Review: Castle of Lies by Kiersi Burkhart

Castle intrigue has a certain draw that would make me want to pick up a book. Castle of Lies has a promising plot description and one might think that they would be in for a, as said, an intriguing story of those without power rising up to take it.

Unfortunately, what I found were petty, childish machinations couple with writing that was dull enough to make me never want to pick this book up again.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound

Published: 7 May 2019

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult

Thelia isn’t in line to inherit the crown, but she’s been raised to take power however she can. She’s been friends with Princess Corene her whole life, and she’s scheming to marry Bayled, the heir to the throne. But her plans must change when an army of elves invades the kingdom. Thelia, her cousin Parsival, and Corene become trapped in the castle. An elf warrior, Sapphire, may be Thelia’s only hope of escape, but Sapphire has plans of their own. Meanwhile, an ancient magic is awakening within the castle, with the power to destroy the whole kingdom. Can Thelia find a way to protect her future–and her life?

DNF @ 12%

This book was not to my taste. It was not enjoyable to read. The writing did not pull me in and I could not connect with a single character. There was no one that I wanted to know more about, nor a plot thread to grab onto if this indeed turned out to be a plot based story rather than a character driven one (some are and that’s what it is).

The characters very exceedingly childish, from the way they spoke to the way they acted. It wasn’t the fact that they were in their teens and acting appropriately to that age group, it was that they seemed to be absurdly foolish even then. Thelia, the main character, especially, had some notions that were painful to read about. She would go through the things her mother had taught her in order to survive in a world where women were seen as lesser, such as how to “cripple a man without messing up my braid”, then in the next moment make sweeping assumptions about how the only thing necessary to change the whole toxic structure of society was her becoming queen. It was baffling to me that she would be built up as having some semblance of preparedness for the world around her but such a lack of clarity regarding real world politics.

Whatever political intrigue was hinted at by the premise of this book did not end up written well. The political “intrigue” read like children playing at politics. Like I said earlier, I guessed that the main characters are teens, but their supposed machinations made them read much younger and made it that much harder to take things seriously.

There were also some choices in setup that had me staring at the page, such as…the elves live on Magic. That seemed to literally be the name of their land, their island/country/whatever you want to call it. Like…what? And the humans lived on Kingdom? Add to that modern linguistic choices such as “dad”, “daddy”, and “mom”, which took me out of the supposed fantasy setting, and the crafting of this world felt overly simplistic and did nothing to endear me to the book.

I couldn’t get much further in this book because, for my part, it was incredibly dull to read. I wouldn’t recommend it based on the writing style alone, much less the detractions I mentioned above, but add in those and this book really comes down the line. I’m disappointed because castle intrigue, magic, and teens plotting better destinies could have been truly epic.





I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media belongs to the respective owners and is used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.


The Fantastic Flying Book Club Blog Tour: Smoke & Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg – My Favorite Quotes & Review

From the author of The Paper Magician series and The Fifth Doll comes the first book in a new series full of magic and pain, chases and artifacts of unimaginable power. Sandis and Roan, the heroes of Charlie N. Holmberg’s new fantasy series, face odds and challenges that readers will find in turns mind boggling and saddening, intense and heart breaking.

2019 will surely be a wonderful year for fans of the Numina series, what with all three books releasing this year. Today, though, it about Smoke & Summons and the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s tour. Thank you to all the ladies of that wonderful group for allowing me to join the tour, as well as the publisher for sending me an arc of Charlie’s book. Be sure to check out all stops on the tour, as well as the giveaway for a finished copy of Smoke & Summons (open US only).

SMOKE AND SUMMONS COVERAmazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound |

Published: 1 February 2019

Publisher: 47North

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult

A captivating world of monsters and magic from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series.

As a human vessel for an ancient spirit, Sandis lives no ordinary life. At the command of her master, she can be transformed against her will into his weapon—a raging monster summoned to do his bidding. Unlike other vessels, Sandis can host extremely powerful spirits, but hosting such creatures can be fatal. To stay alive, she must run. And in a city fueled by smoke and corruption, she finds a surprising ally.

A cunning thief for hire, Rone owns a rare device that grants him immortality for one minute every day—a unique advantage that will come in handy in Sandis’s fight for freedom. But Sandis’s master knows how powerful she is. He’s determined to get her back, and he has the manpower to find her, wherever she runs.

Now, to outwit her pursuers, Sandis must put all her trust in Rone and his immortal device. For her master has summoned more than mere men to hunt her down…

Rating: 3 Stars

CW: slavery, gore

The concept of summoning was intriguing. There’s obviously a horrific element to it, considering that Sandis and her fellow vessels are slaves and forced into “accepting” the numina. Beyond that, though, the various numina, starting with Ireth (the one within Sanis) and so on, there are elements that hint at a mythology that’s interesting.

There was quite a lot of worrying going on, by which I mean worrying about going from one place to the next without giving the reader a moment to get into the characters and really connect with them. While there was enough text to discover pasts and connections and what have you, the method by which this information was imparted to me felt more like I was being told these things rather than being able to discover them. It’s not as engaging as a story to be told everything when you could be shown, especially with such a potentially rich magical system running through the book.

Sandis has a lot of strings crisscrossing her storyboard, from her time with Kazen, the man who enslaved and forced Ireth upon her, to the history (known and unknown) of her family. I found her to be extremely resilient, considering everything she’d been through: loss, pain, enslavement, and more. Her story could have done with a bit more exploration, maybe a bit of spreading out so it wasn’t so much of an info dump at the beginning of the book.

Roan, the second main character, was in turn flawed and intriguing. He had a mysterious thief persona that was cool. The artifact that allowed him to achieve immortality for one minute every twenty-four hours was definitely a neat magical doodad. His devotion to his mother can’t be discounted either.

On the flawed side of things, he really could be a jerk. There’s a time when he’s quoted as saying:

If she’d been ugly, he never would have gotten involved in this.

He’s referring to Sandis in this quote; regardless of who he was talking about, though, that was kind of an asshole-ish remark and knocked points off whatever likeability scale he’d managed to put points on beforehand.

While this wasn’t my favorite Holmberg book, it’s worth a go whether you’re a newcomer or a returning fan. See below for a chance to win one of two finished copies of Smoke & Summons (open US only).


Favorite Quotes


It didn’t take a scholar to determine that being special was dangerous.


That was the best way to start a burglary.



“I don’t appreciate being interrupted.”

“Yeah, well…

…I don’t like your hat.”


Holy hell in the pits of despair. No wonder the grafters wanted to kill him. He was protecting one of the most powerful blasphemies in existence.



About the Author



Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie N. Holmberg was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She is a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and finally adopted a dog. Her fantasy Paper Magician series, which includes The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician, and The Master Magician, has been optioned by the Walt Disney Company. Her stand-alone novel, Followed by Frost, was nominated for a 2016 RITA Award for Best Young Adult Romance, and her novel The Fifth Doll won the 2018 Whitney for Speculative Fiction. She is a board member for Deep Magic Ezine and currently lives with her family in Utah. Visit her at


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Win 1 of 2 finished copies of SMOKE AND SUMMONS by Charlie N. Holmberg (US Only)

Start Date: 10th February 2019

End Date: 5th March 2019


A Rafflecopter Giveaway





Tour Schedule


The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club – Welcome Post


Bookish Looks – Interview

Here’s to Happy Endings – Review

808bookdr – Review + Favourite Quotes


Oh Hey Books – Guest Post

Rhythmicbooktrovert – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes

My Fangirl Chronicles – Review + Favourite Quotes

Jrsbookreviews – Review


Bibliobibuli YA – Interview

Lost in – Review

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review

Savings in Seconds – Review + Favourite Quotes


Wishful Endings – Review

Dany’s book blog – Review

Mind of Luxe – Review + Favourite Quotes

The Hermit Librarian – Review + Favourite Quotes


A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Guest Post

The Reading Corner for All – Review + Dream Cast + Favourite Quotes

Bookish_Kali – Review

The Desert Bibliophile – Review + Favourite Quotes


Are You My Book? – Review + Favourite Quotes

The Clever Reader – Review + Favourite Quotes

The Book Addict – Review

A Bookish Dream – Review






I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

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



Whispers of Shadow & Flame Cover Reveal!

Last year The Hermit Librarian featured an excerpt from the first book in L. Penelope’s Earthsinger Chronicles, Song of Blood & Stone. Today I’m sharing, as part of a tour, the fabulous cover for book two in the series: Whispers of Shadows & Flame.

Book One, Song of Blood & Stone, was named one of TIME Magazine’s top 10 fantasy books of 2018. Check out the cover reveal for further adventures in the Earthsinger Chronicles and a giveaway below!



Amazon | BAM | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository |  Goodreads | Indiebound

Title: Whispers of Shadow & Flame (Earthsinger Chronicles, Book 2)

Author: L. Penelope

Published by: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: October 1, 2019

Genre: Fantasy

The cursed will face the gods. They have nothing to lose.

“A master class in fantasy world-building.” – TIME Magazine on Song of Blood & Stone

The Mantle that separates the kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall. And life will drastically change for both kingdoms.

Born with a deadly magic she cannot control, Kyara is forced to become an assassin. Known as the Poison Flame in the kingdom of Lagrimar, she is notorious and lethal, but secretly seeks freedom from both her untamed power and the blood spell that commands her. She is tasked with capturing the legendary rebel called the Shadowfox, but everything changes when she learns her target’s true identity.

Darvyn ol-Tahlyro may be the most powerful Earthsinger in generations, but guilt over those he couldn’t save tortures him daily. He isn’t sure he can trust the mysterious young woman who claims to need his help, but when he discovers Kyara can unlock the secrets of his past, he can’t stay away.

Kyara and Darvyn grapple with betrayal, old promises, and older prophecies—all while trying to stop a war. And when a new threat emerges, they must beat the odds to save both kingdoms.

Pre-order the paperback today!



Need to catch up on the series? Check out the other books below:


Song of Blood & Stone, Earthsinger Chronicles Book 1  – Special Edition Paperback releases July 16, 2019. (Ebook & hardcover available now).

Song of Blood & Stone PB



Breath of Dust & Dawn, Earthsinger Chronicles Book 1.5 – Available now!



About the Author

L. Penelope is an award-winning fantasy romance author. Equally left and right-brained, she studied filmmaking and computer science in college and sometimes dreams in HTML. She lives in Maryland with her husband and furry dependents. Sign up for new release information, exclusives, and giveaways on her website.


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Cover Reveal Giveaway


L. Penelope is giving away a signed, hardcover copy of Song of Blood & Stone. International welcome!

Enter the giveaway


Song of Blood & Stone_cover image






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Anyone But You Cover Reveal – A New Book from Chelsea Cameron!

Anyone but You is a new F/F Adult Contemporary Romance from NYT Bestselling Author Chelsea Cameron. Releasing on 19 March 2019, it’s the story of Sutton Kay, owner of a yoga studio, parent to two adorable kittens, and roommate with her best friend. And then Tuesday becomes her landlord and opens a gym on the first floor.

Whoo hoo, is this a recipe for sparks. I’m as excited as anyone to see what these two will be like in the new book and today I get to share not only the hot new cover, but also two excerpts from the novel! 😀 Keep reading to get a look at one of the first interactions between Sutton and Tuesday, as well as one between Sutton and her roommate Zee, in Chelsea Cameron’s new book, Anyone But You.




Things are going great for Sutton Kay, or at least they were. Her yoga studio is doing well, she’s living with her best friend, and she just got two kittens named Mocha and Cappuccino. Sure, she doesn’t have a girlfriend, but her life is full and busy.

Then her building is sold and the new landlord turns out to be the woman putting in a gym downstairs who doesn’t seem to understand the concepts “courtesy” and “don’t be rude to your tenants.” Sutton can’t get a read on Tuesday Grímsdóttir, but she can appreciate her muscles. Seriously, Tuesday is ripped. Not that that has anything to do with anything since she’s too surly to have a conversation with, and won’t stop pissing Sutton off.

Sutton’s life gets interesting after she dares Tuesday to make it through one yoga class, and then Tuesday gives Sutton the same dare. Soon enough they’re spending time working out together and when the sweat starts flowing, the sparks start flying. How is it possible to be so attracted to a person you can barely stand?

But when someone from Tuesday’s past shows up and Sutton sees a whole new side of Tuesday, will she change her mind about her grumpy landlord? Can she?


Excerpt #1 from Anyone But You


Only one person was in the room. One person for all that noise. They had their back to me, a weight bar rested on their upper back, with huge black weight plates on either end. Slowly, they squatted down and then pressed back to standing.

I forgot about the music for a second while I watched their legs flex. The person was only wearing shorts and a sports bra and their back glistened with sweat in the low light. This place was definitely in need of some more lighting. The dim corners added more to the prison vibe.

The person squatted again, making a little grunting noise as they stood up again. I should probably stop staring, or at least make my presence known. I definitely needed to stop staring at the person’s ass.

“Excuse me,” I said, but they couldn’t hear me over the music, so I stepped closer. “Excuse me!” I yelled, and the person slowly pivoted, weight bar still on their back. Dark hair, tan skin, piercing blue eyes. That was all I saw, and I almost stumbled backwards. I’d never seen someone so intimidating in my life.

“You shouldn’t sneak up behind people when they’re lifting heavy things,” she said, popping the bar off her back and letting it slam into the floor and bounce a few times. She walked over to the sound system and turned the music down. Blessed relief. I could finally hear myself think.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know how else to get your attention. The music was a little loud.”

One dark eyebrow raised.

“Can I help you?” The irritation radiated off her in waves. What if I was a potential customer? Not a very good first impression for this gym.

“Yes, I own the studio upstairs,” I said, pointing upward, “and your music is too loud. It’s messing with my classes.” Her eyes narrowed.

“Is it,” she said, and it wasn’t a question.

“Yes. The base pounds through the floor and it’s distracting. It was hard enough with the construction, but I thought once that was over, things would go back to normal.” I’d never had issues with my downstairs neighbors before. They’d even given me free croissants every time I’d come in, and a few of their baristas had come to class. I wasn’t getting any free croissants now. Just dirty looks and layers of hostility.

“Look, I’m not asking a lot. Just turn it down. Or get some headphones. Are you planning to make it that loud when you open?” I hoped not.

She stepped over the bar and walked closer to me, but it was only to reach for a water bottle that sat on a bench beside where I stood. I took an involuntary step back.

“I’m planning to do whatever I want,” she said, taking a swig of water. “This is my gym.”


Excerpt #2 from Anyone But You


“You’re attracted to her.” I made a sputtering noise like a car trying to start in the winter before I was able to formulate any words.

“I am not!” I said and my voice squeaked on the last word.

Zee cackled and scared the kittens, which were on the floor rolling around with some new toys that had come.

“You totally are. I mean, I read between the lines and figured out she was hot, but your little obsession with her is telling me that she’s really hot.” I pressed my lips together because I didn’t want to say anything that might incriminate myself and lead Zee to think their theory was something that it wasn’t.

Okay, fine. Tuesday was stunning. Gorgeous. Hot. Sexy. All of those. But that didn’t mean anything. I saw hot people all the time; I ran a yoga studio. Her attractiveness had nothing to do with anything.

“Ohhhh, this is very interesting,” Zee said, stroking their chin and staring at me as I glared back.

“Stop it,” I said, pointing my finger in their face. “Stop it right now.” They laughed and shook their head.

“No way. She’s mean and hot, which is a deadly combination. You’d better be careful. Pretty soon she’s going to ask you to ‘help paint’ and there will be no brushes or paint involved. Unless she’s into that kind of thing.” I stood up from the couch.

“I’m leaving right now unless you stop talking about this immediately. And I’m taking the babies with me.” I scooped up both kittens and held them to my chest as they wiggled, angry I’d taken them away from their new shiny toys.

“No, don’t leave,” Zee said, falling horizontal on the couch and reaching for me dramatically. “Come backkkkkk.”

I turned on my heel and pretended to flounce, whipping my hair around.

“Come back and I’ll let you have the rest of the ice cream,” they said. That did it. I went back and dropped the kittens in her lap. They made cooing noises at them and gave them kisses as they meowed.

“I’m not attracted to her,” I said. “I just need you to know that. I’m not.”

“Uh huh,” Zee said, not looking at me, but pretending to be consumed by the kittens, “I completely believe you.”


About the Author



Chelsea M. Cameron is a New York Times/USA Today/Internationally Best-selling author from Maine who now lives and works in Boston. She’s a red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader, and world’s worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, getting brunch with her partner, tweeting, and playing fetch with her cat, Sassenach. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maine, Orono that she promptly abandoned to write about the people in her own head. More often than not, these people turn out to be just as weird as she is.


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TFFBC Tour: You Asked For Perfect by Laura Silverman – My Favorite Quotes & Review

Where is the line between what we ask of ourselves and what is enough, what others ask of us and what we can give? These are questions that blur for Ariel in Laura Silverman’s You Asked for Perfect.

There’s so much going on in high school, none more so for Ariel than getting into a good school, the right school, and it’s of the utmost importance to get the best grades, be the best person, so that Harvard will choose him. Because if he isn’t selected, what else is there?

Thank you to The Fantastic Flying Book Club for allowing me to join the book tour for Laura’s latest book. For more stops on the tour, check out the tour schedule below or the link here.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound

Published: 5 March 2019

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/LGBT+

For fans of History is All You Left Me and Love, Hate and Other Filters comes a new and timely novel from Laura Silverman about a teen’s struggle when academic success and happiness pull him in opposite directions. 

Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard—really hard—to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.

Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.

Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Rep: bisexual Jewish MC; gay Pakistani Muslim MC; plus size lesbian Korean SC; Muslim SC; anxiety

CW: drug use (pot); underage drinking, both as part of religious practices and not.

I was not the kind of student that Ariel and his contemporaries were, but I do remember school being difficult for me. Reading this book reminded me of the pressure that, nonetheless, was still there. Remembering that was its own kind of horror because it could be all encompassing.

You Asked For Perfect is told from the first person perspective of Ariel. Multiple times throughout, he mentions how he’s concerned that any show of weakness and a fellow student, Pari, a girl whose grades, violin skills, etc., are all comparable to his, will take everything from him: first chair, valedictorian, everything. He does say, though, that she’s also a good friend. It’s was heart wrenching to imagine the setting in which these kids could be both good friends & sworn enemies. The toxicity that academia leached into their lives was frightening.

As the story unfolded, levels of Ariel’s image of perfection unfolded, how he came to this stage in his life where there was such a precarious balance of GPA points and extracurriculars. School (his teachers, fellow students) was one thing, which I’ll touch on later, but there are also something about his family. Even if it was an unintentional act by his parents, there is a scene that I think may have imprinted on him:

Some Friday nights we have matzo ball soup with dinner because my parents are superhuman, working hard all week and still providing home-cooked meals.

It was great to see Ariel’s family come together, having a meal and talking about their day, sharing highlights and bloopers and so on. However, the point here is that Ariel sees his parents having these high powered jobs and still having the “perfect” homelife with home cooked meals. That image of perfection makes it seem, to him, like it is easy to have it all which I’m sure it’s not. As lovely a family picture as that is, it speaks to an ideal that Ariel may have in his head, standards that he feels he needs to meet.

There are a lot of angles coming to Ariel: family, school, self, all of which converge to create pressure and anxiety. These end up coming together to show how one thought can spiral into an almost anxiety attack. This quite felt particularly familiar to me and highlighted the intensity of Ariel’s situation:

The calculus test is Friday. If I fail, it will literally be impossible to get an A in the class. If I don’t get an A in the class, I won’t have a perfect record. If I don’t have a perfect record, I’ll be a less appealing applicant for Harvard. If I’m a less appealing applicant for Harvard, I won’t get in. If I don’t get in—

This continues to escalate in demonstrations from two educational figures in Ariel’s life, a guidance counselor (Hayes) and a calculus teacher (Eller):

Ms. Hayes lowers her voice. “Look, I’m not supposed to share this, but I know Pari Shah is also applying early action to Harvard. If they only accept one student from here like last year, well, it’s tight competition . You can’t slip up.”

“Wait here, Ariel.” I shift on my feet, feeling the eyes of my classmates. Mr. Eller pulls out a red pen, and I take a sharp breath. Is he torturing me on purpose ? Grading mine right here?

Ms. Hayes and Mr. Eller add to the hyper intense level of pressure that not only Ariel, but even the reader might be feeling at this point. Ms. Hayes: why, WHY would she say this to a student? There’s wanting your student to do well and then there’s imparting a piece of information that could cause real harm, especially if he’s already on the edge. And Mr. Eller, singling a student out who he knows is stressed out about a grade to stand at the front of the class and grading his important quiz. These two moments really stood out at straws that piled up on Ariel’s back in anticipation of the climax.

Ariel, of course, is not the only one susceptible to pressure or potential anxiety spirals. His friend, Sook, is a member of a band called the Dizzy Daisies.

“If I don’t pursue my dream now, I’ll lose it. I’ll go off to Dartmouth, and I’ll study and get a real job and pay bills and get married, and I’ll never prioritize my music again. I know I’m only in high school, but it’s like I’m already running out of time.”

Her parents, Dartmouth legacies if I remember correctly, want her to attend school while she wants to pursue a musical career. This passage highlighted a truly terrifying thought that felt incredibly true, like there could be no new possibilities once you’re an adult. The future is a frightening thing, plus the assumption that you’re supposed to have everything figured out for that future by the time you graduate (a ridiculously broad thought to have – could be fine for some but certainly not all).

Speaking of the future, Ariel’s present and the future of his sister, Rachel, is haunting similar in many instances:

When the food is ready, I call Rachel to the table. “Can we eat in here?” Rachel asks. “I want to keep working.”

Ariel knows what his habits are doing to him, what the studying is forcing him to sacrifice, but doesn’t see the same habits forming in Rachel, that she’s becoming just like him if not worse. I’m not saying that it is his responsibility to care for her, or for his contemporaries who would understand better than anyone what he’s going through (Pari, for example, being on his level and what not), but it was incredibly sad to notice throughout the book the hints that Rachel was developing similar patterns that would lead her into a way of life very much like Ariel’s.

I loved picking this book up because while it was rough seeing Ariel go through such intense, trying times, You Asked For Perfect was also an intensely enjoyable book. There were key moments that felt truly special, like when he was with his family, especially bonding with his little sister Rachel volunteering at the local animal shelter, or when he was spending time with his friends Sook and Masha, discussing their band the Dizzy Daisies.

The stress of studying, of trying to be perfect, of trying to be better and better and better until there’s nothing left to attain and even then trying to be better still…all of it ached. It’s such a relatable topic and being seen like that was one thing, but also having the balm of the interpersonal relationships was a perfect complement to the harshness that faced not just Ariel, but Pari and Isaac and every student that sees themselves in the students of Etta Fields High School.

At Etta Fields High School, becoming valedictorian is more complicated than perfect grades. We have weighted GPAs. We earn extra points for AP courses, a 5.0 instead of a 4.0 for an A . So the path to the top depends not only on the grades but also on signing up for the right classes.

There are some things I would have liked to see more of, such as time with Amir, his side of the story and such. I can admit, though, that considering this was Ariel’s story and how insular his world became because of the pressure that was upon him why this might have been a choice made from the author’s perspective.

Favorite Quotes

Workaholics shouldn’t try to convince other people to work less.

It’s always comforting saying the familiar Hebrew words together. It lightens me in a way that’s hard to explain.

She’s a talented writer, but she also connects with everyone. And if you’re friends with someone, they’ll come to you with their stories first.

for Amir, acceptance isn’t the end goal— it’s just a step toward something greater.

We had a Great British Bake Off bake-a-thon, where for two weeks straight we binged the show and tried to copy their recipes.

Shrimp snacks are crunchy chips with delicious seasoning that taste like getting into Heaven.

It’s a best friend’s duty to call each other out about shitty behavior.

But I narrow my eyes at his Hufflepuff shirt. “I thought you were a Ravenclaw,” I say. “Observant.” He grins. “I’m a Ravenpuff, so I wear both.”

“Too many photos are dark, depressing. As if only serious subjects make good art. I think it’s harder to make someone happy than make them uncomfortable.”

His gaze is sincere and resolute. “Can I kiss you?” My throat catches, voice coming out rough. “Yeah, you can kiss me.”

“Jewish penicillin, the best food in existence. Yes, it is my mother’s matzo ball soup.”

I angle my chair so I can watch Amir. I’m suddenly anxious. What if he doesn’t like it? Obviously, we can’t date if he doesn’t like matzo ball soup.

“Of course she’s not okay,” Mom snaps. She then softens her voice . “It’s not physical, but that doesn’t mean it’s not harmful.”

“They make us think the grade is more important than the learning, and that’s messed up.



Win a copy of YOU ASKED FOR PERFECT by Laura Silverman

INT as long as Book Depository ships to you

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About the Author


My debut novel, GIRL OUT OF WATER, is a summery coming-of-age story about a California surfer girl sent to landlocked Nebraska for the entire summer. It debuted in May 2017. You can order it from most book retailers and of course request it at your local library! My second novel, YOU ASKED FOR PERFECT, is about the effects of intense academic pressure on a teenage Valedictorian-to-be. It comes out March 2019, and you can add it on Goodreads here.

I have degrees in English and Advertising from the University of Georgia, and I have an MFA in Writing for Children from the New School. While I lived in NYC, I interned at Penguin and two different literary agencies. In addition to writing, I also freelance edit manuscripts and query letters. Please check out my services if you’re interested! I particularly love helping with those query letters!

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Tour Schedule


The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club – Welcome Post


The Book Raven – Review + Playlist
Flipping Through the Pages – Review
Blossoms and Bullet Journals – Review
Emily Reads Everything – Review


A Court of Coffee and Books – Interview
Young Adult Media Consumer – Review + Favourite Quotes
Milky Way of Books – Review
The Bibliophagist – Review


Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile – Review
We Live and Breathe Books – Review
Vicarious Bookworm – Review + Playlist
Novel Ink – Review


Literary Meanderings – Interview
Metamorphoreader – Review + Playlist
The Hermit Librarian – Review + Favourite Quotes
Reading With Wrin – Review


The YA Obsessed – Review
The Layaway Dragon – Review + Favourite Quotes
Akithroughbooks – Review + Favourite Quotes
In Between Book Pages – Review + Playlist


Vicky Who Reads – Review
A Bookish Dream  – Review
Life of a Literary Nerd – Review
Oh Hey! Books. – Promotional Post

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

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

Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – Compiled by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Magic, secret identities, mythological creatures, and more are within the realms of this anthology of stories from some of the brightest stars in the literary world.

This collection features authors that I love (Renée Ahdieh, Lori M. Lee, Sona Charaipotra) as well as others that were new to me, all writing stories from East and South Asia. These retellings, whether set in the past, modern day, or another realm altogether, had enduring qualities that reach out and find homes in new readers today.



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Published: 26 June 2018

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Category: Fantasy/Anthologies/Retellings

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings: these are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries. 

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.

From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

Rating: 4 Stars

For the most part I loved A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. A lot of fairy tales or myths do not end well or have what we would now consider questionable situations, particularly for female characters. There were many instances in this collections that gave these women new opportunities for the future, such as in Aisha Saeed’s The Smile, a South Asian retelling of Anarkali.

Lori M. Lee’s sci-fi retelling of a Hmong story (The Woman and the Tiger), Steel Skin, was another one that I found really interesting. I’ve been more intrigued by androids and artificial intelligence of late, so this story seemed to come at the perfect time. Yer’s challenges in a post android uprising world, with a father who is an android, posed such an interesting dynamic. There were some questions that arose and an ending that I didn’t anticipate. I almost wondered if this could’ve been a full-length story at another time, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Like many anthologies, not all of the stories were going to be satisfying. Spear Carrier by Rahul Kanaki, while it had some intriguing points, didn’t really connect with me. Code of Honor by Melissa de la Cruz was another, though that was a conflicting one. It is technically a part of Cruz’s Blue Bloods world, which I’ve never read before, and I felt after having finished Code of Honor that I’d missed something that would’ve given me a better understanding of this short story (though I didn’t realize I’d needed to read anything previous to it beforehand).

My favorite story of the entire anthology was Olivia’s Table by Alyssa Wong, in which a girl continues her late mother’s work in preparing a feast for the ghosts in a small desert town. It was one that I could read repeatedly and still enjoy. Olivia’s story had so many facets, whether reminiscing about learning to prepare the ghost feast with her mother or growing up with her father, who didn’t always understand his daughter’s maternal heritage (including her grandmother given Chinese name, which he believed would get Olivia teased at school).

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is a beautiful collection with more than enough tales from East and South Asian to make it worth picking up no matter where you’re from.






I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

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


To Night Owl From Dogfish Blog Tour : Inspired by the Book – Food Collab Post w. Read. Eat. Love.

What are two girls to do when their lives are upended and they’re sent to summer camp to become best friends while their dads fall in love? Break them up! But what happens when that backfires, they start becoming actual best friends and trouble brews between the papas? It leads to a whirlwind of adventure between coasts and camps as Bett and Avery, who never thought they’d ever have anything in common, must figure out how to make things work not only for their dads, but in their own lives.

Thank you to Penguin for including me on the To Night Owl From Dogfish Blog Tour. Today’s post is in collaboration with Arys from Read. Eat. Love.. Please be sure to visit her blog today to see what dishes she chose for her own Inspired By the Book – Food post and Part II of the Guest Post by the Authors (see below!).



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Published: 12 February 2019

Publisher: Dial Books

Category: Middle Grade/Contemporary/LGBT+

From two extraordinary authors comes a moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters.

Avery Bloom, who’s bookish, intense, and afraid of many things, particularly deep water, lives in New York City. Bett Devlin, who’s fearless, outgoing, and loves all animals as well as the ocean, lives in California. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and are both being raised by single, gay dads.

When their dads fall in love, Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same sleepaway camp. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends–and possibly, one day, even sisters.

But things soon go off the rails for the girls (and for their dads too), and they find themselves on a summer adventure that neither of them could have predicted. Now that they can’t imagine life without each other, will the two girls (who sometimes call themselves Night Owl and Dogfish) figure out a way to be a family?

Rating: 4 Stars

Rep: Brazilian/African-American MC (Bett); Mexican-American/Caucasian-Jewish MC (Avery); allergy rep (peanut); MC w/ asthma

Authors Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer embraced the voice of their 12-13 year old protagonists. Each letter felt full of the energy from the two of them, whether it was Bett talking exuberantly about surfing and her rescue dogs or Avery and the many topics she researched due to worry or interest.

Through these letters, while Bett and Avery were figuring each other out, including the situation with their fathers (meeting, falling in love, sending their daughters to camp, etc.), it was interesting to see how they viewed the world around them, particularly the people that entered their lives.

As children experiencing the events of To Night Owl from Dogfish, they saw things in a different way than the adults in the book (and those reading it) would, such as when Kristina, Avery’s non-custodial biological mother, shows up at the first camp the girls are staying at. Some supplementary letters from other character provide alternate view points, which added to the viewpoints of the novel and gave some perspective from older persons.

Those letters were a bit strange, however, in the tone that they presented. While I commended the authors earlier for embracing the voice of their adolescent characters, I think the voice of their adult characters felt too juvenile most of the time.

Timing was an odd thing in the book. The action was told almost entirely in emails, sometimes in handwritten letters, but there were never any dates or timestamps on those emails. Sometimes months were mentioned, the return date of the girls’ dad was stated, but other than such instances the transition of time was marked well so it was as if the events of the book existed in some sort of vacuum.

Bett did seem to over/misuse the word trigger more than a few times, which at first I thought stemmed from a child’s figuring out how to express her emotions and limits than a blatant misunderstanding of the severity of triggers by the authors. As the girls progressed with their learning in other areas though, I’m not quite sure if I could count myself as disavowed of this notion because Bett did keep using “trigger” to describe situations that I didn’t think were appropriate.

To Night Owl From Dogfish is a fun novel to read because there’s complications, there’s a journey, and there’s a strong development of friendship. Bett and Avery are definitely the focus, but readers will find themselves equally interested in the side characters and the descriptions of the girls many summer activities, from the food to the interactions with fellow campers.



Camp Food Ideas


My personal camp experience is somewhat limited, but while reading To Night Owl From Dogfish there were certain foods that I wish I’d had while doing it. The mini-menu I pulled together today would, I think, be great for a lot of camp experiences.

Egg salad sandwiches are mentioned as one of the lunch items served at the first camp Bett and Avery attend – CIGI (Challenge Influence Guide Inspire). Lillie from The Kitchen Witch has a recipe for egg salad that makes the perfect sandwiches for a camp lunch. I used to take such sandwiches to lakeside adventures and could easily picture the girls enjoying these.

I took Lillie’s suggestion and toasted the bread (delicious!), while making a slight change and adding some tomato slices because a) I love tomatoes and b) I thought they added a nice freshness.




You can find the recipe here and support The Kitchen Witch via PayPal here.

Another tasty treat inspired by To Night Owl from Dogfish is lemon tofu cheesecake bites. I am a big fan of cheesecake and maintain that a local diner of mine makes the best, but the recipe I found for these looks darn tasty.

What’s good about this one is that it’s no bake, it’s something that kids could either make or help put together, and the bite size servings make it a great snack for camp.




Jovita from Yummy Addiction (photo & recipe) brought some great flavors together. The lemon and raspberry are tangy & bright and the chocolate Oreo crust is a rich crust that leaves room for customization. With the sheer amount of different Oreo flavors out there, you could make any kind of crust you’d like. That would be a fun activity for camp goers to express their individual tastes. 🙂



Guest Post – Part I


Holly and Meg wrote a special surprise guest post for my To Night Out from Dogfish tour partner, Arys from Read. Eat. Love., to share along with the rest of our goodies today. I’ll be posting Part I of the post here on The Hermit Librarian; for Part II, please visit Read. Eat. Love. to see what Holly and Meg have to say about ALA Midwinter, their personal camping experiences, and their favorite foods.


HGS:  Today we’re talking about our new novel, TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOGFISH, and we are also talking about FOOD! I believe food to be an adventure.

MW:  We do spend a lot of time in real life talking about food, so really this should be a breeze.
HGS: And our two main characters in the book do as well. Bett, who is twelve years old and from Venice, California, eats anything and everything.

MW:  Yes. And Avery, who is twelve years old and from New York City, is a vegetarian.
HGS: I guess it’s worth pointing out that you don’t eat meat–but you do eat fish.

MW: True. I’m a pescatarian.
HGS: And while one of my sons is a very committed vegan, I had a cheeseburger for lunch today.

MW: One of my sons is a pescatarian, like me. I myself had a quinoa salad for lunch.
HGS: In our book, one of the first times the two girls connect is because of food. I’m thinking of the passage when the girls are both first at summer camp (against their will) and circumstances find Bett stuck in the infirmary. Avery goes that night to feed Bett’s pigs.

MW:  Yes. Food as a way to build a bridge–an act of kindness.



Author Bios


holly goldberg

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and spent her childhood living in Holland; Istanbul, Turkey; Washington, D.C.; Berkeley, California; and Eugene, Oregon. After graduating from Wellesley College and spending some time as an advertising copywriter, she began writing family feature films, including Angels in the Outfield and Made in America. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Counting by 7s and Short, among other novels.


meg wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer was born in Brooklyn, New York, grew up in the town of Syosset, on Long Island, and sold her first novel, Sleepwalking, while a senior in college. She is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous novels for adults, including The Interestings, The Ten-Year Nap, The Wife, and The Female Persuasion; the young adult novel Belzhar; and the middle-grade novel The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman.





Week One

February 4 – Books4yourkids – Author Guest Post

February 4 – Two Points of Interest – Author Guest Post


February 5 – Pages and Pugs – Favorite Quotes

February 5 – Amber After Glows – Favorite Quotes


February 6 – Read. Eat. Love. – Inspired by the Book: Food

February 6 –  The Hermit Librarian – Inspired by the Book: Food


February 7 – Book Loaner Blog – Listicle: Camp Activities Inspired by the Book

February 7 – Books. Libraries. Also, cats – Listicle: Camp Activities Inspired by the Book


February 8 – Happy Reading Co.  – Favorite Quotes

February 8 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Favorite Quotes


Week Two

February 11 – That Reader Girl – Listicle: Camp Songs

February 11 – We Live and Breathe Books – Listicle: Camp Songs


February 12 –  Sam Maybe Reading – Review

February 12 –  Randomly Reading – Review


February 13 – The Reading Corner for All – Creative Instagram Picture

February 13 – Dos Lit Worms – Creative Instagram Picture


February 14 – Laceydoeslit – Review + Playlist

February 14 – The Bookworm Banter – Review + Playlist


February 15 – YA Books Central – Author Q&A

February 15 – Because reading is better than real life – Author Q&A






I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

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


Review: Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted? by Jason Latour (Writer) & Robbi Rodriguez (Artist)

Continuing my Marvel comics reading adventure with Spider-Gwen, Vol. O, I get a look into Jason Latour’s turn at the writer’s table and an arc that looks at how Gwen deals with the death of her best friend, what it means to take up the mantle of the Spider, and how to handle all of this when it feels like the entire world is against you.


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Published: 25 November 2015 (originally published 18 September 2015)

Publisher: Marvel

Category: Sequential Art/Marvel/Superheroes

Collects Edge of Spider-Verse #2, Spider-Gwen #1-5.

The breakout character hit of the year is Gwen Stacy: Spider-Woman! In one universe, it wasn’t Peter Parker who was bitten by the radioactive spider, but Gwen Stacy! She’s smart, charming and can lift a car — just don’t tell her father the police chief! And now, in the wake of Spider-Verse, Gwen swings into her own solo adventures! And she soon finds herself between a rock and a hard place when the Vulture attacks, and NYPD Lieutenant Frank Castle sets his sights on bringing her down. Then, still haunted by Peter’s death, Gwen visits his only family: Ben and May Parker. But what really happened the day Peter died? Find out right here as the spectacular Spider-Gwen steals not only the spotlight, but also the hearts of comic fans worldwide!

Rating: 3 Stars

Gwen’s in a tough headspace. There’s a lot to unpack with her life: she has her powers, her best friend dying which she feels responsible for, and with her name being synonymous with crime, the police are using all their force to attempt to bring her down. It’s a lot to handle, which I thought was brought through fairly well with the writing.

Since this is an alternate dimension to the one I’m used to (i.e. Peter Parker’s), it was neat to see characters that I know being portrayed in different roles, such as Matthew Murdock still a lawyer but for a very different sort of clientele.

I did have a little trouble reading some of the text, though. The lettering in the speech bubbles was a little too cramped for certain letters, leading to some (like P or D) looking so similar to others as to render them nearly indistinguishable.

The next collected issues promise to have the Osborns and Gwen dealing with S.H.I.E.L.D, so I’ll be picking it up sooner or later. Looking forward to more adventures with the Ghost Spider. 🙂






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


Review: Roam by C.H. Armstrong

A situation no one ever expects to find themselves in. A situation no child should ever have to face.

Abby Lunde is facing life as a homeless teen. She and her family are living in her step-father’s minivan, following a mistake that spiraled and forced them to the streets. Will she be able to find some semblance of normal as she figures out how to keep warm, get enough to eat, keep clean, all while attending classes and trying to graduate?


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Published: 5 February 2019

Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary

Seventeen year-old Abby Lunde and her family are living on the streets. They had a normal life back in Omaha, but thanks to her mother’s awful mistake, they had to leave what little they had behind for a new start in Rochester. Abby tries to be an average teenager—fitting into school, buoyed by dreams of a boyfriend, college, and a career in music. But Minnesota winters are unforgiving, and so are many teenagers.

Her stepdad promises to put a roof over their heads, but times are tough for everyone and Abby is doing everything she can to keep her shameful secret from her new friends. The divide between rich and poor in high school is painfully obvious, and the stress of never knowing where they’re sleeping or where they’ll find their next meal is taking its toll on the whole family.

As secrets are exposed and the hope for a home fades, Abby knows she must trust those around her to help. But will her friends let her down the same way they did back home, or will they rise to the challenge to help them find a normal life?

Rating: 2 Stars

CW: slut shaming, bullying, use of a racist term, alcoholism, possible drug abuse

I want to say that C.H. Armstrong did write about some good points. When her main character Abby was riding through town and reflecting upon the things she saw outside in an early scene, she saw things that showed how there’s more than one way for wealth to be evident. It can be clothes or someone’s car, but it can also be something you might not think of right away, like the state of their lawn.

Everywhere I look screams wealth and privilege—from the carefully manicured lawns to the kids in the car next to us. The cost of their clothing alone would probably eat up Nick’s whole paycheck—if he still had one. But he doesn’t, and neither does Mom.

There were several moments when Armstrong really infused her writing with what must have been the sheer amount of emotions that Abby and her family were feeling, from anxiety to terror and so on. Abby recounts the moment when her parents tell her that they will need to leave their apartment because they can no longer afford it:

We left Omaha this afternoon, just one step ahead of eviction. The landlord visited two days ago, warning us we had seventy-two hours to pay the current and last month’s rent or she’d return with a police escort and a locksmith. There was no point in fighting it, Nick said, so we spent all day yesterday packing only our absolute necessities. We left everything else behind—there just wasn’t enough room.

How do you make that kind of decision? What to take, what to leave? When you know you have to leave and there’s no other choice, how do you keep from curling up in a corner and refusing to deal with it?

That being said, the strengths (what I talked about and others) being what they were, there were more minuses that outweighed them and made the book such a disappointment that I was thoroughly uncomfortable.

There were times when certain conversations came up that felt wholly unnecessary, such as this one between Abby and Josh, a boy she meets at her new school:

“But how? I mean—you don’t look gay!” I blurt out.

Josh lifts an eyebrow. “What is gay supposed to look like?”

“I—I don’t know. I’ve never really known anyone who’s gay.”

Oh boy…there’s a lot to unpack there, but I couldn’t fathom a few things, such as why how Abby thought that a) she knew she hadn’t met someone who was gay before, and b) why this kind of conversation was even here to begin with? You can’t tell someone’s sexuality based on their appearance.  😒

Then there is Josh’s behavior in regards to his friends, particularly with naming his female friends his “harem” and renaming them by Disney princess names, even when they ask him not to and especially with there being a girl of Middle Eastern descent in this group (want to bet which princess name he used for her?). Then his Fruit Loops level “humor” (quote “who peed in your Fruit Loops?” unquote)…I really couldn’t stand him after that.

There’s was also the relationship between Abby and Zack that didn’t make sense to me. It was one of the things that made me uncomfortable, more confused. The accelerated development, the intensity, Abby’s reactions to Zack’s familial benefits, it all didn’t really track as the makings of a healthy relationship from start to finish.

Regarding another uncomfortable moment, it was when Abby, at a football game with her friends, used a racist term in her internal narration which meant it could never be challenged:

When the buzzer signals game over, I celebrate along with my tribe as Rochester South brings home a hard-won victory of 28-27.

I do not remember ever seen Native American representation in this book. This just seemed so weird and out of place, so wrong, that I felt uncomfortable, when “group” could easily have been substituted.

To sum it up, while there were some strong points in the realm of the homeless representation, I thought there were essential problems with the characters, relationships, and offensive material that made this a very difficult book to enjoy and nigh on impossible to finish.






I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

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