Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Stolen Songbird
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Eric Michael Summerer, Erin Moon
Length: 14.5 hours (469 pages)
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Source: Audible subscription
Recommended for fans of: Dark Shores, Margaret Rogerson books

SYNOPSIS

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain—time enough for their magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophecy has spoken of a union that will set the trolls free, and when Cécile is stolen away to fulfill it, she enters a world that is both magical and deadly.

Cécile has only one goal after being bonded to the prince of the trolls: escape. Except while awaiting the perfect opportunity, she discovers there is more to the mysterious crown prince than anyone realizes.

As rebellion brews and the political games escalate, Cécile becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes the hope of a people—someone who has the power to change Trollus forever.

MY THOUGHTS

I’m so glad I finally took the time to read one of my favorite author’s first published series! This is more of a traditional YA fantasy than Danielle L. Jensen’s current series, but it had the world building, character development, and emotions I expect from her writing.

This French-inspired fantasy world features the unconventional choice of trolls as the main mythical creature, but don’t let that turn you off! These trolls, cursed to live under the mountain in the city of Trollus, share a lot of lore with classic fae, and the world also includes witches.

Jensen is a queen of writing slow burn romance. I was so here for Cecile and Tristan’s enemies to lovers forced marriage in an attempt to break the curse on trolls. Tristan is the morally gray love interest with a heart of gold that we all know and love. I also picked up on some Beauty & the Beast vibes in this book, but I don’t think it was meant to be a retelling. This book had a few slow moments, but overall it had great scheming and surprises!

ALC Review: Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Under the Whispering Door
Author: T.J. Klune
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kirt Graves
Length: 15 hours (373 pages)
Publisher: Macmillan Audio; Tor Books
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Content Warnings: death, grief, suicide

SYNOPSIS

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.

MY THOUGHTS

T.J. Klune has solidified his place as a new favorite author for me with Under the Whispering Door. Character-driven fantasy is rare, but I can’t get enough of the way he writes complex characters who feel absolutely real and human despite fantastical settings, which function as a backdrop for soul searching and character development. I absolutely loved the found family trope in this book.

Under the Whispering Door is a book about death and life and finding where you belong amidst the chaos. This story explores heavy topics like death, grief, and suicide with depth and nuance. There are some very humorous moments in the story, but it never loses the sense of seriousness and reverence when discussing difficult topics.

The audiobook narrator did a fantastic job conveying appropriate tone and emotions for this story and its characters. This book was absolutely beautiful and gave me all the feels. I laughed, I cried, and I felt like I was part of the main characters’ found family, too.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the ALC.

ARC Review: Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Payback’s a Witch
Author: Lana Harper
Series: The Witches of Thistle Grove #1
Genre: Romance / Paranormal
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: lgbtq+ witchy romances
Content Warnings: sexual harrassment

SYNOPSIS

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

MY THOUGHTS

This is a cute lgbtq+ witchy romance about the power of friendship, family, and going home, set in an idyllic magical town. The beginning of the story reminded me of John Tucker Must Die, with three witches uniting to publicly humiliate the man who wronged them all in Thistle Grove’s upcoming magical Gauntlet that will determine the town’s new leader.

However, this book couldn’t decide if it wanted to be more of a romance or a fantasy adventure, and as a result both aspects fell a bit flat. Emmy and Talia had amazing instant chemistry, but their relationship had an unnecessarily slow build as it kept getting pushed to the side for Gauntlet research. The Gauntlet contests themselves were a bit underwhelming.

I wasn’t a fan of Emmy’s internal conflict throughout the book, and the ending was definitely cliche, but this was a fun spooky book with sweet friendships and spicy romance, and it definitely put me in the mood for fall.

September 2021 Wrap Up


In September I finished 18 books, including 6 physical books and 12 audiobooks.


PHYSICAL BOOKS

One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus ☆☆☆.5
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood ☆☆☆☆☆
Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson ☆☆☆☆
Dune by Frank Herbert ☆☆☆☆☆
Fable by Adrienne Young ☆☆☆
I Wish I Had a Wookiee by Ian Doescher [ARC] ☆☆☆☆☆

AUDIOBOOKS

Deathless Divide by Justine Ireland ☆☆☆☆
The Babysitter: My Summer with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman ☆☆☆
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer ☆☆☆
The Bookbinder’s Daughter [ALC] by Jessica Thorne ☆☆☆
It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey ☆☆☆☆
Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune ☆☆☆☆☆
Namesake by Adrienne Young ☆☆☆
Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen ☆☆☆☆
Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen ☆☆☆.5
Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen ☆☆☆.5
The Broken Ones by Danielle L. Jensen ☆☆☆
Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab ☆☆☆☆


2021 READING GOAL PROGRESS

At the beginning of the year, I shared my 2021 reading goals. When I post my wrap up at the end of each month, I also want to reflect on the progress I’m making toward reaching my goals.

Read 100 books: 170/100

Finish 5 series in progress: 2/5 – I did not finish any series I started before 2021, but I made some progress on some

Read 12 graphic novels: 8/12 – none this month

Read 12 books of poetry/verse: 9/12 -I Wish I Had a Wookiee

Read 6 nonfiction books: 3/6 – The Babysitter

Read 3 classics: 4/3

Reread 10 books/series: 9/10 – none this month

Host monthly backlist buddy reads: 9/12 – Dune

How did your month go? What was the best book you read in September?

Review: I Wish I Had a Wookiee by Ian Doescher

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: I Wish I Had a Wookiee: And Other Poems for Our Galaxy
Author: Ian Doescher
Illustrator: Tim Budgen
Genre: Poetry
Audience: Children
Format: Hardcover
Length: 128 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Source: Publisher
Recommended for fans of: Star Wars

SYNOPSIS

Inspired by the beloved world of Star Wars, this collection of over 75 whimsical and original poems is a celebration of childhood, creativity, imagination, and the early years of Star Wars fandom.

In “My Pet AT-AT,” a ten-year-old dreams of playing hide and seek and fetch with an AT-AT. In “Dad’s Luke Skywalker Figurine,” a child opens their dad’s untouched action figure but, instead of getting into trouble, helps their dad re-discover his own sense of play. In “T-16 Dreams,” a little girl imagines herself flying through the galaxy, the Empire hot on her trail, to help with her real-world fear of flying.

Set in the hearts and minds of young children who love Star Wars, and filled with the characters you know and love, I Wish I Had a Wookiee is the perfect gift for the young Star Wars fan–and the young at heart.

MY THOUGHTS

Shel Silverstein meets a galaxy far, far away in this sweet poetry collection that is perfect for young Star Wars fans and the young at heart.

These playful and heartwarming poems describe young Star Wars fans and the effect the series has on their lives. It also explores themes of family, friendship, confidence, and imagination.

I also loved Tim Budgen’s simple illustrations with pops of color. This book truly captures the magic of Star Wars and its influence on generation of children.

Thank you to the publisher for the gifted copy.

ALC Review: The Bookbinder’s Daughter by Jessica Thorne

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Bookbinder’s Daughter
Author: Jessica Thorne
Genre: Fantasy/Magical Realism
Audience: Adult
Format: ALC
Narrator: Charlie Norfolk
Length: 10 hours (248 pages)
Publisher: Bokouture
Release Date: September 20, 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Content Warnings: toxic relationship, death, gun violence, infidelity

SYNOPSIS

The song surrounded her now, the murmuring of the library insistent, and her foot took the first step on the winding stairs. She knew it wasn’t entirely a dream. It was the library calling her, its magic driving her.

When Sophie is offered a job at the Ayredale Library – the finest collection of rare books in the world, and the last place her bookbinder mother was seen when Sophie was just a teenager – she leaps at the chance. Will she finally discover what happened to the woman she’s always believed abandoned her?

Taking in the endless shelves of antique books, the soaring stained-glass windows, and the grand sweeping staircase, usually shy Sophie feels strangely at home, and is welcomed by her eccentric fellow binders. But why is the Keeper of the Library so reluctant to speak about Sophie’s mother? And why is Sophie the only person who can read the strange spells in the oldest books on display, written in a forgotten language nobody else understands?

The mysteries of the library only deepen when Sophie stumbles upon an elaborately carved door. The pattern exactly matches the pendant her mother left behind years ago, engraved with a delicate leaf. As the door swings open at her touch, Sophie gasps at the incredible sight: an enormous tree, impossibly growing higher than the library itself, its gently falling golden leaves somehow resembling the pages of a book. Amidst their rustling, Sophie hears a familiar whisper…

‘There you are, my Sophie. I knew you’d come back for me.’

An absolutely spellbinding read about long-hidden family secrets and the magic that lurks between the pages of every ancient book. Perfect for fans of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Night Circus and The Binding.

MY THOUGHTS

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of a mysterious, magical library and a dark family secret. I thought this would be the perfect cozy fantasy for early fall to transition into spooky season.

However, the characters were very one-dimensional and the pacing was uneven. The story mostly meandered slowly until it got to a point where so much happened all at once that it was overwhelming. I didn’t truly get a sense of the magic until over halfway through the book, and there was so much lore and backstory to piece together. I just didn’t fully understand how this library worked.

Even though the story wasn’t quite there for me, the atmosphere and descriptive writing were lovely and magical. I enjoyed the audiobook, but I wish it had two narrators for Sophie and Will’s POVs. This is truly a book for book lovers.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the ALC.

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Cursebreakers #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Davis Brooks, Kate Handford, Matt Reeves
Length: 15 hours (507 pages)
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Beauty & the Beast retellings
Content Warnings: violence, death, cancer, chronic illness

SYNOPSIS

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

MY THOUGHTS

This book is so highly rated by so many reviewers I follow, and I usually love fairy tale retellings, but I thought it was just okay. I tend to not like portal fantasies that begin in our modern world as much as high fantasy, and I’m starting to lose interest in a lot of YA fantasy tropes that were prevalent in this book.

I struggled to get into this story. Harper is NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS. The foundation is laid for a love triangle that I just do not have time for. I will say that I never fully bought Harper’s feelings for Rhen. The uncertainty that lingered at the end annoyed me. I can’t say I was ever too surprised by any of the plot points.

It is refreshing to see such great disability rep in a YA fantasy book. The fast pace kept me interested in the story, but I’m not sure if I’m interested enough to continue the series. I think I would’ve loved this book a few years ago, but it doesn’t work for the reader I am today.

Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Good Girl, Bad Blood
Author: Holly Jackson
Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 401 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Veronica Mars, Karen M. McManus
Content Warnings: death, references to rape, gun violence, knife violence, child abuse

SYNOPSIS

Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?

MY THOUGHTS

My Veronica Mars loving heart cannot get enough of Pip Fitz-Amobi! This is a really great YA mystery series. For whatever reason I am ALL ABOUT books about fictional podcasts, and I love the epistolary content that brings Pip’s investigations to life.

I didn’t think this mystery was as compelling from the beginning compared to book one (I honestly thought the premise was a bit ridiculous), but by the end I was shocked, horrified, and fascinated by the twists and turns. I also wanted more Ravi in this book. He’s still a major character, but I just didn’t feel his presence as much throughout this book.

Pip has a lot of character development in this book as she figures out who she is and what her priorities are. I can’t wait to read the conclusion of this series!

Review: Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Redemptor
Author: Jordan Ifueko
Series: Raybearer #2
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Length: 13 hours (336 pages)
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

SYNOPSIS

For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.

Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.

With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed the direction this book took, following Tarisai’s journey to be the best ruler she could be and do right by her people…all while processing her relationship with her mother and being haunted by creepy kids.

I wanted a bit more from certain parts of the story. The whole book builds toward Tarisai’s journey to the Underworld, but her actual time there felt rushed. This book is fairly short for fantasy, and I think there was room to flesh things out a bit more.

I thought the ending was great, and overall this is a really good duology!

Review: One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: One of Us Is Next
Author: Karen M. McManus
Series: One of Us Is Lying #2
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 377 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press for Young Readers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: One of Us Is Lying, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Content Warnings: death, sexual assault, bullying, cancer, alcoholism

SYNOPSIS

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe’s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

MY THOUGHTS

It’s been a few years since I’ve read one of Karen M. McManus’s YA thrillers, but this one was not as fast-paced and compelling as I remember her books being. The mystery was slow to develop, and there was a lot of filler in the first half of the book, but I still finished this book quickly.

I really like how all of the characters are fully realized people who have their own problems outside of the dangerous game of Truth or Dare. These are believable teen characters with believable teen relationships, and the friendships and romance are what separate YA thrillers from their adult counterparts.

I mostly liked the way the twists played out, but one reveal was painfully obvious and the characters were too smart to not even consider the possibility. I also did not love the twist in the epilogue. I normally love it when thrillers include twists up to the very last page, but this one was unnecessary.