Browsing Category: Fantasy

Nice Dragons Finish Last, by Rachel Aaron

nice dragons finish last rachel aaronSeries: Heartstrikers # 1
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Published:  July, 2014
Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK | Audible

As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons..

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  5 / 5
Format: Audiobook
Started: September 7th, 2016
Finished: October 10th, 2016
Wine Pairing:
 Beer..? Maybe? What do dragons drink? I’ll have one of those.

This book, right here, is the perfect example why we need book bloggers. I may never have found Julius and Marci if I hadn’t read Danya’s absolutely perfect and inspiring review, and that would be a sad world indeed.

So please, do yourself a favour and make your week – read Danya’s review and then go find this book wherever you can. You won’t regret it.

If you’re in the mood for a hot bad boy rebel protagonist, the geeky clumsy female love interest that we all relate to in one way or another, and action scenes that would put your perfected Level 923098 WoW Paladin to shame – well, you may need another book. And that’s perfectly fine! Those tropes are awesome and unashamedly make up more than a few of my favourites, and needing other books is the never-ending struggle for bookworms (or bookdragons if you prefer). But what about a book where the protagonist is a genuinely nice guy, the leading lady is independent, smart, and snarky, and the entire book is about how hard and rewarding it is to be a decent human being in a world that has thrived on manipulation, negativity, and segregation?

My friends, I present to you the book you never knew you needed.

Julius is the black sheep in his family of powerful, strong, manipulative dragons. The only reason he hasn’t been eaten yet is by keeping a low profile and not getting in anyone’s way. Unfortunately a dragon mother is even less approving of their son in their twenties still living at home, which is why Julius finds himself sleeping on his sister’s couch in the city where dragons are shot on sight. Thrust on a mission to prove himself worthy of being a dragon over kibble he gains the help of Marci, the awkward and eccentric mage who stands up for what she believes in and those she cares about. The duo make the cutest team since Luna and Neville, and their personality is only enhanced by the beautiful diversity of secondary characters. Crafted beautifully and narrated to perfection by Vikas Adam I couldn’t get enough.

… That description was terribly lacking, but I don’t think I could stop myself from raving about all the good parts without giving anything away. So how about instead I tell you what it was like to listen to Julius?

Begin listening experience:

The bus rolls up in front of you. It screeches slightly when the driver pumps the break a little too hard. With only a slight mumble under your breath, you mentally prepare yourself for the rough ride you know will ensue as the bus slows and turns onto the main street pot-marked like a thirteen year old boy’s chin. ‘Of course the roughest road is the road without traffic. It’s cheaper to pay for buses to go four-wheeling than it is to repair the roads,’ you think, and you can’t help the groan that escapes your lips when you’re re-acquainted with your seat. Repeatedly.

The next stop on your urban safari welcomes a dozen more commuters. You usually avoid eye contact, but today is the day destiny clothes-lines you. You glance up, make eye contact, and feel your stomach drop. Carrying four duffle bags, a dog, a trombone, and a cooler that you suspect is probably full of bricks sleeping on a bed of rotten eggs (because that would be just your luck), your worst nightmare of a commuter shuffles down the aisle, narrowly missing a great-great-great-grandmother. You pray to the gods you’ve denied (or created, no judgemnet) for them to sit anywhere else but here! But despite the two empty rows (three now) they plop down next to you, settling only after with a grunt and what seems like an infinite amount of readjustments and butt shuffling that we all know really means, ‘Move over – I need the other half of your seat and you’re obviously in my space.’ Rude.

You shove your hand in your bag, desperately searching for your phone as panic grips your heart when your fingers brush against your headphones. The stars and heavens have aligned for this – the moment you remember an audiobook recommendation you blindly decided to purchase after twelve and a half cups of coffee. Bruising your ears in the process you are now equipped with the listening buds of joy and slam play (sorry phone). It’s instant relief as you lean further into the wall – now on 34% of your seat – and enjoy the cascading feeling of falling into the DFZ. Where a crumbling residential, urban cityscape, or wild forest that was waving from outside your window before is now a dazzling futuristic and magical city built on the ruins of a ghost town: aka. Detroit, Michigan. High end designer shops and sparkling marble fountains preening to the High-Class blanket the dark undergrowth of a dead city, rough and crude in it’s diversity and history. Also the perfect place for a dragon and mage on the run to hide.

Bus long forgotten and seat space down to 27.64%, you cackle in a moment of bliss. Hours have passed but you weren’t going anywhere interesting anyway; you must be somewhere around the half-way mark because it’s far too late for you to stop. Your heart bubbles and your hands gain a life of their own as you try to smush your favourite characters together, resulting in an expression of maniacal joy staring into space and soundless clapping (dreams of percussion stardom have never failed you). But do you care? No. Of course not! Not when you just really need them to, ‘KISS ALREADY!’ Even though shouting was a little unnecessary there’s no regrets on your 79% of a seat. You don’t even mind that you’ve come full circle and vaguely acknowledge the off-roading street you’ve turned back on to with a nod of comradery.

“Don’t tell me the Pigeon Whisperer dragged you into one of his stupid schemes.”

Oh Bob, you crazy, lunatic, fortune telling quirky dragon. The fondness grows in your chest as you snort derisively while secretly wishing you could find your own Bob (or pigeon). The last action scene may have found you acting and cheering far too animatedly in your 159% of a seat and you smack your elbow on the window. Which is still there, by the way.

With that last snort you now have your own row to enjoy the rest of your audiobook. Level up! 

End listening experience.

If you haven’t given up on this roller coaster of a review, high five for still reading! If I haven’t sold you on Nice Dragons Finish Last yet, you should really read Danya’s review. She’s far more eloquent and put together. Oh, and listen to the Audiobook snippet. If you’re not sold by then.. well.. how about The Graveyard Book?

You know you want to give Julius a chance to heal you. 😉

“Well, he’s not really my friend,” Julius admitted. “I don’t even know his real name, actually, but I was his healer in the game, and the bond between healer and tank runs deep.”

Masks and Shadows, by Stephanie Burgis

burgis masks and shadowsSeries: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy
Published: April, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

The year is 1779, and Carlo Morelli, the most renowned castrato singer in Europe, has been invited as an honored guest to Eszterháza Palace. With Carlo in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy’s carriage, ride a Prussian spy and one of the most notorious alchemists in the Habsburg Empire. Already at Eszterháza is Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper sister of Prince Nikolaus’s mistress. Charlotte has retreated to the countryside to mourn her husband’s death. Now, she must overcome the ingrained rules of her society in order to uncover the dangerous secrets lurking within the palace’s golden walls. Music, magic, and blackmail mingle in a plot to assassinate the Habsburg Emperor and Empress–a plot that can only be stopped if Carlo and Charlotte can see through the masks worn by everyone they meet.

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  5 / 5
Format: Paperback
Started: August 10th, 2016
Finished: August 16th, 2016
Drink Pairing: Red wine – shiraz, or maybe CabSauv? Pretty much just wine.

Thank you to Lisa from Pyr (Prometheus Books) for a copy in exchange for an honest review!

I am absolutely fluffed. It was in the wee hours of the morning that I finally finished Masks and Shadows and there was only a sushi date with Kassandra that interrupted my reading. I was hooked around page 30 (flag page 273 and tell me that was not the worst time to stop!) right up until the end that I didn’t want to come. Waking up neighbouring siblings with gleeful squeals and gasps was a frequent occurrence that morning, and I wouldn’t have it any other way because this book is amazing!

Masks and Shadows is a beautiful amalgamation of V for Vendetta, Penny Dreadful, and Phantom of the Opera (*swoon!*). Burgis’ writing sings a tale full of deceit, lies, heartbreak, and love that flows across the pages with rich characters and obnoxiously decorated halls. The mysterious Carlo Morelli, an anomaly with an angelic voice, visits the castle of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy to socialize and share the gift of music at the same time as Charlotte von Steinbeck is staying with her sister (the Prince’s official mistress) during her year of mourning for her late husband. What starts as a tale of opera and tentative first steps ends in terror, magic, and disaster as the facades the castle’s guests built up slowly begin to crumble. Intricately woven and beautifully summarized, the plots and sub plots endued with magic bring out the best and the worst in our characters – both high and low born.

Burgis is a master at transitioning between the dozen or so characters while making each one of them unique and memorable. Where I would usually give up and stop caring, or would find myself at a complete loss as to who is who, I was following along ravenously without any doubt as to the intentions and opinions for each name that passes by. *standing ovation* I’m a little thick when it comes to names so for me to remember every one? A great feat, indeed!

 I fell in love with the characters, I fell in love with the world, I fell in love with the magic (both the magic of alchemy and the magic of life), and I fell in love with Burgis’ writing. Anytime I see Masks and Shadows in stores I will be sure to re-arrange the shelves to showcase this beautiful book so more people pick it up. I’ve been wavering over the rating from 3.5 to 5 and have finally decided that after two weeks of finishing the last page, as the only things I can remember about Masks and Shadows is how much I absolutely loved it, how beautiful it was, and how magical it was, I’m going to allot this as a 5 stars. 😀 So yes, please read and COME JOIN ME IN MY BOOK HANGOVER! ♥

Read the first chapter on Stephanie’s site and swoon, and then

Check out our latest giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Masks & Shadows AND an ARC of A Congress of Secrets!

Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff

kristoff stormdancerSeries: The Lotus War # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Published: August, 2012
Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK | Audible | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  4.5 / 5
Format: Library Hardcover
Started: July 14th, 2016
Finished: July 15th, 2016
Drink Pairing: Can I recommend sake even though I’ve still never actually had it?

I’m conflicted with this review. I just finished mini-reviewing and rating Kinslayer and realized I never ended up reviewing Stormdancer. Which means instead of the shining, raving review you would have gotten before I’d read Kinslayer you’re going to have a slightly more critical look back on Stormdancer and the things I overlooked.

If you couldn’t tell from this glorious cover and Patrick Rothfuss’ excerpt, Stormdancer is a Steampunk fantasy set in feudal Japan. It was basically like reading an anime (that I wish was an anime) and I was in love. Kristoff weaves a beautiful story of a young girl with some bad-ass fighting skills and a rare talent that allows her to communicate with animals (in her head, of course. No Doctor Doolittle adventures here). The Shima Isles, divided by four clans – Tiger, Dragon, Phoenix, and Fox – and monitored by the Guild, is slowly dying under the strain of Lotus farming. The poisonous plant that sustains the entire nation burns and poisons the ground, making it permanently inhabitable to both plants and humans.

A country shroud in lies and deceit and repression, the revolution starts small but grows fast. Hiding her talent while trying to find the truth and herself in this coming of age story, Yukiko steals the stage and sets to the skies with Buruu – the impossible and magnificent Thunder Tiger.

But really:

“Wait,” he whispered.
But she didn’t.

Basically the book. Annoying? Yes. Original? No. Still enough to keep me reading? With enough sighs, yes.

What really got me hooked was Kristoff’s character and world building. Despite only being 16 years old, Yukiko is so awesome she had my head spinning. She is the daughter of the legendary Kitsune Hunter (proper title escapes me now) who is painted on rice-paper walls. But she doesn’t just rely on his name to make her famous – no no. She’s also as good of a hunter as him and works as one of the Shogun’s four master hunters. Colour me impressed.

And the wit? Totally my speed.

“He wants a thunder tiger, Akihito.”
“Well, I want a woman who can touch her ears with her ankles, cook a decent meal and keep her opinions to herself. But they don’t fucking exist either!”

On top of keeping track of dozens of characters, Kristoff also adds the element of animal personalities. The Thunder Tiger, Buruu, for example, quickly learns the art of sarcasm and humour but still has yet to learn why humans do with the lips and the spit and the touchy things (and then think about it for hours afterwards.. which he can hear if it’s Yukiko):

She shot Buruu a withering glance as he rolled over on his back and pawed at the sky.
“Oh, shut it.”

My only qualm with Kristoff is his writing. Almost every other page my eyes would skim over the many long paragraphs to see if there was dialogue (sometimes nothing for three or four pages), or  what would happen next because I didn’t care about small details. I hate when I do that and it’s usually a sign that the author is either taking too long to get to the point, being too verbose for the world building required, or are going off on some random tangent that I don’t care enough about (personal opinion only).

He also spent too many words on world-building. Usually there’s issues of under world building but my goodness, after half a book I’m pretty sure I don’t need another four paragraphs to tell me how much the streets smell like shit and how everything has a red tint from the lotus smoke. I got it. I read it the first time. Twenty chapters ago.

Not to mention that his poetic narrative seems to be what most people are hung up on. And I understand, I do. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes poetic dialogue and prose actually diminishes from the beauty or simplicity instead of adding to it.

“Our troubles are but mayflies, rising and falling between the turn of dawn and dusk. And then they are gone to the houses of memory, you and I will remain, Yukiko.”

It can be a little hard to read, sometimes – that’s when you skip the line and keep moving. So how do you decide if you like his writing or not, when half the time you’re skipping paragraphs, and the other half you’re swooning over how beautiful it is?

…I don’t know either.

But all in all, the overly poetic prose and over detailed world building aren’t enough to keep me away from this series, nor is it enough to make me down rate how much I absolutely loved Stormdancer. Kinslayer is another story, but I’ll save that for another day.


Caverns and Creatures Series, by Robert Bevan

Series:  Caverns and Creatures # 1 – 4

Critical Failures: Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK | Audible | Barnes & Noble
Tim and his friends find out the hard way that you shouldn’t question the game master, and you shouldn’t make fun of his cape.
One minute, they’re drinking away the dreariness of their lives, escaping into a fantasy game and laughing their asses off. The next minute, they’re in a horse-drawn cart surrounded by soldiers pointing crossbows at them.
Tim now has the voice and physique of a prepubescent girl. Dave finds that while he lost a foot or two in height, he somehow acquired a suit of armor and a badass beard. Julian’s ears have grown ridiculously long and pointy. And Cooper… well Cooper has gotten himself a set of tusks, a pair of clawed hands, and a bad case of the shits. He also finds that he’s carrying a bag with a human head in it – a head that he had chopped off when they were still just playing a game.
Shit just got real, and if they want to survive, these four friends are going to have to tap into some baser instincts they didn’t even know existed in their fast-food and pizza delivery world.
It’s fight, flight, or try to convince the people who are trying to kill them that they don’t really exist.
Meanwhile, a sadistic game master sits back in the real world eating their fried chicken.

Critical Failures II: Fail Harder: Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK | Audible | Barnes & Noble
Finding themselves permanently stuck in this strange new world, the gang tries to make the best of it by finding the nearest tavern and getting shitfaced. The plan goes just fine until they lose Katherine and Chaz. They soon discover that they aren’t the first players Mordred has sent to this world.

Critical Failures III: A Storm of S-Words: Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK | Audible | Barnes & Noble
Going back home was not exactly what Tim and the C&C gang expected. Trouble continues to follow them back to Gulf Coast Mississippi. Trouble… and a gnome… and an undead midget.

Critical Failures IV: The Phantom Pinas: Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK | Barnes & Noble
The adventure continues. Tim and the C&C gang face their most difficult challenges yet. Horses die. Eyeballs are eaten. People are urinated on. A god is born.

Katelynn’s Review

Rating: 3 / 5
Format: Kindle Unlimited
Started: May 27th, 2016
Finished: June 5th, 2016
Drink Pairing:
 Arrogant Bastard Ale – dark, bitter, and strong. …Kind of like Cooper, except not full of shit.

It’s a safe bet that we all know someone that plays Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe it was the weird kid in high school, your cousin from another mister; maybe you just read the D&D books or were you’re lucky enough to play yourself (you lucky thing, you). Regardless, if you don’t know what Dungeons and Dragons is..

what rock are you living under?!

The Caverns and Creatures series by Robert Bevan is a comical, and often quite crude, story about four guys who go from playing C&C with a strange Cavern Master found on Craigslist (mistake #1) to being in the Caverns and Creatures game. From a harmless tabletop game and beers to a flying arrow assault nightmare, Tim, Cooper, Dave, and Julian have to try and survive with the consequences of their character stats and a Cavern Master who’s hell bent on making their game-lives a living hell.

Charisma over strength? Probably not such a good idea, Cooper (but damn did that make a great story).

The first book is the best by far as books two through four become increasingly crude, trite, and absurd, but my curiosity got the better of me and I finished the series. Heck, if I come back to this in a year or two and there’s four more published I may even read those.

But honestly, just read the first one. It’s original (I think?), hilarious, and just the right amount of crude to give you a good laugh and think twice about what it’d be like to step into your character’s shoes. Or hooves. 😉

A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas

maas a court of mist and furySeries: A Court of Thorns and Roses # 2
Genre:  Fantasy
Published:  May, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  5 / 5
Format:  Hardcover
Started:  May 23rd, 2016
Finished:  May 24th, 2016
Wine Pairing:
  A deep rich Syrah or Shiraz!



Holy shit you guys, I’m so glad that I waited for the sequel to come out and read them both one after the other because A Court of Mist and Fury is just as good as the Throne of Glass Series (and anyone who knows me knows how much I fucking love Throne of Glass). All of the things I didn’t like about A Court of Thorns and Roses was explained and laid out bare and made everything so, so worth it.

The love, the world, the magic, the adventure – it’s all just Feyre. She grows and becomes her own person and she finds herself, and did I ever love reading about it. Each book is so singularly unique and solid on its own, but woven together the richness and artistic prowess Maas has is just…

And now, I join the masses that are writhing in pain over having to wait for the sequel.

Oh, how I feel your pain.. and this cathartic book hangover.

Let the wait, begin!

A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas

maas a court of thorns and rosesSeries: A Court of Thorns and Roses # 1
Genre:  Fantasy
Published:  May, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Timesbestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  3 / 5
Format:  Hardcover
Started:  May 22nd, 2016
Finished:  May 22nd, 2016
Wine Pairing:
  A sparkling rose from the Spring Court would hit the spot!

I’m pretty sure everyone thinks they know what A Court of Thorns and Roses is about. “The other series by Sarah J. Maas, right?.” Don’t worry, that’s exactly what I thought too. I read the inside of the cover one time and thought of Little Red Riding Hood, which was never really my kind of story, so I put it down. It was only after A Court of Mist and Fury came out and Bookstragram was filled with beautiful photos and Goodreads filled with statuses and bumbling reviews with, “THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE FIRST” “WHAT IS THIS MAGIC?!” and other speechless rambling that I finally decided to give this series a shot (plus, it was also on sale for $15 hardcover – how could I say no?!).

Feyre, an ordinary human girl, is the youngest of three sisters and the sole provider for the family. Spending all her energy on hunting in the wood behind their dilapidated cottage, she walks the dangerous line between humans and faeries made real in the wall. The wall that has kept the faeries in their own world for the last 500 years after they tried, and almost succeeded, in exterminating the humans.

On one late, long, winter evening, Feyre is perched behind a bush and aiming for the first deer she’s seen in weeks. Starving and frozen, when the wolf appears and goes for the deer she shoots both regardless of whether the too-big wolf is a faerie wandered over the wall or not. Consequences be damned – she has a family to feed.

After dressing the deer and selling the pelt of both deer and wolf, the faeries come for her. Agreeing to go beyond the wall to keep her family safe, she walks with them into the land of Prythian. Now a “guest” to a strong Spring Fearie, Feyre fights between hatred and love as she comes to learn of the land and the lies, the myths and the legends, and what it is that is buried deep inside her heart.

Was the first book good? Sure. I liked it enough. There was nothing that makes it bad, but also nothing that really makes it amazing. It’s very similar to every other YA Fantasy and Feyre was a ‘meh’ character that seemed… under developed? The story seemed to have holes in it and I didn’t really connect or feel for the characters or the world.

But then I read A Court of Mist and Fury.

I have never been more grateful to not have wifi where I couldn’t post any reviews because these need to be read together. Every short coming in A Court of Thorns and Roses is made up and expounded on in A Court of Mist and Fury. Everything is explained and righted and made so much better in the second book.

Yes, A Court of Thorns and Roses is missing something.

But that something is A Court of Mist and Fury. It’s everything you expect and need and more and it’s simply fabulous!

He jerked his chin at the knife. “It’s yours. Don’t bury it in my back, please.”

Seriously – go read this so you can read A Court of Mist and Fury right now!

Dead Girls Are Easy, by Terri Garey

garey dead girls are easySeries:   Nicki Styx # 1
Published:  December, 2013
Goodreads | Amazon CA/US/UK | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

There’s something about almost dying that makes a girl rethink her priorities. Take Nicki Styx—she was strictly goth and vintage, until a brush with the afterlife leaves her with the ability to see dead people.

Before you can say boo, Atlanta’s ghosts are knocking at Nicki’s door. Now her days consist of reluctantly cleaning up messes left by the dearly departed, leading ghouls to the Light . . . and one-on-one anatomy lessons with Dr. Joe Bascombe, the dreamy surgeon who saved her life. All this catering to the deceased is a real drag, especially for a girl who’d rather be playing hanky-panky with her hunky new boyfriend . . . who’s beginning to think she’s totally nuts.

But things get even more complicated when a friend foolishly sells her soul to the devil, and Nicki’s new gift lands her in some deep voodoo.

As it turns out for Nicki Styx, death was just the beginning.

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  3 / 5
Format:  Paperback
Started:  April 18th, 2016
Finished:  April 18th, 2016
Drink Pairing:
  I really wanted a glass of red wine with this so any red wine would do right about now!

I picked this up from the romance section and got my hopes up – this looked like it was going to be a terrible romance and I was excited. If you think of this as a romance, it really sounds like a fanfic from 2005 when emo/goth was the hipster of the age, but with grown-ups and sex.

nicki styxI thought it was going to be so bad that it would be good. But you know what? It’s actually good!

Definitely filed in the incorrect section, the romance is the sub-plot to this little gem. The majority of the story is following Nicki (who I pictured as Lisbeth but with longer hair) around as she tries to rid herself of the demon that tries to steal her soul while still helping the other ghosts that pop up asking for help.

Nicki is exactly what you’d expect from the alive-again goth girl who owns a vintage clothing shop – sarcastic, confident, a little too sexy, and completely all over the place. We are given insight into her wardrobe and, honestly, I’m jealous – she’s incredibly creative compared to my regular sweats and tanktop (and her boots sounded amazing!). Her love for music transcends genres because she flits between Sheryl Crow and AC/DC, punk to Heavy Metal. The little details that Garey threw in were so cute and definitely added a whole different layer to what would be a regular paranormal mystery were adorable.

I’d dressed for comfort today in gray pinstriped pants and low-heeled boots, teamed with a white silk T-shirt and an oversized jacket. It gave me the boyishly feminine look that was one of my favourites.

And Evan?! Ooh I loved Evan. The gay best friend who’s dating a guy named Butch, loves jewellery, innuendos, and red wine? Yup, pretty sure was probably my favourite character. The relationship between him and Nicki was so unbelievably adorable that now I want an Evan.

What the hell was a “duppy”? Or a “mambo”?
Evan had been no help, as he thought one was a fish and the other some kind of dance step.

All in all, I am feeling very fond of this book. It was just so cute and the innuendos had me giggling and sexy-Joe is adorable and the ghost adventures were fun! Definitely better to read about voodoo dances and summonings than experience them first hand. Dead Girls are Easy is quick and dirty (Nicki), loving (Evan), and skeptic friendly (Joe). It was a pleasant surprise and I am proud to have this little cutie in my library. 🙂

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones

jones howl's moving castleSeries:  Howl’s Moving Castle #1
Genre:  Fantasy, Children’s
Published:  January, 2009
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Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  5 / 5 – how can this not be an instant favourite?
Format:  Paperback
Started:  April 12th, 2016
Finished:  April 13th, 2016
Drink Pairing:
 A light moscato

Howl’s Moving Castle is my all-time favourite anime, and when Annika said I needed to read the book I had it in my hands the next Monday.

If you haven’t seen the anime (in which case YOU NEED TO ASAP), Sophie is the oldest of three sisters and is the only one to remain working at her step-mother’s Hat Shop.  Her talent with hats is unprecedented and she earns quite a reputation for herself.  Despite her talents she has little confidence in herself.  Being the first of three daughters is viewed as a misfortune in their town – you will be the first to fail, the least beautiful, and the most unlikely to succeed.  Using this as her crutch, Sophie tends to favour discussions with her hats instead of customers and their gossip, keeping to the shadows and avoiding confrontation.  When she takes a particularly bad attitude one day and offends the Witch of the Waste who comes to buy a hat, she is cursed to age sixty years and cannot tell anyone about her curse.  Without being able to explain her situation to her family, she sets off to find the Wizard Howl and his moving castle – the only wizard left strong enough to break her curse.

The anime follows the same premise of the novel but it changed some of the underlying plot to suit an anime style better.  These few changes compounded to give the same ending with a different theme.  Personally after reading the book I consider the anime to be separate (kind of like Full Metal Alchemist before Brotherhood).  Things are mostly the same up until the anime decided to change from the novel (or manga in FMA’s case) and it’s just different.  Not better, not worse – different.  I’m not giving away any spoilers either because it was so unexpected and wonderful and magnificent I was practically crying reading it.  Howl’s Moving Castle is two very different beasts depending on whether you watch or read it, and that just means I have more Howl and Sophie to love.

If you love a magical adventure with wizards and witches and castles, Sophie is a wonderful heroine that steals your heart as she learns she’s more than the unfortunate first of three sisters.  There is always more to a person, and you are never only what you’re told you are.

I’m sorry it’s short but Howl’s Moving Castle in both anime and book form come with the hightes of recommendations I can give that I have no idea what else to say.

Also, half way through I realized that Howl’s attitude in Jones’ book was incredibly similar to David Tennant’s representation of the Tenth Doctor:  he’s incredibly fussy over his hair, he’s always in blue and silver suits, and his tendency to ramble and give everyone nicknames that can flop between complimentary and complaining depending on his mood..!  See if you can un-see it, because I can’t.


The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the ForestGenre:  Young Adult
Published:  January, 2015
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“Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?”

Kassandra’s Review

Rating:  4/5
Format:  Trade Paperback
Started:  March 8, 2016
Finished:  March 9, 2016
Wine Pairing:
Barefoot Moscato Spumante Champagne (such bubbles ♥)

“There’s a monster in our wood. She’ll get you if you’re not good. Drag you under leaves and sticks. Punish you for all your tricks. A nest of hair and gnawed bone. You are never, ever coming home.”
– Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest

I can honestly say I was not expecting to enjoy The Darkest Part of the Forest as much as I did. There’s just something about Faeries that usually puts me off, it’s the same thing with books about Sirens and Mermaids. They’re just not really my thing. I had been told however that this book was supposed to be outstanding and I will be the first one to admit that it did not disappoint. Holly Black introduces us to the town of Fairfold, where humans and the Folk live amongst each other and abide by an uneasy truce. The Folk leave the locals alone for the most part, but tourists are fair game. Hazel and her older brother Ben were raised (I use this term lightly*) in town, and except for a brief stint living in Philadelphia, this is where they’ve always called home. As children, they were kind of neglected by their parents, who mostly left them alone to fend for themselves. A reality probably due to the fact that they were a couple of young artists who, by the sounds of it, really weren’t ready to be parents. So due to their above average freedom, Ben and Hazel had what can best be referred to as a wild childhood. They kept themselves distracted with grand adventures in the forest behind their home, and creating magical stories about the boy in the glass coffin. No one knows much about the boy with horns on his head and elfish ears, except that he has always been there, asleep in the forest. Hazel and Ben dream that they will be the ones to save him and anyone else who is in need of rescue in Fairfold. But as they grew up they both moved away from such things, Ben out of fear, and Hazel because she couldn’t do it alone. When their sleeping prince awakens, everything begins to fall into place and the siblings are forced to come to deal with who they truly are and the roles they must play.

The world that Black built was vivid and imaginative, I loved learning more about the culture of the locals who live in a place where it is widely accepted that there are things that go bump in the night, and if you’re not careful, they might just disembowel you. The Folk were what they are supposed to be, scary. I think a big reason why I don’t typically do Faerie stories is because most of the ones I have found take a… let’s call it a fluffier approach. They don’t take the lore very seriously, which is an injustice, because Faerie lore can be pretty terrifying. Sometimes it’s not just tricks and pranks, sometimes it’s messy, deadly and cruel. This is perfectly captured in The Darkest Part of the Forest.

All in all, I did really enjoy this book; the story was fantastic, the characters intriguing, and the ending was satisfying. That’s it folks! (you know, like Folk’s – sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

*By the way – If you’re interested you should check out this awesome book trailer on Little, Brown Books for Young Readers’ YouTube page – I just found this and am now home alone, and pretty spooked. Effective marketing!

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  4 5
Format:  Trade Paperback
Started:  March 28th, 2016
Finished:  March 28th, 2016
Drink Pairing: 
Chai tea with tissues because holy smokes – this book!

“That night she’d discovered that thirteen-year-old ferocity was no match for ancient monsters, not alone.”
– Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest

Hazel is a high-school student who has a problem:

She kisses too many boys.

She kisses them to forget, to distract herself from everything she’s blamed on herself, from everything she’s done, from everything she fears she’ll do.  Growing up in a family where it was easier to make-believe and pretend, to push memories into a closet and close the door tightly behind them, Hazel learned she is good at lying to everyone – including herself.  She holds onto the memories and the fairytales she and her brother, Ben, created as children.  The dreams of a Fae prince locked away in a coffin who would wake and whisk them away to be warriors or princesses or princes, and the dreams of leaving Fairfold and never turning back to the haunted town where the tales of pixies and goblins are anything but tales.

But when the Fae prince her and her brother dreamt about for years wakes up, her web of lies and secrets begin to tangle and snap free, leading Hazel and Ben down the paths into the darkest parts of the forest, down a path there’s no turning back.

“He wasn’t their prince anymore.”
– Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest

I’m going to admit that if I had stopped reading half-way through The Darkest Part of the Forest, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up again.  For whatever reason the first half of the book didn’t catch my attention.  I would have googled and read reviews to find out how it ended, but I wasn’t intrigued.  In fact, Hazel irritated me: I hated her kissing obsession, her constant lies, her seemingly endless list of secrets.  Even the flipping between the past and the present or character perspectives tended to verge on annoying as I start every chapter lost and confused – what time is it?  Who am I reading about?  Is it a dream?  A memory?  Current events?  The first half of the book was necessary but forgettable – like the blackness before a dream you can never remember upon waking up.  It droned on with character introductions, dull build-up, and contained a whole bunch of high-school drama I’ve never related to, nor do I care to.  Kissing?  Gossiping?  Forest parties?  Not my thing.  I was expecting something a lot fluffier than what came.

But just before the halfway point (right around the quote above, to be exact) my opinion went from indifferent to infatuated and my attention was glued to the pages.  Black does a wonderful job of writing the suspense and keeping the mood taught as we’re lead deeper into the forest, further and faster down a path that is anything but fluffy.  Our heroin grows as she’s cast in a different light, our heroes flit between mortality and trickery, and the lies and secrets continue to roll and roll.  I realize that, despite Hazel having kissed all the boys and I haven’t (to say the least), I related to her more than I thought I would.  The secrets, the trust-issues, the wish to be something more all resounded clearly in my head like a warning and a calling, and though I’ll probably never find a world like Fairfold in this lifetime I’m glad to have read about it.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a fairytale reminiscent of a darker version of Little Red Riding Hood.  It tells of growing up, of learning to accept, and learning to not fear growth or who you are.  It’s a wonderful fairytale that seems to fit too perfectly with the real world and could probably have many connections to actual events (if you wanted to play psychiatrist). But I will keep it safely nestled with the rest of my dreams for now, because when the end finally came I was left laughing and giggling and crying actual tears with a feeling of sheer bliss.  That feeling is special, and it needs to be held close and remembered. So Hazel and her tale will stick with me for a while; she’ll follow me into my dreams and play knight with me and Ben will sing and Jack will dance, and my world will be alive for a fleeting moment just as the Folk’s.  Just as sunset and sunrise are both day and night, and just as I both am and am not in a dream that changes and grows and, sometimes, strays too far into the dark.

“Every child needs a tragedy to become truly interesting.”
– Holly Black, The Darkest Part of the Forest

Uprooted, by Naomi Novik

uprooted novikGenre:  Fantasy
Published:  May, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon | AudibleIndigo | Barnes & Noble

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

“Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

“Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

“The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

“But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.”

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  5 / 5
Format:  Paperback
Started:  March 27th, 2016
Finished:  March 28nd, 2016
Booze Pairing:
  I can’t help but think a beautiful peach cider would go absolutely perfect with this.

“Truth didn’t mean anything without someone to share it with; you could shout truth into the air forever, and spend your life doing it, if someone didn’t come and listen.”
 – Naomi Novik, Uprooted

I’ve just finished Uprooted – I’m sitting here curled in a blanket, my finger tips frozen, my face still damp and my heart still pounding.  I’m still astounded that this is a new book and isn’t an ancient fairytale we’ve all known and grown up with, because the entire time I was reading it I felt like I knew it, and it knew me.  The enchanting world Novik creates casts a spell and pulls you in, wrapping you in a warm embrace of a story so familiar and comforting that you follow it blindly through the forest and the Wood.  Whispers of classic tales of knights and witches and dragons sing through the pages, but the knights aren’t always the good guys, the dragons aren’t always the bad guys, and the witches aren’t always wicked.  Uprooted is a coming-of-age story of a young girl who is ripped from the reality and life she thinks she’s going to lead into a world she never believed she’d ever touch.  It’s about knowing who you are, about finding yourself when you weren’t even looking, and love – love of family, love of friends, and love of yourself.

“I was a glaring blot on the perfection. But I didn’t care: I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.”
― Naomi Novik, Uprooted

Agnieszka (pronounced: ag-NYESH-kah) is a quiet girl, and one of the eleven Dragon-born girls in the valley.  To live as a Dragon-born girl means that at seventeen, at the choosing, you could be whisked away with the probability of never returning.  Every ten years the Dragon comes from his tower and chooses a Dragon-girl to live with him for the next decade, the previous girl leaving with silks and gold and a desire to travel the world instead of returning to live in the valley that no one else could fathom leaving.  At the choosing the Dragon chooses Agnieszka instead of the beautiful, talented Kaisa – her best friend everyone believed was the chosen one.  Her fear and terror of living with a man she has hated and feared, along with her own weakness and clumsiness, leaves her ignorant and stubborn.  She fights the Dragon whenever she can, winning and losing small battles that leave him fuming and wearing his short temper thin.  Their relationship is a constant fight of water and fire – the calm and the storm.  The magic between them grows as Agnieszka learns that she is more than simply clumsy and forever meant to bear the earth on her feet and rips of branches in her skirts.  She is magic.  She comes to feel and grasp the magic that runs through her and she learns to forgive herself and who she is as she becomes the strength of calm – the river that holds true.  Her character isn’t strong and resilient and trails along ignorant and foolish, but her heart bears true as she learns to live with the Dragon and comes to fights the darkness of the Wood that she has grown up living next to that threatens to tear the valley down with it.

Uprooted isn’t perfect by any means.  Several characters remained flat and stoic, stubborn and rooted in their ways (pun intended).  The writing, while mostly solid and flowing, would occasionally find itself raw and tumbling uncomfortably over itself as its personality would rub against yours.  But yet, none of the few thorns held much consequence to the rest of this blindingly beautiful book.  It was still a stunning story with a heroin I have always loved reading about, a Dragon I adore and want to hug and snuggle, and a forest I would love to wander through and feel what Agnieszka feels.  It’s still a fairytale and fairytales are never perfect; it’s their imperfections that make them real, after all.  The story moves at the perfect pace: deceptively slow moving while you are reading but still seems to lasts an eternity.  It’s like falling down the rabbit hole, time seems to slow and twist and bend as you tumble through the brush with Agnieszka and her imperfect magic.  The story never seems to go where I thought it would and instead delves deeper into twists and turns not expected, leaving you breathless and agonizing for a sequel that will never come.

“What an unequaled gift for disaster you have.”
― Naomi Novik, Uprooted

You need to read Uprooted because I don’t have a single reason why you shouldn’t.