Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Trials of Magic by Thomas K. Carpenter

Magic school stories are always fun. Seeing young sorcerers and magic user come into their own and deal with all the social issues and angst that you find in any education system has so much potential for a good story. In this case, however, it's more like a magic college which we don't see as often. Did this one pull it off okay? Let's find out.

Sisters Aurie and Pi have had to work hard for just about everything in life. Aurie feels responsible for her younger sister after their parents tragic deaths and works as hard as she can to make ends meet. Pi is eager to prove herself and is willing to go to any lengths to get what she wants. Soon the sisters are given the chance to enter the trials which, if you pass, you will get a chance to join one of the Hundred Halls, specialized learning facilities for magicians of all kinds. Both Aurie and Pi have their sights set on certain halls and, while both are skilled in magic, they must contend with bullies, unfair professors, devious creatures, and conspiracies if they want to pass...and survive.

First thing about this book that I really wanted to talk about was just how well the sisters were written. Pi, in particular, could have been a disaster as that attitude-filled, hormone-driven, reason-ignoring teenager who wants to do what she wants to do because she wants it. While, sure, she does make some rash decisions that a smarter person might, she's still a nice person. She's kind to others and loves her sister despite how overbearing she can be. They made a pretty good team and I was glad to see that. Aurie was also nicely written. It's made clear from the beginning that she's talented in magic but things don't go her way very often and she has a hard time in this book. In spite of this, she has a great attitude. When she's told that she has to live in a closet, she thinks nothing of it because she's happy to be where she is. Both these ladies are pretty awesome and I liked them both a lot.

The magic set up is pretty interesting, as is the world building. While it's called Trials of Magic, the trials don't even make up a third of the book. They're actually a pretty small part of the story but the real trials these girls go through includes what comes after. Again, they have to fight for every little thing. Between jobs and lessons and some particularly hate-inducing other students, these girls have their work cut out for them. I was actually pretty glad to see this. Both these girls are pretty good at magic and so it was nice to see that everything wasn't too easy for them, which it could very well have been. If the student in the magic school doesn't struggle, then it makes them seem too powerful and we don't get as invested in them as we might have been. This is why I think the Harry Potter books would have been an epic fail if Hermione had been the main character. She would have been a Mary Sue. Admit it. By having the main characters be more like the everyman rather than the superman, we get more invested in whether or not they succeed.

If I had any problem with the book it might be that the third act kinda went in its own direction. Now, it wasn't bad, exactly, but it turned out that a plot line that I thought was just a side quest turned out to be the big climax of the story and the search was on for some magical McGuffin that was supposedly a kinda got it bit crazy near the end. That being said, it wasn't completely detached from the rest of the story and did tie into the girls directly and the struggles they were going through, so I guess it wasn't too bad.

Final Verdict
The characters were really great, the plot was interesting, the world was set up well...all in all, I'd say this one was a success. If it sounds like you'd be interested in it, then it is worth your money at your local bookstore.

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Next Time: And now...a shameless plug....

Friday, February 9, 2018

Everless by Sara Holland

You remember that movie In Time with Justin Timberlake (it's cool if you don't). Take that concept, add in a lot more fantasy and less heist and you have Everless. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The idea of both your life and money being one in the same is pretty clever and can have a lot of potential for addressing social issues and commentary on how we view life. Or it could just be a cool gimmick for a YA story, I don't know. Let's dive in.

Jules Ember grew up the daughter of a servant in the halls of Everless, home of the Gerlings, the richest family in the land. Capable of living for hundreds of years off the time they tax from the locals, the Gerlings are law in the land of Sempera, and their power is only getting stronger when their son is engaged to the Queen's daughter. Life turned very hard for Jules when she and her father were banished from Everless, but now she must return to save her father. Soon, though, she comes to discover that her ties to the Gerlings, the Queen, and time itself run deeper than even she could have imagined.

Now, there were certain aspects of this book that I liked...and some I didn't. Really didn't. But the good stuff first. The mythology and world building in this book is certainly very interesting. As I said, there's a lot of potential in a story were life and money are the same thing. Except, in this story, a person's blood is turned into iron coins and the coins are then melted into tea or soup for others to drink. That's...kinda gross, not gonna lie. Also it just takes one person with a HIV and you're all goners. But that's a nitpick and I know it.

I also liked the route this book took with several of the characters. In many places, several characters would have been pretty easy to throw in the "mean girl" cliche and do absolutely nothing else with them as people. But, for the first time in a long while, there aren't any mean, bullying girls in this book. While they certainly have flaws, nobody is just an outright nasty person for the sake of being an outright nasty person. Even the potential love rivals are nice people. Flawed, certainly, but you don't hold it against them. There's also a clever twist that takes place with the love interest in the book that, I have to say, I was really pleased to see. Again, the author had an easy out and could have taken the stereotypical, done-to-death route, but instead messed with our expectations. Kudos.

But then...sigh...there's the protagonist. We have no idea what she looks like so you can imagine yourself in her place, she jumps to conclusions like it was an Olympic sport (this is not helped by the fact that everyone feels the need to be incredibly cryptic while talking to her), and she's melodramatic as can be! A little personality, legitimate personality, could have gone a long way with this girl. Stuff happens to her, but most of it is out of her control. Even when she does make a decision for herself she can be really stupid about it. First off, she's been freaking banished from this place and yet she gives her real name and, before long, doesn't even hide the fact that she's lived here before. Aren't you here at the risk of your very life!? Shouldn't you even try to be subtle about it? There's also a scene when she breaks through a door that marks her hands if she touches it, so the guards could find her out. She knows this but doesn't do anything to prevent her hands getting stained. Do gloves not exist in this universe? She was by far the toughest thing about this book.

Perhaps the other big part of this story is the mysteries. There are several of them in this book such as parentage mysteries, identity issues, secret plots, and so on and so forth. While they are intriguing and I wanted to know what was going on the payoff was...confusing. Not that I didn't get it, it's just that parts feel so contrived that I was kind of dumbfounded at the answers I was getting. It was a feeling like, "Really? That's what you're going with? in the crap were we supposed to figure that out?" And the ending is such a cliffhanger, you'd swear that they just ran out of time and decided "Duh, here's good!" What I would have given for this to be a standalone....

Final Verdict
The characters are good except for the protagonist, the mythology is good but the mystery isn't, this one was pretty hot and cold for me. Ultimately, my problems with it probably won't bother everyone else. If you like this book or want to read it, go right ahead but maybe save your cash and check it out at our local library.

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Next Time: Two sisters, one hundred halls, so little time....

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Pirates aren't quite as mainstream as they used to be, are they? Kind of a shame, if I'm being honest. Swashbuckling knaves and cutthroats make much better reading material than sparkly vampires and hoards of flesh-eating zombies, in my opinion. So, when a pirate book came out only last year, I was curious. Was this story what the pirate genre needed to get back into the limelight? Let's find out.

Alosa, the pirate princess, is given a mission by her ruthless father, the Pirate King, Kalligan. In the hands of two pirate rivals are pieces to an ancient map which leads to the Isla de Canta, an island where sirens have hidden all the treasure they've stolen from hapless pirates that dared to cross their path. In other words, more treasure than even the Pirate King could imagine. And so Alosa, with Kalligan's trust and high expectations to motivate her, must infiltrate one of the rival ships as a prisoner and find their piece of the map without getting caught. But things turn out much more difficult when the handsome first mate seems determined to get in her way.

So, let's start with our title character, shall we? Alosa was actually a lot of fun to read about. She had great personality and, for a story written in first person, I didn't mind being in her head the whole time. Much like the Throne of Glass main character, they manage to make Alosa a delicate balance of masculine and feminine and pull it off just right. She'll kill a man without a thought but, heaven forbid, she get blood on her favorite outfit. She'll endure torture and pain to get what she wants, but heaven forbid someone try to cut her precious hair. She's got a great attitude and I appreciated that about her, even if I thought some of her decisions were a little silly (that part I mentioned about the haircut, specifically).

The big downside about this story is actually pretty simple. For this strong, capable woman who sails the sea and is captain of her own crew and all that...she spends about 98% of this book as a prisoner. Mind you, she gets captured intentionally but that's still the vast majority of this story spent stuck with her in a brig or a cage or at the mercy of other pirates. While she handles it well and manages to make things work to her advantage, the story is just not as fun as it could have been. For heaven's sake, it's pirates! I wanna see this cool character going on adventures and fighting krakens and finding treasure and...anything other than being stuck inside a brig all day! It just feels like a waste of the character's potential being stuck inside this tiny environment when she's capable of much more. Either quit getting captured, intentionally or not, or get a career change, hon.

With the whole story taking place on the same, crowded ship, there's not a lot of room for adventure and so the plot can be a bit slow. They try and make some of the enemy pirates intimidating but not a lot of them leave an impact. The only one the story really wants you to care about is Ridan, our potential love interest, and...he's pretty bland. Ridan is handsome, clean, respectful, kind, clever, charming, who doesn't like alcohol or go off with prostitutes and...all the things you really wouldn't expect from a pirate. I'm sorry but he's too perfect, and I mean that in a bad way. There's just nothing realistic about him and the relationship between the two just feels too cheesy for a pirate story. Your YA arm-candy man can have flaws, y'know. They make him more compelling.

Final Verdict
This story had some potential for fun but suffered from trying to follow too many YA tropes. Still, the lead was okay and the tone was well done. I might be willing to read the sequel...if it doesn't involve the lead getting captured again. If you like pirates and strong lead characters, then you'll probably like this book fine...but I'd wait for it on paperback.

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Next Time: Time is money is life....literally.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

The Suite Life of the Young and the Restless, as I've been calling it, isn't quite what I was expecting when I first picked it up. I was under the impression that it would be a bit more mystery and not so much drama but, that being said, it was still an engaging read to say the least. Many have been comparing it to shows like Gossip Girl which, admittedly, I'm not a fan of. Still, there's a lot about the book that can be talked about so let's dive right in.

The Tower in New York City in the year of 2118 is a city within a city. The foundations and lower floors consist of lower class workers while the upper floors consist of snobby socialites and dirty, scandalous secrets. It is within this high-tech world that all shares the same roof, that five teens are living their own stories. Leda, Watt, Eris, Rylin, and Avery all live complicated lives and when you live the high life, sometimes you fall.

Each of the five stories, or rather the five characters you follow in this book, are just what drama fans will be looking for. Apparently, a hundred years from now, the legal drinking age will be lowered to 18 and so these high schoolers will be free to indulge and make poor decisions at their leisure. There's also a lot of complicated details tangling their individual worlds together. Two girls love the same guy, one gets spied on by another, one's ex is now interested in someone else, and that kind of thing. While it is interesting following the events that eventually tie all these characters together, I can't help but feel it is a little convenient at times. Thousands of people living in this building-world you've got going on and you just happen to run into the ex-boyfriend of an emotional wreck who just dumped a hot chick and is looking for a rebound? Hm, I say.

While these people are the types you generally can spot in any teen drama, they are pretty well developed. Avery is genetically altered to be perfect and has a decidedly not perfect crush on the worst person possible. Leda is attempting to balance her life after getting back from rehab. Eris is the local slut whose life has suddenly turned upside-down. Watt is a hacker who stumbles into a world he's not ready to handle. Rylin is the working-class girl with the upperclass boyfriend who showers her with gifts and the occasional trip abroad. While some of the things these people go through are a little far-fetched at times, I'll admit that the reactions of the characters are realistic. For partying teenagers, some of them can behave pretty rationally...except when they're supposed to be irrational and that works pretty well too, I guess.

Now, there are a couple of things in this book that will...bother people. I hinted that one of the characters has an inappropriate crush and...yeah, it's pretty inappropriate. While it doesn't go that far it is enough to be kinda squicky...just not overly squicky. I can't really say much more without spoiling it it if you're really curious. There's also stealing, hacking, drug-use, sex, and all kinds of stuff that minors really shouldn't be doing but it fits with the tone that the book is going for. Teenagers do stupid things sometimes, this is life. And seeing as life in this world literally takes place miles in the air...yeah, things can get pretty crazy.

Final Verdict
The substance in this book is well done but the style is just not my cup of tea. That being said, it is not a bad book in the slightest. It's engaging, the characters are realistic, and the drama is overflowing but not ridiculous. If it sounds to your liking, please go ahead and read it, but I'd wait for it on paperback.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Please make sure to Follow Midnight Readings for instant updates. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: Drink up, me ladies, yo ho....

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang

For a book about poison and murder, this was a pretty refreshing read! A good mystery full of plot twists, red herrings, drama (oh, the drama) and all the things you need for a thrilling puzzle just waiting to be solved. I'm glad I finally got around to finishing it, as it's been on my "to read" list for some time now. Let's see how it goes.

The world is changing, the war is consuming all the young men and resources the world has to offer them, and influenza is sweeping the country. Still, life moves on as Allene gets engaged and insists that her old friends, Jasper and Birdie, are to attend her engagement party. But the party ends unexpectedly when one of the party guests turns up dead and the three friends suspect poison. Soon, more and more victims keep popping up along with mysterious notes to the three friends. Each must make use of their talents and resources to get to the bottom of this mystery before all the people they love end up dead.

This book definitely knows how to keep its readers guessing and uses clever means to keep all of its secrets a surprise. I was stumped for a long time with this book and, while I had a list of suspects as anyone would, the way everything came together still left me stunned and impressed by the author's skills. There's also a lot of death in this book, but not all of it is related to murder, so you have no idea what's just bad luck and what's murder. It was a clever detail that I admired about this book.

Allene, Jasper, and Birdie are very interesting characters to be following along in this story. The perspective shifts between the three of them, so we get to see how each of them thinks, what their lives are like, and most especially what they think of each other. It's kind of an odd dynamic going on between these three. They all kind of love and yet kind of hate each other at the same time. Allene is upper class, privileged, and a bit naive. Jasper is ambitious, headstrong and overconfident. Birdie is soft spoken and pretty but possesses a bitterness to, what seems to be, the world at large for her misfortunes and being the daughter of a prostitute. Yet they still come back to each other, they liven up each other's lives, and continue to care for each other no matter how resentful they can be of one another. Plus, they make a good team. Allene has a passion for chemistry, Jasper works for the medical examiner, and Birdie is good at manipulating others to get what she needs. It's a very intense, though not always positive, relationship and I found it very interesting.

While the mystery plays a key role in the plot of the book, there's also a whole lot of drama. Almost soap opera drama. Affairs, secrets, guilt, manipulations, rule breaking, law breaking, this book has it all. Even with all this stuff going on, the pace is fast and it's not a difficult read. I actually really liked the language that the author uses in this book. It sticks to the time period that it's in and uses old slang and worked like "hoity-toity" and "golly". Finally, though, readers should be warned that there are some pretty graphic depictions of autopsies in this book that might churn a stomach or two. That being said, it does add to the overall dreariness and unclean tone of a terrible time in history. I thought things all came together nicely.

Final Verdict
This book was a definite good time. Despite the overall tone of melancholy, the violence, and all the death, you still get deep and interesting characters, a rich plot, a compelling mystery and a satisfying conclusion. All in all, I think any mystery fan will enjoy it and that it's worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Please make sure to Follow Midnight Readings for instant updates. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: Does it have a 13th floor? Because if it doesn't, it'd only be 999 floors.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

I...hesitated to pick this one up. While I liked the previous book okay I wasn't too sure about what a sequel would really add to the story or if I really wanted to know what happened next. Still, I saw it the other day, right there in a library and decided, "Why not?" So, let's see how it went.

Samantha Mather is still living in Salem after the tense events that occurred between her and the Descendants in the fall. While Sam would like to forget all about what happened and magic altogether, it seems her own gifts won't leave her alone. She keeps getting strange dreams where she's aboard the Titanic itself the day before its fated demise and she's visited by spirits from the ship who seem oblivious to their fates. Sam and the Descendants must figure out what's going on or disaster might strike Salem once again.

Okay, going from something like the Salem Witch Trials to the sinking of the Titanic seems like a bit of a leap at first glance but apparently Mather, the author, has distant relations connected to both events (next book we'll probably hear her ancestors consisted of Jack the Ripper and Nazi Germany or whatever else would sound like a good story). There's also the fact that the Titanic being brought up at all in the story is because there a Titanic themed dance coming up. Okay, I've never been to Salem (I want to though) but I'm pretty sure that they don't have their high school dances and any other significant events ALL centered around historical tragedies (correct me if I'm wrong). The runner up idea for the dance was the Borgias Masquerade Ball. Really? Besides it just feels like a bit of a cheap excuse to bring the Titanic up at all.  The Witch Trials are a big part of Salem and it's history so it makes sense to use them as a them for your self-insert's whirlwind adventure. The Titanic  has nothing to do with Salem's a stretch.

I wasn't too crazy about the character of Samantha in the first book but seeing as I'd had the impression that the love triangle would be over and she was no longer being victimized, I thought she might have improved a bit. And she did improve...just not as a character. While she's the same whiner she was from the first book and just as self-centered her simple talent of seeing ghosts has now escalated into godlike abilities where she travels through time, pulls objects out of her dreams, makes historical artifacts appear out of nowhere, has visions of the future and past, and can touch, hear, see and make out with ghosts. I honestly don't think I'm being harsh by saying this is too much! What this girl can do is way too crazy, illogical even by magic standards, and having her your self-insert protagonist just seems vain. The stuff she does transcends magic, logic, the paranormal and the normal-normal! It was too much for me.

The Descendants, the foes turned friends from the first book, have potential to be good additions to the story and, I'll admit, their bond is pretty well showcased in this book. However, their characters are never really allowed to grow and instead are lumped into stereotypes. Alice the Tactless, Susannah the Spineless, and Mary the One Who Eats. It's disappointing. Now, let's talk about the love triangle aspect that I really didn't like the first time around. The readers are given the impression that it is resolved toward the end of the first book so, for that I'm going to put up a spoiler warning so, if you want to skip it, just go down to the Final Verdict.

*SPOILER ALERT* At the end of How to Hang a Witch, Elijah, the ghost boyfriend apparently moves on and disappears, leaving Sam and Jaxon to be free to become a couple. But NOPE! Elijah couldn't move on because of love and Jaxon spends most of the book being jealous and bewitched so he and Sam can never end up together. I already don't really like Elijah as character and I certainly don't like that he's more wish-fulfillment genie than ghost in this story who does all the work so Sam doesn't have to and showers her with praise and sweets. But my biggest problem is that this book is insisting that Sam and Elijah are the OTP of this story. Sure they can touch and talk and kiss and crap!? He is no longer alive, his spirit has departed his body, he's kicked the bucket, he's deceased and moved onto another plane, he's spending eternity in a wooden case, he's passed on, he's left this world behind, he is an ex-person! He's dead!!! I'm sorry! I can't let this go. Sam even hints that she'll try to bring him back to life but, have you forgotten, that that was exactly what the villain from the last book was trying to do!? I don't cary if your magical, convenience fairy is the greatest thing in the world. This relationship, no matter how you look at it, is doomed! How can we honestly expect this to be a good thing!? It's not that I like her with Jaxon better, it's just that them being together makes sense because they're both alive! This is starting to really annoy me. *END OF SPOILERS*

Final Verdict
This book wasn't really any better than the first one...but then again I can't say it was worse than the first either. It's just more of the same. Mary Sue characters, illogical magic, convenience fairies ("ghosts")...these books are just not for me. If you liked the first one, you'll probably enjoy this just fine...just check it out at your local library.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Please make sure to Follow Midnight Readings for instant updates. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: I think I've got it....Colonel Mustard in the Stairway with Cyanid!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine

It's been a while since I've looked into the revised fairytale genre of YA. I've kinda missed it, so I've decided to dive back in with this book. This was a curious dive, I have to say. Certainly very thrilling, action-packed, detailed, and much so that, when you really look at it, it's not much of a Snow White story. Let's dive in.

Lorelai, forsaken princess of Ravenspire, has lived her life in hiding with her brother and her guardian after her kingdom was taken over by her evil stepmother/aunt, Irina. Fortunately, Lorelai has the gift of magic and must learn to harness her powers to save her oppressed people and bring down Irina once and for all. But when the Kol, king of the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, comes to Ravenspire in search for aid, Irina gives him an offer he can't refuse: kill Lorelai and bring Irina her heart. This is especially bad for Lorelai, seeing as Kol is a member of a race of creatures who can turn from human to dragon. But the queen's new huntsman is soon to discover that Lorelai is no easy target and it's his own heart that he needs to worry about in this venture.

Like I stated earlier, this story is pretty epic. It does a great job building suspense, has great action scenes, and some of the magic is cool too. Chases, escapes, fighting, with just the right amounts of violence and magic. Throw in just a pinch of romance and we've got potential for a great story here. But, that being said, there were some decisions that I thought were...questionable. Like I hinted before, there's not too much in here that makes it a Snow White retelling. It takes just the bare minimum and leaves out a lot of the big, defining details. There's no dwarves, no sleep, heck even the apple itself isn't in it. Yeah, there are apples in the book but one of the big, iconic details of the story, the one you even used for your frigging cover art is NOT featured in the source material. Might be a bit of a problem.

This book mostly sticks to the "girl starts rebellion" plot line that's exhaustingly common in YA and so, especially towards the third act, things started to get a bit repetitive. It really didn't help that the "huntsman's" thoughts were literally the same words over and over. There's also the fact that Lorelai makes a move against Irina, something big and scary tries to kill her, she escapes. Move, attack, escape, repeat. While it can get a bit tiring after awhile, the fact that Lorelai's moves are actually strategic helps and there is room for character development, so I'll give it that.

The characters in this book, as a whole, don't leave much of an impact. I kept getting Kol's dragon friends mixed up, Irina is little more than a cartoonishly over-the-top bad guy, and Kol and Lorelai themselves are pretty generic as far as leads go. That being said, I did applaud them for never going too whiny. Often when protagonists in these stories are faced with constant trials they have moments of "it's too hard" and "I can't do it!" Thankfully, this story just skips that stuff. Even when real loss comes into the story, Kol and Lorelai stay focused and become stronger for it so...kudos to that. Sadly, the only character I genuinely liked and I thought had the most personality isn't even in it very long and that was pretty disappointing.

Leading into my last point, this thing has some almost pointlessly dark moments. And I mean dark moments. Now, a dark moment here and there can be a good thing and drive the story along, so I have no problem with them. What I do have a problem with is when you have several moments like this and only once does it seem to have an impact on the characters. They also like to bring that one point up again, over and over, to make sure that we know it left an impact. Probably didn't have to go as far as it did just for the sake of saying "we went there" and didn't really have to hammer it into our heads like it did.

Final Verdict
As far as fairytale retellings go, I didn't hate this one...but it's probably not one of the best I've read either. Action is good, but the characters fall flat. It's fantastical but also pointlessly dark and, at times, repetitive. If these things probably aren't going to bother you and you just want a good fairytale based story, this one is fine. Go ahead and check it out but...maybe wait for it on paperback.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Please make sure to Follow Midnight Readings for instant updates. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: I've got a sinking feeling about this sequel....