with the PoV. Each one has to make certain choices and some of those choices don’t have great consequences. I liked that Zima was willing to sacrifice a lot for the sake of keeping one of her friends alive. It shows great bravery and friendship to do that.

There are definitely many Baba Yaga retellings throughout the year. I don’t remember reading one so I can’t say how it compares to others but I did enjoy who she was in this particular story.

The plot is very adventurous and the pacing was nice. It wasn’t too fast nor too slow. The setting was pretty enchanting but I do wish there was a bit more setting development.

Overall, I liked this one. It was a good MG and I can see many loving this story especially if they are familiar with Baba Yaga, enjoy a good MG, or like multiple PoVs.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

E-Arc Review: The Bright and the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski

Title: The Bright and the Pale
Author: Jessica Rubinkowski
Genre: YA Fantasy / Retellings / Russian Folklore
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Quill Tree Books

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!




“Seventeen-year-old Valeria is one of the only survivors of the freeze, a dark magical hold Knnot Mountain unleashed over her village. Everyone, including her family, is trapped in an unbreakable sheet of ice. Ever since, she’s been on the run from the Czar, who is determined to imprison any who managed to escape. Valeria finds refuge with the Thieves Guild, doing odd jobs with her best friend Alik, the only piece of home she has left.

That is, until he is brutally murdered.

A year later, she discovers Alik is alive and being held against his will. To buy his freedom, she must lead a group of cutthroats and thieves on a perilous expedition to the very mountain that claimed her family. Only something sinister slumbers in the heart of Knnot.

And it has waited years for release.

CW: death of a family member, discrimination, childhood trauma, work camps(Goodreads)

This book was definitely a mixed bag. There were some interesting moments but there was also too much that I didn’t like or just left me with questions.

From the beginning of the book I just felt like something was missing. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was but it just felt off and it could have been because the beginning almost seems like we are already in the middle of things and the plot has already begun in a sense. There isn’t a lot of time to form bonds with the characters before plot twists happen which then make me feeling nothing. This happened a lot for me.

It could also be because a lot of the characters were flat and even the main character, Valeria, had development issues as well. She is the strongest of the characters but I also never formed a connection to her. Her moods also changed rather quickly and sometimes it just felt like too much because she would quickly jump to conclusions.

When it came to the romance, there really isn’t anything to say about it. It was lackluster. Valeria would think about kissing him one minute and the next she couldn’t possibly understand where he is coming from when it comes to his thinking. She could never process that maybe she could be wrong about the argument they would always get into even though as the reader it was easy to tell. The love interest was flat and it made it hard to feel anything for him. Since this is a duology, I know there will be more between them in the next book but because I didn’t feel anything, even though the ending had a cliffhanger, I have no interest in continuing.

The world building was interesting and I think was the best part of the book. I did like reading about where Valeria came from and the curse. I do wish there would have been more about the Brother gods from the beginning but I’m sure they will have a much bigger part in the next book.

Overall, it was okay but just not enough to sway me to like it. I think some readers may like it if they like lighter fantasy.

Manga Review: I Want to Eat Your Pancreas by Yoru Sumino & Izumi Kirihara

Title: I Want to Eat Your Pancreas
Author: Yoru Sumino & Izumi Kirihara (Illustrator)
Genre: Manga/ YA Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: June 17th, 2015
Publisher: Seven Seas




A Bittersweet Romance

In this deeply moving first-person story, an introverted high school boy finds his classmate’s diary―and learns her biggest secret. Yamauchi Sakura is dying from a pancreatic disease and now he is the only one person outside her family to know the truth. The last thing the boy wants is to be her friend, but Sakura’s cheerful demeanor and their shared secret draw them together in this heartrending tale of friendship and mortality.” (Goodreads)

To be honest I don’t know why I did this to myself. I knew going into this one that there was a 99.9% chance I would cry. Let me tell you, I cried. I cried a lot! Bittersweet romance? More like “rip your heart out” or this case “pancreas”.

I can’t remember why I had this one on my tbr. I’m pretty sure it came from a review on here and sadly, the book has been sitting on my shelf unread for over a year. Even though there was crying, I still very much loved this manga.

Yamauchi Sakura is dying but no matter what, she doesn’t act like it. She lives her life to the fullest and still carries on like everything is normal. She even goes as far as not telling her closest friends. It must have been such a hard life to only have your family know until one boy comes along and changes everything. I loved her character and honestly, I can learn a thing or two when it comes to the way she looks at life.

The boy is an introvert who reads books. That is so me and it was easy to understand his world. His world does get rocked when Yamauchi Sakura talks to him for the first and nothing is ever the same after that. He may have a bleak outlook on life and for the people around him but it’s amazing how one friendship can change your perspective.

The bond they shared was wonderful.

Obviously this manga deals with death. With that subject also comes talks about living your life and enjoying the moments you have. It also talks about love but it isn’t the main focus. Everything is just so well done. It’s easy to feel so many things while reading this.

One thing that is interesting about this manga is that you don’t even know the male character’s name until the very end. He is called all different things and there is a real special meaning behind why it wasn’t ever said and after the crying, which it also made me cry 😂, there was also happiness. It was a beautiful moment.

I feel like my review really means nothing because it is hard to put my feelings into words when it comes to this one. It’s just a powerfully, beautiful book.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (2/23/21)

Hello, Lovely Bookworms!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

Today’s prompt is Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud. It doesn’t happen often where I laugh because of a book, but when it does it’s simply the best! But to be honest, I think book make me cry more than anything, haha. This list took me a bit to compile.

1.) Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winter

2.) Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimura

3.) The Devil Does Exist by Mitsuba Takanashi (whole manga series)

4.) Maid-Sama by Hiro Fujiwara (whole manga series)

5.) The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones (silly goat!)

6.) Yona of the Dawn by Mizuho Kusanagi (whole manga series(Specifically this volume!))

7.) Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher

8.) The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

9.) Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Sarah Morganthaler

10.) The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

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What book made you laugh out loud?

Let me know in the comments below!

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Audiobook Review: Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) by Alwyn Hamilton

Title: Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: March 7th, 2017
Publisher: Viking




Rebel by chance. Traitor by choice.

Gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.

When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about Djinn and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.” (Goodreads)

When it came to the first book in the series, I liked it but it wasn’t a favorite or anything. I still was keen on listening to the second book because from other reviews it seemed that the series ramps up. Boy, did it!

Amani finds herself in a lot of tough situations and old faces reappear but no one is always as they seem. I will say that at times Amani did annoy me a bit, especially in the beginning. This book starts two months after the first one ended and she has now grown into her powers. My problem is that I have a hard time with any character who is overally cocky with their abilities, especially when it’s only been two months. It just doesn’t seem like enough time especially when you had just found out about it. I don’t know if characters like this annoy anyone else or maybe it’s just a me thing, haha. Either way, I still liked her for the most part and she got better the further I got in the book.

There are new characters that grace the pages and some that have only been talked about but never present, like the Sultan. What a guy he is! My opinion of him kept changing because at times he was very suave but obviously anyone who wants power isn’t going to be a total dillweed every second of everyday. He does some wild things that I wasn’t prepared for!

The other characters continued to have good development. I have so many characters I like in here and I hope that the last book is kind to them.

One thing I did like about the previous book was the talk about the Djinn. It’s all so interesting and there were stories to talk about the first mortals as well. It helped to solidify the world in a sense and helped me understand it all better.

The plot consists of a lot of action, bits of romance, and an insane amount of plot twists that had me quite surprised. I’m glad that they were stretched out but most happening over the halfway mark. They kept me engaged and it was hard to stop listening because I needed to know what would happen next. I will say that the romance still isn’t a favorite because it just seemed rushed but I don’t hate it so that’s a plus.

Overall, it was a great sequel and I am looking forward to the last book in the series.

Goodreads: The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

Hello Readers!

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off.

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Title: The Ivory Key
Author: Akshaya Raman
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: January 4th, 2022
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

“In this epic YA fantasy debut, magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war. When magic runs out, four estranged royal siblings must find a new source before their country is swallowed by invading forces. The first in an Indian-inspired duology that’s perfect for fans of There Will Come a DarknessThe Gilded Wolves, and We Hunt the Flame.(Goodreads)

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I stumbled across this book while browsing Netgalley and I am in love with the cover and the blurb (even if it’s short!). It sounds like a great fantasy. I honestly didn’t realize it doesn’t come out until next year. Hopefully I will be lucky enough to be approved because I want it! 😍

Does this one sound like something you would read?

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Audiobook Review: Midnight Bites (The Morganville Vampires #16) by Rachel Caine

Title: Midnight Bites (The Morganville Vampires #16)
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: YA Paranormal / Fantasy
Publication Date: March 1st, 2016
Publisher: NAL




New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine presents a collection of stories—including six new tales—featuring the little Texas town that’s overrun by the undead.

WELCOME TO MORGANVILLE.
YOU’LL NEVER WANT TO LEAVE.

By day, Morganville, Texas, is just a typical college town. By night, the vampires emerge and take control….

In a town where it’s not safe to be out after dark, student Claire Danvers and her friends have had their fair share of thrills. But Morganville still has a few secrets left to tell.

Now, in this collection, you can venture down the town’s strange streets, revisit all the tales you’ve come to love, and experience six new stories featuring your favorite Morganville residents—both human and vampire…” (Goodreads)

Even though this technically isn’t a part of the actual series, I am still labeling it #16 because it does give us more depth to the characters that have introduced throughout the series.

I will say that I didn’t like every short story and honestly, it’s just hard to for me to get into a collection of short stories. Some characters, like Myrnin, I did enjoy hearing more about and we also got a glimpse into his past and who he was before coming to Morganville. He has always been one of my favorite characters. There are other characters, like Jesse aka Lady Gray, who wasn’t introduced until the last two books but we did get to see a softer side to her in a couple short stories.

Overall, it was good but I know that most of it won’t stick with me. It has nothing to do with the book itself. I always enjoy this author’s writing.

Weekly Update (2/21/21)

Hello Lovely Bookworms!

It’s me again!

This week has been a whirldwind!

I am still dealing with adulting stuff and sometimes it can just stress me out. I also haven’t read much and that is because A Court of Silver Flames was a long book and honestly, I just wasn’t feeling it. 🤷‍♀️ I think I am over the SJM craze. I am now reading a classics and well, those are just hard to get through in general, haha.

I have been playing a lot of World of Warcraft. It’s probably because of slower books and my interest for them have been non-existent.

I hope you all have been doing great this weekend!

Blog Posts From This Week:

Books Finished This Week:

  • The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer (audiobook)
  • A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas (ebook)
  • A Pho Love Story by Loan Le (ebook)

Currently Reading:

  • Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (audiobook)
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
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How was your week? Did you do anything fun over the weekend? Read anything good this week? Let me know in the comments!

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Book Review: August and Everything After by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

Title: August and Everything After
Author: Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Genre: YA Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: May 1st, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire




Summer on the New Jersey shore offers Quinn a new start at life and love, but only if she can come to terms with her past

Graduation can’t come soon enough. Desperate for a fresh start, Quinn is eager to escape to her aunt’s house on the New Jersey shore for the summer…away from teenage drama and having to answer everyone’s questions about “what comes next” after high school.

Quinn can’t bear to focus on the future. She doesn’t even think she deserves one—not after her best friend died in a car accident that Quinn feels responsible for. But when Quinn meets Malcolm, a musician who has been trying to escape his own demons, she starts to believe in second chances.” (Goodreads)

I picked this one up from the Dollar Tree because it sounded good and how can you go wrong when it’s a dollar? Even though I went into this a bit unsure for the very reason of it being a dollar, haha, I still was a bit disappointed by this book.

From the beginning, we are introduced to Quinn who is staying with her aunt over the summer because of trouble back home. She falls in love easily and the boys never feel the same. They just want to hit it and quit it.. Quinn also almost gets squished to death by a tree while locking lips with her student teacher. It’s not really what I want to read at the beginning of a book. Or maybe I do because then I could DNF. Teacher/student relationships is a no-go subject for me. Even though this is the case I still went on hoping the book would get better and I was reading it for a read-a-thon.

The plot is filled with a lot of drama and harsh topics that feel glossed over and only used for the sake of the plot and to give some form of twist but I just wasn’t in love with how everything played out. The topics included miscarriage, student/teacher relationships, death of friends, and drug/alcohol addiction. At times I did find myself being okay with the plot and characters but then it would become filled with drama again and I’d just lose interest.

I was hoping to feel something for the romance but sadly it was insta-love followed by “I’m not ready. I can’t be in a relationship” and her getting a broken heart again. The buildup for the romance wasn’t there and I felt no connection towards it. I could have cared less if they stayed together or not. The love interest is meh and I feel like Quinn could have done better.

As someone who enjoys endings that wrap things up, this one just didn’t work for me. I feel like it was somewhat of a happy ending but also there wasn’t much for a conclusion when it came to them.

Overall, this was okay but sadly not for me.