Lilla the Accidental Witch – Eleanor Crewes

It should not be legal for a graphic novel to be so dull. It should not be legal for them to take me such a long time to get through… and eventually discard them. It’s insane how this book has everything I love in fantasy stories: magical coming-of-ages, witches, family secrets, town mysteries and familiars.

And yet, and yet. Somehow, I don’t have the patience for more than 25 pages in one sitting and, somehow, I don’t have the energy it seems to require to finish it. I can probably count on my hand the amount of graphic novels I have DNF’d in all my life—that’s how rarely that happens—so I’m as shocked as you are with the outcome.

It’s possible part of it is me; part of it is probably always us, because I feel very indifferent about the illustrations. They don’t need to WOW me to make them worth looking at, but Eleanor Crewes’ very cartoonish style with soft shadows and lines and bright, unrealistic colours does not appeal to me. I’m not so superficial that the visuals alone could undo a whole entire book for me, but this ‘‘is’’ a graphic novel after all.

And the story is not original enough to add enough ‘‘personality’’ to this work to make it work despite its visual shortcomings. It’s the very usual tale of a young teen who discovers she has powers and tries to learn about them and right some wrongs at the same time. Maybe if it had been Halloween, the atmosphere of the day would have made reading this book more enjoyable, but it’s not and I’m writing this not only because it was sent to me for review, but also because I want to move on from it to another more interesting and engrossing work. Goodbye!

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

‘Frostblood’ by Elly Blake did not get deeper the second time around

Here we go again.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, or you remember me from Goodreads as ‘‘Lola’’ perhaps, you know I love YA Fantasy and you know (maybe, if you’re a die-hard fan) that I have read this book before, its advance reader’s copy to be more precise.

Like about 3.5 billion people in this world, I am in awe of Frozen and its world of magic and let it go-ness. So of course I had to give this a try. I decided to give it a second try because sometimes I simply do not want to admit defeat.

There are books and series out there that I feel myself feeling indifferent about and it leaves me gobsmacked, whereas there are books I am reluctant to try and assume I’ll detest them on first sight that actually end up leaving me breathless.

Why is the world of literature so cruel? Anyways, so in my refusal to admit defeat, I picked this one up again… and history repeated itself. The good thing is that now I know better why this author and series do not work for me and, should I insist on creating a bond between us, I can more easily adjust my expectations for the third round.

Yes, there will be a third round sometime, somewhere, some day. So what’s the problem with Frostblood, besides its dramatic title that means little? Well, pretty much the fact that it’s overly dramatic and has little emotional depth. If you’re a shallow reader who gravitates towards shallow works (no judgement here), please do jump right into the frosty shallow waters of this one. If, like me, you need a deeper connection, you will be quite astounded to realize that even though you’ve finished reading it in something like 5 hours, you remember quite little of its content.

It’s like having a conversation with someone who doesn’t know how to navigate deep waters. You certainly remember that you talked about the weather, how they were doing, whether they slept well last night and how early they joke up to drink their orange juice. You know this – or rather, assume this – because it has happened many times before. But you, somehow, can’t remember if the weather was stormy or not, at what time and why they actually went to bed and what brand of orange juice reached their lips.

Bottom line: you can’t attribute or force depth into anyone or anything, if it’s not there for you to harness its potential or recognize, try as you might. So why, pray tell, do you insist on liking this one, Monica?

Because Frozen.

Because Frozen.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

Blood Like Magic – Liselle Sambury

I am so proud of Liselle Sambury. Not just because she wrote a wonderful dark debut novel here, but also because it’s so nice and motivating to see Canadian authors publishing fantastic stories. I’m Romanian-Canadian and one of my dreams if to one day publish a story that is meaningful to me as well. So reading this and taking in Liselle’s words felt particularly important to me.

This is not a commercial book. I think of those as stories that are written to be sold, written because that’s what’s trending and that’s what readers want to read. Though there is more emphasis on diversity in YA and stories with POC do sell more than 10 years ago from my understanding, everything in this book felt like it came from a place that truly believes that this content is worth sharing and has a place in the world.

It’s a big book—close to 500 pages—and it is slower than most fantasy books I read. I won’t deny that there is too much description for my usual liking. However, and this is important, Liselle does take the time to lay down the foundation for our understanding of the world-building, magic system and characters themselves. It quickly became clear to me that the author spent a lot of time thinking of and developing her characters—bringing them to life. They are each peculiar and human in their own way, even the magic-wielding ones. I especially enjoyed Voya’s interactions with her cousin Keis, whose magical ability is to read thoughts, and Luc (the love interest) certainly intrigued me.

Voya will only earn her powers if she completes a task given to her by one of her ancestors. The problem is that there is more at stake than just her power ascension, and she is not used to making decisions on her own. She must learn to trust herself better and embrace the path that her instincts direct her towards. It’s hard not to feel for Voya, since she is vulnerable and insecure but also caring and determined. She does not exist to entertain or please the reader. She really does have a story to tell, and I for one felt honoured to be privy to her storytelling.

Thank you Simon & Schuster for the copy in exchange for a review.

Kingdom of the Wicked – Kerri Maniscalco

I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised. I did not detest this author’s debut series – Stalking Jack the Ripper – although I am not a big fan of Historical Fiction and overly cheeky, immature and game-playing love interests. This is why I am a little surprised by how much I did not mind the love interest in this one. He is a bad boy, definitely over-confident and quite manipulative. But as bad and wrong as he may be, there is quite a mature side of him that is shown throughout the story, which made me like him more than Stalking Jack the Ripper’s love interest.

I also enjoyed the storyline more, though that comes as no surprise, since I have always been a fan of fantasy, witches and mystery. Those elements combined feel like Heaven to me, even in this hellish world Emilia inhabits. Things are particularly bad when her sister is murdered and she cannot quiet down her need for revenge. Emilia will stop at nothing to find her sister’s murderer and rip his heart out like he/she/it did her sister’s.

I have to say that I see a lot of dark-sounding premises out there in the YA Fantasy world. You know, the princess charged to murder the prince but ends up falling in love with him and such. Although there is some sort of romance in this one, Emilia is quite deadly, that you can believe. Of course, she has her human side, but she is very overcome by grief and other dark emotions that blind her from too many feelings of compassion, understanding and empathy towards others, especially since there are various suspects on her list of heart-rippers.

One weakness that this book possesses is its development and overall presentation of the world-building. I understand the connection and hard history between witches and devils, but the rest of the creatures featured, such as werewolves, vampires and other hellish things, were a little harder to wrap my head around. Were werewolves and vampires really necessary? What do they actually bring? Is it worth including them if their history is not going to be unfolded correctly? Perhaps more information about them will be given in the sequel but I would not hold my breath. Otherwise, I had fun following Emilia’s descent into darkness and I’m sure the sequel will prove to be just as thrilling and BAD hehehehe.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

B*WITCH – Paige McKenzie & Nancy Ohlin

To my slight surprise, I enjoyed this. I don’t typically expect to dislike a book, or even hate it, but this title in particular has few readers and few stellar reviews, so I really was not predicting love at first sight or love of any kind. At the same time, I do find myself usually excited about giving under-the-radar stories a try and I am a fan of witches and magic in general, so perhaps I should have had higher hopes for a positive reading experience.

In this world, there are various witches but these witches live among non-witches. This specific society half tolerates them and half wants to see them gone. So while Greta’s coven wouldn’t necessarily get executed if their witchy status was found, Greta and her friends still prefer to keep things on the low. Now more than ever, since an anti-witch president was elected and the girls fear for their lives. Their fear is tragically validated when one of their own is found dead.

The truth is that it’s not particularly well-executed. The writing is amateurish, the characters very immature (with the exception of Ridley I would say) and the world-building vague and not convincing. This means that I understand people who are turned off by this book. It’s okay—maybe even good—to have a specific criteria and look for reads that match that criteria as best as possible. I have criteria as well for ‘‘keep’’ books, those that I know I’ll want to forever preserve on my bookshelves. This is not one of them, but it is an ‘‘escape’’ book regardless. It has energy and the characters’ silliness and cartoonish personalities were entertaining. This may not be one of those stories I’ll be interested in revisiting in a few years, but it has served its brief purpose and I have no regrets.

Thanks Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

Bring Me Their Hearts – Sara Wolf

35144326Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Library
Published: 2018
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Witches


REVIEW:

This is a pretty easy story to read, but maybe too easy. I finished the first hundred pages in no time, and yet when I pondered what I had actually read, I realized that there wasn’t much substance in those hundred pages. It’s a lot of the main character talking about things and constantly being her sarcastic self. I don’t mind sarcasm at all, if it’s in a witty conversation, but when someone is talking to themselves – thinking – and they’re being sarcastic all the time, I’m just like, ”Who are you performing for and why? Those are supposed to be your intimate thoughts that we just so happen to have access to and yet you’re thinking like you know someone is there to read your mind.” Continue reading

The Daughters of Ys – M.T. Anderson & Jo Rioux

46223363The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson & Jo Rioux

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: August 11th, 2020
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Dark, Magic, Retelling, Siblings


REVIEW:

This was a much darker tale than I anticipated, both in atmosphere and content. It is not a story I recommend if you are looking for something to uplift your spirits but it is one I dare push you towards if you want to read something different, something that will shock you and maybe even repulse you while simultaneously intriguing you. Continue reading

Serpent & Dove – Shelby Mahurin

40024139Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Library
Published: September 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Witches, Forbidden Love, Devotion, Family


REVIEW:

Serpent & Dove is one of those fantastic fantasy books that completely deserve being devoured, as slowly or as fast as you wish. It will increase your interest with each new chapter, so much that its 500 pages will have felt like 300 by the end. Shelby Mahurin doesn’t reinvent witches, but she does do something interesting with the concept and the use of magic. The forbidden love part sure was exciting, too, and I dare say I’m counting down the days until the release of book 2. Continue reading

Snapdragon – Kat Leyh


See the source imageSnapdragon
by Kat Leyh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: February 2020
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 9+
Genres & Themes: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Magic, LGBTQIA+, Friendship, Animals


REVIEW:

I love books that make me feel like the nastiness in the world is nothing compared to the beauty and magic that can be found in it. SNAPDRAGON was just that book for me.

Snapdragon doesn’t like to gossip and she doesn’t like rumours but she still can’t help but be afraid and wary of the old woman who lives alone, isolated by the forest, and who might just be a witch. Continue reading

Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik

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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: 2018
Publisher: Del Rey
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling, Magic, Feminism, Power Relations


REVIEW:

This is a whole different beast from most fairytale retellings I read. Different even from the author’s previously released magnificent tale—Uprooted. Uprooted, from what I recall, was thoroughly enchanting and exquisitely written. Spinning Silver is not quite like that. It is not a love story first and foremost—it is a story of survival. It is very feminist with three central female protagonists who experience, learn and grow. The writing is in no way purple-y. The author’s main concern is not to wow us with long beautiful descriptions of what are ultimately meaningless things and she doesn’t embellish what is meant to be raw and impactful. Continue reading