Review: Darling Girl by Liz Michalski

Peter Pan is Real. Tinker Bell is Real. Neverland is Real and the Darling Family will be forever connected to it all. Holly Darling is the granddaughter of Wendy Darling, who was made famous when Sir James Barrie took her and brothers story and turned it into a play that we all know. Ever since then the public has been fascinated by the Darling family. About the family, Holly included. Holly has used her name to start a cosmetic company that makes creams and lotion to make you look younger. Life seems perfect but she has a secret. Her daughter has gone missing and this is most distressing for many reasons. 1. She has a rare disease that makes her age rapidly and 2. She’s been in a coma for almost a decade. She has to find her before her father does. Yes, Peter. That Peter.

Holly is not an easy person to like and at times, I did outright hate her. She has made some questionable decisions in her life and it is all coming back to haunt her. She hasn’t had an easy life. The pressures of being a Darling is not easy but she has dealt with a lot of tragedies. Her husband and one of twin sons was killed in a car accident and left her and her other twin son seriously injured. Jack, her son, wasn’t sure he would live. In her grief, she meets and Peter and a few months later Eden is born. It’s close enough to her husband not to raise to many eyebrows as to who the father is but she knows. One day Eden has an accident of her own, she falls from a tree and hits her head. Miraculously, Eden’s blood starts to heal Jack. Holly uses her science background to study Eden’s blood and comes up with a treatment for Jack but it does mean that she has to take blood one from one child in a coma to save the other. I guess it’s easy to judge Holly for her decisions but after thinking about it, would anyone done anything differently? Possibly, I mean she could have been more open with the people in her life instead of keeping so many secrets but I began to understand why. For most of the novel, Holly kept going on as to how dangerous Peter was but there wasn’t much early evidence as to why. She just came off as paranoid and controlling but as the novel went on and we get more glimpses of her past it all starts to make sense. It doesn’t mean, what she did was right but it becomes more understandable.

We also get to meet other familiar characters. Christopher Cooke, a private detective with a hook. Nan, her mother’s housekeeper. Barry, Holly’s right hand man and her cosmetic company. Even Bell herself. It turn out the the line between our world and Neverland isn’t as far as we think. Cooke is also a great romantic lead. He challenges Holly. He sees what so many don’t. That is part of his job as a detective but it’s more than that. Just as there is ore to Peter Pan, Wendy and their story too.

Review: Book of Night by Holly Black

Charlie Hall is a thief and a con artist who is trying to go straight. There isn’t a bad decision that Charlie wouldn’t make but she is trying to make the right one. She used to be in the black market of spells and antiques and shadows. Shadows can be altered. They can be used to grab things the person can’t. They can even have a mind of their own. And they can be stolen. As much as Charlie want’s to leave that world behind and just be a normal bartender with a normal boyfriend and a normal sister. She can’t. An old friend wants her to find her boyfriend and it drags her back into her own life and habits. Forces her to face her past and maybe even discover her future.

I liked this book but I wouldn’t say it will be my favorite Holly Black book. I am also not sure what makes this “Adult fiction” compared to her other novels which have all been YA. It’s not anymore explicit then her previous novels. Maybe a little bit more violent and probably more descriptive in that violence but it’s not any spicier. I would say that her Cruel Prince series had more graphic sex scenes than this one. It did make me wonder as I reading it, What’s the difference beyond the marketing of the book? Anyways, Charlie Hall is a mess of a person but she knows it and is trying to make herself better. I really liked her as a character. She is honest. She knows she is not necessarily a good person. She knows when she is making a bad decision and doesn’t try to excuse it or justify it. Just owns and moves on. Victor her boyfriend has a secret but so does she so she doesn’t push it. There is definitely vulnerability there. She knows that she is not an easy person and has done many bad things so if he is okay with that, who is she to question his own past? Things start to get out of hand, when a she is hired to bring a friend’s boyfriend home after he has run off. It turns out this boyfriend may have stolen something valuable. Something that many people want and are willing to kill for it. The smart thing would be just do the job and get out but Charlie can’t help herself and uses as a chance to settle an old score.

As expected, this book is full of twist and turns. For those who like whodunit or noir novels, this one is for you. I think it’s a standalone novel but there is definitely enough story left for more novels and I do kinda want it to be a series. Let’s hope that it becomes one.

Review: The Shadow in the Glass by JJA Harwood

What if Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother wasn’t a Fairy Godmother? What if she had an even Step-dad instead of an evil Step-mom? What if it’s not a prince at the ball but someone closer to home? What if instead of having a fairy godmother just grant her wish to go to the ball, she makes a deal with a mysterious woman that she can have all she wants with 7 wishes? To put it lightly this is not your typically retelling of Cinderella. At times, It became less a Cinderella story and more of a Faustian retelling. Eleanor or Ella as she is called is forced into service when her Guardian, Mr. Pembroke decides she is not worth spending money. Ella was taken in by his wife when Ella’s mother died and intended to raise her to be a Lady but Mrs. Pembroke died and Mr. Pembroke did not share in his late wife’s wishes for Ella. So she forced to be a servant in her own house. She loves to read and it’s her one comfort to sneak into the library and read about all the places she would have gone to if Mrs. Pembroke had lived. One night, she finds a copy of Faust out and starts to read it. As she is reading it, a mysterious woman appears and offers Ella she can have everything she ever wanted with just 7 wishes. In exchange, she just needs to give up her soul after all the wishes are done. As someone who has read the book before, you would think she would be more careful in making deals but she agrees and as you expect, things do not go as well for Ella as she wished for.

This book became increasing hard to read as it went one. Part of that had to do with the events of the past week and looking at a future where Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned, the situations, Ella and her fellow woman in service face are too close to home. The book begins with Ella’s friend and another maid being dismissed because she is pregnant after being raped by the Mr. Pembroke. Everyone knows the child is his but instead of him taking responsibility for his child, she is the one who is dismissed in disgrace. Another maid, uses her influence over the master of the house to steer him away from her but to her fellow maids to avoid their fates. Throughout the book, Ella has to find ways for her and her friends from being his next victim but with a woman with no status and no money, it’s difficult tightrope to walk. She can’t outright accuse him because it is his word against hers and it would most likely get her fired and out on the streets. So she uses her wishes to try to help her situation but like all things, the wishes don’t go as she plans for them. Someone dies because everything has a price. She tries to find ways to help herself without using the wishes but every time she does, she is blocked. So she makes a wish, thinking this time she has phrased it right that she will get the results she wants. As things spiral more and more out of control, she tries to justify each wish, each decision and how she is not to blame for the outcome. It’s not her fault people died. It’s the mysterious woman who killed them. All she is doing is protecting herself and her friends. She is trying to better her life so she can help others. She can have the love of her life She can have the money that she was to inherited. She is doing nothing wrong. Well, if you are familiar with Faust, then you know how this is going to end and it’s not the fairy tale ending that Cinderella normally receives.

This was a good book. It had a lot of good ideas and liked the Faustian twist on a fairy tale story but maybe I would have liked it better if current events didn’t put into sharp focus that Ella’s Victorian reality is not so far from our own reality.

Review: Gallant by V.E. Schwab

This was a delightful little fairy tale if you can call it that. Olivia Prior is an orphan who grew up in a school that does not understand her or tries too. She is not able to speak but she has a lot to say and will not go unheard. Her father died before she was born and only has a diary of her mother that shows her fall more and more into madness. Throughout it tells her Olivia she will be safe as long as she doesn’t go to Gallant. One day, she gets a letter from her uncle telling her that he has been searching for her for years and it’s time to come home to Gallant. She heads to Gallant in hopes of finding a family that she has always wished for but what she discovered a broken down mansion. The Uncle who invited is dead by a year and all who live there now is the housekeeper, the groundskeeper and her grieving Cousin. The family Prior live in Gallant and they can never leave because they guard the wall between the living and the death. Her arrival is not welcomed but Olivia will not be denied a chance of a home or go back to that school so she does what she can to stay. It’s all delightfully gothic in feel and tone. There is such a mystery around all the characters and makes it so rich. Olivia’s cousin, Matthew is so broken by the loss of his family and the history of his family at Gallant. You just wants to give him a hug because he resigned himself to the burden of his families legacy and wanted to protect them as well. He wants Olivia to leave so she doesn’t have to suffer the fate of the family. Olivia is strong and a little stubborn and goes beyond the wall and discovers all the secrets. I won’t say more as not to spoil it but I can’t say enough good things about this book. It was a quick read and heartbreaking. You can’t help but root for Olivia as she tries to find her place in a family she never knew she had but has always wanted. Your heart will break for Matthew who has lost too much and can only lose more. Please go read it.

Review: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

I found this on BookTok and I’ll admit I was a little nervous when they were comparing it to the The Magicians because I HATED that book. It’s the worst and I have no idea how people were able to get through 3 books of it but I digress. The Atlas Six does have some things in common. It brings together a bunch of young attractive magical people in one place. This time, it it is an opportunity to join a secret society that controls the Alexandra Library. It turns out it didn’t burn down but has been hidden because the knowledge it contains it too powerful for everyone and it is limited to only the few powerful people. Joining the Alexandra Society not only you get access to the library but also riches, influence and power that few can only imagine. Every 10 years, the society invites 6 people to study but only 5 people get initiated. Libby, Tristan, Callum, Reina, Parisa and Nico are all powerful magicians. In fact, probably the most powerful magicians in the whole world. They are all equally unlikable as they are likable. The book switches between each of their POV’s so we get insight into all of their heads. This works great because we never really get the full picture of what’s going on. At any given time we only get the perspective on who’s ever POV we are in and I don’t think any of them are the most reliable of narrators. Some arguably more reliable than others and that is what makes it interesting. At times I was actively rooting against one person only to change my mind later about them and then rooting against someone else. I knew that, like the characters, I didn’t have all information as to what is really going on in the society but I feel like I started to catch on quicker then most of the characters. There are a lot of twists and turns and pretty interesting reveal at the end. I kinda saw it coming but not in the way it played out. I am super pumped for the sequel to come out later this year.

Review: A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin

I admitted that I picked this book based on the cover. It is so pretty. Thankfully the book was good or I would have been super disappointed. Ning is from a small town but one day gets an invitation from the Palace to compete to be the new shennong-shi, a master of the art of magic and tea. If she wins and becomes the Palace’s shennong-shi it will bring her power she can only dream of but more importantly, it will give her access to cure to save her sister. Ning immediately gets caught up in Palace politics. The Princess is currently ruling as he Emperor is sick. Her cousin, the son of the banished Prince wants something but his motives are allusive. Others in court have their own agenda. Who can Ning trust? It’s a lot of back and forth as I doubted each character’s motives, convinced that they were the bad guys, only to be surprised at the end. Ning is definitely my favorite character. She is super smart but a little naïve. She is a little over her head when it comes to the machinations of court. Despite that, she is very resourceful and talented. She is able to move through the competition by using what she knows and being able to think on her feet. She often knows the smart thing is to walk away but the does the right thing and stay and help. This often gets her in trouble but also helps her find allies. I was really drawn to this book and sad, I have to wait until October for the sequels. I guess I should be grateful, I don’t have wait a year.

Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

I think I said this had Gone Girl vibes to it but I wasn’t sure who was the Amy Dunne of the story and honestly, I’m still not sure. Lowen Ashleigh is a broke Author who gets a a big contract to be finish writing a series by the popular Verity Crawford. To plan out the next books in the series, she has go live in Verity’s house to go through all her notes and live with her grieving husband, Jeremy. You see, in the last year, the Crawfords have lost both of their twin daughters and Verity practically comatose from a car accident. While doing her research, Lowen comes across Verity’s Autobiography she had been working on and it’s a doozy. The deaths of her daughters may not have been accidents. What should Lowen do? She could show it to Jeremy but he is already grieving, this would just hurt him more but Lowen is also falling in love with him, so it could be the key to freeing him from her. There is just so much going on her. So many twists and turns, it’s hard to really know what was going on. No one is really a reliable narrator her. The book is from Lowen’s POV and it’s clear from the start that she is not in the best head space at the moment. She just lost her mother, who she didn’t have the best relationship with, she’s broke and about to be evicted. Not to mention, she is falling in love with Jeremy so of course she is going to paint herself in the best life. As for Verity, we only have her writing to base our opinions on but is she telling the truth. I was almost expecting to find out that this was all in Lowen’s head and that she and Verity was the same person but that’s not the twist at the end. All I’m saying, you will finish the book still not sure what is the truth and what isn’t. Trust no one. If this hasn’t been optioned for a movie, it should be because in the right hands, this is the perfect psychological horror movie waiting to be made.

Quick Review: The War of Two Queens by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The latest in the From Blood and Ash series and it’s okay. It was just as fast moving as the previous books but felt a bit uneven. I’m not sure if that is because it’s the first book that the POV is split between Poppy and Casteel and as interesting as it was to get in Casteel’s head but I’m not sure it brought that much to the narrative. I see how it was necessary because for the first half of the book, Poppy and Casteel were separated and with him in the capital with the Queen, we got more insight into who she was but also more context as to her plans. However, I didn’t find Casteel as interesting as I thought I would. He is far more attractive in Poppy’s POV in my opinion.

So what worked for me is the introduction of Reaver. Technically, we first meet him in the prequel series but he was a child and I don’t think he actually said anything. I loved every scene he was in. He not only brought the well needed comic relief but also the exposition needed to not only bridge the two series together but also move this book forward. He really saved this book for me. What didn’t work was the little character development for Kieran. He goes from being the loyal best friend and bonded pair to Casteel to the loyal best friend and bonded pair to Poppy. He has such little personality or purpose outside of the those two characters. I feel like more could be done with this character.

So yeah, it was a good read but compared to the previous books it was a little bit of a let down. I can only hope that what has been set up will bring the series back to the what made it interesting and fun in the first place.

Review: Sort of Super by Eric Gapstur

This book is just so cute. Admittingly, I may be a bit biased. I know Eric. He’s a friend who both Kate and I once worked with. We always knew he was super talented and has a successful career illustrating for DC comics and other comic companies. Years ago, he introduced Wyatt and Adeline on a comic strip website and I loved them then. I was sad when he decided to end it. It’s amazing that they are getting they are getting their own book now.

Wyatt Flynn is your typical middle schooler when he was messing around in the evidence room of his father’s Sheriff’s office and he gets super powers. His poor father doesn’t know what to do. He’s a single dad with two young kids and now one of them has super powers! Super powers that he doesn’t know how to use and will only get him in trouble. The book opens on the first day of school, where Wyatt is excited to see his friends but Dad is super scared that he will do something to out himself. Wyatt is not the brightest. Unlike his sister, Adeline who is a genius. She’s so smart she skipped two grades and now she and Wyatt are in the same grade. Not that Wyatt minds. He likes hanging out with each other. When, a fire breaks out near the school, Wyatt with the help of Adeline go to put it out but how do they get back into school without getting caught? Adeline was a plan for that. She’s the literal brains of this operations. Her alter ego is The Outstanding A-Plus! So cute.

Kids will love this book. It’s fun, funny, colorful and fast paced. Both Wyatt and Adeline are relatable even with their powers. Wyatt may not be the smartest but he’s kind and is earnest. Adeline is smart and brave and confident and knows her worth. The artwork is the perfect blend of the Sunday morning comic strip and modern graphic novel. Full of color and details that brings you into the story and giving readers all they need to know to learn each characters feelings and thoughts. I really liked the styling of the panels. I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who has kids. Boys and Girls will love it and so will their parents. Go buy it!

Quick Review: A Shadow in the Ember by Jennifer Armentrout

So I’m not going to lie. I didn’t enjoy this much as the other books set in the world. I guess it’s good to give more context to world that Poppy and Casteel live in and the history behind so many of the conflicts and relationships. Other than that I don’t think it’s necessary. For most of the book, I felt like I was just rereading From Blood and Ash, the first book in the original series. Sera is so much like Poppy and Nyktos or Ash is so much like Casteel. They relationship is so similar. Sera, like Poppy was the Maiden and was raised to fight. They both meet their love interest while they are assuming different personas only to reveal who they really are later. Even their back and forth banter is the same. Heck, at one point, both Sera and Poppy stab Casteel and Nyktos in the heart. Thankfully, the last 100 pages finally became interesting as we learn more about the other Primals and Gods and the circumstances in which Sera and Nyktos became paired up. It just just didn’t need to be a 600+ book to get what we needed to extend the world. Then again, maybe there are things that happen in this book that will become more important in the following books both series to justify the page count. I can only hope so.