Arc Review: Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1) by Lori M. Lee

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Title: Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1)
Author: Lori M. Lee
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: June 23rd, 2020
Publisher: PageStreet YA
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher for giving me a copy to review. All opinions are my own.

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Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.” (Goodreads)

Edit: Just finished my reread of it as I get ready to start the sequel. I tried the audiobook at first but it was rather dull and I lost interest in reading it so I went back to physically reading my copy. I would say my opinion is still the same although I may have liked it just a tad bit more.

Original Review:

As a most anticipated read I was so excited for to finally have my hands on it early! I screamed when opening it because dang, that cover is everything! The thing is, this is an interesting read for various reasons but I was just expecting there to be a moment that would send me to the next level in my emotions but it just never came to fruition.

Sirscha is a girl that has come from nothing. She was orphaned and raise to be a soldier but even with gaining some rank, there are those who want to see her stay beneath them. I am always a fan of the underdog trope. It makes for great character development. I also like that Sirscha feels real. Her choices aren’t always the best and sometimes she does before she thinks. I’m curious to see how her development will continue in the next book.

Sirscha has a wonderful friend, Saengo. There is a lot that happens between them but it also pulls them closer together. I am always here for a great friendship! I can see how they could be compared to Safiya and Iseult because just like them, Sirscha and Saengo are more than just friends.

The other characters weren’t as memorable for me. I feel like the two males that could potentially cause a love triangle (maybe?) will have more to do in book two with the plot. I am hoping so because their development just lacked a bit for me but I did enjoy what I read so far about them.

As for the plot, I’m glad that it centers around friendship and not romance. Sometimes the romance can make or break it but there is just something about a bond where the friends are more like sisters. There are definitely some twists that I wasn’t expecting and I’m curious to see how it will all play out. My only two complaints when it came to the plot was the pacing and just feeling like I needed more.

It was hard to fully immerse myself in the beginning because it is pretty slow during the first 100+ pages. Whenever something did happen, I was waiting for that spark or, in music terms, that drop where it would just take me to that next level.

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The world building is cool and I love the magic system. There is a awesome glossary in the front of the book that helps explain the kingdoms and what the different magics are. It was very helpful.

Overall, it’s a good YA Fantasy with an interesting setting and magic system but I’m hoping that the sequel will give me that next level I am looking for.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

DNF Review: The Roommate by Rosie Danan

Title: The Roommate
Author: Rosie Danan
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: September 15th, 2020
Publisher: Berkley
Rating: DNF

House Rules:
Do your own dishes.
Knock before entering the bathroom.
Never look up your roommate online.

The Wheatons are infamous among the east coast elite for their lack of impulse control, except for their daughter Clara. She’s the consummate socialite: over-achieving, well-mannered, predictable. But every Wheaton has their weakness. When Clara’s childhood crush invites her to move cross-country, the offer is too much to resist. Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true.

After a bait-and-switch, Clara finds herself sharing a lease with a charming stranger. Josh might be a bit too perceptive—not to mention handsome—for comfort, but there’s a good chance he and Clara could have survived sharing a summer sublet if she hadn’t looked him up on the Internet…

Once she learns how Josh has made a name for himself, Clara realizes living with him might make her the Wheaton’s most scandalous story yet. His professional prowess inspires her to take tackling the stigma against female desire into her own hands. They may not agree on much, but Josh and Clara both believe women deserve better sex. What they decide to do about it will change both of their lives, and if they’re lucky, they’ll help everyone else get lucky too.” (Goodreads)

This review will contain spoilers since it was a dnf and there are specific reasons as to why I didn’t like this one.

I read this as a buddy read with a friend from bookstagram and even though she reads steamier books than I do, we agreed that this book just didn’t work for the same reasons. We have been two for two with sharing the same opinions!

Obviously if you know me, I don’t like steamy books. Call me a prude. I do! But, it’s just not what interests me. I want to see the relationship blossom and give me all the giddy feelings. If you like steam, that’s fine. I’m not knocking on anyone’s likes. The problem with this one is that there was no connection before it all started happening. They were still feeling each other out as roommates and all of a sudden it was just, “Let’s get to it!”.

The guys in this book are also one dimensional. They can be dillweeds for the most part and just didn’t have me feeling any way towards them besides yuck.

Another reason for not liking this book was that the main guy lead, Josh, is a porn star. If you are into that, cool. For me as a reader, I just don’t see how the relationship can work out especially if that is the only thing he has going for him. Clara also learns about his job through her aunt which is kind of weird.

The one thing I did like was that Clara was finding out who she was when she leaves her family behind and moves to a different state. She may have had the wrong ideas for moving but at least she was making a name for herself.

Overall, I am just not the right reader for this book. It did sound interesting but it was more about everything else than it was at them being roommates and it felt that it was just steamy and everything else was just thrown in around that.

Arc Review: Shielded by KayLynn Flanders

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Title: Shielded
Author: KayLynn Flanders
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley for review. All opinions are my own.

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For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.” (Goodreads)

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I really loved the cover for this one. I don’t always enjoy people on the cover but the blue background really pulls it all in and I am a sucker for blue books. The premise is pretty simple and gives just enough to interest me. I did generally like the book but there were things that left me wanting more.

Jenna is a princess except she has grown up wielding a sword. There isn’t too much said about her life because things move quickly and soon she is out the door headed to reach her betrothed’s home. Through the journey there is more shown about her personality, including how brave she is. So many things happen to her and yet she clings to wanting to survive.

There are many characters introduced from the beginning. Through certain circumstances it felt like many would be done away but this author knows how to add the element of surprise! I never saw any of it coming. My one complaint about the characters was that there wasn’t much time to form any feelings towards them so I didn’t connect with the story in that way.

The book is also split between two point-of-views. It was confusing at first because I wasn’t really sure what the second point-of-view had to do with anything but as the book continues on everything starts to unravel and makes sense. (I mean that’s how it usually works but sometimes I’m just scattered brain, haha!) I’m not really sure if I enjoyed the split point-of-view or not.

The relationship that is formed was fine but nothing that made me want to root for them. At least it wasn’t insta-love.

Although there are parts that can be slow, there is quite a bit of action. The plot is pretty intriguing and the twists, as stated already, were very surprising. They did keep my interest going. I think that the ending was fine and it did set the stage for the next book.

Overall, it was a good debut and I am curious to see what book two has in store.

Book Review: The Mask of Aribella by Anna Hoghton

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Title: The Mask of Aribella
Author: Anna Hoghton
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publishing Date: January 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Chicken House
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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“On the eve of her birthday, Aribella discovers she has a secret power – when angered, flames shoot from her fingertips.

Frightened, she runs away, only to be rescued by a magical organization of masked heroes with their own special skills. Aribella and her new friends have sworn to defend Venice, but can they defeat the evil rising from the Island of the Dead?

A captivating middle-grade fantasy in the entrancing setting of historical Venice.” (Goodreads)

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Did I buy this book from Book Depository because of the cover? Why yes, yes I did!

I was on there to buy a version of Dracula and stumbled upon this beauty. MG books are always a nice break from YA or Adult titles and this one in particular had an interesting blurb. The more I look at this cover, the more I see of all the details included like the mask. It took me long enough to see it, haha.

This was a fun read and it had a few important lessons that we can all take something from.

Aribella is like any other child her age, except on the day that everything changes. There are many books out there that has a kid come into their powers on a certain birthday. Although that is nothing new, I still liked her story and where her powers took her. She is also very brave, kind, and knows that friendship/family is very important.

One cool aspects about the powers found within the pages of this book is that they use masks to help control their powers. The masks can also shadow them from others as well. I seriously need one of those for when I am reading!

There are also cool companions like a cat and a bat. Both are animals that I like so it made it even better. Gondolas were given to certain mask wearers and when they are done using them and docked, they slip under the water to sleep. Never heard of that before, ha.

When it came to the plot, I thought it was really interesting. There is magic, friendship, plot twists, and its all within a cool setting. I don’t think I have read a book that takes place in Venice. As the plot went on some plot twists weren’t as surprising because everything started to come together in my head but I still liked them nonetheless.

Obviously this book has a lot to do with friendship and finding a place where you belong. I think that many kids struggle with this and this book does a good job with the topic at hand. There is also a moment where Aribella gets her mask but it isn’t what she imagined. It is ugly and not as beautiful as the others she had seen. This is a good metaphor for how we see ourselves and others. She does learn to finally accept who she is and it was a great moment.

Overall, I’m glad I didn’t wait too long to pick this one up after purchasing it. It definitely was a satisfying MG fantasy.

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-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Arc Review: Far from Normal by Becky Wallace

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Title: Far from Normal
Author: Becky Wallace
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: September 22d, 2020
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher for a arc in exchange for review. All opinions are my own.

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From Stealing Home author Becky Wallace comes a Devil Wears Prada-inspired YA romance, in which “normal girl” Maddie must repair the image of Major League Soccer’s bad boy to ace her internship. A perfect read for fans of Morgan Matson and Miranda Kenneally.

Maddie McPherson is sick of Normal—both her hometown of Normal, Illinois and being the ‘normal’ sibling. But when she lands a summer internship with a sports marketing firm, she finally has a chance to crawl out of her genius brother’s shadow. Not to mention, a glowing letter of recommendation could secure her admission to her dream college.

But Maddie’s nickname is “CalaMaddie” for a reason, and when the company tasks her with repairing the image of teen soccer phenom Gabriel Fortunato, she wonders if she’s set herself up for embarrassment. Gabriel is a tabloid magnet, who’s best-known for flubbing Italy’s World Cup hopes. As Maddie works with him to develop “pleasant and friendly” content for social media, she also learns he’s thoughtful, multi-talented, and fiercely loyal—maybe even to a fault. Falling for a footballer is exactly how CalaMaddie would botch this internship, but with the firm pressuring her to get the job done, perhaps her heart is worth risking? (Goodreads)

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This is one of my favorite covers for YA Contemporary books this year. It might be because there is a boxer on the cover and I just love them! The blurb is also great and anything that is Devil Wears Prada-inspired, sign me up!

As I read this book I could totally picture it in my head as a movie. It has a meet-cute that is pretty embarrassing but it’s always nice to see the main character not be perfect. It adds to the realisticness (not a word but whatevs 🤣) of Maddie. She was very entertaining to read about and I absolutely adored the relationship she had with her brother. It reminded me a lot of my siblings.

Gabriel is firecracker that needs to learn what it means to stay out of the spotlight. I honestly wasn’t impressed with him in the beginning but as the story progressed, we get to see the softer side of him. He is a very vulnerable cinnamon roll and I just lived for the moments where he was authentically himself!

I definitely see where this has Devil Wears Prada vibes. It doesn’t have a hard-to-please boss but it does have a girl who definitely fits the mean girl type. I actually didn’t mind Mara aka the mean girl. I think how this quote from the book really put into perspective how villains of the story really are:

“The best villains have justifiable reasons for being awful. You have to remember that this Mara person is the hero of her own life.”

This is a pretty short read but the author does a good job of packing a lot into the plot without it feeling like its too much. There isn’t anything I didn’t like about it.

Now to the romance. Saving the best for last!

It is a slow-burn that gives you all the feels. I couldn’t help but root for them! He slowly lets her into his world and the moments between them were just the sweetest. Ugh! 💕 Obviously with every relationship comes its troubles but it was nicely done and I enjoyed how it all worked out.

Overall, this definitely put me in a good mood and I know that I will read this book again.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Audiobook Review: TRUEL1F3 (Lifelike #3) by Jay Kristoff

Title: TRUEL1F3 (Lifelike #3)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: YA Sci-fi / Dystopia
Publication Date: June 30th, 2020
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐




From the bestselling co-author of the Illuminae Files comes the thrilling finale in the LIFEL1K3 trilogy–hailed by Marie Lu as “a breathless, action-packed exploration of what humanity really means.”

Best friends have become enemies. Lovers have become strangers. And deciding whose side you’re on could be the difference between life and death. For Eve and Lemon, discovering the truth about themselves–and each other–was too much for their friendship to take. But with the country on the brink of a new world war–this time between the BioMaas swarm at CityHive and Daedalus’s army at Megopolis, loyalties will be pushed to the brink, unlikely alliances will form and with them, betrayals. But the threat doesn’t stop there, because the lifelikes are determined to access the program that will set every robot free, a task requiring both Eve and Ana, the girl she was created to replace. In the end, violent clashes and heartbreaking choices reveal the true heroes . . . and they may not be who you think they are.” (Goodreads)

And another one bites the dust!

I have finished another series and crossed it off my list. Only 9 more to go that are completed and can be read through. I know, I’m a slacker. Haha.

Anyways, before starting this one I reread the first two books because I have a terrible memory. I didn’t realize that the second and third have a summary of what happened. Which is very nice if you don’t have time to reread!

Since it was all fresh in my head, I thought I would enjoy it as much as the first two but for some reason something just felt off. I honestly can’t pin point what though. I’m not saying that I didn’t like it, it was good but I guess I was just expecting a bit more.

*Spoilers*

When it comes to the relationship between Eve and Ezekiel. I am still kind of confused. From the beginning of the series he thought that she was someone else and then left her when he realized the real one was still out there. They see each other here and there but obviously as enemies so there isn’t much going on. In this book, Eve comes back to her sense and loves him. It just kind of seems not realistic, but then again this is a book about robots. 😂

The other relationships in the book were okay but didn’t really grab me. I just feel kind of neutral about them.

As the series progresses and even in this one, I actually liked Lemon Fresh a lot more than Eve. She always stayed true to who she was no matter the circumstances that she faced. She also didn’t give up on her friend even when they were apart. She still wanted to help. I am seriously going to name my next cat after her.

The plot wasn’t as action packed for me as the other two but it was still good. I liked seeing the Preacher come back and learning about the company he has been working for. I don’t think the plot twists were as surprising and saw one coming from the get-go.

*End of Spoilers*

Overall, I did like the book but just felt like some things were kind of meh. The ending seemed too quick but maybe that’s just me. I still think that this is a great series and would recommend it still.

Book Review: The Return by Nicholas Sparks

Title: The Return
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: September 29th, 2020
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing




In the romantic tradition of Dear John, #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with the story of an injured army doctor and a beautiful deputy, whose secrets will change the course of his life.

Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, NC. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked as an orthopedic surgeon sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he’d inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any.
Tending to his grandfather’s beloved bee hives while gearing up for a second stint in medical school, Trevor isn’t prepared to fall in love with a local . . . and yet, from their very first encounter, he senses a connection with deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson that he can’t ignore. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she’s hiding.

Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road from his grandfather’s cabin. Claiming to be 17, she works at the local sundries store and keeps to herself. Discovering that she was once befriended by his grandfather, Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, but she offers few clues — until a crisis triggers a race that will uncover the true nature of Callie’s past, one more intertwined with the elderly man’s passing than Trevor ever could have anticipated.

In his quest to unravel Natalie’s and Callie’s secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness . . . and that in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began.” (Goodreads)

I’ve only ever read one book by this author and seen a couple movies. Usually they just don’t interest me but this one grabbed my attention due to the setting.

I lived near New Bern, NC for 3 years and loved visiting the town to eat at their great restaurants and walk around to take in all the sights. This book definitely had me longing for those days. It was nice to read through and know certain places he mentioned, including other towns. It was a real treat.

For the most part, I liked the book even if it did take me a bit to get into. There isn’t much information for a couple of the characters but we get to know them as the story progresses.

The plot was a bit slow at times and sometimes the information given to us, like all the bee talk, was a bit too much. I was expecting more from the romance aspect but it was very insta-love and that’s just not my cup of tea. I did like the mysterious plot twists surrounding a character and that did leave me interested in continuing the book. I’m also glad there was a decent ending.

Overall, it was good but I was just expecting a bit more.

Manga Review: Yona of the Dawn Vol. 27 by Mizuho Kusanagi

Title: Yona of the Dawn Vol. 27
Author: Mizuho Kusanagi
Genre: YA Manga / Fantasy
Publication Date: December 1st, 2020
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC




“A red-haired princess loses her family and her kingdom… Now she must rise and fight for her throne!

Princess Yona lives an ideal life as the only princess of her kingdom. Doted on by her father, the king, and protected by her faithful guard Hak, she cherishes the time spent with the man she loves, Su-won. But everything changes on her 16th birthday when tragedy strikes her family!

Hak confesses his feelings to Yona, but how will Yona react in reponse? Later, Zeno suggests heading to Kuuto and getting closer to Hiryuu Palace so that the Four Dragons can heal their wounds. But what will they do when a Kai Empire army attacks the Fire Tribe?” (Goodreads)

Sadly, I got declined for this on Netgalley so I had to wait until it was published and then buy myself a copy. It was definitely worth the wait though, and at least I started collecting the series now!

This volume starts off where the last ended. What happened between certain people causes some tension between them but I liked that the one who confessed didn’t take it back and try to run from his feelings. There is hope for them afterall!

Although this isn’t as action packed as some of the other volumes, there is still fighting and it is always exciting to read. This series also always has me laughing, being said, or just so happy and this volume was no exception! It’s nice to get a lighter one between all of the chaos.

Due to the ending, I am curious what Su-won is thinking. As the love for Yona grows among the people, his followers are getting kind of antsy and I just feel like something awful is going to happen to her. I really hope not but anything is possible. I still don’t know how I feel about him either. His feelings are kind of aloof and it’s really hard to read him.

Overall, I thought it was another great volume and I am definitely looking forward to the next!

Audiobook Review: Return of the Thief (The Queen’s Thief #6) by Megan Whalen Turner

Title: Return of the Thief (The Queen’s Thief #6)
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Genre: YA Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: October 6th, 2020
Publisher: Greenwillow Books




“The thrilling, twenty-years-in-the-making, conclusion to the New York Times–bestselling Queen’s Thief series, by Megan Whalen Turner. This beloved and award-winning series began with the acclaimed novel The Thief. It and four more stand-alone volumes bring to life a world of epics, myths, and legends, and feature one of the most charismatic and incorrigible characters of fiction, Eugenides the thief. Now more powerful and cunning than ever before, Eugenides must navigate a perilous future in this sweeping conclusion. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Patrick Rothfuss, and Sarah J. Maas.

Neither accepted nor beloved, Eugenides is the uneasy linchpin of a truce on the Lesser Peninsula, where he has risen to be high king of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis. As the treacherous Baron Erondites schemes anew and a prophecy appears to foretell the death of the king, the ruthless Mede empire prepares to strike. The New York Times–bestselling Queen’s Thief novels are rich with political machinations, divine intervention, dangerous journeys, battles lost and won, power, passion, and deception.” (Goodreads)

I read this series throughout this year and luckily the last book wasn’t far behind. Although I had mixed feelings about some of the books, I did enjoy listening the audiobook for this one and loved learning more about Eugenides the thief.

I was scared to read this one because I didn’t know if I would like it or even what the plot would be about. This book wasn’t what I expected but in a good way. The point-of-view comes from Pheris an older boy who is speechless and disabled. He is also the older grandson of a Baron who’s children had been a different book in this series. It was interesting to see it all play out.

I really liked Pheris as a character. He reminded me of the king in a lot of ways and made mistakes. He wasn’t perfect but he realized that and came to realize who truly cared about him.

Overall, I enjoyed it and I am happy to have another series crossed off my list!

Book Review: Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Title: Among the Beasts & Briars
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: October 20th, 2020
Publisher: Balzer + Bray




“Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.” (Goodreads)

I was curious about this book because I had seen some good reviews for it and I love a good fairytale!

There were some great aspects to this book. One of them being the setting/atmosphere that the author created. I have recently read quite a few plots with a creepy woods and this one didn’t disappoint. The creatures that came from the woods was pretty terrifying and I had to continue reading to see what would happen next.

Another thing I enjoyed was how well it resembled a fairytale. It was nicely done.

I will say that it was hard for me to connect with the characters. They never really grasped my attention and I read more for the plot. I also wasn’t a fan of the relationship and figured it out from the beginning what would happen so it also lacked when it came to the surprise factor. It was also kind of weird for reasons.

Overall, it was good but also not fully a book for me. I can why many have really enjoyed this book but it’s just hard to fully get immersed when you can’t connect with the characters. It’s really what stopped me.