Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

Royalty sure does like its games, doesn't it? But unlike another fantasy story with a similar title, this book goes more the historical fiction route, taking place in the Russian Empire in the time of Tsar Alexander I in 1825. Let's see how history looks when there's a bit of magic added to it.

Vika and Nikolai are the only two enchanters left in Russia. Each has extraordinary abilities which the tsar thinks might be very useful to the Empire, especially with the threats of the Ottomans and Kazakhs looming on the horizon. However, only one of them may be granted the title of Imperial Enchanter and advisor to the tsar. The other must die. To decide which of them will inherit the title, the tsar begins the Crown's Game, in which both enchanters are to display their power and imagination in grand feats to amaze the citizens of St. Petersburg and spell doom for their opponent. But things when complicated when the tsesarevich, who happens to be Nikolai's best friend, starts to fall for the beautiful Vika...and so does Nikolai.

The good thing about this book is that they manage to take a familiar situation and play it straight. As I hinted earlier, a lot of stories are taking the "game of life and death" route. Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, even Ender's Game all use this idea to the point where it's become something of a gimmick. So, if you're going to go with this idea then do what this book does and take it in a direction we haven't seen before. I admit there were times when I honestly didn't see something coming. While the situations are familiar, this story takes things in a new direction and I appreciated that.

The characters of both Nikolai and Vika are well done. They each have likable personalities but they both have flaws too. Nikolai's an orphan who came from nothing and is kind to both those better and less than him, but he's prone to lying to everyone around him to keep himself safe. Vika is optimistic and imaginative but her sheltered life has left her a bit naive. You understand these characters and you like them both and want them to succeed, so throwing them into a situation where one of them could die invests the reader into wanting to see them both come out of their situation okay, even if you know they're not. The tsesarevich, Pasha, is another main player in this story and another fun character. He sneaks away from his guards and goes out drinking, but he has a loving heart and he cares about his country that he will one day rule. The overall cast is good and shies away from stereotypes, which I greatly appreciated.

Now, let's have a little chat about the magic in this book, shall we? Each member of the game has five turns to create spectacular feats in celebration of Pasha's birthday while keeping the fact that what they're doing is magic a secret from the general public. Now, that seems like a simple enough detail...until you make islands appear overnight and hallucinogenic benches. I'm sorry, but even human denial has its limits. There's no way that some of these things can be reasoned to exist, especially in 1825! Things that would take years to accomplish are done in a blink of an eye and nobody suspects anything? I found that little detail a bit much to swallow. That being said, the magic is impressive by both enchanters and it certainly made things fun to read about. I just think that it could have been a bit more subtle, especially if they're supposed to be hiding these things from the masses.

The drama comes together in a climax that's...probably not as epic as I would have liked it. There are certain things I didn't like such as Pasha's attitude toward the end of the book and the situation involving a moving corpse. But while the climax wasn't the big, fantastical affair I'd thought it would be but I was satisfied with the conclusion anyway. When a book gives you two good characters in a battle to the death, the resolution can sometimes come in the form of a cop-out. Thankfully, this book avoids that, but doesn't leave the reader in complete despair either. All in all, I think it was handled pretty decently to leave readers satisfied as well as hopeful.

Final Verdict
Overall, I'd say that this book is pretty good. It was its own story and followed its own path, had plenty of intrigue and magic and I think anyone picking it up out of curiosity will enjoy it. I'd say 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: British humor, two fantastic authors, and the end of the world. Sounds like fun.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Happy Boxing Day, everyone! I hope you've had a good Christmas and since I spent some of mine finishing up this little, 500-page nugget, I know I had a great one! I've had this books praises sung to me most of the year and I've finally gotten around to it. Thank goodness for that because this was just fantastic! Let's start.

Lazlo Strange is a dreamer. That is, his mind is full of impossible dreams, fairy tales, and stories he's read while living in the vast library of Zosma after growing up an orphan in a monastery. His favorite stories are of the Unseen City, whose name was stolen some years ago and is now only known as Weep. When an army of warriors, lead by a man known as Godslayer, from that city come looking for the sharpest minds to help them with a problem, Lazlo is decidedly uninvited. But Lazlo refuses to give up on his dream and journeys forth to see the city of his dreams, where he beholds an otherworldly citadel in the sky and the mysterious beings that dwell within.

Wow. Just wow. That's all I could say after I finished this thing. The writing is just superb. You are quickly invested in these characters, you see the vivid images in your mind's eye, you feel the pull of tension and dread that weighs in the's just fantastic! Lazlo Strange is the kind of bookworm character that other bookworm characters try to be, but don't necessarily succeed at being. His wild imagination and respectful eagerness to witness the world of his imaginings come to life is something anyone with impossible dreams can understand and relate to. He's remarkably humble, happy to see good things happen to other people and thinking nothing of any lost credit he could have had. When he sees the chance to reach his dreams slipping away from him, you feel for him. I even found myself yelling at the book, saying, "You can do it, Lazlo! Go get your dream! What are you waiting for!?" That's how invested I got. It has been some time since I actually yelled at a a good way. Kudos for that.

The other characters in the book are just as good as he his. Thyon Nero, a nobleman who can create gold, serves as a very interesting type of rival character. Most rivals are pretty shallow characters, bullies or downright nasty people and are generally unsympathetic. Nero, however, is an interesting mix. He's not a heartless bully, though, granted, they don't make him the nicest guy either. He's complex and you can understand his bitterness toward Lazlo. Eril-Fane, the Godslayer, also has a very tragic story and you feel the weight that constantly presses on this guy. He's a leader who constantly has to hide the fact that he feels lost. But the other big characters are those of Sarai and the Mesarthim, the powerful, magical beings that watch over Weep. There's a deeply complex history between them and Weep, leaving them caught in a purgatory of past sins and present fears. Each of them has a unique power as well that reflects their personalities, which was a fun detail and told us a lot about them without actually saying anything, which was really clever.

The mythology and set-up of this world is absolutely wonderful. It's vivid and imaginative and filled with dreams and reality. Some of these are ideas you just want to kick yourself for not thinking of first. Roads made of lapis lazuli, pink blood candy that makes you immortal, mythical creatures,'s all just so gloriously put together and I just loved dreaming these dreams right along with Lazlo. The wonder and spectacle that the book builds up gives us hope along with Lazlo and I just loved it. It opens the mind to limitless possibilities that fantasy gives us, reminding us why we love it so. A book that reminds one how it feels to be a reader, or a dreamer, is one that will stick with you for quite a long time.

Final Verdict
Ladies and gents, we have a winner! I just loved this book! The characters are amazing, the writing is spectacular, the story was thrilling and complex...just read it! Seriously, read it. True praise be unto this book as it takes its place upon the Shelf of Recommendation!

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: In Soviet Russia, game plays you!...urgh, I'm sorry. I'm never saying that again...

Friday, December 22, 2017

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Magic spells, a resistance against tyrannical oppressors, mythical creatures, love blossoming in the most unexpected places, and the overwhelming feeling of....meh. Yes, this is another girl-starts-revolution story that tries to actually tie into historical events (poorly) and tries to excite readers with love triangles amidst brewing war and just doesn't do it very well. Let's see what happened.

Anna Arden comes from wealthy English family in a world where the rich, nobel classes are the only ones allowed to harness magic and become part of the Luminate elite. But Anna is Barren, unable to use magic at all...except it seems to break the spells of others as she demonstrates during her sister's debut into society. Anna is exiled to Hungary, her grandmother's home country, which is in the midst of a brewing revolution. It is here that she is recruited into joining the resistance in the hopes that she will break the Binding, a spell that keeps the poor from inheriting magic, and give magic and freedom to all people.

The biggest problem with this book can be simply explained by the fact that, for long stretches of time, nothing happens. Between Anna's indecisive nature to the resistance's meetings consisting of everyone sitting around and saying, "We should do something!" "Should we do something?" "Let's do something!" "We shouldn't do something." for about two thirds of the book. The rest of the time we have the feeble romance between Anna and her love interest, a Romani named Gábor, which isn't very interesting because...they aren't very interesting. Anna is a very bland character in which much happens to her but she ends up doing very little in response. She knows that she's being watched and people are keeping track of her every move and yet she goes to rebellion meetings and meets with known heretics anyway. Kinda dumb, sweetie. Kinda dumb. And her Romani boyfriend is really intelligent despite having a very poor upbringing and he's cold and aloof but he's really a sweetheart once you get to know him because he's just "guarding his feelings" and blah blah blah. He's the same YA arm candy boyfriend we've seen a thousand times the same way. Oh, and this broad also kisses her cousin. More than once. Let that sink in, why don't ya?

Now, I know I haven't been saying a lot of good things about this book, but there are nuggets of good in here...kind of. Firstly, the idea of breaking the Binding, Anna's very purpose in this resistance, comes with some pretty dire consequences and the book goes into this. I would have been very easy to say, "Bad guys are bad. Good guys are good. Do the thing and everyone will be happy." as most books do. But they make it a pretty difficult choice. Anna could be potentially making a choice that will change the world completely and put a lot of innocent people at risk. Also, giving magic to those it has been kept from for a thousand years comes with problems as well, as these people haven't been educated and don't always know how to control it, which could end in everything from disaster to death. This is a really good idea, making things not so clear cut and giving the protagonist a truly difficult decision...until the story goes "Never mind! It is a simple choice so go do it and everything will work out swell!" This also adds to the books indecisive problems when Anna is constantly bouncing back and forth between, "I should!" "I shouldn't." "I should!" "I shouldn't." every chapter or so. Making Anna Barren is also a good idea that the book kind of ruins. Her struggles and the problems she faces being a powerless person in a world where magic reigns supreme can make for good potential for a character...but then the book points out that "oh, it's not that she isn't special. It's that she's just super-mega-special and others are afraid of her." Good ideas ruined by bad writing. Simple as that.

Finally, I don't know much about Hungary seeing as I've never been there and I don't know much about the culture. That being said I do find it odd that you'd take an actual piece of this country's history, a revolution that actually did happen and was a largely bloodless affair, and make it the centerpiece for your magical rebellion story and make it an all out war. There's creative license and then there's...this. I didn't feel more educated about Hungarian history because of this book or its culture other than the fact that the Romani guys are really hot. I don't see why the author couldn't just make this a brand new world and used the actual historical facts as inspiration for all of this but...what do I know.

Final Verdict
In the end, I didn't really get mad at this book but it was pretty bland. Frustratingly indecisive, pointlessly draw out, and potentially good ideas wasted with poor payoff. If you just like stories with fancy Victorian era clothes and parties and love between classes go right ahead and check it out...but save your cash and 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: Lucid dreaming has never seemed so cool!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The School for Good and Evil: The Last Ever After by Soman Chainani

It's been a long time coming but I've finally gotten to the third installment of the School for Good and Evil saga. Things are heating up, the characters are facing turmoil like nothing they've yet faced, and it's time to see where things unfold from this point on.

Sophie and Agatha, one time best friends but now enemies, have been separated. Agatha and her true love, Tedros, have been sent back to Agatha's home village of Gavaldon and Sophie now resides in the School Master's tower in the School for Good and Evil. But the School is now solely one of evil as all the students are forced into becoming the next generation of evil or be turned into beasts and old villains are given chances to rewrite their stories, killing the fairy tale heroes of old in the process. Agatha and Tedros must travel back to the school and save their friend at all costs, for Sophie might just become the key to evil's ultimate triumph, putting the fairy tale world and the real world in jeopardy.

This book promises conclusions and fairy tale epic-ness and I'm glad to say it totally delivers. The characters of Sophie and Agatha are just as good as ever. Agatha is struggling to save her best friend while also keeping Tedros's affections and battling with her own lack of self-worth. Sophie is searching for her own happiness and is becoming more and more desperate to find it anywhere she can, even if it means turning to evil and destroying another's happiness in the process. Both these characters have come a long way yet they remain their charming, humorous selves. I really enjoy these characters and the writing in this book. Even though it's been a while since I read the last installment, when I picked up this book I slipped right back into the world as if I'd never left.

While we've met some of the children of old fairy tale characters, in this book we get to actually meet them. Old villains have come back from the dead, seeking vengeance on the heroes that defeated them and the old heroes are trying to stay alive long enough to save both the fairy tale world and Gavaldon. The old heroes are, like most of the characters in these books, funny as heck. The direction these characters have taken since their Ever Afters is actually really interesting to see and Chainani does a great job in thinking up clever ideas and retellings of these stories that we know of. Cinderella's story, in particular, was pretty well done. It was interesting, funny, and also pretty sad. We felt for these characters and wanted them to come out of it okay. Other minor characters in the series, such as Hester, Anadia, Dot and Hort are all given arcs in this story and the students must decide where they stand when it comes time for the final showdown.

That being said, we actually spend very little time in the actual school the series is named after. Sophie is promoted to being a teacher and Agatha doesn't attend at all at this point, as she's gotten her Ever After. Not that the school no longer serves a purpose, for the old Evil castle, now the Castle of Old Evil, is the headquarters of the villains and the final battle takes place at the school itself. There's also this big reveal that I won't give away about Sophie and Agatha's origins and...I'm not entirely sure I get it or that is makes sense or is even needed. Now, it isn't bad, mind you. I just felt that it wasn't entirely necessary. However, the story comes to a truly nail-biting climax where everything comes down to a single choice and things are at their bleakest. The tension and chaos in this book are felt and when a person gets hurt or dies, you really feel their loss. It's big, it's bombastic, and just the wrap-up I was hoping for...which is kind of odd since there is another book after this one. I guess that means it's not technically the Last Ever After, now is it? Oh well. That just means there's more. Yay.

Final Verdict
Just what I was hoping for. All the charm, all the cleverness, and all the entertainment that I've come to expect with this series. It's definitely worth the read and definitely 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: I fail to see any roses fighting in this supposed revolution....

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Exercise of Vital Powers by Ian Gregoire

We know all those cliched lines about power. "With great power comes great responsibility", "Those who crave power the most deserve it the least", and so on and so forth. This is one of those stories exploring what it is to have power and what kind of path it can lead you down, whether salvation or damnation. How's it play out? Let's take a look.

Kayden Jayta is the top of her class at an academy which teaches the art of Zarantar, magical gifts that manifest when one reaches a certain age and can be either honed or bound. After Kayden cheats her way out of an important test (this world's equivalent of the Kobayashi Maru), she's approached by  the campus's headmistress, Fay Annis, to accompany her to the headquarters of The Order to undergo a certain test set up by its very founder Master Ari. Little does Kayden know that this test is her last chance. If she succeeds, she returns to school and finishes her education. If she fails, she dies.

Let's just get this out of the way right now. Kayden is a horrible person. She has got to be one of the most arrogant, condescending, rude, manipulative, self-centered characters I've ever read in my entire life. However, it's okay...because it is intentional!  This book isn't insisting that she's actually a nice person and talking about how wonderful and sweet she is. No, people freaking hate her and for good reason. Kayden is meant to be a character who tests your patience and who is at the point in her life where she can be evil or change her ways. Kayden is this close to becoming a villainous character, which is what Fay is trying to prevent. This isn't about Kayden being the most specialist person in the world, it's about taking a terrible, miserable person and saving them before it's too late. It's meant as a redemption story and, while it is a bit of a pain being stuck with this awful person as our protagonist and some people might get turned off by that, it's their transformation that we get to see in the end.

Now, there are actually two redemption stories in this book, Kayden's and another magician named Kenit Darbandian. While Kayden's is given the central focus, I actually enjoyed Kenit's story as well, if not a little more. Kenit's deal is that he ran away from a perilous situation and got his mentor killed.  So Fay devises a plan to help him confront his fears and give him another chance. They way this is devised is pretty clever and it makes for a pretty intense scene. You understand why he wants to run, but you know he needs to fight and the conclusion he comes to hits home deeply. It also helps that Kenit is a more enjoyable character to be around than Kayden and so his story arc is a good one.

Kayden's arc, however, I felt could have been...well, a bit more. She sees where her current path is taking her and deals with the demons of her past but I felt it could have used a bit more power. With other redemption stories such as this, the main character goes through a lot before they change who they are. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge sees three intense visions of his past, present, and future and views his life from the perspective of others in order to see how miserable his life is and the impact he's had on others. In The Thin Executioner, Jebel goes through vast amounts of pain and torment, witnessing things like brutality, slavery, cultism, massacre, even cannibalism before her learns the value of life. For Kayden, it is one hallucination and her journey of redemption takes place over one day. Yup. Just one day and poof. I just feel like a character this rotten could have used way more time and faced way more in the way of trials. Not that what she does go through doesn't leave an impact and does make a difference, I just think going the extra mile would have let a bigger impact.

Also, this book probably could have used a bit more editing. There are a few grammatical errors here and there and I do think some of the scenes were unnecessary. It probably could have ended a few chapters sooner, rather than wrapping up every loose end possible Return of the King style. That being said, the writing is good, the world building is sound, I like the concept of Zarantar as well as the characters of Fay and Ari. They were both very likable, I enjoyed the comradery between the two of them and I kind of wished we had more time with them.

Final Verdict
I always do enjoy a good redemption story and this one was pretty good. Some people might be put off by Kayden as a character, but if this sounds like the kind of thing that attracts you, I'd say go ahead and check it out but 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: It's graduation time at the School for Good and Evil...

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Picture, if you will, the concept of a Geisha who could raise people, and dragons, from the dead. A surprisingly hardcore image, ain't it? In this book's universe, a young woman who is gifted with magical powers can become an asha, a performer and conversationalist as well as a warrior who can use magic. Now, if that's not a great concept when I see one, I don't know what is. How'd it pan out? Let's take a look.

Tea was very young when her power manifested itself and she summoned her older brother back from the dead. To her horror, as well as everyone else's, she's a bone witch; an asha whose power comes from the dark. She is then whisked away from her home by another bone witch, Lady Mykaela, and taken to the Valerian where she's trained to become an asha. But the world frowns deeply upon dark asha and Tea has a long and difficult road ahead of her.

The culture and style of this world is very well put together. As I said before, the training and careers of asha are very similar to those of a Geisha and the world does have a very feudal Japan feel to it. Several times I was deeply reminded of Memoirs of a Geisha (from which I'd be very surprised if the author didn't draw some inspiration) except with the inclusion of magic and combat training. Yet it doesn't feel like a rip off. This world is similar, yes, but also manages to be its own thing. The set up of the Eight Kingdoms and the politics that take place within it are well thought out. The magic within the story is pretty basic, manipulating elements and whatnot, but also has original ideas such as heartglasses (glass necklaces that reflect your inner thoughts).

But, as good as the world is, the plot can tend to crawl at times. It goes into great detail about descriptions of buildings and what daily life is like for an asha, which is good, but it tends to run away with itself. There are long bouts of nothing happening through this book. Once the action does start, however, it is pretty interesting. There's some really good action and drama in this book, including attacks from dark creatures called daeva, political intrigue, potential love interests, complicated plots from mysterious warriors called the just takes a long time reading through dancing lessons and chores before we get there. Still, the training and lessons can be interesting in their own right, but it isn't always enough to keep one's attention like it should.

The characters in this story are...okay, for the most part. Tea, as far as protagonists go, does tend to be a bit of a whiner. You can understand where she's coming from, for the most part, but it can get on one's nerves after awhile. Fox, the resurrected older brother, is an interesting character but his efforts to protect Tea tend to get in the way of things. He knows she has powers, he knows she can help, but he runs in and goes on about it being "too dangerous". Dude, people are getting killed. Let the woman work! Lady Mykaela is a pretty interesting character, the leader of the Valerian is delightfully disgusting, and the dress maker is fun, but everyone else tends to be either cliche or forgettable. A lot of the asha kind of blend into one another, making it a bit hard sometimes to keep track of who is who.

The story is told from Tea's perspective several years in the future. A future, in fact, where she's an outcast and is raising daeva and keeping them as pets. Now, this insight into what Tea's future holds actually does provide some atmosphere and an odd feeling of dread. We don't know how Tea ended up in such a place and it makes us truly interested as to where the author is going with the story. Couple that with a pretty ominous ending and it will make readers eager to know what happens next. Those bits were the best part of the book for me and it got me genuinely interested in Tea's future and how she comes to be in such a place.

Final Verdict
While the plot can drag and the characters fall flat, the world building and atmosphere still make up for an interesting story and a compelling read. If it sounds like something you'd like, 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: For this girl it is either redemption or death....

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

It's been some time since I've gotten to enjoy a good fairy tale retelling. Now, most people jump at the chance to retell stories like Red Riding Hood and Snow White, but one of the stories that's often neglected is Sleeping Beauty. I imagine this is because, of all the Grimm fairy tales, this one is the one that most people use as an example of cliche stories where nothing happens and out-of-nowhere love saves the day. To take this story and make it exciting is definitely a challenge. How did this one pan out? Let's see.

Isabelle and Aurora are as close as half-sisters can be. Isabelle, the king's illegitimate older daughter, is wild and stubborn and blind. Aurora, the younger heiress to the throne, is sweet-tempered and kind and can neither feel or speak. When it comes time for Aurora to be married to a foreign prince, the kingdom decides to send Isabelle off to a convent. Isabelle instead runs away with her best friend, Gilbert, but Aurora pursues and accidentally stumbles upon a golden spinning wheel that plunges her into a deep sleep. A sleeping curse soon spreads over the kingdom and Aurora must navigate through a world of dreams built by the mysterious Night Faerie and Isabelle must travel across the sea to find Aurora's betrothed and get him to lift her sister's curse.

This has a lot of really good ideas...and other ideas that kind of ruin the good ones. For instance, making both these princess's handicapped via a faerie's curse can make for some pretty good storytelling. However, Isabelle's blindness is so rarely an obstacle that we kind of forget that it's there. She's able to doing things that kind of defy logic and reasoning. A blind person traveling completely unknown territory, can climb a building she's never been to before, sneaks into exactly the right window and finds who she's looking for in a matter of seconds. Either she's the luckiest person in the world or I call bull. Also, making Aurora unable to speak is a great concept...except when she falls asleep her handicaps are gone and she can talk and feel for the rest of the book. Hm, feels like a wasted opportunity.

For a story based on a pretty simple (some might say even too simple) fairy tale, this thing is incredibly complex. It follows the point of views of multiple characters and no two chapters are with the same person. There are even some chapters from the point of view of characters we barely know, just kind of show up for their two seconds of fame, then disappear and never come back. They contribute almost nothing and left me a bit perplexed, I've got to admit, as to why the author saw fit to include them at all. Also, the world building was fairly well done, but something just kept bugging me. This is clearly it's own world, with its own set up so...why do they keep talking about Greek and Roman history/mythology? They keep comparing this one faerie's home to a Roman bath house, they bring up the legend of Icarus and mention other things pertaining to the culture can they know these things if Greece and Rome don't exist in this universe, as far as I can tell. And if they do exist, does this mean this takes place in our world? Do they have their own versions of Greece and Rome that just so happen to be called the same things and have the same culture and legends? They mythos of this world fluxes between real world and made-up world when it really should have stuck to one or the other.

Now, I'm making this book sound worse than it actually is. There is some good stuff in here, honestly. While the princesses have a little too much luck and their handicaps really don't serve as handicaps, there is a lot more to them. Isabelle has to deal with her feelings of inferiority and, throughout the book, tries to come to terms with her own self worth. Aurora has been unbelievably sheltered her whole life and never knowing pain in any way or form. So, when she's thrown into a world vastly different from what she's always known and her ability to feel is returned, she too learns what it is to make sacrifices and fight for something she wants, instead of waiting for someone to do it for her. These little tidbits of character development are really good and shows how these two girls, despite being so very different, actually have a lot in common.

Unfortunately, while it's not the longest book I've ever read or the hardest, this one felt like it took a good long while to get through. Towards the end of the book, things start getting pretty complicated and there's a "twist" that anyone who's read a book ever will see coming in regards to the prince finally finding Aurora. The motivations of our villains, the Faerie Queen and the Night Faerie, get even more confusing instead of getting clearer. It's just a huge build up of sequel bait that didn't actually lead up to anything and didn't really get me hyped like it wanted to.

Final Verdict
It was a bold move to try and make Sleeping Beauty into a complex story, and while the author succeeded, I think she did her job too well. Still, there was a lot of effort in this thing as well as good character development, but jumbled up characters, inconsistent world building, and confusing motivations lead me to say that it is worth checking out...but 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: It's tough being a dark grisha...I mean Geisha...I mean asha!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

The journey of Miss Peregrine's kids comes to a conclusion in this third installment of the Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I've really enjoyed this series so far and seeing it all come together got me hyped, not gonna lie. So, let's dive right in and see what's up.

Jacob and his friends and royally screwed. Kidnapped by wights, cornered by hollows, and the whole world against them, Jacob and Emma must flee with a peculiar dog named Addison MacHenry to find their friends and save their matron, while pursued by villains who seek out the legendary library of souls, which could grant them infinite power. The peculiar children are called to battle and, with Jacob's discovery of a useful new power, they must make a stand against those who would destroy them.

The peculiar universe is never boring. From punishment loops to clever characters to villains who never seem to quit, this book is bursting with activity. There's a lot to do and, once again, the characters are each given time to shine and get the development they require. New characters are allowed to shine through as well, like Sharon the ferryman and Miss Peregrine's brothers and a grimbear named PT. The overall cast of this book is just great. Their personalities and voices shine and it pulls you in wonderfully. You want to see them to succeed, or fail, and you easily become engrossed in the story.

The environment of the punishment loop, the Devil's Acre, is just the kind of gross and forbidding place that you'd expect it to be. Set in Victorian England at its worst possible time, that of plague and poverty, the whole atmosphere gives you a feeling of filth and dread. Being stuck in a place like this is enough to make anyone ill. It's all really well described. Once again, Riggs shows that he understands atmosphere and build up, as this book builds up to several really intense battles against the wights. The Devil's Acre makes a great background for such a grim battle and the conclusion that is to come.

Speaking of what's to come, let's go over the ending, shall we? Now, no spoilers, but I found the ending of this book pretty great! The villains showed some actual intelligence during the final showdown, things got intense and the conclusion was handled brilliantly. Then, however, it goes all Return of the King on us and shows us a little too much ending. Not to mention an enormous deus ex machina that comes right out of nowhere so that the happiest possible ending can be had. But, after all these characters had been through I'm actually kind of glad it took the extra minute to give us the conclusion we'd all hoped for. Plus, we do finally get some closure with Jacob's parents which leads to one of the funniest scenes I've read for some time.

Final Verdict
Just what fans of the series could possibly want. I really liked this series and this book brings everything to a truly satisfying end. This overall series gets a thumbs up for me, making this book definitely 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: Here's a challenge, make a story about a girl who sleeps the whole time interesting...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

This one goes way back to one of my earliest reviews when I took a look at Six of Crows. I absolutely loved that book so, as its sequel, this one had a lot to live up to. I'm pleased to announce, however, that this book is not only as good as the first it is even better! Let's dive right in.

Kaz Brekker, the most notorious thug in the Barrel, has quite the battle laid out before him. He and his crew of criminals and swindlers have just undergone the job of a lifetime only to be betrayed and nearly killed. Kaz is now plotting his ultimate revenge, not only to get his crew the reward they deserve, but to settle the score with his old nemesis, Pekka Rollins, once and for all. But as Kaz's enemies unite and the whole of Katterdam turns against them, it's going to take every ounce of cunning Kaz possesses to not only get them their money, but get them out with their lives.

This is just what I wanted when I finished the first book. Not only do we get an awesome heist story, but an awesome revenge heist story to top what the last book gave us. Kaz and his crew and just as splendidly written as I remember. Everyone gets their time to shine, everyone has a part to play, and everyone gets time for development and growth. Each of these characters is excellent, beautifully written and you find yourself rooting for each one of them. You care about these people. You want to see them all come out of it okay. While Kaz is the heart that powers the team, nobody feels unneeded or overused. The team works as a well oiled machine and it was just excellent.

The stakes in this book are remarkably higher than before due to the fact that their very home is crashing down around them. In the last book, the team (most of them anyway) were in foreign territory in and icy climate and breaking into an unbreakable prison. This time, they're home on their own turf and it's turning against them. There's nowhere safe and they are dealing with enemies who are just as cunning as they are and even more ruthless. Kaz, for all his faults, values human life and cares about his team. His enemies, however, do not. The threats they go up against are very real, forcing them to come up with the impossible in order to survive. It's a very good thing that these people are awesome and they work very well together as a team.

The suspense and drama in this story are great elements in any story and here, in particular, it works amazingly. When a plan comes together, everything falls into place. When it seems like things are going too well, they probably are and you're about to fall into a trap. It leaves you on the edge of your seat and anxious to see how things pan out. Also, as the concluding installment of this particular story, everything came together...almost. It's not the perfect ending that you hope for, but just the right mix of bitter along with the sweet. It also leaves things open for more story, but we're also satisfied with the conclusions we get as well. I was happy, then I was sad, then I was terrified, then I was sad again and then very was all the mixes of emotions that one could possibly hope for in an epic conclusion to an epic story.

Final Verdict
I loved this book to pieces! These two books came together in a mind-blowing adventure of tragedy, love, risk, danger and high-stakes. I couldn't recommend it any higher, that's why this book is going onto the Shelf of Recommendation!

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: While we're concluding things, let's see how things pan out for our peculiar friends....

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Holtur Curse by Cameron Wayne Smith

Daily monster attacks, brutal killings, rough slayers eager to slice through any challenge...yup, we must be in Holtur! It was great returning to this place, the harsh winter coming forth and the fabulous monsters on the prowl, and this time we encounter whole new challenges that Holtur has never faced before. I know I'm excited so let's dive right in!

Sonja Bluwahlt, Captain of the Holtur slayers, has a lot on her plate. Her brother's illness is getting worse, new never-before-faced creatures are starting to attack the village, and one of her slayers (whom she was particularly fond of) has gone missing. On top of all this, an army of men known as the Brothers of Eternity threaten to invade Holtur seeking something they call the Eternity Grail. Threats the likes of which she'd never dealt with and new challenges leave Sonja genuinely wondering: could Holtur truly be cursed? If it is, how can she and her band of slayers hope to defend its people in the face of these new horrors?

This book is just the kind of thing a sequel should be. Instead of repeating the first story, it carries on the story and expands the world surrounding it. Sonja, who was a supporting character in the last book, is a great choice for a new lead. She is, without a doubt, one of the best strong female characters I've found in a long time. She knows when to be tough and when to be kind. She can slaughter monsters, brandishing a claymore and coating herself in monster blood, but she can also sympathize with others and get along well with her men and the villagers. When she needs help, she'll accept it, none of the I-can-do-everything-myself crap that we can often find with women trying to be strong. She's a great leader, just the same person she was in the last book, and she makes the perfect lead for this story.

What this book has that sets it apart from the first book is the very interesting theme of "who is the monster?" In this book, Holtur deals with a threat that they've never encountered before: other men. Now, the slayers of Holtur have killed some of the most complex and deadly monsters this world has ever known and yet they've never had to fight against people before. These men are clearly a threat. The Brothers of Eternity have openly admitted that they're going to destroy their village and hurt whomever gets in their way if they don't get what they want. Still, the slayers have a real dilemma on their hands. The idea of killing other people and what it will do to their souls is a really good question. Not to mention that, this time, Holtur has some monsters actually helping them. It makes the characters actually wonder if what they're doing is right and are they really doing the right thing and, if they resort to killing people, would that make them monsters themselves. These are some really complex ideas and it's really well thought out.

The hostile environment of this book is exactly what we'd expect from the previous installment and it comes with lots of fighting and violence. The action is pretty intense, leading to some brutal kills and some genuinely sad moments. That's what this book is good at, it makes you care about these people, these slayers and even the flame wyverns who are helping them out. Every loss makes an impact and you feel each one. It's also one of those few times my mouth actually dropped open once or twice, the kills coming as a genuine shock. While you know some of these slayers are going to be cannon fodder, you're still concerned for them and their personalities are still likable enough that you want them to get out okay, even if you know they're not. Also, some of the tactics used in this book are just great. Holtur uses its curses as blessings and uses them to their advantage. That's a great idea and I was glad to see it used.

If I had to nitpick, I'd say that the villains of the story were a smidge on the shallow side. While they did pose a genuine threat and they were certainly scary, their personalities weren't much to rave about. I also wasn't too sure about the direction they were taking with the Moongate community and what was going on there, but there is a third book coming up so I suppose we'll get the answers we're looking for there.

Final Verdict
This book, like the first, is just a great horror/action adventure with lots of death, gore, an awesome lead, and great creatures and ideas. I enjoyed this one a lot and, if it sounds like your thing, it's definitely 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: Dirtyhands returns....

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Solaris Seethes by Janet McNulty

Nothing warms the heart like a good, campy sci-fi story, am I right? While it's not my absolute favorite genre in the world, once in a blue moon I'll find a science fiction story that I find I can just relax and enjoy. Mind you, this story is one you really have to shut your mind off to appreciate fully and, as a critic, I can't really do that. That being said, there's still enjoyment to be found in this story of adventure, revenge and recycled plot details...I mean, cliches...I mean...let's just get right to it.

Rynah's home has been destroyed. The man she'd come to love, Klanor, has betrayed her and all of her people by stealing the powerful crystal that controlled the planet's magnetic fields. As Rynah escapes the destruction, she comes across a gift from her departed grandfather, an old-fashioned spaceship named Solaris. Armed with a unique artificial intelligence, Solaris has been prepared for this event and explains to Rynah that the crystal is one of six that are said to have the power to destroy whole planets, even whole solar systems, and that Klanor plans to unite them and rule the galaxy. In accordance to an ancient prophecy concerning the crystals, Rynah summons help aboard her ship from a planet so underdeveloped it had gone unnoticed before, Earth. From this planet she calls forth four heroes,  the philosopher Solon from 751 B.C, the warrior Alfric from 1163, the inventor Tom from 2099, and the Mary Sue...I mean, lover Brie from 2014 to stop Klanor and save the galaxy. might seem like I'm being kind of harsh about this one, but hear me out. This book is silly. And it knows it's silly (or at least I think it does). There are a lot of things that this book is trying to be. Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, basically, if it has the word "star" in the title, this book is trying to be it. Whoever, if you can get past's actually kind of likable. It reads more like a fan fiction might but...a good fan fiction. It doesn't read like a quick cash grab, it reads like a labor of love. What it wants to be is an homage to the great sci-fi stories and capture what they had instead of trying to cash in on what they think will sell the most. The problem is... it is still pretty silly.

The characters in this book are just what you'd expect them to be. You have your no-nonsense captain, Rynah, with an impossibly bad attitude who acts tough but really she's just scared. You have the philosopher who spouts out fortune-cookie comments whenever it's relevant and the massive hulking warrior who is all about pride and honor and fight-to-the-death and MAN! things. Possibly the only one who actually has some depth and I actually believe to behave like a real person would is Tom, the inventor. He really seems to pull his weight, takes everything in stride, is excited to learn and explore but is also terrified when he needs to be. He can pull of being excited and frantic at the same time. And then...*sigh* have Brie. There's no doubt about it, she's a Mary-Sue. A teenage girl from about the right time who can't do anything but has so much love in her that she's essential in saving the galaxy. She contributes very little and but everyone babies her and tells her how strong she really is, with the exception of Rynah who rightly calls her out at times. However, because Rynah is such a jerk to Brie that we can't get too mad at Brie for this. It's rare that a Mary Sue is called out for what she is and that is a little refreshing, but it's marred when Rynah's criticisms make her out to be a terrible person we don't want to listen to. By making Rynah look bad, it makes Brie look good by comparison and that's just manipulative. I didn't care for that detail too much.

Now, with sci-fi stories you are allowed a fair amount of creative license when it comes to planets. Here, however, we just have your basic serving of Zelda planets. What do I mean by that? I mean your typical environments that you'd encounter in almost every Legend of Zelda game. We're talking a jungle world, a water world, and ice world, a desert world...stuff we've seen a million times. At least make the water red or the ice green or...or something! It's the same basic planet set ups that we've seen in tons of different science fiction stories. You should branch out with your planets, have fun with them. Do a little research and find out what plants or animals could live in these places. Along with the planets, the plot is pretty typical too. It's a quest story. Find the things, save the world, stop the mustache-twirling villain...all of that. The villain is super boring in this thing too. He has no motivation, no reason for what he's doing beyond "I want power!" and he's extremely forgettable.

Now, that being said, there is heart in this book. It's supposed to be an homage, as I said before. A story where you can just turn your brain off and not have to think about it too hard. It's fun for the sake of fun. And I did have fun with this book. It wasn't a chore to get through at all, I actually found myself enjoying it. Solaris has a great personality to make up for Rynah's terrible one, Alfric is a riot, Tom's a pretty well developed character...there is stuff to like in this book. It's just too bad that some of it is only enjoyable ironically. Like the ending. I'm not going to spoil anything but...once you see the direction they go with the end...oh my gosh. So hilarious when it's not supposed to be. Enough out of me. Look it up for yourself.

Final Verdict
If you're a sci-fi fan, or someone looking into sci-fi for the first time, this book is fine. You'll like it okay. But this is definitely a book for the heart and not for the mind. It does have some serious flaws, some generic plot details, and not quite enough new material. If you want to check it out, feel free to do so just maybe 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: Man, this town can NOT catch a break....

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Night Bird by Brian Freeman

For one last scary, post-Halloween hurrah, we have a murder mystery where being afraid kills you. Nice. The concept of phobias is always an interesting one and getting to the bottom of what drives peoples biggest fears is a fascinating idea. Mix that in with some typical yet fun mystery characters and you've got this book. Let's dive right in.

Dr. Francesca Stein's made it her goal to help those with life-crippling phobias. Her special treatments and use of hypnosis to make people's bad memories go away have worked wonders on hundreds of patients. However, her patients start dying in horrific suicides and Frankie is being stalked by someone called the Night Bird. Now homicide detective Frost Easton is on the case, and together he and Dr. Stein must catch the killer before he strikes again.

As far as mysteries go, this one is handled really well. It never gets overly complicated and readers can follow along just fine, picking up clues and figuring things out as they go. I admit, I didn't know where this was going most of the time. I was genuinely interested and didn't figure it out too soon, which is how mystery stories are meant to go. Admittedly I did figure it out a bit earlier than I was probably supposed to, but for the most part, I was intrigued. The story has just the right amount of elements in it to keep the reader's inner detective curious. It drops just the right hints at just the right time, it has red herrings to fool the readers onto the wrong track, and there's just the right amount of threat and urgency in the plot to keep the reader invested. In this department, it was quite a success.

I also got to really like the character of Frost Easton...despite his rather silly name. Most of these detective-types in mystery novel tend to fall into Gary-Stu territory, what with being overly perfect, knowing things they couldn't possibly know, and being able to knock out opponents twice their size. Frost, however, is very human. While he does have the traditional tragic backstory and he does brood about it from time to time, he's still comes off as likable. He's not the "don't get in the way of my investigation" kind of guy, he wants to help and doesn't judge. He has useful friends he relies on, he has a brother that he gets along with and loves, he doesn't jump into bed with any woman he meets, he's just...human. Also, he rents his home from his cat. You read that right.

Now, admittedly, the rest of the characters in this book are...a bit cookie-cutter. You know all these stereotypes from other mystery novels: the self-absorbed sister, the criminal that got away, the flamboyant gay guy, the husband who doesn't get enough attention, yada yada. Then again, this is mystery fiction, so it's kind of hard to blame them for this. You know who these characters are within five minutes of knowing them and can pretty easily picture what their role is and what place they have in the story. They're mostly just there to get the plot moving. The stuff involving Dr. Stein's personal story is probably the worst part, that tidbit I actually could guess and it's resolution left me a bit peeved, but the kind of peeved you get when you're invested so...there's that.

With this being a fictional story, you do have to allow for some creative license. For example, I'm not sure how sound some of the science is in this book, as in I don't know if this is something someone can actually do. There are times when both Frost and Dr. Stein make decisions that probably wouldn't work in real life...such as entering places without a warrant (yeah, that happens). However, it doesn't happen very often and, in one instance at least, there could be an argument for probable cause so it does check out.  Frost stays mostly by the book, but it's Dr. Stein who ends up making some of the dumb moves. But, again, it's to move the plot along so most of it is pretty forgivable, it didn't really bother me. The only thing that really did bother me, aside from the thing about Stein's forgotten past, is that the author really likes to wax poetic about the surrounding area during tense moments. When people are about to die and things are getting really intense, the last thing I wanna hear about is what the trees look like! There's a time and place for such things.

Final Verdict
A creepy baddie, a cool cop, and an interesting mystery are all pros this book has to offer, while stereotypes and poor decision making are its cons. Still, I was pretty entertained and nicely intrigued by this book and it did its job by bringing me along for the ride and letting me figure things out on my own. Overall, I'd say that this creepy tale is 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: Sassiest...spaceship...ever.

Monday, October 30, 2017

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux

Let's close out the month of October with the latest YA Horror phenomenon, House of Furies. The hype around this book is pretty real. Lots of people were telling me that this book is super scary and the best/scariest book to come out this year. Naturally, I was pretty excited to get a chance to read it and seeing as I liked Asylum pretty well, I found myself really looking forward to it. How did it hold up to my expectations? Let's find out.

Louisa Ditton is down on her luck. Shipped off to school by her family, running away from said school, and now living on the streets telling fortunes just to get by. But she's then offered a place at Coldthistle House, a boarding house run by the mysterious Mr. Morningside. But more goes on at Coldthistle House than Louisa could ever have imagined. Those who visit the house are sinners who receive their just desserts at the hands of the House's otherworldly staff. Louisa soon fears for Lee, a young man boarding at the house with his uncle, and hopes to save him before he, or herself, is next to suffer the wrath of those within the house.

First things first, I actually really liked Louisa as a character. Much like Roux's last protagonist, Dan, Louisa is more than meets the eye and is a mystery even unto the readers. She's a very complex character as well and nicely flawed (yes, flaws are a good thing). She's short tempered but never to the point where it became annoying. She steals and can come off as selfish at times, but she's not a bad person. She's a product of her circumstances and yet manages to genuinely care about Lee. She keeps her head a lot of the times, even when faced against terrible creatures of darkness. She worked really well for me.

Now...for the big problem. The pacing in this book is slow! Very, very slow. So much so that, for me, it kind of kills the mood of the book. It's hard to be on edge and scared of what's to come when there's page after page of nothing scary happening! She gets to the house, nothing happens. She meets Morningside, nothing happens. She starts working at the house...nothing happens. Then, when things do get started, you have to wake yourself up and realize that it's finally happening. Granted, when the scary moments finally come they are pretty intense. Running into a group of wraiths that chase you through the house, witnessing the aftermath of a ritualistic sacrifice, and a rather nasty encounter with a cannibal all manage to do their job in scaring the reader. The problem is that they are too far in between long stretches of nothing happening that does little to capture the reader's interest. The pace really killed a lot of this book for me.

But the pace isn't the only problem with the book. Mostly, outside from one of the boarders at the house, there's almost no threat to Louisa in this book. They make it pretty clear right away that everybody in the house, all the staff that live there and are supposed to add to the horrors of the place, are all very friendly and kind to Louisa and do their best to help her. If we know she's safe, then the reader is comforted instead of nervous. Even when she attempts to flee the house, she's met with little in the way of obstacles. And she's so desperate to flee the house yet...she keeps going back of her own free will. It's hard to sympathize with her inability to get away when she get's away but goes back on her own. Now, when she does go back, she does so for unselfish reasons so, there is that, but it's marred when she just goes back to the house and is already plotting to get away again.

The book also includes hints about what is to come in this story. This comes in the form of pictures and excerpts from Mr. Morningside's book about rare dark creatures. Now, the pictures I don't mind as they're vague enough to leave you guessing, but the excerpts feel like overkill. Plus, the excerpts come right out of nowhere, meaning the actual story has to take break while we're spoon-fed information that we probably didn't need. Instead of telling me what these people can do, how about you show me. That's what they do, they tell instead of show. Aside from some Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark-esque illustrations, I could have done away with them all together.

Final Verdict
I was a bit disappointed in this one. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be and it wasn't as good as Roux's other works. Still, there is some good stuff to be enjoyed and, if you like it or want to read it, feel free to do so just probably 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: We're not done with horror stories yet. Try to banish your worst fears, they'll just come back...with a vengeance.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Tales from the Haunted Mansion: The Fearsome Foursome by Amicus Arcane

I sometimes find I have little patience for "scary" stories for kids. Why? Because they're never scary! Finding kid friendly material that actually delivers scares is pretty rare these days. They usually either try too hard or don't try at all. Luckily for us, we have a collection of tales that both the young and the old can enjoy and be perfectly scared by. Let's proceed.

Tim, Willa, Noah, and Steve are known as the Fearsome Foursome, a group of kids from the same school who just love to make up and tell scary stories. One night, they find an invitation at their usual meeting invitation to a creepy old mansion in the Louisiana bayou. It is within this creepy mansion that the Fearsome Foursome meet the mansion's librarian who wants in on the fun. He then proceeds to tell them four frightening tales featuring the they're not allowed to leave until theirs stories are finished.

One thing I really appreciated about this book was its voice. The narrator of the book, presumably the  Mansion's Ghost Host, is a riot! The sarcastic wit and hilarious jibs are just perfectly timed, giving this book an admittedly dark sense of humor but a good one. It often breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader, pointing out flaws the characters make and cliches. While it is funny and very well done, it doesn't shy away from the scares either. That same tone of voice that makes you laugh can also make you shiver and never mixes the two, keeping everything in tone. As the stories get more intense, the jibes lessen and you really feel the urgency and fear the stories. It was brilliantly well done.

I also like the four heroes and the stories that went with them. While the plots to each of these stories isn't exactly unique, they help to build the kids as characters and give us an idea of what they're really like. Tim gets possession of a demonic baseball glove, Willa longs for a dead pet back, Noah tries to spite his stepfather with poor results, and Steve makes a dare that goes too far. As each of their situations gets worse, you feel for them and you want them to come through from the horrors they're facing. They felt like real kids and I appreciated that about them.

The peril that the kids face in these stories is, while fantastical, intense. Will kids find this scary? Well, I hope so because that's what the book is for. Scaring kids! Even so, the humor in the narration and the fact that this is a kids book soften the blow just enough to where I don't think anyone will be psychologically harmed. I mean, come on, this is Disney's Haunted Mansion, remember? It's not going to scar somebody for life. Kids can read this and be enjoyably afraid. I would feel perfectly comfortable letting a kid read this. Just the right amount of tension, high stakes, and otherworldly creeps come together in just the right amount of terror, which everyone can appreciate.

As this is based on the Disneyland ride, it did have to include several references scattered throughout the stories and not just in the framing device. These are most noticeable in Steve's story, but they can be found all over. Sometimes these are nicely integrated and other times they stick out like a hitchhiking ghost's thumb. But this is an extreme nitpick and my trying really hard to find something wrong with the book and that's saying a lot.

Final Verdict
Ghoulishly delightful and just the right amount of scary with a sharp sense of humor, this book had it all. I really enjoyed this one and it got me eager to read the books that come after it (this is the first in a series). And it is with a grim grin that I welcome this book to the Shelf of Recommendation!

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: Now this is a haunted house of epic proportions....

Monday, October 23, 2017

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Written by the actual descendent of Cotton Mather, we get a story of the fake descendent of Cotton Mather! Yeah. Inspired by the infamous Salem Witch Trials, we have a story of curses, accusations, spirits, and high school. Should be interesting. Let's dive right in.

Samantha Mather didn't mind the move to Salem at first. Vaguely interested in the dark history her family has there, she looks forward to seeing what the mysterious town has to offer when she moves in with her stepmother. But Sam quickly learns she's not entirely welcome in Salem. A clique at school known as the Descendants, whose ancestors were the victims of the trials, have singled Sam out and make her life miserable. It doesn't help that mysterious occurrences are taking place around Salem, and people are dying. Now Sam must break an ancient curse set upon the denizens of Salem before she, or her father, are the next to die.

Now the concept of a curse in Salem and using the actual people descended from the victims is actually not a bad one. There's a lot of potential here and that's where some of the highlights of this book shines through. The fact that the situations are reversed, that the family of the accusers is now being victimized, is also pretty clever. The author is trying to relate the trials with modern day bullying and, while that may seem like a stretch to some, the themes have much in common. While there are times when it isn't exactly handled well (I'll get to that in a bit) it is a valiant attempt. The messages of speaking up and refusing to continue the cycle are good ones and I did appreciate that in this book.

What doesn't work, unfortunately, is that this book relies on a lot of typical YA tropes to tell the story. The additions of things like a love triangle with the boy next door and a magical convenience fairy...I mean...ghost just kind of feels forced and doesn't help the story overall. There's no denying that Sam is a self insert character (they have the same last name and heritage for crying out loud!) and her personality is a bit...lacking at times. While she's certainly not perfect and does have natural reactions to situations at times, her general reaction to most paranormal scenarios is "Seriously?" There was no real spark of life to her. Also, she doesn't do much to help her situation and can make matters worse for herself at times. For example, there's a scene when she goes to a local coffee shop and the barista asks for her name to put on the cup and, knowing full well that her name is going to get her grief from the other patrons, she just gives it to her. Here's an idea, Sam. If you don't want a barista to shout out your name to the whole world...lie! It's a freakin' coffee house, they don't care if you tell the truth or not. You can tell them your name is "Batman" and they won't question it. You could have just given a fake name and avoided the grief but no, you just had to make things worse for yourself. Little touches like that make Sam come off kind of stupid and that's the biggest problem with her character. It's hard to convey her as a victim being bullied when she's not really doing anything to help herself.

The supernatural elements to the story can be interesting, but those are often ruined because, again, YA tropes. That ghost boyfriend I brought up before is by far my biggest complaint. He's available at her beck and call (he only complains about being summoned once and is totally fine with it the rest of the time), he does all the hard work and research the story requires so she doesn't have to, he's able to magically produce a picnic feast with yummies from all over the world to cheer her up, and he's corporeal, so they can make out. He's strictly there for wish fulfillment purposes and it was just silly! While there were fun things like curses and a truly interesting mystery for most of the book the resolution of the mystery...was a bit of a let down. I really didn't like what they ended up doing. I saw it coming, for starters, and the villain's motivations were...head scratching. I won't give it away but I was just underwhelmed by the big reveal of the story.

Finally, what kind of bothered me about the story was some of the historical inaccuracies. I liked studying the Witch Trials when I was in school and so some of the stuff that was changed around or excluded was...irksome. Now, sure, creative license is a thing and I understand and respect that. I liked Stalking Jack the Ripper a lot even though that was pretty inaccurate too. The problem here is that this is written by the actual descendent of Cotton Mather. I just feel like, if anyone should get the facts straight, it should be this person! But no. No, we just throw details away for the sake of a pretty story with the world's most perfect undead boyfriend. Such wasted potential.

Final Verdict
If you're just looking for a typical YA story, Mean Girls in Salem, or what-have-you, this book won't bother you and you'll like it just fine. I ended up disappointed but that doesn't mean you will. If this sounds like your cup of tea, go ahead and give it a shot but maybe check it out at your local library.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time:(singing) Grim, grinning ghosts...come out to socialize....

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Assassin Game by Kristy McKay

This is something I've always secretly wanted to try. A murder mystery game where you fight to "stay alive" and rock out your own personal detective skills (though admittedly I'd probably be the first one out). But I'm too antisocial for such things so I got this instead! The ultimate high school appropriate game of cat and mouse goes too far in this mystery thriller. Let's dive right in.

Cate has longed to become part of the Guild at Umfraville private school since she first came there. Now, she finally has her chance to join and become a player in "the game". The game is "Killer". One Guild member goes around "killing off" other players in thrilling yet harmless pranks until they are caught or one remains. It's a daring adventure full of secrets and suspicion...until the pranks take a seriously dangerous turn for the worst. Kids are getting badly hurt and the school itself is in jeopardy and Cate must figure out who the "Killer" is and put a stop to him...or risk becoming his next victim.

The concept of "Killer" is a lot of fun and a great idea...even if it would never really pass in a real school. That's what the creation of Umfraville is about. It serves as both an isolated (it's a private school on an island in the Irish Sea) area where any good murder mystery can take place as well as being probably the only location where such a game could exist. Something like this game would never go by in a public school (in America anyway) and so the author gives us a great location for such events to take place, but also a place where immediate help is hard to come by. There's a big stretch of water keeping you isolated from cops and hospitals so it's just the creepy setting we'd want for a story such as this.

The quality of the characters in this story...vary. While Cate is a bit bland, she never outright bothered me or made me angry. She often makes a point of saying how she's average and insignificant (despite a whopping THREE guys wanting to date her) but it never got pretentious or annoying. She was just okay. The Guild members...honestly, I think there were too many of them. Certain ones I remember clearly like Alex, the Game Master, and Vaughn, the computer whiz, and Martin the overeager one. The rest, however, just kinda start blurring together and I had a tough time keeping track of who was who. This is particularly vexing when you're trying to solve a mystery and can't even remember who all the players and potential suspects are.

But the best aspect of this book was the mystery. I was genuinely stumped for a good portion of this book. There was a nice amount of red herrings, twists, and the kills were both interesting and inventive, even the dangerous ones. Honestly, I could have done with more pranks. They come pretty far in between each other and I would have liked to have seen what else the killer had up their sleeve. That does, however, lead to another downside in that it takes over half the book for things to get really serious. There are some vague threats but things don't really go down until well into the book. A bit more intimacy was needed for the first bit, but it does lead up to a good reveal and intense climax, so I'm happy overall.

Final Verdict
Just the type of murder mystery I like to read. Creepy, dangerous, thrilling and fun. A bit slow in places and not quite enough action, but overall a good idea and a story that I'd say, is worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: I really hope this isn't an instruction manual....

Friday, October 13, 2017

Court of Vampires by Megan Linski

I tried. I tried! I really, really tried, you guys! It's been five years since the last Twilight movie came out, all those rumors about a TV series turned out to be crap, it's time to give vampires a second chance. And I want to give them a second chance! I liked vampires when I was a kid. There's so much potential with them. They're classic creatures of darkness capable of extraordinary things. But...*sigh* it seems that we're still not done ripping off that ridiculous franchise and coming up with ridiculousness like this thing!

Lysandra Romanova-Dracula is revered among her family as The Chosen One, who will defeat their great enemies, the shifters (werewolves), once and for all. After years of learning how to hunt wolves in Moscow, she's ready to return home to Romania and earn her place amongst her brutal father's court and marry her betrothed. But when a pack of wolves attacks her home and she finds an injured shifter among the rubble, she... takes him in, hides him, and nurses him back to health....okay. As she tries to hide the wolf from the vicious vampires that live in the castle, Lysandra and the wolf, Lisar, form a bond that could reshape the destinies of the two races forever....or something.

Yes, my friends, this story deeply, deeply suffers from all the tropes of the paranormal romance genre. Or, as I like to call it, the-same-piece-of-crap-story-over-and-over genre. Everything in this book, everything, is predictable, lazy, and asinine to the tenth degree! It's like the author didn't even try with this book! Every tried line, every exhausted self-insert pandering trick, every done-to-death cliche you can think of is in here. We have the forced love, the brooding third wheel (but not evil, no, because that might hinder the shipping war), the ridiculously over-the-top villains, it's all here.

We are told, over and friggin' over again, that this broad Lysandra can take care of herself. That she's been training for years to get ready for this war and she even wins a fight right in front of everyone's eyes. Yet, whenever there's fighting going on, the hot men all have to protect her and shove her in her room until the danger is past. And helping this werewolf (I don't give a crap what they call them), even when she's supposedly trained for years to fight these things and even has some force-fed backstory about wolves killing her mother (which I don't buy for a second), she does because "I don't know why." Yeah! Every time she questions why she' doing contrived, stupid things her response is "I don't know why." I'll tell you why. BECAUSE THE FRIGGING SCRIPT SAID SO! There's no other reason! She just does whatever the script tells her to do, taking NO action herself, and spews exposition that could get her whole family killed because, again, "I don't know why." There's a direct quote in here that says, "I told him everything he needed to know and practically fed him specific instructions on how to end the vampires for good." She openly admits it! Having a character never take action, make ridiculously stupid decisions, and just meander through the plot of their own story doesn't make them interesting or likable. It makes them look like a FRIGGING MORON! How are we supposed to take such a brainless bimbo seriously? WE CAN'T!

The borrowed details and terrible writing in this thing stick out like a sore thumb. From the fact that Lisar, our hunky werewolf character, doesn't like shirts (wonder where that little tidbit came from) to a "Paint me like one of your French girls, Jack" scene (okay, that wasn't a direct quote this time but if they'd thought of it they'd have thrown it in and you know it!) everything is tired and forced. Everything in this book is borrowed or forced and I just hate it all! Her father, Csar Dragomir, is your typical, cartoony bad guy who tortures and hits his daughter in the face because "pride" and is just a massive douche for absolutely no reason. We get these ugly vampires and you know they're evil because they're ugly and they frigging admit it, who do absolutely nothing for the story except give Lysandra and excuse to be saved yet again. And, yes, I've admitted that I'm not the biggest romance fan but even a genuine romance fan would gag at some of these "love" scenes. Frolicking in the gardens, cuddling up and watching TV, using words like "spellbinding" and "passionate love affair rivaling the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet", to the addition of this books version of imprinting just adds to the painfully cliche tone of this thing.

Funny enough, one of my biggest gripes in this book doesn't even have to do with the special-kind-of-stupid heroine or the cringe-worthy attempts at "romance". Lysandra lives in this huge castle lavishly decorated with expensive, gothic attire. She has designer clothes, a bathroom with a waterfall shower and a Jacuzzi tub, a fully stocked armory and gym, a gorgeous ballroom, custom made cars worth millions of dollars and just about everything else you can think of. Now, here's my question: where the heck did all this money come from? The answer....there is no answer. They're just rich for no reason. They're descended from Romanian and Russian royalty, sure, but both those lines went extinct and have no money or privileges left to their names! As far as the world in which they live knows they have no right to anything! I can march up to a bank and claim to be the long lost descendent of some ancient royal line, heck I could even have proof of it, and y'know what I'd get? A PAT ON THE BACK AND SHOWN TO THE DOOR, THAT'S WHAT! These vampires have no jobs, do nothing except sit around and talk about their stupid war with werewolves that makes no sense, and do NOTHING that would earn them the rights to live in the lap of luxury. This is just another example of pandering to the readers so they can think, "wouldn't it be nice to be a modern day princess living in my dream castle with everything I could ever want and hunky boy toys vying for my affection?" If I didn't already think that this book was absolute garbage, this tidbit tips the scales.

Final Verdict
Do you even have to ask? This book is HORRENDOUS! It's pandering, brainless tripe and, for the first time in a year, we have found our second ever entry into the FURNACE OF EVERLASTING TORMENT! Vampires deserve better than this. Literature deserves better than this. YOU deserve better than this. Spare yourself the pain.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: All fun and games until someone gets fatally poisoned or thrown to their deaths....

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sabriel by Garth Nix

While this is technically more of a fantasy story than a horror one, I definitely felt that it counts as a good Halloween book, mostly because it deals in horrific creatures of the undead. A typical quest but spiced up with grim creatures, rotting corpses, and magic of death and the undead...yeah. I'd say this counts.

Sabriel has lived most of her life at a boarding school in Ancelstierre. She's top of her class, a prefect, and has learned everything from Charter magic to table manners. But her roots lie in the Old Kingdom across the Wall, a medieval world full of magic and mystery. When her father, the Abhorsen and master of the dead, goes missing it is up to Sabriel to find him and save him. Armed with several enchanted bells and a sword bestowed with magic, Sabriel sets off to take on the terrible evil that threatens, not only her father, but all the world.

Already the make-up of this universe is just great. The wild, untamed Old Kingdom is a great setting for an adventure. Full of magic and mystery, the universe just comes alive. The undead creatures, which vary from wolflike beings that stalk your every move to waves of rotting hands clawing toward you, sent genuine chills down my spine (granted, I am reading this all alone in the dead of night). The slightly more advanced world of Ancelstierre is interesting too and made me genuinely curious at how the Wall was created and how things came together.

Sabriel is a fantastic main character. Slightly older than most protagonists in this genre, she's very mature and thinks things through. While she is still very compassionate and does get emotionally invested in certain matters, she knows what's best and is capable of making the hard decisions rather than barging in without thinking. The inclusions of the hilarious Mogget and the strong yet emotional Touchstone make a great cast of characters that you do care about and want to see things through. Even Sabriel's father, the Abhorsen, while dark and brooding and we don't see too much of him, is still a likable guy who truly cares about his daughter. It has truly threatening baddies, a great cast of heroes, it all comes together very nicely.

While classified as Young Adult, it never gives in to the typical tropes one finds in the genre. I didn't know where things were going most of the time, and I was thrilled with that. Even the budding romance between Sabriel and Touchstone is kept very minimal. They have genuine chemistry and I liked them together, but it wasn't in-your-face-make-you-want-to-puke-over-the-top like we've seen it done before. There are a couple of moments that might be a little risqué (including a surprisingly detailed event taking place on the other end of a wall at an inn) but other than that I can see high schoolers, and maybe even slightly younger, getting through this without issue.

Sabriel's powers as a necromancer are also very fun to read about. Each of the bells she uses has a name and unique power, very concepts of Charter magic and Free magic, it's all very well thought out and interesting. I really wanted it to dive into the mythology and lore of this universe but it mostly just stuck to the main story. Not necessarily a bad thing, as it left the audience yearning for more which is always a good sign.

Also, if you get the audiobook...Tim Curry.

Enough said.

Final Verdict
A very fortunate find! Great action, good characters, chilling suspense, everything comes together in a great story with an interesting set up and a satisfying end. All in all, I'd say that this book is totally worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: I will not judge. I will not judge. I will not...(gets three pages in)...DANGIT!