The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Like almost everyone else I've seen on social media, I've been gobbling up the creepy reads before Halloween hits. Just the title alone of The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams made this a perfect choice for this spooky season.

On the surface. Esme seems to be just a normal teenager. She loves thrifted clothes and putting together outfits. She has a best friend named Janis and a pit bull named Pig. And she has a babysitter's club. But lately odd things have been happening to her. From cars driving on their own to volleyballs changing direction, Esme doesn't know what's going on. And when the kids she and Janice babysit for appear to be in danger and a mysterious new girl shows up eager to join their club, it's a definite wake up call that something isn't right.

First, can we talk about this cover? That pastel goodness is the stuff of dreams.  The book started out strong for me, but my rating dropped lower and lower as it went on. I really liked the plot of this story, but didn't think it was original at all. It's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Sitters instead of Slayers, a Counsel instead of a Watcher, etc. The strikingly high amount of similarities was hard to ignore. They even mention Buffy numerous times throughout the book. Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that they kept calling  Esme's mom "crazy" when there are much more appropriate terms to use for mental illness. The story itself felt fairly juvenile even though the main characters were supposed to be seventeen. I really liked all the mentions of the different outfits the girls put together though, and how they themed all their outfits.

The story was fun and the book was an enjoyable read for the most part, but like I said, I felt like I had seen most of this stuff via other mediums before, and anything unique in this read was pretty forgettable. It looks like there is a second book coming out next fall, but I will probably pass on that one. This is really more of a 2.5 star read for me, but since I don't do half stars, I chose to round up just for the nostalgia factor.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

I received an ARC of this read at the ALA Annual Conference. The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams is out now!

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I really enjoyed reading The Wedding Date, so I was excited to pick up Jasmine Guillory's next book, The Proposal. This book was focused on Carlos, a side character in The Wedding Date who I absolutely loved!

When Nik's boyfriend Fisher surprises her with a proposal during a game at Dodger Stadium, she is shocked, and not in a good way. When she turns him down, on the JumboTron no less, the whole stadium turns against her, and a kind stranger behind her (enter Carlos) offers to help her escape before the news crews can hunt her down. 

Nik is grateful to her kind, thoughtful, and super handsome rescuer, so when they decide to spend more time together, she is overjoyed. The only problem is she has no desire to get into another relationship, but to her relief, neither does he. 

This was another adorable read, and I enjoyed this even more than The Wedding Date! Like I mentioned in the review for that book, I really love Carlos as a character, and I was really excited to get to know more about him in his own story. Alexa and Drew from The Wedding Date were in this book a few times as well!

I thought the issues addressed in this book were important, and much less frivolous than some of the things in other romance books I've read. I loved Nik and her friends, and really admired her for putting her career so high on her priority list. There was wonderful diversity in this book as well, and a feminist message that really resonates with what society is going through today. I laughed so much while reading this, and felt so many warm fuzzies along the way.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

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Last year, I read Lies by T.M. Logan and really enjoyed it! I decided to pick up 29 Seconds by the same author as my thriller for Spookathon this year, and while I did enjoy it, it wasn't quite as much of a hit as Lies.

A lot can change in 29 seconds. For Sarah, 29 seconds could upend her entire life. After saving the daughter of a mysterious and wealthy man, Sarah is given a favor of sorts in return. Give him a name, any name, and he will make this person disappear. Could this save Sarah from the terrible situation with her disgusting boss, Alan Hawthorne?

There should definitely be trigger warnings for sexual assault and sexual harassment on this one. Unfortunately I didn't like this one as much as Lies. I honestly couldn't stand the main character. While I did absolutely feel for her and her predicament, she spent a lot of the book complaining about other things in her life, like how her kids didn't get along, and I didn't see how any of this was important to the plot. Some parts of the story were extremely unbelievable as well, specifically in relation to how people got away with some of the things they did. 

It was an okay read overall, and the issues addressed in the book are very important in today's society, but it just didn't grab me like I had hoped, which I feel like a thriller really has to do in order to be successful.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

I received an ARC of this read at the ALA Annual Conference. 29 Seconds by T.M. Logan is out now!

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab

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I read the first book in this middle grade series, City of Ghosts, last fall, and felt like it was a very middle of the road read. I enjoyed it fine but really wanted more than it delivered. Still, I'm a big fan of Victoria Schwab and wanted to see where this story went, so I picked up book two, Tunnel of Bones, when it was recently released, and decided to use it as the "Book with Red on the Cover" challenge for Spookathon. I'm glad I did! I liked this one a lot more than the first book.

Cassidy Blake can interact with ghosts. Not only that, but after almost dying, it is her life's purpose to send ghosts to the beyond. Wouldn't be too bad, except for the fact that her parents host a show about the paranormal, leading the family to travel to the most haunted places in the world. This time, they're in Paris, and when the family goes to explore the Catacombs, a poltergeist is released that begins wreaking havoc on the city. 

I still want to know more about the side character Lara, but I liked how her and Cassidy developed a friendship that continued into this read. I also still thought the parents were clueless with Cassidy literally disappearing all the time, but I've written that off as a suspension of disbelief that is necessary for these adventures take place.

I really saw Casssidy growing in this one: not only maturing, but really coming into her own with her ghost-banishing talent. You get to see her grappling a lot with encountering danger versus fulfilling her purpose, ultimately deciding that there's a difference between being scared to do something and TOO scared to do something. Fear doesn't define action. The overall plot in this one was much better than the first as well, and the poltergeist story line really kept me intrigued. We hope to go to Paris in a few years, so I'll definitely write down all the haunted places mentioned in this book for my visit!

While I think this was originally supposed to be a duology, it looks like there will be a third book, Bridge of Souls, releasing some time next year. I heard rumors that this would be taking place in New Orleans, and if so I can't wait to read it!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

The Furies by Katie Lowe

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I've always loved books and movies about witchy girl gangs. I love these groups of powerful women who stick together, fight for one another, and use their powers to try to right the wrongs in the world (or use their powers for evil, which can be even more fun!). That's why when I heard about The Furies by Katie Lowe I knew I had to read it. I will put a trigger warning on this one for rape and child abuse, as well as an animal sacrifice.

When Violet starts at a new school. she is immediately drawn to a group of girls: Alex, Grace, and Robin. When her art teacher Annabel invites her to be a part of a "special advanced course" she is offering, she accepts and discovers that these girls are the only other students. They learn about the occult, the history of the school, mythology, and how all these things are connected to strong females throughout history. But what happens when girls take these "history" lessons to mean more than their teacher implies? What results when the girls begin to perform rites and rituals of their own in the name of those about whom they have learned?

I enjoyed this book just fine, but was really hoping for more. With so many stories about witchy girl gangs out there to consume, I feel like any new stories need to be super inventive and really engaging, and this one sadly wasn't as strong as I'd hoped. I thought all the parts about Violet's past life and her current relationship with her mother were just extremely sad, and not at all that necessary to the plot. I mean I guess it explains why she got unhinged so quickly, but it just made me depressed. Parts of this story were a little too slow for my liking, and pieces of the plot felt a little disjointed in places.

I did love how all the girls were learning about things central to the idea of strong women, and the weird history of their school was really interesting. I also liked how the special course that the girls were taking was passed down through generations. There was some f/f rep in this story as well which I thought was a great little addition. And I really loved Robin's character, even though she was super manipulative.

Basically, this book reminded me a lot of The Craft (which I ADORE!), but wasn't quite as good. Even though this is about teenagers, I think it is technically an adult coming of age book (at least, it reads like one) but I could be wrong.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for a finished copy of this read! The Furies by Katie Lowe is out now!

Graphic Novel Mash-Up Review #3

Time for another graphic novel mash-up review! These three don't have much in common and all attracted me for different reasons. 

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Hex Vet by Sam Davies: This was a little graphic novel I was given at ALA. You can tell right away that this is meant for children, but it was so adorable and right up my alley. Witches and animals? Count me in! This story is about two witch vet interns, Clarion and Annette, who have to save the clinic when trouble breaks out and the adults are out of the office. The art style is adorable and it's all done in fun pinks and purples and blues.  It was a very simple story but again, it's for children, and I still really enjoyed it!
4 out of 5 Stars

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon: This one has been out for a while, but I just now got around to picking it up. I honestly don't understand the hype here. This story was about a dog who befriends a robot, then leaves him on the beach to rust, spending the following year trying to replace him. It was sad and melancholy. This story also had no text, just images. There might be a deeper meaning here somewhere, but I just didn't get it and the story left me feeling depressed. The art was good though. 
2 out of 5 Stars

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Pandora's Legacy by Kara Leopard and Kelly and Nichole Matthews: This was another ALA acquisition! In this story, siblings accidentally open Pandora's Box, releasing a bunch of creatures into the world. Discovering that their family is actually tasked with guarding the box, they team up with Prometheus, who has inhabited their pet cat for the time being, to put the creatures back. I liked the Greek references here, and how it was educational in addition to fun. It did feel very rushed at times. The art style was not what I am normally used to, but I did like it, and would continue this series if there were more. 
3 out of 5 Stars

American Royals by Katharine McGee

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I loved Katharine McGee's Thousandth Floor series (although I still need to read the final book!) so I was excited to see that she had a new release coming out. American Royals is the story about the American Royal Family, or what the country would look like today if George Washington became king rather than president. 

Beatrice is laser-focused on her role as future Queen. Samantha is grappling with being the "extra," the future Queen's sister with no real point or direction in life. The younger brother Jeff is trying to have a normal love life with a commoner, and Nina (the commoner) is struggling with having a royal boyfriend and best friend (Sam). And outsider Daphne is just trying to get her clutches into everything.

This story was told from something like 5 different perspectives, some of which were more useful than the others. Beatrice reminded me a lot of Elizabeth in The Crown, accepting her duty without hesitation (most of the time). I thought Samantha was way too entitled, Jeff was clueless, Nina was naive, and Daphne was just plain cruel. I didn't really like any of the characters except for Beatrice, and even then I think it was more that I felt bad for her rather than truly liked her. I did like the pop culture references in this book, and occasional nods to the British Royal Family, but overall I was pretty let down.

I honestly don't know if this is supposed to be a standalone or the first in a series. If it's a standalone, I'm super disappointed in the ending. And if it's a series, unfortunately I'm not sure I liked it enough to continue. **Sidebar: Just looked it up. It's a series. Crap. ** 

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

I received an ARC of this book at the ALA Annual Conference. American Royals by Katharine McGee is out now!

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I have finally started to venture out of my Christina Lauren romance cocoon and branch out to some other romance authors! Jasmine Guillory is one I've seen mentioned a lot, so I decided to pick up The Wedding Date. 

When Alexa and Drew are stranded in a hotel elevator together, Drew spontaneously asks Alexa to be his date to a wedding he is dreading: the wedding of his ex-girlfriend and his best friend. Alexa agrees, thinking it would just be a weekend of fun in her chaotic life, because after all, they live in different cities and Drew told her he doesn't do relationships. But when the two have a fantastic time at the wedding and want to keep seeing each other, things get complicated. What are they to each other, and how long can this possibly last?

I'm really falling in love with these romantic comedy reads. Yes, they're incredibly predictable. But I think that's why I like them! You can just enjoy the journey of the story rather than worrying about what will happen or trying to guess the outcome of the plot. I loved Alexa's character in this book, especially her confidence in herself and her high-powered job. I adored the side character Carlos as well, and thought he provided some great comic relief and support to Drew throughout the story. Overall it was a super cute and enjoyable romantic comedy.

Can't wait to pick up The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory next since it features Carlos as a main character!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Graphic Novel Mash-Up Review #2

Halloween is quickly approaching, so I have been all about the spooky reads! I just can't get enough of these, so today's mash-up review is for 3 middle-grade spooky graphic novels. Even though I didn't love them all, they will definitely set the mood for the Halloween season!

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreadds
Suee and the Shadow by Ginger Ly and Molly Park: In this story, Suee finds her shadow come to life right around the time that kids in her school are turning into zombies. Could her shadow be behind this, and if so, how does Suee stop it and get her friends back? This one really seemed like a knock-off of Anya's ghost to me, but not nearly as good. I liked the art, but the story left much to be desired.
2 out of 5 Stars

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel: When a ghost hunter comes into the human world, Garth is accidentally taken back to the spirit world with him. He has to figure out a way back before the evil mayor of Ghostopolis gets him, and he even gets to meet the ghost of his grandfather along the way. I loved this story! I really enjoyed this art style, and there were some super cool skeleton animals in this one!
4 out of 5 Stars

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads

Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry: In this graphic novel, sisters Victoria and Katia go off to boarding school. When they get in a fight and Katia runs away, she finds herself in the underworld of a graveyard. Victoria has to find and help her before Katia falls victim to madman Nikola. Unfortunately this one was way too all over the place for me. It had some good lessons in it, but the story was extremely hard to follow and disconnected.

2 out of 5 Stars

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This book was so unique and wonderful and I absolutely loved it! Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia is the perfect adult paranormal mystery thriller for this spooky season and was completely up my alley. Tuesday Mooney has always been a little odd. She wears all black, she's obsessed with all things dark and spooky, and she doesn't have a lot of close friends. But she's completely content with that. When a wealthy man in her city dies (who is named Vincent Pryce, btw!) and leaves behind a whale of a scavenger hunt, Tuesday finds herself teaming up with the few people in her life she has ever let get close to her, and finds out how much they mean to her in the process.

It's so hard to even summarize this book because so many different things happen. You get inside the head of multiple characters, each struggling with their own demons and identities. There's an amazing scavenger hunt that incorporates spooky things, Shakespeare, Poe, and all the other things I love. There are Stevie Nicks references, horror movie references, X-Files references, Salem references...need I go on? This book absolutely spoke to my weird girl heart. I adored Tuesday as a character and loved seeing her work through all the mysteries she was presented with throughout the story. 

It did take a while to read, just because there were so many different things going on that you needed to keep track of and file away. Dex, Dorry, and Archie were all great side characters and I was actually happy to follow their stories in addition to Tuesday's, when normally too many character story lines annoy me. My only real issue with this read was the ending. I thought it felt really rushed compared to how drawn out the scavenger hunt was in the majority of the book, and didn't like that there were some characters added towards the end who weren't necessary.

If you like scavenger hunts or spooky pop culture references, you would definitely enjoy this read.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an ARC of this read! Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia is out today, October 8th, so be sure to pick up a copy to add to your fall TBR!

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

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I got this book in an Uppercase box a long time ago, and it arrived right when I was in my "I hate fantasy" phase. I read around 20 pages and put it down, assuming I would never pick it up again. Well, now that I've started appreciating fantasy again, I decided to give An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson another try.

Isobel is a portrait artist, and painting is her craft. She protects her family through earning wards and spells by painting portraits for the fair folk. When one day, the faerie prince of the Autumn Court, Rook, appears at her home to be painted, Isobel is beside herself. 

The more time she spends with Rook, the more enraptured she becomes. She paints him as she truly sees him, with a sorrow in his eyes - a human flaw that Rook is furious to discover. Set on making Isobel pay for what she has done, Rook steals her away to face trial for the crime she has committed. 

I think the best word to describe this story is simple, and I don't mean that in a bad way at all. So many fantasy stories are drawn out, elaborate, and confusing, with many tiny elements and details to remember. These types of fantasy stories overwhelm me, and are the reason why I take frequent breaks from reading fantasy. This one was easy. It flowed well and was easy to comprehend. It's a standalone, so you don't have to worry about getting wrapped up in an extensive series. 

The writing was beautifully descriptive. Rook was enigmatic and brooding. Isobel was strong and family oriented. The plot made sense, was engaging, and I was definitely satisfied with the ending. There were magic forests and terrifying creatures, both of which I love! It was a quick read, and the perfect story to read and be engaged by, then put down and move on. Now I definitely want to pick up Margaret Rogerson's newest book, A Sorcery of Thorns!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson

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I am a huge Star Wars fan, but I'd never read any of the canon novels until now. When Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson was released, I had to pick up a copy to read before my visit to Galaxy's Edge at Walt Disney World, a land featuring the Black Spire Outpost: the main setting for this read. Vi Moradi has been sent by General Leia Organa to the planet Batuu, specifically the Black Spire Outpost, to determine its feasibility and set up a new base for the Resistance. But the First Order is onto her, and sends a party to Batuu determined to find her and shut down her mission.

I can't even begin to put into words how much I loved this story. Vi Moradi was an amazing character with startling ambition, especially when faced with tremendous adversity. I couldn't get enough of the sassily morose droid Pook. All of the side characters were wonderful, and Batuu was so well described that when I walked into the land at WDW I felt like I was coming home.

Me outside the Droid Depot
with some blue milk!
I'm so happy I read this book before visiting Galaxy's Edge. It made the whole experience so much better for me. I recognized all the businesses, as well as understood the back story and characters present in the land. I was thrilled to have drinks at Oga's Cantina, especially after knowing how terrifying its mob boss owner was, and excited to grab a snack from Ronto Roasters. I even shrieked as I saw Vi Moradi herself, blue hair and all, running through the land on her quest to evade the First Order. If you're planning a visit to Galaxy's Edge at WDW or Disneyland, I highly recommend reading this book first!

After reading and loving this novel so much, I've decided to read all of the Del Rey Star Wars canon novels in order, starting with Dooku: Jedi Lost by Cavan Scott, which just came out yesterday. I'm sure I've spoiled some things for myself, since Black Spire comes towards the end of the canon, but I'm totally fine with that if it means I get to experience more amazing Star Wars novels.

Bright suns!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars