Review: Swing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

I’ve been reading a lot more novels in verse this year, the latest of which is Swing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. I first learned of this writing duo through their previous book, Solo, and was pleased when I got the chance to joined the #SwingLaunchTeam. It’s been a real treat getting to learn about the book, hearing what other members of the #swingbook launch team have thought about it, and now getting to share my personal reading experience with all of you.


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Published: 2 October 2018

Publisher: Blink

Category: Young Adult/Poetry/Realistic Fiction

Things usually do not go as planned for seventeen-year-old Noah. He and his best friend Walt (aka Swing) have been cut from the high school baseball team for the third year in a row, and it looks like Noah’s love interest since fifth grade, Sam, will never take it past the “best friend” zone. Noah would love to retire his bat and accept the status quo, but Walt has got big plans for them both, which include making the best baseball comeback ever, getting the girl, and finally finding cool.

To go from lovelorn to ladies’ men, Walt introduces Noah to a relationship guru—his Dairy Queen-employed cousin, Floyd—and the always informative Woohoo Woman Podcast. Noah is reluctant, but decides fate may be intervening when he discovers more than just his mom’s birthday gift at the Thrift Shop. Inside the vintage Keepall is a gold mine of love letters from the 1950s. Walt is sure these letters and the podcasts are just what Noah needs to communicate his true feelings to Sam. To Noah, the letters are more: an initiation to the curious rhythms of love and jazz, as well as a way for him and Walt to embrace their own kind of cool. While Walt is hitting balls out of the park and catching the eye of the baseball coach, Noah composes anonymous love letters to Sam in an attempt to write his way into her heart. But as things are looking up, way up, for Noah and Walt, the letters set off a chain of events that change everything Noah knows to be true about love, friendship, sacrifice, and fate.

In Swing, bestselling authors Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (Solo) present a free-verse poetic story that will speak to anyone who’s struggled to find their voice, and take a swing at life.

Rating: 4 Stars

CW: (highlight to reveal content warnings) PTSD (scenes with a character exhibiting symptoms thereof)

The friendship trio showcased in Swing is classic. Noah, Walt, and Sam’s friendship was so strong in middle school, then came to face the challenges of high school and the changes that test the ties that bound them together. New things rise up and make you question what’s important now, who is going to remain in your life, whether the old is going to stand the test of time or if it’s going to give way for something different. It can be sad but it can also be normal. Noah observing all this in verse, telling us what’s happening to his friends, brings up memories of the past for readers while we’re living in his present, waiting to see what it turns into.

I WILL make the varsity baseball team senior year. Bet on that. I’ll practice harder than before. Work out harder. Get ripped. Give the whole of my heart and soul to the glove and the ball.

Walt, a.k.a. Swing, was such an enthusiastic character. He was always talking to Noah, the main voice of the novel, the “I”, about his philosophy of life called cool. Walt’s dreams extend beyond cool, though. He loves a lot more and his passion show through in how he lives every day to the fullest, how he espouses what he calls Hug Life. Baseball, for example: it’s about so much more than loving the game, the players. It’s the intricacies, being in the moment, feeling it inside. He doesn’t see not being on the team right now as a letdown. Baseball doesn’t ever let him down. It’s his future, one way or the other.

Abandoning the traditional major and minor key relationships of tonality, Miles based the entire album on modality. It was a remarkable, landmark album that shaped the future of modern music. It was improvisation, but each of the performers was given a set of scales that defined the parameters of their improvisation.

There was a lot about music and the depths of emotion that it could stir, particularly when a character named Divya appears as a love interest for Walt/Swing. Noah makes this real soulful connection to music that feels beautiful, almost like a camera panning an especially well lit scene in a film with the perfect soundtrack.

The scene, the beginning of something for Divya and Walt as quoted above, was one of my favorite scenes. It’s easy to picture them in this crowded thrift shop where Divya worked, Noah in the background observing their story just starting, and different records being played.

Noah has his own love story to work on throughout the book: whether to act on a crush, whether to confess, whether to EMBRACE LIFE in the words of his best friend. It’s a confusing time and it’s something that could be relatable, even if it’s not specifically about a crush. Noah’s nerves were for sure something that could be applied to a few different situations, especially for readers that are his peers.

Looks pretty safe to me. This is a nice neighborhood. Yeah, pretty safe for YOU, but I’m a black kid walking up and down the street with a baseball glove. At three am. In the middle of nowhere. You do that math, Noah.

Among the changes of teenage friendships and trying to figure out a crush, there’s also an interaction between Walt & Noah when Walt calls Noah for a ride home. It’s summed up in this quote and shows how different their world views are, how some things don’t even register to Noah while Walt has them in at the forefront every moment.

It wasn’t always easy to understand who was talking while reading this book because in verse as opposed to narrative, there were no tags, no names coming out at the end of the sentences. The voices really have to stand out on their own so the reader can identify the different characters. Sometimes Walt/Swing and Noah blended a little too much and made the text confusing.

Swing had a lot of imagery that went from words and translated to visual and auditory imaginings, something I appreciated because it made the book even more of an experience. Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess have created another book that in verse is something that can be consumed either with speed, easily, but also slowly, to be savored while picking up all the nuances with each verse.






I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.





A Rockstar Book Tour: The Website Reveal for Zero Repeat Forever by G.S. Prendergast


Rockstar Book Tours has put together something special for their tour this time around. While each tour they do has a certain spark to it, whether it be the reviews by the participating bloggers, interviews of authors, or something else, the Zero Repeat Forever tour is wholly new.

Running from 9/10-9/14 & 9/17-9/21 with one tour stop per day, each participant will be showcasing one new facet of the website for G.S. Prendergast’s novel Zero Repeat Forever. Today, exclusively on The Hermit Librarian, I am sharing the link to section of the website where you can get the details all about book two in the series, Cold Falling White.

The Nahx Invasions Book II: Cold Falling White



About Zero Repeat Forever



ZERO REPEAT FOREVER by Gabrielle Prendergast

Pub. Date: August 29, 2017

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Amazon |  B&N | Audible | iBooks | Book Depository | Goodreads

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind.

Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.

His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting.

Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance.

Shelter in place.

Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have?

Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival depends on trusting each other…


About the Author



Gabrielle is a writer, teacher and designer living in Vancouver, Canada.  You can read about her books here. She is represented by Barbara Poelle at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

In 2014 she was the Writer in Residence at Vancouver Public Library. In 2015 she was nominated for the BC Book Prizes and chosen to tour the province to promote BC Books. In 2017 Gabrielle took part in the TD Canada Children’s Book Week Tour. She has also been nominated for the White Pine Awardand the CLA Award.

Gabrielle won the Westchester Award for Audacious. Audacious was included in CBC’s list of 100 YA Books That Make You Proud to be Canadian. A poem from Capricious was chosen for the 2014 Poetry in Transit Program. Pandas on the East Side was chosen as an Ontario Library Association Best Bet for Junior Fiction in 2016. It was also nominated/shortlisted for the Chocolate Lily Award, The Red Cedar Award, the Diamond Willow Award and the Myrca Award.




1 winner will receive a grand prize of a signed copy of ZERO REPEAT FOREVER, a tote bag, & a swag pack, US & Canada Only.

9 winners will receive ZERO REPEAT FOREVER Swag Packs (stickers, signed bookplate, tattoo and bookmark), US Only & Canada.


a Rafflecopter giveaway




Tour Schedule


Week One:

9/10/2018- Here’s to Happy EndingsQuiz

9/11/2018- A Gingerly ReviewWays to win or buy swag

9/12/2018- Trendy Simple LifeFan art

9/13/2018- Two Chicks on BooksDeleted Scenes

9/14/2018- Novel NoviceBookclub Questions

Week Two:

9/17/2018- Shortie SaysFan videos/reviews

9/18/2018- Simply Daniel RadcliffeA “Find Your Sci-Fi Title” Meme

9/19/2018- Always MeAn FAQ/fan forum

9/20/2018- BookHounds YACharacter descriptions

9/21/2018- The Hermit LibrarianThe pitch for book 2!






All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Rich in Variety Blog Tour: Review of 500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario + Interview w/ the Author

BLOG TOUR_ 500 Words Or Less


500 words or less. 500 words or fewer if you’re being grammatically correct, but as Nic our main character points out, she’s not the one making the mistake here, it’s the admission essay. That’s what this starts out as, on the surface. Admission essays, written for $300 for her well off classmates that want to get into Ivy League schools like Stanford so they can live the kind of life they’ve been killing themselves for these past several years.

What kind of life does Nic want? In the wake of breaking up with her boyfriend post-cheating scandal, still dealing with the effects of her mother abandoning her, and striving to maintain the perfect image that will, in turn, get her into her own Ivy League dream, it’s hard to see what path Nic wants to tread. Following her down it offers insight into the world of high pressure academics and privilege, told in verse, as she tries to figure out just what it is she’s supposed to do with all this life hanging over her.



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Published: 25 September 2018

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Category: Young Adult/Poetry/Contemporary

Nic Chen refuses to spend her senior year branded as the girl who cheated on her charismatic and lovable boyfriend. To redefine her reputation among her Ivy League–obsessed classmates, Nic begins writing their college admissions essays.

But the more essays Nic writes for other people, the less sure she becomes of herself, the kind of person she is, and whether her moral compass even points north anymore.

Rating:   4 Stars

CW: alcoholism, teen drinking
Rep: biracial MC (Chinese-American)

500 Words or Less had many thematic threads to it, several intense subjects that dangle in front of the reader: racism; the cutthroat nature of academia; parental neglect; privilege; double standards & sexism. The problem with these themes is that for the most part, they remain faint threads that didn’t get examined particularly deeply. There would be brief mentions, but no real in-depth discussions that lead anywhere, whether to dead ends or resolutions.

Nic as a character was conflicting. There’s not a lot to her in terms of what she’s like, what fulfills her or interests her. What activities are mentioned (tennis, newspaper, etc.) are mentioned briefly and without passion. This lack of heart would normally have me feeling like it’s poor characterization, but in the context of students so desperate to get into Ivy League schools, her lack of fulfilling traits might be a condemnation of this horror show of stress. There’s no time for relaxation, no time to be a person, really, other than what’s crafted for an admission application. Nic makes choices throughout 500 Words that supports this, such as in her friendship with Kitty, when she leaves her, drunk, at a party and doesn’t check in on her on Sunday.

She started to open up when Ashok became her friend/study buddy. There were little moments where the tension of it all released, like enjoying a donut or inhaling homemade Indian food, that revealed another side of Nic that wasn’t totally about AP exams or Ben or finding her mother.

Nic gets confronted about her privilege by Ashok. She charges money for her essays, a lot, just because she can. In a way, it’s like any other self destructive behavior that a rich, privileged kid engages in because they’re bored or because they need something their parents are neglecting to give them, only Nic isn’t endangering her body with alcohol or drugs. She’s endangering her academic standing and possibly her criminal record.

Further to her privilege, it never occurred to her that there were people at her school that worked just as hard as her but didn’t have the advantages. She assumed they all had fathers in prestigious jobs, mothers with endless expense accounts, rather than a parent that works as the janitor so his son could attend a good school. Continuing on in this vein, there’s a reflection that she has about racism in the town and how the town shies away from acknowledging it, how admitting it’s there makes the town uncomfortable, even when their star quarter back is a black boy. These two points, though, are among the important themes I mentioned earlier that don’t really go anywhere. They’re brought up naturally and could’ve made for excellent discussion points, but instead they just stop.

One of the best parts of the book, I thought was the essays that Nic wrote for her classmates. In all of the essays that Nic writes, the ones that we get to read, there are glimpses not only of the people that she’s writing for, but of herself as well. It’s unclear if she realizes how much she reveals about herself in them, such as how much she needs and wants to be a whole person (Bryant’s essay), what obsession feels like (Marco’s essay about an ex), or feelings of abandonment by her mother (Laurel’s essay).

The format 500 Words or Less was written in wasn’t wholly displeasing, but I don’t think it was quite the right one for the story either. Stories told in verse are good and can be great. This one was a good story, but the flow was choppy and stylistically didn’t make sense. The endings of lines, of passages, didn’t convey anything to me, although I will say it also didn’t prevent the voice of the overall book from coming through, so it wasn’t an overall failure.

The voices were hard to separate at times, making it necessary to re-read passages over and over again. In an ordinary book the speech would be easy to note based on constant he/she/they said or insert-name-here said, but that wasn’t to be found reliably here, so I couldn’t always tell who was speaking because a) it wasn’t labeled. Okay,  not a problem if the voices & tones are distinct but b) 90% of the time they weren’t. It was super easy to mistake Nic & Asok’s words for each other, for example.

Even with the upsets I had with the book and the quasi-unsatisfying ending, I would still recommend this book to story-in-verse fans and other readers alike. It was a quick read and pretty interesting, all things considered.


Interview With the Author


The Hermit Librarian (THL): High school can be difficult enough to face. Nic has added challenges, such as her mother leaving and the aftereffects of the Ben situation. What’s a piece of advice you wish you’d had at Nic’s age?


 Life is complex, and often filled with gray, and sometimes it might be deeply unsatisfying. 

It’s not necessarily positive advice, but I wish people had given me advice that reflected reality, where things are more ambiguous.


THL: Interests evolve so much as we frown whether by choice or by pressure from outside influences like parental figures. What kind of potential pathways did you see for yourself when you were younger? Are there any you still want to pursue?

JDR: I wanted to be a Marine Biologist but I didn’t really know what that entailed other than I loved marine animals and tide pools. The reality of why I didn’t end up pursuing sciences after high school is pretty mundane. I took a science course my first semester in college that should have been exactly what I wanted, but instead I found it boring. At the same time, I started to be exposed to such as political science, English, and women & gender studies. I just wasn’t excited anymore about marine biology and started to realize how much more there was to learn in this world, especially about humans and human nature.

I feel very fortunate to not only be able to say I’m a published author, but also to say I’m a librarian. Both jobs keep me (overcommitted) busy.


THL: In Nic’s English class, her teacher questions them about the crimes in Crime & Punishment. Nic points out that it depends upon who is asked, particularly because there is a character who rationalizes their actions to the point that they believe they are not committing a crime. Did you pick C&P specifically to highlight Nic’s lack of a problem with writing her classmates essays, considering her similarity to Raskolnikov?


JDR:Yes, but it’s more than just conveying Nic’s lack of remorse, it’s conveying a culture of a morally broken compass, and that sometimes things just progress as is. People might do things that could be considered unethical, and nothing bad ever happens.




THL: In the essays she wrote for others, Nic left pieces of herself behind. Does this have something to do with your decision to not include Nic’s college admission essay in 500 Words or Less?

JDR: This is kinda a spoiler, but the decision not to include Nic’s college admission essay is related to some of the last lines of the novel. While the title and a large part of the novel revolves around Nic learning about her classmates and herself through writing 500 word essays, the last lines of the novel. We are all humans who are complex and cannot be distilled into essays of 500 words or less.


THL: This one’s difficult to ask without being spoiler-y, but I’ll try. Let’s just say, nothing end’s up like anyone thought it would. Did you ever consider an ending other than the one you ending up going with or were Nic, Jordan, and the rest always fated for this?


JDR:The ending was there from the beginning and was an important part of the type of novel I wanted to write. I kept reading all these YA stories where everything was tied up into a neat little bow by the end, and that just didn’t reflect the reality I knew. Life might not work out at all, in a satisfying way. I wanted to hear that story, I wanted someone to tell me that life can be deeply unsatisfying and messy and complex and often exists in ethically gray areas. I wanted to write a story that acknowledges that reality.




THL: What made you choose to tell this story in verse style? Or did you set out to tell a story in verse style first and Nic’s tale evolved from that


JDR:The original draft of 500 Words or Less was written in prose, but when I finished the early drafts the story did not have the emotional quality that I envisioned for the story. I started experimenting with form and style, and at the time was reading a number of verse novels. Once I started experimenting with verse style, the emotional quality I was looking for started to come through.

Verse fits well for this story because it allows for more white space, more ambiguity, more room for the reader to contemplate the complexities, and the gray areas that exist in both Nic’s experiences, but also in our own lives.


THL: As this story is told from Nic’s point of view, it’s difficult to tell how other’s are feeling about the events of the book at times. I’m curious, what’s was going on with Xiao-ling and her son during the time that Nic was wrestling with the essay? How did Nic’s intensity with her senior year, the events at the end of the school year, in particular the reappearance of a certain someone, affect these two?


JDR:There are a lot of characters in 500 Words or Less, some who come in briefly, but what I wanted to convey with a lot of these characters who don’t necessary get a satisfying amount of “air time” is that, often times, for some of us who are like Nic, very focused on our own worlds, we do not take the time to even understand the people in our everyday lives to the depth that all of us deserve.

So, I love your question because it’s recognizing that yes, there is a stepmother and a stepbrother that Nic barely even acknowledges. We can essentially fail to see people even as close as those who live in our own homes.


Author Info


Instagram  |  Twitter  |  Website




a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule


Sep. 17

Avery – B For BookSlut (Bookstagram Post)

Brooke – The Layaway Dragon (Giveaway)

Lili – Utopia State of MInd (2 Truths and A LIe)

Sep. 18

Danielle – Life of a Literary Nerd (Bookstagram Post)

Shealea – The Bookshelf Bitch (Giveaway)

Harker – The Hermit Librarian (Giveaway + Author Interview)

Sep. 19

Etinosa – Uwadis (Giveaway)

Kelly – Here’s To Happy Endings (Giveaway)

JM – Book Freak Revelations (Author Interview + Bookstagram Post)

Sep. 20

Sam – We Live and Breathe Books (Giveaway)

Danielle – PoetryBooksYA (Only Review)

Sep. 21

Chloe – Blushing Bibliophile (Giveaway + Bookstagram Post)

Rachel – Life of a Female Bibliophile (Bookstagram Post)




I received a copy of this book as part of the Rich in Variety Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Akemi Dawn Bowman’s skill with words was proven to me when I picked up her debut, Starfish, a novel about identity, constriction of one’s self, and the liberation that comes with discovery. Delving into a similarly heavy topic in her sophomore book, I knew that the journey would be engulfing, heady, and all together wonderful, because Bowman is a gifted writer, as evidenced by her success at not just one, but now two books.


Summer Bird Blue

Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Book Depository  –  GoodreadsIndiebound

Published: 11 September 2018

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Category: Contemporary/LGBT+/Young Adult

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

Rating: 5 Stars

Rep: Multi-racial MC (Japanese, Hawaiian, white) who is also questioning/aromantic asexual; diverse side characters (Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Samoan, Filipino, Black)

Rumi, the main character, is a layered character that the reader follows through her story, one of grief, recovery, music, and a lot more. There’s questions regarding identity (sexual, romantic), friendship, conceptions of mental illness, etc. Rumi’s personal interaction with all of these facets is complicated. She’s hard to like at times, some of which is just part of growing up, some of which is part of learning to live with her grief.

This portrayal of a main character that isn’t 100% likable is great because it shows that you don’t have to always be on the game perfect. Rumi has flaws and that’s okay. She doesn’t have all the answers and she knows that, questions that frequently throughout the book, and settles with that being okay. It’s okay to change your mind, to question. Who you are today doesn’t have to be who you are forever.

One of Rumi’s friends from back home, Alice, was a character who stood as a good antithesis for this, when she and Rumi would talk about what they were going to do after their senior year, the school year that Rumi will enter after her summer in Hawaii. Rumi wanted to wait for Lea; they had plans together and waiting, for Rumi, was fine, but Alice made comments about how waiting was wasting time, how Rumi would be so much older than everyone else by that time.


“Everyone wants to go to college. It’s basically like high school but with less homework and more freedom.”


No, Alice, they really don’t. This is a pressure driven fantasy that’s pressed on kids when there are so many avenues open to them that don’t involve school, that don’t involve going away, getting in debt, or whatever. You don’t always have to follow The Plan.

Alice represents everyone who pushes Rumi, and people like her, to be “ready” ahead of time, to fall in with the mainstream, either before they’re ready or because it’s the “right” thing to do at all. School or romance, there doesn’t have to be a right time or even A time if you don’t want there to be.

Bowman’s writing also had a technique that I liked where she make music take on layers beyond what your ears would hear and make it something that your body would feel or your tongue could taste, something your nose could smell. Guitar, piano, violin, they all taste different not just because they’re different instruments but also based on how the piece being played sounds (sad, soulful, etc.). The dimensions Akemi gave music went beyond sound. It encompassed multiple senses and enveloped the reader, deepening the experience that Rumi is having and that we shared at the same time.


It’s piano music today. It sounds like salt and whispers and abandoned lighthouses.


Grief is, as I mentioned, a major topic in this book. Rumi has to learn how to cope with the loss of her sister after a car crash she, her sister Lea, and their mother were in. There’s also the loss of her mother, who sent Rumi to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she dealt with her grief in her own way. Rumi’s sense of loss and abandonment and grief is compounded by this and makes processing a lot of things even more difficult because there are no answers. There aren’t always, but when you have a mother who you feel could have provided them and feel abandoned by her, that makes things all the worse.

The potential of life is terrifying. There’s the possibility of depth or of shallowness. You could have forever or today. The not knowing can be paralyzing. Rumi facing that, ostensibly alone in the beginning of Summer Bird Blue, is horrifying. Events like Death do that, make life horrible, even more so by splitting life into Before and After. It’s like there’s no between, no time for grieving before you enter the After. That’s part of what makes it so difficult and what, I think, made Rumi’s journey so hard.

There’s another facet to Rumi and her mother’s relationship that comes up near the end that’s briefly touched on that is important to note. Mental illness can be hard to understand at the best of times & Rumi’s position is not one of those times. If she weren’t in the position of dealing with her own survivor’s guilt, feeling of abandonment, and so forth, maybe she wouldn’t have made some of the statements she did in a conversation she had with Mr. Watanabe after finding out where her mother had been all summer. Rumi says some things that make it sound like mental illness isn’t the same as physical. Mr. Watanabe’s attitude, never taking guff from her, points out that, really, it can be and while her anger, her grief, is justified, the whole thing is maybe just too complicated to have black and white, Rumi & Mom.

There are so many layers to this book, whether it be grief, survivor’s guilt, recovery, friendship, identity, music, dreams, or something else that each reader finds for themselves. Akemi Dawn Bowman manages, with each new book, finds ways to convey emotions that touch readers in meaningful ways and let us know that we are not alone, that there are ways to be seen and heard. Summer Bird Blue, for everything it says, takes flight into hearts with a soothing ukulele tune and stays long after the last page.






I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.





Audiobook Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The 10th Anniversary Author’s Preferred Edition

As a longtime Gaiman fan, I’ve been working my way through his books for awhile now. I’ve read his non-fiction and his children’s stories, his picture books and his comics. When I picked up American Gods, having already watched the first season of the show, I was ready for what I consider one of the more well known of his titles. It was time for me to get to know Shadow personally and see the road he’d traveled and the people, gods and otherwise alike, he’d met along the way.



Narrated by a Full Cast including Neil Gaiman, Dennis Boutiskaris,

Daniel Oreskes, Ron McLarty, & Sarah Jones

Amazon  –  Audible  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Book Depository  –  GoodreadsIndiebound

Published: 21 June 2011 (originally published July 2001)

Publisher: Harper Audio

Category: Fantasy (Urban)/Fiction/Mythology

First published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, an intellectual and artistic benchmark from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman. Now, discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this 10th anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.

A storm is coming….

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. It is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.

Along the way, Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose”

Rating: 3 Stars

Content warnings for adult content including sexual content, graphic imagery including an “un-birthing”, and extreme violence

The concept of American Gods is intensely attractive. Road trip stories in and of themselves have something fascinating. New sights, new people, new mysteries to be discovered all over the countrysides. Add to that the combined pantheons of a dozen different cultures and you have a recipe for something truly special.

It was with that premise in mind, with the idea of our main character Shadow Moon setting off on that adventure, that I picked up the book. To be fair, there is a road trip and there are a lot of different gods and supernatural creatures from various pantheons, some easier to identify than others. As for calling it an adventure…while it might have had elements of the definition, I’m not sure it’s an accurate descriptor.

Shadow’s encounters were certainly unusual. The events that he underwent, such as a vigil he holds and learning to “go back stage”, these are just a couple of the unusual and risky things that he does while his road trip with Mr. Wednesday, an older man he meets on an airplane while on his way home for his wife, Laura Moon’s, funeral.

Exciting, though? That might be pushing it a bit far. This was a slow, meandering book that didn’t really have much spark to it. It was like drinking a cup of mild tea as opposed to one that had some spice to it. Perfectly serviceable, you might even like it, but the kick you get from the spice really heats things up and makes your smile just that much wider. This being the edition of the book that added back in 12,000 words, I think you really feel all of those words.

Interspersed with Shadow’s journey across the country are chapters called Coming to America, told from various perspectives that are, naturally, about different people and/or beings coming to America. Those were my favorite parts of the book even though many of them did not end up having much impact on the story overall. There was one about an Irishwoman and how her people brought some of their beliefs to the new world, another about a pair of twins sold into slavery and what their life was like in regards to the fight for independence in Haiti. My favorite was the story of an immigrant that met a djinn in a taxi; I wish there had been more about that pair because it felt incredibly rich and deep with more to it than what we were left with.

There were elements of the story, aside from the Coming to America tales, that I did appreciate, such as Wednesday’s cons that he described with such passion. As wily a character as he was, as dastardly and, indeed, disgusting at times, a good con is fun to read about because the revelation is a joyous thing. The twist at the end of this book, too, was a joyous thing because it was one I did not see coming. The ending of the whole thing, though, I thought terribly anti-climactic. There was all this buildup between the Old Gods and the New Gods, such a clash as never seen before. What resulted, though, was such a disappointment that I found myself pausing and literally saying “that’s it?”.

Shadow was kind of a “that’s it” character too. He was likable for sure, nice enough in many respects, but he didn’t have many outstanding qualities that would make him stick in my head. He wasn’t a strong personality in the book, always willing to let other people in the story make decisions or acting on the wishes of the people he’d sworn his allegiance to even after they were dead and gone without being able to act on his own. It seemed like he was a puppet rather than an individual with a mind of his own, which I suppose made it easy for the reader to slip into his skin for awhile, but made him frustrating to read about if you aren’t the kind of reader that wants to slip in like that.

The Full Cast that performed the book did a fabulous job of picking up their roles and running with them. Oddly enough, this recording was made years before the television show was released or even cast, yet the actor that portrayed Mr. Wednesday in the book sounds a lot like Ian McShane, the actor who portrays him in the show. That made it fun to hear the Mr. Wednesday lines. I don’t think there was a single character that I thought sounded miscast or out of place.

My summation is that American Gods is a decent book with an interesting look at what happens as faiths evolve, what we retain as the world changes around us, and what remains in the new world, wherever that is. If I were to read it again, I might look for the original, edited version rather than the +12,000 word edition.






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DNF Review: Twice Dead by Caitlin Seal

The afterlife is mysterious enough, but when the supernatural power of necromancy is introduced and thus the ability to bring someone back from that place, it becomes the potential basis for an incredible story.

Twice Dead did not sound like it would be an epic tale of magic and the Undead, but I certainly thought that I was going to have a fun read. Naya, the daughter a sea merchant & his apprentice for the last two years, enters the world of wraiths and walking corpses when she’s mysteriously killed on a solo mission for her father. Snappy concept, right? I thought so, until I started to read the text.


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Published: 18 September 2018

Publisher: Charlesbridge Teen

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Paranormal

Naya, the daughter of a sea merchant captain, nervously undertakes her first solo trading mission in the necromancer-friendly country bordering her homeland of Talmir. Unfortunately, she never even makes it to the meeting. She’s struck down in the streets of Ceramor. Murdered.

But death is not the end for Naya. She awakens to realize she’s become an abomination–a wraith, a ghostly creature bound by runes to the bones of her former corpse. She’s been resurrected in order to become a spy for her country. Reluctantly, she assumes the face and persona of a servant girl named Blue.

She never intended to become embroiled in political plots, kidnapping, and murder. Or to fall in love with the young man and former necromancer she is destined to betray.

Rating: DNF @ 21%

Twice Dead drops the reader in at a rather rough place and expects them to catch on quickly. Up to the point where I read, not much was explained  as far as why necromancy was so feared and hated other than a very brief mention of a long ago Undead army uprising. Some cursory explanations started cropping up, basic religious reasoning, but it was very surface level stuff that didn’t seem to hold much weight. However, from where the book begins, the way people are talking and acting, it felt like the reader is supposed to have a much deeper knowledge of the inner workings of the world’s history than they did.

Another problem I had was the characterization. It was quite bland, so much so that I was unable to foster a connection with any of the characters. I didn’t care what was happening to any of them, even a quarter of the way into the book. Naya, the main character, was not only difficult to connect with, but hard to understand. Her personality was all over the place, illustrated by many instances of her exhibiting behavior that was contradictory from one moment to the next.

Naya didn’t seem able to hold onto her own feelings, often being influenced by those around her.  It seems this applied to emotions as well, such as anger at her situation. Being brought back from the dead was bad enough as it was a profane act against her faith, so I would think it would also be a traumatic event, coupled with being abandoned by her father who left when she didn’t return from the mission he sent her on. However, after a split second of bitterness, she’s fine. This among other instances came across as weak character development that allowed Naya to be pushed and pulled along by everyone else rather than making her own choices or having any kind of backbone.

The magic system seemed like it could have been developed well, but it too was just dropped on the reader without much foundation. The runes that Naya saw on everything from vehicles to lamps to vests to animated corpses, they seemed to power just about anything they were written on. If there was any basis for this system, it wasn’t evident in any meetings that Naya had with the ambassador who’s teaching her to be a spy or the necromancer who brought her back.

Twice Dead has some potential and might find some fans out there than don’t mind slower reads or that don’t put much stake in characters. This book, in short, is not for me and probably best described as “meh”.






I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.





Review: Goth Girl by Melanie Mosher

Being seen for you are is one of the hardest things that a person can go through at any given time. It’s even harder when one parental figure in your life has left, the other has become difficult to connect with, and you’re a teenager to boot. Victoria “Vic” Markam, an art enthusiast whose specialty is graffiti, immediately finds herself in the deep end of trouble when, coupled with all of the above, she gets arrested in chapter one.


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Published: 5 April 2017

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing (CN)

Category: Fiction

Fifteen-year-old Victoria Markham enjoys three things: English class, her signature goth look, and art. It’s just that she tends to do the last one late at night, with spray paint, in public places….

It isn’t long before she’s caught red-handed and forced into community service with a bunch of stereotypes: there’s Rachael, the princess; Russell and Peter, a pair of fist-bumping punks; and Zach, the rich jock Vic is crushing on. The motley crew has to work together to produce a public mural.

On top of all that, Vic’s mother’s boyfriend, the only father figure Vic has ever known and the one who taught her to paint, has left them both. Vic’s mother is still reeling, and her relationship with her daughter strained. She doesn’t understand Vic’s insistence on spiking her hair, piercing her nose and lip, and wearing black clothing and heavy makeup. Vic is convinced her mother doesn’t care enough to find out what’s really behind the get-up.

Tensions run high as Vic tries to figure out who she is: Victoria Markham, or Goth Girl? Sometimes, she finds, there’s more to people than meets the eye.

Rating: 2 Stars

Vic’s voice, the most important as the book is told in first person, was difficult to connect with. While some of the things that she thought were relatable, I felt like on the whole her personality were a reflection of stereotypes of the Goth character rather than a nuanced person. She was also exceedingly judgmental, always making snap assessments of others while also constantly saying how she wanted people to figure out who she was beyond her physical appearance. That was a poor characteristic choice and also another stereotype that I saw in a lot of older books about Goth people. It aged Goth Girl, whatever modern names the author might have dropped like iPhone and Angry Birds.

The secondary characters were not much better. The ones at the community service project (Rachel, Peter, Zach, Russell) blended into the background. Most of what the reader knew about them was the stereotypical description that Vic gave us (princess, jock, & so on). Her hypercritical analysis did nothing to endear me to them. I’m not sure Vic ever learned to look beyond those initial impressions, not really. Oh, there were “lessons learned”, of course, where she overheard a conversation with Rachel and Rachel’s mother and Zach exhibits some behavior that reveals his character, but there’s no depth to this learning. It’s like a list of things that had to happen with no development of those points on the list, a real bare bones effort.

Vic’s relationship with her mother offered some hope of “oomph” but it too fell flat. The bickering, the lack of communication, the secret keeping, it was all stuff that felt tired. The tug-of-war moments that were put forth seemed like the author was trying to make things better, but I think it just highlighted how predictable and tired the relationship was written. This interpretation of familial difficulties didn’t have enough to it that made it interesting.

Plot wise, there wasn’t anything gripping or exciting. It was predictable, straightforward, and had no buildup, no sense of anticipation. The narrative felt like a scripted after school special. Most everyone acted like barely developed dolls that were being pushed around a stage filling out preconceived rolls as opposed to actors bringing those roles to life, making us love them or hate them or yearn to know more about them.

There are better books that outline aspects of Goth Girl‘s story. If the graffiti aspect made you want to pick it up, for example, You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner is a superior example of a teen girl experiencing the consequences of her actions when her tagging art gets her into trouble.

It’s possible that there will still be an audience that will find this book helpful. I would behoove them, however, to think of it as a stepping stone. It’s a primary reader at best, maybe somewhere between middle grade and young adult fiction. Quick, easy, and in all honesty, better set aside for books that have stronger characters and more interesting plots.





I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.





Chapter by Chapter Blog Tour Review: The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember


Mythology has long fascinated me as a source of inspiration for novels. I devoured them when I was younger, mainly anything that drew from Greek myths because the first book I remember reading was Edith Hamilton’s Mythology in school.

Julia Ember’s The Seafarer’s Kiss and now The Navigator’s Touch draws from the Norse pantheon and features gods, sea creatures, and Viking shield maidens, all fiercely written and strongly upheld on the page as they storm into adventure across ice fields, through frozen seas, and more.


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Published: 13 September 2018

Publisher: Duet Books

Category: Fantasy/LGBT (F/F)/Young Adult/Mythology

After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family, and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Frisia for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, this companion novel to The Seafarer’s Kiss is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

Content Warnings: from the publisher’s website (

  • Part 1, Chapter 4: Murder of a child, beating with a belt
  • Part 1, Chapter 11: Discussion of torture
  • Part 2, Chapter 1: Animal death, graphic depiction of battle injuries
  • Part 2, Chapter 4: Depiction of a human-eating monster, graphic execution
  • Part 2, Chapter 5: Imprisonment of children

General warnings: violence, depiction of kidnapping

Rating: 4 Stars

Note: I have not yet read The Seafarer’s Kiss. This review is based solely on the content within The Navigator’s Touch without regard for character actions in previous works.

Fraught with tension, The Navigator’s Touch takes Ragna, Ersel, and the crew of their commandeered ship through treacherous seas and across the frozen land on a quest. Ragna wants vengeance for her family and to save whatever is left of it; the men, the mercenaries, gold she promised to secure their tenuous loyalty; and Ersel, the opportunity to see a world unlike the one she was born to.

Following them across the sea, through narrow straights full of icebergs that could destroy them at any moment, under the threat of Loki on Ersel’s trail, was epic. There were flashbacks to Ragna’s village before it was raided, her imprisonment by Haakon’s men (the previous leader of her crew), her origin with Ersel, and more. This informs the reader of Ragna’s motivations and why she’s willing not only to sail through such treacherous waters, but to take on the added danger of a crew that may or may not turn on her at any moment.

As much fear, worry, tension, and other horrible things as there are in this book, there were also moments of respite. Ragna and Ersel share some moments that could almost be termed tender, though a relationship is not exactly how I would describe their situation. Perhaps it is the beginning of one, a foundation, because there is still much to learn, such as communication. Ragna takes liberities with decisions regarding Ersel’s abilities and while she attempts to make up for them later, her rashness is a violation of the freedom that Ersel has and needs as she makes her way into the world and away from the potential prison she faced at the hands of Loki back beneath the sea. There was something in the these occurrences that made me think these two would need to work a lot out before coupledom was something they could claim.

Besides the more severe parts of the books, there are also some moments of pure wonder on Ersel’s part as she travels inland for the first time and experiences things like seeing a horseshoe on a pony or touching a three-man-wide pine tree. Things that seem so simple to us, but to someone who’s life is based on the bottom of the North Sea are incredible and entirely new. Julia Ember conveyed Ersel’s joy, even told through Ragna’s perspective, in a lovely way.

There are many themes found within The Navigator’s Touch. There is love (in various forms), fear of mortality, vengeance, comradeship, sacrifice. These themes weave the characters together and, at times, away from each other, making for an engaging experience to read about.

The Navigator’s Touch is book two in The Seafarer’s Kiss series, but can be read as a standalone. Book one gives more background information on the relationship between Ersel the mermaid and Ragna the shield maiden, such as details on how they met, the origin of Ersel’s shape changing abilities, etc.


About the Author


Julia Ember

Julia Ember is the author of The Seafarer’s Kiss and The Navigator’s Touch, as well as several novellas and short stories for young adults. Originally from Chicago, Julia now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her hobbies include riding horses, starting far too many craft projects, and looking after her city-based menagerie of pets with names from Harry Potter. She regularly takes part in events for queer teens. A world traveler since childhood, she has now visited more than sixty countries.


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Prize: one winner will receive an annotated paperback copy of both books in the series (Open INT)


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule


September 5

Shanza Writes – Interview

Maiden of the Pages – Excerpt


September 6

A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Excerpt

Amy’s Booket List – Interview


September 7

Confessions of a YA Reader – Spotlight

Cuz I’m a Nerd – Guest Post

The Hermit Librarian – Review


September 8

Declarations of a Fangirl – Guest Post

Dani Reviews Things – Review


September 9

To Be Read – Review

Lisa Loves Literature – Guest Post


September 12

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Review

Chapter by Chapter – Interview

BookCrushin – Guest Post


September 13

Rattle the Stars – Spotlight

Wishful Endings – Guest Post


September 14

BookHounds YA – Interview

Chapters through life – interview

Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews – Spotlight


September 15

Don’t Judge, Read – Review

Oh Hey! Books. – Guest Post









I received a copy of this book as part of the Chapter by Chapter Book Tour in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Ella’s Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson

As the summer comes to a close, what better way than a book about a sea-side ice cream business, whether a cafe that Ella has fond memories of or the ice cream van she now finds herself in possession of due to an inheritance?

A lot. There is a LOT that could have been better than Ella’s Ice Cream Summer.



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Published:11 May 2017


Category: Women’s Fiction (Chick Lit)/Romance/Contemporary

Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

Ella’s Ice-Cream Summer is a heart-warming and hilarious romance that will scoop you off your feet and prove it’s never too late for a fresh start. The ideal holiday read for fans of Lucy Diamond, Abby Clements and Debbie Johnson.

Rating: 1 Star

CW: insulting/potentially offensive comments regarding LGBTQIA+ community

Billed as a “laugh out loud romantic comedy with extra sprinkles”, I felt fairly confident that this would be a lighthearted way to round out the summer. The setting felt right, the scenario had it’s complications of course, but that would be sorted…right?

Things started out awkwardly and did not get much better as the book progressed. Ella did not have much to recommend her as someone that I was supposed to sympathize with. As the person through whom I’m getting the story, the reader is supposed to at least like her, but I was more frustrated if not downright annoyed and/or angry with her for a good portion of the book.

There were lots of little things about her personality that grated and they didn’t quite seem intentional, such as the way she’d say things to her mum or internal comments she’d make about her children that she’d “correct” a moment later. Paragraphs would flip flop what had been stated only moments earlier and that made it hard to grasp what I was supposed to be thinking or feeling along with Ella.

The romance between Ben and Ella was fine. To be quite frank it was boring, but against the more offensive content of the book, I think fine it about as good a descriptor as I can come up with. There wasn’t a whole lot of depth to it, but that tracks because it was more of a summer fling than anything else, which works out to be just right in terms of Ella’s “development” from where she was at the beginning vs. the end.

As to “big secret” that tore her family apart, the one that isn’t even hinted at in the synopsis (surprising, really, as it’s mentioned every other paragraph, felt like)…that was something that grated on my nerves. It was a thread that was harped on quite a lot with no real change as the events of the book went on, just slight variations in Ella mentioning how she’d poke at her mum to get her to relent and finally reveal all, small glimpses of something that might be actual plot development, but ultimately, not much to really satisfy. I actually ended up guessing what it was at 17% and yelled “called it” when Ella discovers the truth in the end.

I can’t excuse the author, whatever other choices she might have made in the narrative, for the several instances of remarks made that were against the LGBTQIA+ community, specifically (1) confusing gender and sex, (2) mocking standing up against compulsory heteronormativity, and (3) a careless comment about transsexual radar that felt like the cherry on top of a truly awful cake of a book. None of these comments were necessary to the book, none were called out by other characters, and most felt insulting.

(1) About 19% of the way through the novel. Ella is recounting a dating app mishap of her mum’s in which she’d signed up for a service that caters to gay & lesbian clientele. Her mum goes on a few dates before Ella investigates and attempts to persuade her mother to remove the profile (Mum refuses), at which point the children say something about Ella’s heteronormative assumptions (which was a fair point) and that gender could be fluid.

While I agree that gender can be fluid, the mistake of exchanging gender for sexuality here isn’t forgivable as it was just the start of the book’s insensitivity. I am upset no one in the editing process editor thought about what this could mean to readers in the LGBTQIA+. I wish it had been corrected;  such an authorial error, not something in which Ella was going to be corrected on or learn something  about(which probably would’ve led to a whole other issue but that’s neither here nor there now).

(2) Ella’s renovation of her inherited ice cream van, previously christened Reginaldo, leads to a conversation between her and Ben, the love interest of the book. Ben makes a comment about Reginaldo being called that, especially in light of the new paint scheme (pink and white).

‘I think you might need to rethink the name,’ Ben said. ‘He’s pink and white… shouldn’t he have a girl’s name?’
‘You might be right… though my daughter would say we mustn’t gender stereotype with colour.’
Followed by Ella’s further response of:
‘OMG, stop being so hetero,’ I said in a mock lilting teenage voice.

There’s a sincere lack of respect for the community in the book already and with this mocking tone it only gets worse. The mocking voice only serves to prove that Ella does not take her daughter’s views on the matter seriously and relegates them to silly teenage nonsense.


(3) Almost as if the author couldn’t resist adding one last sucker punch of an insult to the narrative, there’s a careless comment about one of Lucie’s (Ella’s daughter) friends, Pang. After Ella’s mum making assumptions about Pang’s sexuality the whole way, with asides about his being gay based on, as far as I can tell, only Lucie’s Instagram photos, Lucie comes home early from her gap year with this:

‘Yes he’s growing breasts and working as a pole dancer now, he wants to come to the UK and work. I said we’d help him… can we, Mum?’ I was a little taken aback, so Mum’s gaydar was almost right, but perhaps her transsexual one needed updating?

I don’t understand what Sue Watson was doing with any of this content. Is it really so hard to be respectful?

Ella’s Ice Cream Summer was nothing like what I expected and was, in fact, a sore disappointment. I do not think it was worth the time spent reading it and I wouldn’t recommend it.






I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.


Review: The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

A young dragon, eager to see the world outside her family’s cave network, encounters both hot chocolate and a curse on her first day. This is just the beginning of Adventurine’s story as it weaves up and down, from friendships to traps to apprenticeships.

Everything we know about fantastical dragons is about centuries old dragons well set in their ways. It’s time for this middle grade book about a less-than-thirty-years-old dragon just discovering her passion in life.


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Published: 9 February 2017

Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens

Category: Fantasy/Middle Grade

Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest kind of dragon, and she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human.

But when the human she captures tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she finds herself transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw. She’s still the fiercest creature in these mountains though – and now she’s found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is walk on two feet to the human city, find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time … won’t she?

Wild and reckless young Aventurine will bring havoc to the human city – but what she doesn’t expect is that she’ll find real friendship there too, along with betrayal, deception, scrumptious chocolate and a startling new understanding of what it means to be a human (and a dragon).

A pinch of Ella Enchanted, a sprinkling of How to Train your Dragon and a generous helping of Eva Ibbotsen –The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is entirely delicious.

Rating: 4 Stars

There are a lot of books about dragons, but Stephanie Burgis’s, about a young dragon who discovers her passion for chocolate, offers some new takes on these fantastical creatures that I enjoyed. There’s the dynamic of a dragon family, the growth pattern of young dragons, and a lot more that comes from the challenges Adventurine faces once she’s cursed into the form of a dragon’s greatest enemy: a human.

The beginning of the book is a little difficult to get over, a hump if you will, owing in part to the tone of Adventurine’s voice. There’s a cringey quality to the way her lines are delivered and her petulant attitude can get on your nerves, but if you stick with it, there’s a fun story waiting a little ways in.

Adventurine encounters a lot of dastardly characters while on her adventure into the world outside her cave. Eager to prove that she’s ready for it, she leaves through a secret tunnel and immediately runs into a strange human: the food mage that curses her into a girl. There is a good side effect though! She discovers her passion, the thing a dragon loves almost as much as gold and their family: for her, it’s chocolate!

In pursuit of learning more about chocolate, she encounters a noble lady who tries to make her an unpaid maid, a mayor’s assistant that wants to take down the chocolate shop she apprentices herself to, and then the most difficult of all: self doubt. While the outside forces she deals with are aplenty, figuring out who she is now that she is no longer a dragon makes things even more complicated for Adventurine. In handling that situation, I think the author included moments that point to anxiety, possibly even panic attacks, as well as reflections on what self identity is and how important it is to remain true to yourself, whatever that means. In this case, Adventurine never loses her dragon-ness, her fire and nerve, whatever slip ups occur as she adjust to humanity.

There’s quite a lot of humor in The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. I found myself highlighting a lot of quotes because Adventurine had quite the sarcastic wit, as did her new boss, Marina, owner of The Chocolate Heart. Marina was just the right person for Adventurine to run into because she has a similar personality: strong, willful, as well as some of the same doubts. There’s sharing later on that explains this, but even before that there’s the apprenticeship where Adventurine learns about chocolate as well as tips that could apply to all food: how to identify flavors, how to savor, to appreciate. Marina having her sample different concoctions is like a game and skill cultivation all at once.

There are clues throughout the story that weave a subtle thread toward the end that I thought was quite neat. I wonder how many readers will pick up on it? Even if it isn’t especially prominent, the revelation at the end and the lives that it touches make for a cool finale and the possibility of further adventures. There were some aspects of the story that I don’t think were resolved or dealt with enough, but as I said, the ending leaves the possibility for further adventures. Perhaps Adventurine will return and we’ll see more of her and her family, human and dragon alike, in the future.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.