Series Love | Frontier Magic | Patricia C. Wrede

Frontier Magic

Series love The Penderwicks Jeanne BirdsallSeries Name: Frontier Magic

Author: Patricia C. Wrede (web)

Publisher: Scholastic

Number of Books: 3


Series love The Penderwicks Jeanne BirdsallPatricia C. Wrede’s series is about an alternate history America where magic and magical creatures exist. It follows one family–the Rothmers–as they move out to the frontier, where the unbridled wild is kept at bay by an enormous magical barrier. Mostly we spend time with Eff Rothmer, an unlucky 13th child and twin sister to Lan Rothmer, SUPER luck 7th son of a 7th son. People in this America have access to all kinds of magic,  but Eff struggles while Lan flourishes.

This series spans a decade or more of time, and we get to see Eff grow up and learn more about her magic and the magical world around her. Her extended family drilled into her young head that being a 13th child was the absolute WORST and all the bad things that ever happened were her fault. Moving away from them to Mill City with her immediate family introduces her to new possibilities, and she gets to explore new places out west.

Series love The Penderwicks Jeanne BirdsallSo, I’ll be the first person to tell you that Frontier Magic might not float everyone’s boat. It’s kind of meandering. It’s told, if I remember the audio correctly, as a letter or a notebook or a journal or something that an older Eff is writing to herself of her youth. So there’s decent chunks of these books where we’re just observing life and family and not a whole lot of drama is going on. But for me, I kind of enjoy these books, especially when they have a pioneer vibe like this series does, and an alternate history with magic. The world was different enough and intriguing enough to keep me engaged even when all I was hearing about was Eff’s work in the menagerie (a haven for magical creatures attached to the college in Mill City where her father works) or the days she and her group of travelers spend in the wilderness.

Eff herself is pretty rad. She might be the youngest girl in her family, but she’s got a lot of fire. Sure, she’s always believed what people said about her being unlucky, but she never loses her pluck. In fact, she grows into it. It was a treat to see her learn more about the different kinds of magic in the world and how she took that knowledge and crafted her own practices out of it that made her powerful. Eff is also pretty handy with a rifle, very sharp, and not all that afraid when, especially in the last two books, her traveling parties out west encounter some dangerous creatures.

The world in Frontier Magic is pretty great, although there’s a lack of background that the book/history nerd in me was DYING for. For example, the history of this world seems to loosely follow American history, at least up to the Civil War, but there’s still so much that’s unexplained! The world and the magic in it was pretty fascinating to me, so I would’ve loved more detail here. And also a map. I listened to these books on audio–Amanda Ronconi is a great narrator–but even when I looked online for a map, the one I found on Patricia C. Wrede’s site seemed inadequate. BUMMER.

It’s hard to classify these books in terms of age range because Eff starts out so young in book 1 (I think she’s 4), but is in her early 20s in book 3. Most certainly, these books are a coming-of-age for her. There are some hints at romances–well, maybe one hint that Eff is kind of oblivious to at first, and one romance that is kind of a foregone conclusion but also a little meh–but the focus is really Eff and her magic and her growth. It has a very middle-grade feel about it that I found myself craving when I couldn’t listen to it.

If you’re a fan of Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwick’s series, I’d say this is a good series for you to dive into. Same kind of vibe to me, with the added bonus of alternate history America (after what we call the Civil War, but I think before the turn of the century? Or just into it? I can’t remember now), and MAGIC. The audio is great as well! Very easy to listen to, and I liked Amanda Ronconi’s accent. It’s kind of country sounding, which was perfect for this series.

Book Review | The Sin Eater’s Daughter | Melinda Salisbury

I received this book for free from a fellow blogger (thanks for sharing!) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review | The Sin Eater’s Daughter | Melinda SalisburyThe Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Series: The Sin Eater's Daughter #1
Published by Scholastic on February 24, 2015
Genres: Fantasy YA
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: a fellow blogger (thanks for sharing!)
AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

I am the perfect weapon.
I kill with a single touch.

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it’s price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla’s fatal touch.

Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla’s chilling role to the girls she truly is.

Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen’s, some truths should not be told…

[Read more…]

Book Review | Sinner | Maggie Stiefvater

Book cover Sinner Maggie StiefvaterTitle: Sinner
Author: Maggie Stiefvater (web | twitter)
Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls #4
Genre: Paranormal YA
Amazon | Goodreads | B&N
Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: July 1, 2014
Source: ARC from BEA

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret — his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved?

[Read more…]

Book Review | Sorrow’s Knot | Erin Bow

book cover Sorrow's Knot Erin BowTitle: Sorrow’s Knot
Author: Erin Bow (web | twitter)
Genre: Fantasy YA, Native American, Horror YA
Amazon | Goodreads | B&N
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release date: October 29, 2013
Source: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

From the acclaimed author of PLAIN KATE, a new novel about what lurks in the shadows, and how to put it to rest…

In the world of SORROW’S KNOT, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry, something deadly. Most of the people of this world live on the sunlit, treeless prairies. But a few carve out an uneasy living in the forest towns, keeping the dead at bay with wards made from magically knotted cords. The women who tie these knots are called binders. And Otter’s mother, Willow, is one of the greatest binders her people have ever known.

But Willow does not wish for her daughter to lead the lonely, heavy life of a binder, so she chooses another as her apprentice. Otter is devastated by this choice, and what’s more, it leaves her untrained when the village falls under attack. In a moment of desperation, Otter casts her first ward, and the results are disastrous. But now Otter may be her people’s only hope against the shadows that threaten them. Will the challenge be too great for her? Or will she find a way to put the dead to rest once and for all?

[Read more…]

Book Review | The Dream Thieves | Maggie Stiefvater

I received this book for free from BookExpo in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review | The Dream Thieves | Maggie StiefvaterThe Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #2
Published by Scholastic on September 17, 2013
Genres: Urban Fantasy YA, Young Adult
Pages: 439
Format: ARC
Also in this series: The Raven Boys, Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Also by this author: The Raven Boys, Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Source: BookExpo
AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

 Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

[Read more…]

Book Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Book cover for The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Title: The False Prince

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #1

Genre: Fantasy YA

Amazon | Goodreads

Publisher: Scholastic

Release date: April 1, 2012

Challenge: TBR Challenge

Summary: In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

[Read more…]

Book Review + Giveaway | The Raven Boys | Maggie Stiefvater

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review + Giveaway | The Raven Boys | Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Published by Scholastic on September 18, 2012
Genres: Paranormal YA, Urban Fantasy YA, Young Adult
Pages: 409
Format: ARC
Also in this series: The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Also by this author: The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Source: the publisher
AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

[Read more…]

Rewind and Review (3): Lips Touch, Three Times

Book cover for Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini TaylorLips Touch: Three Times

by Laini Taylor

(First published October 1, 2009 by Scholastic)

Oh, Laini. I know I’ve said this before, but I think I just might have to say it again: You’re magical. The words you write are so pretty and your stories are imaginative, fantastical, and emotional and I love them! Even when they’re short. And guys? The stories in LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES all lived up to my expectations of Laini Taylor’s writing and her ability to evoke FEELINGS in her readers. Yay!

LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES is a collection of three novellas that all feature some important turn of events involving a kiss (hence the “lips touching” part). Obviously, this is fantastic. But I actually really enjoyed the fact that Laini Taylor is so good at creating the whole picture of a story that the kisses–to varying degrees–don’t overshadow anything. In fact, the elements from these stories that I recall with greatest clarity and that I enjoyed the most aren’t necessarily the kisses at all. So on that note, into the breech!

The first story in this collection is called “Goblin Fruit,” and it’s good. It’s the shortest of the three, and probably on the whole, my least favorite, although that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Not so. It’s about a young girl named Kizzy who’s family is majorly superstitious. They believe in the old ways, which involves lots of things but most important for this story is their belief in goblins, and the fact that the only way a goblin can steal a girl’s soul is for her to give it up willingly in a kiss. Perhaps you might be able to determine where this story goes without me saying anything else. It’s a good story, though, and I enjoyed reading about Kizzy’s family’s old-world superstitions.

The second story in LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor  is called “Spicy Little Curses” and it takes place in post-WWI British India. Seriously, can we have more of this please?! The setting is lush and gorgeous and, as in “Goblin Fruit,” this story relies heavily on beliefs and superstitions. It’s about an old woman who is an ambassador to hell who must deal with a demon to save the lives of children on Earth (the demon saves the kiddos and she gives him the name of a baddie instead). One time, though, the old woman makes a deal with the demon to save a bunch of children and in return she must curse the daughter of a British diplomat. It’s BAD. Obviously, it also involves a kiss, but that comes later. This story was gorgeous and perfectly contained; I didn’t feel like anything was missing when it was finished. There was drama and love and, OF COURSE, elegant writing. SO PRETTY. 

At this point, I’m going to interrupt MY little flow here to say that I thought LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor had a flow, too, and it went something like this: The first story–good, short, and the lightest in tone of the three; the second story–better, longer, and darker, what with the terms of the curse being what they were; the third story–the BEST and the LONGEST and the darkest, as well. In my opinion, of course, in terms of the “good, better, best” thing.

So, now you know that I thought the third story, “Hatchling” was the best and it was definitely my favorite. You guys, I would read a whole book about this incredibly vivid, imaginative world with a totally unique mythology, and I think it definitely benefited from getting the most air time, as it were. But for real: “Hatchling” was so gorgeous, so fraught, and so absorbing that I wanted it to keep going. It MADE the entire book, for me.

“Hatchling” is about a young girl, Esme, and her mother, Mab (NOT the faerie queen), who find themselves on the run from these wolves after Esme wakes up one morning with one of her brown eyes blue. The wolves serve the Druj queen (the Druj are these soulless, immortal…I don’t even know what to call them, except to say that they aren’t vampires. Just plain demons, perhaps?), and she is a BEYOTCH. Which is fun to read, obviously. Shenanigans ensue. We get LOTS of back story about Mab, who spent some time with the Queen in her youth. These parts were STUNNING, guys. The descriptions of life in the Queen’s citadel were stark and beautiful, and I LOVED the mythology. And the way this whole story comes together I thought was genius, and so satisfying. *Sigh*. Esme was a great character, and I REALLY loved Mihai, this conflicted, unique Druj with a connection to the Queen. This one story is reason enough to pick up LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES, guys. It’s seriously LEGIT.

Aside from the gorgeous writing and the FEELINGS and the creative world-building, this book has some absolutely stunning, beautiful, jaw-dropping images by Jim Di Bartolo. Guys, these pictures are out of this world. There are several panels that accompany each story and they’re all exceptional. It almost makes me wish that Laini Taylor had teamed up with her husband to write LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES as a graphic novel. They were AMAZING.

So, final assessment: I really enjoyed LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES. The stories were all unique, emotional, gorgeously written urban fantasies that got steadily better as the book progressed. As always, Laini Taylor spins some KILLER yarns, friends. If she hadn’t become one of my instant-read authors after I finished DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, Laini Taylor would certainly be one now. I can’t wait to read ALL OF HER WORDS.


Rewind & Review is an AMAZING new meme hosted jointly by two fabulous ladies, Ginger from Greads! and Lisa from Lisa Is Busy Nerding. This meme is all about mining your TBR piles and finding some long-lost gems (from 2010 or earlier) that you meant to read and somehow passed over. I KNOW, but it happens. Each month, each participant picks a few oldies but hopefully goodies to read, reviews ’em, and spreads the word. Huzzah!

Rewind and Review (1) | Sword of the Rightful King | Jane Yolen

Sword of the Rightful King

by Jane Yolen

(First published August 1, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin)

Perhaps it’s not too much of a secret that I LOVE all things Arthurian. I read books about Camelot and the Arthurian legends, I’m PLANNING on reading MORE books about it, and I fangirl the TV show, Merlin. I love how Arthurian stories straddle the line between historical fiction and fantasy with their elements of magic and politics, and I’m on a mission to find a book about this world that knocks my socks right off my feet. I had high hopes for SWORD OF THE RIGHTFUL KING, and while it was fun and scratched my Arthur-nerd itch, it kind of let me down, and left me a little confused about what little I DO know of the Arthurian legends.

So this book is basically the story of how Arthur, newly crowned King of Britain, must somehow gain the love of his people, who are still hesitant to accept him (although we never really see this, we are only told), possibly because another man has an equally legitimate claim to the throne: his knight, Gawaine. PROBLEM, though, because Gawaine’s mother is the nasty witch Morgause, who will scheme and kill her son’s way to the throne of England so that she may exert power over the realm herself. Merlinnus–her sworn magical enemy–is determined to see that no one take the throne from Arthur, and so he devises some shenanigans involving a sword and a stone to solidify Arthur’s rightful place (with the shenanigans referred to in the book as “legerdemain.” Without question, this is the most I’ve ever encountered this word EVER.) Alllll of this takes place under a cloud of suspicion over Gawaine and his brothers (including Agravaine, who I did not realize was related to Gawaine in any of the Arthurian tales) because everyone knows that Morgause has sent a spy to Arthur’s court, and he must be uncovered before TREACHERY STRIKES. *Gasp!*

I’ll start with the good things about this book. It really was fun to read. I’m currently REALLY nerding out over Merlin, so it was incredibly enjoyable to see lots of those characters in a different light. (Also, because who would not want to picture Arthur like this, or Gawaine like this?) But I love the characters in this story: Arthur and his brave chivalry, Merlinnus (Although, why the extra “nus”? This drove me a little batty) and his sneaky, secretive magic. We meet Gwen but not in the way you might think. Morgause is vindictive and power-hungry, which makes for great drama. In fact, she was probably my favorite character because she seemed the most fleshed out. All very good things.

Also, the story moved quickly. Things happened without much lagging at all, and the whole sword in the stone “legerdemain” (UGH!) was actually really great, probably because it was the storyline that seemed to be the most developed, what with Arthur demanding that all of his knights attempt to pull out the sword before he does. PLUS, we get to see some of the actual business of the knights meeting at the Round Table, and that was very cool. That’s such a foundational part of the whole Arthurian legend, and it was fun to imagine it in action.

But despite those things–or maybe BECAUSE of those things–the story also felt a little scattered to me, like hopping from one thing to the next without much smoothness. The reveals of certain things were kind of predictable, like the deelio with Gwen and the identity of the spy. (Speaking of Gwen, an aspect of her storyline here felt incredibly rushed, and I wished that we could have seen it fleshed out a little more.) And I was slightly confused about the ages of people, although this could certainly come from my perception of these characters as their Merlin counterparts: Arthur is a young man, but Merlinnus is VERY old. Gwen is young also, but Lancelot is described as having some gray hair. I don’t know. I’m not an expert, but some of the details like this didn’t jive with the way I thought the legends went.

We are also introduced to some things that would have been REALLY interesting to pursue (for example, when Lancelot goes to attempt to remove the sword, he actually kind of pulls it out a little bit. With magic? Don’t know. But I think that could have been a juicy little plotline), but are kind of just left hanging, leaving us hoping for a little more detail. This happens quite a bit, actually, although I have to say that the legends themselves are so rich and so varied that you could write HUGE books about Arthur and Camelot (called Cadbury here. Not sure why, but I dig it because it reminds me of Cadbury chocolate) and still not delve into every detail or examine every thread of the story. It’s something good AND bad about Arthurian legend.

In the end, because I find this topic endlessly interesting, I liked reading SWORD OF THE RIGHTFUL KING. It reminded me of why I love these stories in the first place. But the book left me wondering how much more awesome it could have been had it been a 100 pages longer, with more room to explore some of the plotlines. *SIGH*

Book Review | Icefall | Matthew J. Kirby

I received this book for free from BookExpo in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review | Icefall | Matthew J. KirbyIcefall by Matthew J. Kirby
Published by Scholastic on October 1, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Vikings
Pages: 324
Format: ARC
Source: BookExpo
AmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig, along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors, anxiously awaits news of her father’s victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, and a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another.

Those charged with protecting the king’s children are all suspect, and the siblings must choose their allies wisely. But who can be trusted so far from their father’s watchful eye? Can Solveig and her siblings survive the long winter months and expose the traitor before he succeeds in destroying a kingdom?

[Read more…]