I’ve got four reviews for you today: a YA fantasy a YA contemp, and two MG graphic novels. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Vow of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson
Series: Dance of Thieves #2
Also in this series: Dance of Thieves
Published by Henry Holt on August 6, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Cover Artist: Rebecca Syracuse
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex, but it's not shown; Violence)
Kazi and Jase have survived, stronger and more in love than ever. Their new life now lies before them―the Ballengers will be outlaws no longer, Tor's Watch will be a kingdom, and the two of them will meet all challenges side by side, together at last.
But an ominous warning mars their journey back, and in their rush to return to Tor's Watch, just outside the fortress walls, they are violently attacked and torn apart―and each is thrust into their own new hell.
Unsure whether the other is alive or dead, Kazi and Jase must keep their wits among their greatest enemies and unlikeliest allies. And all the while, Death watches and waits.
First off, I didn’t realize when I started reading this that the series is a duology. So I was expecting perhaps a bit of middle-book syndrome and was surprised when the book didn’t feel sluggish in the least. In fact, I found myself eager to read this book every chance I got. The book starts out with Kazi very hurt and in captivity and then moves back a couple of weeks to show us how she got there. So, of course, I was eagerly reading to find out what happened and how she was separated from Jase. Surprisingly, it wasn’t one of those cases where it took us half the book to get back to where we’d started, though. No, the pacing in this book moved along swiftly and we were back to that beginning moment relatively quickly. And then we got to see how Kazi was going to get herself out of a horrible situation. The stakes were sky-high throughout the story, which also kept me invested. There were some major revelations when it came to the villains, and I was never quite sure who would make it out of the situation alive. I also appreciated that Jase and Kazi never lost faith in each other; their trust, devotion, and dedication was unfaltering. While certain others might have doubted Kazi’s motives, Jase never did, and I appreciated that.
And then, I started getting toward the end of the book and realizing that this was an actual wrap-up—I wasn’t going to be left with a million loose ends or a cliffhanger ending—wait, was this … a duology? That made the ending both glorious and painful; glorious because I loved every minute of what was happening and painful because I was incredibly sad to let Kazi and Jase go. This is the sign of a fantastic series, in my opinion.
Oh, and I did think that Pearson left us with just a tiny hint of possible future books at the end. We can only hope!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Published by HarperTeen on February 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Cover Artist: David Harry Stewart, Michelle Taormina
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
Lacey Barnes has dreamt of being in a movie for as long as she can remember. However, while her dream did include working alongside the hottest actor in Hollywood, it didn’t involve having to finish up her senior year of high school at the same time she was getting her big break. Although that is nothing compared to Donavan, the straight-laced student her father hires to tutor her, who is a full-on nightmare.
As Lacey struggles to juggle her burgeoning career, some on-set sabotage, and an off-screen romance with the unlikeliest of leading men, she quickly learns that sometimes the best stories happen when you go off script.
Kasie’s books are always adorable and fun and a breath of fresh air amongst my darker YA reads, and this book is no exception. The story centers around Lacey, who is living out her dream of being in a big Hollywood movie and doesn’t want anything to mess that up! (If you read Love, Life, and the List, this is companion, but it’s not necessary to read that one first—if I’m being honest, I don’t remember Lacey from that book, though I know she was introduced there.)
Since I was a theater major in college, I loved the aspects of the book that related to Lacey’s acting and her career. I completely felt for her when she was felt like the spark was missing between her and her leading man and she struggled to figure out how to get it back (acting is an intensely competitive profession and it can be hard on your self-esteem!). I also enjoyed the romance between Lacey and Donovan. I figured out the “mystery” aspect of the book pretty early on, but that was okay, and I also felt like the ending was wrapped up a little too easily and perfectly. Still, I love an easy breezy read now and again, and that’s just what this is. And the acting aspects of the book gave it that something extra. I definitely recommend this one!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
Illustrator: Emma Steinkellner
Published by Aladdin on September 3, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Paranormal
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: MG (Hints of romance; Some violence)
Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Roller Girl in this hilarious, one-of-a-kind graphic novel about a half-witch who has just discovered the truth about herself, her family, and her town and is doing her best to survive middle school now that she knows everything!
Magic is harder than it looks.
Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.
In this spellbinding graphic novel debut, Emma Steinkellner spins a story packed with humor and heart about the weird and wonderful adventures of a witch-in-progress.
This wonderful graphic novel was a lot more than just okay. The story follows Moth, who discovers at age thirteen that she is actually a witch and that her mother has been hiding a multi-century history from her. To make things even more complicated, she learns all of this while her school is celebrating its witch-hunting heritage. (This aspect of the book felt a little backward in today’s world, but I realize there are places where a small town’s “history” might still be seen in a positive light, even if it was backward and xenophobic.) Moth’s mother has witnessed some of the negative effects of magic and has lived without it for years—she’d hoped that her daughter wouldn’t inherit magic at all. I loved how the author wove xenophobia, racial tensions, and the fear of witches together, creating a perfect parallel to the ways in which our society often still spurns people we consider “other.” But the book gives us a sense of hope and of change as well, showing that we have made some forward progress and we can continue in that direction. Hope and unity are the ultimate messages. Lots of kids will also be able to relate to the fact that Moth already felt like an outsider before she ever discovered she was a witch—for her, discovering her magic is empowering and satisfying (knowing there might be a reason she’s always felt different), even if it is a little scary at first.
The illustrations are wonderfully done as well. I loved that we see not just ethnic diversity but different body types portrayed as well (Moth’s mother isn’t tiny—and she wasn’t even in her younger years—and it’s never once mentioned in the story, which I appreciated). If you’re a fan of witchy stories, I definitely recommend this graphic novel!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton
Illustrator: Ben Clanton
Series: Narwhal and Jelly #1
Published by Tundra Books on October 4, 2016
Genres: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
My content rating: Young MG (No violence or romance)
Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together.
This adorable graphic novel features a spirited, excitable narwhal and his much more down-to-earth friend Jellyfish. The book is geared toward younger readers, so both the text and the artwork are relatively simplistic, but that doesn’t diminish its charm. The graphic novel is actually made up of three short comics. In the first, Narwhal and Jellyfish meet, and we immediately see their divergent and yet complementary personalities—Narwhal’s bright-eyed optimism is balanced by Jellyfish’s serious demeanor. Next, Narwhal recruits even more sea creatures to be a part of his pod, leaving Jellyfish feeling left out at first. In the third story, Narwhal and Jellyfish use their imaginations to create the Best Book Ever! (Hint: it involves waffles.) There are also some facts about narwhals and jellyfish sprinkled into the stories, an added bonus.
This book is pure adorableness, and it would brighten up any kid’s day! (Not to mention those of us who are still kids at heart.)
I’ve been reading more graphic novels than ever this year. This one is definitely on my list to read and review. I recently read New Kid and enjoyed it, but my all time favorite which will be hard to beat is Pumpkinheads. If you enjoy everything pumpkin, but don’t want all the calories (or even if you’re not a pumpkin fan), I highly recommend this book. Narwhal books are fun. Vow of Thieves is on my Amazon wish list and I’m hoping it’s a birthday gift this year. I loved that you really enjoyed it so I know I will too.
I’ve been on the fence about reading Pumpkinheads, but I totally trust your opinion, so now I think I need to read it. New Kid has been on my list of graphic novels I want to read for a while now, but I haven’t gotten to it. Need to fix that!
I love Kasie West’s books. They always make the best easy breezy YA books. I haven’t read this one, but I enjoyed Listen to Your Heart. Very cute! Great reviews, Nicole.
I really enjoyed Listen to Your Heart as well!
Narwahl, Unicorn of the Sea looks absolutely adorable! Kasie West is on my list of authors I really want to try some day. I always hear such great things about her books.
You should definitely read West sometime. She’s perfect when you’re in the mood for a cute romance.
I will always pick up a Kasie West book, because I know I will get a fun and cute story, that will leave me happy. I remember I wanted more scenes between Lacy and Donavan. I loved him and thought they were fabulous together, but there just wasn’t enough of the romance. Still cute and fun and I enjoyed it.
I agree that this one was actually less about the romance than most of West’s other books.
UGH if I don’t start Dance of Thieves by say, the end of 2019, promise you’ll yell at me, yeah? The Remnant Chronicles is one of my all-time favorites, so what exactly is my problem here!? I’m glad it was so good though! The narwhal one looks adorable too, I am going to need to get that one (also “for the kids” ?) Great reviews!
Okay, I promise to bug you about it by the end of the year. I take my job very seriously. 🙂
OMG!! Narwhal is so adorable!! I love that page you shared. I wouldn’t have been interested without reading that page. I love that his friend is a jellyfish my other favorite sea animal after a walrus. 😉
I always like to share a page or two of a graphic novel if I can because you can’t get a real sense of the book without it. I agree that Narwhal is adorable. 🙂
Kasie West van be hit or miss for me but Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss sounds like a fun one. I mean, what girl hasn’t daydreamed about falling for a swoony movie star? 🙂
Right? That’s a fantasy many of us have had! I loved the aspects of the book that had to do with her being in the movie.
Thanks for sharing all of these. I really want to read The Okay Witch. It sounds so good, and I love graphic novels.
You should definitely pick this one up then!
I still need to read Dance of Thieves, have the ARC sitting on my TBR pile. Glad to hear the second book tied it all up well and I need to hurry up and read!
I LOVED the original series, so I was happy that this spinoff lived up to it.
I really like the sound of Vow of Thieves. The cover is gorgeous too.
It was fantastic! Definitely recommend!