Tag Archives: ya


the book cover for The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 352 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED:  September 24th 2019 
  • PUBLISHER:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, grief, death of parent, animal death

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones


Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves. 

You all know how much I loved The Drowned Woods when I read it earlier this year. Pretty much immediately went and bought Emily Lloyd-Jones’s previous novel, The Bone Houses, as soon as I was done. I kept putting off reading it, though, because it seemed like the perfect book to read for Halloween.

I was right.

But dang, does this book pack quite the punch.

The Bone Houses is about medieval zombies. A bone house is a dead person that is still up and walking around. They can’t talk, or eat, or do anything like an alive person other than…wander around and try to hurt people. (Spoiler — not all the bone houses want to hurt you!) Ryn — our main character — lives in a tiny village seemingly in the middle of no where, surrounded by a magical forest. The bone houses generally stick to the forest, until one day…they don’t. Surprise!

The rest of the book is trying to figure out what magic causes the bone houses, why they’re suddenly coming out of the forest, and attacking the village. Ryn and her companion, Ellis, venture out on a quest to find some answers. Ryn is a no-nonsense young woman, and I loved her ability to do just whatever she needed to so things got done. Instead of being afraid or anxious, she just did things. No fuss. Ellis is a little wishy-washy at first, but his backstory is really profoundly well done. And I can’t NOT mention bone goat. What an amazing animal companion. Loyal even unto death.

The Bone Houses is a book about death, mourning, and how love does not fade when someone passes. This book made me cry more than once, but in a very healing way. It also made me hug my son so, so tight. I loved this absolutely beautifully written book.

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The book cover for Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • STAR RATING:  Five stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 491 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: September 30th 1996
  • PUBLISHER: Harper Collins
    WHAT SERIES? The Old Kingdom Series
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, death of parent, gore, body horror
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald


Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him.

With Sabriel, the first installment in the Abhorsen series, Garth Nix exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rising star, in a novel that takes readers to a world where the line between the living and the dead isn’t always clear—and sometimes disappears altogether.

How do I review a book that I’ve read so many times I’ve actually lost count? For starters — this is a warning that I probably won’t be as objective or unbiased as I could be, because at this point it’s pretty hard for me to be either of those things. The Old Kingdom is one of my absolute favorite series. I first picked up Sabriel in seventh grade. I was a wee pre-teen, and I just fell in love with this story. And I have to say — it’s held up pretty well for being close to thirty years old!

At it’s heart, Sabriel is about a young girl thrust into an awful situation, and how she grows and learns from her experiences. A coming-of-age story, to a T. What I’ve always loved is that Sabriel doesn’t really have YA main-character syndrome. She’s not really described as being better than other girls. She’s not described as beautiful when we first meet her. She’s just a teenager, a young woman about to graduate from her school. She’s shown to be competent, but not overly so, and there are more than a few times where she makes mistakes and owns up to them. Sabriel is an excellent role model for young girls.

I love the world, too, though we don’t get a huge sense of how big it is in this particular book. It gets explored much more in the subsequent sequels, so I won’t mention much of it here, other than to say that Nix does an excellent job of making the world feel old. We see the history in bits and pieces, the way the cities and towns are described, and how the people are living in them.

I’m also incredibly partial to the other characters in Sabriel, though my absolute favorite doesn’t appear until Lirael. Mogget is a pretty close runner-up, though. Talking animal companions are some of my favorites, always, and he is so mysterious and funny that you can’t help but love him. And then when you do find out what he is, oooh. It’s such a good reveal, though you don’t really understand the gravity of it until later books, again. Touchstone is another fascinating character — a berserker with royal blood. He and Sabriel fall in love very quickly, but they do spend the majority of their time together saving each other’s lives over and over.

The villain of this book, Kerrigor, is properly terrifying, with some serious oomph behind his threats. Who and what he is just sends shivers down my spine every time I read this book. And the way they defeat him? GOD, IT’S SO GOOD.

See how it’s hard for me to be unbiased? Anyway — I want to thank those of you that participated in my Sabriel Read-a-Long. It was so, so cool to see so many of you pick up this book for the first time. I loved reading your posts, and I’m so happy that so many of you seemed to really enjoy it! I hope you’ll read along onto the next two books, and that you’ll let me know what you think!

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the book cover for Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco
  • STAR RATING:  3.5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 372 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: October 27th 2020
  • PUBLISHER: JIMMY Patterson Books
    WHAT SERIES?  Kingdom of the Wicked Series
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Kingdom of the Wicked
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, Murder
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  The Cruel Prince by Holly Black


Two sisters.
One brutal murder.
A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…
And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked—princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

I can see why those of you that loved The Cruel Prince really like Kingdom of the Wicked. The same sort of relationship sits at the heart of both stories — enemies to lovers, but also a deep sister relationship. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, but I can see why it’s so popular. And truly, I enjoyed Kingdom of the Wicked way, way more than The Cruel Prince. For those of you that don’t know, I liked the first book in that series, and then found myself hating the rest of it the longer I read. That series is beloved by many, but certainly not by me.

Kingdom of the Wicked stars Emilia and her sister, Vittoria. Or it would if Vittoria wasn’t murdered 50 pages into the book. This is the catalyst, what starts off everything else in the book. Maniscalco does a fantastic job with the emotions here — you really feel how absolutely gutted Emilia is by finding her sister’s body. Emilia, in her rage, grief, and confusion, ends up summoning what she thinks is a demon, but is really one of the seven princes of Hell, Wrath. I wanted to like Wrath a lot more than I did, just because the idea behind him is something really cool. Instead, he’s sort of a half-hearted, almost character. There’s not much to him, and I’m very much hoping that changes in the next books.

Emilia herself is genuinely irritating. She’s got all these thoughts about Wrath, and continues to think them despite being shown time and time again that he’s really not as bad as she thinks. Especially when it comes to her. She’s very stubborn, and not in the best way. She’s also very slow on the uptake of…everything. (That one might be because this is a YA book. Who knows.) Either way, Emilia is definitely at least part of the reason why this book didn’t work for me as much as I wanted it to.

Together, they’re all bickering and baring teeth and basically if they were cats, they’d constantly be hissing at each other. Until they aren’t, of course. There’s one make-out scene, but that’s it. Nothing spicier than that, not that I was expecting more as this is firmly within the YA genre.

The rest of the book is just sort of info-dumpy. This is the first book of a trilogy, so it makes sense, but also there had to be a more elegant way of getting the information to the reader than huge paragraphs included in the middle of action. There were a lot of convenient moments, and just awkward inclusions, too. (In this book, what purpose did the shapeshifters have? They do nothing. Why include them yet?) And not to mention, towards the end, there’s one ‘twist’ that I saw coming literally a mile away. Was anyone surprised by who ended up being Vittoria’s killer? Wrath’s brothers that we see are entertaining to the extreme, but I do wish we had learned more about how Hell works, exactly. It’s left extremely vague.

Despite my complaining, I did enjoy most of Kingdom of the Wicked, and I do plan to read onwards. Three and a half stars! Thank you to Destiny for buddy-reading it with me!

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PS – Don’t forget my Sabriel Read-a-long starts next week!


STAR RATING: 5 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 352 pages
WHAT SERIES? This is a standalone, but set in the same world as The Bone Houses.
CW: Blood, violence
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Thank you to Netgalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict, and eighteen-year-old Mererid “Mer” is well-acquainted with both. She is the last living water diviner and has spent years running from the prince who bound her into his service. Under the prince’s orders, she located the wells of his enemies, and he poisoned them without her knowledge, causing hundreds of deaths. After discovering what he had done, Mer went to great lengths to disappear from his reach. Then Mer’s old handler returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.

The best way to do that is to destroy the magical well that keeps the prince’s lands safe. With a motley crew of allies, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves, and a corgi that may or may not be a spy, Mer may finally be able to steal precious freedom and peace for herself. After all, a person with a knife is one thing…but a person with a cause can topple kingdoms.

Have you ever read a book and known within the first few pages that it’s going to be a favorite? That was me with The Drowned Woods. Lloyd-Jones has a way with words — her writing is simple, but not stupid, and lyrical and descriptive enough that you feel as if you are right alongside the characters. The basic gist of the story is this — our main cast of characters have to destroy a magical well to break the evil prince’s hold on the land. To put it simply — The Drowned Woods is part fairy-tale and part heist novel.

The plot is rather simple, but there’s no need for it to be incredibly complicated. (And, not to mention, this is technically a YA novel.) What Lloyd-Jones has done works. She brings together a memorable cast of characters and lets them tell the story.

There’s Mer, the water diviner — someone who can sense and manipulate water. She’s got some serious baggage, with good reason. She’s frequently quite prickly, and slow to trust after being betrayed by someone close to her in the past. There’s Fane, the ironfetch, and his pet corgi, Trefor. Fane was my favorite of the bunch — he is under service to the Fae, and was enchanted by them to be able to sense iron. They “gave” him another power, but I won’t spoil what that is. He spends a good chunk of the novel frequently afraid for everyone else, but he’s rather stoic about it. Trefor is a corgi, and he’s the bestest good boy out there. Other characters include: Ifanna the lady thief, Renfrew the spymaster, Emrick the scholar, and Gryf the…well I’m not going to spoil that, either.

There is a deep betrayal in this novel, that I saw coming, but wanted to pretend that I did not. But ohhhhh, how it hurt when I finally got to it. Ugh.

The Drowned Woods is a fairy-tale type novel (I’m reading a lot of these lately, apparently!) — it is based off of an old Welsh legend or tale, so that explains the general feel of the story. There is incredible magic to this tale, and I’m so, so glad that I got the chance to read this one.


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  • STAR RATING: 3.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 280
  • WHAT SERIES? Hollow and Hill
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Of Beast and Burden
  • CW: mentions of incest and slavery
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black

Thank you to Netgalley and Independent Publishers Group for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


A fae girl with a human heart.

A Seelie Queen with a penchant for stealing mortals.

And an Unseelie King who will have to give up his throne.

On the coast of Georgia rests a small southern town where faeries still take changelings. Faye lost her mother to the Folk, but has she spent her whole life longing for a glimpse—however brief—behind the veil.

When Faye finds her way in, she also finds the truth of why the dark and alluring world of the Folk has always called to her: She’s half-faerie, and heiress to the Dark Court’s throne.

When the rival court steals her best friend, she’ll have to claim her crown to get her back. But that means learning how to use her glamour so she can face three deadly trials—and not falling for the dark and brooding king she’s meant to be replacing, or the nymph-turned-knight teaching her to fight. 

To start off, let me just say that Of Beast and Burden reminded me a lot of The Cruel Prince, and a tiny bit of A Court of Thrones and Roses. Thankfully, I liked Of Beast and Burden quite a bit more than I liked The Cruel Prince. (I was not a fan of that series at all, sad to say.) ANYWAY, the comparisons will absolutely be made, and with good reason.

Of Beast and Burden is about a girl named Faye (Insert a tiny eyeroll here) who grows up believing herself to be completely human. Her, her grandmother and her cousin live in a tiny town on the Georgia coast. In this town, all the humans are well aware that the Fae live close by, and that they must be careful. These are old-school cruel Fae.

The novel starts off with Faye and her friend, Delia, throwing a party by the edge (or inside of? I can’t remember) of the woods. They’ve been told to never go here because the Fae dwell near by. So, of course, they do what any good teenagers do, and do the complete opposite of what they’ve been told. Two Fae show up at this party, and take Delia. Faye follows, because she’s not about to let the Fae steal her friend without at least trying to save her.

Long story short, she saves her friend, and finds out that she’s half-Fae. Her dad was the Mad-King of the Unseelie Court. She goes home to find out that her Grandmother isn’t really her grandmother, and that she knew Faye was half-fae the entire time. Her cousin isn’t her cousin, she was a changeling. Her “cousin” gets kidnapped, and Faye makes a bargain to get her back. This is what really starts the plot of the novel.

Of Beast and Burden does a lot of things right — the characters all have their very own distinct personalities, the world-building is pretty good, and the plot is semi-decent to decent. There are a few things I have to nit-pick, though. The Trials she has to go through in order to get her crown are mentioned all throughout the book. I got to 80% of the way through the book and the trials STILL hadn’t happened. It honestly left me wondering if they were going to be in the second book. When the trials did finally kick off, I swear they lasted less than twenty pages. If you’re going to put some hype into something, at least spend some time there!

There’s a love-triangle which is completely unnecessary — but I will say it was refreshing to have both a female and male love interest. The resolution to the main problem at the end of the novel felt shoved in at the last second. Very little foreshadowing to the solution, not to the problem. I’m not going to spoil it, even though it’s ridiculously obvious what’s supposed to happen.

Overall, I enjoyed most of Of Beast and Burden. A solid three-and-a-half stars for me.


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  • STAR RATING: 3.5 stars
  • PAGE LENGTH: 334 
  • CW: Death, Death of parent, Blood, Suicide, Child death, Bullying
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Any of Schwab’s other work, honestly.


Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for Girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home; it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile, or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?

New York Times–bestselling author Victoria Schwab crafts a vivid and lush novel that grapples with the demons that are often locked behind closed doors. An eerie, stand-alone saga about life, death, and the young woman beckoned by both. Readers of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Melissa Albert, and Garth Nix will quickly lose themselves in this novel with crossover appeal for all ages.

For me, VE Schwab is one of those authors that I’ll buy without question. I’ve read almost all her work, and already own what I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I love her books, and her style — dark, haunting, and just the tiniest bit curious. Gallant as a novel mostly lives up to this.

I say mostly, because there was no real reason for this book to be classified as a novel, and not a novella. This story is a short one, and truth be told, there was a lot of filler in it. There are many full-page illustrations, and many pages that are filled up with just a few lines of text. Without those in there, I doubt this book would have cracked 250 pages.

Now, the story itself is good! Gallant reminds me of a classic fairy-tale and a ghost story all wrapped up in one.

Olivia, a mute orphan, receives a letter inviting her to her family’s estate, Gallant. Once she arrives, it becomes very apparent that no one there sent her the letter. There are only three people living at Gallant when she shows up — the gardener, the cook/house keeper, and her cousin. Everyone at the house is very secretive, and seemingly afraid of the dark. Schwab is excellent at making you feel dread without really knowing why. Olivia is instantly curious, and wanders until she finds something she is not supposed to. Gallant the house is spooky — filled with the ghouls of her family. The story moves forward and you realize that Gallant is haunted by something terrible.

Seeing the world from a mute character’s eyes was incredibly unique. You could feel Olivia’s frustration when she couldn’t communicate with someone. You don’t feel her voice as absent, though, because as you read, her thoughts fill up the pages.

This definitely isn’t my favorite of Schwab’s work, but I still think it’s worth the read if you like her other books.



Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan publishing for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


In River City, where magic used to thrive and is now fading, the witches who once ruled the city along with their powerful King have become all but obsolete. The city’s crumbling government is now controlled primarily by the new university and teaching hospital, which has grown to take over half of the city.

Moving between the decaying Old City and the ruthless New, four young queer people struggle with the daily hazards of life―work, school, dodging ruthless cops and unscrupulous scientists―not realizing that they have been selected to play in an age-old drama that revives the flow of magic through their world. When a mysterious death rocks their fragile peace, the four are brought into each other’s orbits as they uncover a deeper magical conspiracy.

Devastating, gorgeous, and utterly unique, We All Fall Down examines the complex network of pain created by power differentials, even between people who love each other―and how it is possible to be queer and turn out just fine. 

I devoured this book. It one of the most unique books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s so well done. We All Fall Down is about four characters who live on an island called River City. The island is basically a sovereign nation — US laws do not apply. And yes, the book takes place in current day. However, most technology does not work very well on the island. There’s no connection to outside internet, cellphones don’t work well, etc. It’s all explained by saying the island’s bedrock messes with newer and more complicated technology.

At the beginning of a novel, there is a flashback scene that sets up the entire story. The previous King dies, and his wife, the Maiden, dies giving birth to their children. This is our start.

Lemme pause here and say that if you don’t like stories where fate is a thing, you probably won’t like this one. The whole book is about fate, and how the ‘wheel’ will continue to turn regardless of what people try to do to influence it. Fate says there must be four players: The King, The Hero, The Maiden, and the Monster. We meet everyone by the end of the novel.

David, is a huge black man who works at the University as a physicist. He’s studying magic without really realizing that’s what he’s doing. Jesse has a unique power — they can physically turn from a male to female body and back again at will. They are a bright little sunshiney cinnamon roll, and I love them. Jack is a buff, tough woman who works for the local crime lord. She’s got a hard exterior, but is a little squishy underneath. Turing is…I don’t want to spoil it, but she’s different. She’s had a very rough life, and is sheltered because of it. Each of the characters has their own definite story line, and they’re all very well rounded. I do wish we got a little more information on Jack, but perhaps that’s coming in the next book.

There is not a single straight person in this book. It’s fantastic. The writing is mysterious and shadowing feeling without being frustratingly vague. I cannot wait to read the next one, whenever it comes out. I am dying to get some more answers regarding fate in this world!


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Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.

As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.

With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along. 

I wanted this book to be cuter and more clever than it actually is. My friend Kelsey can tell you that when I first started this book I was, to be quite honest, completely unimpressed. For the first handful of chapters, this book has no idea who it’s audience is. It reads like middle grade fiction for a good long while, but then one of the characters drops an f-bomb, and suddenly who knows?? The beginning needs some serious reworking so it’s a bit more clear who this book is for.

Once the book hits its stride, though, it gets pretty damn cute. It’s fun, lighthearted, and something you can read without having to use too much of your brain.

However, besides the mention of getting a sword from a bog, there is NOT A SINGLE PIECE of this story that has anything to do with the Arthurian legend. Color me completely disappointed. I wanted some mention of Merlin, or Morgana, or hell, even a Lancelot. Nothing. I got over it though, because Arek and his friends are all rather fun. Though I do have another minor complaint — how come literally every other member of the friend group has a cool fantasy name, but Arek’s love interest is just…Matt? Lame. Oh yeah — this book is rather gay. There’s all sorts of representation in both the foreground and background of the story. It’s done in a subtle way, not overly in your face about it, which is nice.

The basic gist of the story is what happens after the main bad guy is defeated and the kingdom is saved? It’s a cute concept! The tone was off for a bit, but the book settles into itself close to around halfway through. I’d have given up if it took longer, but thankfully the book is short and it was worth it. If you’re looking for something fun and lighthearted, I recommend So This is Ever After. I give it a good three and a half stars.

So This is Ever After comes out March 29, 2022.

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