E-Arc Review: The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. by Colleen Nelson

Title: The Life and Deaths of Frankie D.
Author: Colleen Nelson
Genre: YA Fantasy / Magical Realism / Contemporary
Publication Date: May 11th, 2021
Publisher: Dundurn

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




Could a hundred-year-old circus sideshow be the key to Frankie’s mysterious past?

Seventeen-year old Frankie doesn’t trust easily. Not others, and not even herself. Found in an alley when she was a child, she has no memory of who she is, or why she was left there. Recurring dreams about a hundred-year-old carnival sideshow, a performer known as Alligator Girl, and a man named Monsieur Duval have an eerie familiarity to them.

Frankie gets drawn deeper into Alligator Girl’s world, and the secrets that kept the performers bound together. But a startling encounter with Monsieur Duval when she’s awake makes Frankie wonder what’s real and what’s in her head.

As Frankie’s and Alligator Girl’s stories unfold, Frankie’s life takes a sharp twist. Are the dreams her way of working through her trauma, or is there a more sinister plan at work? And if there is, does she have the strength to fight it?” (Goodreads)

I was intrigued by this one because of the title and the cover. Both are just really enticing. I did like certain aspects of this book but there were also a lot that I didn’t like or they just felt rushed which is why this book ended up not being one that was for me.

The first thing that didn’t work for me was the labeling of this book. It is labeled as YA but I think that the target genre is more Middle Grade. This is just how the writing style is and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. I do think that someone in the Middle grade would really enjoy this over a teen.

The book is split into past memories and present time. I always like double timelines so this was fun to see.

I did enjoy seeing where Frankie’s story took her. There was a lot of mystery surrounding her and this circus she kept dreaming about. That part easily pulls in a reader. The thing is, I just think there were too many topics put into the plot and some of them just didn’t get fleshed out enough because of the length of the book. The ending also was rushed and I just hate when that happens.

Overall, it was okay but it just wasn’t for me.

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

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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: Delphine and the Silver Needle by Alyssa Moon

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Title: Delphine and the Silver Needle
Author: Alyssa Moon
Genre: Middle Grade / Fantasy
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021

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

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“To unravel any mystery, find the knot.
When Delphine, a young orphaned dressmaker mouse living in the walls of Cinderella’s chateau, stumbles upon an enormous secret, it upends everything she thought she knew: The magical tailor mice of legend really existed. Racing to stay ahead of King Midnight, the fearsome leader of the rats who is bent on harnessing age-old magic, Delphine embarks on an epic quest to uncover the truth about the past. Joined by Alexander, the most pompous noblemouse in the royal court, she travels a perilous route, encountering strange enemies and unlikely allies along the way.
Can Delphine uncover the truth and save the kingdom? Or will the evil King Midnight succeed in harnessing the power of the tailor mice? This action-packed novel is sure to be a hit with readers who like magic, adventure, and very tiny heroes with very big hearts.” (Goodreads)

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How could I not request this one?

The cover is amazing! I love the little mice. 💕

I also enjoy that even though it has nothing to do with Cinderella, it still deals with the kingdom that she lives in and they are mice from her chateau.

I’m happy to announce that I really enjoyed this one because if I didn’t it would have made me really sad.

Delphine is a very brave mouse. She also is a great dressmaker that is summoned by the princess to help with making a dress. I liked her character and enjoyed the adventure that awaits her throughout.

There is another mouse that is also present through a majority of the book named Alexander. He is a nobelmouse who has decided to protect Delphine from the rats but honestly, she does most of the protecting haha. He is quite the character though!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to the plot. I thought that it was very intriguing and was also well paced. There was enough action/adventure to keep me hooked. Plus, there is a bit of magic! I think many will like this one, especially if they like Cinderella, because there are familiar characters from the movie that are mentioned.

The only thing that was a bit hard was the french words used for some of the mice name. At least my husband was able to help me with that, ha.

Overall, this was a enjoyable read. I did think it was going to be a standalone but it looks like it will be a series since it ended without a conclusion. It’ll be cool to read more about Delphine and Alexander!

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

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: Cathedral of Bones by A.J. Steiger

Title: Cathedral of Bones
Author: A.J. Steiger
Genre: Middle Grade / Fantasy
Publication Date: February 16th, 2021
Publisher: HarperCollins

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




A stunningly imagined world, page-turning thrills, and a pair of unlikely heroes on an epic quest make this unique and immersive dark fantasy—from acclaimed author A. J. Steiger—perfect for fans of Holly Black and Kelly Barnhill.

Simon Frost lives in a curious place, where magic is used by the very best Animists to do wondrous things—like call upon imps, wraiths, and all manner of monsters to right wrongs, deliver justice, and accomplish feats no human could achieve.

Simon Frost is not one of those Animists, though he’s been trying to become one for years. 

When a plea arrives from a distant hamlet, preyed upon by an abominable monster, Simon sees the opportunity to finally prove his worth.

But upon arriving in the tiny village, Simon finds not just a monster but a key to his past—and a pathway into an unbelievable future.” (Goodreads)

The cover and blurb had me really excited to start this one but some of things in the book were off putting and had me wondering why it had been labeled Middle Grade. This review will contain spoilers!

In the beginning of the book, we are introduced to the main character, Simon. There isn’t much to go off of besides that he works for the Foundation. Not very far in there is an encounter between him and an older woman who tries to sell him a gossip newspaper or frog pills. She says that the frog pills not only do whatever they do but they also boost male potency. After this we find out that Simon is fourteen. I’m not sure why that line needed to be included.

Another instance that felt off was after Simon rescues a young girl who is around his age and takes her back to his dad’s house. They all have dinner together and she decides she wants to have wine. His dad questions this but then caves because technically she isn’t human as she is a reanimated corpse.

I did at times want to dnf because I just wasn’t meshing with the characters or the plot.

I do think that the story had it’s good points like the mystery of certain things or the worldbuilding but it was overshadowed by the things I didn’t like. It also seemed a bit dark too which may not be suitable for certain readers.

Overall, it was okay but definitely not what I was expecting. I do think that other readers will like this book but it should be labeled something else instead of Middle Grade.

Goodreads Monday: Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter by Melissa Savage (1/18/21)

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: Karma Moon: Ghost Hunter
Author: Melissa Savage
Genre: Children’s / Middle Grade Fantasy / Paranormal
Publication Date: January 19th, 2021
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers




While staying in a haunted Colorado hotel for her father’s ghost-hunting television series, Karma Moon must battle her anxiety, interpret the signs of the universe, and get footage of a real ghost–you know, the usual.

Karma Moon is a firm believer in everything woo-woo, as her dad calls it. So when she asked her trusty Magic Eight Ball if the call asking her dad to create a ghost-hunting docuseries was her dad’s big break, it delivered: No doubt about it. Because the universe never gets it wrong. Only people do.

Karma and her best friend, Mags, join her dad’s Totally Rad film crew at a famous haunted hotel in Colorado over her spring break. Their mission: find a ghost and get it on camera. If they succeed, the show will be a hit, they can pay rent on time, and just maybe, her mom will come back.

Unfortunately, staying at a haunted hotel isn’t a walk in the park for someone with a big case of the what-ifs. But her dad made Karma the head of research for the docuseries, so she, Mags, and a mysterious local boy named Nyx must investigate every strange happening in the historically creepy Stanley Hotel. Karma hopes that her what-ifs don’t make her give up the ghost before they can find a starring spirit to help their show go viral–and possibly even get them a season two.

With Melissa Savage’s quirky cast of characters and spooky setting underlaid by a touching and relatable struggle against anxiety and grief over her fractured family, Karma Moon–Ghosthunter is bound to charm and delight.” (Goodreads)

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I was approved for this on Thursday which isn’t ideal even if I am a fast reader, ha. I had other books to read since I requested it last year and wasn’t approved until closer to publication. I hate when that happens!

But, I am excited for this one and I will have my review up on Wednesday! I hope it gives me City of Ghost vibes.

Does this one sound like something you would read?

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

E-Arc Review: The Boy, the Wolf, and the Stars by Shivaun Plozza

48930278._SY475_Title: The Boy, the Wolf, and the Stars
Author: Shivaun Plozza
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publication Date: November 17th, 2020
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

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

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A boy and his pet fox go on a quest to find a wolf who has eaten all the stars in the sky before the Shadow Witch destroys the stars and removes good magic from the world forever, perfect for fans of The Girl Who Drank the Moon and Nevermoor.

Long ago, the land of Ulv was filled with magic. But that was before a wolf ate all the Stars in the night sky, ridding the world of magic and allowing Shadow Creatures, beasts made of shadow and evil, to flourish. Twelve-year-old Bo knows the stories but thinks the Stars and the wolf who ate them are nothing more than myths—until the day Bo’s guardian, Mads, is attacked by a giant wolf straight from the legends. With his dying breath, Mads tells Bo that Ulv is in danger and the only way to prevent the Shadow Creatures from taking over is to return the Stars to the sky.

And so Bo—accompanied by his best friend, a fox called Nix, a girl named Selene who’s magic is tied to the return of the Stars, and Tam, a bird-woman who has vowed to protect Bo at all costs—sets off on a quest to find the three magical keys that will release the Stars. But Bo isn’t the only one who wants the Stars, and the friends soon find themselves fleeing angry villagers, greedy merchants, and a vengeful wolf. And all the while, an evil witch lurks in the shadows and time is running out.” (Goodreads)

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The cover and blurb definitely drew me in for this one. I hadn’t read read The Girl Who Drank the Moon or Nevermoor before requesting this so I didn’t have much to go on. I will say that before starting this I did try to read The Girl Who Drank the Moon and I did dnf it so I was wary about starting this one because of that.

The layout is quite similar to The Girl Who Drank the Moon because before chapters there is a page or two about the history of the myths. I always find parts like that interesting so I did enjoy those pages.

Bo had best friend who was a fox named Nix. I mean, who doesn’t love foxes? I wish I had a best friend that was a fox. He hasn’t had the best childhood at it shows. He does have quite the development and I was happy to see that. The thing is, I never connected with him or the other characters in this book. I wasn’t super intrigued by them or their quest. Don’t get me wrong, they are great characters and I can see this being a very enjoyable read for the intended audience.

I would say that the plot is cool and I did like aspects of it. The ending wrapped up nicely which is good to see in a standalone. I also didn’t have an issue with pacing.

Overall, I can see this book doing really well. I definitely would have liked it more if I had made a connection but that’s really my only problem with it.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

E-Arc Review: The Sisters of Straygarden Place by Hayley Chewins

 

43880159._SY475_Title: The Sisters of Straygarden Place
Author: Hayley Chewins
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy / Mystery
Publication Date: September 15th, 2020
Publisher: Candlewick

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

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A riveting middle-grade fantasy about sibling bonds, enchanted houses, and encroaching wildness, lyrically told in eerily beautiful prose

The grass grew taller than the house itself, surrounding it on all sides. It stuffed the keyholes and scraped against the roof. It shook the walls and made paintings shiver.

Seven years ago, the Ballastian sisters’ parents left them in the magical Straygarden Place, a house surrounded by tall silver grass and floating trees. They left behind a warning saying never to leave the house or go into the grass. “Wait for us,” the note read. “Sleep darkly.” Ever since then, the house itself has taken care of Winnow, Mayhap, and Pavonine–feeding them, clothing them, even keeping them company–while the girls have waited and grown up and played a guessing game: Think of an animal, think of a place. Think of a person, think of a face. Until one day, when the eldest, fourteen-year-old Winnow, does the unthinkable and goes outside into the grass, and everything twelve-year-old Mayhap thought she knew about her home, her family, and even herself starts to unravel. With luscious, vivid prose, poet and author Hayley Chewins transports readers to a house where beloved little dogs crawl into their owners’ minds to sleep, sick girls turn silver, and anything can be stolen–even laughter and silence.” (Goodreads)

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Like many books I enjoy this book is about sisters. I liked the sister bond and thought it was fleshed out nicely. You can see that they care for each other. I can’t decide which sister I like more because they all were nice to read about.

One thing I like about books is magic. The magical elements in this particular book revolve around a house where the sisters live. This was  cool and made a fun setting.

I wasn’t sure how the plot would go which made it a good experience. There were definitely some good plot twists as well! I will say that it was a bit slow to get into but I think that was more because of the writing than anything.

Overall, I thought this book was an interesting and liked many of the elements that were included. Also, isn’t the cover amazing?!

 

Book Review: Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria (The Elandrian Chronicles #2) by J.M. Bergen

Title: Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria (The Elandrian Chronicles #2)
Author: J.M. Bergen
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publication Date: May 20th, 2020
Publisher: Elandrian Press

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





“A boy discovering his destiny. An ancient object of unspeakable power. An impenetrable web of deception.

It’s been three months since Thomas and his friends faced off against the enigmatic Arius Strong in an epic fight for the future of humanity. They thought the battle was over. It was only just beginning.

Now, with a mysterious message from an unknown hacker, the action starts again. This time an ancient talisman with legendary powers is at stake, and Arius will stop at nothing to make it his own. Dark witches and wizards are rallying to his cause, and behind it all, a mysterious figure with inexplicable abilities. The forces of light are gathering as well, but the web of deception is thick. Will Thomas and his friends see through the lies in time to stop the forces of evil and prevent a catastrophe of historic proportions?” (Goodreads)

I enjoyed the first book of this MG series and was excited to begin the next one. It’s taken me a bit but here I am! It’s finished!

Thomas and Enrique are back with another adventure and this time the stakes are even higher. Evil is still brewing but they don’t know who is behind it. Thomas is still learning about the magical world and even though he isn’t oblivious to it anymore, he still has much to learn!

My favorite character is still Enrique. He is just so funny and I love when he called people a dinglehead. It’s literally something I would say since I use “dingle” in front of many words, ha.

Even though this book is adventurous and funny at times, there is still emotional times like a scene between Thomas and his mother. I enjoyed the parent/son relationship in the first book and it’s good to see it again in this one. It isn’t always sunshine and it’s nice to have that balance. It’s a hard situation on both sides and I can understand why his mother would want to protect him, I’m sure I would try to do the same thing, but it’s hard for someone to understand the means behind the reason, especially a child.

Throughout the book, there are interesting plot twists to keep the reader immersed. It’s filled with more magic as Thomas and Enrique learn to control it. The boys are also at the age of interacting with girls and taking them on dates. It’s been nice seeing them grow. I really liked the suspense leading up to the big reveal. I really wasn’t expecting the who behind it all!

Overall, I enjoyed this one as much as the first. It’s a great MG series that is full of adventure, magic, and characters that are easy to love.

Audiobook Review: The Marvelwood Magicians by Diane Zahler

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34593614._SX318_Title: The Marvelwood Magicians
Author: Diane Zahler
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publication Date: October 1st, 2019
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy to review. All opinions are my own.

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“Eleven-year-old Mattie Marvelwood comes from a family of traveling performers. Her dad is an illusionist; her mom is a fortune-teller; her brother has a vanishing act; and she herself is a mind-reader. But the Marvelwoods have a deep secret. The acts they perform at carnivals, fairs, and circuses are not just acts. Their powers are real. In all their wanderings, the Marvelwoods have never met another performer with gifts like theirs–until they join Master Morogh’s Circus of Wonders! But it turns out that Master Morogh’s true talent is stealing the gifts of others. When he steals Mattie’s brother’s vanishing ability, the family has a big decision to make. Do they run, leaving Bell’s gift behind to save the rest of them, or risk exposure by trying to beat the duplicitous ringmaster at his own game?” (Goodreads)

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I am always curious when it comes to circus themed books. The covers are eye-catching and the blurbs are full of mystery!

When I saw this one as an audiobook on NetGalley I decided to request. It is a quick listen but it also has a lot to it.

Mattie Marvelwood and her family have always been different. They perform and even though others may be faking their skills, the Marvelwoods are the real deal! Because of this, they have a hard time trusting others. Mattie already feels like a freak and she doesn’t need to add more fuel to the fire of her life.

Although Mattie is eleven, I thought she was a bit older because of the way she presented herself. Maybe that’s just me since I haven’t been around someone that age in a long while. Like any other kid, she wants to fit in and have a normal life. Her family’s job does prevent normality. All of her concerns for who she is does make up a good part of the plot which I liked. She learns to overcome these things and realize that there is nothing wrong with being different. You can make friends being who you are.

As mentioned above, there is also talk about her family not trusting anyone due to an issue in the past with a friend. This is another topic that I liked. It takes courage to trust in someone again after getting hurt. It also shows true friendship.

The villain aspect of the book was nicely done. There is no redemption arc and we see that person for who they are. Their background does center around not fitting and correlates with Mattie in a good way. It shows that there are many paths in life and our choices can have consequences.

When it comes to the audiobook, the narrator does a good job with the accents for certain characters and it’s pretty easy to distinguish between the characters. There is fun circus music at the beginning and end which is a cool touch.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and thought the circus theme was nicely done with good messages included in the plot.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)