Curse of the Specter Queen – Book Review

Curse of the Specter Queen by by Jenny Elder Moke

Synopsis:
Samantha Knox put away her childish fantasies of archaeological adventure the day her father didn’t return home from the Great War, retreating to the safety of the antique bookshop where she works. But when a mysterious package arrives with a damaged diary inside, Sam’s peaceful life is obliterated. Ruthless men intent on reclaiming the diary are after Sam, setting her and her best friend, along with her childhood crush, on a high-stakes adventure that lands them in the green hills outside Dublin, Ireland. Here they discover an ancient order with a dark purpose – to perform an occult ritual that will raise the Specter Queen, the Celtic goddess of vengeance and death, to bring about a war unlike any the world has ever seen. To stop them, Sam must solve a deviously complex cipher – one that will lead her on a treasure hunt to discover the ancient relic at the heart of the ritual: a bowl carved from the tree of life. Will she find the bowl and stop the curse of the Specter Queen, or will the ancient order bring about the end of the world?

Review:
Samantha is a smart and determined young woman. And when she sees a problem that she can help with, nothing will stand in her way. Her character develops a lot through the course of the story as well, which I loved. She started out as timid and a bit of a pushover. But by the end, she’s taking control and coming into her own. The story is mysterious and exciting, with plenty of fun surprises along the way – even if one big reveal was fairly predictable. The characters are engaging and the plot is full of intrigue, suspense, a doomsday cult, and even a bit of fantasy. This is a fantastic new YA fantasy set in the 1920s with a strong female lead. And I really hope it’s picked up for a series.

Rogue: Untouched – Book Review

Rogue: Untouched: A Marvel Heroines Novel by Alisa Kwitney

Synopsis:
Young Rogue’s life is a mess: she’s on her own, working a terrible diner job and hiding from everyone. The powers she has started to develop are terrifying: when your first kiss almost kills the guy, it’s hard to trust anyone – even yourself. Then two people arrive in town who could change her life, and she finally gets a choice: try her luck with the big-haired billionaire who claims to be scouting for gifted interns, or trust the rakish Cajun gambler with the eerie red eyes. But these two aren’t the only ones interested in a mutant just coming into her powers. Rogue will have to master her abilities and decide her own fate – before someone else does.

Review:
Rogue discovers her powers by chance when she meets the dashing Remy. But when they find themselves captured by a mutant slave trade, she decides to hide her gift in order to find a way out for them. This is a fun and exciting new origin story for Rogue. It’s not an X-Men book, but fans will recognize several well-known characters from the comics. The story builds a slow burn with drama building to an exciting, power-packed show-down. With a thrilling plot with plenty of suspense and mystery, I thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic, original Rogue novel.

This Marvel story is from a new publisher with several new and upcoming titles about familiar and some lesser known characters in the Marvel library. I can’t wait to read them all.

The Last Fallen Star – Book Review

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

Synopsis:
Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.

Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!

Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?

As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.

Review:
The Last Fallen Star is the first in a middle grade fantasy series. I know nothing about Korean mythology, so this was a fun learning experience for me. Riley and her friend Emmett are relatable and engaging. In fact, I was hooked by the end of chapter one – and read every chance I had until I was finished. Riley goes on an epic journey to help save her sister, encountering mythical creatures, riddles, and new friends. There are several intriguing twists along the way, some more surprising than others, but the adventure is just as exciting. And Riley is a fantastic character – with great convictions, loyalty, and priorities. I highly recommend this debut with plenty of humor and heart.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within – Book Review

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

Synopsis:
With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

Review:
While The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a part of a series, I have only read one other and had no problem jumping in. It’s a wholly standalone story, just a part of a larger, established universe.

The characters are wonderfully vibrant and diverse. There are 4 separate races represented, all very different from each other and humans. Each has a different background, motivation, and destination. Yet we get a deep dive into each character and how they work together as they’re stuck on a remote planet “truck stop.” It’s not action-packed nor any nefarious mystery, but it’s a completely absorbing story that made it hard to put down. I fell in love with each of these characters and how this one adventure affected each of them. It’s powerful and captivating.

Girls With Rebel Souls – Book Review

Girls with Rebel Souls by Suzanne Young

Synopsis:
The girls of Innovations Academy escaped the confines of their unethical school, fought against the system protecting predators who targeted girls for harassment, and they’re not done yet. They’re still not free.

Reeling from one revelation after the next, Mena and her friends begin to unwind the truth of their existence and, as a result, their destiny. The men from Innovations Corporation still hunt them, the woman who created them still wants control over them, and worst of all, Mena realizes that through all her pain, all her tears, the world of men has not changed. There is no more time to hope for the best. The girls know they are in a battle for their lives, a war for their very existence.

The girls of Innovations Academy have sharpened their sticks to fight back, they have fought for justice with blood from their razor hearts. And now, the girls will choose their true nature…and how they define their rebel souls.

Review:
Girls with Rebel Souls is the final book in an intensely thrilling YA trilogy. Mena and her friends are in hiding, with a mission to save the rest of their friends and take down the corporation that created them. But someone else is getting to the investors before they can. It seems impossible to know who they can trust. The characters in this series are fantastic – complex with an edge. It’s a wonderful and inspired take on the Stepford Wives that takes the idea to a whole new level. With men who want to dominate and women who want revenge, Mena tries to find her own way – yet keeping their rebellious, feminist hearts. With chilling suspense and danger around every corner, this final installment is one I won’t soon forget.

The Revenge of Magic: The Chosen One – Book Review

The Revenge of Magic: The Chosen One by James Riley

Synopsis:
Fort Fitzgerald is finally reunited with his father and wants nothing more than for life to return to normal, the way things were before magic burst back into the world. But normal isn’t an option anymore. Not when the Old Ones could still return to enslave humanity and Damian is dead set on making that happen.

Convinced he’s the Chosen One the prophecy says will save the world, Damian has mastered all six books of magic and plans to summon the Old Ones to destroy them. Fort knows better though—Damian has no chance of defeating the Old Ones once they arrive.

Maybe Fort could stop Damian if he could use the magic from the dragon dictionary, but he’s consumed with strange visions each time he tries. The only hope left is for Fort, Jia, and Rachel to recruit the help of old friends—and enemies. But how can they know who to trust? Because unless they can find the truth behind the web of secrets and lies surrounding the prophecy of the Chosen One, Fort’s visions, Arthurian legends, and even magic itself, they’ve already lost.

Review:
The Chosen One is the 5th and final book in the The Revenge of Magic series. This has been a fun and exciting middle grade fantasy story full of friendship, betrayal, unique magic, and mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure; and this climactic ending did not disappoint. There is plenty of humor that kept it lighthearted at times – especially in the form of a couple fairy characters. And the intrigue and suspense made this inspired series unforgettable.

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