Day Zero by Kelly DeVos

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a doomsday prepper as a dad? How about a technological genius? Well in Kelly DeVos’ book Day Zero we get to find out exactly what it would be like. When society begins collapsing around Jinx and her family she is left to save herself and her siblings using the knowledge instilled in her by her father.

Jinx is an introverted gamer with a serious knack for technology. Her father, Dr. Doomsday, is a prepper/technology extraordinaire, her mother a teacher, and her 8 year old brother named Charles who is a serious green thumb. We come into Jinx’s life in a time of massive change. Her mother has left her father for a man named Jay who works as a security guard at a massive bank owned by the new president. Jay has a daughter in high school, like Jinx, named MacKenna and a son in college named Toby. Their world has recently been rocked by an upset election taken by ‘The Opposition’, a seemingly shady political party opposing the people’s choice, ‘The Spark’. Well when the freshly inaugurated president Ammon Carver’s banks are blown up in a terrorist attack ‘The Opposition’ is quick to blame ‘The Spark’. In the midst of this MacKenna’s dad Jay is being framed for executing the terrorist attack. As the country descends into chaos and the two party system collapses, Jinx’s mom orders her to find her father and help them prove Jay’s innocence.

I have a lot of opinions about this book, some good and some bad. I feel like the politics in this book are very heavy handed and sometimes it ripped me out of the adventurous nature of this story. It would be borderline boring when MacKenna would argue politics with everyone and anyone. This book is definitely a commentary on the current political climate and doesn’t try and mask it in any way. Every turn we take ‘The Opposition’ is there to glare at us and the authors political stances are quite clear. She writes this early on in the book while Jinx is in class,

“I scroll to page 187 and stare at a picture of a nearly abandoned suburban neighborhood below a headline that reads “The Dangers of a Two-Party Political System.”

While I enjoy an interesting or unique political message I found this to be very heavy and made me feel anxious. I understand that many people believe that this could be the future of the U.S.A but to me it just caused anxiety and made me want to put the book down. I want to reiterate that I don’t hate a political stance in literature because some of the greatest works in history have underlying political messages, but this felt like it was being force fed down my throat. It’s already a discussion we are having, this is not the spark that will cause a forest fire of discussion.

One aspect of the ‘Hidden Message’ in this book that I do enjoy is the difference in generations. Like the modern world we see a distinct difference between who we could envision as the Baby Boomers and who we could view as the Millennials. One of the antagonists, an old motel owner, feels like a clear representation of the Boomers. He says to the kids,

Don’t you talk about things you don’t understand. You. You. Kids like you in your copper houses. Sitting in coffee shops drinking ten-dollar, almond-milk-caramel-mocha-whatevers. Talkin’ about whether monkeys have rights and how we all need self-driving cars. And we’re out here…

Does this not sound exactly like a Facebook argument between a Baby Boomer and a Millennial? I really liked that subtle detail. There is such a massive divide in this book, between political parties, families, and generations. I felt like DeVos did a good job of acknowledging this dynamic without cramming it in our faces.

This books is full of useful survival knowledge like, “Breathe. Because the calm survive” and “Trust no one”. The common sense approach to survival in this book is something I enjoyed and the use of Dr. Doomsday’s rules of survival were very reminiscent of the movie Zombieland. I hate when dystopian or apocalypse novels use overly complicated or long winded explanations for survival. Keep it simple and you’ll survive.

I have one last bone to pick and it is with the character MacKenna and Jinx’s mother. MacKenna is so unlikable and has zero sense of survival. It feels like she’s just flopping around screwing things up for Jinx and almost killing one of the other protagonists. When she goes on her eventual redemption arc, it doesn’t feel like enough. Jinx’s mother is a whole different issue. Their mother seems to have no regard for her children’s lives. She abandons them to be with her detained husband and then tells Jinx,

“Don’t get caught by the police. They’ll want to hold you. Perhaps use you as leverage to force Jay to take a plea. Find your father,”

To me, it came off as if Jay was more important than both her children and Jay’s children. I don’t know a single responsible mother who would choose being unnecessarily detained over helping her children survive the collapse of society. It seemed silly and out of character for a mom who has been previously portrayed as both intelligent and caring.

Enough of my complaining.

This book is very well written and has an interesting plot to drive through the parts I didn’t enjoy. When you read Day Zero you will find yourself in every scene and you will catch yourself holding your breath during action sequences. I felt very engaged with what was happening inside the book. I was invested in what would happen next and whether Jay would be executed or exonerated.

This book is gritty and sometimes a little bit dense to read through but it is all worth it in the end. The plot and vivid scenery really make this book a winner. It’s fast-paced for the majority and will keep you asking questions. Who will win? ‘The Opposition’ or ‘The Spark’?

A huge thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing and Inkyard Press for allowing me to take part in this book blog tour! I thoroughly enjoyed working with them and reading Day Zero. I give this book a 4/5 stars and look forward to what happens next.

The Monsters Of Music by Rebecca F. Kenney

The Phantom Of The Opera meets American Idol, The Monsters Of Music is a surprisingly fresh retelling of the classic novel. Prepare yourself to fall in love with the gloomy Mel and talented Kiyo.

The main character Mel is a Leanan sídhe, which is an Irish fairy muse who must pour her creative energy into an artistic protege. Mel stalks a singing contest to find her protege, and she does find one. His name is Kiyo, a boy with a beautiful voice and natural talent. Mel makes the decision to take him under her wing and turn him into a winner. There is one major problem though, for Mel to transfer her powers the protege must kiss her.

The first thing about the book that caught my eye was the very clear and intense descriptions of Mel. Mel was burnt with acid thanks to her abusive father and it left half of her face mangled. for a Leanan sídhe that’s a bit of a problem because she must rely on her looks to obtain proteges. At one point in the book Kiyo describes Mel like this,

“long legs, perfect curves that she tried to hide under a hoodie for whatever reason, and black hair falling over her face, like the ghost girl from The Grudge.”

I found this interesting because Kiyo does not know about her mangled face at this point in the book, yet she still puts off a scary vibe. Kiyo is frightened by a muse, someone whose beauty is supposed to inspire the most gorgeous of artistic works. Yet he compares her to something terrifying without actually knowing her. This description really helped to solidify the person Mel was trying to project herself as.

I also feel like Kenney really knows her stuff when it comes to music, specifically vocal training. I will be honest, I know nothing about singing so if Kenney fudges some stuff she does it in a way that convinced me she was telling the truth. First of all she picks a song list to go with the book and it has a very wide variety, from Grunge to J-Pop, to me that expressed an interesting knowledge about multiple genres. She didn’t just focus on the Hot 100 while she was writing. I liked that. She also seems to understand vocal training as previously mentioned. Specifically when Mel offers Kiyo some morning tea and explains that,

“Coffee by itself is dehydrating, and milk or creamer will clog up your throat. We need you sounding crystal clear and warm as summer, okay?”

I thought this detail was excellent and expressed a certain amount of expertise. Maybe not for someone well versed in vocals but for someone with zero knowledge like myself it was a detail that I found informative.

We have touched on this before in my blog but when a novel makes reference to The Lord Of The Rings I feel a certain respect. Kiyo uses a Tolkien reference to compare a magic mirror that Mel is using to the pool that Sam peers into and sees the Shire being ransacked. The quotes a bit long but it really helps to express the kind of thinker Kiyo is, and helps to drive home the fact that he’s a movie buff.

“Galadriel, in the Lord of the Rings– she tells Sam not to touch the mirror.” Kiyo knew he was talking nonsense, but he couldn’t stop. The words kept pouring out. “Sam looks in, and he sees all this bad stuff happening to his village, and he wants to go home. But the mirror isn’t reliable, of course. Well, it’s less like a mirror and more like a pool of water. Like the Pensieve in Harry Potter. A lot like that. Dang. Wonder if Rowling got the idea from Tolkien.”

I will always enjoy a Tolkien reference, and this one is especially good with the comparison of Harry Potter.

Something else I really enjoy in books is a good antagonist. We can’t really consider Harley the main antagonist but she is really easy to hate. She is entitled, spoiled and just all around a nasty person. She feels like the world owes her a debt and it makes her very hard to like. When she sees Kiyo for the first time she has this to say,

“He was yummy, for sure. And he was hers. She deserved him. Life owed her this– the beautiful boy, the top spot in the competition– all of it.”

This statement is just so nauseating and self-centered. I hated her from that point on. Regardless of what her situation is or how bad her life has been no one is owed to her. No competition should be handed to her.

I only have one issue with this novel and it’s a tonal issue. The language goes back and forth between kiddy and mature. Sometimes the characters use curse words and other times they use the kiddy versions, like freaking or dang. It just seems odd that characters that aren’t afraid to curse would use the less intense versions of each word. It felt like a tone shift and I had to keep reading to figure out if this was YA novel or an adult novel or something else. To me it came off odd.

In all I give this novel a 4/5 stars. I was entertained, it felt fresh, and the characters were likable. Thank you to Rebecca F. Kenney for reaching out to me to review this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Monsters Of Music releases TODAY! Check it out!

Lost And Found by Orson Scott Card

I don’t even know where to start with this one… this book crept up on me and will probably stick with me for the rest of my life. There is such intense emotions at play here that it caught me off guard. Lost And Found is phenomenal.

It all starts with the unlikely friendship of Ezekiel and Beth, and I think a quote from Ezekiel best sums it up. He says,

Beth Sorenson, I’m the thief you chose to walk to school with. And you’re the proportionate dwarf that I choose to walk to school with.

Ezekiel is 14 and has what they call in the book a “micropower”. Ezekiel has the unique ability to be able to return lost items to their owners. This has gotten him in a lot of trouble in the past because people tend to think he has stolen the object he is returning. Ezekiel is kind of forced into this friendship with Beth, who as previously mentioned is a proportionate dwarf, because she knows that if she stands within his “shunning bubble” and walks with him to “Downy Soft” High School no one will be able to pick on her. Beth helps Ezekiel to expand his “micropower” by helping him discover what he is capable of. Through his discoveries about his power he embarks on a journey to find a missing little girl and uncover a human trafficking ring with the help of a slightly overbearing detective named Shank.

I’ll be honest this book took me a while and it really won me over when Ezekiel made a reference to The Lord of The Rings. Silly, I know. But this movie is about far more than a kid with a silly power, it about loss and growth. Ezekiel loses his mother when he is a young boy. He watches her get hit by a car and she dies in the hospital. Ezekiel is kind of a jerk because of a lot of deeply ingrained hurt. From his trouble with the cops to his sadness about his mother he is a hurt 14 year old boy. His father describes his hurt like this,

Your body showed no injury that the doctors could treat, but I knew it was there, I knew that it shattered you, you were maimed, you were crippled that day, and there was nothing I could do, I couldn’t replace her, I couldn’t change my whole character and become that vibrant, happy, loving, chattering, kind and generous person in whose circle of light you had spent your entire life.

So through this hurt we understand why Ezekiel is the way he is. But he does not stay his guarded smart ass self all through the novel. The character grows in a way that made me, as a reader, really fond of him. He starts off as almost an anti-hero and by the end he is a no strings attached hero through and through. Card wrote Ezekiel masterfully.

On top of the meaningfulness of the characters there is a great sense of humor. The characters are witty and smart. Sometimes they come off as a little over the top smart but I think it works because you are supposed to realize that Ezekiel and Beth aren’t normal kids. They are special. My favorite quote from Beth is this,

I don’t make up words,” said Beth. “I coin them when I need them, and then they’re real.

Each character has their quirks. Ezekiel is kind of a jerk but really a softie on the inside, and Beth is a quick witted girl who always knows the right thing to say.

The one thing about this story that was a little irritating to me was the dad, and I think it had more to do with the way his personality was written than anything. He is an extremely intelligent man but is ridiculously baffled by a smart phone. I understand that this is to illustrate that he isn’t very wealthy and that he is old-school, but this man has to be in his forties and literally has zero knowledge about electronics. It’s unbelievable and it proves to be an obstacle in a tense situation. I guess my point is that I grew up in a town with a lot of poverty and 99% of 40 year olds that I know can operate a smart phone. The writing wasn’t convincing. Plus the dad also has this to say about Ezekiel trick or treating,

“Totally your call,” said Dad. “Till you’re sixteen, and then it’s just disgusting to go begging for candy.

I don’t know I guess that idea rubbed me the wrong way because I’d rather a 16 year old be out trick or treating than causing trouble.

But with problematic dads aside this book is about coping and there is an analogy that Beth uses that perfectly sums up grief and the grieving process. It really hit me in the heart and gave me a deeper understanding of he underlying issues. She says,

Look, Ezekiel Blast, the past is like gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe. When bad stuff first happens, it’s like when the gum is sticking to everything—the road, the sidewalk. And you can’t wear that shoe into the house because it will get all involved in the carpet and the bathroom rug, but when you try to scrape it off on the edge of the sidewalk or the edge of the porch, or you try to rub it off in the grass, it won’t come off. So you have to just live with it. You walk along, your foot trying to stick with every step, but gradually as the gum gets dirtier and dries out more and more, it loses its stickiness. And eventually, without ever actually removing it, you forget the gum is there. Except maybe on a hot day the gum gets soft and a little sticky again, and you think, Oh, yeah, gum on my shoe.

I thought this was so beautifully worded and it is so easy to digest. Everyone knows what it is like to have gum stuck to the bottom of their shoes. Everyone knows what hurt feels like and for Orson Scott Card to put it together so nicely really impressed me.

This book also has a lot to say about people as individuals. The insinuation can be made that everyone has some kind of “micropower”, I won’t spoil some of the others for you because I think they add to the story. I felt Orson Scott Card was saying that everyone is special, everyone is unique, and everyone is useful in their own way. The message is beautiful and Ezekiel’s power proves to be way bigger and way more useful than he could ever imagine. Even the “dumbest” of powers prove to be valuable in the right situation.

I’m going to use one more quote from Beth, she says to Ezekiel,

You said no person is ever really lost because you always know how to find yourself, because you’re always right there.

I think this rings true for more than just Ezekiel’s power. If you ever feel lost remember that you aren’t because you know where you are and that is where you are supposed to be at the time. Ezekiel can only find lost things, but a person is never really lost just in a different space than where they wish to be. It felt good to read those words and apply them to my life, and I believe that is what Orson Scott Card intended.

It was hard for me to rate this one because for a long time I didn’t know what to say. Now that it is all written down and I see how many quotes I pulled from the text I think it would be dishonest to give it anything less than 5 stars. So 5/5, this book was a real treat and a surprise.

Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for allowing me access to this title.

Why Does Young Adult Literature Get A Bad Wrap?

I spent three years working at a bookstore and I am an avid YA consumer and I have noticed a trend amongst the reading community. Young Adult lit seems to be treated like a second class genre. I had what some people might call “real” adults come up to me to buy YA and say things like, “This isn’t for me, this is for my daughter.” or my personal favorite, “I don’t read this junk it’s for kids, this is a present.” My question is why? Why do people feel the need to justify YA purchases, is it so bad to read something aimed at teen to twenty year olds? And what does this say about how we treat the YA demographic? Some of the most powerful books I have ever read qualify as YA. I even read middle grade novels, in fact Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are two of my favorites, and they are aimed at middle schoolers, yet, I am not ashamed.

This also poses another interesting question, why don’t adults feel like they need to justify purchasing books like Harry Potter but God forbid they buy John Green? I honestly saw more older adults buying YA than teenagers and I didn’t see a problem with it. A lot of adults also confessed to me that YA was their guilty pleasure. I was once told something very interesting by one of my coworkers, she said to me that she didn’t like the term guilty pleasure because it insinuates that you should feel guilt for something that brings you happiness. I have never thought of that term the same way. She was right, why should we feel guilty over the things that bring us happiness?

I also don’t like bashing particular YA books, not even Twilight. I understand that Twilight can be viewed as promoting unhealthy relationships, but I am not in the business of judging people’s tastes. There are definitely YA books that I don’t enjoy, but I will never judge a person by their tastes. Plus people really should think about the wide range of books that fall into the YA category, we have anything from Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson to Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. How could someone consider a category with such a wide range of different styles of literature childish?

In my journey of trying to understand why people hate the YA genre so deeply I stumbled upon a deeply concerning article titled, Against YA by a Ruth Graham. Graham’s assertion is that you can read what you want but you should be embarrassed if you read something written for children. My first issue with this smear campaign is that there is a ton of “children’s” literature that is highly respectable and sophisticated. For example, The Hobbit was written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children as a fairytale, but this is on most “Top 100 Books To Read In A Lifetime” lists. Do you think scholars who adore The Hobbit are ashamed to read something written for Tolkien’s children? Probably not. My next issue with this article is the example Graham used as a representation for the entirety of the YA category. Graham picks The Fault In Our Stars, which to be honest I absolutely hated. But, I have the brain capacity to recognize that this book means something to people, and probably for a good reason. Also, the author has a weird bone to pick with the typically concrete endings in YA, Graham seems unhealthily obsessed with the idea that more YA needs to end in ambiguity, as if that is what makes great literature. I hate ambiguity in a novel and I always have, say what you mean or why freaking say it? I read my fair share of books in the literary “canon” and I can tell you that a lot of them are boring and outdated, not to mention don’t encompass a lot more than one major demographic. I hated reading Toni Morrison and Shakespeare, it is not the stuff for me. Nevertheless I got my English degree and read all the canonical shit OSU could throw at me. Graham doesn’t take into consideration haunting stories like The Book Thief, which was shelved as YA where I worked and quite frankly has been one of the most powerful books I have ever read.

I guess I am here to tell anyone who is similar to me that you should not be ashamed to read what you like. Older generations are constantly bitching that people don’t read enough anymore, so get out and read. But, most importantly, read what you like or you will grow to loathe reading.

I am curious to hear someone else’s take on this. Do you agree with me? Or do you think that YA is something that “real” adults need to move away from? I personally love this genre and I’d love to hear from both sides. Let me know in the comments.

The Weight Of A Soul by Elizabeth Tammi

How far would you go to save your sister? Would you kill a stranger? A friend? In Tammi’s novel The Weight Of A Soul Fressa is faced with those questions when her sister mysteriously winds up dead in the forest by her village. Set in the times of vikings we are thrown into a plot that is ever more complicated due to the mysterious Norse gods that Fressa meets along her journey.

Fressa is given the near impossible task to find a soul that weighs the same as her sister’s so that Hela can retrieve her from Valhalla. Time is running out as Fressa’s parents, the aloof chief and chieftess of the village pressure Fressa to marry her sister;s betrothed. Fressa struggles with the loss of her sister and the fear of betraying her love,

I struggled deciding how I was going to rate this novel. I will be honest the pacing is very slow and it was not the grand adventure I expected. Almost the entirety of the novel takes place in the small village where Fressa lives. To me it was a little bit boring to stay in the same place for so long, the same setting played over and over. For a fantasy novel to really stick out the setting has to be unique in some way, I didn’t feel a particular draw to the landscape. I kept waiting for this novel to take me to places I had never seen, and the one place it does take you to is seriously lacking in the detail department. So that was a little disappointing.

Something Tammi handles really well is grief. When Fressa finds her sister dead you can feel the Earth shattering pain that Fressa feels and you can see her depression thicken around her like a cloud. This is important because it helps us to understand Fressa’s descent as a human, she becomes a cold-hearted killer. She sinks low and is constantly trying to work out who is worthy to take her sister’s place in Valhalla, strangers become enemies and friends become potential victims. Everywhere Fressa turns a deadline is looming and her desperation grows.

In my head I went back and forth about whether I thought that the Norse mythology was used effectively or not. The gods play an important role in this novel and the symbolism is outstanding, but to me the gods themselves felt a little flat. Most history/mythology buffs know who Hela, Loki, and Odin are so I can understand why Tammi may have lightened their character development, but to me they came off as uninteresting. I was very excited for the mythological angle, but it left me wanting.

As I dug through this novel I was constantly debating with myself over whether this book is a 4 star rating or not, and the ending almost convinced me. The ending really wraps the story together and gives it a warm feeling, but it was also a little bit predictable. I absolutely did not dislike this novel, in fact it was quite good, but it had some boxes that needed filling to satisfy my reading expectations and it didn’t do that.

This book is a solid 3/5 stars. If there was a continuation of some kind I would read it out of curiosity, but I won’t be adding it to the top of my TBR pile.

Crown Of Coral And Pearl by Mara Rutherford

In Varenia beauty is everything. Beauty is honor, esteem, and escape. Or at least Nor believed it was for her entire childhood, until a series of unexpected events lead her to the land of Ilara to marry Prince Ceren.

In Crown of Coral and Pearl we are introduced to twin sisters Zadie and Nor, their entire lives have revolved around an archaic ceremony where the most beautiful girl in Varenia is chosen to be the wife of the Prince of Ilara. Nor, the main character, was left with a scar on her cheek due to an accident when she was younger leaving her identical twin sister to be chosen as the next Ilarean Princess, but tragedy strikes and Nor is forced to take Zadie’s place in secret. But, there are secrets lurking below the surface of the Ilarean castle and Nor is determined to uncover them for the sake of the starving Varenian people.

Crown of Coral and Pearl nails its characters. The good guys are people you want to root for and the bad guys will fill you with rage. I was particularly intrigued by the antagonists, specifically Nor’s mother and Prince Ceren. Nor’s mother hurt me to my core, her mother is so obsessed with the idea of her daughters being chosen that she dictates their entire lives and even goes so far as to call Nor damaged. One quote really got me, her mother tells her, “Without your beauty, you are nothing.” I found that line to be so unforgivable that I just wanted the mom to die. Such a terrible thing to say to your own child. Mara Rutherford’s character building is so convincing, I really hated the antagonists. Prince Ceren is also just the worst. He gets off on making people uncomfortable and is abusive in every way imaginable. I couldn’t stand the idea of a character like him existing.

The world building is also enjoyable while relatively small scale. This is not Westeros, so it does not contain the overly complex map that you never want to look at, it’s easy to follow and I liked that. While simple, it does not come off as under developed. The land is rich with a history to follow. The contrast of tropical Varenia and the Ilarean castle embedded in the mountain makes an interesting plot point. Nor’s constant yearning to be by the ocean and in the sun really makes you feel for her. Watching her descent into an entirely different landscape is suffocating and you suffer alongside her.

The magical elements in this book are subtle. You will find magic used in very strategic ways, for me it was a pleasant surprise. Traditional aspects of fantasy are buried in this novel, such as monsters and special gifts, but they don’t steal the spotlight from the storyline. The backseat approach to magic was a refreshing change in my opinion.

The book has a lot of good lessons to teach. It focuses on the beauty within and one section really embraces that idea, “I felt the eyes of every woman as I passed, and I reminded myself that I was doing this for them, and for every young girl in Varenia who would spend her life wondering if she was beautiful enough.” This quote stuck with me, most girls go through a self conscious phase wondering if they are beautiful enough to be loved. This idea really added a layer to Nor that made her relatable, she is so different from the girls in our world, but still very much the same. Nor is tough and she fights for those who have been stepped all over, I love that about this character. She is rough in all the right places but she isn’t annoyingly tough. She knows her strengths and limitation and will use them to make a difference in the world.

Another point that really hit home is that, above all else, family and love are what matter most in this world. “Home was not a house, or a village, or a sea. It was family, and love, and the space where your soul could roost, like a seabird safe from a storm.”

If you ask me this book has a well rounded story and complexities to make it unique within th YA genre. It truly stood out to me and I think Crown of Coral and Pearl will make an impact on its readers. 5/5 stars for this one.

Crown of Coral and Pearl will be released on August 27th, 2019. Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for allowing me access to this book.

Kingdom Cold by Brittni Chenelle

Love, war, and tragedy are the three words that come to mind when I think about Kingdom Cold. I felt so much while reading this book and I was surprised by its ability to captivate me. I’m a sucker for a good romance and I was not disappointed, Chenelle crafts a reluctant but beautiful love story that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

It starts with a simple desire: freedom to choose. ““I won’t say ‘I do’,” I said, locking my knees to keep them from shaking . Marriage? Even the word repulsed me. It sat at the back of my throat and I choked on it.” Charlotte, the princess of Besmium and main protagonist, is a rebellious girl with the simple wish to get married on her own terms. Besmium is facing a brutal war and the promise of a marriage between Princess Charlotte and Prince Young could unite the East and West to save the kingdom of Besmium. But through tangle after tangle the love story deepens winding in and out of characters until they must face an even more powerful enemy than they ever imagined. Death lurks at their doorstep and they must think quickly to save everything they love.

What I love about this book is the depth of each character. Everyone has wants and their own motives that make them unique. There is a rich history, that while it doesn’t delve super deep it feels well rounded and complete. Every single character down to the smallest of servant has their own special personality, there are no cardboard cutout characters. My all-time favorite is Charlotte herself, she reminds me of Celaena from Throne of Glass. She takes her fate into her own hands and makes the absolute best of each situation. She’s analytical and blossoms into a full blown badass who isn’t afraid to get blood on her royal hands. She is not a damsel, she is a warrior in her own rite. She is not afraid to speak her mind and no man is her master. Her fate is her fate alone.

The antagonists are done so authentically, even minor antagonists like Charlotte’s mother. While not intending to be evil and cruel, the queen is brutal and horrible to her daughter. Charlotte’s hatred for her mother feels real and justified. Charlotte is not just a silly teen girl that is irritated with her mother, she is full on verbally abused by the queen. It’s so satisfying watching Charlotte defy her mother at every turn. While the queen isn’t the main antagonist, I felt so empowered everytime her plans were foiled.

This story has so many layers and felt like a roller coaster ride. My only quarrel with this book is that it felt like it was written as a standalone and changed towards the end to make it span a few more books. The plot would heighten and dip making me feel like it had three different stopping points. I will say that I am glad that this series is going to be three parts because I really enjoyed the story and characters. I was angry when I read the ending but with a promise of continuation in the acknowledgements my anger was quelled. I need to know more and I refuse to be left with the ending presented.

I give Kingdom Cold a 4/5 stars. This book surprised me and has a love story that I won’t soon forget. I will be looking forward to reading the next installment.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker

Unique and cute as can be, Mooncakes is unlike any other graphic novel that I have read so far. The story is different and the illustrations are fun and colorful. This graphic novel definitely kept me entertained throughout with its simple story line and fantastical creatures.

In Mooncakes we follow Nova, a young and budding witch, and Tam a werewolf with undiscovered magical talent. Nova and Tam embark on an adventure to banish the demon in the woods behind Nova’s house, while also discovering their feelings for each other. This story is filled with quirky characters like Nova’s pigeon headed uncle and her sassy but wonderful grandmas. This graphic novel is sure to make you smile and feel fuzzy inside.

My favorite character is Tatyana, Nova’s best friend and science nerd. She brings a lot of humor to the story and I enjoyed viewing her paralleled views of science versus magic. Her constant desire to understand and her unending frustration with the “physics” of magic made me fond of her. As a character she felt well rounded and interesting. She reminded me of one of my childhood friends and that familiarity really endeared me to her.

Weirdly enough I did not feel the same connection to Nova or Tam even though they were the main characters. To me it felt like they took a back seat to the quirkier secondary characters, who were so well crafted. The grandma’s were also so unique and in my opinion were more interesting than Nova and Tam. I feel like I would have enjoyed their love story far more. Nova and Tam just felt like a regular teen romance with angst and a small side of secrecy. It just did not feel as original as I wanted it to. With Tam being non-binary and Nova being bisexual ( I believe this is the proper interpretation though I may be incorrect) I thought going in that the dynamic would feel unique and impactful, it didn’t. It seems their relationship was composed entirely of the same typical young adult romance tropes as any other YA novel. To me the characters just felt a little hollow.

While entertaining and composed of some unique character aspects this story didn’t diverge much from the usual YA plot system. I felt like it was a novel I had read before but with a different skin. I definitely did not hate it because I love YA, but it wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. It felt like it wanted to be like SAGA mixed with Steven Universe but didn’t quite meet the expectations of either. It really needs a characteristic that causes it to stand out from the crowd, some fatal flaw or even just raised stakes. You’re probably thinking, How is battling a demon not high enough stakes? Well in all honesty I didn’t feel any real danger because the grandmas’ are so over powered. I had a hard time envisioning the conflict as true conflict. It was like no matter what everything would be okay in the end. I guess in simple terms, my anxieties as a reader felt coddled.

On the other hand, the illustrations of this graphic novel are excellent. Wendy Xu made this novel absolutely stunning. The woodland spirits and the grandmas’ three cats were so cute. The world created is absolutely beautiful, it’s colorful while not feeling like an acid trip, and it creates a definite autumn weather feel. I could see myself sitting outside in the brisk air of Halloween reading this graphic novel. I am interested to see what else Wendy Xu has illustrated.

In all, I did not love this graphic novel. But, I also do not hate it. I think that if this story is to continue and really focus on Nova and Tam’s character development, my mind could change. There is a lot of potential here and I do not want to judge it too firmly because it was not a bad story, I just think that it could use some expansion. I give Mooncakes 3/5 stars with the strong hope that I get to see more in the future.