Tag Archives: book recommendations

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clark

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The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clark is the first in young adult fantasy duology. Ananna is the daughter of a pirate captain, one of the most respected families on the Pirate Confederation. Her parents decide to marry her off in an arranged marriage that she wants no part of. So she runs off. And the family of the guy she is supposed to marry sends an assassin after her. This book is how Ananna and the assassin’s, Naji, lives go after they meet.

The world building in this book is not that great. There’s so much that isn’t explained, and it’s such a fantastical world that you will want everything explained more thoroughly.  The pirate life, and the assassin life, and the magic is interesting. Apparently mermaids and sirens and other creatures exist too though we didn’t get to see them. They are only mentioned. I did like how many locations we get to see in the world though. We see a city, the desert, the sea, and a magical island. It’s not something that usually happens in books even if traveling is an element.

I’ve seen many mixed reviews for this book, and I think the main thing that will decide if you like it is if you like Anannna. It’s first person in her point of view so the reader is very close to her. I personally love her so that is going to influence how I describe her. She is tough, smart but not educated, loyal, and a complex, good character. Her one goal in life is the be the captain of her own pirate ship which isn’t really a thing because sexism. She’s a good fighter, endlessly determined and stubborn. She does have this thing with beautiful people where they aren’t trustworthy. I thought I would be annoyed by it, but honestly it’s not a big part of the book at all. Ananna is only vaguely described with a bigger frame, bigger boobs, and frizzy hair. The general consensus is she is not attractive which is kind of nice for a main character. 

The summary and even other reviews always talk about romance, but really there is none. If you are going into this book expecting a wild romance, you will be disappointed. I haven’t read the second book, but in this one there is only an unrequited crush. It pops up a little bit, but it isn’t a big part of the story at all.

A lot of this book is about survival. It takes a lot of pages between plot points. So in general it is a slow story. This is where I think liking Ananna is key is liking the book. For me, I was fascinated with how Ananna hid and got water, and did basically very simple things in between the big scenes. So I sped right through them, and didn’t notice how slow it was until I finished the book and thought on it. If you don’t like her, it is sure to be a drag, and I think that’s where people struggle with liking this book.

I gave it four stars. I am definitely picking up the next book. If anyone is looking for a short book with a tough, different main character, pirates, assassins, unrequited love, and blood magic, I think you will like it too.

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The Ghost of Cutler Creek by Cynthia DeFelice

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“Here we go again. It sounds as if Allie Nichols, Ghost Magnet, is back in action.”

The third book in DeFelice’s mystery novels about eleven year old Allie Nichols. As with previous books, another ghost needs some help, and they go to her for help. School is ending for the summer, there’s a new kid in town, and she has a summer job of looking after her teacher’s dog. I don’t want to spoil anything but dogs play an important part of this book. I’ll leave you to make the inference about how they would be involved. I know that can be very upsetting for some people.

The mystery in this book is pretty straight forward in this one, but I still enjoyed it. I like how Allie is getting used to doing this, and how she learns from each case. Also, Michael, her little brother, is becoming a bigger part of the story, and I find that very interesting to watch unfold.

As always I zipped through this book. I gave it five stars. I simply find whenever I’m in a rut with reading or in life, picking up these books will pep me up a little bit.

The Demon Notebook by Erika McGann

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The Demon Notebook by Erika McGann is the first book in a middle grade quartet. It’s about five middle school friends who find a book with spells and try to test them out. They try eleven on them, but all fail. They move onto trying the Ouija board when finally something happens, but it’s more scary than they anticipated. Now one of them is acting weird, and one by one their spells are happening. And not all of them are harmless. 

I wasn’t expecting much from this book, and that’s a good thing. That doesn’t sound nice, but I mean it in the best way possible. I read this basically one sitting. The writing was simple. The plot was simple. It was fun, but it wasn’t the most complex piece of work. If I was expecting something truly complexly developed or something to scare my socks off, I would have been disappointed. Instead, I enjoyed my time with the story.

The strong friendship between the girls was a surprise for me. I’m so used to reading catty and competitive friendships between girls I don’t expect much anymore. But this group of friends wasn’t like that at all. They cared about each other deeply and equally.

I liked the lesson underneath the book as well. The girls made a mistake, and they did their best to right it. Even when it wasn’t easy or in their best interest at the time.

I gave this book an average three stars. The magic was nice. There were nice action scenes to bring up the tension too. I didn’t find this scary at all. For people looking a book with magic and demons without being creepy, I think this would be the book for them.

 

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

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One elderly ghost peered over her round spectacles and shook her head before returning to her ghostly knitting.

“In my day, young children didn’t come to the cemeteries trying to raise the dead,” she tsked. “What is this world coming to?”

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh is an own voices middle grade ghost story. Harper and her family move into a new house. There are rumors that it is haunted, and then her little brother, Michael, starts to act strange. Harper has her own mysterious past that she has to deal with because she’s recently lost some of her memories. As events begin to unfold, Harper knows that both her memories and Michael’s odd behavior are somehow tied together.

Harper’s family includes her younger brother that I’ve already mentioned, an older sister, her mom and dad, and an estranged grandmother. This story really touches on the dynamics between all of them in a very natural and real way. I enjoyed the siblings relationships, the love and the fighting. Harper’s relationship with her mom is tough, and it mimics her mother’s relationship with her own. It’s a strong element to this book.

The formatting in this book was a very nice touch. In between normal chapters are pages of Harper’s journal she has to keep on orders from her therapist. In it, she lists things she hates, and has small rants about life. These brief pages added a lot to Harper’s character, and always made me smile.

I had a blast with this book. It was funny yet creepy in all of the right places. The Korean influences threaded throughout make this book stand out compared to the other very similar ghost stories out there. I gave this book five stars. I’m not sure if this is going to be a series, but I hope so.

 

The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs by Cynthia DeFelice

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“It’s so weird, Al. It’s like you attract ghosts. Like you’re some kind of – ghost magnet.

“That’s one way to put it, I guess,” said Allie, not sure if the idea made her feel proud or uncomfortable.

This is the second book in the ghost mysteries series. I reviewed the first one here. It follows eleven year old Allie who can see ghosts. She’s supposed to interview an elder for a school project, and a new ghost is guiding her into helping him. Allie wants to help, but finds things quickly spiraling out of her control.

I had a little bit of frustration with this book, I must admit. The answer seems so obvious to me from the very beginning that I wonder how can you not think things through a little more carefully. But it is a children’s mystery book, and I still end up enjoying it a lot. Maybe that’s a point in the book’s favor. I knew what would happen yet I still really liked it.

This one is a lot more darker than the first one. Allie has to learn not to take everything at face value. Placing trust in someone can end up to be very dangerous. It’s a good lesson to have, and makes the series going forward a little bit more complicated. I hope, at least.

I gave this one a four star rating. I think it is a ton better than the first one. It’s an easy, addictive read. I finished it in one day. Before I wasn’t sure if I would continue the series. I picked this one up on a whim when I saw it on the library shelf. But I know for sure that I will be picking up the third one.

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

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Ada had told Corinne that together they could do it, because that’s what she was supposed to say. That was always the way of things between them. Ada made the promises, and Corinne found a way to keep them. But this time Ada wasn’t so sure. 

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria is a standalone young adult fantasy novel that takes place in 1919 Boston. Told in duel perspective by Ada, who is Portuguese and Swahili, and Corinne, who is a privileged heiress. They are both hemopaths, people of afflicted blood that can create illusions through art. The problem with that is that is that is looked down upon and practically illegal. Ada and Corinne work at this pub called Iron Cast which is a safe haven for people like them. But the pub is having problems because of hemopaths practically being illegal, and with prohibition being of the verge of happening.  

With that short summary, I feel like I’m doing this book a disservice. It’s so much more than that, but it’s so complicated to explain. There is friendship, romance, betrayal, and mystery. It’s so much yet I can only give a lackluster summary about the pub so I don’t give away spoilers.

The main thing I can see people disliking about this book, that even I disliked a little bit as I was reading it, was the pacing of the novel. It starts off with a bang. Ada had just been caught during a con gone wrong, and Corrine has to bail her out. It’s fast paced and exciting until they make it to safety. Then the story slows to almost a complete stop. The book builds up the world, the magic, the characters, and all their relationships. And then slowly, slowly the action starts happening again until the ending where it’s nonstop fast paced action again. During the slow bits, I got a little annoyed, but after the book ended I came to appreciate them. It really helped build up the world and characters so everything seemed very fleshed out and real.

Now, I must warn you the rest of this review will be a complete gush fest because I completely fell in love with this book. Let me start with the representation. Like I mentioned before, Ada is biracial. She’s in a relationship with a black man who came from the south.  They aren’t only stated to be black, but they talk about it. It has consequences from the other white people in the novel. It’s not glossed over. They talk about how bad the south is. Corinne is white, but her privilege is mentioned. Not just because she is rich, but because she is white. It’s acknowledged that she can not understand all of Ada’s struggles despite the fact they are both hemopaths. There is also a male/male romance. It’s with two side characters, and mostly hinted at, but it is definitely there and acknowledged. I haven’t read much historical fiction, but usually it is completely white and straight so the diversity in this novel really caught me by surprise.

I’ve seen mention in other reviews that the romance in this book isn’t much. I don’t understand that because I thought there was plenty. That might be because I am not usually a big romance reader, but I thought the romance from this book was balanced perfectly with all the other elements of the book. Ada and Corinne each have a romantic storyline that doesn’t takeaway from their friendship or the action of the story at all. Ada’s relationship in particular is nice because they began their romance before the book started. So it’s a nice change from the usual romance seen in books. They have different struggles, mainly on whether to fully commit to each other. Corinne’s romance is more of the usual type, but I surprised myself by really liking it.

Don’t get me wrong though. The romance is not the focus of this book at all. The main thing is friendship, mainly between Ada and Corinne. They love each other so much. It was refreshing. They are both strong, complex women, and their banter was always fun to read.

It should come to no surprise that I gave this book five stars. I was so disappointed to learn it was a standalone when I finished it. It’s even more disappointing to know this was Soria’s only book. I think this book doesn’t get as much love as it deserves, and everybody should go out and give it a chance. 

 

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

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There was no use fighting fate, fighting the lot you were given in life. But she refused to be ignorant and helpless, halfling demon or no.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon is a young adult fantasy novel inspired by Chinese mythology. It follows sixteen year old Skybright who is the handmaid of Zhen Ni, the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. Skybright deals with becoming a serpent half demon, changing relationships, her mysterious past, and the breach of Hell.

There is a female/female relationship in this story. Not the main pairing, but it’s given significant page time. I feel I must put a warning that if you want a fluffy happy romance, it isn’t in this book. Homosexuality isn’t accepted, and when the romance is found out it is met rather violently. 

While this book has really long chapters which I usually hate in books, the pace of the novel is so fast that I honestly didn’t notice much. The writing was easy to read, and the world was rich and lovely to sink into. I loved the characters and the complex relationships they had with each other. Skybright was a lovely main character to read. Practical, loyal, and smart. I think she’s a new favorite character.

I truly loved my time with this book which was a pleasant surprise. I wanted to check out this novel out for a while now ever since I saw Cindy Pon speak at a festival a couple years ago. However I hesitated because while I love fantasy and magic, a half serpent demon seemed a little out there for me. So I put it off for a long time, but it really wasn’t hard to grasp at all.

I gave this novel five stars. It’s the first in a duology, and I will definitely be picking up the last one.